Friday, October 21, 2011

Dakota Five-O Race Report

Race data

Race results

My "A" race for the season this year ended up being the Dakota Five-O. Of course, I think thats a bit of a misnomer in itself as I usually try to treat every race I'm going to pony up cash to participate in as an "A" race. If you're not going to give it your all, why are you on the line? I digress, it was still my most looked forward to race of the year for multiple reasons. A number of friends have headed to the wilds of Spearfish over the previous years and come back to tales of how undeniably awesome this race was. Add in that it would be my biggest race ever in respect to the number of participants, my first big race on the singlespeed, racing against a bunch of friends and you've got a serious recipe for wanting to have a great race.

Iowa peeps representin'

As luck would have it, my wife and girls were able to join me for the trip and turn this into our family vacation as well. We took off Thursday so we could make an overnight trip out of the 12 hour drive so the girls wouldn't get too cooped up in the car. I was planning to get there Friday in time to do a solid pre-ride for part of the course and then go back out on Saturday for a light spin of the legs and a little more recon. For me, it proved to be the perfect plan. Friday, I got dropped off at the Tinton trailhead opting to skip the opening 3ish mile gravel climb that would be part of the start. I've got plenty of gravel experience so climbing 3 miles worth of it wasn't going to gain me anything over driving it. I really wanted to check out this sweet singletrack I'd been hearing so much about.

Race prep had me looking at various elevation charts and distances to time stations, etc. I figured a good warm up would be to ride to the first aid station from the trail head and then downhill it back before meeting my ladies for dinner. I saddled up and hit the dirt to find a mix of dirt, limestone rockiness, short steep climbs, longer power climbs, and rolling terrain through some breathtaking scenery.

Crows Peak backdrop:

I rolled through my pre-ride toward checkpoint 1 with very little descending and a good chunk of climbing. The steeper sections were a good workout, but not overly difficult in this section, but the real treat for me were the extended gradual grades. With my gearing at 34x20, I could power through them at a good cadence and not overtax myself. After topping out at the checkpoint, I was looking forward to the ripping descent that awaited me. I pointed the bike back down the trail and was grinning ear to ear as I flew down the trail in what can best be described as a speed not recommended for having your big race in 2 days... I let it hang pretty far out as I was having so much fun.

Finally I hit the gravel back towards town and was planning to meet the girls somewhere on it. I ripped down one hill, then another, and then another. Sensing I didn't recognize the scenery, I whoaed up and realized in my zeal to fly back into town, I'd headed down 1.5 too many hills and missed my turn. Ooops! I turned back around and grunted my way back to the turnoff where my chariot was awaiting to run us back into town for some dinner.

I felt really good on the pre-ride and was starting to really look forward to having a good race. After all my skimming and researching, I was thinking I'd shoot for a sub 5:30 hour ride time as a good goal for having a solid race. I felt pretty confident I could hit that time and maybe a little better. As Saturday rolled around, I hit packet pick-up and sent out the call for another pre-ride and easy spin that afternoon. Tom and Maria answered the call and we decided to head further up the trail and pre-ride part of the course starting at Aid 1 since I could give them a preview of what was leading up to that part.

We got a pretty nice and easy spin in and turned back just before the big drop into Iron Creek drainage and the subsequent uphill known as "Cardiac Climb". The course was shaping up to have pretty much every type of terrain and track you could imagine. I was really stoked about racing at this point. Tom and I chatted a bit more about the race and he'd been geeking over numbers and reports even more than me. After that, he shared his race goal with me and laughed at mine thinking I was pretty handily going to be able to beat that effort and I should up the anty a bit. I think I stepped it up to something around 5 hours as my goal from that discussion. We killed off the rest of the day and I tried to hit the hay relatively early, but sleep wouldn't come easily. I was excited and nervous about such a big race and being a first timer. I really wasn't sure what to expect from myself, my fitness, or my race plan. Only time would really tell.

Race rig:

Just a gentle reminder it's going to suck at some point (Sometimes "fun" hurts pretty f*ing bad):

The morning rolled in damn chilly with a low 40's start temp forecasted. I got bundled up with a coat for the 3 mile downhill from our hotel to the start since the girls would be sleeping in versus getting up at 6 with me. I kept going through my race plan in my head to keep myself focused on what I needed to do and help forget about the chill in the air. As I lined up for the start I stripped down to just arm warmers in addition to my Rassy kit. I ended up stage about 6 or so rows back from the start and had a good view of all the horsepower sitting on the start line. Finally, Smokey the Bear dropped his arm and we were off for our "neutral" start. I was almost instantly spun out for the neutral roll out at close to 20mph.

