Friday, June 29, 2007

Back from Germany

I flew back in to Pontiac airport this afternoon after being in Germany for the past four days for a business workshop. The closest I came to a bike was when walking through one of the local towns a team of riders on a club ride came through. I think my body was grateful for the forced break from riding.

I mentioned in an earlier post that we would be staying at a castle, this one was partly converted to a hotel and restaurant in the 1950's to help cover the growing cost to maintain such a place. The place was wonderful, very quiet and out in the country. It was furnished with many antiques and all around were portraits of the ancestors. The staff did whatever they could to make you feel at home. At night we would stay up until midnight or later sitting by the fire and partaking of the beverage of choice.

The conference was an intensive couple of says working with our German colleagues on the internal business consulting organization that we began last year. Unfortunately with the impending split of Daimler and Chrysler, we also had to work on how we would continue independently yet still collaborate. This may have been the last chance most of us would be together.

The flights were booked on our company jet and the flight over to Germany only had 14 of the 48 seats filled. This meant the flight attendants were able to bring the drink cart down the aisle four times in the first hour. And dinner was served quickly so we could try to get some sleep to get our bodies adjusted to the six hour time difference. Arriving at 7:30 in the morning Stuttgart time meant it was only 1:30 in the morning back home.

Later in the day on Tuesday we took a guided tour of the Mercedes museum which opened last year. This is an impressive eight story building with exhibits displayed on a descending spiral walk that takes your through the history of the company's vehicles. Attached to the museum is a Mercedes car dealership where I was able to see most of the vehicle lineup including the new Smart fortwo that will be sold in the United States. It is a very small car and makes a Mini Cooper look huge by comparison. The Smart car will also come as a convertible.

We were fortunate to have a guided tour of the castle by the Baron Max von Rassler, descendant of the original Baron that bought the castle in 1720. The Baron still lives in one wing of the castle.

I managed to get a ride into the village on the floor of the valley to take a look around before hiking back to the castle. I didn't see any path up to the top from the road below so I just climbed the hill up to the top. I can see why it would have been difficult to attack from that side.

I was sorry to leave but maybe I can get back for a vacation. I certainly know quite a few people over there now that would be able to assist if I was able to return.

I got out for a short ride today and it felt good to be back. I felt re-energized to be riding again. I will be doing some rides with the team this weekend as I prepare for the Boyne marathon XC race next weekend.

More photos of the trip can be seen here

The left side of the castle is actually the new side and where the Baron lives

View from my window

One of the hallways leading to guest and meeting rooms

The Baron and a portrait of his father

Saturday, June 23, 2007

From first to second in the blink of an eye

Or in the time it took to read the email. The National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Series has not posted the overall series results yet so I sent a few emails inquiring on the status. I also wanted to find out if they were changing the scoring method. As I had written in earlier posts, they were either using a time based system or switching to a placing system.

If using the time system I would currently be in 1st but by the slimmest of margins. Using finishing positions would drop me down to second. The first reply I got said they thought they were using time. I just received another email that said they are changing it to be based on finish. So I guess I am now in second. In order to win the series I would have to beat the current first place holder twice.

I am getting in my last rides this weekend before leaving for Germany on Monday. It is for business and will probably be the last time that some of us will be together now that Chrysler and Daimler are splitting. Travelling on the corporate jet gets you spoiled when you have to fly commercial.

Instead of staying in the city of Stuttgart we are staying a ways out of town, near the Black Forest in an old castle, the Schloss Weitenburg. I had hoped to spend a few extra days in Germany after our meeting but won't get the chance. I'm glad I will have a week to recover after getting back before the next race. I might need to lose a few pounds when I get back as I expect to hoist a few steins with my German colleagues. At least my arms will get a workout.

I was at the mall today looking for a plug converter for my trip and unfortunately right next to the place I needed to go to was a Carter's children's store. My wife was in there looking at all the clothes that she would like to get for our first grandchild expected in October. I think my bike racing days may be numbered as I can see where our money will be going!

