Friday, May 30, 2008


Focus is an important thing. Whether you're talking about something as simple as taking a picture, picking your way through technical singletrack, or just looking at your path through life. If you don't focus, chances are you're going to run into something you didn't see coming. One could argue that I'm lacking focus right now and have been for a while. the picture I've put up is a pretty good representation of my life at this point in time.

At first glance, it's a snapshot. Things look good, I'm happy, I'm motivated, and I'm moving in the right direction. However, when you start looking closely, you'll see the edges are blurred, I'm looking at the camera instead of following the line, and the smile is mostly put on for the benefit of others. It's pretty amazing the similarities I can draw in my life to those items. While I can't complain too loudly as I'm healthy, have a great family, and am gainfully employed at a job that pays well enough for my wife to stay home, there's turmoil under the surface.

The same job that affords us the life we want does so at a cost to my mental well being. I know everyone has a job that's a grind and that's the tradeoff we make to have the enjoyment we want in other areas of life. But when you are on the verge of dreading going to work on a daily basis, go out of your way to not do your work, and can see the apathy towards your work spreading into other areas of your life, I think those are pretty good signs that something needs to change. I have no clue about what else I WANT to do, but I'm pretty sure it's not this. My job really isn't even that hard, but when you're not interested or stimulated, it can seem like the biggest drag in the world.

So what does all this have to do with focus you ask? I'm not exactly sure, but I think my job is the center of things beginning to fall apart. I ride to escape from work and in doing so I also escape things that I shouldn't be running from. I skip out on my duties as husband and dad. I skip out on other commitments that I have made. I skip out on taking on my own demons. I just escape when I ride. I push myself to go further, faster, harder, and in the end I tire myself out to the point that everything else really doesn't matter. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the riding immensely, but the reasons I ride now aren't what should be driving me. An enlightened and surprising discussion with my own dad on Memorial Day led to this revelation. He suggested that I should take a look at the reason I'm biking to escape and work on fixing that rather than work so hard on wearing myself out on the bike that the other things don't matter. He was right.

Damn, now I had to actually set down and figure out what I need to do. At least in my case, it was relatively clear for most of the things I needed. The biggest thing is that we need to find ourselves as a family. With our current setup I'm a paycheck and Miranda is a parent and we don't do a whole lot of overlapping. That's pretty sad when you really look closely at it. I've got a wife and 2 year old little girl that I love to death, but I'm spending my time avoiding them. I've let my own personal goals become my focus in lieu of working on the things that are going to be a constant for the rest of my life. Definitely near sighted of me. As much as I'd like to shoulder the blame all alone, I can't. My dear wife has very similar issues to me. We're both living to get done with our day and then escaping into our own little worlds as soon as that day ends- mine with leaving work and hers with putting Corley to bed.

All of these thoughts and ideas finally came out in a multi hour discussion last night. We talked about the things we need to change, the things we want to do, and the things that just aren't working for us. We put together a plan and we both came away happy. We each had to make certain concessions to bring us closer as a family, but I can't see how that is a bad thing. I'm sure I'll reap more in the long term than I could possibly ever gain in a short span.

As such, I'm giving up a few things that really didn't matter that much even though I'd made them into something big. I'm not going to Burning Man this year. I'd love to and even have a free ticket, but I'm not doing it without my family. I'm hanging up my pipe dreams of getting fit enough to try my hand at bike racing for the time being. I'm even talking about getting rid of my car (which for those that know me know that's something huge). Miranda is going to dedicate herself to working on our business and selling product rather than just ordering. We're going to take an evening each week to focus on our relationship as a couple. I'm going to not take on any more commitments until I get all of my current projects cleared up.

While all of this may seem overwhelming, it's a long term plan. I really feel like I'm not swimming alone now and I've got a partner in working through some of these things. I'm excited about seeing our family come together. I'm sure I'll miss out on some activities, but it's going to be worth it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Under where?

I'm on the fence here. It's great having new people reading the blog, but at the same time, I've actually met or might sometime in the future have a chance of meeting a number of you. As my focus of the blog has shifted to roughly 95% about my bike, I've posted less info about personal items. On that note, I've been debating on whether or not to start a separate blog to talk about things of a more personal nature: sex, toys, lingerie, etc. For now, I think I'll just keep things together and preface those posts of a more personal nature with a slight caution. This really isn't for my protection, but your own. I'm just not sure that many of you want to really know me that well. Hey, if you do, great, but if you don't, you probably should stop reading now.

OK, warning given, here we go. I mentioned a while back about our last trip to the International Lingerie Show in Vegas. We've received pretty much all of the test pieces we've ordered and had a chance to give them the initial once over. A few disappointed and won't be carried in the store, a number met the basic expectations and we'll select a few of them, and a few broke the mold for kickass pieces. As I'm not into trying on women's lingerie (at least beyond throwing the occassional pair of panties on my head and dancing around like a fool), I'll stick to reviewing some of the new men's line. Frankly, I never thought a pair of underwear would do much for me or my wife for that matter. I mean, it's just a layer of clothing meant to keep your junk from free swinging into orbit while you're ensconced in the daily grind, right?! Women typically get all the cool stuff when it comes to underwear and I'll be damned if I don't love all the choices we get to see, but us guys are stuck with roughly 3 choices- boxers, briefs, and the hybrid boxer-brief.

I'm pretty sure I started like most typical kids with the whitey tighties that mom picked out from K-mart or wherever. Why she wouldn't go for the colored ones and save some of the skids from showing up is beyond me, but whatever. I transitioned to boxers in high-school when it seemed that I should grow up a bit. Then I finally got tired of the riding and bunching associated with boxers and jeans so I checked out the boxer-breif and have been rocking those ever since. Where the hell am I going with this you ask? Let's just say, while the boxer-breif definitely has my highest regard for fit and function, the fashion is drab to say the least. Sure, if I were rocking the 6 pack abs and had a roll the size of a hard salami stuffed down the front, they might be a bit more exciting to the opposite sex, but suffice it to say, I'm not that guy.

