Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Photos from the Dirty Du

Taking the 'W' in the relay competition. That's what I look like when I'm outta shape and in the hurt bag.

Going around a corner, not sure what part of the SC this is. Take a look at how clean the tread is. Ryan and his crew did a great job in cleaning all of the dead fall off the trail. Took a lot of corners at speeds that I didn't think were possible at the SC.

Yeah, the Dirty Du was a great time with a lot of good friends that I hadn't ridden with in a while. Definitely looking forward to the 2nd annual!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Dirty Du

Just when I thought that my season might finally be over with, they had to go and announce one more race. And of all places, in another place that I consider to be my backyard, the Science Center Trails. A lot of people can claim the Science Center as their backyard as it is smack in the middle of Des Moines. There has been a lot of talk over the years about how it would be great if somebody could somehow put on a race at the Science Center. The one major problem with putting on a race at the Science Center has always been that there was never a really good way to get across the three different railroad track crossings needed to create some sort of a complete loop without doubling back on the same trail… until recently.
The hard working folks that call themselves CITA (Central Iowa Trail Association) created a connector trail a few weeks ago that re-routed the trail coming off the Rollercoaster in such a way that we now cross over the ‘first’ railroad crossing on the bike path. This gave riders a ‘legal’ way to cross over the railroad tracks, thus enabling CITA to legally organize a race over at least a portion of the Science Center trails. The result was the creation of the 1st Annual Des Moines Dirty Duathlon. In a nut shell, the race consisted of racers starting at Greenwood Park, heading south on the Rollercoaster and across the bike path for two loops on the hillside. After two laps of the hillside we were sent onto Chad and Scott’s connector, across the bridge to the transition area. The run consisted of a 4.5 mile loop through Denman’s and back to the transition area. The last leg was on the bike going backwards on Chad and Scott’s connector to the hillside. We did one more loop on the hillside and then to the south side of the Roller Coaster. We headed north up the Roller Coaster and finished back in Greenwood Park.
I hate running… and yes, I dislike lemans starts. I do them when I have to and I am fast at them because I was a pretty fast runner back in the day. A few weeks ago, I decided to give running a shot, to try and do a little cross training over the winter. I consulted one my buddies, soon to be superstar professional triathlete JJ Bailey on how to get into running without screwin’ anything up. His advice was to start out on the treadmill at a very short distance, at a very slow pace. So I did, two miles at an 8 minute per mile pace. Back in the day I used to cut a mile in the lower 4:30 range, so yeah, an 8 minute mile seemed to be slow enough. Things felt OK during the run, a few aches and pains here and there, pretty much chalked it up to old age and not having run like this for about 20 years. Now that I think about it, the last time that I ran was the 1989 edition of the Honolulu Marathon. Yeah, I did a marathon and I did it off of doing 2 mile runs, three days a week for training. Stupid? Oh yeah, I was walking real funny like for the better part of a week. I made the mistake of sitting down in the park as soon as I finished, couldn’t get my sorry arse up off the ground. I had to crawl about 1/8 of a mile to a chain link fence and pull myself up off the ground. Glad I did it, but I’ll never do it again.
So I did another 2 mile run and picked up the pace a little, still had the aches and pains. My ankle was a little sore afterwards, I chose to ignore it. Ran again, this time for 3 miles. Ankle was again sore, sore enough that I was limping around for 2 days. Took a week off and tried again, didn’t even make it a mile this time and I pulled a calf muscle. Shortly after that run I had this short flash of brilliance… maybe I shouldn’t be running. So I decided to quit.
So here I am, less than a week from the Dirty Du, got a pulled calf muscle so I can’t run. I never intended on doing the running portion, but it was going to be a very serious problem when it came to the lemans start that was the rumored start format. I gave race director, Ryan Hanser, a call and he confirmed that it was going to be a lemans start. I explained my situation to him and he said to show up ready to race. He and the crew would figure out some way for me to compete fairly without having to run.