The Schloss Weitenburg

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My 10 seconds of fame

Cyclingnews published a write up of the Lumberjack race and included a nice paragraph about the Master's class including the top three so I got my name in there other than the results. Mentioning much about the Master's class is pretty rare, in fact at some races they don't receive much acknowledgement at all. And we usually seem to be omitted when people publish pictures of the winner's on the podiums. So we will take what ever press we can get.

From the article:

The men's masters class was chock full of fast racers. The top five battled it out for a full 100 miles with only 17 minutes separating first through fifth.. Jim Jordan (CFX Prod) was first at 9:01:05, second was John Majors at 9:14:20 and third was Steve Kinley (Hammer Nutrition, Cannondale) at 9:15:59

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lumberjack Results

The official results have been posted for the Lumberjack 100.

This year I finished almost half an hour faster than last year but dropped from 32nd to 56th overall among men. But this year there were 129 finishers where last year there were only 59. And we had more starting this year as well, 177 vs 135.

It was interesting to compare my lap times to others in my class. After 1 lap I was behind 1st by 4 minutes and up on 2nd by 6. After the second lap I was down by 5 and up by 9. Then things started going south as the third lap showed me down by 9 and only up by 6. In the end I was behind 1st place by 15 minutes and behind 2nd by 1 minutes and 40 seconds. Fourth place was only a minute behind me and 5th another minute and a half after that.

I did learn a few things about myself and my abilities. I was hanging with some of the faster racers early on but didn't have the endurance needed to keep up the pace. I have a few areas to work on for future races and also know some of my opponents weaknesses. Hopefully I can put all this to good use yet this year.

Depending on how they are doing the results for the series I may have moved into 1st by a slim margin since the current 1st place holder never actually raced even though he signed up. if not first, I definitely have a lock on second in the series.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lumberjack Report

Well, I broke my streak of four consecutive 2nd place finishes but not on a good way. The short story is that I ended up 3rd. The long story is that I was in second for about 96 out of the 100 miles but faded on the last two laps allowing the competition to close the gap and catch me.

It was no body's fault but my own, I simply went out too hard on the first lap and built up about a 10 minute lead. I wanted to try something different this race, instead of trying to close a gap I want to create one. I felt pretty good going into the race so I got ahead on the first climb of the day and extended my lead.

I was surprised though when I came around at the end of the first lap and my crew told me someone was ahead of me by three minutes. I figured it was the first place guy in the national series. My second lap still felt pretty good but I could sense the power fading.

On the third and fourth laps I felt like I was starting to go backwards and got that awful feeling that people were starting to catch me. I still had a pretty good lead over second starting the final lap but I was having problems on the climbs. My heart rate was way down from previous laps.

Sure enough, with about 4 miles and some of the biggest climbs to go I saw 3rd and 4th place catching me. They soon passed me and I struggled to pass the 4th place guy and catch up to the 3rd place, or now 2nd place guy. He is the person who has traditionally beat me in these races and I didn't want to let him get away.

I managed to stay on his wheel and eventually passed him back, thinking I had opened back a small gap but he was right behind me. I was faster in the tight sections and downhills but he managed to pass me back on the last major climb of the day, probably the worst hill of the trail. I couldn't catch back up and ended up rolling under the finish banner 1:30 back. My finishing time was bout nine hours and 15 minutes. I was so disappointed in my result after all that effort, I know my pit crew was really pulling for me.

Speaking of pit crew, I had to have had the best crew out there, Shari had everything organized and ready and I felt like I was in a race car pit stop. Tracy was there to help as well as they got me into a fresh Camelbak, changed my bottles and Hammer products and got me back out in probably less than 3 minutes each time, maybe faster unless I asked for something. I owe them a great big thank you and am sorry I couldn't have hung in there for 2nd place.

The overall series has to be extremely close, depending on how they are doing the series calculation. The current leader was not the winner at Lumberjack but finished below 5th so I don't know what the actual standing look like now. I may have moved into 1st but it is an unknown.