This leads to our discovery of a vendor in one of the small rooms at the lingerie show. A gentleman hocking some pretty cool looking men's underwear. We stopped and talked to him for a bit and grabbed his catalog. Pretty cool stuff inside. We stopped again the second day and did a bit of chatting with him. The guy manning the booth wasn't just the typical sales simp sent to the trade shows, but the owner and designer of the line (along with the model for a number of the pics). He explained the thought process, extra attention to detail, and virtues of his product to us. We came back later in the day and put in an order for a number of his pieces to try out.

Fast forward to last week and the arrival of said test pieces. I managed to intercept the package while Miranda was out with Corley and snuck a pair under my jeans. As the evening wore on, I tried vainly to interest my wife in what was under my pants. Finally, she noticed I had something different peaking over my waist band beyond the usual gut (at least that's been shrinking). She asked me to model them and I obliged for as long as I could suck it in at least. Her approval was swift. She loved the design, the colors, and the "enhancement" look. Then came the question: "What do you think?"

At this point, I'd only had them on for an hour or so, but thus far they were comfy, didn't ride, and best of all, it would seem that filled out look suddenly appeared. Apparently, when a designer cares enough to put in the right details, the clothing you put on can actually accentuate and enhance certain elements of your body... We both were enjoying the enhanced version of me even if it were an optical illusion! As we ordered roughly enough test variations for me to rock a different pair for almost a week, I can give you some feedback now. Not only are these things visually appealing, the dominate everything else I've ever worn for comfort, fit, and support. I've tried some high end silk pieces from Italy and while they were nice, I'd say these still handily beat those. Now here's the real kicker, these things are manufactured in the US in Portland, OR, the fabrics are mostly organic, and the price, while seemingly a bit steep for men's undies, isn't out of line for what women pay for nice bras and panties. A bigger kicker is the reaction from my wife. A certain rugby styled pair managed to entice her and start up a bit of playful grabass that hasn't been seen for a while and a flurry of pix/text messages that we've never done before. Of course that all leads up to what else, but sex! Gotta love a product that delivers on all counts.

I hope that wasn't too much information for some of you. I promise I'll try to restrain myself from posting my own pictures so you're probably safe on that account, but I can't be held responsible for any mental images! Look for these to be online shortly in our store or if you're interested in seeing the catalog and possibly ordering a pair direct, shoot me an email

No race like a girl for me (or anyone else)

I can't say I was completely surprised by the race being cancelled last night since the call had to be made roughly by 3 to get everything and everyone halted in time and at 3 it was drizzling pretty decently. Add in the fact that this weekend is arguably one of the biggest race weekends in the midwest and it was almost a no brainer that people weren't going to want to race in the rain for what's pretty much training purposes with the big weekend on the line. Definitely disappointing, but completely understandable.

Having an open Thursday night did give me the opportunity to catch another ride I'd been meaning to this spring. The Thursday night DMCC ride is run by a friend of mine. It was Tuesday nights last year and one of the staples of my weekly rides. I had yet to make it this year, but with the threat of rain mostly passed, I jumped on the opportunity. Of course, one of the reasons I haven't been doing many of the DMCC rides is the pace most run at. I've been working on my strength and speed this year so unless I need to plug along at recovery pace, I'm usually off the front and mostly on my own. I rode a few miles with the group until another rider took the lead and I jumped on with him. Soon enough we were cruising in the low 20's and just kept the pace all the way to Martensdale while doing a bit of chatting. I managed to keep the pace high as we came the last few miles into town and put a decent gap on him. Score one for the work I've been putting in. We rested for about 10 minutes or so before the rest of the group came in and then headed back a few minutes later. I pushed again as my legs felt pretty ugly starting back up, but soon enough I was working well and trying to keep in my drops more than usual. I blasted my way up to Bambino's in Orilla and made the stop for dinner and beer. Another rider joined me and we passed an hour sucking down a couple of brews as I enjoyed my Italian Grinder. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a stop on the Great Western Trail.

The pace was a tad bit slower as we headed back to the trail head. It was getting dark and now fueled by beer and sausage, plus fighting a calf cramp, it was time to ease up. I still managed the out and back in under 2 hours which is pretty close to my best time and no drafting. My best time included a 4 person pace line and really was only a few 10ths of a MPH faster which I probably would have beat if it weren't for the refreshment stop.

For some reason I had a calf cramp last night which is something new for me. I don't think it was hydration or food related. I'm wondering if it was due to spending more time in an "aero" position by either riding in the drops or doing a deep arm bend while holding the hoods. I probably spent 45 minutes or so in those two positions which is probably 30 minutes longer than I ever have before. Any of you wonderful readers have an opinion? Speaking of readers, damn, my readership was way up this week. I'm sure a good portion of it is due to Squirrel and The Almanzo both posting links to my blog, but it's great to see the numbers up after averaging only a reader or two daily on average.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Taco Ride, whoops...

The Taco ride was on last night. Numbers were down a bit, but we still had about 10 total riders. We hopped the berm over to Denman's and took off. I stayed to the back as I just wanted to ride pretty easy and enjoy myself. I tagged on to a couple other riders and managed to fall down on a single log crossing as I was going to slow. Nothing hurt but my pride, I got back up and just kept the pace nice and easy. I did make an effort to tag back on to the tail of the group by the end of Denman's and found everyone else stopped at Dirty Express.

