Monday, October 30, 2006

Daylight savings time

The past three days we have had some downright cold and windy days for training. About enough time to get acclimated and ready for the winter, like it or not. And then today it is almost 40 degrees warmer and sunny. As if we had one last reprieve before Mother Nature socks it to us. It was nice to ride without getting bundled up.

The ending of daylight savings time makes it difficult to get in much riding in the daylight. Today when I got home from work I had to decide if I was going to ride or rake leaves. I rode. I did get back in time to do some raking. I figured that it won't be nice out for much longer and the leaves will still be there tomorrow. Actually I hope they aren't. Maybe we will get some more strong winds and they will all blow away.

Raking leaves isn't really what I do now since I bought a big leaf blower last year. Blowing the leaves is much easier except for days like today when the wind was taking the leaves in the wrong direction.

In addition to the early darkness the time change has really confused our dog. You can set a clock by her stomach. She has been known to wake people up when it's close to feeding time in the morning. Same thing in the evening and for her treat, she starts getting ready for them, knowing the time is close. Now she is confused as to why she has to wait an hour before she can eat. Her stomach is still on Daylight Savings time. It probably won't take her long to adjust though.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Iceman - getting ready

The Iceman is now less than a week away and literally thousands of racers are doing their last bit of training. For some it may also be their first bit of training. With close to 2,000 racers many are not in it for the competition but for the "event". This race has taken on a life of its own, there are certainly a lot more races that are longer, tougher, or even more enjoyable to ride for the variety of the trail. But the Iceman has grown to the point that it sells out within a few months after registration opens. For many it's an annual event and marks the end of the season. For others it's just another excuse to party.

I haven't raced the Iceman in several years but last year attended the expo to run the Hammer tent. This year Jason is coming back to help with the tent. I decided I may as well race since I'll be there. After thinking about it I decided to sign up for the Expert 45-54 class. I will be lucky to finish in the top 30 but at least I should be done earlier than starting in Sport and shouldn't have the hundreds of racers in front of me. Instead I'll be looking over my shoulder for the SS class which starts 5 minutes after me. Jason is racing SS so it will be interesting to see how long I can hold him off.

I've managed to get out on the bike Friday through Sunday and think that over the course of the past three days managed to experience most of what you can expect at Iceman, at least as far as the weather goes. No sand to practice on but at least I have been able to get used to the cold.

Both Friday and Saturday were rainy and cold, in the 30's. Then to make it worse the wind picked up during the last half of the ride yesterday. Fortunately I have decent riding clothes so I wasn't too cold, except for my fingers. Today a couple of team members and one of their friends came over and joined me for about 2.5 hours on the back roads. The wind was super strong and made even the flat roads seem like we were climbing. We had a couple of good long intervals to make the spirited ride even better. I got to show them one of our "special" hills that they had never ridden before. They are looking forward to more of these rides next spring.

The weather forecast for Iceman is calling for a chance of snow showers every day starting on Tuesday. I don't know if there will be any accumulation and it may help to pack the sand down and make it faster. The lows the night before the race will be in the 20's so it may even be frozen for a while. I plan on running a 1x9 gearing, using a 42t ring. I hope we don't get too much snow or it will be a struggle. I might take another bike with a full set of gears just in case.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Back to school

I stayed at my parents in Ohio Friday night as my aunt was visiting them from Arizona and I hadn't seen her in a couple of years. She is an amazing lady, travelling all over the world to help with various ministry projects. What makes it even more remarkable is that she had polio at an early age and has used crutches and a wheelchair most of her life.

Of course I brought a bike with me, I have shared some of my rides in Ohio on this blog before. This time I decided to ride down to Kent where I had gotten my college degree. The adjacent town of Stow is where we had lived before we moved to Michigan so I rode through there as well.

The area has continued to add rail trails; most of them intersect and you can find your way to Cleveland or Akron almost without getting on the roads. The trails I was on in the Kent/Stow area were about 100% paved but the recent wet weather kept the speeds in check due to the slippery leaves covering the path, particularly in the corners.

Riding around the Kent State campus I was reminiscing about my time there and enjoying the fall colors when I realized it seemed like a ghost town. As I rode near the student union I passed a couple of coeds and I asked them if it was always so dead on a Saturday. The replied that it was too early for most students to be up, after all, it was only abut 11:00 am. I guess I had forgotten how late we slept in.