The next race is in August near State College, PA. Unfortunately the person who always beats me has raced there quite a bit and won several times so he has that advantage. I will have to come up with a different strategy next time.

A big congratulation to Robin for completing his first 100, and on his SS. This was a tough course with no rest like the other 100's since this one was 100% singletrack. You were always pedaling and a lot of it was bumpy.

For the record Chris Eatough won the race for the second year in a row setting a new course record of six hours and 49 minutes. Our local racer Mike Simonson was 12 minutes back. The course was run in the reverse direction from last year and it seemed faster. Most riders reported faster times this year. It helped that the temperatures were about ten degrees cooler as well.

The 29'er was fantastic on this course with all the sand and loamy soil. I was blasting by people on the downhills and right with them in the twisty stuff. I am glad that I added a suspension seatpost due the bumps on the course.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ready to go

The van is loaded and I'm heading over to pick up Robin and Shari for our trek up north to the next stop in the National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Series. This time the race is in the Manistee National Forest on a 25 mile course that will take four laps to complete the 100 mile distance.

The course may not have as much elevation gain as the other races in the series but then there is no rest either since you almost always pedalling. Last year's race had an extremely high attrition race as 162 racers started and only 62 finished. The temperature was really hot last year but it is only supposed to be in the 80's this year.

Both of the other two guys that are close in the standings will be there so I will have to have the A game going to keep in the hunt for a top three placing. But with Shari in the pit handling things at least that part should be a breeze. We were supposed to share a pit with the legendary Tinker Juarez but he had to cancel at the last minute. Maybe next year.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weekly update 6/10/07

At the Stony trail head

Seems like I only get around to posting about once a week now. Not a lot going on during the week that is different and worth reading. Just a lot of riding or working on bikes or even a day or two of real work every once in a while.

This weekend was more of the same but with some longer rides but not too much intensity. I'm trying to still recover but get ready for the Lumberjack 100 next weekend. Last year I over did it the weekend before the race and paid the price of not being at my best. I feel a lot better now and still did some hard efforts.

After riding early on Saturday, I met some of the team later in the day at a graduation party for another team member's graduation from high school. I seems hard to remember that far back, it was 32 years ago.

Today Robin and Shari came over so we could do a back road ride and also take in a partial lap at Stony Creek before heading over to Bloomer to watch part of the XC race going on in case any of our team members were there. Where yesterdays' ride was chilly enough to have me in knee and arm warmers, today's ride started a little later in the day and the weather was perfect.

Early on in the ride we came up a hill by the state recreation area and there was a female turkey herding her brood of chicks across the road. There must have been about 15 little ones all scrambling to get up the embankment into the woods. They couldn't have been much more than a week old, if that.

We met team members Joel and his son TJ at the entrance to Stony Creek Metropark and we all rode part of the trail there before heading over to Bloomer. At Stony Shari's bike started squealing pretty good and we discovered her rear brake pads were almost worn down and the vibration was causing the noise. Robins swapped the pads front and rear and all was quiet again.
At Bloomer we got there in time to see our team mate Jeff come through on his first lap in his Sport race. We left and headed back to catch the Paint Creek Trail up to my house. While riding through Rochester we caught a few heats of the Soap Box Derby. I ran across this last year too.

All in all it was a great day for a ride and we will probably plan more of them to come.
Fixing Shari's brakes
The winner of this heat by .004 seconds was the white car on the right

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mohican 100 - A Bridesmaid Again

John Majors, winner of the master's class and me, 2nd place
(Photo from Jeff Kerkove)

Our travelling crew (Shari, Shirlee, Robin and myself) left early Friday afternoon for the four hour drive to the Mohican 100 race near Loudonville, Ohio. Last year Jason was home and the two of us did the race. That race was very muddy at the start due to week long rain prior to the race and we hoped this year would be drier.

