Monday, July 31, 2006

Triple digits

Coming home from work today the overhead console said the temperature outside was 100 degrees. I don't think I've ever seen that on the car thermometer before. Shortly after it read 101. I don't think the thermometer is extremely accurate but it sure is hot. Driving down the tree covered roads the temperature dropped all the way to a cool 89 degrees.

I went out for a short ride and it didn't seem too bad. My bumps and bruises were causing more pain than any leg fatigue. I am sort of used to the heat now, having trained and raced in it for the better part of a month or so. Not that I don't suffer some from it but the Hammer products and nutrition advice have really made a difference. Being out in the sun still causes me problems even with sunscreen, part of my Swedish heritage I guess.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ithaca 12 hour report

Getting ready to do battle and trying to stay in the shade as long as possible.

Yesterday's 12 Hours of Ithaca was pretty much as I imagined, lot of laps and lots of heat. The temperatures were in the 90's and the heat index was over 100. Fortunately I had been preparing for the heat with the Hammer products and fine tuning my nutrition plan so while I still suffered, I didn't have to take any real time off the bike. This is also due to the great pit crew work done by Robin Scurr to have everything ready for me when I needed it. As a result I finished 2nd in my class and third overall among solo riders. The top three overall did the same number of laps, 25, but the finishing time determined the final order.

The course is a very tight 4.7 miles with little climbing and also few areas for passing. At the start we must have had about 15 of us in a single line for the better part of the lap due to the inability to pass. Ithaca is noted for its thorns if you stray off the center of the trail and no one really wanted to risk a flat. Fortunately the trail is almost 100% in the woods which helped reduce the heat factor a little. I think everyone was still glad to see the sun go down.

Night riding in such a tight area brings its own set of challenges and I think I made up for my relatively crash free year and probably am now ahead for next year based on the number of crashes I had. To be fair I did manage to tag a few trees in the daytime too and one time managed to bend my bars slightly. I didn't favor either shoulder as both of them got hit at different times. I also tested my helmet a few times and once when riding at a pretty good clip I didn't move far enough over to clear a tree that leans into the trail. I made sure on the following laps to move way over in that corner. It's kind of funny to crash at night and when you get up the helmet and handlebar lights are pointing off in strange directions.

I also managed to crash on both the Scalpel and the Rush so I can't blame it on either bike. I rode the Scalpel for the first 6 hours because it does better in the tight stuff than the Rush. When I did the switch to the Rush it helped to alleviate some of the aches I was developing due to it's different seating position and the additional travel. I went back top the Scalpel later so the Rush could have the lights added while out on the trail and I felt faster but not as comfortable. Both bikes are good at what their intended purpose is and either can be used for the other's job. It's nice to be able to have both of them in the arsenal.

About the only physical problem I had was with my feet. After a few hours my feet were really getting sore. Fortunately I bring different pairs of shoes or I would have been in trouble. I've noticed that this same pair is great for about 2-3 hours and then I start to have problems. I'm not sure if it is cleat placement or what but it is definitely painful. The other sore area is my triceps from all the bike handling required for 12 hours.

Our team had a good day at the race as Pete took first in his class in the 6 hour race and Shari Scurr just kept going around and around to finish with 18 laps and 1st in the Women's class in the 12 hour and I believe moving into first place for the series. A special mention should be made of Shari's sister Kallee who came out to do the 6 hour race and finished 3rd. She kept going the whole time and I understand that this was the farthest she had ever ridden a bike, road or mtb.

Looking at the race calendar I don't see any more on the horizon until the Maybury XC at the end of August. I will have to change my training to include more intensity because this race has a lot of the shorter power hills that will wear you down. Plus at only 1.5-2 hours long it will be a much higher pace that I have been used to lately.

