Friday, May 29, 2009

New bike day!

Happy new bike day to me. I happened across this 08 tarmac pro with less than 100 miles on it and couldn't pass up the deal. Just gotta sell my giant now... Anyone need a nice carbon road bike?

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Race like a girl #2

PRC put on the 2nd installment of Race like a girl last night at Union Park. For those of you who have yet to discover this sweet little grass roots fun "race" AKA training crit, make sure you get over to experience at least one of the races this summer. It's a sweet time whether racing or spectating. Lots of great people and kids just enjoying a fun night of racing.

Come 3 o'clock yesterday I was thinking the weatherman had pulled another trick on us with the cool and overcast skies. Amazingly by 4 the clouds had parted and it was miraculously sunny and much warmer. The usual suspects made their appearances to get the roads blockaded and the equipment set up so we'd be ready for hopefully a glut of racers. As luck would have it, there was no shortage of men, women, or kids ready to race.

Plenty of action early on in the Men's A races with a decently stacked field. The Men's B (including me) had a pretty decent sized group of 14 or so racers as well. I was hoping I'd learned a little bit from the last time out where I spent most of my time leading the group around only to be gassed when it came time to make it count. The first race was a 7 lap race winner take all. I managed to stay in the pack until 1/2 way through the last lap and gave it a go. We;d spit most of the riders off by this time with just 3 or 4 of us within striking distance of each other. At the top of the little rise, one rider got past me and I ended up in 2nd. Definitely a better showing thus far.

The 2nd set of races was a miss and out race. They pulled the last 2 riders each lap until we were down to 5 and then pulled 1 rider a lap. I'm not sure how many laps we did, but I managed to keep myself in the top 3 or 4 for most of the laps until it was finally down to Matt Gumm from A9Y and I. He'd been off the front for most of the race and had soft pedalled back to us for the last lap or two. I trailed him to the top of the rise and then hit it on the outside. I'm not very sure that he gave me a true run, but regardless I pulled out in front and won my first "race". Woohoo! After that we did a 2 lap race with a neutral lap followed by a sprint lap where I just kept up and then let off at the end knowing I didn't want to give it a full go for a single lap that I really couldn't contend for anyway with my lack of sprint skills.

The final race was a 7 lap point race with points given on the odd numbered laps-1, 3, 5, and 7 points respectively. Person with the most points at the end wins. I was hoping to maybe contest for laps 3 and 5 thinking those would be the best to get points and sneak in another W. I was about 6" shy of taking lap 3, but pretty well gassed myself in the process. A small attack from a couple of DMOS riders got away at for the 5th lap and got the points leaving the rest of us gapped and trying to bridge over the 6th lap. I took a hard pull trying to reel them in, but didn't have enough left. I did however get quite the adrenaline shock though as we rounded the rise for the final time. I was out of gas and getting passed on both sides towards the top of the rise. I didn't hold my line and drifted left directly into the rear wheel of Steve Doughty. I heard the distinctive buzzing noise of front tire to back tire and then came off his wheel a split second later. Luckily it just ended with a speed bobble that I kept under control without dumping the bike. It must have shocked Randy as well though since he was slightly behind and saw it happen and threw out a choice expletive that I was thinking.

All in all a great night of racing and a lot of fun.

One of me looking all speedy and stuff.

Sterling and I wistfully pondering a great night of racing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back on the bike

After Almanzo it was time for a weeks worth of vacation and unlike some other lucky people, this one didn't include any sneaking in of bike time. Oh sure, I lugged a mountain bike out to Ohio, but that was to deliver it to it's new owner who I'm happy to report took it out 3 times the very week he got it from me. A great start for a new rider if I do say so. I really hope he enjoys it as much as I did. In any case, it had been a full on week and a half since I'd sat my butt on that little sliver of hard plastic we all lovingly refer to as a "saddle". It had been even longer since I'd been on the Paragon considering the on and off rain we'd had before leaving and my desire to get some hours on the Axis in prep for Almanzo's gravel goodness.

