Friday, December 19, 2014

F-YEAH FRIDAY!

Lots of bike blogs and bike internet people post about F-YEAH FRIDAY!

Because it's Friday and if you can get out and ride, your brain goes F-YEAH the entire time.  You're psyched you're riding, there's no guilt because the kids are at school, and you're not working.  What's not to like?  

December in Arizona, so that means it's time for Desert Single Track.  Rode to the trail, drank the Whiskey From the Bottle, passed a roadie in a Rapha Team kit and a bazillion-dollar carbon road bike on the way home.  Love making the Tie-Fighter noise with the tires as you go by very serious looking guys in skinny tires.

That's an awesome time as far as I'm concerned. 

Hope you got a little F-YEAH in your Friday too!






Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What is this all about?

I started writing this blog in Feb of 2013 when a friend (a real friend) complained that all they saw on Facebook was updates about my rides, my bikes, what I was thinking when I was riding, what I was wearing, what I was eating...you know, stuff I felt was really important and critical to share with all my "friends".

But I got the point.  I'm lucky to have an awesome family and people wanted to see pictures of them.  Pictures of a cake my wife made are far more interesting to the Facebook crew than a picture of an empty GU wrapper next to a summit sign with a bike shadow in the background.

Since I was starting the adventure of training for the Leadville 100, I decided to create an alternative Facebook page.  Then Facebook became a pain in the rear to deal with, I could not put the pictures up in the way I wanted, etc.  So I created this blog, as a place to dump my cycling blather.

I guess I could have started a journal, or kept this all on my PC, or just kept it private.  I made up some reason about wanting this all on the cloud backed up on Google's infinite server capacity, or being able to share my cycling journey(ies) with any friends and family easily.  Really I just want someone else to read this stuff.  I'm as narcicisstic and self absorbed as the next guy.

As I typed away I realized what's most interesting to me to write about, and what I get responses on from the 3-5 people that read the posts are when I write about what's in my head.  Sure, the weather, the quality of the dirt, the incline of the hill, the contents of my bottles and jersey pockets are fascinating...but what I enjoy sharing is what I'm thinking and feeling when I'm out there. 

Besides, I can't continue to bore my wife with these stories.  My S-1 number would go down, and that would be tragic.

So here it is.  The Bad Dads Cycling Blog.  What's in your head?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's On the Bathroom Mirror

Mid December.  In most parts of the country, cyclists are thinking about their next trainer session, spin class, or perhaps getting their fat bikes or cyclocross rigs out in the mud and snow.

In Arizona, it's time to go racing!  The 12 and 24 hour events are in full swing, and the MBAA series is ready to kickoff. Wrapped around all that you have registrations and lotteries opening for Leadville, The Whiskey and the rest of the Epic Rides events, Gravel Grinders a plenty, and a pile of unofficial official events like SingleSpeed Arizona.  Plus.... Iceman registration is right around the corner! This is a super-motivating time to be a mountain biker in the desert. 

Unless you're me, and you're feeling a little sluggish and dreaming of warm fires and snow covered landscapes of the Midwest, Northeast, and the Rocky Mountains. 

So it's time to look back and look ahead least I sit and drinks pints of Guinness and eat shepherds pie until I'm over the weight limit for the carbon bits on the bikes.

Looking back, this was a pretty ambitious year. I crossed from setting goals like "finish" to goals that had times in them. At the start of the year, these were the results i targeted:

McDowell 40 -- 3:30
Whiskey 50 -- 4:30
Leadville -- 10:00 (though you're always going for 9)
BarnBurner -- 8:30
Iceman -- 2:00

In the middle of the year, also added the Tahoe trail, and I wanted to go 4:30 for the 100K. 

I came into my race season lighter, stronger, and on a faster bike than last year...and yet...I made exactly ZERO of my goals. I came close at BarnBurner, and with the time bonus because of the ambulance delay, I did come in faster than 830.

3 races had weather issues (Whiskey, Barn Burner, and Iceman), 1 had a clothing and tire issues (Tahoe) and I was just an idiot in Leadville not prepping my bike properly and not eating during the first 1/2 of the race. 

Though the results not where I wanted them, looking back, I learned a little something about myself that I had come to doubt over the years.  I am tougher than I give myself credit for.
    • At the McDowell 40 I broke 2 ribs 7 miles from the end.  I could have bailed out about 4 miles from the end, but kept it together, even after I crashed for a second time on the same side.  3:48, 18 minutes off my goal
    • The Whiskey was some seriously nasty weather.  60mph+ wind, huge amounts of snow, rain...but I held it together, made sure I got numbers instead of DNF, 5:51.  
    • Tahoe Trail, I had 2 flats.  Still managed to beat the cut off.  Also wore some really bad socks.  They almost made me DNF.  Socks are important
    • Leadville is Leadville.  I came in faster than last year, nowhere near my goal, but still under 12.  I'll take the buckle.
    • Barn Burner I actually made my goal...and survived a downpour, thunder, and lightning that sent a lot of riders looking for their cars.
    • Then there was Iceman.  I wanted 2:00.  Settled for Sub-3.  

Worse than the results were the lack of motivation that started creeping in mid-way through Tahoe, Leadville, Barnburner, and Iceman.  In all of those races I hit a point where I was wondering what the heck I was doing out there in the crap weather, hundreds or thousands of miles from the family...I was never going to be on a podium...I had done all of these races previously...what the heck was I doing?  Playing at 10,000' is for professional dirtbags, people with huge sums of money....or me?  Is it for me? Am I a total poser?  I found myself at pivotal points during these events doubting why I was riding them at all.  Wanting to be home flipping pancakes or driving kids to swimming...or even possibly riding with them.  But there I was, on a racecourse, with a number strapped to the handlebars and many miles to go before the finish.  

This was a serious problem. 

Winning has never bee the motivation.  In my life I have one exactly 1 sports related "podium". That was senior year of high school at a tennis tournament.  Won the 3rd doubles flight at a little team tournament in northern MI. Even if I was motivated by winning, the reality is I won't be on a podium for several years. My path in life has been different than anyone who considers themselves truly competetive.  Maybe if I keep at it, and keep getting stronger there may be some podiums once I'm 55+. Ok, given the number of 55+ that beat me, it's probably more like 60+. 