I was going to ride over to Stony Metropark to catch the Tailwind TT action but after getting home this morning and unloading the van I thought better of it. Between the heat and the severe thunderstorm watch in place it didn't seem like such a good idea. Especially while sitting in the air conditioning after being out in the heat yesterday.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hot weekend ahead

This weekend looks to be a hot one, both in terms of temperatures and racing. While I'll be racing the 12 hours of Ithaca locally several Michigan riders will be competing in the 24 hour national event up in Wisconsin. I don't think the weather will be much cooler there, but good luck to Danielle and Mark Hendershot. I'm not sure who else is soing from our area but there will be a lot of nationally ranked riders there including Chris Eatough. Chris will even have a live webcam that will be focused on his pits during the race. You can see it here.

The forecast is calling for temperatures in the 90's but the heat index closer to 100 so I have been making sure to hydrate over the last few days as well as supplementing with Hammer Nutrition products to help cope with the heart. The Ithaca course is mostly wooded but they are calling for a chance of thunderstorms and the course is known to get slick when wet. I rode locally the other day in the rain to get a feel for what it may be like.

My legs are feeling pretty good right now as I haven't done a whole lot of riding this week, partly by design and partly because of the rains we have been having in the afternoon. I was a little tired after the long ride last week but now seem to be ready to go. The course has almost zero climbing but is mostly singletrack so you don't get much rest since you are always seem to be accelerating or braking. The concentration starts to wear on your upper body as well.

Not much chance of a series win this year so I may not do the other races in the series, at least not the 24 hour race since it is a fair drive and will require a couple of days to attend. I'm still keeping my options open though and looking at a some alternate races to do instead.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I won!

I hadn't been playing the Trek Tourmania game everyday but since today was the last day I figured I would try one more time. I was shocked to see the scratch off cards reveal that I had won a special edition laptop computer! At first I wasn't sure since the scratch off said Livestrong Notebook and I thought maybe it was a paper notebook. Nope, its a special HP laptop. I'm not sure if it's exactly the same as the one that CompUSA is selling but it may be.
Now I just have to send in the paperwork and wait for it to show up, and of course later pay taxes on it. Not a ride with Lance or a new Trek bike but it is something I can use all the time.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Adventure on the west side

West of me anyway. I was scheduled to help Hammer out by setting up a tent and representing them at an adventure race registration and riders' meeting yesterday. Since it would be taking place between Ann Arbor and Brighton I took the opportunity to ride the Poto trail earlier in the morning. I had ridden it about a month ago but the trail had become overgrown in spots, allowing me to earn the Poto badges of courage, the scratches that are received from riding through the brush. There were also at least six places where trees were down forcing dismounts. They will have their work cut out for them on the trail maintenance day that is today. I met one of the trail coordinators at the adventure race sign in to give him a bag of some Hammer products to distribute to the trail workers.

The adventure race registration was a chance to introduce some of the racers to Hammer products and answer questions. Quite a few of the racers already use Hammer products and were obvious supporters of the product. Hammer was one of the sponsors of the race and the promoters were trying to set up a sponsor expo. Since I have done some of these expos for Hammer in the past they asked if I would attend this one. Being a sponsored rider I am always happy to help them when I can. It's easy to promote a product when you can talk about the effect it has had on your own success.

The race is today and is expected to take about 12 hours to complete and included biking, swimming, orienteering, canoeing as well as other special tests. Adventure racing seems to be growing in popularity and they have some for beginners that aren't as long. I'm trying to convince my wife to try one with me but it's a hard sell.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I abandoned my own tour!

My ride of choice today. Lake Huron in the background along with a freighter if you look closely.

I set out this morning on my mtb to do a double century, figuring the weather would be nice. I planned on heading over to Port Huron and up the coast before heading inland and back. Things were going well at first but the route was almost 100% in the sun and I started to feel the effects so I ended up cutting my ride short. I only did 177 miles in just under 10.5 hours. The first hundred I was able to complete in just over 5.5 hours but then the sun effect started kicking in plus the return was into the wind (naturally). I think if I had been on a road bike I might have been able to complete it before feeling so bad. Maybe I'll try again when the weather cools off.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Vacation Week 1

The first vacation week of two has passed by quickly in spite of not seeming to have really done too much. I only rode a little, letting my legs recover for the races to come. That will change this week though as I will get out on some longer and higher intensity rides. To continue my wildlife sightings while riding a red fox ran in front of me between subdivisions.