I gave a good friend of mine, Jenny Weber, a call to see if she would be interested in doing the run portion for me. She was all for it so it was game on for one last time in 2006! Jenny is easily one of the fastest female runners in the state so I knew that we had a pretty good shot at taking the team competition, even against the all male teams. I’d only been on my bike 4 or 5 times in the 3 weeks prior to this, but I figured that I had enough residual fitness from the season that I’d be OK.
So I get to the race venue and find tPod getting suited up for the solo competition. He’s been pretty keyed up for this race since it was announced and he was my pick to take the overall for the solo category. I did some more bs’n with a bunch of other’s while trying to get my rig set up and myself suited up for a recon ride. Next thing I know, it’s about 20 minutes until race time and I’m not even suited up yet… so much for a recon and a good warm-up. I threw on the Rassy camo and did a quick ride through the start section and took a couple of trips down the Rollercoaster the get he HR amped up. Rumor has it that I had smoke rollin’ out of my nostrils as I was toolin’ around the start area waiting for the start.
Ryan’s solution for my start, was to randomly draw another racers number. When that racer entered the start area after the lemans start I could go. So the race started, I still hadn’t been told a number so Ryan stood next to me and waited until a few racers mounted their steeds and rolled out of the start area. Once a few rolled out, he told me to go. I took off and quickly got into the lead going up the climb. I opened up a pretty good gap almost immediately and continued to push.
I hit the hyperdrive at the top of the Rollercoaster and quickly realized that I was flyin’ through there much faster than I ever had before. Scared the crap out of myself a few times with a couple of close calls with a few trees while going mach 4. Man that was fun!
I exited the Rollercoaster with a pretty good lead and decided to keep the pressure on throughout the hillside loops. CITA had gone through and cleaned all of the leaves, branches and acorns off the trail, so the tread on the hillside was the best that I had ever seen. I was hitting all of my lines well, felt like I was riding one of those imperial speeder bikes through the forest of Endor in Star Wars. I hit the paved trail, started my 2nd loop on the hillside and started running into lapped traffic. A lot of them weren’t really sure what to do when I came up to them so I told them to pull off the trail. It wasn’t much of a problem, I would rather have new people show up, even if it means that I have to slow down every once in a while. I tore threw the 2nd loop just as quickly as I did the 1st and hit Chad and Scott’s connector with hyperdrive still goin’.
I rolled into the transition area and passed the torch to Jenny with about a 1:25 lead on the next rider. Jenny ran through the woods with the efficiency of a deer, she was flyin’. At about the midpoint of the run, she still had about 45 seconds on 2nd place, Mark Hollander, who had teamed up with the mighty Pete Bison Basso. By the end of the run, Jenny came into the transition with that same 45 second gap… perfect.
I took off knowing that I probably wouldn’t have to put myself into the hurt locker to maintain the lead… yeah, this is bike racing, I don’t always know how to back the throttles off. I pretty much continued where I had left off, the hyperdrive propulsion system still goin’ full bore. I hit the hillside once again and could feel the lactic acid in my legs coming to a full boil. My hyperdrive can be somewhat recalcitrant when I’m in the red zone, so I figured that I better back ‘er off a little before I wrap myself around a tree. I hit the south side of the Rollercoaster knowing that I had an insurmountable lead, barring no mishaps. I still kept the pace fast because that’s the only way that the Rollercoaster should be ridden, forward or backward. I hammered up the final steep climb and rolled across the finish line in 1:21:42 just over 2 minutes ahead of the mighty Bison. Kyle Sedore and his runner, Brian Appleby came across in 3rd about another 3 minutes back. My bro tPod came through in 4th, 1st in the solo category with a time of 1:27:09… tough guy. Jane Riessen was the 1st female soloist. Great job to all that I mentioned along with all of the other finishers.
A huge thanks goes out to Ryan Hanser, Dave (Super Mario) Mable, and Brian Palmer for putting on top quality, fun event. Everybody that took part had a great time. I also want to thank Jenny Weber for doing the run, we made a great team and if scheduling permits, we’ll be back next year to defend. And yes, I will do whatever I can to ensure that I can do the lemans start. I’m sure there were a few that thought my start was unfair. I had the fastest bike splits for both bike segments. The first segment I was nearly 90 seconds quicker then the 2nd fastest person. The second segment I had the fastest split by nearly a minute. So I don’t think it would have really mattered whether I had done the lemans start or not… really. So quit yer winen’!