The Cuyahoga river runs through downtown Kent.

The Kent State University front campus.

The business school building where I spent a lot of time

The local bike trails

Certainly can't go fast. Heavy rains had caused the river to flood; time to find a different route.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Slow as molassess in January

Well maybe not January but I was certainly slow on yesterday's ride. I had done a hard ride on Wednesday on what was my rigid SS, but I had converted it to a 1x9 to see how the lighter weight would affect my set test route time. Even with tired legs the rigid was a little faster. It may be the bike I use for Iceman, I don't think I need all the weight of the full suspension. If I get to use the Cannondale demo 29'er I've heard that in stock form it is pretty heavy also but the bigger wheels may help make up for it.

Yesterday my legs actually felt pretty good but I did not seem to be able to make the bike go fast without more effort than usual. I was down 2-4 MPH for the same HR. The back roads were kind of soft but I had the same power loss on the drier rail trail as well. I stopped to spin the wheels to see if they were OK and the brakes were dragging a little but not enough to cause the way I was feeling. I figured I must have been more fatigued than I had thought so I ended the ride early.

Once back at the house I checked the tire pressure and found that the tires were in their low 20's. Being tubeless I hadn't really noticed when leaving the house that they were running low but I remember thinking how smooth the ride was. I thought it was because I was on a fully rigid bike the day before and now I was riding a full suspension. I guess I hadn't used that wheelset for a while. Maybe the tire pressure would have been OK for sand or snow but not on the roads. I'm glad to know that the cause of feeling slower on the bike was not all me, I just got in more of a resistance ride than I had intended.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Better weather

It was great to get nicer weather for a weekend ride. I didn't ride Saturday, instead I spent most of the day doing yard work. About half or better of the leaves are down so we got those raked and bagged as well as clearing the mess the utility company made the other day when they worked on restoring power. A lot of limbs were cut and thrown on our property so we had to cut, bundle, and tie them for trash pick up.

Today I waited for it to warm up a little before heading out to do a hard ride, basically the first half of my hill loop at steady pace. This week I did it on the Scalpel, probably the bike I will use for Iceman. I managed to better my fastest time but was tuckered out at the end. I was able to keep up a pretty good speed on the flats and downhills but I think I may have been a little slower when climbing than on the SS. The Scalpel is heavier and the suspension costs a little in efficiency when climbing.

I may try to turn the SS into a 1x9 and compare times next week. The SS is completely rigid but the Iceman race isn't that rough of a race. The which bike to ride decision may be a moot point anyway as there is a chance I may get to race on a demo Cannondale 29'er. In stock form it's kind of heavy but the 29 inch wheels should help in the sand. I hope to build a new bike next year using the 29 frame as a starting point.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Auntie Em , Auntie Em!

Dang, the wind was strong today. At least it wasn't snowing like yesterday. The wind had partially dried most of the dirt roads to the consistency of velcro mud, you can see it's kind of wet and hear your tires sticking to it as you roll over it. Not much splatters up, it just slows you down.

There were several places on the roads where branches had fallen on the road and it made me kind of nervous. I was expecting to be riding along and get hit by falling debris. Later in the ride it started to rain/sleet a little but not too bad. The wind at times would catch me and try to push me over. Heading back into it gave me interval training while just trying to keep moving.

I hope to get in a longer ride Sunday when the weather finally breaks.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Iceman in October

Wow! In the 70's on Sunday and 34 this afternoon! The snow started up this morning and combined with the howling wind, it made for almost white out conditions. At our place it stuck to the ground and I heard that the farther north you went the more there was on the ground.

We were fortunate that we didn't lose power during the day, we had lost it last night around 11:00 when the transformer on our back property line blew. My wife and son saw and heard it but I was asleep and didn't know the power had gone out. I found out about 2:00 am when I woke up to what I thought was really loud snoring but in fact was the chain saws of the utility crew clearing away some limbs around the transformer. The power was restored around 5:00 am, right around when I normally wake up so it worked out fine.

I figured the weather was perfect for preparing for the Iceman race next month so I dug out my cold weather gear and headed out the door after work. The wind and snow made it very difficult to even see and the snow hurt because it was the harder corn snow. I rode over on the park road since the back roads were a mess and super muddy. The park road is paved and has little traffic but I had to be careful in spots because of the wet leaves making the corners slippery. About the time I was close to being done the sun came out and then it was just cold and windy.

