Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Sunday In Hell

Not really.... I actually had a really good day despite collecting my first DNF in years. The title seemed kind of appropriate as the Sylvan Island Stampede happened to be on the same day as The Hell Of The North (Paris Roubaix). When I did get to ride, I had a blast. The trails were very technical, the course at Sylvan Island for this season was the most technical course of any course that I’ve raced on in Iowa or Nebraska. Very tight, very twisty, lot’s of wet rocks, lot’s of wet roots, lot’s of steel and lot’s of concrete. It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a bad race, so long that I really don’t remember the last time that I did have a bad race. So I’ve probably been long overdue.
The next time you go out for dinner the night before a race, I’d recommend taking a pass on the fish stew. As soon as I finished my last bite, I could tell that something was amiss. I woke up at about 2am with a strange feeling in my gut, the kind of feeling that made you wish that you could blow some dirt, you know, the kind that makes you go ‘Aaaaaaaaah’ as it makes it’s exit. Well, that never happened. I woke the next morning and still felt off. At the time I didn’t really think much of it because I didn’t really feel that bad. There were just a few things going on that weren’t quite normal, like my stomach feeling a little off and I had no appetite.
The race wasn’t until 2, so we had a lot of time to sit around. During that time I never did get any kind of appetite, which is highly unusual for me, even the day of a race. WWJ and I packed up our stuff and headed to the course to do a little recon. During my recon, I was going through a pretty technical section of the course with a little too much heat. My front tire hit a wet root and knocked me off course enough that I was re-routed into the path of a tree. I had enough time to react that I was able to steer my front tire to hit the tree, rather than my handlebar. My front tire speared the tree, my body flew forward and my groin area slammed into my stem. If it wasn’t for the sweet Louis Garneau chamois in my shorts, the damage probably would have been pretty severe. As it was, it stunned me for about ten minutes. During that ten minutes of pain, I rode real slow like so that I could focus my energy on somehow making the pain go away. I did manage to land both feet on the ground and not fall over, so I kinda looked like I knew what I was doing. That, more or less, set the tone for the rest of the day, little did I know!
As we were lining up for the start, I saw the Lalonde brothers lining up at the start. At that point the rest of us knew that we would be racing for 3rd. Jesse and Marko Lalonde are a couple of Pro’s from Madison, WI and both race for the Gary Fisher factory 29’r team. Jesse won the 2007 Chequamegon 40, on a singlespeed no less and Marko is the 2007 Singlespeed Cyclocross National Champion and both of them pretty much dominate the WORS series up in Wisconsin. So yeah, you could say that they are pretty fast!

The brothers Lalonde, preppin' to slay all foes.

The race started and I got off to a pretty good start going into the singletrack in 5th or 6th. Shortly after we got into the singletrack I knew that something wasn’t right with me. I was riding like a bull in a china shop, I felt really clumsy and off balance. I really struggled to hang on to the wheel in front of me, especially on the flat open sections where I can usually do some damage. I lost the wheel in front of me and shortly thereafter, the guy in front of me was out of site.
I could tell that I had a long line of others behind me because I could hear their bikes rattling over the rough terrain. Eventually, over the course of a lap, everyone of them passed me. I tried to respond every time that I got passed, but there was nothing there.

This is what I look like when I'm fixin' to pull the plug. Busted out the old steed, thought it was going to be a little muddy. I was wrong.

I think it was probably shortly after the start of lap three that I decided it was time for a staff meeting. Mr. and Mrs. Legs were telling me that I should think pretty hard about bailing out. Common sense was telling me that I should bail. General Well Being was telling me that I should minimize the damage and bail, just in case I was in the process of getting sick. However Mr. Pride was making a very strong case for gutting it out. I decided that maybe Mr. Pride was on to something and I tried once again to up the pace. It kind of reminded of the movie Star Wars, when the Millennium Falcon was being chased by Imperial Cruisers. Chewbacca hit the hyperdrive in an attempt to go into hyperspace, the hyperdrive wound up and then quickly ground to a halt… Only Star Wars geeks can really appreciate that analogy. It was at that point that common sense finally prevailed and I pulled the plug.

WWJ didn't get lost, had a great race and brought home 5th overall.

There was a positive to my racing misfortune however. My Mom, Stepfather, brother in law, sister and niece were there, so I got to spend the last hour of the race hanging with the fam, watching the Lalonde brothers show everybody else how to race a mountain bike like a pro.