Squirrel was nice enough to put a quick shout out about riding at Summerset last night. While I had my doubts that it was dry enough or would remain dry, I was excited about the possibility. Even looking out from work as I pointed towards home, I was certain we'd be sitting in the parking lot watching the rain stream down the windshield. As I careened towards the meet-up point knowing they'd probably be getting a full lap in before I arrived, Squirrel said they were taking a quick safety break and I should be able to catch up.

The trails were slimy in spots, but not really what I consider muddy. While I was covered head to toe in splatter, I had a minimal amount coating the bike or tires which is a good thing. The slime definitely made the trails that all ready give me a nice pucker factor just that much more interesting. As I noted to Conlan and Gov, just the trail setups elevate my heart rate. Squirrel opted out feeling a bit of guilt on riding the soft trails after one lap, but the rest of us took one more spin through the north side and were greeted with a quickly drying trail that took a lot less effort and was again thoroughly enjoyed.

I'm headed over to Race like a girl tonight put on by the lovely ladies of PRC and then racing the Summerset Shootout on Sunday. This will be my first race in the sport class and I'm thinking 4 laps is going to hurt pretty good by the time all is said and done. I'm betting on roughly a 2 hour finish time for the sport class riders. We also have some good friends coming in to town for the race and I'm looking forward to playing trail tour guide on Saturday for them. I love showing off the goodness that is the Center Trails. Hope to see some of you out there soon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Almanzo Race Report (the unabridged addition)

Sorry for the delay in getting a race report posted, but a week's vacation had to be enjoyed and that surely didn't include typing out a full fledged novella regarding the trials, tribulations, and depth of emotions that surround racing through 100 miles of the most beautiful gravel Rochester, Minnesota has to offer. The plus side to 1900 miles and 30+ hours on the road is that you get a lot of time to repeat the entire experience in your head and develop some interesting thoughts about it. For those with ADD in the crowd, you can skip off to the brief recap here. For those interested in sharing the journey a potty break may be in your best interest if you don't like to stop in the middle.

Onward and upward. As I laid out in my pre-race planning, I set a few goals for myself before embarking on this years Almanzo 100. After all was said and done, I took my preset plan, conditions of the day, and worked them to the point that I was happy with the outcome.

Race packet extraordinaire

As most entrants of this year's iteration will tell you, the wind was nothing short of brutal. Roughly 25 mph sustained winds out of the northwest with gusts nearing 40 were the bane of most come race day. The early morning cool weather didn't really seem to affect me. I rode with my full finger lightweight gloves, a sleeveless base, short sleeve jersey, calf height socks, leg warmers, shorts, wind/water proof jacket, and a sweat cap. I never was cold during the ride even considering the 35ish degree windchill for the start. I assume riding throughout the winter has conditioned me pretty well for temps and I was happy that I also had the experience needed to pick out pretty much the perfect gear selection. The only change I made during the day was at the checkpoint I dropped the full jacket for arm warmers and wind vest out of my support bag. I have to give a huge thanks to Annie (the race director's wife) for agreeing to tote my support materials out to the checkpoint along with the materials she was hauling for a friend of hers that she was crewing for. I could have made the race running the setup I had on including nutrition, but it was nice knowing I had a little less thinking on my plate by having a crew, so thank you sincerely.

The Rassy death squad 5000 jersey of the day.

We rolled through town with a neutral start provided by Chris (the race director) himself who lead us to the first gravel of the day. I knew even with the rollout that I wanted to be up front in the pack when we started into the gravel as the first climb would be a selection process. As expected, the lead group made a breka this year, the same as last at the top of the hill. The difference being this year I was within spitting distance of them as they crested the hill. Unfortunately, spitting distance is not within drafting distance and they kept the hammer down to help shake off chasers such as myself. I soon found a strong pace and was keeping the pack pretty well in site for quite some time. Eventually, Dennis and a few others worked up to me and I joined in on their paceline with some yo-yoing on and off. They were still riding hard and eventually I worked my way off the back as the pace was putting my heartrate higher than I planned in order to survive the back half of the race. I eased off and started the long journey of riding mostly alone.

