Saturday, November 29, 2008

Breakfast time

Breakfast time, originally uploaded by Buckshot77.

Mmmm orange ricotta pancakes for breakfast!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lights out

That just about sums up last night in multiple ways. I finished mounting my new light set around 4, loaded up and headed to the shop to meet up with Sammy and anyone else that might show for a 5 o'clock ride. Ends up, it was just the two of us which was fine by me. Conlon was supposed to meet up with us somewhere on the trail, but we never did find him.

The supposed warm weather from yesterday afternoon must've only last a couple hours as it was windy and getting chilly by the time we hit the trail. At least back in the woods, the wind wasn't too bad. I was hoping for dry conditions yesterday, but the first part of the trail was definitely greasy to say the least. I actually felt a little bad being out on it, but then realized, I wouldn't be the only track so all I can do is help ride it back in once it does dry out a bit more. Actually, once we got past the first big log pile, it wasn't bad at all.

The new lights were awesome. For the first pass through I ran the bar mount and headlight both on 50% settings and had an excess of light since it was just getting to be dusk. From there, we opted for a loop through Rollercoaster as Sammy was single speeding it and not geared down for Hillside. I'm still pretty new to night riding so slow and steady was mostly the name of the game, but I had a good timing running the ups and downs through coaster even though the creek crossing bit me again.

Actually, just as we were headed up the pave trail almost to Ashworth pool, I had switched my lights to 100% on both just to see how much light I could put out. We ran into Kim and a couple other guys on their way out to gravel goodness. I believe their comment was something along the lines of, "I don't know how to describe the amount of light you're putting out!" Along with some good natured ribbing about thinking there was a train coming up the bike path. Good, that means the lights are doing their job!

After coaster, we rolled back for a reverse loop in Denman's. Then tragedy struck. Doing a logover I hadn't done previously, I cleared it, but heard a snap when the back tire hit the ground. My headlight mount cracked off and was now dangling by the battery. Well, doesn't that just suck.

The mount snapped at the screw holding it onto the rotational plate. Not a big deal, but a bit disappointing for a first time out. On the plus side, a new part is on its way all ready from Dinotte. Hopefully this will hold up or I'll need to find a different mounting method.

Once the big light was out of commission, I had just my headlamp to use. On high, it was plenty of light to move right along even in complete darkness. Even at 50% I could probably ride pretty comfortably and have plenty of light. I am going to play with some different lens combos once they come in to see if I can get it setup to have a little broader diffusion as it's really a high powered spot right now. We finished up the ride and headed back to the shop for a quick beer with the boys before heading home. After a hot shower, it was definitely lights out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I see the light

And it's not a freight train. For the first time in MANY months, I can actually enjoy some down time at work. I'm being deliciously somewhat unproductive at work and enjoying most every second of it. My casino project is finally wrapping up to the point where I don't feel like I need to be at the contractor's beck and call every second of the day. Actually, as far as I'm concerned I'm 100% complete with the project, but I know that is never the case until several months down the road.

The good news is I can point to this job when asking my boss for money and show them how my hard work (and that of our shop) have paid pretty huge dividends. I won't get into actual specifics here, but lets just say, I have a pretty good leg to stand on when it comes to asking for a sizable bonus this year. Additionally, I might well hold the company record for having the biggest gross net on a job, built a very good foundation for future work with the contractor, and I get to celebrate the end of the job by taking the main guys I worked with out for steak and beer. Those are the things I love about my job. I love making big money for my employer, I love when they reward me with a great bonus (still hoping for that one), and I love being able to treat the guys on site that have as much influence on how the project finishes out as I do to a good time. It's a win-win for everyone.

I'm actually taking next week off. Other than a couple days around Labor Day, this will be the first vacation time for me in 6+ months. The last time I took any real time off was for the lingerie show in Vegas last April. I've got a big list of things to work on around the house, plus help my parents get some work done before Thanksgiving. Hopefully I can cross a few items off the list, spend some time with my girls, and maybe even get out on the bike a time or two. I can't wait.

Eating around

One of my more indulgent activities is to try new restaurants around town or when I'm out of town. Last night found Miranda and I with grandma watching the kidlet and ourselves with an open night so we opted for a walk on the wild side. OK, so maybe wild, is a bit of a stretch, but we did venture into the wilds of Beaverdale to check out a cozy little restaurant that had been recommended by a few different people. Chef's Kitchen was the name of the game for our evening meal.