I played in a golf outing last week courtesy of Chris Werth who had an extra ticket from work. I used to play in these quite a bit but it's been a long time. We always tried to be competetive in the past but this time it was just for fun. Good thing too, we weren't in any danger of taking home the top prize. We played a scramble format which is nice because everyone on the team has a chance to contribute, no matter what type of game you have. We all hit good and bad shots and Chris was just missing the hole on a lot of long puts. On one of the holes for the longest drive I was able to put mine about 10-20 yards past the previous hitters but someone got me in the end. I have a hard time in scramble formats compared to playing my own ball in a normal round. I walked 18 holes the next day with my son and overall played a lot better, just missing an eagle putt and birdying two holes in a row. Of course the bogies were there as well.

We rented the movie End Game yesterday, a movie that was filmed in a large part in Spokane last year. It stars among others Cuba Gooding Jr. and Angie Harmon. My son Jason had gotten a few parts as a extra in the film and had called to say it was finally out and that he had made a few scenes. Sure enough, in the first nine minutes of the film he is in it three times. Twice in the crowd and once as a secret service agent in the hospital. You have to look quick to catch him. Later in the movie he appears once more as a secret service agent in the background and you can see him for several seconds. We played one of the early scenes frame by frame since he went by so fast. The president had just been shot and the crowd is running in panic. Too fast in regular viewing but in the slow motion Jason has a big grin on his face. Somehow I don't think that is quite the reaction they were looking for but they left it in since you can't really see it.

One of the nice things about vacation these two weeks means that I can see the Tour de France live on TV. My wife has been watching it with me at night as well and has been enjoying it and been discussing the various stages and riders. Sometimes when I come home she has the rebroadcasts on earlier in the day so she already knows what happens if I missed the live telecast. She has stayed up to watch the finishes after I have fallen asleep. Maybe some year we can get over there to see a few stages.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Boyne MTB Marathon

Yesterday was the Boyne MTB Marathon but compared to the last few races I've done it was more of a sprint race. I think I was one of the few racers who was disappointd when we found out that the course had been shortened from 14 to eleven miles due to construction on the trails. I know Alex, Robert and Jim were disappointed as well.

I was concerned going into the race that my legs weren't 100% and that the shorter distance would mean higher speeds and higher efforts. Boyne has the most climbing per lap of any of the lower Michigan courses and this races had about 1,100 feet per 10.6 mile loop. I think that mile for mile the Boyne course is tougher than Lumberjack.

When my class started one of the guys took off a lot faster than I wanted to and I wasn't sure if I could go that speed anyway. We started with another class as well so for a while a fairly good size group stayed together at a moderate pace. Once we got to the hills the gaps started opening up and while my legs were protesting every uphill I managed to move up until only the lead rider was somewhere in front of me. I caught site of him every now and then but didn't get close until the second lap where I got his wheel and later moved past and he stuck to mine.

I made a mistake and he passed me back and I couldn't close back up until the start of the third lap where I saw him again and could see I was gaining. I eventually passed him shortly thereafter and tried to open a gap to discourage him coming after me. It seemed to work as I managed to hold him off and take the win but I was definitely looking over my shoulder on every uphill. The Rush was able to handle the bumps and downhills so well that I was gaining a lot of time in those areas. I even managed to bottom out the 4.5 inches of travel a few times on some of the downhills and compression dips.

Our team, Cannondale Midwest Racing, did well as most everyone finished and several had placings in the top five. For me one of the things that helps when going to Boyne is staying at the Scurr's cottage at Higgins's Lake the night before the race. It cuts down on the travel the next morning as well as being a totally relaxing place to hang out before or after a race. The picture at the top was taken at their place. A big thank you to Chris Werth and his wife Jackie for opening up their hotel room to me after the race so I could take a shower. Jackie hung in there during the race to finish 5th despite having a few mechanical problems including wearing through her braking surface on the rear wheel.