Let the pain fun begin!:

I wasn't anticipating such a fast start for sure. I'd done a small warm up, but had been sitting on the line for close to 20 minutes and my legs weren't going to be able to really respond without overstressing them. I spun fast, but watched probably 50+ riders surge away as I struggled with the pace. It wasn't a great omen for the opening neutral mile of the race, but I stuck to it and kept as quick a pace as I could. Just before the neutral section comes to an end is Hill street. It's a 90 degree left into a steep uphill. As luck would have it, being back a bit in the field, I had an open enough line that I could carry a ton of momentum into the hill. Tag that along with singlespeed climbing power and I quickly passed back a good 20+ people inside of a block. Maybe it wasn't going to be such a bad day after all.

I started settling into the pack and could see a big mass of riders moving up ahead stretching for a couple blocks already as we hit the end of the neutral start and opened up the racing. The gravel climb started and it was a bit of a relief for me. My plan was to hit the gravel progressively harder as we climbed and I warmed up and topping out somewhere in the midst of Z4 when we got to the singletrack. I'd already passed a couple teammates at this point and was tailing a few others. I began picking off a number of people as the gravel steepened and I warmed through. A few riders got past me, but for the most part I was gaining positions much faster than I was losing them. I could now see the "fast guys" group had separated and was a solid 1/4 mile up the road with a pack of 20ish guys duking it out. I held my plan and all too quickly I found myself at the end of the gravel and ready for the singletrack attack.

Get all the spots you can:

I tried to sneak a couple more spots as we hit the singletrack figuring the slinky effect would be full on with this many riders. Sure enough, there was a definite drop in pace as everyone filed into the narrow stripe of dirt. I'd dug a good bit into my heart rate and the slow down was actually a good chance to get it back under control for a bit and something I'd halfway counted on happening. I figured a race of this size, entry into the track would be paramount, but I was also hoping I could place myself far enough up to avoid having to actually stop and wait. I ended up right on for placement and I figure I was roughly top 50 into the singletrack at this point.

Having ridden this section of track, I knew we were going to be pretty limited in passing for a bit so I made sure to keep my pace steady and avoid trouble as much as I could. As luck would have it for me, I'd gotten into the track just a couple spots back of local singlespeed stud Kent Carlson. I cued off of him and shortly was on his wheel as the couple riders separating us had bobbles that I could get around. All of a sudden, Kent was on the ground and I was slamming my brakes to avoid him. Luckily we were on a pretty slow paced section of trail and he was able to jump right back up and keep rolling without any riders getting by. A scant 20 yards or so down the trail though and it sounded like shotgun going off as his front tire blew off the rim. I slowed for a few seconds trying to ascertain my options of stopping to help or sticking to my own race. I hollered to see if he had everything and Kent seemed a bit rattled at this point saying he didn't know for sure. I knew he didn't appear to be hurt and hoped he had everything he needed in form of tube, CO2, etc to get him moving again so I decided I needed to keep rolling.

I got back on the gas and tailed it up to the chain of guys we'd been following prior to the crash and blowout. The going was still fast and slow as people of different riding styles and skills were working their way through. We finally got to some double track climbing areas and I put the pedal down hard making my way past 5-10 riders in just a couple sections. I also took advantage of a couple open meadow sections to further my position. Quicker than I was anticipating, Aid station #1 came upon us. I decided to use bottles for this race figuring the aid stations were close enough to make quick stops at each and not have to deal with the excessive low back pain from my camelback. I hopped off the bike and tossed a packet of Accelerade in my half empty bottle before a worker quickly topped it off. I was stopped less than a minute, but close to 10 guys probably passed me like a locomotive in that short period.

Rolling into aid 1:

I hopped back on and grabbed a few shot blocks as I hit the easy section right after the aid station. After Aid 1 the sections start to blur together with a few notable exceptions. The downhills leading up to Cardiac climb were awesome being a mix of open pasture type track and wooded downhills. With suspension on the front, I could let it rip pretty well wide open on the downhills without too much worry. Cardiac Climb itself kicked my butt. I rode the first section or so, but as soon as the grade really pitched up over 10%, I got off to walk. I walked steady, but still pretty slow. I think I could cut a decent amount of time just by picking up my pace to a faster walk or even a slow jog. I will say that the walking was a nice break from the constant turnover of the pedals and I felt pretty secure in the fact that not too many of the SS guys were going to be riding all of the climbs without expending serious amounts of energy.

