Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gotta Get My Head Right: D.K.'s Comin' FAST!

The long voyage to the vastness of Kansas begins soon. Then, the long voyage by bicycle all around that great state.

Help me...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Green Bay HEAT! Marathons Halted! Bike Riding BONKS!

The only thing handling the heat this weekend was the Mama of these eggs. She was camera shy though.
What a weekend! Another trip to Green Bay with the focus being Amy's half marathon. The weather was supposed to be HOT, with some thunderstorms. The rain never came, but the HEAT, MY GOD THE HEAT!!

My road ride would turn into way more of a battle than I ever intended. I went into what was supposed to be a 5 hour road ride, only to have it turn into a monumental BONK FEST! High winds, and 93 degree heat beat me to a pulp.

Great views were the only saving grace.

This barn looked like I felt.

I saw a lot of these guys as I tried to sneak in 100 miles on the day. The last 14 nearly broke me!

Now on to Amy's day. The race directors allowed the full marathon runners to opt for the half marathon while on course if they decided it was just too hot. 49% of them did just that. Only 10 full marathon runners would complete the course before the directors pulled the plug on the event.

The elites were flyin' for the time being.

Doin' my best as support crew. The "hand up" was flawless.

Check out that number - "Preferred Start" Gotta love it!

Here's the post race report.

We had a blast. The weather is always the wild card as we all know. Mother Nature will always have the final say.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ridin' Horses in Wisconsin: 100 Miles of Northern Kettles Race Report

The Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series kicks off with what used to be known as the 12 Hours of Northern Kettles (about an hour south of Green Bay). The format has changed to 100 miles, rather than 12 hours. I wasn't complaining about the change, I'd much rather race a distance than a clock.

My home base. The Spearfish waits in the back ground for the 2nd half of the race.

Traveling has been the name of the game for me lately with 3 out of 4 weekends being spent in Green Bay I've come to know the route well. I just couldn't miss this race. The format may have changed, but the course hadn't and I love this course! As a "blue collar" racer I'd be the "racer" as well as the "pit crew". My wife, Amy thought about coming with me, but I never feel good about knowing she's just sitting there all day watching people go round and round on bikes. It doesn't seem fair. Typically, she gets out for her own workout or heads into town, but since Green Bay seems to be our home away from home, I didn't mind that she chose to sit this one out.
Juggling both roles takes a lot of planning. I made sure everything was set in order to minimize my stopped time. Also, my plan included switching bikes at the half way point of the race, so I knew that pit stop would be more substantial. I wanted things to go as smoothly as possible.

Post Race:  My hand has devolved into a claw.

I'm going to keep the "race report" aspect of this writing short as there really isn't much to tell. And, as you know I'm not a fan of boring you with the intricate details of gear ratios, tire pressures, race strategies, etc. In fact, I'll give you my race strategy and show you how complex, uh, I mean simple, it was for me.

1. Try to stay with the leaders.
2. Keep "racing" the whole race.
3. Minimize pit stops.
4. Switch bikes at the half way point.
5. Enjoy what you're doing.

You get the idea, not a lot to it.
The legs, shriveled and filthy.

This race took on a different feel within two minutes. In a nutshell, Randy Wegener, and Chris Schotz kindly spit me out of their little two-some as if they really didn't want me around. I tip my "helmet" to them as those guys were absolutely rippin'. I went deep to stay with them, but quickly did the math and chose to not bury myself in trying to match their pace. I knew it would be a long day and I've made those early mistakes before. Sometimes the best race tactic is to know yourself and know when you're simply out gunned. These guys showed up to the fight with Howitzers and I had a knife. I watched them ride away. They continued to put time into me on each lap from that point on. I'd fight the good fight alone. In hindsight, I didn't mind it. I had my head in a good place and I was really enjoying the rubber and metal dancing underneath me. "Stay on top of it, Ride hard..." became my mantra. I tried to focus on lap times and practiced being a better mountain biker. I may not have been keeping up to Chris and Randy, but I honestly felt like I was riding fast and it felt good!
Doesn't look like it, but inside I'm happy. Little did I know my rear tire was going down, flat by the time I got the bike home.

The animal I chose to start the race on was one I know well, my Salsa El Mariachi Ti. We have come to an understanding on the trail. She behaves exactly the way I expect and I believe the feeling is mutual. I stayed on my toes and let her float over the rocky single track, consciously centering myself over her back in order to avoid the super hard hits. She seemed to appreciate it as I gathered more and more speed through the rough stuff. "We're getting long pretty good today", I remarked as I cleaned a rooty, rocky section that used to give me fits. Gears were snapping into place as soon as my finger hit the lever. I jumped up climbs with less effort than I knew was required. I recall thinking about how I'm not one to name bikes, but when I'm on the El M. T. the word Ripper just always come to mind. "You are a RIPPER", I thought to myself as she performed flawlessly. But, once lap 5 was in the books, she'd be locked up to the tree and the new Spearfish 1 would be brought out of the weeds. I was anxious to get to know her and to see how we'd get along.
A well run race!