So that’s a wrap for the 2006 season. Stay tuned to the Rassy blog throughout the winter because I’ll be doing random posts here and there. I’ve taken on a couple more coaching clients and feel pretty good about taking on a couple more without spreading myself too thin. So if you’re interested in some mountain bike specific coaching, whether it be a year round coach or just a private lesson, let me know. I’ve received a lot of interest so let me know ASAP otherwise you’ll most likely miss out!

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Overdue Race Report(s)

Yep, as most of you know, I am still alive, just a little lazy when it comes to keeping my race journal current. I’ve been kinda busy with keeping my focus on my training, training my young Padawan to become a Jedi Master on the mountain bike, working, along with a few of life’s other necessities. So I’m going to attempt to give a recap on my last few races starting with the 24 of Seven Oaks up to my last race of the season, the Sycamore TT aka, Sterling’s Dirt Circus.

Controversy at the 24 / 7

The weather forecast for Labor Day weekend was pretty much par for the course for the 2006 season, rain and more frikin’ rain. Heavy in most places, so I made a point to pack a bunch of gear anticipating doing a lot of laps in good ole’ Iowa peanut butter mud. The Rassy A-team for this year’s edition of the 24 / 7 was hand picked by yours truly and consisted of myself, tPod, Jedi and Jason Alread. My bro Squirrel was in the mix but opted to do it drunk and solo… damn freak. My number one priority with the A-team was to ensure that I put Rassy’s / Orbea / Oakley on the top step of the podium.
I arrived at Seven Oaks about an hour before the start and wandered around the pit area to size up the competition. I made a few stops here and there to chat with a few of my bro’s from out of town, Jeff Kerkove, Buchanondale, Frankenbike, MWBC/Team 14 among many others. Despite the crappy weather forecast there was still a pretty good turnout, but the numbers were still a little down from last year.
After much heated debate, Jedi was more or less forced into being our man for the first lap. I hate running so I was out of the question. Our plan was to take the lead from the start and never look back. The race started, Jedi eventually got himself into the lead and that was pretty much all she wrote. The race as far as our team goes was pretty uneventful. I think after about two hours, we had a lap on the entire field and it kept growing. We were able to shut the pace down by about 10:30am knowing that we had a four lap lead on the 2nd place team… Saweet! I think that I had the fastest lap times of everybody, a small goal of mine.
Fortunately, my recollection of cheaters in mountain bike racing are far and few between. This years soloist edition of the 24 had the Iowa marathon man, Jeff Kerkove, mixing it up with only one week of recovery since his previous 24 hour solo effort. Jeff started off at a pretty good pace and appeared to be feeling pretty good. Once the night hours set in, somebody told me that some cat had a one lap lead on Jeff, and that he was also leading all of the teams! Ummm, yeah, I’m thinkin’ to myself that something isn’t quite right here. Unfortunately, most of the conversations throughout the night and the remainder of the morning, were centered around our alleged cheater. As the race continued I found myself trying like crazy to change the subject whenever somebody started talking about it. It kinda took some of the fun out of the event.
By the end of the race, race officials felt confident that they had enough evidence against the guy to disqualify him. It was pretty strange, the guy didn’t offer much of a protest, if any at all. He was even present during the awards ceremony, kind of sittin’ there like nothing ever happened… very strange. I’m pretty sure that the cat was short cutting the course somewhere, his lap times were impossibly fast for a soloist, especially his night laps. What I’m unsure of is whether he made a conscious effort to cut the course, or if it was accidental. I guess there’s no way that we’ll ever find out for sure. I would like to see the guy show up to a few other races, to give himself a chance to prove that he is as fast as he appeared to be. He was extended an invitation to do just that. But, here it is, over two months later and nobody has seen him at any races. I’m thinkin’ he’s not that fast.
On a higher note, Frankenbike (Dennis Grelk) was the deserved beneficiary of the disqualification, winning the 500 bones for taking the overall. Nice job bro.