The railroad track crossing into Squirrel's nest saw the only major crash of the night with a rider shooting over the handlebars after tangling with the steel tracks. More easy flow and swoop through the back sections and it was time for Hillside. I've been working on keeping my breathing even and rythmic as I raise my heart rate so that was the plan for tonight as well. The group turned left at the top of the first climb while I went for some bonus climb to the right. After a short stint I stopped for a second to get my bearings. I looked back and noted that I hadn't zipped my seat pack up before leaving the shop. Hmmm. A quick inspection noted only one item missing- MY KEYS! Shit. Time to turn around and hope for a miracle in finding them along 6 miles or narrow singletrack with mostly grass covering both sides of a 12" path.

I tracked back down Hillside and took a quick swing up to the parking area to let the other guys know I was headed back and hopefully would catch them at Gif's for tacos and beer. I rode off in hopes of finding my keys. After back tracking through roughly 80% of the trail I stopped for a young kid riding a hybrid bike on the trail as he was walking across the log bridge in Denman's. Sure enough, I looked down and my keys were sitting about as perfectly as could be at the base of a tree right after the log bridge. There were situated so perfectly, I couldn't tell if someone else had found them and set them there or if luck was on my side. Either way, I counted my blessings and called of the search and rescue message I had put into Miranda's voicemail.

I swooped back through Denman's in reverse soaking up each foot of singletrack and enjoying every second I was out there. Off to Valley Junction to meet the guy's for refueling and all was right in the world again. I will put one note of caution in though- be prepared for your backside to be inhospitable to anyone in a 20' radius after consuming several Old Styles and tacos after the ride. Wow, talk about a brown cloud!

Just a quick reminder for tonight- hit the Race Like a Girl series in Union Park as long as the weather holds out. I'm planning to make what I'm sure will be a quite unspectacular showing in the men's B race as my first road racing experience. Also, Saturday is another work day for CITA at Summerset park in Indianola. I'll be headed down for my first work day of the year and hopefully see some other people there. I'm looking forward to checking out some of the singletrack for the first time after we're done.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Nope, no Tuesday Night World Championships for me last night, it was Tuesday Night With Family time. Being that I had spent pretty much all weekend doing my own selfish things and the girls are going to be gone for a trip starting tomorrow, it was time for some family things. Monday night we sat down and made stepping stones from a kit Miranda had bought as an activity. Corley even decorated hers with a footprint. After that, we let her run around in the yard barefoot which was pretty funny in itself. She'd holler "Ouchy" every time she stepped on a stick or hard spot in the ground. Guess we need to let her run more often and get those feet hardened up.

Last night was a mad rush to get everything in, but it was all worth it. We did the usual chiro deal where I go in first on my way home from work and then the girls meet me after I get done. I take the Escape back home while Miranda has her appointment and get dinner started. Had some damn fine squash ravioli and some peas for dinner before loading up the tandem and trailer. Corley was pretty excited to go for a ride with mom and dad. It was only the second tandem trip of the year and the first hauling the trailer. I was still feeling the effort from this weekend and knew my better half wouldn't be up for too much hard work, I opted for the ultra flat Summerset trail. We road a shade over 5 miles out to the turnoff to Summerset park and had an impromptu picnic and ran around being goofballs. It was awesome! It also reminded me I need to get on picking out a small camera to have with us so we can record these great moments. We rolled back to the truck by 7:40 and headed home with a scant 11.5 miles and a whopping 80' of climb logged!

Definitely some great family time in there. Speaking of such, one of the guy's at work apparently has it in his head that I'm a total fuckoff that doesn't care about spending time with his family. I'll admit, I'm still adjusting to the fact that I should be spending more quality time with my family, but I think in the whole scheme of things, I'm nowhere near being a deadbeat dad. This guy has gone out of his way it would seem to point out that while I'm biking, etc, that I'm losing precious moments with my family that I'll never get back. Maybe I wouldn't be offended if it were a close friend giving me some advice that I'm spending too much time on the bike or doing other things. I've been guilty of it before. But to be one of my co-workers that is seemingly injecting an unsolicited opinion, it raises my hackles a bit for sure. You do what works for you and I'll do what works for us.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Almanzo 100 race report

Almanzo 100- May 17, 2008

100 miles of gravel should be tough, it should challenge you, but it should also reward. Almanzo 100 didn’t disappoint on any of those counts. While I could ponder and pontificate on the additional training I should have put in, the missed turns I made, or how much the headwind sucked, it is what it is and that’s all part of the race to the finish. As my buddy Squirrel so eloquently has put down in permanent ink- “Suck it up” is the only true option.

I tried to set no expectations for myself other than finishing as strongly as I could. This being my first true race, I just needed to finish. I’m too damn competitive for that so as last week focused my attention on the race I picked a few goals to shoot for. I wanted to finish in less than 9 hours total time out, in the top half of the field, and average better than 12.5 mph moving average. Considering my last gravel grinder put me at 10 hours out with over 8 hours of actual riding time, I thought these were good set points.

Friday afternoon found me picking up Squirrel for a dash north to Rochester. We’d be camping out in the race director’s (Chris Skogen) backyard. We arrived in plenty of time to take a quick spin to the shop that was hosting the start/finish line for the race. A stop for some supplies for the evening meal and we headed back to our host’s house. Calling it an early evening we turned in before 10. I tossed and turned most of the night regretting that I hadn’t brought any type of pad for my sleeping bag.

Saturday morning dawned early, chilly, and slightly overcast as I fought off the shivers and tried to decide the best clothing options for the day. I chose a sleeveless base layer, bibs, my new Rasmussen Death Squad five thousand short sleeve jersey, and arm and leg warmers. A breakfast of a homemade waffle offered up by an awesome host was downed and off to the starting line we went. Roughly an hour before start, we wandered around the host store and met some of the other competitors.

The weapons of choice were as widely varied as the competitors. Being that there were 3 categories- single speed, fixed, and open, the hardware ranged from simple to complex. One of the more interesting combos I ran across was a cross style bike with mono shock setup, running deep section HED rims and cross tires with a mustache type handlebar. I felt a bit outgunned with a hard tail mountain bike and 2.1 tires. The sun started to creep out as we inched closer to the 8 AM start time and I started warming up. Just as the race director was making the announcement to start lining up I made the decision to peel off the leg warmers and stuff them into my hydration pack. If there had been a few more minutes to spare, I’d mostly like have tossed the arm warmers as well.