My little sister Scooter and I exposing Kennan to some of the finer qualities of the lifestyle of a mountain biker.

They finished 1 / 2 to the tune of about 10 minutes over 3rd place. They’re fast.
I’ve had a couple of days to reflect now and I’ve come to the conclusion that I had a mild bout with food poisoning. The loss of appetite, the mild ache in my gut, I felt really cold throughout the race and my simple inability to ride a bike without running into something pretty much summed it all up. It’s two days later now and I feel perfectly normal surprisingly enough. I’ve had food poisoning before and remember being knocked out of commission for the better part of a week. It could have been a lot worse, so I consider myself very fortunate!
I’ve done very little high intensity training, so I’m thinking about venturing up to Seven Oaks this Saturday to do the dirty short track criterium that my buddy Sea Biscuit is hosting. I also am planning to both Iowa City races the weekend after. Until then…

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pix From Maskenthine

Release the hounds!

Kevin leading the charge, followed by yours truly sporting the latest in Rassy attire. Nate was stuck to my wheel like a fly on stink and that's JP in 4th, suffering like an animal.

I'm still wearing the same clothes, Nate is still so close that he can smell my....breath and JP is still in the hurt locker. The new Rassy kits are Louis Garneau, by far the most comfortable clothing that my nether regions have ever come into contact with.

JP looks like he might be feelin' a little better now.

Rasmussen Bike Shop, Orbea, Louis Garneau and Oakley on the top step where they should be. I'm just fortunate to be along for the ride! I'm thinkin' that if Nate were to shave that pelt off of his face, the reduction in drag would have gained him one more position on the podium. I personally think his beard rocks and would be worth sacrificing a few places in a race because it probably lands him a lot of chicks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Maskenthine / Big Crack

Made the loooong drive to Maskanthine Park in Nebraska, and when I say long, I mean driving about 20 minutes past the course to some town called Norfolk. I turned around and hoofed it back in the opposite direction and finally made it to the course about an hour before the start. I’m not doing so hot with finding race courses this season, if I keep this up I’m not going to have any legitimacy in giving WWJ crap for getting lost all of the time. The upshot, it seems to be helping out my performances nicely!
The weather was pretty close to perfect, other than the howling wind. I don’t mind the wind so much in a mountain bike race because it kind of plays into one of my strengths. The course at Maskenthine is a pretty straight forward course, so my late arrival wasn’t really that big of a deal. I only needed to recon the first couple of miles because that’s where all of the more technical sections are.
Because it was so windy out, and because the race started uphill and into a headwind, my plan was to let somebody lead out into the singletrack and this time, today’s lucky winner of the ‘hole shot into the headwind’ award would be Kevin Limpach. The race started, Kevin took the lead from the gun followed by Nate Woodman. I passed Nate about halfway up the hill and grabbed Kevin’s wheel as we entered the trails. I followed Kevin for about 1 ½ laps with Nate firmly attached to my wheel.
We hit a section of the course that was out in the open with a tailwind. I was having a lot of fun riding with Kevin and Nate, however I decided that this would be a good place to put in a little surge to test the legs of Kevin and Nate. Nate was on a singlespeed also, so I figured that I could maybe make him overcook his gear. I hit the throttle and started to create a gap. I kept the pressure on for the remainder of lap two and the 3rd lap. At the end of lap 3, I had a pretty good sized gap, so I loosened the screws a little.
I ended up winning the race by a little under 4 minutes with a time of 2:01:15, Kevin brought home 2nd, Jesse Peterson came in 3rd and Nate brought home 4th. All three of them are pretty cool cats and I really enjoyed racing with all of them, it’s especially nice that they were kind enough to let me win!
My new ride, the Orbea Oiz Carbon is really starting to grow on me. The suspension package works quite a bit better than the 2006 Oiz that I have. The bike is also a lot more nimble than any other full suspension bike that I’ve ridden. I think that has a lot to do with the U-Flexion carbon composite pivot coming off of the bottom bracket. It provides a lot of stiffness in the lateral direction, which provides for great cornering, especially in some of the tighter turns. I can’t wait to get it on a hilly course ‘cause I know she’s gonna climb like a mountain goat!