As we rolled into the first pass through checkpoint I was greeted by a woman excitedly telling me to turn left in lieu of right at a particular turn. Then she was saying something about the next turn and it was lost on me. Luckily I happened upon another rider waiting for traffic to clear and followed him through town with nary a missed turn. As we headed out of town, we hit the first hill worth remembering in my mind. The 4 lane super gravel highway that climbed for 3 miles out of town last year had now been paved over and rendered useless for our purposes. As luck would have it, there was a turnoff to a nice steeper yet shorter climb out of the valley. I approached the hills with less gusto than normal as I knew I needed to hold something back for the wind that lay in wait on the back portion of the course.

Nearing the 50 mile mark I decided to answer the call of nature that had been ringing for a bit. I hopped off the bike with nary a rider in site and was soon enough rewarded by the site of 4 or 5 riders working their way past me including Steve who I admit was riding well and closer to me than I'd anticipated. Damn, there's 5 spots down that I was going to have to push hard to get back.

As I remounted the bike and felt the wind pick up around me, my plan started to fray heavily around the seems. I suddenly had lost my legs. While I admittedly was having a bit of stomach churning before the stop, I had been pressing long enough and fast enough that it hadn't really been on my mind. Something was going wrong with my nutrition in very short order. My stomach began to do flip flops as I made every effort to keep the pedals turning. I was 15 miles from the checkpoint. I latched back onto another rider I had passed earlier as he now churned slowly past me. I vaguely remember the screaming rutted downhill where we were jumping the rain ruts repeatedly as the road serpentined down into a hollow.

I'm a bit fuzzy about the order of the climbs and places in this area, but somewhere we hit a beautiful stretch of Minnesota level B road which just means the gravel isn't as fresh as the rest of the roads, we rode more steep hills, and we passed the Masonic park in the middle of nowhere. The significant things that stick out for me in this stretch are started to completely lose my shit as I passed the Masonic park. Something snapped in my psyche and every emotion I'd been keeping in check to that point blew up. I was hurting, crying, pissed off, contemplating a DNF, and sick all at the same time. Then came the hill. I ended up in my granny gear and saw a 2.XX reading on my speedo. I literally wobbled and weaved my way to the top. As each corner passed, the pain in my legs was only surpassed by the grumbling in my stomach. Each corner poised the question in my head of whether or not I should stop to try throwing up. Each corner posted me closer to the checkpoint.

I'm sure this won't be the first time for me as long as I continue to push my endurance and boundaries, but diving deep into your own black hole of despair isn't a whole lot of fun. I sincerely considered DNFing at the checkpoint in Spring Valley. I knew what lay ahead if I furthered on. The wind would be worse and quite possibly there were new hills to be tackled as well. I made the checkpoint in 21st. Other than the nature break, I had yet to be off my bike even though at some points I was barely moving. My speed average had plummeted from almost 19 mph in the first 25 miles to barely 14. I reached Annie in the support vehicle and she informed me that Steve had only arrived a short time earlier and was still at the convenience store.

I was admittedly shell shocked at this point. I was surprised I'd made it to the checkpoint in 21st. While I hadn't seen too many people pass me, my mind was telling me that I was failing miserably and way off the pace. Every turn of the pedals had yielded nothing but protests from my legs. I grabbed my cooler and proceeded to lose my shit completely and thoroughly. It was dark, ugly, and spiraling downward at breakneck speed. I later apologized to Annie for what had to be a pretty unsightly showing of raw emotions in front of she and her daughter as I sat nearby on my cooler and contemplated my life that brought me to such a point. Steve came back from the store and stopped for a minute to check on me. Something as simple as asking how I was doing proved to be impossible to answer. I simply couldn't speak. I opened my mouth and no words would come. It was a new and somewhat intimidating place to be in. I finally croaked out that I was shelled and not sure what lay in wait for my continuance. Steve voiced a few words of wisdom to get some rest and respite from the wind and then figure things out before he headed off to finish out the race.