Losing motivation in the middle of a race is a bad. I don't want this happening next year. The more I read, the more I realize this is an issue for many of my fellow MAMILs. I believe it's the next part of the test.  Need to keep it up. Keep it going. There are personal achievements out there, and there is no reason not to keep pursuing and achieving them. I may not stand on a podium at a bike race for 15 years, but if I keep moving, keep pushing, stay motivated -- it is possible. Life is a not a sprint, so time to keep at it.

Another pretty interesting and exciting thing happened this year.  I'm starting to have the virtual team come together in a very exciting way. A least one friend here in AZ is committed getting to Leadville in 2015.  I kind of pulled him along this year with advice, encouragement, a few spare parts, a little advice...and I think I have him hooked.   Another friend in Michigan is locking in 2016 for Leadville (he says 2017, but we'll get him there before then), there's my Iceman gang (both the long tenured and the new) that are starting to expand riding beyond northern Michigan.  I am pretty convinced I'll have one of them on the corner of 6th and Harrison one day.  Then there's all the folks at the local shops and clubs that make up my personal extended Leadville family.  I'll draw my inspiration from these folks, and return (hopefully) a little to them. These people provide challenges, and show me that there are many big challenges that can be overcome. Mental toughness and emotional strength matter a lot in endurance events.  Paraphrasing Rebecca Rusch, training gets you the first 4 hours of any event.  The rest is mental.   

Time to recommit. Time to commit to myself, to my family, to my friends.  They are all behind me and I am behind them.  What am I committing to?  Here we go:

McDowell 40ish -- 3:15
McDowell Relay Race -- have a blast.  go fast
Whiskey Off Road --  4:30
Lutsen 99er -- 6:30 (if it happens)
Leadville -- 9:00 (there, I said it)
Barn Burner -- 8:00
Iceman -- 2:00

That's another big year.  I have a plan for fitness, for eating, for sleeping, for life.  I'm a happier person when I'm training hard, and this will be a massively transitional year for me personally, so I'll be training hard.  I'll also need to remind myself what it means to turn myself inside out.  As in, really work to the point of failure...and maybe even fall over doing it.  Last time I did that was 10th grade.  Let's see if I can get it back.

Maybe I'll even learn to do group rides!

What's on my bathroom mirror?  Same thing as last year:

Bathroom Mirror


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Humbled and on a Mission

I am humbled today.

A friend (who I've never met...that's the internet for you) posted this on FB:


I've never thought of myself as an inspiration, and I am honored that Hans would consider me one.  I'm just a guy trying to get his daughters to grow up right, be healthy enough to be around for a very long time, and be the best father/husband/son/brother/friend I can.  Oh, and make time to ride as much as I can.  

But Hans has laid it down.  I'll consider that label of "inspiration" as a challenge as well as an honor.

I take on this challenge.  Get Hans across that finish line at 6th and Harrison in Leadville Colorado the 2nd Saturday of August, 2017.  According to my computer, that's the 12th.

As of today, I plan to be putting my knobby tire on the line myself.  If that plan does not work out, I'll be there to captain the crew.  

In the meantime, the rest of my Leadville peeps have some work to do.  Between Randy working for a buckle in 2015, Laurel saying she wants one in 2016, and myself going for a big one...that's a lot of miles to share with friends.

So, Hans...get those cranks turning.  Randy...figure out how to eat 400cal/hour without causing issues.  Laurel...be a rockstar.  

And I'll see you all in Leadville.

Monday, December 1, 2014

So there's this climb

Climbs are legend in cycling.  I only know of one sprint that is truly famous, the Tour de France finish on the Champs Elysees.  There are many famous tracks, the velodromes Roubaix, Mexico City, and the Velodrome du Lac in Bordeaux to name a few.  But it's the mountains who's names everyone remembers.  Alpe d'Huez, Galibier, Ventoux, Stilvio, Koppenberg, Vail Pass, Independence Pass, Oakville Grade, Columbine, Powerline...

It is the climbs where the Grand Tours are won.  It is the climbs where a cyclist suffers, and it's the climbs that make or break your day at Leadville. 

Then there's the other climbs.  The ones named in local clubs routes, local races route lists, or even individual cyclists brains.  They have names like Nine Mile, Skull Valley, Chain Breaker, Spring, Sunset, Sunrise, Anita's, Mt Gary. 

In 2011, I found a climb by chance.  My wife's parents had moved to Corona Hills, CA.  When visiting for the first time, I was expecting a random LA exurb, golf course, mall, boring.  I expected flat roads, lots of traffic, and no fun for a cyclist.

What I found was magic.  A neighborhood at the base of Santiago Peak, right on the border of the Cleveland National Forest. From their house, I can roll out, cut through a walking path, hop a curb onto "Forest Boundary Road" and climb dirt for miles.  Being a national forest, there's not much single track accessible, but the road is not very "improved".  A road yes, but a road with lots of rocks, ruts, and turns to make a real mountain bike (vs a cross bike or gravel grinder) required.  

According to maps, if i climb for about 7 miles, I can intersect the Main Divide Road, which runs along a ridge separating Orange County from Riverside County.  I could ride the Main Divide road all the way North, and have a ripping descent into the town of Corona, then take the paved roads back to the house.

This climb I'm talking about is not used much.  I've never seen another bike on the road.  Strava only has 10 people listed as doing the climb.  You see it's steep.  In about 6.4 miles, it climbs 3000 feet.  That's a 10% grade.  Average.  That's steeper than Columbine, and longer than the real climb bit.  The climb has become a marker of progress.

In 2011, the first time I tried the climb, I made it about 1.5 miles.  After hopping onto the Forest Boundary Road, I made it up the half-mile paved section with my heart exploding through my chest.  There's a left turn about 100m after the road turns to dirt, then a .5 mile climb at 11% before a hairpin switchback.  I made it about 2/3 of the way to the switchback before I had to walk.  So I walked to the switchback, turned, and tried to ride.  This is where the grade increases to 12-13%. I made it about 50m, and walked again.  Made it to the Forrest gate, pointed the bike downhill, exhausted.  Took my an hour to go about 2 miles.