U-Flexion Pivot

Throughout last three laps I had caught and passed a lot of lapped traffic, which is never really an issue because most of them know that they are to yield the trail when being lapped. Every once in great while you run into somebody that gets themselves so wrapped up in their own little purgatory of pain, that they don’t always have the presence of mind to move over a little. I happen to have one of those incidents this time. The dude knew that I was coming, but yet he persisted in holding his line. When this happens, I usually have to get a little creative in how I choose to pass. I’ve learned over the years how to make myself real skinny like when passing in difficult areas. So, I made myself skinny and passed the guy while we were riding in between two trees. I think that I might have bumped him a little as I had passed and he pretty much lost his mind, using the big man’s name in vain while informing me that this was the 2nd time that I ‘almost’ caused him to crash. ‘Almost’ means that he didn’t crash, and that’s largely due to my experience in mountain bike racing and knowing how to pass others with minimal interference to their race as well as mine.
I approached the guy after the race with full intentions of offering my apologies and keeping the peace, however I never really got the chance as he proceeded to inform me that I was being a jerk about it. He kept yelling while I calmly told him that I wasn’t going to talk to him until he calmed down. I thought his head was going to pop off! So rather than continue, I told him he was like talking to a wall and then I walked away. It was a very, very unfortunate situation, and I know that I shouldn’t have made the comment about talking to a wall, but really, it’s just bike racing and it’s definitely not worth getting hostile over. Some people never seem to get it…
Regardless, the Elkhorn Valley folks did a stellar job with the course and I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

The next day I decided to do the Big Crack road race that the All Nine Yards folks put on. After pigging out on pancakes, bacon, eggs and some coffee, I rode up to Big Crack State Park. During my ride, I got this crazy idea to try and upgrade to a category 2, to see if I could hang on and not get dropped. The race started and the only really difficult part of the course was a two mile stretch that had a pretty stout cross wind. Tilford and his buddies from Kansas tried to gutter the field by riding the yellow line, just about everybody, myself included, crossed the line to keep our noses out of the wind. After a few laps, Tilford got PO’d and yanked his bike across the yellow line to the far left side of the road. I know that he did it because he was trying to gutter everybody on the yellow line and everybody broke the rules by crossing the yellow line. He got frustrated and decided to gutter everybody on the far left side of the road instead. Nobody could drift left (downwind) because they would have ended up in the gravel. What Tilford did was definitely against the rules, however everybody else broke the yellow line rule. As a result, the entire field was relegated one place, which was of no real consequence to anybody… funny.
I had a good day, I was able to hang onto the main group until the finish and was in danger of being dropped once in the cross wind. I had made a mistake that created a gap between myself and the dude in front of me and it took me about 2 miles to catch back onto the rear end of the field. I felt pretty good despite having done a two hour mountain bike race the day before. Tilford finally managed to get off the front with another guy in tow, Sean Walker I think? They finished 1st and 2nd followed by the main field of about 15. I wasn’t even going to try and contest the sprint as it was in a tailwind and I was under-geared. There’s way too much chaos in field sprints and I never like to get caught up in all of that. After the race, I rode back home for a nice hour long cool down and logged about 100 miles for the day. Saweet! The All Nine Yards folks did a great job in putting on a really cool event, a huge thanks goes out to the men's and women's team for all of their hard work!

I rode the Orbea Orca… man what a bike! How to compare? It’s like riding on the suspension of a Porsche while my 2003 Trek OCLV feels more like a Chevy Camaro. How do I know what a Porsche feels like? Well, I really don’t but I think you get the point. Road racing is a pretty good proving ground for a new bike. Lot’s of accelerating, lot’s of hammering, there’s always a few sketchy riders that activate the pucker mechanism and force you to take evasive action. The Orca accelerates unlike any other, the frame is incredibly stiff and very responsive. The second I apply pressure to the pedals, I can feel a lot more power being transferred to the rear wheel than any other bike I’ve ever ridden, it kind of squirts out from under you. I like taking corners at high speeds, I thought the Trek cornered really well, and it does, but after about an hour of aggressive riding my level of comfort on the Orca was equal to that of my Trek. The Orca is so well balanced, that I feel more comfortable carving through corners at high speeds than I ever have before. There really wasn’t much for hills on the Big Crack route, so a climbing review will have to wait. I’m pretty sure that the climbing prowess of the Orca is right up there with the best of the best. The Spanish Pro Tour team Euskaltel – Euskadi are notorious for their abilities in the high mountains of Europe and the entire team is outfitted with Orca’s. So I think it’s a safe bet that the Orca likes to go uphill real quick like. I cannot wait until my two weeks in Durango arrives so that I can do some real riding on it! My Orca, completely built, weighs in at 16 lbs even.

