October 2011 Archives

With LSPR behind me, I was finally getting back into my fitness groove.  Backcountry skiing is tough, in that it requires good lungs and the ability to bounce off things well, so going into the season in good shape is really important.  

Anyway, I had last week all planned out, hit the gym every morning, get some mountain biking in, maybe even ride into work, and generally get some quality rest and eat well. So Tuesday night, I head out to get a quick little mountain bike ride in- nothing major, just enough to spin the legs up. 

Anyway, I'm ripping down the Villi Maki trail out at Churning Rapids when I think to myself, "You know self, you could lose traction real easy on all these leaves on the ground."

"Good point!", I respond as I apply the brakes.  

"Kkkkkksssshhhhh......", goes the front tire as it locks up on the slippery leaves, just before tucking in and sending me flying over the bars.   

I think this crash is deserving of extra points as I managed to maintain enough velocity to continue sliding *uphill* for several feet. Sadly though, my joyride eventually finished and my bike saw fit to attack me from behind, just in case I hadn't had enough.  After the leaves settled, I was in one of those moments when the pain starts to build up and you quietly wish you could maybe just black out for a little while.  

Sadly, such was not the case. Although I only took minor abrasions, I knew things were Not Good At All and limped my way out of the woods.  As a volunteer fire fighter with training in first aid, I knew what the next steps I had to take were. I immediately loaded me and my bike in my car and rushed off to Karvakko's for a sixer of Bell's "Two Hearted Ale".  You know, for medicinal purposes....  

Things are kind of fuzzy after that, but I was confronted with a new problem the next day.  None of my pants fit. At all.  My left love handle had swelled up to 4 times it's usual size, adding 4 inches to my waistline.  I also couldn't really walk very quickly, and any transition between sitting, standing, or lying down made me want to pass out.  So I stayed at home, and avoided having to deal with that whole pants thing.   

The next day, I managed to squeeze my increasingly black and blue torso into some ski pants, but the elastic waistband was proving rather uncomfortable. Friday though, I had my true epiphany....


So I purchased a pair on my way into work, and it's become one of those life altering moments. I may never wear pants with a waistband again!  So comfortable! So free!  It's like bib shorts, but a million times better.  

Eventually, through a careful regimen of Bell's products, I've been able to nurse myself along and finally get back out on the bike this weekend for 25 miles of two-tracking and bushwhacking.  Of course, now my entire left torso is black and blue and my waist is still 4" larger than usual. But with my trusty new overalls and continued consumption of Bell's "Best Brown Ale", I should be back to normal soon. Or at least get the other love handle up to a similar size.    

LSPR 2011

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This year was tough.  

A couple of key organizers decided to take a long deserved break and the rest of us had to step up to take up the slack.  This had me doing a lot more organizer type things in addition to my regular rallymaster duties. Mostly this involved calling people on the phone and asking them for things. I hate sales.  But what are you gonna do?

Not ride your bike much and get incredibly stressed out it seems. 

Plus, I've kind of had a bad attitude about the sport of rally as of late. It seems I hear no end of bitching every time I try to include a cool two track stage or we don't finish in time for people to get to the bar. Add in the spiraling cost of competition that's driven away many of my friends and I was convinced that the sport was largely being overtaken by a bunch of dandies. 

Usually, my duties start to wind down a bit the week before the rally, and if I've done my job right, I can start to enjoy the event. Not so this year. I immediately had to switch into the Chief of Communications hat and recruit about 25 qualified radio operators, set up a net control station, and figure out how to run a net for a rally.  My buddy Dave saved my ass in countless ways on this one- getting me the local ham contacts, setting us up in the CCRAA radio shack for net control and generally bringing a lot of expertise and equipment that I am sorely lacking in. 

So there I am, Friday morning of the rally, already way behind on sleep and I just want to get through it as quickly as possible so I can go up to Copper Harbor, ride my bike, and get my new kayak. And then never ever organize another rally again.