Psycowpath #5 – Series Finale

Going into this weekends series finale, I was sittin’ pretty for taking the series overall. All I needed to do was finish ahead of WWJ and Sam I Am and the series overall was mine. Swanson Park and I have a pretty rough history. I always have fun racing there, but it’s pretty much in the middle of Omaha and gives the locals a huge home course advantage. Kinda like how we’d have a huge advantage at the Science Center if we were to ever have a race there.
Omaha had some light rain the night before the race and by morning, the course conditions were very close to perfect, nice and tacky. The usual favorites were there, MIB (Kent McNeil), Shim, the Deal (Steve Jarrett), JP (Jesse Peterson), MG (Matt Gersib), Darin Schlake. I think just about all of those cats are previous race winners in the Psycowpath series. So yeah, I knew it was going to be a tough day.
I busted out the Orbea Oiz as my weapon of choice fitted with my favorite Midwest hardpack tread, the WTB Nanoraptors. My plan for the race was to let the local knowledge (just one of’em) lead into the singletrack, follow his wheel, learn the lines and eventually take over and scurry off for the win. I had two goals for this race, lock up the series championship and win the race.
The race started and I lead the parade lap around the field. I backed it off a little so that someone else would take over the lead into the singeltrack. Cyclocross stud, Sir Anthony Wilhelm took over the lead and MIB squeezed in ahead of me. I was actually OK with this because Wilhelm is notorious for taking like a scalded dog at the start of cross country races. He’s a cyclocross man so he’s kinda trained himself for insane, cross-eyed efforts for about an hour. MIB is probably the best person to follow through Swanson Park, he knows the place better than anybody else and is most likely the fastest cat on the course. As the lap progressed, the insane pace continued. I had no idea what my heart rate was and never had much of a chance to look, we were going so insanely fast that any lapse of concentration would have most likely led to an off course excursion into the wilderness.
Throughout the first lap, Wilhelm continued to build on his lead. I think his lead topped out at around 30 – 45 seconds, he was never far enough ahead that we couldn’t see where he was. I continued to sit on MIB’s wheel, learning the lines and gaining confidence. MIB and I had a pretty good gap on 4th place by the end of the first lap. At the end of the second lap (of five), one of the spectators told us that the gap to Wilhelm was down to about 30 seconds. We were approaching an hour into the race and so I figured it was go time. I passed Kent in the open field section of the course and told him to grab my wheel. My thought was that I would lead during the open sections and he would lead in the technical sections. As I approached the singletrack, I slowed a little to let MIB take over. I looked back and noticed that I had a pretty good gap on him so I punched it. About midway through the 3rd lap I had closed the gap to Wilhelm. I rode his wheel for the remainder of the lap, MIB wasn’t able to close it up to us.
We hit the start/finish area at the end of the third lap and I took ever the lead from Wilhelm and led the way into the singletrack. Throughout the third lap we started running into some of the slower sport riders. I didn’t have too much trouble getting by anybody, but I think that the lapped traffic made it difficult for Wilhelm to hang onto my wheel. I’d gap him a few times and he’d pull me back in. Eventually I was able to snap the elastic and get away from him. By this time I had the course dialed in. I was railin’ the corners, taking clean, fast lines and making little to no mistakes. Things were clicking for me. As the race progressed my lead continued to grow and I ended up winning with a time of 2:04:50. MIB got by Wilhelm and finished in second with a time of 2:07:32. Wilhelm held on for 3rd with a time of 2:08:45.
I would definitely count this as one of my biggest wins. MIB is a semi-pro and is definitely one of the fastest mountain bikers in the Midwest. I had probably the most fun that I’ve ever had on a mountain bike while I was riding his wheel during this race. What a ride, kinda like riding on a roller coaster! He had mentioned after the race that he thought he had turned his fastest laps ever during the race… pretty cool. Throughout the race it seemed as though I had more people yelling for me than the locals. It was pretty sweet. A huge thanks goes out the Folks From Lincoln crew, aka the tifosi, headed up by my bro CVO. It was a huge help for the morale. It’s been a long time since I’ve suffered like that in a mountain bike race. My average HR for the race was 181 for over 2 hours, freaky stuff I tell ya. Having the tifosi behind me throughout the race while I’ve got myself in the hurt bag is a huge boost for the morale, I can’t thank ‘em enough!
So this was a great way to consolidate the Psycowpath series overall. A few years ago I would have never dreamt of being a contender for the series overall and now I have it. It’s been an incredible season so far and I’m looking forward to riding the wave of success to the end of the 2006 season.

