Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seven Oaks

Somebody had tacos for lunch even though it’s not taco Tuesday.

We’ve had some pretty strange weather throughout the week leading up to last weekend. I’d look out of the window of my office and see a beautiful, mostly sunny sky. Fifteen minutes later I would hear a torrential downpour beating down on the metal roof of our building. I’d look out the window, see partially blue sky with rain beating against my window. I could feel a slight bit of frustration building within me as it looked like all of the rain would dampen everybody’s enthusiasm for racing at Seven Oaks. It’s no secret that racing in the mud at Seven Oaks isn’t a whole lot of fun, unless you enjoy riding your bike through peanut butter.
Julie and I decided to check the course out the day before the race and it was more or less what I had expected as the Boone area didn’t receive as much rain as Des Moines. The first lap had quite a few greasy spots and a couple of mud puddles to ride through. Seven Oaks is arguably the most technical mountain bike trail in Iowa, so I rode the first lap with Julie to show her the lines. She bailed after one lap and I went out for a second lap at close to race pace. The trail had dried considerably and most of the grease had turned to damp and tacky. After that, I knew the course would be close to perfect for the race.
We woke up the next day to a beautiful, cloudless day and race time temps were in the upper 70’s. We lined up for the start, Ron said go and I took the lead going into the singletrack with Padawan Gammell firmly attached to my wheel. I had no idea what the order was behind the young Padawan. Normally, I would use the Force to figure that out, however I needed to devote all of my attention to the tread. Any lapse in focus will most likely result in a tuck ‘n roll down a steep hill or doing the tango with a tree. I’ve done both here before and it’s not as fun as it sounds.
After about a half a lap, I could tell that Jed was beginning to sag a little, so I kept the pressure on until I could no longer see him where the course doubled back on itself. After that I settled into my own comfortable pace and was able to clip off all three laps at pretty close to the same 35+ minute per lap pace. After shaking Jed, the remainder of the race was pretty uneventful. I started picking up lapped traffic from the Cat 2 race about midway through my second lap and had no trouble getting by as they all made plenty of room for me. I passed Julie on one of the many tricky switchbacks and it looked as though she was leading the Category 2 women’s race.

I rode my bike over a large piece of stick.

Kevin jumped his bike over a large piece of stick.

I ended up with another win, followed by Padawan Gammell, who’s having a pretty good season despite minimal racing. Kevin McConnell brought home third, followed closely by Aaron Robinett. Ben Shockey rounded out the top five. Julie also had another stellar race brining home the win in the women’s Category 2 race. On a course where there are an endless amount of good opportunities to hit the deck, she only kissed the dirt once. Thankfully there was little to no damage to her or the Goose.
Things came together nicely for this race and there are a few folks that need to be recognized for stepping up big time to make it another successful event. Ron DeGeest is pretty much a one man wrecking crew for Singletrack Promotions this year. With a little help from a few friends, he was able to get a lot of the trail at Seven Oaks into race ready condition. The trails at Seven Oaks require more work than most other places, so a big thank you to Singletrack Promotions. WWJ (Jay Chesterman) supplied several cases of Chippewa Springs Water, Jason’s Deli provided several free gift cards and Greg Rasmussen of Rasmussen Bike Shop provided most of the awards that were given away. All of these generous folks that support our great sport of mountain bike racing are very deserving of your patronage, so please show all of them your appreciation by giving them your business. And lastly, to all 68 of the people that came out and had a great time on their mountain bikes! I think this might have been the best turn out for a cross country race at Seven Oaks!

Kevin and Aaron were gangin' up on me after the race and threatened to break my knees if I ever beat them again.

Next up is the rain date for the Psycowpath race at Maskenthine. Kevin Limpach did a number on me at the last Psycowpath race, so I’ll be looking for a little redemption this time around!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Border Battle