Spring of 2012, I made it to the first switchback.  Then I stopped, doubled over, and puked.

Fall of 2012, I made the first switchback, rested for 10 minutes, then made the gate. Rested, grunted out another 100-200m, rested.  In that fashion, I made it about 3 miles up the climb.  Took about 75 minutes.

Spring of 2013.  I'm in for Leadville.  I made the gate without stopping.  Since the gate was closed to cars, I rested a bit, then continued up.  I made it about 4 miles.  Discovered that after 3 switchbacks, false flats begin occurring every 50m or so

Winter 2013.  Post Leadville.  4.5 miles morning after relieving my father-in-law of a couple bottles of wine.  Made it all the way to a descent that twisted around the mountain further than I could see.  Worried about how far down it went, I turned around and made it back before all the bacon was eaten.

Spring 2014.  5.25 miles up, past the descent, and up a steep little climb to another false summit.  Took me an hour to get up there as the sun came up over the mountains far to the east.  15 minutes to get back to the house, made it back before the kids were awake. 

Fall 2014.  Post Leadville II.  5.5 miles.  No stops. Under an hour.  2 quick descents on the way Had to turn around when the sun dropped below the mountains.  I had strength left.  I could have made the Main Divide Road.  

That's the goal for Spring 2015.  6.5miles up.  More elevation gain than Columbine. In the same distance.  

I've found my training hill.  It's me vs the mountain.  Solitude above the urban sprawl of LA and the Inland empire.  The climb makes my heart want to explode through my chest.  Makes my quads burn fierce, and my calves strain just to keep the bike moving on the truly steep bits.  I know there's no reason to do this, other than to get better.

Makes me feel like a cyclist or something.  





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

C4

Rode the C4 today.  My favorite trails in valley.  I have the privilege of having 75+ or so miles of incredible desert singletrack accessible from a trailhead 200m from my front door, and the C4 trailhead is about 25 miles from here.  

When I'm being serious about training (or feeling sporting) I'll ride there, ride the loop, and ride home. When I'm feeling really sprint I'll try and keep up with the Flat Tire Bikes shop ride.  I have never kept up.  

The trail itself is incredible.  Every bit of the Sonoran desert you could ask for.  Big views, grand old Saguaro, tight twisty trails, rocks, wide open down hills, big climbs...it's got it all.

Best part about riding up there is getting to stop by the Flat Tire after the ride.  Have a beer at Local Johnny's, and just chill

here's the Strava for those who are interested.  I cut off a small part of the race loop, because I wanted to get that beer.

http://www.strava.com/activities/223273050/embed/2543280963b40b5a748bc805448e03a5e6516431

Monday, November 24, 2014

Iceman 2014

Iceman -- The Weather Takes Center Stage

A lot of pixels have been committed to Iceman 2014.  The conditions were epic.  Bikes, roads, and riders were eaten by Michigan sand, mud, rain, sleet and snow.  There are many great writeups describing just how crazy the whole thing was. The folks at Pinkbike posted one here.  Einstein Cycles has one here.  And of course there's the Iceman website itself.  

Since all that has been written, I'll just assume you know about the rain, sleet, mud, sand, mud, more sand and mud.  I'll say this about the conditions.  They ate my brake pads.

Iceman ate my brakes.  And I gave more money to Joey
I will put in this little reminder of what Iceman is.  30ish miles from Kalkaska to Traverse City.  Northern Michigan, in November.  The terrain undulates and twists through the Pere Marquette National Forest, along the VASA singlegtrack, and ends at the Timber Ridge campground at one of the BEST parties anywhere in mountain biking.  Some would say I have more parties to go to...

For me, Iceman is a bonus Chritsmas and Thanskgiving. I counted Iceman race numbers the other day.  14.  I had no idea I had done that many, but evidently I have.  My best friends are there every year.  Some I have known since I was 12.  Some I know only because of the race.  All have shared the best parts of my life with me, and I'll be back as long as Steve keeps running the race.

A long year of racing for me, and a long year of too much work stress. 2 hundred-milers, 2 50+, 1 40, and a few 30s...Leadville, Barnburner, The Whiskey, Tahoe Trail...and this is the race I was looking forward to the most.  There was only one year I needed Iceman and the extended family and friends it brings more than this one...but man I needed it this year. 

This year we had Dave, Conrad and Scott.  Cliff did not make it, but I am sure he will be back one of these years.  The party has just gotten too good.  Also met knew friends Joel, Mary, and the Klaus. Plus a gang of kids, one of which won this slush cup!  Iceman did not disappoint.

onto the race... 

Wave 2!

Iceman has 3500+ riders.  On a 30 mile course.  With a lot of singletrack.  Several years ago (like 15) Steve Brown and the team at Iceman decided to go with a wave start.  Several ideas have been iterated, and most made sense.  Waves by age group, waves by class (sport/beginner/expert), and of late, waves based previous year's results. There are a few other races that use this method, and it makes sense.  Last few years I stated in my appointed wave, passed a whole bunch of people, got passed a little bit, had a few singeltrack bottlenecks, and life was good.

This year, Steve decided to use previous year's performance (mine was not 1/2 bad) and factored in the amount of riding you had done on Strava.  Because I live in the mountains (well, bigger mountains than exist in Michigan) and I did a few insane things this year in Colorado, California, and Northern Arizona, I ended up with massive points on the Iceman training rankings.  

The Iceman computer spit out Wave 2 for me.  That's in the first 200 riders.  

That's completely insane.

Iceman is a crazy fast course for 30 miles.  Cyclocross-like in it's demands for sprinter's speed between short climbs and twisty singletrack. Iceman is the one place I know that I use the hills to recover from the all-out bursts on the flat straight sections.  There are no significant extended climbs, and the descents are mostly technical things with lots of turns.  