The section to Aid 2 definitely had more downhill than section 1, but I think it still had just as much climbing including some pretty serious steeps that had me off the bike more than once. I rolled into aid 2 with just over half a bottle gone again and about 2:15 or so off the clock. I remembered Tom had told me most people can double their time to aid 2 and add about 5-10 minutes as a good way to figure out their finishing time. I did the quick math in my head and realized how good of a day I was having on the bike. I still felt pretty strong and even though I didn't know for sure what lay ahead, it shouldn't any worse than what I'd already been through at this point since we had to start back down eventually.

Still grinning at Aid 2:

After aid 2, it was definitely looking better as there was less climbing and more descending. My speed picked up a bit in this section as I was able to let it roll. I also spent less time walking my bike! It was a short hop to Aid 3 and it caught me by surprise how quickly I rolled up to it knocking just over 30 minutes off the clock. Again, I had barely touched my bottle, but opted for one more refill.

I think this is leaving Aid 3:

The next section to Aid 4 was arguably one of the most fun of the whole course as it was dominated by a nearly 2 mile high speed downhill on some fire road. Coming out of Aid 3 was a short climb and I looked back to see a Rassy jersey closing in. I was pretty confused as to who it might be. I'd been having a great day on the bike so either someone else was having an even better day or something was afoot since I hadn't seen another team rider since Kent flatted back at the start of the singletrack. Jed came ripping past me just as we were nearing the top of the climb and getting ready to fly down the doubletrack. I'd later find out he and a train of 8 or so guys had taken a wrong turn and got about 4 bonus miles in. Ouch!

Between Aid 3 and 4?:

The fire road downhill is hard to describe, but it was flat out screaming fast, exhilarating, and scary all at once. I was coasting much faster than I was geared for so I tucked into an aero crouch and I passed a number of guys on this section by letting it all hang out. The dust from the front runners hung in the air making it nearly impossible to see what was coming up in time to prep for it at those speeds. The best you could hope for is to watch someone in front of you and see how smooth they looked and hope for the best. I hit one washout spot and felt the bike go sideways under me for a split second before gathering it back up. That was really the only super scary spot of the run, but it was more than enough to leave me shaky. All too soon though, we had flown through that section and were now into Aid 4.

At Aid 4, I had only taken a few sips off my bottle so I didn't need anything other than to gulp a quick cup of water. I had plenty of water on board to make the final sections considering I had yet to touch my second bottle. Hooray for carrying an extra few pounds through the entire race... Aid 4 is strategically placed at the base of a nasty climb. I didn't even think twice before walking my bike over to the climb and starting up on foot. I knew salvation lay somewhere at the top of this climb though. The fabled bacon station was the next (and last) stop available. I won't lie, a nice cold beer sounded pretty damn good at this point in the ride. I mixed riding and walking in here as there was pretty much nothing but climbing in this section. I got passed by a few people, but overall, I still was holding pretty tight to my overall position figuring I was somewhere in the top 100 or so pretty easily.

As we climbed and climbed, I could start to hear loud music and people hollering about. Pretty soon, it was bacon station time. As I rolled in the festivities were in full swing with all the people partying and carrying on. I wasn't too sure about the bacon handups since I still felt pretty good and didn't want to mess things up. The ice cold PBR was a different story though as I slammed a cup of that tasty nectar. I rolled in less than a minute and soon found myself in the most technical section of the course. The trails turn to rocky technical singletrack here with lots of pitches, drops, and tight sections. I passed a few riders balking at this section with my decent technical skills. Finally, we rolled into some downhill, but I did find myself off the bike at least once in this section as we crawled up a high point with Crow Peak as a spectacular backdrop. I actually stopped here and waited for my phone to come to life so I could snap the picture I posted up top with the peak in the background.

