Friday, August 31, 2007

Air time

Looks like the team and I have gotten some air time recently. Those who read my blog may remember that back in April, Robin and I did an interview for a TV program down in Tennessee the day before the Dirt, Sweat and Gears 12 hour race. Then the next day I did a lap wearing their video camera. That program finally made it on air and I have requested a copy. I would really like to see all the footage that was shot but I don't think that will happen. A link to the show information. And you can order your very own copy too!

At Saturday's race Joel shot a short video of me going through a couple of corners. Granted it was uphill but it sure doesn't look like I'm going very fast.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A tale of two races

This past week has felt like we were living back in Georgia again. Rain, high temps and humidity made for some uncomfortable riding conditions but it did seem to revive the grass a little. But that means it needs to get cut again.

It rained some just about every day since last Sunday and we had a big storm Friday night with Tornadoes about 30 miles away. I figured Saturday's race at Maybury would be a struggle, both from the mud and that the course does not allow too many chances to rest.

On the way out to the race and a 9:00 am start I ran into more rain, not a good sign. Once at the course it wasn't raining but the race would be delayed slightly while crews were out clearing trees off the trail. When we finally started I was pleased to find out that the trail wasn't really muddy for the most part but it was still slick, especially in the corners. The course was a lot slower due to the wet surface.

I started out right behind the eventual winner of my class and felt comfortable for the first half of the lap. I stayed right on his rear wheel but he started to pull away as my legs started to protest. This was not good, the legs in trouble after half of a lap and 3.5 more to go. The third place racer caught up to me and followed me around until close to the end of the first lap when he went by and I did not respond. I ended up making the rest of the race a long trail ride and eventually finished 3rd, with a comfortable gap over those behind me. I felt sorry for the Sport and Beginner riders that were racing later in the day as the skies opened up shortly after I finished and made the course a lot muddier than we had it.

Today was the Pontiac Lake XC and since it was close by I figured i would race it as well. I was going to try it in the single speed class but I couldn't set my derailleurs to prevent accidental shifting. Remembering my problems at Stony a few weeks ago running single speed I decided to race geared in my age class. Not having a license meant I would have to race in the Sport category. But with the legs feeling spent from Saturday's race I didn't think there would be a threat of me walking away with a win.

The weather was perfect and the trail as well. We started with the 15-18 year group which must have had about three times the number of our 50+ class. At least it was easy to tell who was in which class. But it made the start a little crowded as we sprinted for the first singletrack section.

One rider in my class broke away but I did not feel like chasing, at least not if I wanted to finish the race. I got stuck behind another rider in my group and a few of the younger ones until I was able to force my way past on some of the hills. It seemed like I was quickly running into back markers from the groups that started in front of us so I spent a good bit of time trying to pass. Most of the racers were good about letting me by but others took a little maneuvering on my part to get around. Racing in the Expert class this year I don't have many opportunities to pass and forgot how bad it can be.

I ended up in second, with about the same gap to first as I had over third. I don't feel too bad about the result since I raced yesterday but I can definitely tell I lack the XC fitness level I had last year. Maybe all the longer races have worn me out a little too.

I don't think I will race again until Addison Oaks at the end of September but there is another race at Stony before that and I may give it a try. I have been searching for a coach for next year and think I have found one that will take me to the next level for local and national results. Stay tuned for updates on that development.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Happy Birthday to my Wife

Today is Sandy's birthday. To celebrate I am making her dinner. On Friday we picked up her birthday present, a new 2007 Dodge Nitro 4x4. It really just happened that our lease on the Jeep Liberty was up next month and we were trying to decide what to do. Get another vehicle from the outside or wait and lease another one through the company.

Last Wednesday was a big celebration at all the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers because Chrysler was now a separate company. I visited a few of the dealers to partake in the celebration and get a free dinner, as well as look at some candidates for our next vehicle. I talked to sales reps and took some literature back for Sandy to look at. Since Thursday is her day off I encouraged her to go to the dealers and take a look, particularly at the Nitro since there were good deals to be had on them.

Sandy didn't seem to be too interested in the Nitro from the brochures. Thursday morning I picked up a phone message from her that said simply "I put down a deposit, Happy Birthday to me." I had to call and find out which vehicle she was talking about and was surprised that it was the Dodge. She said once inside it she liked all the room and the ride. The bright orange will make it easy to find in a parking lot. I like the retro and truck like look as well as the interior. It's really a base model with a few options but it has plenty of room for the dogs. And it has a MP3 player jack which my son really likes.