Basically, a recipe for me not going very fast compared to everyone else.  I'm a long-distance endurance guy.  Big climbs, 4+ hours in the saddle...and I'm sitting in wave 2.  

I was nervous.  Excited, yes.  But nervous about trying to keep up with a bunch of guys who were riding their home trails.  Conrad and Dave (wave 7 and 11 respectively) deserved Wave 2.   I was not sure I did, but I was going to try and prove that I belonged.  

So I lined up with the Wave 2 gang.  All full team and shop kit. While I was not sporting any colors (need to work in that Mr. Joey and Mr Kaolin...one of you guys is willing to let me fly the shop colors, even if they are moving slow), I was at least dressed appropriately.  Lightweight goretex jacket, shants (some call them knickers), long finger gloves, and cycling cap under helmet.  A few rain capes around, but no one in ski gear or inappropriately over-dressed.  Lots of 1x11 drivetrains, lots of big chainrings.  This group was built to go hard and go fast.

For all that serious seriousness around, this being Iceman the mood was light, fist bumps at the start, and lots of chatter about the season to date.  I got a few skeptical looks (I always do), but the race completion resume earned me a few nods of appreciation.  The first wave went off and the countdown was on for wave 2.  

3 minutes later, we're counting down from 10...and we're off!

Hammer time

With an amped up, super-competitive group of racers gunning to see how many of the wave-1 guys they could catch, it may have been smart to hang at the back and catch a few wheels as we rode through Kalkaska en route to the first stretch of 2-track.  

But I was not out for a Saturday ride in the rain.  This was a race.  I had a chance to stay on some wheels and maybe, just maybe stay in front of Conrad and Dave.

So I hammered off the line, went to the far right side of the road, and grabbed the wheels.  I figured I would stay out of the fray in the slippery paved corner we all hit at 20+mph, and avoid being bottlenecked into the first stretch of singlegtrack. 

As we came to the first corner I stole a look at the Garmin.  28mph.  HO-LY CRAP.  We were absolutely flying.  Made it though the corner just fine when a guy decided to pull a PRO move and pass OUTSIDE my line.  I was already riding the white line on the right side of the pavement, so he went PRO, and bumped me with his shoulder and thigh as he went by.  

By some miracle I did not freak out, and just kept going.  I had visions of hitting the pavement in a twisted pile of carbon, bodies, and aluminum, but somehow, i stayed upright and cursed instead.

Wheels made the dirt in what Strava tells me was record time.  For the first 2 miles of the course, I averaged 23mph.  On a mountain bike, in the rain.  Damn.

The next 5 miles or so of the course are sandy and gritty.  Within about 10 minutes, everything was grinding.  All moving parts on the bike were covered in sand, mud, and grit.  Brake rotors were rubbing, chain was grinding even the brake levers and shift levers made noise every time I touched them.

About 20 minutes in front-ring shifting became a complete crap-shoot.  I was concerned that something was wrong with the bike, so despite feeling pretty good, I stopped (which allowed the entire wave to pass) and checked out the bike.  As everyone was passing, I realized ALL the bikes sounded like that, so it was time to rocket on.

Slog

As we passed the first aid station near Dockery road, the ride transformed from a romp through the wet woods to a slog through some serious mucky muck.  Singletrack sections were greasy slimy mess, road sections had trenches of water, and the logging road sections were just plain impassable. 

I slogged up the hills, held on for dear life and muscled my way around the corners on the downhills, and basically worked for every single meter.  I did spend some time in the draft, but I have lost my mudder skills, and fell behind on any slick section.  I couldn't really see out of my glasses, and the garmin was constantly caked in a layer of mud.  

I knew I was losing time as my average speed kept dropping.  I was hoping to maintain 12-13 mph, but was kind of wallowing in the 9-10mph range.  I would tell myself to HTFU, add a few gears, stand up and gain some speed only to have the wheels slip out on the next singltrack, or take the wrong line around a mud pit and end up 1/2 way to the hubs in muck with a foot down.

About 2 miles past the Williamsburg road aid station I missed the line entirely on a downhill singletrack section and ended up in the woods with my bars in a tree.  The right thing to do would have been to slam a GU, run back up to the trail, and rocket on.  Instead I futzed with my bike for a few minutes before I finally got going.  I didn't know it at the time, but that's when I stopped racing, and shifted to riding.

Times were out the window.  I was sitting around 9.5mph, and staring at a 3hr+.  Really, I was hoping for sub-2.  Not today.

Mt Gary and the Finish

The Vasa singletrack means you are close to the end of Iceman.  Except for the paved start this is the fastest part of the course.  Sweeping turns, wide trails, and a sweet flow that means it's time for the big ring and laying it all out there. Anita's hill is completed, and all that stands between you, the finish, and a pints of Bell's beer is Mt Gary.  

Mt Gary is not marked anywhere.  It's only about 50 ft of elevation gain, but at Mile 28 on the Iceman course after nearly 3 hours in the cold, mud, muck, and sand, it's a doozy.  Mt Gary has an awesome feature.  The fans at the top.  Yvonne, Abby (11), Zoe (8), and Olivia (10), the Klaus and Joel were all hanging at the top of the climb.  I was told my high-5 and smile were the most forced they have been in years, but indeed I was having fun.  I big ringed that sucker, and headed into the last 2 miles of twisty, muddy singletrack.

Those last 2 miles were tough.  I was hell bent on a sub-3, and the corners were seriously greasy.  I managed to make it through upright, through the tunnel, ground up the icebreaker, through the fly-under and into the finish straight.  

The race announcer let everyone know that "Rohit from Scottsdale" must be really cold (he was right).  I did manage a 2-arm salute across the line, and somehow managed 2:55, and stayed a few minutes in front of Conrad.  He beat my total time by 15 minutes...but small victories.  Of course he had hit a tree and busted his rear brake lever part way through the race, but I'll still take it.  