The weather forecast was calling for occasional showers and we ran into some rain on the way down. Arriving at the race venue we could tell it had rained at some point during the day. After registering and checking into our dorm room we headed out for a short ride. The heat and humidity was enough of a reason to take it slow plus we had the race the next day. After riding some of the great paved back roads around the Mohican Forest area we rode the last mile of the trail to the finish, a new route that wound it's way though the forest to the finish. It was still wet and muddy in some spots under the trees causing me to make a tire change that night to accommodate wet conditions.

We had dinner at a nice restaurant in town, it seemed slightly out of character with the rest of the local establishments. Back at our rooms we were glad to find that the staff had provided a fan for our room. The race start and finish was at Camp Nuhop, a typical camp that had dorm rooms, cabins and big area for camping. Everything was right there in one spot. It was the perfect setting to host a race.

Race morning we did a mass start that was supposed to be a neutral roll-out for the first few miles until we reached a designated spot on the road. About 200 riders took off and out the reverse of the finish route. Riding the route yesterday we had taken note of a particular ditch that could cause problems if you were not aware. Sure enough, as I was going through it my front wheel turned sideways and flipped me over the bars. I got up and my left thumb was hurting to the point where I could hardly hold onto the bar and shifting was difficult. Great, only a mile in to the race and I was in trouble.

The first part of the race had a lot more singletrack than last year, probably about 30 miles of the first 35 miles of the course. Fortunately the trail was pretty dry but it was a lot of work in the high humidity and increasing temperatures. I managed to crash three more times in the first three hours. One was at a pretty good speed when the front wheel slipped off into the edge of the bench cut trail and I slid out. Sort of reminded me of when I was road racing. I was glad when we finally turned onto some back roads.

I could see that my pace was still ahead of last year's but I didn't feel particularly strong, especially when climbing. I'm not sure what is going on with my legs this year but hopefully they will recover in time for the Lumberjack 100 in two weeks.

The next seven hours was spent on a mixture of back roads, farm trails and secret singletrack that is not open to bikers at any other time of the year. There were also a few hike a bike sections where everyone was off there bike pushing, because it was either too steep, muddy or technical to ride. One section had us going along an old two tack trail only to come to a stream with a washed out concrete bridge abutment on the other side with no other trail across. So we had to cross the stream, throw the bikes up on to the top of the bank and then hoist ourselves up. I felt sorry for the shorter riders.

Later in the race with about 7 miles to go we had to go down a trail that ran along the river. The trail was full of big rocks, roots and drop offs that would have been almost impossible to ride at any time, let alone after racing for 93 miles. Then, after navigating that section you had another 3/4 mile section that was super muddy, the only way was to ride right through it.

Just when you though you were safe the trail exited you out to the bottom of the dam where you had to climb (walk) up the back side. Of course at the top you got back on the road with an uphill climb to take you back to the last mile trail section to the finish. At least I didn't crash in the ditch this time.

I ended up in second in my class, just like last year. And the same guy who beat me last year and won the national series beat me again. But this time instead of beating me by 42 minutes I think it was under 5. That makes four of the national 100 milers I've done and four second place finishes.

Robin raced again on his single speed but opted to do the 100k loop instead of the 100 mile after determining that he may not make the 100 mile cutoff time. I used every one of my 27 gears, I don't know if I could have done it single speed. And Shirlee finished as usual, with the regular grin on her face as she crossed the line. Several other riders from Michigan made the trip down to race, including Danielle who finished 2nd in the women's field and Mike Simonson who finished 4th overall.

I have to thank our support person, Shari Scurr for being there at the aid stations to look after our need and cheer us on. At some point almost everyone racing thinks about quitting a race, for one reason or another. Shari provided just the motivation we needed to keep going.

Approaching the bottom of the dam
Time to start walking

Getting closer

Almost there

Coming up the last paved climb

At the finish

Danielle and I, looking a little muddy and me with some of it in my eyes

My left thumb, about twice the size of my right

If I could stay on the trail these things wouldn't happen