IMBCS #8 – Another Muddy Race at Seven Oaks

What a season! I don’t remember ever having to deal with this much rain. At the same time, I’m having my best season ever. Go figure. It had rained a ton the night before the race and postponement was not an option. Kyle Sedore, Ron DeGeest and the rest of the Singletrack Promotions crew scrambled and put together what they thought would be a rain friendly course. I didn’t bother with a recon lap, didn’t want to get my stead all clogged up with peanut butter before the race.
The overall morale at the start was pretty low, nobody was all that jazzed about racing in the mud at Seven Oaks. The race started and I took off into the lead. The initial climb up the hill was the muddiest section on the course and it was rideable every lap. About midway through the first lap, my front brake started rubbing on my rim. I couldn’t fix it on the fly so I stopped to fix it. As I was working on the bike, Sedore passed me, kicked me in the arse as he passed and took the lead. I finally fixed my brake, hopped back on my bike and started my pursuit. A short while later, Sedore was off his bike fixing something that broke. I took the lead back, spat on him as I went by and held on pretty easily for my second win in the same weekend. Saweet!
As for the course, they did a great job with the rain reroute. The course was 100% rideable and a lot of fun, I had a great time! It was slippery in some sections and I saw a few riders go down in a heap, but overall, I think everybody had a great time.

Iowa Games – IMBCS #10

It had been a few years since I had raced at Peterson Pits, so I was pretty excited to have the chance to tear it up there. I’ve always had a lot of success at the Pit, won everytime I raced there but once. Now retired domestic roadie pro, John Lieswyn, handed me my only loss by a few seconds a couple of years ago.
Race director Pat Alvord has always done an outstanding job at putting together a great course at the Pit, and he came through again this year. He made great use of the fast open sections as well as a lot of the singletrack. A lot of people say that Peterson Pits is not at all technical, I say that it is technical in a different way. The course is so fast in some sections that the mere speed creates its’ own technical challenges, very fun challenges at that.
As I was out warming up with the Bison, I found myself slowly getting into my pre-race zone. While we were rolling down the road, the Eppen’s were rolling into the parking lot. I thought to myself, saweet! As most of you know, Brian Eppen is most likely the fastest mountain biker in the state and he’s also become my favorite opponent. We’ve had some pretty amazing, epic battles this season, easily some my most memorable and enjoyable moments in bike racing. As I was going out for a second recon lap, Brian was also heading out for a recon lap. So we did some bs’n and caught each other up on our seasons thus far.
Wasn’t really to sure what to expect for attendance because this was a reschedule from the original July date. In the end there ended up being close to 60 peeps in all. Nice turnout for a rescheduled race. As we were lining up for the start, I counted about 13 or 14 experts total, pretty good number for an Iowa race.
Since the race started on a gravel road, my plan was to try and control the pace going into the singletrack and let Eppen lead the way. I wanted to get a read on how well he would be riding and how fit he was. This course is pretty much all about fitness and a little less about bike handling. As we approached the singletrack, I let up a little to try and encourage Eppen into taking the lead. He did and I also noticed somebody else trying to stick their nose between myself and Eppen. I picked up the pace a little bit and nudged my way onto Eppen’s wheel. We rode well together through the first section of singletrack and I think that we still had a couple of riders pretty close behind us. I let Eppen lead a little longer and finally decided it was time to pick up the pace a little, to try and shell whoever it was that was behind us.
I passed Brian and picked up the pace a little. We managed to shell the last few stragglers and we gradually pulled away. Throughout the first couple of laps, Brian and I traded the lead and were working well together. I spent a lot of time throughout the course, trying to figure where the best place would be to make my move, to try and get away. At this point, my plan was to try and break away with about a half lap to go. On the third lap (of five), we were flyin’ through one of the fast flowing, fun sections of singletrack. I punched it a little to see what kind of shape Brain was in. I noticed a small gap forming so I kept the pressure on. The gap went from pretty small to pretty big in a really short period of time. I was very surprised at how quickly the gap increased. Turns out he was having some issues with air pressure in his front tire… That’s mountain bike racing for ya and we’ve all been there.
I ended up winning the race with a time of 1:25:48, Brian held onto 2nd with a time of 1:31:41. My young Padawan, Jedi, came in 3rd with a time of 1:32:34. After talking with Brian after the race, he had mentioned that even if he wouldn’t have had issues with air pressure, I would have had him anyway. That’s part of why I enjoy racing against the guy so much, he’s a great sport and a ton of fun to race with.