Next up is the season opener for the IMBCS, the 4th edition of the Sylvan Island Stampede. I hope Eppen shows up because I love getting my butt handed to me on a dirty silver platter.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 04, 2008

Spoke Pony Pix

The calm before the storm.

Goin' with the flow. My new stead was all dirty, wasn't too happy about that.

Brutha MG in is element.

The 6 hour solo overall podium, forgot that I was supposed to be there... nah, I had to roll, had a long drive back to the homestead.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spoke Pony

I didn’t really plan to start off my racing season this early, however this is the time of the year for long endurance rides and a 6 hour mountain bike race seemed like a great way to get my mountain biking legs and my new Orbea Oiz Carbon dialed in. Friday rolled around and the weather forecast looked pretty good and the word was out that the trails were in great shape, so it was game on!
It was so nice to get out and ride my mountain bike on actual dirt, rather than snow or mud! I’d never ridden at Landahl before, I’d heard that it was pretty technical and very rocky. It didn’t sound like a great course to race on without first getting a recon lap in, however with this being a 6 hour suffer fest, I figured that I could bypass the recon and use my first lap to follow the leaders and learn the lines that way.
Endurance racing is all about pacing yourself and keeping yourself hydrated and fed. My goal was to maintain a Zone 2 effort (heart rate in the 150’s) throughout the race. Whenever I go out for a long training ride of five or six hours, my effort is consistently around 150 throughout the ride. So it seemed like a pretty realistic goal. Add to that, my main objective for this race was to keep it as a training effort, rather than a race effort.
The race started with a le mans style start… I hate running, that’s why I ride a bike! The last time that I had to run was when Petey insisted on shaking my hand after he applied chamiox butter directly to his nether regions… and yes, I’m sure that I ran like a girl, screamin’ bloody murder. I did get a decent start and I had no idea where I stood amongst the other 6 hour soloists. There was also a 3 hour race and they started everybody together, so it would have been really easy for a 6 hour soloist to go out way too hard. I did my best to keep my effort under control and despite my efforts, noticed my heart rate creeping into the 160’s and sometimes even the 170’s. I think a part of that was due to adrenaline, not only from the race, but also from riding over some of the more technical stuff without having seen it before. Rocks, really big rocks… and lot’s of them. They had all kinds of skin and bike frame piercing points sticking out of them. The thought of putting a wheel wrong and hitting the deck was enough to elevate my heart rate by about 10 beats!

Lap 1 - I survived the 1st lap with a time of 45:32 and an average heart rate of 165, a little too hard. I had no idea what place I was in at the time, but I also wasn’t too worried about it either as winning wasn’t supposed to be my priority… but it was in the back of my mind, I am a bike racer afterall! After having a look at the results, the first 6 hour soloist finished his first lap in 41:36… ouch! I came through in 6th place.

Lap 2 – I backed the effort down considerably and maintained an average heart rate of 156 and rolled through with a lap time of 46:09. I felt a lot more comfortable with my effort and the course. The results indicated that I had lost a couple of places and was sitting in 8th and a little over 7 minutes behind 1st place.

Lap 3 – My average heart rate for lap 3 was again at 156 and I was feeling really good. My lap time had even dropped down to 45:30, which indicated that I was a lot more comfortable with the course and was starting to get it figured out. I had the same lap time as I did on lap 1, and my effort was about 10 heartbeats less. The first two laps of the race, I don’t think that I passed a single person, however on this lap I remember passing quite a few cats that were livin’ it up in the pain cave. I was sitting in 7th place by the end of lap 3, about 10 minutes behind 1st.

Lap 4 – My average heart rate for lap 4 was holding steady at 157 and my lap time was at a steady 45:41. I felt really good, just like I normally would have on training ride of this length. I passed a few more people and by the end of lap 4, the race results had indicated that I was in 4th place. At this point during the race, I still had no idea what place I was in. I think it was during lap four that I got a stick or something caught in my drive train. I back pedaled a little to get it out, but it was too late. My gears started jumping all over the place. I started adjusting my barrel, thinking that the stick probably loosened my rear derailleur cable. By the end of lap 4 I was a little over 11 minutes behind 1st.

Lap 5 – My average heart rate for lap 5 was 155 and my lap time was 45:37. Physically, I was still feelin’ the love, my legs felt really good! My gears however, were still jumpin’ all over the place, especially when I tried to shift up into my 30 and 32 rings. When I hit some of the hills I had to suck up my pride and drop into my granny gear to keep my gears in the rear from going haywire. By the end of lap 5 I had managed to close the gap to 1st down to just a little over 3 minutes.