The start:

With a field around 60 strong, we rolled to the start line for a mass rollout. As we had the first few miles rolling through downtown Rochester, I made sure to stay in the top 20 riders to guarantee I wouldn’t be dropped by any errant stoplights. The first little miscue came as the lead pack accidentally turned to cut through a parking lot only to find no outlet. A number circled back, but I chose the path of least resistance by hopping the curb and going across the parking. Score one for the mountain bike! I was in the top 3 for the first, last and only time of the day.

As we warmed up and rolled into the start of the gravel, we hit a couple small rollers to get us ready for the first climb of the day. A 200’ 8-10% grade blew the group into pieces. While I had gears and could easily make my way to the top, I quickly learned that I could only put power down by being seated. I had too much pressure in my tires with pretty small knobs that wouldn’t bite on the hard pack with loose pebbles on top. This would be a pretty common occurrence for the rest of the day which forced me to either climb seated or really work on smoothing my pedal stroke while standing. The main group of riders totaled somewhere in the low teens and were off like a shot from the top of the hill.

Squirrel enjoying the gravel early:

I worked into a steady pace trying to keep my heart rate in the lower half of zone 4 and began rolling off the miles. I tailed Squirrel and a few other riders in the first section and witnessed a rider go down. A very brief slow down to make sure he was ok and we picked the pace right back up. The miles now varied between flat and rollers with no major climbs for a time. Mile 25 found us rolling through the town of St Charles and enjoying another short stretch of pavement along with another climb as we headed up to and beyond I-90. This also turned us into our first real foray with the headwinds as we headed back west. After enjoying cross tailwinds strong from the northwest for the first jaunt, the headwinds hit hard.

We now stair stepped our way south and west varying between cross tail and head winds. Outside of the next pass through town of Chatsfield, we found the longest climb of the day. Close two 2 miles long and gaining over 300’ of elevation, we transitioned from tarmac back to a wide packed gravel road. I kept my pace up on the climb and slowly put some time on a couple fellows that had gained on me in the downhill into town. At this point in the race, seeing other competitors started coming mostly in areas where I could see more than a quarter mile in front or behind. For all intents and purposes, I was now riding alone.

Now focused on getting to the checkpoint in good time without making any stops, I made my first miscue of the race. I easily made the un-marked turn noted on the cue sheet, but was befuddled by a road sign that noted a turn to the right while there was also a route going straight. Convinced that the road turning sign signified that the route we were on also turned, I pushed ahead. I noted several riders that were coming up on me at the time, questioning my decision, but ultimately following me. Damn, it was a wrong turn. I paid no attention that all the bike tracks had gone straight being that I was so convinced I was right. After a mile, we all pretty much realized the mistake and doubled back down the road for 2 bonus miles on the route! At least I only drug 3 other souls along with me.

Squirrel and another fixed gear rider had caught back up to me at this point and pulled ahead for a short time. However, the road soon was to my benefit with flats and a few long downhills with very short rollers at the ends. I soon passed them and put time in the bank as well. I pushed along and rolled into the only checkpoint on the route in Spring Valley at the 62 mile marker. I was averaging well over 15 mph at this point and while I was starting to tire, I still felt good. It was time for a brief stop to reload on water (70 oz in the hydration pack and 24 oz on the bike), take some ibuprofen, and reapply the chamois crème. In retrospect, I spent too much time at the checkpoint as I was stopped near 30 minutes.

My legs felt strong and slightly recharged as I pulled out of the checkpoint and into the wind. This leg was to be almost entirely north into a steady 15-20 mph wind from the northwest. I pulled away from some riders on the first section out of the checkpoint only to start the downhill slide to bonksville around mile 75. My heart rate freefell by 30 beats per minute, my legs ached, and although I could tell myself just to stay on the bike, it wasn’t happening. On a small incline, I finally hopped off the bike and walked for roughly 100 yards until I could force myself back on. I felt like hell and knew it was going to be a rough finish with 25 miles of headwind yet to fight.

I struggled through another 7 miles and finally took a quick break for another gel and more ibuprofen. I stopped completely this time for about 5 minutes and focused on stretching out and getting my head together. I kept expecting riders to start streaming past me, but they didn’t come. I wasn’t the only one suffering the winds! I resigned myself to start back up and gladly found my pace slowly picking up. I was working through it.

Around mile 85 I made my second tactical mistake of the day. Not realizing that we were doing two turns in quick succession, I instead focused on the large figure dotting the center of the road ahead. Setting in the middle of an intersection was an ominous figure of a large farm dog. He was waiting ever so patiently for me to slowly crawl up to his turf. As I took stock of my options, out-sprinting him was quickly dismissed and the water bottle plan was put into action. As I approached, another large dog joined him. With about 20 feet left to go, I realized the main dog was indeed panting, wagging his tail, and friendly as could be. Whew, disaster avoided, or so I thought. I was so engrossed on finding a way to fight off a possibly hostile dog, I missed that fact that he was indeed directly ensconced in the middle of the intersection I needed to turn at. I rode 2 miles down the road before realizing I was indeed off course once again. If you’re keeping track I’m now at 6 bonus miles for the ride, woohoo….

I doubled back to find my mistake and was at least thankful for the tailwind that propelled me back. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had just passed me while I was out exploring off course. The mistake helped fuel some determination back into my legs and I began riding with intent instead of desperation. I downed another gel and got back to work.