As soon as that was done, it was pretty much business from here on out. The last climb of the day was another forest service road grade that I was able to hit pretty hard. I put some time into the few guys I was riding with at this point and soon found myself alone again. About the time I thought we'd be do for some more climbing, I was rewarded with a sign noting it was all downhill from here. I was pretty stoked at this point knowing I had the opportunity to turn in a great time and gave it all I had left. I attacked the downhills just on the razor edge of safe and kicked it pretty hard on the few short steeps that were left to go. We were back onto the Tinton trail at this point and having ridden it a couple times now, I felt pretty good about opening it up.

A couple guys still got by me, but for the most part I was on my own and flying. Finally, I hit the gravel downhill to town. Having plenty of gravel experience, I put everything I had into tucking low and flying for all I was worth. I caught a geared bike and drafted him to slingshot around. We also had a SUV try to pass us, but I wasn't about to let that happen and suck his dust all the way to town so I swung wide as he was waiting for an opportunity to get by. Of course it helped that we were running over the speed limit at this point as well. I think he got the hint though and backed off to let me and the geared guy feed off each other as we went down. I finally got a bit of a gap just before we hit the pavement and as we climbed the couple small hills back to the finish line, I just powered through them like I was big ringing it putting him a ways behind.

Heading down that finishing shoot with hundreds of people lining the street was something new for me. I just had a pure rush of adrenaline come coursing through my body as I smiled from ear to ear. Having my girls there cheering me on made it so much sweeter as well.

Waiving to my ladies:
Into the finish line:

To say I was riding high as I finished would be completely understated. I was excited beyond belief and knew I'd just had one of my best races ever. All of my equipment performed flawlessly, my ride plan was near perfect, my training was spot on, and it all came together in perfect harmony. I can't say enough for everyone from my family, my riding/training buddies, and all my support from Rasmussen Bike Shop, Ergon International, and Genuine Innovations. I ended up 8th in the singlespeeds and roughly 50th overall. For those that haven't had the chance to do this race, it needs to be on your must do list. I can't say enough good things about how fun the course is, how great the people are, and the overall atmosphere.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Financial rant

I can tell when my general malaise is bubbling over. I tend to get inspired to write again. At least that's certainly the case this time. A bit of back story here: I complained about receiving my 401K statement the other day and that I'd lost 20% of it's value in 1 quarter. Most friends were on the same page feeling equally taken in the shorts with losses. A couple friends posted to stay the course and it'll get better and one friend in particular took some time to write out thoughtful responses on why I was still doing OK and that it shouldn't be considered a real loss at this time. I took issue with that and thought I'd do a better job of writing up a rant rather than crapping up a post.

The last comment that got me digging out the soap box was, "A real loss only happens if liquidated/sold. Your accumulated shares are showing less value at the time your statement was printed. There is a distinct difference. I guess you now own more shares/units than before. In my mind this is a gain in 'value'."

To my friend- don't take this personally, its just that this comment really bugs me. I suppose as long as you're still playing the game that could be considered true. It just means I haven't lost everything yet. I'll try to remember that next time I sit down at the blackjack table and the dealer is holding half my money. I mean, heck, I'm still playing the game, so as long as I don't get up and take my lumps, its still possible for me to get my money back and possibly even make some.

Here's my stance. This type of rose colored glasses are a big issue in my book when it comes to talking about personal finance. Its all great until its time to pay the piper. If I've lost money, tell me, I'm a big boy and can handle the truth. If I didn't want the risk, I'd bury my money in the back yard. Don't sell me on the fact that I'm missing the equivalent to a DI2 equipped Shiv from my account and that its all good because I can still buy 50 strider bikes right now. The stuff I've all ready purchased didn't suddenly cost me any less or multiply behind my back. If I stopped playing the game 3 months ago, I had that money. If I stopped today, I don't. It really doesn't matter if you're still playing, it matters where you're at all the time. A gain is a gain and a loss is a loss. Delaying talking about them until you've quit the game is only a delay.

Losing money sucks, no doubt about it, but people need to hear when they're ahead or behind flat out without smoke and mirrors to decide how much risk they want to continue to take. Obviously the long term trends show we'll eventually gain back our money and continue to grow our wealth or we'd all be suckers to keep going at it. I wholly understand that fact and will keep plugging away at trying to make wealth for myself in this manner as its an acceptable risk/reward scenario for me. Just don't tell me that ups and downs along the way don't suck or alternately aren't awesome. I don't need the smoke and mirrors to make it better, I need simple to understand terms. Honestly, I think most Americans could use the same type of thing.

