November 2009 Archives

Pray For Snow

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I'm currently enjoying some wonderful fall weather in the 20 minutes of daylight I get after leaving the office.  

I hate the time change. 

Might be time to invest in a bike light, but I'm secretly hoping winter kicks in just like last year.  Last year, I was out on the XC trails by thanksgiving and getting turns in on Bohemia in early December.  

In the meantime, youtube has seen a huge spike in searches for the word "telemark" lately. 



2010 Racing Schedule

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Admittedly, I use the term "racing" loosely, especially when it comes to skiing or driving.  Still, here's where and when I'm thinking about paying even more money than usual to ski, bike, or stick my car in snowbanks.

Last year, I got my first taste of road racing and absolutely loved it.  Unfortunately, getting into it will require a lot of travel, a lot of money (you need fancy licenses and stuff), and putting up with a lot of douchebags (entire books have been written to try and explain why roadies are sometimes such insufferable pricks). Enter: gravel road racing.  Often no entry fees, events that are somewhat closer to home, and a group of people who are weird enough to have a single speed class.  Hell, some of the events use rally style tulip instructions.  Sounds like it might be just my kind of thing.  This year, I'll be trying to get into as many events as I can in the Almanzo Gravel Road Series along with a few other gravel road events here and there that look interesting. If my Kona Major One plans work out, I plan to do them all on a single speed.       

  • 2-3 Stormy Kromer Pursuit Looks like a fun, easy way to kick off ski season. My dad hasn't exactly said no just yet on teaming up for this one too.  
  • 9 Minnesota Winter Rally The last rendition of this turned downright epic.  There's no way I'd miss this again.  
  • 16-17 Keweenaw Nordic Festival I have no idea what this is, but I suspect it's the old Copper Island Classic combined with a skate event at the Tech Trails.  Count me in.   
  • 30 Noquemanon I'm crazy enough that 100+ miles of gravel road racing on a bike sounds like fun, but this 50k+ of skate skiing still scares the crap out of me.  Still, an absolutely beautiful course and good motivation to get my butt out on skis after work.  

  • 12-14 Midwest Telefest OK, so maybe this isn't exactly a race, but the uphill/downhill race has to be worth something.  Still a good time out on skis with lots of like minded folk.  

  • 6 Keweenaw Winter Rally This will probably be the only time all winter that I clean out all the ski shit from my car to go bombing along on the local roads.
  • 13 Great Bear Chase This is a ski event that I might actually be racing in.  
  • 27(?) Barry-Roubaix It's a good thing this event is short, as this may be the first time I turn a pedal over all year.  

  • 10 Ragnarok 105 Crossing my fingers, hoping I get in.
  • 24(?) Ronde Von Skandia A local "bad road" race.  I've wussed out on this numerous times for various reasons.  I'll be going head to head with most of the people who ride this later in the fall in cyclocross, so it will be a good opportunity to assess just how much I need to stop sucking before CX season begins.  

  • 15 Almanzo 100 (alternate: Cable Classic) It's a tough call this weekend, the Cable Classic is just an awesome MTB race with a super low entry fee and nice early season vibe. However, entry in The Gentlemen's Ride later in the year is dependent on me or a teammate running the Almanzo 100.   

  • 19 Chain Drive This year, I got my ass kicked hard by this race. It's a tough 32 miles, early in the season.  We'll see how I feel- I'm actually becoming a somewhat competitive short event MTB racer, I might sandbag and do the 16 miler.  
  • 25-27 Superior Bike Fest Time to get my roadie on with the rest of the team. The downtown crit is still some of the most fun I've ever had bike racing.  Looking forward to this again.

  • 11(?) Miner's Revenge DUDE, YOU GET TO RIDE THROUGH A FRIGGIN' MINE!!!1! C'MON!
  • 17(?) 12(24?) Hours of Potluck I've heard rumors this might become a 24 hour event, although a teammate and I have been discussing a team that rides every lap together through the 12 hour race.  Either way, I'll be riding my bike a lot this weekend.   

