Sunday, September 30, 2007

Never Give Up

I thought about it all week and decided to head out to Pando for the last race in the MMBA series. As I wrote last week, I figured my slim lead on third place for the year would disappear if the 4th place racer, Calvin Stewart, showed up as his points would eclipse mine with the addition of his 5th race. The series counted your top five races. It was still mathematically possible for me to hold on though if I were to place ahead of him. Not likely since Calvin is definitely faster than me and I got lucky last week when he had chain problems.

My team mate Bernie Wendel also had a shot at third place in his age group but needed to complete his 5th race. The two of us decided to take the drive out to Pando and see what we could do. Although the turnout for the Expert class was low, just before the start of my race I saw my main competition show up. That meant I would have to do everything I could to hang on to his wheel.

At the start three of us opened an early gap and I stayed right on Calvin's wheel. He would pull away slightly on the uphills but I would catch back up in the singletrack and the faster, flatter sections. Half way around I sprinted around him in a flat section leading to some singletrack and stayed in front for the remainder of the first lap. Once we got back to the climb up the ski hill I let him come around, knowing I couldn't hold the pace.

At that point I lost sight of him and settled back to maintain my third place, knowing there was $$ waiting for the top three. Part way through the third lap I was surprised to see Calvin on the side of the trail working to get his chain free. I passed him but we still had 3.5 laps to go. I didn't know how long he would be working on the bike so I kept checking over my shoulder for him to be coming up on me, thinking he would appear at any moment.

On my final lap someone was able to give me an approximate time split between us and I figured I was safe so I cut back a bit to avoid any mistakes that would cost me second place. I ended up coming in about 1.5 minutes ahead of Calvin and I think securing my third place in the series. Plus I won back my entry fee and most of my gas money by taking second at the race.

Bernie ended up taking fourth for the day and beating the person he needed to to finish with a third in the series. He also had a crash that caused the handlebars to take a bite out of his cheek but fortunately he didn't appear too badly hurt other than that . I think he also learned a valuable lesson about what not to do the night before a race.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Busy couple of days

It seems like the past few days have kept me pretty busy. Jason arrived home from Montana on Thursday, actually it was Friday since his 11:45 pm flight did not arrive until after 2:00 am due to flight delays. Fortunately Sandy picked him up but I didn't get to bed until late because Jason kept calling with flight updates. And then I woke up when they arrived home about 3:30 and then had to get up for work about 5:00.
Later in the day Jason and I did two laps at Addison Oaks since he planned on racing there on Sunday and had not seen the new trail changes. Sandy and I went out to dinner and visit the new Papa Joe's after Jason and his brother Greg left for the wedding that Jason flew home for.

I think Papa Joe's replaces Whole Foods as my new favorite place for food samples. It seemed like the end of every aisle had samples, even up by the checkout registers. Plus the store had two wine bars that allow you to use a store debit card to order wines by the glass. Several people were walking around the store shopping while drinking.

On Saturday all of us went down to Eastern Market in the morning and then had lunch where they were cooking the outdoor barbecue. They had an item on the menu called the Oh My God Hamburger, one pound of meat. I couldn't believe how big it was until I saw it on the grill. The food was really good plus they had an outdoor karaoke going but the performers were really good, not some drunk patrons who thought they could sing.
Later in the afternoon Jason, Greg and I went up to Boulder Pointe in Oxford to play golf. Jason and I hadn't played all year so I wasn't sure what would happen. The course was really nice but one of the best features was the carts. They all have electronic screens that give you a picture of the hole layout and the green plus distances to all the obstacles. As you would drive the distance to the pin was automatically calculated and displayed, it also told you how far ahead the other carts might be. In addition to letting you order from the clubhouse a few holes in advance of making the turn, the carts would provide updates of the Michigan and Michigan State scores. I actually played fairly well and ended up shooting an 84. Not practicing at all hurt me, especially in the short game.

Today was the Addison Oaks XC race, the trail where I probably ride the majority of the time. Unfortunately I could tell on Friday evening I was coming down with something as my eyes were getting itchy and my nose running. By yesterday the cold had set in and I was worried about the race. Today I didn't feel a lot better but didn't want to waste the opportunity to race a local course.