Another Iceman in the books.  Lots of stories in the changing tent of broken or frozen bikes, guys taken headers in the mud, and people abandoning at Williamsburg road.  I ended up top 1/3 overall and in the age group.  I'll take it.  
Conrad looking Serious
Grinding




Because, Iceman

Cheering and Pushing

A magic part of Iceman is the pros racing AFTER the rest of us.  After gathering up Conrad, Dave and Scott (who managed to break 2 derailleur hangers(!) and DNFd), and Marie (who kicked butt in 3:30!) we got ourselves supplied and headed for the top of Mt Gary. The Gary gang was in full glory...Dave, Yvonne, Joel, Marie, Chris, and J-.  Myself, Conrad, and Scott as honorary participants.  There was a bonfire, posters, and beverages.
ROLL THAT FATTY
We yelled and screamed for the folks finishing the race.  We offered GUs if people really needed them, let them know it was 2 miles to the finish, and gave pushed up the last hill as needed.  Besides, who can resist being encouraged by 3 screaming pre-teens and 9 semi-sober adults?

We kept anticipating the pros coming in...it was getting dark, and they are usually done in 1:30 or so.  As the clock got closer to 2 hours from their start, we knew this was truly an epic day at Iceman.

Then we heard it...the lead moto of the pro race.  We lined up, cowbells and beverages in hand and screamed for Brian, Jeremiah, Georgia, Emily and Kelli.  We begged every girl to chick the guys in front of them, and offered beers for wheelies once the leaders had gone by.  We handed up more than a few beers.

As darkness fell, I'm pretty sure we gave the guy and girl in DFL the encouragement they needed to make it across the line.  We then retreated to the warmth of Dave's abode, drained the beer, bourbon, and tequila, boxed the bikes while more beer was procured, then retired to spinning tunes in the shop.

why?  Because Iceman.

See you all in 2015.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm ready

I think I'm finally not tired.  

I'm finally not tired of riding

Not tired of waking up at 5am to ride

Not tired of putting my thoughts out here on this blog

I also finally got all the mud out of my teeth, ears, hair, shoes from iceman. The bike will be gritty until the Whiskey I'm sure




Monday, September 15, 2014

Barnburner 104 -- 2014

Why am I doing this?


This report starts in a funny place.  I really don't like this race much.  There's 100 things wrong with the BarnBurner.  The entry fee is expensive.  The race organizers provide very little in the form of aid stations, support, or swag.  The venue practically requires a 4x4 to access. The venue itself is in a great part of the state, but is not awe inspring.  And the course.  The course is nearly 100% dirt road.  

And the vibe is all wrong.  It's not an Arizona mountain bike race with world class racers wrapped in an insane party vibe and like The Whiskey.  It's not a resort race like the Tahoe Trail. It's not a local race with shop owners and people you see at the trailheads.  It's not a quirky local race all grown up like Iceman...and it ain't no Leadville.

Despite all that, I entered because BarnBurner is a tool.  It's a Leadville qualifier.  It's a tool to get and entry, or secure a good starting spot.  

One very nice thing about the BarnBurner is the staff from the LRS that comes to town and the volunteers they wrangle up (with one exception -- who I will call out later).   As I've gotten to know a few of the folks in the LRS -- like Abby Long -- it's a great chance to see them.  They really are family, and their presence can make up for a lot of crap.  That Leadville family thing is really starting to come through for me. 

There is hope for this race....just needs the RedRock Co, Landis, and the LRS to take care of it a bit.  I'll save the loooong list of specific improvements for anyone from those companies that wants to hear it.  Hopefully they will before next year.

As I said in the complaints section above, BarnBurner is tough to get to.  It's 20 miles Northwest of Flagstaff, which necessitates an overnight in Flagstaff for me and my gang of girls.  Having learned from last year's single hotel room fiasco, we got a 2-bedroom suite at the Embassy Suites in Flagstaff.  I think we were most excited by the free breakfast, of which I would only partake once, which made me a little sad.  

Flagstaff is a fun town.  We were there for "first Friday" which is a big party on the town square (shockingly) the first Friday of every month.  We met the mayor, saw some bands, ate Bigfoot Barbecue, ate chocolate, met some forest rangers, won walking sticks by answering questions wrong, met the NAU Lumberjack...enough fun to keep the kids from going completely bonkers and making my wife completely insane.  We also did some window shopping in the funky shops in town.  Here's some pics of us having a blast:


Lumberjack and walking sticks
Big Foot BBQ.  in the basement of a clothing store...
Gallon size flask.  might be big for the jersey pocket

Enough of the editorial.  Time for a race report.


Preliminaries


BarnBurner is 104 miles, 7100' of climbing at 7000' of altitude.  If the Whiskey is a 1/2 Leadville (50 miles, 7000', at 5000') BarnBurner is like a 3/4 Leadville.  What all those numbers mean is that it's a tough ride, if you chose to make it so.  The ride is emotionally tough, because it's 4 laps.  So, as you head out for miles 53-78 and 78-104, there are lots of people showered  eating, drinking beer, and chillin'. And you've got miles to ride.  

Race morning worked fairly well...thanks to my friend Ehfad riding the relay version of the race, and fortuitously staying in the same hotel, I was able to bum a ride up to the race site.  Even more fortunately, Ehfad drives a 4x4 Pathfinder.  With all the rain over the past week (you maybhavecseen the pics of cars up ton their roofs in water), the last mile of "road" to the race site at the C&C ranch was a total disaster.  Cars and Trucks stuck in mud so deep it covered the wheels of F150 size trucks. There were massive mini-ponds (way too big to be called potholes) along the way.  The Pathfinder handled the obstacle course well...and at about 5:45am, we parked and began to unload all the stuff we might need for the race.

I looked for Randy and Trina, two more riding buddies from the valley, but thanks to our slightly late arrival, couldn't find their pop-up sites. Randy was riding the full distance, Trina and Ehfad were on 50-mile relay teams. The area for the pits was somewhat muddy, and also covered in cow and horse crap.  Fan-freakin tastic if you ask me.  After setting up the pop-up, it was getting very close to start time, and I made a little bit of a hash of setting up my supplies...kind of just a big pile (hopefully) out of the horse and cow poop.