Photos courtesy of Jay Richards and Julie

Mountain bike racing in the Midwest simply doesn’t get any better than WORS or MNSCS races. Both series do a top notch job of creating a fun, electric atmosphere at all of their races. What could possibly be better? How about combining both series into one race! That’s what the Border Battle is all about. You get the best of both series, especially when it comes to the competition. Even though I routinely get my butt kicked by the top dogs in both series, I love coming up.
Julie and I headed up Saturday morning to get a good recon in of the course and were greeted with close to perfect course conditions. Last year the course was very dry and dusty, which made for some pretty slippery corners. This year, even though it had been dry, recent rain had made all of the shaded areas very fast. After our recon we hit the grocery store for some grub. Last year, we’ve kinda gotten ourselves into a bad habit of making sure that we eat some ice cream the night before a race…who am I kidding, we eat ice cream every night. We like the pricey stuff, Haagen Dazs baby! There was slim pickens’ at the local Econofoods, so we had to settle for some Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked.
We stayed at the same cabin with Tyrine and the Scanley’s as last year, and after a nice dinner, I gave Ty a good butt kickin’ in a game of cribbage. While we were playing, it started to rain and it continued on and off throughout the night. We woke up the next morning and I could hear cars driving by on wet pavement. We had no idea what to expect with course conditions, however WORS and MNSCS run rain or shine, so it was go time regardless of the weather or course conditions. As the morning progressed, the skies began to clear and it ended up being a beautiful day for bike racing!
We headed over to the course and watched some of the Cat 3 race and noticed that there was little to no mud on any of the bikes or racers. The only exception was a few dirt skid marks up and down several of the racers bodies from hitting the deck.
Julie’s race was scheduled two hours before mine, so I was able to watch the first part of her race before I had to get ready for mine. She got off to her usual slow start and hit the bottom of the first climb in dead last. By the time she got to the top, she was sitting about mid pack of the 24 strong women’s Category 2 field. After she passed, I rolled over to another section of the course near the end of the lap and she was still sitting in about 12th place overall. She looked like she was riding really well, she looked strong, however I was surprised not to see her higher up in the order. She ended up in 10th overall, good enough for 2nd in her age. I thought that she might have finished a little higher, however she was happy with her result and said she had a great time. So it was all good and as always, I am very proud of well she’s been doing this year!

If you attend my all women’s mtb clinic this fall, you too will learn to fly around corners just like Julie.

Julie got to stand on a box. Check out her shirt, she’s giving the Dirty Du some love.

My race was pretty stacked with the best that the Midwest has to offer and I was very fortunate to get a 2nd row call up in the 70 strong Elite men’s field. I got off to my usual slow start and ended up in around 30th going up the initial climb. By the time I hit the top of the climb, I felt like I was completely gassed. I made a pretty quick recovery and began my pursuit towards the sharp end of the field. I was able to get by several riders after we hit the top of the climb and settled into a good pace as we hit the first section of singletrack. There were a few places where the pace slowed to a crawl due to the usual bottlenecking that takes place at the beginning of big races. Maybe someday I’ll get off to a good start and I’ll be able to avoid the bottlenecks. I’m old and start slowly, so I guess that’s how its’ gonna be for me until I decide to better prepare myself, if that ever happens!

The Don of WORS was kind enough to give me a 2nd row call up. I suck at starts and need all of the help that I can get.


The train of pain flying up the climb at the start of the race. I’m in there somewhere, suffering like an animal.

Check me out, I think that I was still in my happy place despite the severe pain.

I kept passing other competitors throughout the race and I could tell that I was riding pretty well through all of the techie sections. The dirt, for the most part was damp, tacky and very fast. The course was better than yesterday in some places, and a little worse in others. However there was little to no mud. When we hit the open sections, I hit the throttle and was almost always able to pick off at least one rider. When we hit the tight sections where there were no opportunities to pass, I’d settle in on the wheel in front of me and try to recover so that I could open the throttle again in the next open section.

TJ dishin’ out a little pain early in the race.

Towards the end of the race, the lapped traffic from the Comp class and the Elite women was pretty heavy and I had some difficulties in getting by some, however that’s the way that it goes on a course like this. When there was room, I was able to get by without getting held up too much. This happens at almost every WORS and MNSCS race, and those that get passed know what’s going on and do their best to make room, so it’s all good.

Mike Phillips is finding his form quickly after recovering from a knee blowout last spring.

Flying through one of the many fast corners, check out the tread...damp and tacky = mtb goodness.

Cruising down a sweet bridge.

A couple of dirty old men. 40+ fast guy Jeff Melcher and I giving each other a good ole’ fashioned beat down.

To my surprise, I managed to pull off an 8th place overall finish. If you’d have told me during my warm up that I would crack the top ten today, I would have laughed at you. My legs felt like crap during my warm up and it was all that I could do to get my HR over 160. My average HR for the race was 170, which was also a big surprise based on how my warm up went. I had just finished two pretty heavy build weeks of training and my legs were heavy from the efforts. At the same race last year, it was the same deal, tired legs which resulted in 15th overall, about 8:30 behind the winner. Today I was only 4:30 behind the winner, so I might be able to take that as a sign that I might be a little faster this year.

Race winner Marko Lalonde made the switch from the Dark Side riding a geared bike.

Despite having a good race, I didn’t get to stand on a box this time.