  • 7(?) Copperman I'm just not that much a tri geek to cough up $50 to do this, but I sort of missed doing it this year- it's the only chance I get to swim competitively.  We'll see.
  • 14 Ore 2 Shore If only for the insanity that is ~2000 people dropping the hammer at the mass start.  Maybe might do this on a CX bike, maybe might team up with a few people and get the Red Train cranked up, maybe might get a geared 29er and try to kill it. 
  • 21(?) Great Deer Chase Unofficial Official UP State Single Speed Championships.  In.  And a way fun, cheap event regardless.

  • 5(?) Fat Tire Festival Probably going to bikepack to this one again. Maybe the Hoss will be a single speed by then, too.  
  • 18 The Gentlemen's Ride More gravel road racing, this time in teams of four. Dependent on somebody in my team doing the Almanzo 100 (and having a team!).  
  • 25(?) Heck of the North If the Gentlemen's Ride happens, this might not. I'll be well into LSPR mode by this time.  
  • UPCROSS. Eh Class. Single speed. Bring it.   

  • UPCROSS Not. Dead. Yet.
  • 15-16(?) LSPR I don't actually compete in this, but since it's such a huge part of my life (slash excuse for not doing stuff with people), I figure it gets a mention.

  • 6 Iceman Cometh Challenge I'll make a long weekend out of it this time.  Lots of friends and family down that way I'd like to visit along with lots of pre and post partying going on.  
  • UPCROSS Dear God, why did I think this was a good idea?

UP State CX Championships

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I went into this one surprisingly calm.  As the CX season progressed, I became progressively more wound up about preserving and improving my place in the standings. Today, it was either go big and try to get that 2nd or 3rd overall, or die trying.  My usual seventh place finish wouldn't qualify me for anything. My goal was simple, go as hard as a I could.   

I actually took a spot in the first row of the start this time, got myself a good start, and managed to hang onto the lead pack through the first lap.  Shortly into lap #2 though, the gap started to open. Mike fell off the back shortly after I did and I moved back into fourth.  Looks like it was Colby, Steve, and Nevin out in front.  

I was hoping Mike and I might be able to work together to bridge back up to the lead pack, but it looked like we were just too far back. So, I sat where I was and decided to see what developed. 

Mike and I made a couple attempts at dropping eachother, but neither of us were strong enough to open a significant gap on the other by ourselves.  In the process of beating the crap out of eachother, we picked up a a guy on a single speed mountain bike.  He did a remarkable job of hanging with us, but just didn't have the gearing to pull our group for long.   

Into the final lap we went- I managed to stay in front, and did everything I could to try and open up a gap.  I held onto the lead, into the final sand pit, and had just maybe 50 yards to go to the finish.  Mike can really run, and I was worried he might overtake me here, but I held on. Once I was back on the bike I could hear what sounded like somebody having trouble clipping in- sweet, they'll never catch me in the final sprint!  I've made it, I took fourth in the race!  

Except, well- the race wasn't over yet.

Either it was the mountain biker having trouble or Mike finally got clipped in, because he just goes screaming past me with not much road left.  I crank it up for all I'm worth, and it's just an epic battle to the end.  We're trading paint trying to knock eachother off the line, girls we don't even know are screaming out names, dogs are barking, and I have a small conversation with god about getting through the pearly gates when my body decided to reroute all available oxygen to my legs.   

Mike beats me out by a wheel in the photo finish, getting fourth in the race.  Interestingly enough, this ties us dead even in the overall points standings for fourth in the season championship.  Mike's win at this event is the tie breaker, and he went home with fourth in both.  Despite losing out in the final stretch, it turns out 5th place is the cutoff for podium standings and I go home with all kinds of cool trophies anyway.

I'm ecstatic, what a great way to end this season. It's been some awesome racing with some awesome people all year. I'm happy that everybody that's been duking it out this year at the front of Bee will be making the jump to Eh next year. I've even got next year's bike picked out  already.


I gotta say- Nevin really cleans up nice.

BDB in "(n)Iceman Beyond Old Town"

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Whoa, an entire weekend of bad decisions to contend with!  Yet as always, it was a great time.  

First mistake I made was picking up an entry for Iceman. A bunch of teammates had entries they weren't using, so I figured "what the heck....".  Nothing like inserting my poorly prepared self in the midst of 4000 other idiots.    