No more races on the schedule for a few weeks, I think I need to take it easy for a while and get the legs recharged. I'm taking some vacation time so I will have other things to do around the house.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

It's official

The decision has been made to not contest the rest of the US National Endurance Mountain Bike Series. Robert Herriman, Alex Dolpp and myself had been debating all week whether the three of us would go to Colorado for next week's race but in the end it was a mutual decision not to go. It would be a lot of money plus vacation time, especially if you did not already have the time off reserved.

Part of me is disappointed since I currently sit in second place in the Master's 50+ class after the first two races and am fairly confident that I could probably finish in the top 3 overall, the other part of me says it is for the best, too much money just to race. I can say I withdrew to give the others a chance :-) I don't know if my legs would have been up to it anyway.

The concept of the national series is a good one but it will be interesting to see how many racers actually do the required number to qualify for year end awards. I think you will see a lot doing one or two that may be local but not the whole series. There may be some classes where the top five may be decided by those who can make the races, not necessarily the fastest. But that is true in a lot of series, if you just show up you have a chance at the overall win. I will admit that my overall win in the local series last year was due in some parts to going to more of the races than those who were faster than me. In this case the cost to play in the national series is too steep. I will say the guy leading my class has won the first two and is a top notch racer, he will probably win the series and deservingly so.

I hope next year the series will expand to include more races to choose from and the rules changed to allow more racers to have a chance at the overall awards. If so I plan on contesting the series. If not, I will still do some of them as I found that I really like the format.

So now I will focus on the local endurance series again, at least most of them are close and I will have some team members racing in them as well. I don't have much of a chance for a series awards so they will just become personal tests or just to have some fun.

Since I had the next two weeks off in case I was heading west I guess I can do a lot of riding instead. My younger son is still on his vacation next week and I may play some golf with him. I'm making him a new set of clubs (one of my former hobbies) and it will be interesting to see how they work for him. Plus there are a lot of things I probably should be doing around the house. But if the weather is nice it will be hard to resist riding. Hmm, I wonder if I could get in 1000 miles in a week?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Urban wildlife

I kept mainly on the paved roads today as I was doing some short intervals and the heavy rain we had early in the morning meant the back roads and trails were wet. During the course of my 1.5 hour ride I spotted (pun intended) four fawns, two of them were with their mother. Also on the ride while coming down a hill I saw a peacock cross the road in front of me, complete with the extra long plummage dragging behind it. Later while riding though an industrial park a coyote ran in front of me. That makes the third one I've seen this year but one was in Ohio. I saw lots of other animals that weren't so lucky and never made it across the road. How long can you hold your breath while doing intervals?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Long weekend, Lefty Terralogic

Two days into a four day weekend and I've been able to get in two longer rides plus take care of some things around the house and catch a little of the first two days of the tour. The weather and schedule have cooperated so far, our community's fireworks are tonight and hopefully the rain will hold off.

During yesterday's ride I caught the start of the Stony marathon race and it's one of the few times I've spectated and not felt like I wanted to get out there and race. I've ridden Stony enough and did the race last year as well. It's just not that exciting plus with the past races I've done lately and another long race next week I didn't want the extra effort. The blue skies and warm temperatures took its toll on the racers judging by the final results.

Today's ride was out on the back roads north of me and included a fair bit of climbing. I ended up joing two other riders mid way through and their route took us past a farm that had two camels in the pasture. That's not something you see everyday!

I now have a few rides on my Lefty Fox Terralogic fork and it is amazing. I was worried that I would miss the lockout, especially when doing my training rides on the roads or going up the longer hills on the trails. This fork has an internal valving that automatically adjusts between firm when not hitting bumps to full open when the going is rougher. You can adjust the sensitivity for how big a bump you want to activate the fork. Basically whenever I stand and pedal the fork barely moves if at all yet if I hit a bump while pedalling like that it will react and compress. As soon as the trail or road smoothes out it is stiff again after two or three pedal strokes. This is actually better than a lockout since I don't have to remember to unlock it plus it it instantly switches so that I have the most efficiency when pedalling. If it weren't for the price and long wait to get them I would retrofit my other bike with one.