We kind of got tossed into the fire on net control, but we were figuring it out.  Casual comments from previous net control operators got us moving in the correct direction and horrendous weather conditions out on the stages were keeping spectator and civilian problems at bay.

And then, finally- on the last stage of the night, we had or first "problem".  Car zero came back and said we should just skip it.  It sounded like the stage was passable, but very very muddy.  Unable to come up with a suitable plan to navigate the cars back to service, I agreed to transit the stage. Car zero came back and said if I'm going to send them down it, I might as well let them compete. There may have been some egging on by a long time competitor working the finish control too.  Go ahead and run it...

I think I can safely use the word "epic" here.  6 cars off, nearly a quarter of the remaining field. Stories of one particular driver who was giving a full on, 11/10ths driving performance when his co-driver looked over and told him he was doing upwards of 25mph.  And comments like "Sorry, no car count- our log sheets have disintegrated in the rain." It took a while, but we got everybody out of the woods safely. I was back at the hotel and in bed by 4am, but couldn't sleep. I was stoked! Finally, rally was cool again.  It was an epic battle of will against the elements! Forget winning, just getting through those conditions was an accomplishment worth celebrating. Here was rally's chance to prove it's mettle to me... 

We certainly had our challenges the next day, including a stuck transmitter that forced us to transit a stage and do an emergency frequency change, but we had mastered the basic routine of getting a stage up and running. We even made it down to the banquet to catch the last few scraps of food on the buffet (not that we need it, Dave's wife was feeding us pretty well that whole weekend).

During the awards ceremony, rally made me proud. Everybody agreed it was a horrendous, difficult night. But the attitude was, "that's what makes this cool". I didn't hear a single complaint about running that last stage.  Spent the night drinking beer, shaking hands, thanking the people on the ground that made net control so much easier for us, and talking about "next year!".

Kind of an exciting weekend for staring at this for nearly 40 hours straight:

Imagine the smell of dead mice and dCon to fully appreciate it. :) 

What everybody else got to see:

Now about the AMC Eagle SX/4 rally project I've been thinking of....

I got a brand new used thing!

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Half price kayak rentals all through september at the Keweenaw Adventure Company!

Well you know me. 

It's a deal!

I'm saving money!  

And what's this? A list of used rental kayaks your selling?

I can take a lesson and demo a couple of boats! 

The weekend plans really started to come together when a fellow riding buddy put notice out about an abbreviated version of his "Peaks Tour", hitting the summits of several Keweenaw mountains.  

So on a beautiful september weekend I met up with Bill and we got a solid 40 miles in of Keweenaw two tracks in and around the mandan loop. Found plenty of cool new trails and hit a couple of places I'd never been to like Lost Lake and Keystone Bay (Holy shit! There's a sandy beach out by the tip of the Keweenaw!)  

Bill had to bail early, but that gave me time to bike into my favorite camping spot on Fish Cove and go for a swim. Superior is warmer than I ever remember. Had a great night sleeping out under the stars. 

Next morning I got up and made my way in to Copper Harbor for a Basic Water Safety course with Keweenaw Adventure.  Maybe learn all those things I should have learned before say, paddling out to the Huron Islands.  

Anyway, I was the only one in the class and the instructor was pretty good, so we made a fair amount of progress in the harbor.  Maybe I was doing a pretty good job of not sucking, or maybe the instructor figured he had half a shot at keeping just one idiot from drowning- but we decided to go out on Superior and tackle the "big water".  There was a fair amount of wind generating some nice 3-4 foot rollers out in open water. This seemed kind of cool, but the rocky shore they were crashing against made me a but nervous...

Things turned toward adventuresome when I managed to break my paddle trying a T-rescue out there.  I'm pretty happy I managed to keep my swamped boat upright without a paddle while the instructor ran off chasing the remnants of my paddle.  