Right out of the gate the Spearfish felt different. There were subtleties that I'd come to accept. I felt the different geometry, the handlebar height, the grips, the saddle, and mostly the full suspension. "Just give it a lap", I told myself. I rode easy, gradually letting her run. She seemed to fight me as if she didn't want me on her back. In fact, on a few occasions she even tried to buck me off. I squeezed a little tighter reminding her that we were in this thing together and I wasn't going anywhere. She spit and snarled at me as I forced shifts that were no good, as I grabbed too much brake instead of letting her flow. Was I fighting her or was she fighting me? Maybe a little bit of both. Then it happened, I felt her float as I seemed to rise above a rock garden, just lightly tapping the tops of the boulders. A smile crept across my face. I loosened my fingers a bit and started spinning a little smoother, she had accepted the bit in her mouth. I let her run!
L-R: Me (3rd), Rich Lytle (4th), Randy Wegener (2nd), Chris Schotz (1st)
These three guys to the right of me can flat out RIP!

Soon, we were operating as one, but my body began to tire. I no longer could giver her all that she needed. That old familiar feeling of deep fatigue had crept into my legs, arms, and lower back. I became painfully aware of how much of the race was left. Looking more and more over my shoulder, hoping we wouldn't be caught, I pressed on giving the Spearfish all that I had. I cursed myself as the lulls took hold of me and I noticed a period when I was riding without intensity. "Focus on the clock, keep the laps as close to 50 minutes as you can, every little bit helps, STAY ON IT!". These were the words that kept me going.

I knew Randy and Chris were gone, I had already wished them well in my mind. But, I also knew Rich Lytle would not hand me 3rd place. He's hungry and he's tough. This guy doesn't know how to quit. Not to mention I saw the rig he'd be riding this day, a super sweet Specialized S-Works "single track killer". This thing looked like they built it for Rich. I had to keep pressing on.

One lap to go. All I had to do was stay safe. There was no one around me most of the time and I felt confident that if I could just get in I'd be o.k. However, 3 hour racers as well as 6 hour racers now controlled the course and occasionally paid me a visit. Fresh riders buzzed by me and I moved through slower riders. My addled brain struggled to handle this new variable.

Then, without warning, over a seemingly innocent piece of trail I felt the familiar heavy clunk of rim hitting rock. "Uuuggghhh, I hope that isn't a pinch flat!" In prepping for the race I had no time to switch the wheels of the Spearfish to a tubeless set up. I was worried, but after 5 minutes, no flat, "I must be o.k.", I thought.

I pulled through the start finish area for a 3rd place overall. I was satisfied!

Now for some post race relaxation!

Thanks to the great folks that put this race on, it was awesome! Thank you to Schwalbe tires, the Racing Ralphs are like Velcro on single track. Thank you to Salsa Cycles, you guys breed 'em well.

Now that's a post race meal!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Favorite Day of the YEAR

First off, let me start by apologizing for the lack of pictures. Trust me, I kicked myself over and over for not having my camera while on this ride. So, in consideration of the fact that I have no visuals for you I will do my best to paint a picture in your mind.

Here's the scenario from a practical stand point. I have a 100 mile mt. bike race this weekend and I was really hoping to have the Spearfish 1 built and ready to go for this race. As you know there's a lot more that goes into getting a bike ready to race than just building it. In some ways the building is the easy part. It's the tiny adjustments, shock set up (i.e. pre-load, compression damping, rebound damping, etc.), brake lever reach and position, saddle height and position, grips, stem length correct?, it just goes on and on. I have found that sometimes it can take many rides before I've decided the bike is "ready". If one adjustment is bothering you, it can play with your head or make you sore in some way as you plow through miles and miles of a race.

Well, the bike was built and after about 40 laps around my house, ruining the lawn, I felt I had the suspension close, but I needed to get it out on the trail to be sure. Cut to yesterday after work...

The second I walk in the house, "Hi honey, I'm going to turn a couple 'hot ones' in Piedmont, be back in a few, gotta check the bike out." Piedmont refers to the "Piedmont Trail System", which happens to be a 3 minute ride from my house (I LOVE DULUTH). I grabbed a spare tube, couple CO2's, allen wrench, and I was out the door. The plan was simple, ride WIDE OPEN for several minutes at a time while conscious of the bike's handling and note any changes needed. "Piedmont" is notoriously rough, it would definitely test the full suspension of the bike. It was a business trip. Cut to me as a little boy...

"Dad, my favorite day of the year is when the leaves first turn into leaves." My Dad simply replied, "Yeah Tim, that's when the woods wake up from a deep winter sleep ... I love it too." It's been my favorite day of the year ever since.