Shit, I can't think of a good wrap up for this rant without dredging up 10 other things that are pissing me off so there you have it in a nutshell.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Conspiracy theorist

I'm not usually one to indulge in conspiracy theory, but I had a wacky thought pass through my head and thought it might be fun to indulge and see where it goes.

So, I'm sitting there washing my hands in the work restroom and notice the little pump bottle of hand soap sitting in the corner. There's currently all of 1/4" of soap left in the bottom and the pump won't suck it out. So, whomever the fairy in charge of replenishing our restroom supplies is, has placed a new container of soap on the counter for us to use. The old soap sits there all fore lorn and wondering why we don't use the rest of it. I'm betting it will eventually get tossed in the trash rather than anyone taking the time to pour out the rest of its contents and use them.

Now here is where my brains goes wacky. I begin thinking that some middle management bean counter in the soft soap world headquarters had a brain storm one day to raise revenues. So, he pitches to his boss that they should shorten the pick-up straws by 1/8". Here's his rationale- people are lazy. They won't necessarily notice the small amount of extra liquid left in the bottle since the pump really never emptied all of the contents anyway. Even if they do notice, they'll be too apathetic or lazy to do anything other than bitch about the fact that there's still soap left in the bottle.

Now the middle manager is figuring most people will end up throwing the balance of the bottle away without going to the extra work of unscrewing the cap and dumping it out or into the next bottle. Obviously, that would be too much work. Additionally, since consumers tend to be brand loyal, they will now be buying the soap at a faster rate because they've just tossed more in the trash. So, he sells the idea to his boss that he can trim the cost of the pick up tube now that they've decreased the size and in turn increase the sale rate to the customer because they'll have to buy the product more often because they're getting less usable material in each bottle. Middle manager gets a nice promotion or big bonus for adding money on both sides of the company's bottom line. Everyone is happy and they've just fleeced the consumer who has no clue about anything.

I told you it was a crazy thought. This could never really happen. Right?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

24 hours of Seven Oaks race report

Race Data


Actually, its the 12 hours of Seven Oaks race report for me this year. This race got bumped down a bit on my must do list after doing the 4 man 24 hour version the previous two years. The format seems to be losing steam in regards to what type of racing people want to do and attendance has been on a downward slide even in the short time I've been involved. This year was no different even with various changes trying to drum up more racers including moving the date, start time, and more promotion. I decided to race the 2 man 12 hour version of the race thinking it would fit well with my training and fitness. Originally, I'd planned to race with fellow team mate Jason A, but due to some scheduling conflicts, he wasn't going to be able to race. As luck would have it, another team member in the form of Kent C was looking to race and filled the spot perfectly as we'd both be riding rigid singlespeeds.

Race ready Selma under 19lbs

Ready for battle with a backup:

Rassmussen race HQ ready to rock!

 Kent (being that he runs on occasion) was selected to take the opening lap due to the LeMans style start. I think we bypassed the usual gravel road climb this year and instead went the XC route of heading out through the grass field before looping back to the singletrack.

Run like your life depends on it!

Kent and I came in to the race pretty confident that we'd do well, but its always a crapshoot with variables of weather, unknown entrants, and mechanical issues that can spring up. That being said, our plan was to go hard and develop a lead over the first 4 laps since we were trading off each lap. While the two man format proved to be a bit painful towards the end, I actually liked it towards the start of the race. I had time to rest for a few minutes, get my new bottle ready, and I kept a bit of a running tab on my status updates as a way of looking back to see how things went. I can't remember the exact gear I ran for this race, but I'm thinking it was my 34x21 figuring that I'd need as many teeth as I could get by the last couple of laps.

Kent put in a fast 1st lap and had a small gap for us to work with as I hit it hard. As it ended up, we were the only 2 man 12 hour team so while we still wanted to give it a hard effort, it afforded me the opportunity to try out some different race tactics. I've always hit Boone all out every lap during my previous races. It never fails to hit me back equally as hard and by the end of each lap, its a mercy killing to be headed back down and ready to trade off. Just a couple weeks back, the XC race had my fastest lap at 42:53 with the same bike and a shorter course. My first lap for this race returned a 40:59 which is by far the fastest I've ever turned here whether XC or 24 hour racing. The difference was my approach to the course. I basically let it come to me and increased my intensity through the course instead of giving everything I had at the start and trying to survive at the end. I road the opening climb at a steady pace and then held myself in check through most of the lower loop. Once I hit the upper loop, I found I had plenty of strength left and could use that power to propel myself into the hills and clear them with minimal effort. Comparatively speaking, before, I'd be gassed by that point and have to pedal up the hills as I didn't have the strength to build momentum before hitting them. As I cleared lap 1, I felt fantastic.