We finally hit pavement with about 8 miles left to go. I kept expecting there to be a turnoff to more gravel somewhere in there, but mercifully we were done. The torture was quite over though as the pavement turned to some short, but wicked rollers as we headed back to Rochester. I succumbed to a single rider in this section and couldn’t keep pace as he slowly pulled off the front. As we hit the city limits, I began to feel that bit of euphoria of knowing that I would make it to the finish. The final mile found me in a whole new world. I was physically and mentally drained, my emotions let go and the evidence starting pooling under my sunglasses. I made the final turn, the cowbell, the cheers, the finish line. I shot through and stayed on my feet long enough to check in until I could collapse against the building with my head in my hands. I was done.

The finish:

7:54 was my final time. 14.5 mph moving average. 31st place overall. As the field narrowed to 59 official entrants, I only missed my goal of top half of the field even though I handily exceeded both my average speed and overall time goals. I loved it, I hated it, I want more.

Link to more pictures and total results. All photo credits to Chris Skogen!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ritual and Reward

Last night was another installment of the Ritual Ride with the PRC squad. I'm absolutely stunned at how quickly this ride has grown. I managed to make it to the first "pre-ride" and the first ride itself and the turnout has been nothing short of awesome. I think last night's count was around 55 riders total with at least 50% being women. If nothing else, this should tell you how sorely an event geared towards getting women involved in the sport has been missed in the area. The beautiful weather didn't hurt much either.

We took off a shade past 5:30 and did the usual rollout with the group splitting into A & B where the A group does an extra loop through part of Waterworks in order to keep the overall group a little spread out on the bike trail section plus keep us closer to arriving back as a single group. The A group wasn't attacking by any means, but the pace was nice and fast at 20-22 mph average for most of the ride. As per usual, once we hit the couple rollers outside of Orilla, I dropped off the back a bit and wasn't able to close back up by the time we hit the soccer hill. A couple red lights as we rolled back into town played in my favor though and eventually i caught the few riders left from the front of the group as we crossed Fleur. 34 miles on the legs and I felt pretty good when I hit home. Amazing how much easier it is to push skinny tires and a light frame after riding the mountain bike for a few days.

Today actually marks the 5th day in a row I've gotten to ride my bike. It's my 3rd commute in this week and I'm definitely starting to consider taking a more proactive approach to doing some commuting the rest of the summer. I've got about a 18-19 mile round trip depending on the detour I'm currently taking. Overall it runs about 35ish minutes on the mountain bike without pushing too hard. My biggest problem is that if I tried to ride slow enough to not sweat, it would take me almost an hour to ride in and that's too long. So, I'm set with taking baby wipe showers once I get in and just sweating it out once I get home.

I mainly rode in today to get a few shakedown miles on the mountain bike after tearing it mostly down on Tuesday night to clean and prep it for the race this weekend. The good news is that everything seemed spot on this morning with a new chain, greased and clean rear hub/axle, and a good general cleaning overall. I did find some loose spokes which I put a bit of tension back into. They were casualties of me tweaking the rear wheel during an endo this spring. The rim was tweaked just enough that we really had to tension one side and loosen the other. They apparently finished loosening on their own so I'll be keeping an eye on them in the future. I'll probably need to keep on the lookout for a good cheap wheel sometime this year and put this one into reserve.

I've been trying to avoid setting any goals for this weekend beyond finishing. However, I'm just too damned competitive for that idea to hold water. At least I'm going to try to set some hopefully modest goals considering my current conditioning and lack of long distance rides this year. I really would like to finish in the top half of the field which would currently mean about 30th place give or take. I'd also like to finish in under 9 hours total time out. I'm shooting to stay on the bike as much as possible and be self contained beyond a single water stop somewhere along the way. I'm carrying 70 oz of water on my back and another 24 of perpetuem fuel in my bike bottle so I figure I'll be good for 2/3 or better of the race on liquids. Obviously part of my fueling will be liquid, but I'm also planning some Clif bars, and various other goodies stuffed in somewhere. Beyond that, I'm going to try to carry a sane amount of spares and parts and keep my total pack weight under 15 pounds. We'll see how that goes. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One Sixty

An interesting title for a post for sure. But it also is a milestone of sorts for me. That was my weight as of this morning after a little urine slinging and other morning rituals. I've been bouncing around the 163-165 mark for a month or two now with an occasional dip into the 161 range, but hadn't hit 160 yet.

Following Kim's patented skip a meal fatass plan and cycling to work the past two days, plus Monday's hard effort I'm sure put me over the top. Actually, I really haven't skipped any meals and just have been a little more aware of what I'm actually eating. Considering I started riding seriously just a shade over a year ago and weighed in at 183 when I started. I'm pretty damn happy. I can't remember when I last weighed in below 165 on any type of a regular basis. There may have been a period for about 6 months back in 02 when things were a bit messy in my personal life and eating didn't even sound appealing, but beyond that, it has to be back to high school or possibly earlier than that considering I was a tab "chunky" for the first few years of high school.

Ideally, I'd like to bottom out around 155-160 and keep it there while building a little upper body/core muscle strength up. I'm thinking some yoga and a few free weights would really help out with that. Now if I could just find a free or really cheap yoga class to attend. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One of those days

Ever have one of those days? Yesterday was one for me. Everything just seemed to click and although work is work, my time on the bike was out of this world for the most part. I know, I zigged and then zagged, but hey, that's just me.

I commuted in yesterday in record time of just a shade over 30 minutes. Not bad for the mountain bike. I'm riding it this week in prep for this weekend's Almanzo 100 race in Rochester that Squirell and I are headed to. I figure some good miles getting back used to pushing wide tires and a heavier frame would be good practice versus zipping along on the road bike the whole week. It also gives me a chance to shake down seeing if anything needs tweaked before I head out Friday. The commute home was a bit harder with a nice stiff headwind all the way home and the detour I cut through in the morning was sealed off with the presence of workers so I had to tack on an extra mile or so.

