Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ready To RACE!

It's funny how when a guy is nearing the end of a race season all he wants is to get back to the simplicity of training where there is no pressure to be FAST. I remember last season telling myself that training is so much easier than racing, yet now I'm getting to the point where I can't wait to race so I can let off on the training.

The miles and miles of mindless pedaling with no excitement wears a man down and causes him to question his existence. I was just outside of good 'ole Hermantown, Mn last night by myself with my ipod battery dead I was forced inside my own head thinking about how much I hated wind, how I'm so prone to get flats, how it's going to feel when one of these cars blasts me into the nearby woods from behind. The head plays games with the head, leaving one very confused. While racing can be complicated in and of itself with the analytical side of strategy and gear choices I always try to remind myself that it just boils down to pedaling, albeit pedaling hard.

Maybe it's this; races have an end, training really doesn't have an end, it just goes on and on. When you're done with a long ride, the next one is waiting for you, knocking on your door, you're never really done.

I want to race and I want to race now! I've got two brand new Salsa rigs that are getting very restless in their stables. I want gravel and I want single track. I'm gettin' all twitchy. I monitor my weight like an 8th grade girl. I eat like one peanut a day. Hell, I even monitor my....well, I won't go into that here, but my training partners know about this and it always puts a funny look on their faces.

The other day I was checking my online bank statement to see how bad things in the Eki economy are getting. It's not looking pretty. However, there was one shining star! My check for the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival cashed!! Some people aren't fans of this fast paced roadie style mt. bike race, but I LOVE it. The idea of being in a race with world class cyclists, even if they are 15-20 minutes ahead of me is super cool. I love the atmosphere and the way all those people (thousands) are there for the same reason - bikes!

Let's get to the racing, I'm ready!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ridin' with Hondo. Volume 5

This column is intended to keep the reader abreast of ongoing training efforts that Eki and his partner experience as they move toward the holy grail of bike races, the Trans Iowa V.6. Any and all similarities of said training partner to humans acquainted with or related to the reader are purely coincidental. The writer deeply apologizes for disturbing qualities that may exist between others and the 'partner'.
The four horsemen of the north pull into the Fox Farm Rd. after approximately 9 hours of continuous riding. The group is quiet, sullen, all one - Hondo!
Hondo: "Whew, we're really flyin'. This is so fun! Good job you guys! God, we're really killin' it!
Eki: (to Hondo, clearly attempting to separate him from the other horsemen who are nervously watching this upcoming exchange) "Got a second? I want to talk to you about your pulls."
Hondo: (confused, looking perplexed) "Uhh, sure."
Eki: "Can we step over here? (The two move 25 feet away out of ear shot of the others who feign a conversation among themselves) "Hey, I'm not sure what it is you do when you're up front, but it's clearly not working for us! I'm gonna need you to start buckling down and getting some work done up there. Whatever this silly little game is that you're playing at the front, it needs to stop now!"
(view switches to the two other horsemen as they watch what appears to be Hondo and Eki in a silent movie, they see an animated Eki clearly chastising Hondo who obediently keeps his eyes cast downward. The volatile exchange ends with Eki violently slapping Hondo across the face with his riding gloves. Hondo takes this slap without protest. The two begin walking toward the other two horsemen with Hondo 5 paces behind Eki, clearly sobbing)
Eki: (to Hendricks and Big Buff) "I trust will be good to go now boys. Let's mount up."
The scene described above was just a snap shot of what the three horsemen dealt with throughout an 11 hour effort on Saturday the 20th day of March. The day was riddled with strife as good natured banter often included threads of truth. It would be impossible to encapsulate the entire ride in this post, but let it be said that Hondo looked strong and was in good spirits. His unorthodox riding style nearly crashed all of us on numerous occasions. The group shook it off and quietly reminded each other to be careful when following his wheel or when near him in general. The consensus was that while the rest of us rode 140 miles, Hondo no doubt rode 145 due to swerving around every 5 seconds. He's the only man I know who can wear out a set of tires on the sides.
The route chosen by this writer went down as purely legendary and by accident. This route was chosen by map with no knowledge of road types or conditions. The path came complete with gravel, trail, ancient structures in the form of early school houses and town halls in what appeared to be nearly abandoned towns. The winds tried to prepare us for Iowa as they plastered us in the teeth for nearly 3 straight hours all the while the four horsemen were climbing the slow slog of the archaic Saw Tooth Mt. range (the oldest mt. range in the country or was it world?- info courtesy of Big Buff).
The team was met with one mechanical issue that was thankfully solved in the middle of no where and could have turned into a colossal tragedy, but it didn't!
The Chili Con Crosso wanted to break out of the pack with wings on her wheels, but was held back by a sometimes physically struggling driver who sheltered himself in the slip stream of team mates.
Finally, as for Hondo, he came around and recovered from his emotional beating and began to pull again in a way that approached satisfaction for the others. As we separated, I rode away alone wondering if Hondo went out for another lap. He may have...
more to come...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I'm In Love!