My Expert class started a little after 9:30 and I stayed near the back but made my way forward until I was running in 4th or 5th. The guys in front of me suddenly made a wrong turn which put me in first. I stayed there through the first lap before fading and the original group caught and passed me. Between the pace and my cold it was a struggle to finish all four laps but I managed to hang onto 5th out of 11.
About an hour later I got on my bike again with converted rear wheel and crank to race the SS class. This would be three more laps plus I got to line up with Jason who was also racing single speed, his only race of the day. At the start everyone took off and I could tell right away I was struggling. I did manage to catch a few riders but knew it was only a matter of time before my legs seized up, I was getting the tell-tale signs. I made the decision to stop after the first lap so when I ran across Jason on the side of the trail I stopped to see what was wrong.

It turns out he had flatted while running right with the leader of the class. Jason had been feeling pretty good and thought he would be able to win or at least take a close second. In the half lap he had completed before flatting, Jason and the other guy already had a couple of minute lead on the rest of the field. Obviously Jason was very disappointed with the outcome but that's racing.

Tomorrow it's back to work for me as Jason drives to Ohio to visit his grandparents. He flies out early Tuesday morning.

Next week is the Pando XC race, the last race in the MMBA series but I doubt I will go. I will probably end up in 4th place for the series and can't really improve on it at the race. So racing is almost over for me this year, I don't plan on doing any cross races but there may be one more XC race or two before Iceman in November.
Jason with the vendor who happened to have a chair that Jason kept playing on.
The one pound hamburger!
Jason getting ready to hit his second shot on a par 3.
Where my ball landed on my first shot on the same hole.
Our last few holes were an adventure as the sprinklers came on.
We had a good time!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekly update

Seems like not a lot is happening this time of year but when I sit down to update the blog there are a lot of things happening or did happen. Not much in the way of racing news though but the Addison Oaks XC is next weekend. This is the closest race to my house all year, many of those I ride with consider it our home course.

And speaking of Addison, Chris Werth and I were asked to step in and help as trail coordinators out at Addison. The current trail coordinator, or TC, has done one heck of a job with trail improvements but has increasingly been running into some issues with the park management. There have been a few misunderstandings of what kind of trail work has been authorized vs. completed and we have been in danger of losing the ability to ride the trails. Chris and I will be acting as intermediaries to help smooth relations and keep the trails open. We had a very productive meeting with the park last week and look forward to more open communications.

While my schedule for next year is not firm yet I plan on doing more of the national events or races that require travel. I also plan on hiring a coach to bring my caliber of racing up a notch, something I recognize I need help with. Of course all of this costs money so I had decided to find a part time job for the off season specifically to pay for racing. The day after I made this decision a job posting came up at a local bike shop.

I have been to most of the bike shops in the area and there are very few that I would consider working at for one reason or another. Having owned my own motorcycle shop I have a feel for what make an enjoyable atmosphere to shop and work in. The shop that posted the ad, Cycletherapy in Waterford, is one of the rare shops that meets my qualifications. I have started working a few nights a week after I get off Chrysler and on Saturdays or Sundays depending on my schedule. I am working the sales floor helping with sales of bikes and parts. Ernie Dell, the owner, is very good about being flexible with my hours. Even though he knows that I will be training more come spring he agreed to have me work at his place. Maybe I see a little of myself in him and his shop. It takes me back to my my store ownership days.

In other news Jason is coming back this Thursday for a friend's wedding. He won't be flying out until Tuesday so we plan on doing some family things this weekend. He also wants to race at Addison on Sunday and I may be racing against him in the SS class after I race the Expert category. I am not sure if I will be able to get my bike into SS mode and definitely will not be competitive but it would be fun to line up against him.

On other interesting bit of information is that I saw another rattlesnake last week. This one was on the road over by Bald Mountain North. That is the second one I have seen this summer after not seeing any in the first ten years we lived here. This one was quite a bit bigger than the first one but not moving as fast. in fact it didn't seem to want to move out of the road so I got a stick and moved it into the field. Maybe I have watched too many Jeff Corwin or Steve Irwin shows.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On Any Sunday

Actually on a particular Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Those who are in to motorcycles may remember that On Any Sunday is the name of a classic motorcycle movie made in 1971 by Bruce Brown who also made the classic surfing movie, The Endless Summer.