It was off to the races almost literally as soon as I got home. Squirrel and the boys were meeting up at 6 for race pace riding at the entrance to Denman's woods. I boogied from home in the truck at 5:15 and was back on the bike 20 minutes later. I figured with almost 20 miles on my legs they might be a bit lethargic tonight, but that definitely wasn't the case. It would seem I need almost that many miles just to warm up good. I road the new exit to Denman's to see how it was rerouted. It was actually just a very slight change in route that kept you out of the muck getting to Dirty Express and worked out well. While I was waiting for the boys to show up I ran into Pete and had a good conversation with him. He gave me some pointers on clearing some obstacles and by then, everyone had shown up.

We hit the entrance to the trail and it was on. I wish my heart rate monitor had been working as I know I kept my rate in the low 180's for pretty much the entire ride through Denman's. I'm betting it was an average of 175 or a few beats higher. I had one rider chasing me and the rest were off the front. I put Pete's advice to good use and cleared the big log pile that's thrown me down twice for the first time in the dry. Victorious, I let out a whoop and instantly felt silly, alive, and amazing all at the same time. It was the start to a great night. The trail was mostly empty in Denman's so we hauled ass through there and I fought to stay ahead of the chaser. Jumping logs faster than ever before, taking turns too hot at times, and just accelerating for all I was worth out of every slow down. I worked myself over big time. We finally hit the end and I stopped to talk to my chaser. He was trying to catch me as much as I was trying to not be caught, awesome!

A quick shot down Dirty Express led us to Squirrel's nest and Rhythm before jumping across the trestle to the Science center side of things. I dropped my pace down a bit in both of these areas and just focused on keeping another rider in sight in front of me with an occassional slow down to keep off his wheel. Not bad considering he was riding a Karate Monkey on cross tires! As we hit the paved trail and headed towards the Science center, I saw Squirrel and the other two fast riders hitting J11. Seems Squirrel had a partially broken freehub that was intermittently turning his ride into a fixie. That's great if you're expecting it, but not so much when you need to coast and it tries to fling you over the bars! I hauled butt to catch up to them and then hung on the back as they were taking it a bit easy nursing the broken hub back towards the shop.

We parted ways at the end of J11 and I headed back down the trail to the center trails. I opted out of suffering the climbs on Hillside and took a turn through Rollercoaster. Rollercoaster has been the one trail I have yet to come close to taming. Tonight would be different. I was feeling it and decided to not be so damn cautious on the water crossing and just nail it. Amazingly enough it worked. I soaked my ass with water on two of the crossings, but only had one slight bobble as I spun on a rock climbing the middle crossing. I even managed to ride up the switchback area I'd previously only been able to walk up. I was just crushing it (at least for me). I really wasn't working on riding hard, but more staying upright and making it through the trail at this point. Then, another set of riders came up and I hollered rider up. Unfortunately we met at a small bridge and we just about passed each other when I caught my pedal or wheel on something and flipped over the bars at a whopping 2 MPH! Nothing hurt but my price, I bounced right back up, told the other riders no worries and got right back on. I rode the rest of the ride with no other mishaps.

A quick shot back down J11 and then hit the pave trail over to Rassy's. Squirell was just headed out after dropping his bike to fix later this week. I sat down and cracked open a cold one with Greg (the owner). We had a damn nice time shooting the breeze and sucking down the brew. I mentioned that I was racing this weekend with Squirrel and wondered if he might have any of the team jersey's left in a large. Open popped the boxes and just like that I've got my first team jersey and and damn proud to promote the shop. Granted, I have no illusion that I'm part of any of the "race" teams they sponsor, but I'm happy to fly their flag and will do what I can to give them a good showing. It was the perfect end to one of the most kickass rides I've ever had.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Easy like Sunday morning

Wow, what a nice overall weekend. After the hard effort at Thursday's time trial, I actually felt just fine on Sunday. One recurring theme I'm noticing is that I run out of lungs before legs. I think it's time to work on some tempo rides and breathing exercises. As I've said before, my long mileage rides have suffered greatly this year so I think it's affected my aerobic fitness.

Friday was an unexpected pleasant surprise. My mom and wife had planned on going to see Stomp at the Civic Center. I was to hang with my beautiful baby girl and was planning to make a nice homemade card for Mother's day with her. At the last minute, mom decided she really didn't feel well so offered up hanging out with Corley (and sticking close by a toilet) and letting us take the tickets since they were freebies anyway. The show was way cool even if I did battle a shot of drowsiness in the middle. Anyone else have a recurring problem where they get about an hour into something like a movie/show/etc and hit a bought of sleepiness and then recover after about 15 minutes of trying not to nod off? That's a typical event for me which I still find pretty strange.

On Saturday morning I was looking forward to grabbing my bike to work week packet with socks (I was in the top 70 registered this year!) and then meeting up with Lou and a bunch of the Rassy death squad for some hill training and racing techniques. Mother nature decided that wasn't in the cards and the ride was cancelled out and rescheduled for early afternoon which put me out of the picture. We headed down to a friend's daughter's birthday party. It was a 3 year old princess party if that gives any indication... Actually, I had a good time hanging with the various other male figures doing our duty to grill meat and drink beer! After that it was presents galore and time to head home by 1. I surprisingly had a pretty damn good time. Saturday afternoon found me doing some chores like changing oil and going to the store. After an extended store trip, Miranda was a bit on the cranky side, but she'd get over it on Sunday...

Sunday being momma's day, I didn't plan any activities for myself. I got up in the morning and made some kickass pancakes that included ricotta cheese and orange zest. I've had this recipe bookmarked for over a year and finally got the chance to make it. I wouldn't call them exactly healthy, but the flavor and texture was awesome. Even Corley ate one and a half pancakes. Considering I could only finish 3 myself, I was pretty impressed. We'll definitely be doing those again. After breakfast it was card and present time. Not having the time to do a homemade card, I had Corley color one I had picked out and then we gave momma her present. My extended trip the day before had resulted in finding the DVD/VCR combo she's been wanting for the past couple of months. I installed it and now we have access to digital broadcast TV which kicks total ass! Miranda now has access via our old VCR to do her Tai-Bo down in the basement now which should yield some good results along with her other exercise class she's starting up.