Kent and I had a secured position so it was all for fun at this point. I decided to run a few more full out race laps just to test my theory that it was indeed faster for me to ride this way. I was rewarded with more fast laps and also a number of completely clean laps where I didn't have to get off the bike or even put a foot down on course. For me, that made me just as happy as the fast lap times. Boone is a technically challenging course and it gets tougher each year as mother nature wreaks havoc on the course. It had been at least a year since I'd been able to turn a completely clean lap.

After 3 laps, Kent talked me into backing it down since he'd been riding for fun at that point. I dialed the wick way back and found out something pretty quickly. At the slower speeds, I was having a harder time getting around the course. It was easier for me to ride at the faster speed with all the climbing. At a slow speed, each grind up a hill was taking more out of my legs than speeding over it. So, for my last 2 laps, I turned the wick back up for some more fun. On lap 5 I took off with my friend Andy who was out having some fun and decided to test his legs out. We were having fun pushing each other and it was nice to have someone push me during a lap. At this point I was definitely feeling the climbs and the general roughness of the course.

After lap 5, I knew I was going to call it with 6 laps. We had tons of time left on the clock, but with nobody else in our class and having lapped the field, I didn't really see a reason to put more strain on my body and race into the night. I still had my A race of the season coming up in 2 weeks so this was meant to be more of a solid shakedown ride versus a true beat down. In a stroke of mad genius, I had Andy call over to the nearest town and see if Godfather's Pizza would deliver us a pie. Sure enough, while I was out on my last lap, they came through and I was sweetly rewarded at the end.

Mmm, spoils of victory!

I thought Kent only went out for 1 more lap than me, but the final count shows he did 8 laps. Crazy! Its awesome to have a race partner that is equal or better than you though and he certainly was every bit of that. I feel pretty lucky I've got a number of team mates that I ride and race with that are such strong riders. On any given day there's a large contingent that have the ability to podium in their categories. I definitely had a great time racing this year in the 12 hour format. The race ended at 10pm so I was even able to pack up and head back home to sleep in my own soft bed for the night. Next up- Dakota 5-0 (my A race for the year!)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Where do you go?

Where do you go when you reach the goal? Do you reset the goal knowing you can do better? Do you re-evaluate the goal to focus on something else? What about the sacrifices you've made along the way? Do you go back and try to put right those things you brushed off in the name of getting to your goal?

One of the inherent problems I see with having a goal based on athleticism or some other type of competition that requires constant practice is that eventually you have to come to terms with where you're at, how you got there, and is it worth it to keep trying to go forward. You know that once you settle for what you've achieved its basically a slow downward spiral in terms of your ability. The question then becomes did your enjoyment come from the activity itself or was it the focused reaching of the goal that brought you happiness?

Obviously, if the activity brought you joy, then you can still keep going with that activity as long as you're ok with knowing that you're no longer at the top of your game. However, if its the challenge you relish, how hard is it to keep on going with the knowledge that you've reached the top and are sliding backwards. While I could pretend this is about any part of my life, its pretty obvious that I'm talking about riding and racing my bike.

I'd love to be one of those gifted individuals that has raw talent that can take them into the upper echelons of the sport, but I don't think that's the case. I feel like I've put a lot into reaching the level I'm at. I'm still nowhere near the top, but I feel like I've reached the level of rider that I originally set out to be. Now that I'm here, I know what it is going to take to keep me here. I also look back and see the things I've pushed aside in the name of getting to this point. The ever growing wake of sacrifices chugs slowly along behind me.

Do I keep adding to that sacrificial wake knowing I haven't reached my full potential (even though I've reached the original goal)? Or do I turn back and attend to those sacrifices and do what I can to repair those items. Would it feel like I've given up on my goal now that I know there's more to be had? If I turn back, do the items I've sacrificed to get here now seem like they were wasted without cause? So many questions beget more questions. It really just boils down to what makes me happy and can I still find happiness if I become less than what I know is possible in order to not have so many sacrifices. Where is the balance point?