Sunday, November 26, 2006

April in November

These past few days have seemed more like spring than the prelude to winter. The warm and generally sunny weather drew people outside all weekend for a multitude of reasons. Many of my neighbors took the opportunity to finish their yard work or put up Christmas decorations. Fortunately I had my yard done weeks ago and the few outside decorations can wait until closer to Christmas. That meant I had plenty of time to do other things including riding.

I managed to ride all four days of the holiday break, at least two to three hours on each day except Thursday. On Friday the rail trails were wet on top and the mud coated the bike with a grey, cement looking coating. I ended up getting back on the roads through Stony and then the back roads home. At least the dirt roads were in fairly decent shape.

Saturday's ride was over to Addison Oaks to join the trail coordinator, Paul Bailey, on a lap with some out of town guests that he was showing around the trails. Paul puts a ton of work into the trails and every fall he uses a blower to remove the leaves from the trail to allow it to dry faster. It works, the trail was about 95% dry. It was probably in even better shape today.

Today I met up with six others to ride over to the cyclocross race at Bloomer. All of us except one were on SS's but we won't mention any names Mark. The group makes up most of the NOSS members, the North Oakland Single Speeders. Just a bunch of guys from mainly Lake Orion and Oxford that get together to ride and have fun. Of course most of them ride SS's. I do ride a SS on occasion but because I'm the oldest they let me ride anyway. That or they want me for my Hammer connection.

It turned out that one member of our group, Jay Jones, decided to enter the race on his SS MTB. We had fun cheering Jay on and watching him pass geared cyclocross bikes that were better suited for the course than his bike was. Some of our group had never been to a 'cross race before and were impressed with the race. I think some of them be entering one next year to try it out.

Now that this holiday is over it's back to work and probably onto the trainer. Cold and wet is coming our way and that means it's back to the basement and Spinervals or just spinning. When the weather cooperates I'll be back outside but it may be awhile.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey day in Michigan doesn't get much better than this, weather wise. The high today was in the mid fifties with sunny skies. For the first time in many years I was able to make the annual Turkey Roll at Pontiac Lake. I have been cooking the turkey the past several years so I couldn't make the ride. This year though my son worked until 11:00 in the morning so we scheduled a later meal.

With the ride starting at 9:30, the ground was still mostly frozen and just starting to get greasy in some spots exposed to the sun. This year had a record turnout for sure, the nice weather really brought out a crowd. After not riding much the past couple of weeks my legs could really feel the burn, even at the relatively slower pace.

Part of the pain may have been due to my time in the fitness center yesterday. I was testing for my 1 rep max in the leg press. I wanted to see where I am now compared to after I am done with the Compex strength program. Just that little bit of heavy lifting has me walking like a much older man, especially going down stairs.

I don't plan on fighting any of the store traffic over the weekend, besides I prefer to shop online. Speaking of internet sales, I sold some of my bike stuff on eBay this week including a frame and fork so I'm well on my way to funding my next bike, the Cannondale Caffeine 29'er.

With the nice weather forecast for the next couple of days and not having to work I hope to get in some longer rides. Maybe that will allow me to eat a little more turkey and pumpkin pie.

The dogs were as tired as we were after eating a good dinner.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A House Divided

This is getting to be too much. Another big game and another loss. We have a divided camp here, my older son and I rooting for Michigan and my wife and younger son are Ohio State fans. Way back it used to be a fun game but not the past several years. We have been hosting a game party with my parents travelling up from Ohio (he's a U of M grad) and a lot of my son's friends. One of them brings a projector and we have the perfect wall in the living room for showing the game. In spite of the outcome it is still a good time. I thought that the death of Bo might be enough to put Michigan over the top. I don't know what happened to Michigan's defense but Ohio was definitely the better team yesterday.

At least I got to spend some time with my parents, taking them out to dinner on Friday night and then shopping Saturday morning at both some new and old places that I thought they would like to see. One of them was Whole Foods in Rochester. While there we found out that a store will be opening next spring down by my parents. A manager even gave my mom a jar of jelly for free just for stopping by from out of town.

For the past week we have had some new members of the household running around. We picked up two dogs from the pound, one last week and then one early this week. We spaced them out to give our current dog a chance to adapt. We were concerned that she may not like having another dog(s) around since it has been several years since we last had two dogs. The first one we picked up is about 4.5 months old and is a beagle/lab mix. We were lucky that it was already housebroken and got it used to its crate from day one. The older dog didn't really want anything to do with it at first but now enjoys playing with the pup.