Sunday afternoon was a double bonus. Miranda apparently hit her head on something and told me to take a couple hours to go riding. In shock, I waited a bit to test her resolve, but it held fast and I hurriedly changed and took off before she could say no. As my workout from Saturday was put on rain delay, I decided to make up for it on my own today. Hill repeats at Mcrea park were the order of the day. After a warmup/recon loop, I made it through 5 repeats before I felt my ass had been kicked. 100+ feet of climb on a .8 mile loop definitely was hard work. Word is that the Rassy guys are looking to hold a crit there next year. Damn... I can only imagine the pain some of the racer's will be in for that one. All told, I need some serious work on breathing and climbing skills. I took a leisurely ride on through parts of downtown looking for signs of additional biking life at the coffee shops, but didn't find any. I headed back home and treated myself to some additional hill work in the form of taking South Union street home from downtown in lieu of my usual ride up SE 5th. 1800' of total climb in 20 miles definitely gave me some work, but I felt really good when I got home and even hammered some of the hills on the way.

This morning was my first commute of the year. It was much easier than I remember it being last year. Of course, 4,000+ miles on the legs since then and a nicer ride (even though I rode the mountain bike this morning) might make a bit of a difference. I'm hoping to get more commuting in this year other than just during this week's Bike to work week, but we'll see. I have started riding to and from more rides this year in lieu of driving to them. I know that saves some gas and I get the bonus mileage so I'm happy with that as a good start.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mileage update

Just a quick note to let you know that I made my first big rollover of the year on Monday's ride. I rolled 1000 miles for the year thus far. Considering I didn't start riding a road bike until early May last year, I am pretty excited about having that much mileage in all ready. I'm hoping to break 4000 miles this year as I ended last calendar year with 3200ish. I definitely need to start hitting the 4+ hour weekend rides now that the weather is starting to cooperate more. Those were the mainstay of my miles last year and probably will be this year as well.

One other thing of note, of all my mileage, I put less than 20 of those on indoors! I rode all winter long, which was huge for me. It was a lot of fun playing in the snow and cold this year with the right gear to keep me warm. If I decide to do more racing next year, I might have to up the indoor training a bit though. I'd really like to try a trainer as opposed to my rollers though. I know rollers are great for form, but I just couldn't stay on them longer than 20 minutes without getting numb nuts going on. Personally, I think I'd probably do better on riding a stationary trainer where I can zone out into my own little world and just put the hurt on.

Elkhart TT #1

Last night was the first installment of the Elkhart time trials this year. Actually the first one was rained out so this was the first time we actually got to ride. I pretty much confirmed my suspicions last night, yup, I'm slow! Actually, I'm sure there are a host of reasons I could use as an excuse, but overall my body and fitness just weren't up to par.

I did a 10-15 minute warmup getting my heart up to zone 4 for a little bit and could tell it was going to be a rough night. My legs just felt heavy and the harder I pushed the more I wanted to slow down. Once I got to the line I felt slightly better, but after the first mile or so I was all ready feeling it. I concentrated on putting my head down, keeping my heart rate close to 175-180 and pushed on. I tried different cadence and everything, but it wasn't doing.

Roughly 1/3 of the way in, I was passed by an All 9 yards guy named Jerome and he was flying. Unfortunately for me, he was in the same class: Eddy Mercxx. The rules of the class are pretty simple- no aero gear and go as fast as you can. I figured I'd sign up for this one as I'd at least be up against guys with similar gear as I figured that it was about as likely for me to lose to them as the cat 4/5 guys with full aero rigs. I also figured there would be fewer people in this class. I know I was right on that count, I just need to see how I finished out overall to see if it was the right choice.

In any case, after Jerome passed me, I had sight of the woman in front of me and concentrated on realing her in. I managed to catch her about a mile after the turn and kept the gap opening further up. I can at least say I passed a person on a TT effort now. Of course that's still not worth much when you only average 20.7 mph for the effort. I hammered as much as possible fighting a slight head/mostly cross wind on the way back and crossed the line just about crosseyed and heaving like no other. At least I didn't feel like I left much out there.

I do need to check my seat height though as I felt like there was a disconnect with my positioning and leg extension. I really need to work on my core strength as well. I noted when I made the turn that my back/stomach/sides were all ready hurting due to the effort I was putting in to keep my upper body tucked and still. I also need to get some longer tempo rides in. 1 ride of 50 miles on the road thus far this year is definitely not enough to get my endurance where I want it. Gravel grinders don't do much other than prep you for a long ass slog in the saddle and pounding out some slow miles.

Overall I think I was almost a minute slower than my effort last year which had an average speed of almost 22 mph and was just shy of breaking 20 minutes. My goal this year is to break 20 minutes. I know it's easily in my grasp, I just need to put the work in to get there.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Info dump

As I've been pretty slow to write on a regular basis lately I figure I'll just dump a bunch of info all at once and get it off my plate.

Last Wednesday I opted out of the Ritual Ride and chose to do the Taco ride with the CITA boys. The trail was in pretty great shape with just a couple muddy spots and the requisite creek crossings. I managed to stay upright more often than not but still took a few spills including the coveted "first rider down" prize! I still need to work on my obstacle clearing skills as I always hang up on the chain rings on steep or large obstacles. I have yet to master hopping the rear tire up and over obstacles and am content with the seat jumping up and slapping me in the ass. I definitely need some help and work on that skill. Hell, I need work on all my skills...