The reason I reference the movie in the title is that I spent this past weekend taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course in preparation of getting my motorcycle endorsement to my license. I had ridden motorcycles for a long time but not in the past 12 years or so. The course was fun but you were glad when each two hour section was over to have a chance to relax.

The last thing we did today was take the Michigan Motorcycle Operator Safety Training riding test. I passed which means I won't have to take that test at the Secretary of State's office. Thanks to Biscuit for letting me borrow a helmet for the course. Mine is kind of old and even though I really like it, it's past its useful life.

Like a lot of kids I got my start with minibikes and graduated to dirt bikes and then off road racing. Later, in the mid-eighties I owned a motorcycle accessory shop for about four years. During that time I got into road racing, the knee dragger type. I raced 500's and also various bikes that at the time were considered vintage. Now they are probably antiques :-) At one time there were 10 motorcycles in my stable.

All I have now is one that hasn't been started in 12 years. I plan on tearing it apart to replace all the seals and gaskets to make it rideable again. It is one that you don't see much of any more, a two stroke twin. It is a great mosquito fogger when starting, as all the exhaust comes billowing out the expansion chambers. I'm not too sure how well the neighbors would appreciate it if I ride it to work at 6:00 am. It sort of sounds like two dirt bikes at once.

A new bike is not in the immediate future, the pedalling kind of bike takes up all of the budget. But someday if I do get a new one, a Goldwing is a definite possibility. My wife and I used to travel on my bigger bikes and she loved riding on the back. She would get so comfortable she would even doze off. I think she wants a Goldwing more than I do.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day report

We took advantage of the great weather this weekend to take in some of the local attractions that we have been wanting to see but never got around to. On Saturday we went to the Eastern Market where we loaded up on fresh produce. We plan on going back there more often but learned that we need something to carry around our purchases. The fold up carts that everyone had seemed like the ticket but everything would be sitting on top of each other. I am going to look into something else to use. We also bought some sausage at the meat market that we grilled later in the evening. Some of it was a lot spicier than we thought but I liked it.

Sunday I went to church with Sandy and then we headed down to the Toledo Zoo. The older part of the zoo was especially nice with tree shaded walks and lots of flower gardens. All of the exhibits seemed nice and clean and the older buildings are updated. I'm not sure what our favorite animals were, maybe the polar bears with the twin cubs or the hippos since in both displays they were out swimming and would come right up to the glass enclosure. It has been a while since we went to a zoo. Sandy and the boys went to one in Omaha and I was at one in Mexico City. While we haven't been to the Detroit zoo yet I would recommend the Toledo zoo.
After the zoo we headed over to Tony Packo's at the park, across the street from the Toledo Mudhens baseball field. We had tickets for a double header in the evening. There was a huge line snaked around the building and we thought everyone was waiting to get in. It turns out that that the restaurant was hosting a radio station contest winner's lunch with a pro wrestler, Matt Hardy, that happened to be in town for a match. We were able to walk right in and get a table.

When I bought tickets to the game a few weeks ago the only thing they had left were general admission seats in the outfield. Actually they weren't seats, but an area with picnic tables set up above the outfield wall. They were good seats for watching the game but in the direct sunlight for the entire first game. The sun had set behind the stadium by the time the second game started under the lights. The home team came from behind in both games to win. We didn't stay for all of the second game as Toledo was playing a lot of the second string and rookie players, judging from the batting averages 0f .091 and .000.

The ballpark is only about 5 years old and since it only seats about 11,000 there is not a bad seat in the stadium. Plenty of concession stands and easy parking and access to the freeway makes it a nice venue to see a game. Ticket prices are reasonable too.

Today I went out for an early morning ride for a few hours and ended up stopping by to see some of the crit races taking place in Auburn Hills. I don't know if that is something I would take up. I enjoy myself a lot more on the trails than I do on the roads.

Tomorrow I should be starting a new after work activity that will probably keep me tied up a few nights a week and some weekend days. More on that in a later post.
Sandy feeds a lion some Hammer Product
A hippo keeps an eye on us
Smile for the camera
An escapee from Meerkat Manor?
Yes, this is the zoo
Some of the flower gardens
Brett Hardy from WWE
Views of Toeldo from the ball park
Not the San Diego Chicken but the Toledo Mudhen's mascot