The second dog we got is a two year old black lab, or at least mainly lab. He's a big one, weighing 90 pounds. At first I thought he would be a real handful but it was just excess energy from being at the pound. Someone had worked with him as he knows most of the basic commands. Unfortunately we don't know what his name was so he is getting used to the new name we have given him. The pup took to him right away but the older dog has been more reserved. She seems to have some maternal instinct kicking in since she will growl if she thinks the black lab is getting too rough with the puppy.

Meal times are definitely exciting along with the arrival of any of the family members. Lots of happy tag wagging but it makes it hard to get in the door. The black lab has gotten out a few times and we have been fortunate to round him up in the neighbor's yard. Today I plan on looking for an electronic fence to help control the two new dogs. We have never had a problem with the older one other than chasing a few squirrels into the neighbors but she always comes right back when called. I'm sure Christmas will be interesting. We have an artificial tree, I hope it doesn't get "watered" for us.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reflections on the past season

Today I went for my first ride since last Sunday, I had been staying off the bike on purpose for a while now that the racing season is over. A week is not really a long time but when you have been riding almost every day since March it seems like an eternity. Tomorrow the off-season training officially begins; days of weights, Compex and other assorted workouts. Bike time will be limited to fun rides until the on-bike portion of the training begins next year.

I have been planning next season already, well actually I started earlier this year as the 2007 race dates have become published. I want to do more of the 100 mile races as this format seemed to be the most fun. It's a long enough race to make it special but you usually don't do multiple laps like you do in a 12 hour event. Or at least the laps are longer. I'm not sure if I'll do a solo 24 hour again but I would like to try it on a team, I haven't done that before.

The local XC races are getting a little stale although they did put in a new venue this year and have an old one back for next. I just can't seem to get as excited about racing for an hour and a half to two hours when you could be racing somewhere else for 10-12 hours. If the race costs are too expensive though I guess I'll be hitting up the local scene again.

This past year was fairly successful in terms of results, I managed to win my class title in the MMBA Championship Point Series, 3rd in the Fun Promotions Endurance Series, and finished second in both of the National Ultra Endurance MTB races I entered. I even managed to win first overall at the 24 hours of Drummond Island, including having more laps than the teams. I accomplished most of the goals I had set at the beginning of the season. Next year's plans are still up in the air but hopefully I can build on what I learned this year.

One thing that will change it that the coach I have been using the past few years has said that he will no longer be performing that role. It is time for him to concentrate on other things for a while. I'm going to miss his advice, his training plans and guidance were a big reason for may success over the past few years. I found that I pushed harder in training when someone else was looking at my results. I may sing on with another coach or I may just use my own plan, based on what has worked in the past.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Where's the Ice, Man?

The Iceman cameth and wenteth yesterday. In spite of all the weather forecasts predicting multiple inches of snow, the race course conditions were almost perfect. No snow on the ground and the previous days' small snow had melted which helped to firm up the sand. The sand pits were still around, just not as many perhaps. The weather was cold and cloudy with light snow falling later in the race.

Between the Kalkasa to Traverse City Iceman race and the shorter Slush Cup race held near the finish, almost 2500 racers had signed up to compete. Or at least ride, as the end of the year event brings out many for whom this may be the only event they do all year. In my class alone there were 123 finishers.

Once again I had set up the Hammer Nutrition tent at the expo the day before the race and this year my son flew in from Montana to man the booth and offer expert advice on the Hammer products as well as race the next day. The booth was pretty busy all day and it was tiring being on your feet most of the day and talking to people. Not exactly the best way to prepare for a race.

I decided at the last minute to take advantage of the Cannondale rep's offer to test race the new Caffeine 29'er that will be available later this year. The 29'er market is expanding and seemed to have a large following of users to the extent that it almost seems like a cult. The 29'er with larger wheels is supposed to make riding a lot better.

I had never ridden a 29'er before so I thought this would be a great way to test out what everyone had been saying about them. The bike worked great in the sand, able to roll over most sections where others were floundering. I was able to keep traction on the hills that others were walking. It also handled the two small sections of singletrack much better than I anticipated.

The bike in stock form is a little portly for serious racing, probably coming in around 29 pounds in the size large I used. I could feel the weight when accelerating and when climbing. I also had continued issues with the seatpost slipping using the quick release collar until I finally got out an Allen wrench and snugged it down without using the QR lever.

The race turned into more of a challenge than I had anticipated but in spite of my relatively poor performance compared to if I had been riding my own bike, but I still would have finished 10th in the Sport class so I'm glad I made the switch to Expert. I'm also glad to have had a chance to test ride the Cannondale. Thanks go to them for making it happen. Thanks also to all who stopped by the Hammer booth and said hello and/or bought product. It looks like we will be back again next year and sales were good enough that my son should be able to make the trip again.

The headless rider at the entrance to Timber Ridge Campground, at the finish.

With our "Booth Babe" Shari