My other dumb idea was spawned by too much beer following last weekend's not seventh place finish in the local CX series. As I mentioned before, a bunch of us were going to try Eh this weekend.  

So yes, that's 28 miles of fast paced, single speed MTB racing, followed by Eh class CX craziness and lots of driving along with maybe a little sleep in between.  It's almost like I have some kind of deep seated issues with my impending 33rd birthday. I may not be over the hill, but I'm clearly running out of momentum and it's time to start cranking.   

Iceman is sort of famed for having somewhat adverse conditions being in early November in the northern LP, but this rendition continued a multi-year trend of "Nicemen".  Although temperatures were brisk in the morning, clear skies and sun warmed things up quick and it was shorts and short-sleeve weather in no time.   

Given the 4000 racers at this event, the organizers start all the different classes in waves, separated by 5 minutes.  There's no real qualification standard for what wave you sign up for, so you get all kinds of sandbagging- including those entering a harder class for a better start position. Plus you've got people who just choose poorly and the regular spread of talent across a class to contend with. This makes the start safe and sane, but puts a lot of slower riders out on the course in front of faster riders.  

Thankfully, I choose to run singlespeed, so I didn't have to figure out if I was an "expert" or "sport" or whatever.  Under 39? Check! One gear? Check!  OK, pal- yer' in!   Unfortunately, they stuck as right behind the Sport/Expert Clydes.  Granted, a lot of those guys can really rip, but some of them- not so much.   We'd be running up behind them soon.  

The start went like all my single speed starts. Spinning for dear life and watching those willing to brave the bigger gears pull away from me.  That's OK, I never start all that well- being forced to get into my rhythm by lower gearing helps me out in the long run.  Once we got onto the dirt though, it was on.  I've never, ever, ever had to do so much passing.  First up was all the single speeders who burned it down too much at the start, next up was the clydesdales, and then it wasn't long before I was picking of expert riders from the earlier waves.

The wave start really spread things out a bunch, and I never really ran up against any serious log jams. I could just keep on the gas an keep on passing.  The one thing that the wave start really hurts though, is the ability to pack up and work together.  The midpack single speeders pretty much broke into shambles right from the get go, and most of the people I caught were going much slower than me. I'd pick up a wheelsucker every now and then, and do my own share of drafting, but as soon as I recovered, I'd be back to passing people again.  This is great motivation to keep hammering and it really felt like I was just flying through the course.  

I am, however, my father's son- and there was no way I was going to slow down at all and let all those people I passed pass me back. So, my camelback full of water went ignored a little longer than it should have, and something happened to me that's never, ever happened to me in a race before- I cramped up.  Not bad, but enough to slow me down long enough to drink something and ride them out. I was maybe 5 miles from the finish at this point when the flyers from the waves behind me started catching me along with one or two of my single speed brethren from my wave.  

I rode out the rest of the course without issue and didn't lose too many places for a 2:09 finish.  Good enough to crack the top half of the single speed field and about where I expected I'd be.  I was really hoping (against all odds) to break the two hour mark. Even without the cramps, I probably wouldn't have pulled it off, but it's not completely outside my grasp.  It seems that a sub-2 hour Iceman correlates pretty well with a sub-3 hour Ore 2 Shore.   

Next year, I might have to stick around for the parties.  4000 dorks with enough disposable income to go bike racing makes for some kind of marketing bonanza and quite the circus before and after the event. Next year, I might have to go slower to be ready for the beer tent at the end.  

But hey, I had to get back up north- I had an "Eh" class cyclocross throwdown to get to.  

This weekend's CX race was in "Old Town" Negaunee.  Basically, a large portion of the town started sinking in the 1960s due to excessive mining in the area and they were forced to move it.  What's left is a maze of streets, sidewalks, foundations, stairways to nowhere, and a lot of broken glass, curbs, and angle iron hidden in the weeds.  It was really a toss up between a "Mad Max" or "Paint Your Wagon" reference for today's blog title.   

Turn out was a little weak, but enough fast people showed that it wouldn't be a gimme. I had one goal only- stay on the lead lap.  The organizers took mercy on us and only made us do two laps more than the Bees.   