I grabbed myself my 3 GU packets, 1 bottle of CarboRocket, 1 bottle of fresh water, and headed for the start line.

Thankfully, the absolute worst part of the race -- the running start -- had been eliminated.  I detest running starts.  Running is for criminals.  The reason for removing the running start was all the mud and standing water from the rain...so that was a good omen for the conditions of the course.

I jumped in line about 2/3 of the way to the front, hoping to get out quick and get myself in a pace line for the first lap.  Most of the course is very road-tactic friendly, and if I wanted to go fast, and make my goals, a draft for as long as I could get one would be very very needed.

Goals you say?  What were my goals?   Last year, I did this race as part of Leadville prep.  It was June 1st, dusty and hot.  It was my 1st 100 miles off-road, and the 2nd time in my life I was riding 100 miles in 1 day.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I managed to get around in 10:20ish...and on that day having numbers instead of DNF was a real accomplishment.  Pros, bike shop owners, guides, ironmen, and more had all bailed on the race, and stubborn old me finished.  That sub-11 earned me an orange coral at Leadville, and showed me I was tougher than a lot of people who do this sort of thing.  Yeah me!

Well, since we all know racers lie to themselves, I told myself I could make 8 hours on this course. Come in sub-8, earn yourself a silver coral spot in Leadville.  Yeah, right.  Really I was going for 8:30.  This was very do-able with some effort.  The 8 hours was a bit of a pipe dream, and do-able if I found a group of 4 riders willing to let me sit 5th wheel all day while they cranked along at 15mph+.  Basically, I was going to make this race hurt.  Remind myself what its like to leave 100% on the course, because I seem to have forgotten what that feels like.

Dig deep speech, thank-yous to Ken and Marilee, praise for the land owner of the C&C ranch, Thunderstruck and a few more rev-ups, Star Spangled Banner....shotgun blast and we are racing!  


Lap 1

As you can see from the profile below, a whole lot of time can be made in the first 7 or so miles of the lap.  It's a long, shallow, steady climb, which means drafting wins.  Plus, there's a ripping downhill that follows which builds so much speed, you're pretty much spun out, and can recover.  Miles 13-26 are 2 painful climbs and white knuckle descents.  Time can be made there as well, but they are hard miles.  




My strategy was to build as many miles in the "average speed bank" as I could before the 2nd half of the course, where I knew the 2 stiff climbs would have be averaging 5-6mph, perhaps 10mph over the 2nd half.  So in the 1st half, to get my 8.5 hour time, I really needed to hit the 16mph range (more if at all possible).  

At the gun I went for it. As soon as I could, I found my way to a dry line in the 6" deep mud, and stood on the pedals. moving through tall grass.  I passed 40-50 people this way, ducked a tree, and jumped onto a single-tracky section of the course that led to the main road. 

Now on the long climb, I added some gears, bore down on the pedals, and leap frogged my way through the field, settling in behind a slower train for a few seconds of rest before accelerating again. I was looking for a fast train to pass that I could grab on to...and get some speed over the next few miles.

I eventually got onto the wheel of 2 Cloud City Wheelers setting a 20mph pace. 3rd wheel.  Perfect.  I am not ashamed to say I sucked their wheels for 8 miles, and as soon as a longer train of fast riders came up, I jumped on their wheels and chased their lines down the 5-ish mile downhill.  25mph easy.  On the dirt.

Lots of miles per hour in the bank.

I got to the bottom of the big climb, the Strava challenge segment, averaging 18mph, feeling fresh.  I remembered to enter the eating contest, and downed a GU (lemonade!) washed down with a few swigs of CarboRocket.  The climb felt great -- it was early, but I was thinking this would be a good day.

The next downhill section is really fast, and really scary. 30mph+, somewhat loose gravel,  and the occasional big rock.  Then there's the 2 miles of insane rocky downhill where you're hanging on and hoping you don't break a spoke, or your face.   I cried just a little, because I was scared.  Then I cried a little because it was over.

I managed to get through all that maintaining good speed, and not breaking my bike or my face.  My heart rate at the bottom of the decent was higher than it had been at than at the top -- that's a wicked descent!

This is where the course gets pretty brutal.  4.5 miles of up.  Starts on the road, turns onto a trail, and gradually gets steeper the whole way.  Basically, my idea of a really fun segment.  Early on the climb I pushed a big gear.  I was making some good time, and passing a lot of people.  I heard a guy grunting behind me.  Glancing over my shoulder I realized I was pulling a train of like 10 riders! 

I gave the universal elbow flick to get someone to pull through. No one pulled through.

I slowed down and moved out of the good line.  Nothing.

I move way over on the road.  Long chain of guys moved over.

I turned, and said "hey, someone want to pull through?!"  Nada.

So I did the only logical thing.  I ate some more, took another drink, added 2 gears and left those f-tards in my dust.

Climbing on the trail now, I was picking people off steadily.  I came up behind a recognizable figure on his bike.  Baggie shorts, Bicycle Ranch jersey, very nice bike...Markus Zimmer owner of the Bicycle Ranch!  Markus was suffering.  Did I offer words of encouragement? Sort of.  As I passed him, I looked over my shoulder and shouted, "Sur la Plaque Markus, Sur La Plaque!"  I am sure he appreciated it.

I continued (mostly) to pass people on the climb.  Definitely an awesome feeling.  If your legs have it one day, I highly recommend it.  Topping out the climb there's a ripping downhill to the start/finish and the Barn.  This is a little less white knuckle than the previous section, as there's a pretty well defined line through the crud.  

As I pulled up to the Barn (which you have to walk through) I glanced at the Garmin.  1:45.  I was moving.  I was happy...and I was worried I had burned the matchbook on lap 1.  I was also pissed off.

Why? 

I encountered the most enigmatic creature at a bike race.  

The MEAN VOLUNTEER.

I will now digress from this story to write a letter to the MEAN volunteer

Dear Mr. Mean Volunteer,

You do not know me, and I suspect you do not care.  For the record, I was the cyclist in the "Speedy Bike Club Motor City" jersey at Barn Burner.  I came up to the barn at about 1:45 in the race, having laid down some serious effort for the first lap.  