Feeling I was making something of a spectacle at this point I spied a sunny spot next to an adjacent building that would give me some relief from the wind. I picked out a spot and flopped to the ground. Some of the thoughts I found at that moment are more personal that I can really share, but suffice it say that I thoroughly questioned my sanity, my abilities as a man, and my failures as a father and husband. It had been quite some time since I'd been to these depths and not something to really aspire to hit on any regular basis. I munched on a quarter of a PB&J I'd packed as solid food in my support bag. As I rested, I slowly regained some composure and felt a bit better. Apparently PB&J has restorative powers that I was unaware of. In what felt like much longer than it really was, I slowly got myself back together, packed my support bag up, and bid adieu to the checkpoint.

I headed back into the grind. I knew it would be windy, but wasn't quite prepared for that level of ferocity. Soon enough I did find my form and my legs, though tired, were actually pacing along surprisingly well. I could make out a couple of riders in front of me and eventually I met up with a local Rochester rider by the name of Drew. At first I passed him and started opening a gap. Then we came upon Steve who was emerging from his own roadside stupor. I slowed my pace to try and work with him, but alas he was facing his own demons at that point and waived me forward. Drew had passed me back at this point and slowly I crept back to his wheel. Quite literally it would take a mile or two before I could close a hundred yard gap at the pace we were riding. 10-13 mph into the wind was about all we could muster at this point. We were leaning hard into the cross wind and literally hanging on for dear life during the gusts. At one point I had a gust move my front wheel sideways across the gravel even as I had my weight on it.

As I clawed my way back to Drew, we decided it was time to partner up and hopefully share some work. We actually worked out well drafting each other without guttering and sharing pulls into the wind. I began to look forward to our turns in this section as at least it would change the side of my face the wind was scouring. As we worked together, Drew and I exchanged some pleasantries, but mostly settled in for the grind. We managed to reel in another rider or two along the way and similarly one of us would drop and reattach from time to time as well. The finally time left me out in front of Drew and nearly catching 2 riders in front of me. Strangely enough, one of them was Dennis, who I assumed was all ready drinking chocolate milk at the finish line and hanging out.

I crept to within roughly 100 yards of the riders before we hit the pavement section. That was it as they both turned on the afterburners with the pavement and tailwind and were gone. My pace doubled and tripled at points as I too enjoyed the smooth tarmac knowing we were a stones throw away from being done.

The last cue sheet.

A funny thing happened as I neared the finish line. I felt great. I was definitely tired, but my legs still had more left in them. I was able to finish and enjoy the post race beers, schwag, and festivities of cheering for other finishers. I made it. I managed to battle back from a massive bonk/funk/failure mode and finished relatively strong. I was 20th across the line with a total time of 7:57:35.

The bike computer showing no bonus miles this year!

I'll post my afterthoughts separately, but a huge thanks go out to Chris, his wife Annie, and the rest of his family, friends, and sponsors that help make this race something truly special.

Monday, May 25, 2009

FWD:A beautiful day eh?!

FWD:A beautiful day eh?!, originally uploaded by Buckshot77.

Another day, another beer. Rickard's red for lunch today. We hit Maid of the Mist and the bird aviary this morning. Corley liked the birds and didn't mind the mist too much either. We're headed to the American side this afternoon for some different views. Corley really thought the lighted falls were beautiful last night. Hitting the road early tomorrow AM.

Canadian touring in style

Canadian touring in style, originally uploaded by Buckshot77.

Touring my way through Canada in style. We hit the flower clock, butterfly conservatory, and some scenic overlooks this morning. Its a gorgeous day with temps in the upper 70's. We're having an awesome time so far.

Oh Canada!

Oh Canada!, originally uploaded by Buckshot77.