It took a while to get acclimated to the cold, my face and fingers were the coldest. I forgot how much faster you tire out when riding in frigid temperatures, the workout seemed harder than normal. The nice part about riding in these conditions is how good it feels when you are back home and can take a shower to warm up. Once you sit down after that you are very relaxed in the heat of the house and it's very easy to just doze offffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Doughnut ride

As this morning's heavy fog started to burn off, the warmth of the sun caused the trees to slowly start to release their leaves. I sat watching them and thought about the yardwork to come raking them up and the winter that was not too far away. We have quite a few large trees in our yard and since there is no leaf pickup it means bagging them up for collection. We will normally have 80-100 bags each year.

My legs were tired from yesterday's ride but the temperatures were supposed to get up in to the 70's later in the day so I wanted to take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy the colors while they were still on the trees. Before I went riding I thought I had better take care of some winterizing around the house. After caulking and prepping window trim for painting I was ready to ride.

I headed into Bald Mountain and the back roads. My ultimate destination was the Paint Creek cider mill located next to the Paint Creek trail. I had ridden past it so many times this fall without stopping that I thought today would be the day for those sugared doughnuts and some cider. No need for hot cider today though.

At the mill I spotted newlyweds Bernie and Niki who had ridden up from Rochester. They were heading to another nearby cider mill because the Paint Creek mill was super crowded. It always is on the weekends, many people come out to enjoy a ride on the trail and get their cider and doughnuts. The mill also used to host a great restaurant but it closed and the owner turned the whole property over to the township. Thankfully the cider mill continues to operate in the fall.

I followed Bernie and Niki up to the other mill where there was still a line but not a long one. They bought a jug of cider and a half dozen doughnuts which we shared while listening to a couple of musicians. Thanks Bernie and Niki. This mill happens to serve unpasteurized cider. Seems funny to mention that when I was eating sugar doughnuts anyway.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another nice one before the rain and colder weather comes in. it is appropriate that this Friday is the 13th and they are saying a chance of snow. What a difference a week makes.

Some pictures from Bald Mountain

Paint Creek Cider Mill

Bernie and Niki

Musicians at Goodison Cider Mill

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It hurt so good

Five riders showed up at my house early this morning to take advantage of another beautiful but chilly fall morning. They were to be introduced to my hill route, or as much as they had time for. For even more suffering we were all riding single speeds. I don't ride mine much over the summer but I have been using it quite a bit in the last two weeks and found that with the proper gearing it is making a great training bike for building strength.

I prefer to run bigger gearing so that I can make up time on the flats and gentler hills, but some of the steeper hills on the route had me struggling to turn the pedals. I have never been a high cadence rider and the 180mm cranks on the SS make it a little tougher to do so.

Some in our group had to leave at different times throughout the ride so by the time we reached the half way point it was just Chris and myself. He left shortly after and I went on to complete the loop by myself. Near the end of the ride there were a few hills that had me contemplating getting off and walking but I managed to get up them. Comparing today to the last time I did the complete loop, I did the second half faster today on the SS than on the geared bike previously. I need to carry over the SS mentality to the geared bike. I ended up with 76 miles on the day and look forward to more of the same while the weather is nice.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fall Riding

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to ride. The cooler weather and changing leaves make the back roads even better. Chris Werth and I headed out to do half of my hill route and got in about 50 miles. We waited until mid morning so the roads would have a chance to dry some after yesterday's all day rain. I'm glad we decided on a road ride, I know the trails were muddy and the woods were full of hunters.

I decided to take along the camera today since we had beautiful blue skies and I wanted to get a few shots along the route. I've written about this route before, it is never far from my house but covers a wide variety of terrain and neighborhoods, from upscale subdivisions with houses well above $750,000 to roads through state land and out past farms and fields. It also uses part of a rail trail that goes past a cider mill where the smell of fresh doughnuts is hard to resist.

At the half way point we headed into Oxford where Chris lives and got a look at the new bridge on the Polly Ann trail being constructed over busy Lapeer Rd. Until the bridge is done users of the trail have to try and cross four lanes of traffic with no help from crosswalks or stoplights.

It was a great ride and I plan on doing more of them as long as the weather allows.

Chris on his Rig

Me, courtesy of Chris

Summer cottage

One of the local horse barns

The new bridge being built in Oxford over Lapeer Rd.