On first pass, the course seemed rather technical, but as I got into it, there was a lot of opportunity for speed.  And for once, I was faster on the last part of the course, rather than the first.  Didn't do much good. I took a seat in one of the slower packs and hung on, saving up in case I needed to really push hard to stay on the lead lap. With a couple laps to go, I started pushing harder and managed to beat a few people and meet my goal of not getting lapped.   

I'm confident enough that I can hang on enough to at least stay (mostly) out of the way of the really fast folks in Eh. If a bunch of my fellow Bee competitors make the jump next year, we should still have some great racing and a nearly bottomless well of motivation to get faster if we want.   The only downside is that I'll be the last group to race- no more sitting on the sidelines drinking beer and harassing the Eh riders- it'll be up to a new generation of Bees to carry on the torch (and the mid race beer hand up).   

More Cyclocross: Getting Fa(s|t)ter

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Don't worry, only two more 'cross races this year, then maybe it'll be time for dumb ski stories instead of dumb race reports.  

So all my bad behavior during rally season finally caught up with me.  With all the touring and regular riding I was doing through August and into September, I had the metabolism from hell. There was simply no such thing as too much, I could never eat enough.   Unfortunately, once rally duty picked up in October, the appetite stayed, but the outlet for all those calories went on hiatus. End result: I'm a solid 5-10lbs more than I'd like to be right now. 

I finally got back to some regular riding last week and discovered something else though- that 5-10 pounds may not be all fat.  I'm way, way, way stronger than I've ever been on the bike.  It's just unreal how much easier a lot of my regular rides have become.   Cyclocross is still hard as hell, but if the informal Wednesday night race was any indication, I was at least going faster.  

After the double header last weekend, and getting back into the local Wednesday night series last week, I wasn't exactly super excited about doing another 'cross race. I quickly got over it once I got to preride this past weekend's course. Best course of the series so far. Smooth sweeping paths through the trees with lots of elevation changes. Some flat, open sections to play pack games. Even the technical stuff was fun in that you pretty much carried the bike through it all, so there was no risk of pushing too hard and wrecking equipment.   It was fun to ride fast just for the sake of going fast, race or not. 

Since I'm kind of in a skills development mode for the rest of this season, I decided I'd work on picking people off and work my way up from midpack.  Everybody in B is getting a little smarter and the first lap of this race was pretty mellow, leaving us bunched up quite a bit. It made it fairly easy to work my way up and by the second lap, I was in the lead pack with Mike, Garret, and Nevin. It was a fight to keep up with these guys, I was pretty strong on the first third of the course, but I was hanging on for dear life everyplace else.   I watched Garret slow way the heck down once or twice to avoid dropping us, so I knew he was saving up for a serious attack. 

Sure enough, on the final lap, he made a break for it and Mike followed suit. I did what I could, but Mike was slipping away. Fortunately I managed to overtake Nevin and hang onto what I thought was third place.  I learned later that although I was in the lead pack, the lead rider- Colby was way the heck out in front of us and just trounced as all.   Still, fourth place is my best showing yet and puts me third in the championship standings.  I better enjoy my third place while I can though, once everybody drops their lowest score- it'll take a pretty crazy turn of events to bump me much beyond fourth.  Colby's pretty much got the championship wrapped up for himself, but it'll be a fun fight between the rest of us.

Next weekend is going to be an insane weekend of bike racing. I'm embarking on a whirlwind trip down to Traverse City to do the Iceman, a 28 mile MTB race. The big challenge here will be sharing the course with the other 3,999 idiots that signed up.  I'll be riding a singlespeed, so traffic on the course can be both a curse and a blessing. I don't know how I'll do at this race- I hope the opportunity to push hard will be there, but I might just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. 

And enjoying the ride might not be so bad, as the very next day, I'll be back up here in Negaunee for another cyclocross race.  This one isn't part of the championship series, so a bunch of us that have been racing B have decided to give A try.  Not only will I have to race longer, I'll have to go even faster if I want to stay on the lead lap.

And just in case all this racing actually does kill me, well... at least Chris was out getting some good pictures again to remember me by. Don't forget- Karki Hill Cemetery is nice if you decide not to go for the whole feed me to the vultures thing.