Mmmm Molson Canadian. 950ish miles and one overnight and we're hanging out in Niagara Falls. We made a short stop in Cleveland last night and met up with a few friends before leisurely rolling out thi morning and making our way to Canada. Corley was amazed at her first sighting of the falls.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Almanzo brief recap

Considering we're heading out for a week tomorrow on vacation, I thought I'd be nice and jot down a few notes for all my slavering minions. I'll get a full on write up going when we get back. In the meantime a few shots and a few words.
The beginning

The middle

The end.

Even short stories have to have the 3 requisite pieces- beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning it was good- tailwind, chilly weather, and fresh legs. In the middle I couldn't decide which was most important- puking, crying, DNF'ing, or completion. In the end it was hard and the headwinds sucked, but it was worth it. I've got a lot to say about my 8 hours "out there" (since when don't I), but that will have to wait for another time. Preliminary placement was 20th out of 84ish starters and 64ish actual finishers (based on what I heard since actual numbers aren't out yet).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Almanzo race craft

As Fuller and I head off for Almanzo tomorrow afternoon, I thought I'd hash out my thoughts for the race. I have no delusions of grandeur. I have no reason to believe I'm going to do more than hopefully finish faster and closer to the front of the pack than I did last year. So, the discussion is really for my own benefit in figuring out how to make that happen by using what I learned last year. In no particular order, here are the things I'm planning to change up:

1) Better bike. I'm going with my Bianchi Axis CX bike versus the Giant Rainier 26" MTB this year. I'll have a huge weight savings (8+ lbs) and skinnier tires. I'm sure I won't be as fast on some of the loose sections, but overall, I know I'll be rolling at a higher average speed.

2) Less crap. I hauled a plethora of stuff last year on my back. I had extra clothes, a ton of food, and a bunch of extra water that I didn't need. This year I'm paring it down significantly. While I'm going to haul the Camelback up to the race, I'm not sure if I'll use it or not. I'm pretty sure I've got someone lined up to haul extra bottles to the checkpoint at mile 65 so I think I can survive on a couple 24 oz bottles in the cages and everything else in my jersey, bento, and seatbag. Weight off my back will be huge when climbing. I really hate the up down jerking of a pack even when its cinched down. I've also got a lot better grasp of what I need for this type of ride after having another year under my belt.

3) Don't get lost. I had 6+ bonus miles last year that were simple mistakes of not following the cue sheet and mileage indicators. I'll be paying a lot more attention to that this year.

4) Find a drafting partner. Last year we got our asses handed to us with a steady NW headwind on the last portion of the course blowing roughly 15-20 mph. It's forecast for the same this year. I rode mostly alone last year. I'd like to hook up with someone at the checkpoint to see if we can draft together and help kill off the monotonous parts of the wind. If not, I'll be employing my strategy from the past weekend. Set a steady pace and don't blow up fighting the wind. Wait until you can make use of it.

5) Don't blow up. I went hard the first 65 miles to the checkpoint last year. I felt pretty crappy by the time I got off the bike and had a hard time finding the energy to get moving again. It cost me time at the checkpoint and I bonked as I headed north into the winds. I'll be keeping myself in check by watching the heart rate monitor and pacing. Hopefully I can find some kind souls to draft with on the first portion of the course as well. With an additional 40 or so people riding this year, I'm thinking it's a lot more likely. I rode probably 80 miles by myself last year and hope I don't repeat that this year (unless of course I'm in the lead...)

6) Less time at the stop. Last year the leaders blew through the stop in roughly 30 seconds or so the story goes. I don't anticipate being that speedy, but I'm not going to spend the 40+ minutes I did last year relaxing and trying to talk myself into the last 35 miles. With hopefully having support this year, I'd really like to be in and out in 5-10 minutes at the most and just eat/fuel on the bike.