You clearly noticed me as I rounded the last turn towards the multiple chalk stripes on the ground indicating the zone where cyclists were to dismount before crossing into the Barn, as you zeroed in on me like an eagle that had spotted a big fat salmon flopping upstream.  I must have really had your attention, because many riders passed you on their bikes beginning their dismounts just past the first chalk line and finishing as they hit the second chalk line.  

Actually, was your job to maintain the chalk lines?  Because they were a little blurry.    

As I came to the line, I unclipped one foot, and began to swing off my saddle.  Also as I came to the line, you started yelling at me, "get off the bike!  GET OFF THE BIKE!"  At this point I could not help but notice the cyclists passing me on their bikes.  This is when you, Mr. Mean Volunteer, reached out and grabbed my handlebars. 

The next actions were quite shocking.  You said something unintelligible about being a vet.  You also told me if I pulled "that" again I would be DQ'ed.

I was already shockingly impressed your meanness and now I was even more impressed by your utter ignorance, especially for someone with so much life experience   

So mean volunteer, you may not know this but I vowed to ride directly at you on the next lap, until you yelled at me to GET OFF THE BIKE again.  I figured this way I would not have to look at the multiple chalk lines and figure out where to dismount, your mean, ignorant, very loud body would provide my braking mechanism.

I hope you are happier today Mr. Mean Volunteer, because you were very unhappy last Saturday.

Sincerely,
Bad Dad


Lap 2

I passed the bike shop pits and those of the more organized, and came to our pit area.  I was hoping Ehfad would have sorted things out a bit...no such luck.  So, I rummaged through my pile, noted I forgot to put ice in my cooler of bottles, got my CarboRocket, bottle of clean water, downed a few GU electrolyte capsules, pocketed 3 more GUs, and headed out.  13.3 mph after the stop...still had a few MPH in the bank!

Thers's a trail-like section from the Barn area our to the roads where the race course is.  As I headed out, I hit that truth of endurance racing.  Even with 100s if not 1000s of people at the start, you're often riding alone.

With no rabbits to chase, and no sticks chasing all I had for motivation were the numbers on the Garmin.  More importantly, there was no one to draft.

That is until....and there's always an until...until a train of guys with green and yellow bandanas came up beside me.  My bandana was an orangy-red like color.  This meant I was a crazy person, riding 100 miles myself.  The greens and yellows were some flavor of 1 or 2 lap riders -- either riding 2 laps solo or they were part of relay teams.  So they were moving fast.  I knew my time on this section was dependent on getting in a good paceline, so even though they were really moving, I added a gear and mashed the pedals to grab onto the back of their train.

And man were they moving.  20mph+.  No rotations really.  There was a guy on the front just hammering away and about 5 or 6 of us just hanging on.  About 10 minutes in, 2 riders pulled out in rapid succession unable to match the pace as the road tilted up a bit.  Soon, it was just me chasing Mr. Really Fast Man in a black jersey.  Then I got dropped.  My HR was hitting the top of my comfort range, and even though I wanted this ride to hurt, I was putting in too many sprinting efforts just to keep up.  So I backed off, and went back to staring at the computer, hoping to keep the average mph number as high as possible.

The Part Where I thought I would Die

I made some pretty good time -- though not nearly as fast as the first lap -- on the downhill, and ground my way up the Strava climb.  As I hit the top, I knew it was time to fly...the long dirt road downhill where you could top 35mph if you tried.

So I tried.  A little to hard.

There are signs on the course that have the universal XXX DANGER on them.  They mean "SLOW DOWN YOU CRAZY PERSON".  I did not slow down.  Instead I tried to see if I could take the sweeping left hand corner really fast.  30ish MPH, on loose gravel over hard pack, and I realized I was in the corner all wrong.  I was not going to make the apex, and was headed straight off the right side of the road into rocks, cactus and badness. 

I screamed a little.

Then I locked up the rear wheel, threw my weight back, and hit the front brake.  Not enough.  Still sliding off the road, I sat back up, laid off the front, headed right off the road and into the wide rock-filled trench.  Somehow, by some miracle, I managed to stay upright, bounced off a few rocks, and got myself back on the road.

I peed a little.  I admit it.

A pair of riders behind me had slowed down, and told me they were ready to stop, because they were sure they were calling an ambulance for me...and then complimented me on my recovery.

I figured it must be my day.

I came in for Lap 2 right at 4 hours.  It may seem like I lost 30 minutes, but according to Strava, it was only 15 min.  I must have burned 10-15 in transition, and riding the goofy little part of the course out from the Barn to the road. 

Still, I was on track.  Not a lot of extra time, but there was some time in the bank for an 8:30 finish

Lap 3

In most endurance events, most racers begin to despair at some point.  For me, it was lap 3.  At about Mile 54 on the Garmin, I had to pull over for an ambulance.  Another racer had taken a header...and unfortunately had to get evaced.  I heared he was OK.  I lost about 10 minutes of race time, but that downtime let the doubt creep in.

My average speed was drifting below 12.5mph, and I was getting tired.  Fortunately, it was right about when I was feeling "done" that I hit the long downhill, and let loose to see if I could gain some time.

My average speed startd going up!  12.6...then 12.7

I knew the 2 big climbs were coming, so I had a new race.  A new carrot.  Get that average speed up so I could withdraw from the bank on the climbs!

I hit the bottom of the Strava climb with the average speed showing 13mph!  I was back on an 8hr pace!  I thought I was done, but by finding my rabbit, and riding a bit smart gaining as much speed as I could on the decent, I was back on pace. 

I cleared the Strava climb and the average speed was down to 12.7mph.  For lap 4, i knew I would loose another .3mph on that climb.  I hit the final climb at 12.9mph, and cleared the top at 12.4, so I knew I would loose .5mph on that climb as well...