Marko Lalonde continued his stellar season with another win over a strong field, followed closely by TJ Woodruff. Mikey Phillips is continuing his recovery from and early season injury and making some great progress as he finished in 3rd, followed by Brendan Moore with Jesse Lalonde rounding out the top five. Full results can be found here.
While we were standing on the podium, some dude called me the ninja racer. I suppose it was because I kinda snuck up on him in the singletrack, then passed him in one of the open sections. Maybe it was also because of the all black Rassy kit and the mostly black Orbea Oiz. Whatever the reason, several of us got a good laugh out of it…

Next up is the 8th race of the IMBCS at Seven Oaks Ski Area near Boone, IA. Race director Ron DeGeest of Singletrack Promotions is pretty much a one man band and doing it all himself this year. Reports from last weekend are that the trails are in great shape and good to go for this weekend. I’m hoping for a good turn out as Ron has been working his butt off to put together a great event for this weekend!

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tranquility / Ahquabi Double

Day one,

Fifty pounds of pasta in a five pound bowl… that’s how I would describe the trails at Tranquility Park in Omaha. Actually, a better description might fifty pounds of pasta in a five pound bowl fresh out of the oven. As Julie and I were driving to the course, a bank thermometerin Omaha had indicated that it was 100 degrees out. I’ve raced in hot weather before, but never this hot.
My legs were a little sore all day yesterday from another hard week of training, so I didn’t really know what to expect from them today. The other unknown was how my body would respond to the searing heat. The race started and the field seemed to more or less concede the hole shot to me as I didn’t really have to work that hard to take it. I lead the way into the woods and it seemed like I was going to do OK with the heat.

Leading the train on spaghetti hill.

Fresh out of the oven! It's so hot that everybodies skin is red.

About midway through the first lap I dropped my chain. As I was struggling to get it back on, Kevin shot by me and gained an immediate gap. I finally got my chain back on and began my pursuit. I finally reeled him back in shortly after the beginning of the second lap and once we hit the myriad of switchbacks he was able to reestablish a gap on me. We hit the open field on a hill and as I began to close the gap my body began to reject the effort. The heat was starting to catch up to me and as a result, I had no significant power when going uphill.
We hit some of the shaded sections of the course and I began to feel a little better. However whenever we hit the sunny sections, my body began to balk at any significant efforts. Throughout the second lap and the beginning of the third lap I kept persisting with effort in an attempt to pull Kevin back, however my body would have none of it. Sometime during the beginning of lap three, I finally began to realize that it wasn’t gonna happen today. So I put myself in survival mode and did what I could to finish and hang onto 2nd overall.
Kevin ended up finishing pretty strong and earned his first, much deserved Psycowpath win. He did his homework in course recon and had little to no trouble with the heat and that’s pretty much what it took to pull off the W. I managed to hold on for 2nd, followed by Jim Winklepeck, Jesse Peterson and Mark Savery. Just finishing was a significant accomplishment today as only 10 of the 17 that started the Pro / Cat 1 race finished.
Julie had another great race and managed to bring home the W in the women’s Cat 2 race. She said that she was able to back the pace off a little once she took the lead in order to save herself a little for tomorrow’s race.

Julie had no trouble with the heat or the spaghetti.

The 'goose was a fast bike for me...and she's a fast bike for Julie.

Day two,

The weather was much better for racing today with temps ranging anywhere from around 80 at the start, to around 90 at the finish. There were even a few moments when there were light sprinkles during the race.
The course at Lake Ahquabi State Park has been likened to the course for the Chequamegon 40, with it being mostly fast, flowing double track. I love racing there because it is very fast for a mountain bike race and makes for excellent Chequamegon preparation.
The race started and I was again given the hole shot. We hit the first climb and about halfway up, Kent Carlson pulled up next to me. I wasn’t really keen on giving up the lead, mostly because he was on a singlespeed and I knew that once we hit the flats, I’d get by him. He was about a wheel ahead of me at the top when he took a wrong turn. He pre-rode the course so he should have known where to go. I think that he’d gotten himself so cross-eyed that he kind of lost his mind at the top of the climb.

Cruisin' into the woods...I love hangin' out in the woods.

For the first half of a lap, I knew that Aaron was on my wheel, however I had no idea what was going on behind him. Shortly after that, I couldn’t hear anybody behind me. I took a look back and my suspicions were confirmed. I had already gapped the field and we still had 4 ½ laps to go. I kept the pressure on as I had no interest in giving anybody a free ride on this draft friendly course.
The remainder of the race was without incident and I managed to grab another win. Padawan Gammell and Aaron ended up duking it out to the bitter end and on the final climb, they managed to crash each other. Aaron managed to gather himself a little more quickly than Jed and took the ‘sprint’ for 2nd with Jed bringing home 3rd. Nate Kullborn brought home 4th and Kent made a nice recovery from his off course excursion to round out the top 5.
Bruce Brown and the MOB crew did another fine job in creating another great IMBCS race. This one is quickly becoming one of my favorites as it is close to home and suits a lot of my strengths really well.
Julie capped off another great weekend with another Cat 2 overall win. I am really anxious to see how she does in the Chequamegon 40, maybe a sub 3 hour race? We’ll find out in a little over a month!