7) Eat/fuel while riding. I tried last year with some Hammer products- Perpetuem and HEED, but as I figured out late last year, those products weren't working for me and left me more bloated than anything. This year I'll be eating mostly gels and that type of stuff for the first portion of the race. I'll have something solid I can eat while riding for the start of the 2nd portion and continue on with the gels and other snacks. I'm also planning on running Accelerade for most of my liquids and probably a single bottle of water mixed in along the way. I'll be keeping my food handing in a bento box on the top tube. I'm much more likely to eat if I have it sitting in front of my face rather than in jersey pockets.

8) Ride my own race. It's a century ride. I've done it before and I know I can do it on my own. If it works out to hook up with some other riders and share some drafting/work, sweet. If not, I'll be going it on my own rather than attempting to alter my own plan of attack to try to hang on or wait for other people.


I might as well publicly throw out my goals for this race. They're not exactly lofty, but considering I'm just starting my 3rd year into riding and 2nd year into racing, I'll take small gains as a sign of progress. Considering I really just want to ride my bike for 100 miles and enjoy the scenery, most everything else is a bonus.

1) 7 hours total time. This would be nearly an hour off last years total. Considering my average speed last year, I only need a very minor improvement in my moving average and to not get lost or spend more than 10 minutes at the checkpoint to achieve this. It should be pretty reasonable unless the course conditions conspire to kick my ass (which is entirely possible too).

2) Top 30 riders. With a field of 100+ this year, that would put me in the top 1/3 of the class. Last year I was 31st in which was basically the middle guy of the field. Who knows what the skills are of all the new riders this year, but I don't think its entirely unreasonable for me to think I can make the top 30 as long as most things fall into place.

That pretty much sums it up. Chris puts on one awesome race and I'm looking forward to having a blast again this year. I might even be able to snag a post ride beer this time. I was so strung out last year that a Coke was all I could think about nursing. See you on the dark side.

The ride that wasn't meant to be

Lacking dirt options for the MTB I opted to hit the PRC Wednesday night right last night. Rain was a definite chance and I forgot my raincoat that morning. Ahh well, I won't melt, right?! So, there I've all ready got a strike against the ride. Sure enough, as soon as its time to roll off, the droplets start pelting down. Luckily its a pretty short lived sprinkle and hardly enough to call rain. It just managed to wet the streets and trails back down to the point of being slick.

Just onto the paved trail by Denman's I noted something felt wrong with the bike. Sure enough, I had a flat. First of the year on the road bike so I'm not feeling too bad about it, plus we're early enough in the ride that I can haul ass and catch the group before hammering the loops out by Maffit. I pull off and change the flat pretty quickly and discarded the sharp little 3 point rock that started the problem. I'm off to the races through the connector trail leading to Water Works and noting that its pretty greasy with the dirt having turned to slime on top of the wet asphalt. A couple oncoming riders signal me that there's a large group stopped not far ahead. I'm wondering why on earth they'd be stopped since I know they're not waiting for me.

It would seem (from my observation) that a rider went off the edge of the paved trail and hit the mud. From there he dug it in pretty good looking at the mud caked on top of his helmet and covering half his handlebar. A few people were tending to him and it appeared he'd separated his shoulder or possibly fractured a collarbone. Just as I arrived, the call went up for something to use as a sling. As luck would have it, I happened to have a freshly pulled tube with a hole in it! At least I'm good for something. They wrapped him up and the group was off again.

Now we're all of 4 miles into the ride and I've been rained on, had a flat, and gave minor assistance to a fallen rider. Pretty eventful if you ask me. Halfway through Waterworks I hear something fall to the ground and skid across the pavement. Sure enough, after digging out the tube and being a good samaratin, I've left my bag open and spilled my inflater and remaining tube onto the ground. I stop, pick them up and sprint back to the group. We head on out to the course and just after we turn off Park Avenue, I've got the 2 tail end Charlies and I note my rear tire is feeling a bit "squishy" as I round a corner. Really?! No shit, another flat with less than 6 miles on the clock. I pull off and as luck would have it, I still have a spare tube considering I'd packed 2 in that bag for my weekend adventure on the CIRREM course.