It's a cozy little place tucked in along Beaver Ave. The dining room is pretty decently sized when considering the size of the building the restaurant is tucked into. There were a few diners all ready seated and enjoying their meals and we were able to snag the last booth. Considering it was a Tuesday night and relatively early for dinner, I can imagine they do a pretty fair business during the weekend rush. The menu had a wide variety of choices from pasta, chicken, steak, barbecue, etc. Considering I had been rallying to go out for barbecue, I was pretty happy to see that on the menu. I chose the ribs with a hot watermelon bbq sauce while Miranda chose a little more daintily and opted for the chicken special.

I ordered a beer with dinner and was pleasantly surprised by drafts being $2.50 a pop. Considering the costs some places are getting for drafts at $4+ now, it's always nice to see prices on beer a little more palatable. My salad and her soup were both quite tasty and we were looking forward to the rest of the meal. We weren't disappointed. A massive full slab of ribs soon graced the table in front of me and a nicely presented chicken breast was sitting opposite. We also opted for a side of their hash brown's which have to be seen (and tried) to be believed. The hash browns come in a patty about 8" in diameter and close to 2" thick perfectly golden on all sides. Amazingly it was cooked to perfection through and not the least bit greasy. Next time I'm sure we'll opt to add some additional toppings to spice things up a bit, but definitely was worth the order.

My dinner of ribs was definitely up there on quality of taste and portion size. The watermelon bbq sauce was a definite treat as well adding a bit of novelty plus actual great taste to the ribs which were served dry. I definitely overate and felt pretty stuffed by the end of the meal having washed it all down with a couple Sam Adams Winter Lager. Miranda said her meal was pretty tasty as well, though I was too busy enjoying mine to sample hers.

Pricing was excellent with us walking out for under $50 for dinner for two. Add in that they have a jar of homemade chocolate chip cookies free for the patrons sitting on the bar as you enter or leave and it topped off a great meal. We'll definitely put this one on our list of places to get back to.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Houston we have a problem

I went for broke this weekend on the bike. Tom was planning his next gravel ride for this Sunday and with the wife and kidlet out of town, I figured it would be a great time to get another ride in and one step closer to earning a half cup of dirt. As the saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." We hit the Hy-Vee on Grand to meet up with a few others that were doing some mountain biking and rolled out at 7 to do a loop of Denman's before hitting the gravel.

Everything went pretty well at first. Sure there was a fair headwind as we opted to head west before working out way back with a tailwind. I felt pretty good for the most part and was even relatively comfortable on the new Selle An-atomica saddle I'd thrown on in some attempts to find long term comfort for the ride. I'd actually bought and mounted it on the tandem earlier this summer, but never got to ride it, so I figured it was now or never for a big test of it's supposed comfort.

We rolled in to DeSoto around 10:30 and I had about 40 miles on the clock with Tom about 13 miles more since he'd ridden in to Hy-Vee from home. We made a bit of an extended stop for food and drink and to re-calculate out plans. We ended up going with my suggestion which was to turn tail and take advantage of the blustery wind pushing us back from whence we came and then finding some areas closer to home to get remaining mileage.

After the stop, I felt pretty good and was still riding strong albeit with my left knee giving me some pain. It actually started hurting and feeling swollen a scant 20 miles in, but I'd been hitting it with ibuprofen along the way. Tom hit his mid-ride low and I pulled off the front. In an attempt to make up a few of the miles, I started turning back and doing loops up and down the rode while he was trudging along. This netted me 2 miles back of the 13 he had on me. As we approached Warren road, we made the decision for me to head south on Warren to get my additional miles needed to catch up while Tom would head to the Cumming tap for a bit of a respit.

As I headed out on my own, the wind seemed to have picked up even more and I was fighting the cross wind for the most part. I thought this would bode well heading due south and then coming back north, but I was sadly mistaken. Additionally, anyone who's ridden Warren road south of the Cumming Highway knows how hilly it is. I gained around 1000' of climb in a 10 mile out and back. As I turned back north, I knew I was in trouble. The wind was just as vicious from the north as it was from the west. I bucked it all the way to Cumming and hit the tap pretty well spent. I enjoyed a pint of Fat Tire as I let my cramping quads take a rest before we hit the bikes again.