I ripped into the barn completing Lap 3 feeling pretty good.  No cramps, and I had hope.  I also had not been laped by the winner, which was a huge boost.  I think I was lapped by one or two of the relay teams based on staring at the finish times and doing math, but only 1 or 2...not bad really.  My transition was a bit slow, but I still got out with the average speed at 12.3mph.  A little slow for the 8:30, but there was hope.  It was 1:27pm on the clock.  My first lap was 1:45, next 2:09, and 2:20.  If I could make this hurt, the 8:30 was in reach.

Lap 4

I made the last lap hurt.  I played the game with the computer willing the average speed to go up. It was not going up fast enough.

As I made the first long descent to the Strava climb, the storm clouds gathered and the temperature dropped -- refreshingly.  As I strated the Strava climb, the sky opened up and it was a full-on downpour.  I was riding in little streams up the climb...and progress was slow.

I took it easy on the nasty downhills, not wanting to crash and the fingers slipping on the break levers. 

The last climb was hard...and I made sure to put 110% into it, but as I approached the top, and the timer clicked over to 8:30, I had missed my target bout about 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, a sub-9 hour finish was easily in sight, and nothing was stopping me from hitting that target.  The last 3 miles barely felt like work, and I crossed the line at about 8:50.

Ken and Marilee gave me a Big Barn Burner belt buckle, and I told them I loved them.

Great News

After some recovery and a chat with Jeff, I made my way over to the beer garden.  Abby Long was handing out beer tickets.  Abby is in charge of waves, and racers, and about 100 other things for the Leadville Race Series, and she is awesome.  She's everything that is good about the races in one person.  So great for the LRS to find her.

Abby told me that due to the Ambulance coming in and everyone needing to stop, they were crediting times 30 minutes towards start coral positions for 2015!

RED!  I was in the elusive Red Corral.  This is the sub-9 corral.  This means that next August I line up WEST of Harrison.  I line up right behind the pros...and have the best possible chance to bag that sub-9

So in the end, all that work getting to and racing BarnBurner was worth it.  Kids got to see Flagstaff, I got to race, we did not get stuck in the mud...what esle do you want?


2 months to iceman

Me

Race plate 

Ehfad

That's a lot of mud



Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Tyranny of Expectations

Bikes are fun.  Riding bikes is more fun.  Racing bikes is really fun. If you are stubborn, like me, and ride and race long enough, eventually you start thinking you might actually be good at it.

So as races approach on the calendar (why did you sign up? because of this) you start to look at historical results.  You look at the cut-offs.  2 hours?  3 hours?  8, 9, 10?  What's possible on this course?  Do you recognize a name on the results sheet?  Can you be as fast as that person?  You wonder if this racer who made it around the course in "under X" has a Strava account? Maybe you can compare what they rode to what you rode on a  similar segment.  (This is where Strava is truly evil by the way...makes it so easy to be soooo overt analytical about a ride). 

Since very few people ever get to stand on a podium, the cut-off for "sub-whatever" becomes really important. Sometimes there's a trophy (Leadville buckles...) and sometimes there's a tangible incentive like a finisher's medal or a entry into another race, and sometimes (mostly) it's just bragging rights (any chance someone will beat Conrad at Iceman this year?  No? Ok, how about sub 2:15, or sub 2:00?)

So one goes through all of this math and posing and trash talking about how many beers were or were not drunk in the weeks preceding the event, and through that process a time gets in your head. 

That time represents an expectation of performance. And because you entered a race, it matters

So you work hard. You eat right. You train properly.  You wake up and strap a light on the handlebars at 4am. You follow rule 5. You convince yourself that you are hard as a nail and have the capacity to suffer. 

And you begin to tell yourself the lie that you are fast. 

Now the expectation grows. 

That expectation grows and grows until you're (politely) elbowing for a position at the start line. And it grows through the start, through the gun, and it grows as you make the first turn and climb faster than you even believed you might. Oh my god!  You're flying you are A CYCLING GOD!  THE JENSIE COULD NOT CATCH YOU!

And then you cross a mile marker and you look at the clock. You're not as fast as you thought.  You're behind your goal time. You better work. 

And now the race is a little less fun. Because you are working. Hard. Then you remember rule 10.  You start to feel better.

Soon, you're in a little bit of a panic. Will you make your time?  Will you beat your friends? 

The clock only goes in one direction and that average speed is annoyingly refusing to move closer to what you need to achieve your expectation of sub- SOMETHING....

You begin to think. 

Will your family be willing to wait for you at the finish or will you need to bum a ride from someone because you have just become so daaaaaamn slow there won't even be any beer or bacon left when your slug of a marshmallow soft body drags this carbon fiber racing bike you don't deserve over the line?!?

The expectation is shattered. You're not fast. You're not that hard. You're not even sure why you put a number plate on your bars.

But you're in a race. You're not on a ride. You are racing

So you keep going.

And eventually, after a bit more suffering. A bit more humility of being passed by a flabby dude or chick on some POS steel machine a bit more elation of passing some on with an IM tattoo, and you cross the line.  

You didn't make sub- whatever. You did likely make the final cutoff. And if you're me, you were doing this in the mountains, in some amazing scenery, with some great friends. And someone has a beer. And it's for you. 

But for all that, you're still disappointed. You had that expectation. You fell for the lie all racers tell themselves, and now it's eating at you. 

After you finish your beer, hose off the bike, hug your friends and kiss the family, reminding yourself how lucky you are to have a spouse and kids willing to let you put on silly outfits and shoes that are too tight to play in the mountains regularly, There's really only one thing to do to fight he tyranny of the expectation. 

Enter another race. 



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Group Rides

I Do Not Like Group Rides

I do not like them sam I am
I do not like them on the road
I do like like them with a toad
I do not like them when they are fast
I do not like them when they last and last
I do not like them around the block
I do not like them without socks

I do not like group rides
I do not like them, sam I am

I do not like being dropped
I do not like belong flopped
I do not like dropping riders
I do not like awaiting hiders

Not a fan.  I like riding with friends.  I LOVE riding with friends, but I do not like group rides. I like the idea of the shop ride, building relationships, hanging out with everyone that makes the local bike community the awesome group it is, I just don' tike the pressure of the group ride.

Strangely enough, I like to race

Just and odd bird I guess