I change the second flat and now I'm down to a single CO2 and patches so I say screw this and head for the truck. As I'm getting back to the Waterworks bridge I see another commuter needing some assistance with a flat. I offer up my last CO2 to help her out. Unfortunately, she has no spare tubes, and the current tube has 4+ patches on it all ready. We can't find the new leak so my CO2 is of no use and I leave her with having called for a ride home. Back at the shop the ordeal is over with all of 12 miles in. Not much in the way of a training ride considering I was hoping to get a good effort in and then do some pacing today in prep for this weekend's race. Definitely not a ride that was meant to be for me. I just hope I've gotten my hi jinks out of the way.

Monday, May 11, 2009

CIRREM's Revenge

In an attempt to get some revenge on the race course that kicked a large percentage of asses in March, I headed out for some gravel flavor this weekend. I was shooting to be out the door by the time 6 bell rang, but a little dawdling and listening to the wind howl outside pushed me off until a little closer to 6:30 before hitting the road. I opted for a mix of pavement and gravel to get me out to the ride start about 11 miles from home.

A quick stop for a pic and to relieve a bit of pressure and I was off just before 7:30.

As I headed south I enjoyed a nice bit of cross-tailwind which was coming out of the NW at 17 according to the forecast. Soon enough I turn right into a cross-headwind though and started the battle. For some reason, I'd pretty much kept it in my head this time that I was going to stick to a certain game plan. I wasn't going to put in any monster efforts, I'd eat often, and just keep the pace respectable when it came to headwinds and hills. My first actual stop of the ride didn't come until the halfway turn onto Cedar Bridge road and that was so I could get a shot of some of the grades we hit on our rollers. Now granted I have slightly tilted the camera for the shot, but the road does actually pitch up that much after you round the corner.

The next stop was for a quick shot of Old Portland Hell Hill. I'm sure anyone that has ridden the route south to Winterset will cringe when thinking of this hill. Short, steep, and no run-up is pretty much the name of the game. Quite fitting that there's a cemetery at the top as most of us feel like dying by then...

Once I nailed down the northern stretches that gave me fits and were the scene of my first bonk during the actual race, I was off to the races. I was still feeling good, hydrated, and fueled. Oh and I had the tailwind with me now. I started cranking up the speed a bit as I worked back east on 105th. Most of the giant rollers were now behind me and it was just the 40-50' climbs left. I starting pushing the pace and actually standing to climb these with the wind at my back. Finally with about 3 miles to go both legs decided to cramp almost at the same time. A right quad cramp and a left outer thigh cramp had me gritting my teeth, but so close to home, I just kept on the bike and fought through them. Finally I hit the last little stretch of headwinds for the last couple of miles back to the tap and I was done.

Time for a bit of R&R in the form of a PB&J and a frosty pint of Fat Tire. MMM. I had gone out hoping to knock at least a half hour off my time from March. As it was, including 10 minutes of stop time not reflected on the computer, I knocked an hour and 10 minutes off my time. That would have been good enough for the "W" against the March times. Obviously weather was a huge factor in this, but it still felt great to get the ride I was hoping for in March.

A few postscript thoughts about what went right compared to March:

1) Weather- even 17 mph headwinds don't compare to 35 degrees with rain, sleet, snow, and mild winds. No question about it.

2) Equipment choice- I rode the Axis CX bike versus the 29'er this time. I felt a little slower on some of the really loose gravel sections, but the overall weight and speed of the bike more than made up for that little bit of loss.

3) Nutrition- I had all my nutrition tucked away under my rain gear in March. Add in heavy/wet gloves and I barely ate anything. I bonked twice in March. This time I ate pretty freely- 3 gels, 1 fruit twist, and 1 pack sport beans along with 40 oz of accelerade. I also had my nutrition in a Bento Box where I could grab on the fly and then used my jersey as a trash can for the wrappers (I'm not a fan of just tossing your excess on the road).