IMBCS #9, Sterling’s Dirt Circus (Sycamore TT)

I’ve won this race the last two seasons so I suppose that means that Sycamore is kind of my territory and I need to do whatever I can to defend my turf. Gotta make sure that Rassy’s is on the top step of the podium ya know. For those of you who are wondering, who the hell is Sterling? Sterling is a bro of mine that is the manager at Rasmussen Bike Shop. He’s one of the reasons that I enjoy going into Rassy’s so much, the dude is always happy to see you… great guy!
This was a reschedule because the original date was rained out. And, like every year prior to this one, a lot of people were saying a lot of negative things about the state of the Sycamore Trails. It’s the same deal every year, yeah, the trails are always pretty beat up. But every year, Chris Maharry does a stellar job in setting up a great course. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction going on in the area and as a result, quite a few of the trails have been bulldozed over to make way for all of the new houses. Urban sprawl… gotta love it. This might actually be a good thing however. With all of the new houses, etc. it might help keep a lot of the ATV’s, vagrants, etc. off of the trails. It could actually help improve the state of the trails. I guess we’ll see.
So it rained a little before the race and when I got there, I could see some mud on the tires of some of the cats that had gone out for a recon lap. I’d pretty much already decided on the tire of choice for the race due to the loose nature of the sandy soil along the river. The IRC Serac’s have a pretty aggressive tread pattern and hook up really well in loose soil. After about an hour, the trails dried up considerably and were a little damp, perfect for railin’ the corners. Because the tread was a little damp, the tires performed a lot better than I had anticipated during my recon of the course.
I ended up about mid pack in the starting order, not a big deal because passing is never usually a problem at this race. My time came and I was off. I could tell right at the start that I was going to have a great day. My legs possessed the punch that I feel when I’m fully recovered from all of the overload. My choice of lines throughout the race were pretty much spot on and I didn’t really make any significant mistakes. I passed a lot more people than I remember passing in the previous two editions so I knew that I was flyin’.
I ended up winning the race for the third straight year with a time of 22:12, a great way to end the mountain biking season! Local mountain biking legend Chris Maharry came in 2nd, about 1:39 back. You could just about throw a blanket over the next four, Petey the Bison Basso (3rd), Chia Chad Vandelune (4th) and Kyle Sedore (5th) and WWJay Chesterman (6th), all around 2 minutes back. Great job fellas’!
A lot of people criticize the course at Sycamore, saying that it’s not technical enough. I couldn’t disagree more, if you’re on a leisurely ride, yeah, it’s not all that technical. When you’re flyin’ through there at race pace… totally different story. I had a lot of near misses with a few of the trees and I actually clipped a couple of trees with my forearm. Left a little skin behind. It’s all good though, the adrenaline was kickin’ and I didn’t really feel a thing until the endorphins backed down long after the race was over. So yeah, I always look forward to racing the Sycamore TT.

So the mountain biking season is pretty much over. Time to put the road bike away until March and do nothing but ride on the dirt at whatever pace I feel like doin’. It’ll be a nice change of pace. I’m also looking forward to a lot of pizza, burgers, fries, wine, ice cream and whatever other toxins that might sound good at any given moment.

I’m thinking about doing the Des Moines Dirty Du in November so I’ll probably do a short write up about that and maybe a season summary.

Until then,

Thanks for reading,