Heading back out, I was bankrupt. I'd lost not only my energy, but also the desire to go much further. I tried convincing myself that if we were able to ride Denman's for the remaining miles, I'd be ok as I could just go slow and use my lights to finish out. It wasn't meant to be as the wind did nothing but thaw out the frozen soup from the morning and left us leaving a decent track through the dirty connector and deciding to avoid the rest of the trail so we wouldn't do any further damage. I bailed at this point and headed back to the truck. Barely able to crank over the pedals going up Railroad on the pavement even, I knew it was the right decision. I bagged it with a shade over 80 miles on the ticker.

Bonk is probably the best description for what happened. Looking back, I didn't eat nearly enough often enough. A couple sips of gel in the morning (I did eat a good breakfast though), some Gu2O drink mix, and a sandwich with chips and coke at DeSoto were my food up to that point and now I was 4+ hours after that stop. I think it was probably inevitable as my excitement level before the ride commenced was less than optimal and even though it picked up decently mid-ride, that was about as good as it got.

I don't think I'll be making the half cup o dirt this year even though I started out looking for a full cup. I'm not sure I'll even go out for one in December unless conditions are right. I'd like frozen ground, sunshine, and little to know wind thank you very much. Beyond that, I think I'll focus on riding a bit more locally, playing with some night rides now that I've got lights (more on that later), and probably try to get some indoor training started. I need to rebuild now rather than keep tearing things down which is what I felt this ride and my last hundy (Track and back) did to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cranking up the internal dialogue

One of the few areas I think I'm a pretty regular joe is that I carry an ongoing internal dialogue as I go through my daily existence. I guess I haven't conducted any official poles to find out if I'm truly weird (in that respect), but I have a hunch that most of us have some sort of thought process that runs through our heads like ticker tape. Typically, I keep the volume on this voice turned down except when I'm by myself engaging in some type of activity that doesn't require much more thought process such as riding the bike or sitting in the hot tub and relaxing. Engaging in the second activity last night, I let the volume crank itself up to 11 and came up with the bright idea that I should keep record of some of this dialogue and share it with you fine people. Wait, hello, why am I hearing crickets...

Actually, my thought was that I keep myself pretty well closed off and the inner voice is really the only thing that speaks many volumes about myself since it has no qualms about voicing it's opinions, fears, hopes, and dreams. So, why not try to open up that inner voice and do more opinionating (is that even a word) to at least the small audience that reads my drivel here. On top of that, I realized that this blog is basically just a vehicle for writing down memories of my experiences and not really capturing my thoughts, feelings, and other happenings that may be going on in my life at the same time. Stay tuned for some insight coming soon. (Hint, you'll probably see at least one yet today)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dirty Duathlon- Relay Report

Sunday was the 3rd installment of the Des Moines Dirty Duathlon. I’d heard about it last year, but not being a runner and not started into mountain biking yet, there really wasn’t any reason for me to participate. I’ll have to admit, the concept sounded a bit foreign. I mean who in their right mind would want to run, bike, and then run again through the woods, mud, muck, and everything else? Amazing what a year will do to change your mind. I couldn’t think of too many other places I wanted to be come a beautiful fall Sunday in Des Moines.

I teamed up with Heather Myer-Davis from Punkrock Cycling to take part in the relay. I may be a mountain biker now, but I’m still no runner. With the temps full on in the 70’s, it was just about perfect for a race. I showed up early enough to watch both the kids and beginners race through the course. Everything looked to be set on kill as far as the course being dialed in and fast. I helped Squirrel run through the woods and set up a couple Rassy banners before the start of the beginner race and got to see how well the CITA boys had prepped everything on Saturday. Shoot, they even blew the leaves off the trail!

Heather made a small confession before the run started. She'd never done the offroad trails at the Science Center before... I told she was in for a treat as they were all downhill, smooth as a baby's bottom, and would guarantee personal bests would be set all day long. OK, so maybe I didn't quite say that. Actually, I think it was more of a mirth filled chuckle followed by something along the lines of, "You're in for a treat." Soon enough the runners were off. I ran to the drop into Rollercoaster and cheered her on as she ran by, before heading back to get my bike ready.

Soon enough, runners started streaming in and then Heather was back. We tagged and I was off. Somehow, I even managed to execute a great running cyclocross mount onto my bike at the end of the transition area and was off to the uphill grind. The first climb out of transition was brutal, long, and on soft ground, before we cranked it back downhill and dropped into Rollercoaster. Soon enough I had my rhythm and was reeling in a few bikers. For the most part, everyone was really great about allowing passes and I got by a number of people without slowing myself or them down.