Honestly, it was bit overwhelming and had me moderately freaked out. I know enough to know what I don't know now, and I know how tiny mistakes can quickly become big ones. We were just offshore, had proper gear, and at least one pretty experienced person, so were in no real danger of anything bad happening, but you could just catch a fleeting glimpse of how something could...  

So obviously, I was completed hooked. Gave the instructor a good tip and then went and put a downpayment on the boat he was using- a 2010 Boreal Designs Fjell.  It was obviously way better than the Inukshuk I was paddling because it didn't seem to flip over as much.  ;)  

So yeah, couldn't pick it up until the rental season was fully over, which is OK because given the awesome weather we had in september and early october, I never would have gotten all my rally chores done with a new boat to play with.  

I paid the final deposit and took it home yesterday.  I should be positively unbearable by next spring staring at this all winter without any chance to use it:


Unless of course I maybe pick up a dry suit or really heavy wet suit.....

My Own Personal Heck (of the North)

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I won't delve too deep into it, but man... the rally is just killing me this year. 

So I was really, really looking forward to a weekend off to head over to Duluth to race 100 miles of the Minnesota Arrowhead's finest gravel  in this year's Heck of the North. 

This summer though, I finally dialed in the perfect rack setup on the ol' Jake and I'm reluctant to strip it down for 'cross season and gravel road racing again. I've got a Salsa Fargo frame waiting to get built up, but funding has not been approved as of yet. So I did the rational thing and threw some drop bars on my single speed mountain bike. Sure, I have all of two 'cross races under my belt with this setup, but all my fellow alt/hipster, beer swilling, beard sporting, single speed riders agree, it's a pretty sweet setup. So it must be perfect for a gravel road race.  Did I mention I left the 32x17 gearing on it? And the 29x2.55 tires?  This not unlike entering a rally in a one ton diesel truck on 44" super swampers. And then leaving the transfer case in low range.... 

The start went well, if you call "well" getting completely and utterly dropped.  Hard. Seems 32x17 ain't much good for anything above 15mph.  But who cares? It's a beautiful day on the north shore of Superior in prime color season.  Why rush through it? 

I was having a grand old time, kibitzing with my fellow riders, enjoying the day, and then we hit the first snowmobile trail section.  The Heck is unique amongst gravel road races in that it throws in these 1 mile sections that are damn near impossible to ride through completely.  But my monstercross setup could ride a lot more than most people, and faster too!  So I found myself passing a lot of people.  Hoo boy, looks like I'm racing. 

After that first snowmobile section, I made my big bad decision. I found myself riding with a couple of guys, pushing 16-17mph. Definitely on the high end of my cadence abilities, but manageable.  Or so it seemed. 

So I came screaming into the halfway checkpoint with them and suddenly realized what I had done.  My legs felt like lead. No other way to describe it. I've never had my legs feel like this. I could still mash, but just couldn't get them to spin at any decent cadence. 

So for the next 35 miles or so, I was kind of riding my own ride. Doing the recovery thing. Singing to myself. Have you seen the new Powderwhores trailer? As per usual, I like the song. In this case, "Bugs" by O'Death. Which means I watched their video.   

Which is kind of creepy.  And seems to be shot someplace along the Heck of the North course.  I was always half expecting one of these weird woods people to be standing back in the trees as I rode past. 

But the next person I saw was my teammate, Bruce at about mile 90. I sort of dropped him for a little bit, but realized I had nothing to really try and prove in this race.  Singlespeed with a low gear had kicked my ass hard and merely finishing was something to be happy about.  So I rode (and walked up Pleasant View Road- man, that road was not named by a bicyclist!) the last few miles in with him to the finish. 

Oddly enough, I finished 15 minutes earlier than last year. 

The Heck continues to be my favorite gravel road race ever.  Just can't beat the setting and some of the unique challenges of it. It's a tough time of year for me fitness wise with work and rally responsibilities, so it's a real challenge too. But now I'm intrigued by this single speed thing. I wonder what I could do with a bigger gear?