Saturday morning I got out for an early ride, it was cool enough that I rode with a jacket. it's been a while since I have had to do that but the weather was beautiful and I felt like I had decent legs so the ride was fun, just hitting up some of the local trails around the house. Friday evening I got out after picking up the car. Between the interval workout and the wind it was a tough ride.
Today it's been raining all morning so I don't know if I will get out or not. I have the dinner to make and then I think some friends are coming over for dessert. This week's weather doesn't look too promising either. The next race is this Saturday so I will try to get in some efforts to keep the legs ready.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

Whew! It's been hot lately but I seem to have adjusted to it when riding. Although I haven't done a lot of it this week I did get out a couple of times including a preride today of the next course up in the MMBA series. But earlier today was literally a time for the dogs.

Our town of Lake Orion has a dog parade every year and we decided to take one of ours and participate. They had tents set up in the park from various vendors and organizations. Many of the dogs wore costumes and they were going to award prizes for various categories including best costume, cutest dog, etc. You could also vote for this year's "Dog Mayor" and several owners carried signs and distributed leaflets urging you to vote for their dog.

Before the parade started there was a blessing of the dogs and then we all headed out to walk through the main streets of town, led by an old fire engine and with police escorts.

We walked a short route through the downtown area and back to the park. I imagine we were a sight for traffic that had to wait for about 150 dogs and their owners to cross before they could proceed through town.

Our big black lab did well. He was a little excited at first but then settled down and just walked with the rest of the group. He didn't get too distracted by all the other dogs and seemed to enjoy the walk. Back at the park they had a samll plastic wading pool filled with water for the dogs to drink out of. A number of dogs decided they would rather wade in it than drink from it.
Getting our dog calmed down and ready to go
The cars had to wait for us to cross
One of the dog "Judges" and an owner with doggy propaganda on his back
Mickey Mouse?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cannondale Factory Tour

Last Friday on our way to the Wilderness 101 race Robin, Shari and I stopped by the Cannondale factory in Bedford, PA for a tour. It had been arranged through our local Cannondale rep, Jason E, a great guy who has really supported out team over the years.

Because production only worked a half day on Friday's we had to get there early to anything going on. We had driven to Bedford the night before so the plant was just down the road. At least it was once we got good directions.

We started our tour in the receiving area where we saw lots of raw aluminum stock, ready to be cut into the proper size. Some pieces of frames come in already cut for use. We went through the various machining areas and saw one operation where the machined crank spiders out of solid pieces of aluminum. We also saw them laser cutting some of the tubing.

In addition to other operations we saw the welding booths where all the frames are hand welded. The welds are so good that very little sanding is needed to finish them off. We saw the frames moving into the paint area and watched decals being applied. The final assembly area was like a huge bike shop with many people working on getting the bikes ready to go before shipping.

Our tour guide, Steve, took us back into the testing labs and we saw various frames and components undergoing tests. Not only Cannondale parts but other brands as well. While we were in there a handlebar being tested snapped at just about the predicted number of flex cycles. We also saw a sneak peek of a new FS model being tested but I'm not sure what it was.

One of the stranger ways of testing a fork was for testers to ride the bikes into a wall at 12 mph. Somehow they have figured out that this is the proper speed where a rider can still catch prevent himself from slamming his head into the wall as the fork buckles. The have spotters to assist the rider. I wonder who was the one(s) who decided that above 12 mph was too fast?

We felt like kids in a candy store with all the bike parts and finished bikes around. The employees we met were all very friendly and seemed to be proud of what they do. Working in the automotive industry and used to seeing assembly lines and robotic welders, I was amazed that almost every step of fabrication and assembly was done by hand. They are truly hand built in the USA. Lots of pictures of our tour are on the team website.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wilderness 101

The Wilderness 101 was probably the hardest of the four races I've done this year in the national hundred mile series. The climbs were very long and some steep and most of the singletrack was very rocky, and not the kind of weathered rocks like we have in Michigan. Very sharp, jagged, and big.

I will post a follow-up report in a day or two but the short story is I finished 2nd for the third time this year, almost assuring me a 2nd place overall in the national series. The same guy beat me again by a much greater margin this time. Granted this was his home course but I just can't seem to sustain any energy when it comes to 4 or 5 mile climbs with 1,300 feet of elevation gain. I need to figure out a better training strategy for that kind of terrain.

I will say that I didn't have much of a problem with the rocks, I was even passing quite a few people in them. I think the larger 29 inch wheels played a big part in that. The bike really flies when it comes to downhills, particularly on the gravel roads. I was amazed at how many people I would pass, only to see them again when they crawled past me on the uphills.

We visited the Cannondale factory in Bedford, PA the day before the race. Pictures to follow. Coming from the automotive industry I was surprised to see the lack of any automation in the building process. When they say hand made they really mean it.