I had to keep reminding myself that I had 4 laps to do so try to keep my pace under control. When I got stuck in traffic, I made the best of it by gearing down and just spinning up the hills waiting for a chance to pass. This seemed to work well for me, but I was still working hard by the end of lap one. I did find a good strategy for passing though. For some reason, most people were using the pavement sections as either just another average pace section or for recovery. This was my opportunity to pass so I drilled it every time and hauled as much speed as I could to the next section of trail.

I blasted the creek crossing and switchbacks all 4 laps on Rollercoaster which brought a smile to my face.

Soon enough, the grind of 4 combined laps of Rollercoaster and Hillside was taking it's toll on me. I started grinding up the hills just about in granny gear and taking the downhills as my opportunity to recover as much as possible rather than bombing them.

I finished with 90 minutes showing on my bike computer and was happy to tag Heather for her second run. She was off and I think we finished right around 2 hours 18 minutes, but we couldn't find our tag number on the results right after the event so we have to wait until final results are posted. All in all, not too shabby for a couple amateurs just out to have a good time and work ourselves over as much as possible. Hopefully we'll get a chance to come back next year and see if we can do a bit better with some actual prep. Congrats to all those that competed in any of the categories!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Spooky Woods/Quarter Rage #4

What a weekend filled with riding, friends, and racing. Spooky woods was hyped to be the ride not to miss this year. I'm not much on the party ride/bagger scene, but the opportunity to dress in costume and head off through the woods to a big ass party was too tempting to resist. I've gotta say, it's been a while since I've had that much fun on a bike.

I started off at Rassy's a shade before 6 so I could pick up my newly straightened wheel after Tuesday's experience. After hanging around there for a bit, I loaded up my 6er of refreshments and rode them over to the firepit for safe keeping in the cooler. After hanging for just a bit, it was time to head back to my truck and get into costume for the ride leaving at 8.

What was my costume you ask? Well, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Actually, I went as a bike ninja. Take some rear cogs, sew them on a sash and belt, custom fab your own nun-chucks from handlebar ends and bike chain, add a black balaclava, black hooded sweatshirt, black sweatpants, and black gloves gives you bike ninja. Now why did I just type all that out instead of posting a picture you ask?! Well, apparently it's forbidden to take a ninja's picture (that or I couldn't find any pics taken of me in costume).

We rode the long way to the pit and had a quick beer stop after little italy before we got there to let a downed rider brush himself off. Oh ya, that rider was me... Kent was in front of me going through the skinny trees and spun out for a second, leading me to stopping and rolling my ass down the little berm that you go up. No damage done other than laughing my ass off and brushing the dirt off the ninja costume. We finally wound our way to the pit and hung out enjoying some beer and chili. Squirrel surely made some damn good chili! Finally, the rest of the crowd arrived and we sounded off to well over 50 people partying in the middle of the woods on a perfect night.

As soon as we were sure the trail was clear, it was time to Rage. We lined up and headed off. I was 2nd man out just behind Griz. On a new bike with a borrowed light I was in for a treat. I felt pretty good and could actually see compared to last time with my craptacular AA powered headlamp. In all I turned in a time of 22:52 according to Squirrel. I think that time might be suspect and a full minute fast, but I won't argue with the man. In any case it put me in 3rd place for the nights festivities and dropped 5 minutes off my previous night rage time. Sweet!

The rest of the night was filled with mini-bike racing, more beer, and general good time shenanigans. How often do you get to see a guy in drag racing a mini bike?!

Steve kicked my ass while I got my butt handed to me by the bike itself.

I had a ball and can't wait for next year. Thanks to Squirrel, Justin, and all the others who put the effort into putting this thing together! Of course those of you that know me, know it wouldn't be me if that were all the carnage for the night. Nope, true to form, I ate shit hard leaving the party. They'd built a ramp up and over some logs for the mini-bike racing.

I think it was Tom who had the awesome idea that we should ride our big bikes up and over on the way out. Going up was easy. It's always the going down part that just screws me over. I missed the ramp on the back side of the logs which is always a recipe for lawn darting it straight to the ground. This time was no exception. I biffed it straight onto my head and gave everyone around a good chuckle. The bike executed a perfect 3 point landing upside down on the bars and seat. I didn't think I did much damage, but the next day, it was quite apparent.