Julie loves hangin' out in the woods too.

Next up is the race coined as the ‘Border Battle’. It’s a joint venture between the WORS and MNSCS series. I got my butt handed to me last year, mostly due to tired legs. I guess I’m kind of expecting the same thing this year as I’m in the middle of a pretty heavy build period. In races up north, the competition is so tight, that I can be a little off my game and I could loose 10 - 15 positions because of it. It’s all good though, if anything, it’ll be a great workout and a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Camp Ingawanis

After nearly a month off from racing, it was time to blow the cobwebs off of the race bike. I really had no idea what to expect from my legs, though I wasn’t really all that concerned about it. I was pretty excited to get back into race mode and all of my other concerns fell to the wayside.
I drove up to Ames to hang out with Julie for the weekend and we got some good rides in and around town on Friday and Saturday before the race. Sunday morning, we loaded up the Jeep and made the 2 hour drive up to Camp Ingawanis. I had talked to the race director, Rob Walters, earlier in the week and he had indicated that they had temporarily lost access to the northern section of trails due to some logging operation that was going on. This got me a little concerned about the course, as the majority of the trails were on the northern part of the property. They did manage to squeeze about 4 ½ miles of trail out of the southern section and when I did my recon lap, my concerns about the coursed quickly disappeared. They put together a pretty sweet course that made the 2 hour drive well worth it.
We lined up for the start and I bagged the holeshot, though I kinda sensed that the remainder of the Pro / Cat 1 field kinda conceded the holeshot to me. I didn’t get clipped in right away and had gotten off to a mediocre start. I should have gotten blown away at the start, however that didn’t happen.
I lead the way into the singletrack and knew that I would have a long train of riders behind me for a while. The nature of the trails were such that there were little to no sections that provided that ‘natural selection’ element that I always look for as a means of creating a gap between myself and the competition.
About midway through lap 1 I had managed to gap everybody less one person. That one person was glued to my wheel and I could tell by the way that he was riding that he was going to turn himself inside out to stay there. I had no idea who it was over the first couple of laps, however it didn’t really matter. I could only go so fast through the tight, twisty sections. So my only other option was to drill it on the open sections and short power climbs in hopes of wearing him down. All of the fast, open sections were short enough that by the time I had gotten myself unwound, it was already time to slow down so that I didn’t overcook the tight corner at the end. All of the climbs were also short enough, that by the time I got my momentum working for me, the trail would begin to level out.
It was probably around the beginning of lap three that I finally figured out that it was Aaron Robinett who was shadowing me. It was also at that same time that I found myself wondering if I was ever going to be able to shake him. I stuck to the plan and continued pushing the pace whenever possible. It wasn’t until we got part way into lap 3 that I sensed he was beginning to tire a little. Even though I couldn’t see, I could tell that there were moments when a small gap would open up between us. For a while, he would close it back up, however about midway through lap 3 the elastic had finally reached its’ breaking point. I kept the pressure on hoping that the gap would stick.
I kept the screws nice and tight throughout the last lap and a half and managed to hold him off by around 30 seconds. Kevin McConnell, Sean Noonan and Trevor Rockwell rounded out the top five. Aaron rode a great race and clearly had a plan of sticking with me, either waiting for me to tire or make a mistake. I rode a pretty good race too, good enough that Aaron’s plan didn’t quite work out this time. However, I don’t think that it will be long before he turns the table on me. I had a great time racing against him, and when he does get the best of me, I’ll be the first to congratulate him. I love good competition and would rather have a closely contested race rather than a blowout.
Julie also had a great race and took her first overall win in the Category 2 class. If she keeps it up, it won’t be long before she’s bangin’ bar ends with Robin Williams and Kim Eppen! Right now she’s riding my old Mongoose hardtail and she’s getting the snot knocked out of her on most of the bumpy sections of trail. Next year she’ll be on a full suspension and she’s only going to get faster!

Next up is another dirty double weekend. On Saturday we’ll be heading to Omaha for next installment of the Psycowpath series. It’s supposed to be 100 degrees with 25 mph winds with 45 mph gusts….my kind of race! On Sunday we’ll be at Lake Ahquabi State Park for IMBCS #7.

Thanks for reading,