This weekend found me slaving away on the yard work, friends visiting overnight, working, and a potluck with other friends. Friday night found us hosting some friends from out of town. They were headed to Adventureland with their kids on Saturday so we put out the invite to drive down the night before and stay overnight so they wouldn't have to get up at the buttcrack of dawn on Saturday. We had a few adult beverages, spent some time in the hot tub, and had some good conversation. As the evening activities were winding down around 1 in the morning, their youngest son sprinted upstairs and proceeded to get sick in the bathroom. Awesome job on having the ability to make it to the bathroom in a strange house! They were in for a long night with him being sick, but still made it to the park and had a good time on Saturday. It was great seeing them again, but dang we need to get our activities rolling earlier in the evening as anything past midnight is getting rough on this old man (LOL)!

Saturday was the first lawn mowing of the year. I was actually a week late on this due to our mower being out of commission. I tried last week to get the parts to fix it only to find out that all mower shops apparently close at 1 pm on Saturdays?! What the hell??? I'm guessing, I'm not in the minority by mowing my yard on the weekend and would halfway expect a mower shop to cater to their customers by at least being open until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Guess I lost that bet. In any case, the yard work got done, along with the brush cleanup and a couple of brews consumed. After dinner I hauled the load down to my parents farm and hung out with them for a few minutes before heading back home.

Woohoo, Sunday was going to be a banner day. 70 degrees and sunny meant I was in for some long hours on the bike. Alas, I wussed out. I awoke to mid 30's temps with slightly overcast skies and decided it wasn't to be. I opted for a couple hours extra sleep, a side of nookie, and getting an early start on the work I knew was looming in front of me. Yup, I spent most of my Sunday at work. I stayed there until 4 o'clock rolled around and we headed over to our friends grandma's house on the east side. She and her husband were in town from Arkansas with their son who is only 4 months younger than Corley. The kids played, the house was packed, and we had a good time hanging out with everyone. We rolled the weekend up with some relaxing in front of the tube.

Monday was a red letter day! I hit the DMCC Monday night ride for the first time this year as I opted out of Tuesday and Wednesday this week to do the Elkhart Time Trial on Thursday. I also chose to save gas and ride to the start plus I got the bonus miles in. Long story short, I logged almost 50 miles Monday night and though the numbers weren't very impressive in regards to average speeds or total climbing, I still felt pretty worked by the time I got home. Once home, the red letter day really started with some new toys having come in the mail from our friends at F&E. Actually, we only got one of the toys we ordered, but it was the one I was most looking forward to putting to use. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it! Overall it's a great toy and we'll probably be carrying it in the store, but didn't quite fulfill every fantasy I'd managed to conjure up about wild drapery tearing, paint peeling sex. I'm sure part of that was at least due to not getting started until somewhere nearing midnight as both of us had a busy day. We'll definitely be testing it more in the future though.

Damn, I think that catches me up to everything. Hope to see some of you soon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I know, I know, I'm pretty much a week late getting this post put together, but such is life. Actually, I'm shirking my work duties at the moment to put this together, but I'm sure I'll pay the time back in working late tonight and taking work home, so it's all good.

Last Tuesday was a great ride. I set a personal best, had an excellent ride, and managed to not feel like throwing up by the time I was done. The group was smaller than the previous one in which the accident occured. I can't really say it was any better behaved on the part of obeying all traffic laws, but at least we did more double file pacing in lieu of the mass swarm that I'm sure helped foster the accident the week before.

In any case, I was thinking all day about how not to get dropped on the climb past Cottonwood. I read on someone's training plan, blog, or somewhere that if you're a week climber, position yourself at the front and attack on the climb. As I all ready redline my heart rate going up that climb, I couldn't quite see how I could attack it any harder. However, by positioning myself at the front and hitting it just a shade earlier than everyone else, it allowed me to stay within the pack at the top of the climb. I was still totally gassed, but I now had people around to draft and recover with. I made it across the highway and through one set of S-curves before I was off the back again. I wasn't severely disappointed as it was still about the furthest I've made it thus far.

I had a few people off even before I went, so that made me happy in not being the first person off. I also was able to help pull them a little bit. The main group got stopped at the light in Ankeny and we were able to catch back up. As the light turned and we went, the pack strung out a bit. For some reason a number of the Pink Biker Chicks hit their brakes and pulled off into the elementary school at the north end of Ankeny. Not such a big deal, but the few of us towards the tail end had to slow and then were gapped off the main group which was accelerating away from us.

With no chance of catching them, I started to pull with one of the women I knew on the ride. We worked together to reel in Paul Black who I'm not sure was even on the TNWC ride, but happened to be in the right place at the right time. We started rotating pulls, but eventually lost Kristen off the back (sorry!) leaving Paul and I chasing one of the Rassy boys. We caught him and again started a pretty agressive 3 man rotation trading pulls every 30-45 seconds and hanging out with the tailwind and a draft!

Eventually, Paul and I started pulling away from the man in black and I was still feeling pretty springy. We made the turn on 142nd and still had a cross/tail wind at that point. We slowed slightly to let the other guy catch back on, but he wasn't able to hold it so we took off as two. Paul is an amazingly strong rider and I'm pretty sure he wasn't working nearly as hard as I was considering he's done RAAM and several UMCA events. We shot straight through the turn to Slater/Sheldahl and made the 40 mile loop. As we headed back south a nasty headwind greated us with gusto.

Pulls were again traded with Paul going longer up front as I was starting to weaken. Finally as we were almost to Camp Dodge I started to fall off, but Paul being the consumate drafting partner, soft pedalled long enough for me to hang on and recover just a bit. We split ways at Merle Hay as I headed back to the shop and my truck. It was at this point I knew it was going to be a fight to maintain my average speed. I hammered it as much as possible and somehow managed to keep my average at a new personal best. 20 MPH average for the 40 mile loop. I was stoked to say the least. Back at the truck I was tired, but happy and amazingly didn't hurt too much.