Introducing the Salsa Chili Con Crosso

Who needs wings to fly? Myself and one of the Horsemen of Duluth, Rich Hendricks decided a three hour jaunt up the shore of Lake Superior was in order and with my 'build' complete the Chili was taken for her maiden voyage. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the first ride as I had painstakingly maneuvered through the build process as it was my first time completely building a bike. Knowing me like I know me, I figured for sure something catastrophic would happen to the bike. However, things went surprisingly well. I know everyone always goes on and on about their new bike being the best bike they've ever had and how amazing it is, bla, bla, bla. But, seriously this thing rides itself, all you have to do is hang on. The ease at which it climbs was immediately noticeable, so light, coming in at just under 20 lbs. (if my scale was correct).

I was like a proud papa after we pulled into our favorite north shore coffee shop, the Mocha Moose. In fact, Patty the owner was so taken with Chili that she gave me a free cup of coffee.

These wheels really roll! Chris King hubs, DT Swiss 465 rims, Double Butted Spokes. I couldn't even tell I had wheels on the bike. It felt like I was floating.

Admit it, she's pretty!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ridin' with Hondo. Volume 4

This column is intended to keep the reader abreast of ongoing training efforts that Eki and his partner experience as they move toward the holy grail of bike races, the Trans Iowa V.6. Any and all similarities of said training partner to humans acquainted with or related to the reader are purely coincidental. The writer deeply apologizes for disturbing qualities that may exist between others and the 'partner'.

The alarm came too soon and after rolling out of the sack I asked the question, "Are you really ready for this?". It wasn't the ride I was asking about (as this was the 3rd weekend in a row that included an 8 hour effort), but in fact it was Hondo that weighed on my mind. Could I really put up with all that he has to offer for another large block of my life on the bike? I'd have to gut it out. After all, these rides are about mental toughness just as much as they are about physical training.
I rolled into the usual meeting place a few minutes early to find three small lights milling about by the stern of the great vessel. I pretended to not notice them as I fumbled with an equipment adjustment allowing the group lead by Hondo to approach me. The first words out of his mouth as he came into view were, "Who is it?, Who is that?". Dear Reader, Hondo has scored hundreds and hundreds of riding hours with this writer, yet the start of every ride seems to be the first time we have met.
A fresh face showed itself in the group which was inspiring. Dave Schuneman who had been logging hours previous to our 6 a.m. start had hooked onto the ride and he intended on escorting us out of town as well as provide Rich, Jeremy and myself a buffer to the effects of the ageing Hondo. Some good natured chatter stared the morning as we headed north up the shore of the Gitchee Gumme. It wasn't long before a flat struck the group, this time it was the front tire of the confused one. I took this opportunity to unleash a flurry of derogatory comments directed his way as 'pay back' for last week's experience where I endured a 15 minute tongue lashing. I even managed to get this unique picture to capture the moment.

Soon enough we were back on the road heading toward Rich's favorite coffee shop, the Mocah Moose (sp?). Upon our arrival a mere 25 minutes out from the incident depicted in the picture Hondo announced, "I'm getting another flat!". Frustrated, the group pushed on into the parking lot 10 minutes before opening time. This would surely allow the 'cagey veteran' ample time to repair the damaged wheel. However, as he has staved off his admittance to a nursing home thus far, it became clear that he was definitely in need of some professional assistance. While attempting to fill the tube with air it was observed that he had affixed the pump to the stem at an angle that could only spell disaster. Yes, it happened, he sheered off the stem rendering the tube useless. The group milled about nervously as it was apparent he was losing his mind. I took a few steps away from the scene in the hope that none of the absurdity would rub off on me. Then, the colossal Hondo moment happened. He actually placed a patch on a perfectly good section of the tube and was then confused as to why the tube wouldn't hold air. Jeremy Kershaw rose to the occasion with the patients he employs at his work place (appropriately a hospital) pointing out that the puncture was 1/4 inch to the right of the patch. A tense energy entered the group as glances were exchanged regarding Hondo's condition. Thankfully, he carries the equivalence of a bike shop on his back and ultimately Jeremey was able to assist in the final repair while the crazed one rambled on about needing glasses.
After some of our group devoured a full breakfast complete with decaf espressos (which confused me) we were finally on our way, serving our intended purpose - a bike ride. The miles began to tick off and we formed a pace line driving hard into the wind. Surprisingly, not receiving obnoxious instruction from Hondo as there's a chance he was humbled by his display back at the coffee shop, but I doubt it. I did however become concerned as I'd watched on more than one occasion Hondo blindly follow Jeremey's wheel as he pulled off allowing Hondo to come through and take a turn. This misstep caused the pace line to lose momentum as a chain reaction occurred due to Hondo's failed realization of the functions of an effective pace line. We shook our heads and continued to worry about him - poor guy.
We laughed, chased Rich up the climbs, coached Jeremey through a sick stomach and dried Hondo's tears as he told stories of what he used to be able to do.
More to come...