Lap 6 – I think during this lap, I started to get the feeling that I might actually be close to leading the race. My average heart rate for the lap had dropped a little to 150 and my lap time also dropped to 46:58. I was still feeling pretty good and maintained my focus on staying hydrated and fed. At some point during this lap, I passed Kip Biese, who had been leading most of the race. He looked like he was in his own little purgatory of pain and paying dearly for all of those smokin’ fast lap times that he had been cutting earlier. I also passed a cat named Mark Cole, who had taken over the race lead from Kip. I didn’t know that he was leading at the time and thought that maybe I had lapped him. I was still feeling really good and started thinking that I shouldn’t have any trouble at all finishing this thing. I was still having issues with my gears despite my efforts with the barrel adjuster. At the end of the lap I stopped at the scorers table to check on what place I was in, and sure enough, I was sitting in 1st overall! This kinda put me into race mode and I began to realize that maybe Mark was actually on the same lap as myself. I stopped at my car to grab more water and Gatorade and noticed that Mark had re-passed me while I had stopped. I could see him rolling up the hill and he kept looking back at me in such a way that I knew he had taken the lead from me. I caught back up to him as we crested the hill and we rode together for a little while. He was starting to slow down, so I asked to pass and he let me by. I continued at my pace and started to gap him off.

Lap 7 – Throughout lap 7, I could start to feel a little bit of upper body fatigue starting to set in. I’m really surprised that it took that long to happen due to the rocky nature of the course. I was still feeling really good otherwise and by this time I finally had my gears working reasonably well. My average heart rate for lap 7 was holding steady at 150 and my lap time had dropped a little to 47:37. I looked back occasionally and could see Mark kind of yo-yoing about a minute or two behind me. About ¼ of the way through the lap I decided to tighten the screws a little. I upped the effort and a short while later noticed that I couldn’t see him anymore. By the end of lap 7 my lead was just under 1 minute.

Lap 8 – I rolled through lap 7 with a total time of 5 hours and 23 minutes, so I knew that lap 8 would be my last. I also knew that I had a pretty sizeable gap on 2nd place. My upper body was really starting to weaken, so much so, that as I was riding through some of the rocky sections, I wasn’t really too sure if I could make it through without eating some of the delicious rocks that were strewn about the course. I pretty much put it in cruise control and my average heart rate for the lap dropped down to 143 with a lap time of 49:11. Good enough for 1st overall, about 9 minutes ahead of the 2nd place soloist, Mark Cole and a little over 2 minutes ahead of the 1st place team. A little side note, the fastest lap time for the last lap was 46:47 cut by Dwayne Gosconski, which in my mind deserves the award for fastest lap. That's freakishly fast after having ridden a course like Landahl for 6 hours.

So, for the 6 hours and 12 minutes that I was riding, my average heart rate for the race was 154, pretty much exactly where I wanted it. I felt like I didn’t push myself too hard, as I didn’t want to cook myself this early in the season. I also have a pretty big training week coming up and I didn’t want to compromise that either.
Pre-race nutrition consisted of a couple of pancakes with three eggs before I hit the road. While I was driving I ate maybe ½ to ¾ of a box of Mueslix and washed it down with a pot of coffee. During the race, I think that I drank close to 64 ounces of Gatorade and enough water that I had to stop and take a leak twice during the race... no, I don’t pee while riding my bike. I tried it once and I ended up getting more on me than the ground… hey, I had to at least try. I had also eaten two Probars. I probably should have eaten a little more, but I didn’t really feel all that hungry until the last lap of the race. After the race, I made an absolute pig of myself and pretty much ate everything in sight that looked edible.

The folks that host all of the races for the Heartland Series do an excellent job in everything from organization to awesome courses. This race was no different, I had to leave before the awards ceremony because I had a long drive ahead of me. I think I probably missed out on a pretty sweet little schwag give away because they had a big ole’ pile of sweet looking stuff sitting behind the scorers table. The pile was so big that they couldn’t fit it all on any of the tables that they had set up! I always try to make the trip down yonder at least once a year for their races, always a great time!

Next up is the season opener for the Psycowpath series at Maskenthine State Park, this coming Saturday. I won there last season, so I’ll be looking to repeat. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,