I started turning my laps when it donned on was that day! A lush green color surrounded me, fooling my eyes, as they were accustomed to the shades of gray they'd been processing for the past 6 months. Soon, I reigned the bike in, so I could absorb the changes that seemed to be taking place at that very moment. The sun was beaming through a loosely knit canopy, the ferns that usually blanket this section were straining to fill the lower two feet of the forest. The baby leaves, ultra green, fresh and filled with strength, were fighting their way into the open air. I could smell was good.

A distant voice came to my ears, "Heads up, someones on the trail ahead", I said to myself. Then, a middle aged English Setter came dancing up to me. Hot on her heals was a young pup of the same breed. The toddler seemed to be laughing hysterically as it followed her older mentor through the open under brush. Just then, a good natured guy called them close in a manner that showed me he wasn't worried about their behavior or mine for that matter. As I slowly rolled past him I remarked, "Looks like you got a 'fresh one' there." A grin crossed his face as he stated, "Yeah, she's a rookie." A few pedal strokes passed and I picked my eyes up from the trail, taking in the longer view and thought ... just like this day.

Don't forget to look, it's goin' on, all around you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thoughts from a Finger Tip

Early in our educations we learn that the finger tips contain many, many nerve endings, all designed to send messages to our brains. Now, as day to day life wears on one doesn't really think about this kind of thing, we just feel stuff. It's kind of like how we don't really think about our heart beating, it just does.

Apparently, I have neglected this little detail about the finger tips and the nerve endings for far too long - time for a reminder. I'm not sure if you recall that I totally destroyed my front wheel on a ride in the Chequamegon National Forest last fall. Well, the time had come to replace that wheel. So, the night before last I moved through the whole process of making the thing tubeless. I battled with my weak air compressor, while Stan's stuff sprayed all over me. Finally, after way too long I had the tire holding air but, I missed my favorite t.v. show.

Last night I was back at it. All I had to do was mount the disc, throw it on the bike, make some quick adjustments and "boom baby" new front wheel - ready to ROCK! It never works out like that for me. Yeah, I got the disc on no problem at all and in reality the caliper didn't even need that much adjusting, but I can't stand when things on the bike aren't perfect. I began "tweaking".

Anyone who has ever adjusted a disc brake knows that as soon as you tighten down the bolts, because everything is perfect, the caliper moves a little, screwing it all up. This was my world at this point. I began to rush the process out of frustration. Bad move!

Almost there, I aggressively spun the front wheel to check for daylight between the disc and the pads, ooooh, just a smidgen more. I went to bump the caliper over a bit and I grasped it, inadvertently allowing my right (I'm right handed) index finger tip to slip inside the swirly "spokes" of the disc. Then, suddenly I heard a musical note, one not all that different than the one on the soundtrack of 127 hours - the Aaron Rahlston story. It was a searing guitar note that soared just as he cut the nerve to his arm. Only, for me the note literally came from my finger nail being scalped off by the swirly "spoke" of the disc. I looked on quizzical like as the wheel slowed in it's rotation. A strange aura took over my garage as my stomach got all "gooey" feeling. Not good!

I dared to look at the finger hoping it wouldn't be that bad. "Huh, my finger nail looks weird", I pondered. A quarter of it was gone, somewhere in the abyss of the garage. A pretty hued pink color adorned the end of my finger, but what was this "cleaved" crevasse within the pretty pink area? As these thoughts floated through my now floating mind, the skin/meat that had never seen the light of day, because it had been under my finger nail for 44 years turned into a miniature horror movie. The blood flowed... My knees went weak...

Instantly, my mind made the situation worse. "Great, I don't have a finger tip anymore, what will my life be like from here on out? Will have to get specially designed brake levers?" I ran upstairs, I guess to get a band aid. Seems silly, but a band aid was all I could think of to do. I ran past Amy who calmly asked, "How's it going?". I replied with urgency of a man reporting in from a battle field, "I think I just cut my finger tip off!" Amy helped me get bandaged up while she averted her eyes. Last time she helped me with a mechanical boo boo she had to sit on the bathroom floor, because she almost passed out.

All better now for the time being I finished the job with the brake and retired to the couch.

As I rode into work this morning I used the maimed finger for the first time since the incident. To say it hurt would not do it justice. All those nerve endings they told us exist in the finger tip, well, they weren't fibbin' us. The last 1/4 inch of my finger took on a life of it's own throughout my hour and a half commute. It had it's own heartbeat, it started to try to take over my thoughts, until finally I succumbed. Once I had completely surrendered to the "tip", it began to have it's own thoughts. I'm pretty sure it was breathing on it's own under that bandage too.

I made it to work and I took my glove off.... You can only imagine.