4) Pacing- I went out strong and steady, but never nailed it hard. My heart rate average was 157 for the ride, but I don't think I broke 180 BPM for more than a few minutes the entire ride. I don't think this was much different than March, but I definitely felt like I worked a lot harder on the hills in March. I also kept my head in the game by accepting the wind and waiting for my chance to use it to my advantage rather than thinking how much it was slowing me down.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

CIRREM revenge on Saturday

For anyone interested in pounding out some gravel miles and hills on Saturday, feel free to join me on the CIRREM route. Weather looks to be light years ahead of the rain/wind/snow/sleet/cold we had back in March. The plan is to leave my place on the south side at 6AM, route to Cumming (not sure of gravel or road), hit the route at a good solid pace, and then back to my place (possibly stopping for a refreshment at Cumming tap first). Figure 85ish miles total and try to be back by 1ish. No support or stores on the route so plan on carrying your water and food with you. Temps should be great. Leave a comment or shoot me an email- if you want to join in on the fun.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Meet George

Wow, who thought a day and a half on and a weekend could be packed to the gills with being busy when not too much was really on the plate to start with.

Thursday afternoon I took off a half day (mostly because I could) and also to pick up George from the airport. I'd been following his ultra-cycling blog for a while and happened to note that he was planning on coming to take part in Trans-Iowa V.5 I offered up some assistance in familiarizing him with gravel and whatever else he might need. As it turned out I played host and lent him a bike as well in the form of my Bianchi Axis cross bike. Or should I say, I lent him part of a bike...

As is understandable when planning on riding 300+ miles of gravel, you want some comforts of home for sure. So add in a pile 'o' parts

And you get something like this when all is said and done.

We grabbed a good dinner Thursday night courteousy of George and met up with Fuller as well for a quick drink so they could shake things out for the weekend as Steve was providing the transport and possible contingency plan for bailouts if needed in the form of his wife and son who were also joining in on the adventure.

Friday dawned a bit overcast and misty, but we suited up for a spin to loosen up the legs and get George a little Iowa flavor...

Ever the considerate host I dropped us into some gravel rollers down towards Summerset park giving him a bit of an intro into the finer points of gravel and along the way we stopped to check out a Level B Road! George wasn't quite as excited about the condition of the B roads considering he walked the bike about 50 feet into the road and pretty much clogged the drivetrain and his shoes in that span. Gotta love Iowa mud!

We took the flat route back to town and even managed to find some freshly graded gravel (as in we were riding behind the road graded). A short 30 miles and 2 hours later, we were back at my place with just a bit of time to kill before heading out to meet up with Steve and family at the shop. We headed over and Sterling was kind enough to hook George up with a bit of Iowa hospitality (thanks man!) before they headed off to Williamsburg and I got on with the rest of my weekend.

I spent a good chunk of the weekend checking on the various updates posted both by the competitors and Guitar Ted (the organizer). I also tried to shoot some text messages to both guys giving a bit of encouragement only to remember later on that Steve doesn't have texting (doh!) Sadly I learned Steve pulled the plug at roughly halfway, but at least George was still trucking along. He ended up making a well earned finish just under 32 hours after the start. The Axis came back no worse for wear with no mechanical issues during the ride and just a bit of dirt caked on.

Shoot, that's about how it looked before I washed it up on Wednesday night in prep for loaning it out. I was happy to hear it held up as good as it did since its going to be my ride of choice for Almanzo 100 in a couple short weeks. I just need to check over the shifting, pop the bottom bracket out for some well earned greasing and slap her back together. Oh ya, and ride my ass off to get some mileage in my legs.

Dropping George back at the airport this morning, we parted ways. What can I say, he's a great guy and I'm glad that he made it out here to hang with us Iowa boys and he's a good friend to have made. Just another reason I love this sport. For his full race report, check here.

Photo credits to George as well.

Friday, May 01, 2009

2 hour tour guide

2 hour tour guide, originally uploaded by Buckshot77.

Welcome to Iowa George. Enjoy the mud!