Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last posting

For 2009.

The furnace company came by today for our annual maintenance and gave the unit a clean bill of health. In fact, he thought the furnace would probably outlive us. The unit is the original one that installed when the house was built and is about 35 years old or so but it's built like a tank. About the size of one too.

Over the years we have lived here most of the components on the furnace have been replaced under the appliance protection plan we have through the utility company. The plan has definitely paid for itself. The repair man was lamenting the quality and short life expectancy of newer furnaces and cost of parts. He said to not bother replacing the furnace even though newer ones may be slightly more efficient. It would be cheaper in the long run to keep what we've got. Not what you would expect to hear from a company that makes its living selling and installing heating equipment.

Later today I rode some of the local trails. We had some snow overnight and warmer temperatures helped to pack the snow under the tires, providing some traction. We could have used a couple of more inches to allow the snowmobiles to get out on the trails and pack them down.

We also need the snow for any local XC skiing that would allow the use of good skis. There is a little bit of snow predicted over the next few days so maybe we will have enough before heading back to work on Monday.

Sandy and I are planning a quiet evening at home to ring in the new year and were joking that we may not be able to stay awake that long. We are not party people so late nights are an anomaly. I had proposed that we go xc skiing at night but I don't think there is enough snow.

Whether we are awake to see the arrival of the new year or not, best wishes for a Happy New Year to everyone.

The last photos for 2009:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mid week update

My leg felt a little better so Sandy and I did get out on a local loop yesterday afternoon to try some XC skiing. The snow was thin in spots to where the skis would occasionally drag across something. I should have used my old set of skis so I wouldn't have worried about any damage to the bottoms. As it was there were a few new scratches but nothing major.

This morning Sandy didn't want to make the 2.5 hour drive to ski up north as there were things she wanted to do around the house. My leg had improved to the point that I decided to go out for a ride.

I suited up and headed first to the school and rode most of the winter race course and then part of Bald Mountain before heading over to Stony Creek Metropark to ride the trails there. I was being very careful anytime I encountered ice since I didn't want to fall again, especially not on the same knee.

Stony didn't seem to have as much snow as by our house and there had been quite a bit of foot traffic to beat down the snow. It was a lot easier to ride most of the trails there than Bald Mountain or the school. But Stony did have quite a bit of ice on the trails. Most of it was easy to see because other bikers had scraped away the snow on top as they had slid and sometimes fallen, as evidenced by the tracks.

I managed to stay upright and rode almost all of the trails without having to stop with the exception of three different uphills that were solid ice. I wasn't going that fast anyway and treated the ride as more of skill and balance training.

On the way home I jumped on the Paint Creek Trail, one of the area rail trails that is popular with runners, walkers, and bikers all year long. Fortunately the footprints were not very deep and I could make pretty good time on the generally level path.

As I got closer to home the trail was less traveled and beat down so the foot prints were more wide spread and harder to ride. I moved off to the side to what looked like a smoother section but no sooner did I do that than the front wheel slid into a rut hidden under the snow and the bike dumped me onto the ground. I landed right on the knee I had fallen on this past Sunday. I lay there for a while until the pain subsided before getting back on the bike. Fortunately there was no one around to witness the fall or hear what came out of my mouth.

I made it home without any further incidences but I think I may invest into some downhill body armor for riding in the snow. Jason clued me into an herbal remedy for bumps and bruises called Arnica Montana that I purchased yesterday and it seemed to help with my knee. Maybe I should be buying it by the gallon.

And now more pictures from last week:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday pics

I could barely straighten my leg yesterday so no riding. It's a little better today and Sandy and I may try some XC skiing locally. If that works then later in the week we may head north where there is more snow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday photos

I woke up this morning and could barely bend my left knee. It is pretty swollen from hitting the ice yesterday while riding. Today will be an easy day on the trainer if at all. The snow is coming down hard enough that the trails will be difficult and the roads treacherous due to traffic. But it looks like we will be able to XC ski or snowshoe tomorrow!

And now some more pictures from last week.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Today's photos

Some photos from the past week.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What a Merry Christmas!

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity, starting with a trip down to Ohio to see my parents and brothers, along with their families. Sandy, Greg and I started out early in the morning by dropping off the van at the Detroit Airport before 7:00 am in preparation for Jason and his family's arrival later in the afternoon. Then we went to an early church service close by the airport before driving down to Ohio.

We met everyone for lunch and the went to check into the hotel before heading over to my parents. It was great to see the family together as it has been a few years. While there we were all waiting for Jason to arrive as everyone but my mom knew they were coming.

Jason drove straight down after their flight arrived in Detroit around 4:30. We had my mom talking to Jason on the phone when he walked through the front door. What a scene, it reminded me of something out of a TV commercial you see around the holidays. For Jason's wife and kids it was their first time meeting most of the family other than my mom and dad. In spite of them starting the day at 2:00 am the kids and parents were still in good spirits.

We got back together in the morning before we headed back home, leaving Jason and crew to spend some more time with their little seen relatives and then they headed back to our place. We were looking forward to spending a few days and Christmas together before they would leave to visit Emily's relatives in Indiana.

Our house instantly became much more active, noisier, and festive once they got in. Having little ones around at Christmas just adds to the excitement of the holiday. but I think since the kids were so young that the grown ups may have been more excited than the children.

We weren't able to get to do everything we wanted during their short stay but we did get in a visit to Santa as well as a trip out to a former co-workers place to let the kids get on a horse back ride. We also were fortunate to spend an evening with our good friends the Scurr's. My new camera definitely got a workout over the past week.

We went down to the midnight mass on Christmas eve which means that the service was over at around 1:00 am and then we visited at the church and then took a slight detour on the way home through Rochester to see the Christmas lights. We did not make it back to the house until 3:30 in the morning.

Sandy and Jason stayed up even later and didn't get to bed until around 7:00. Fortunately the kids slept in and we didn't get up until 10:30 or so. I think that is the latest I have ever started opening presents. I have a feeling as the kids get older it may be harder to sleep late.

We took our time unwrapping gifts and were surprised to hear a knock on our door. One of Jason's friends stopped by with his family to visit. Nate had been one of the ushers at Jason's wedding and we hadn't seen his new family for a while.

After they left we resumed where we had left off but I don't think we finished unwrapping until 2:30 or so. it's not that everyone was loaded down with gifts but I think we were moving at a reduced pace due to the lack of sleep. The kids were well behaved and had to be reminded from time to time that there were more presents to open; they were busy playing with those already unwrapped.

Sandy cooked a fabulous leg of lamb and we were plenty hungry, most of us had not eaten much during the day but had instead munched on baked goodies and washed it down with lots of coffee. Sandy's home made ice cream roll topped off the meal. In spite of being tired we stayed up late, knowing that they would be leaving the next morning.

This morning Sandy mad gingerbread pancakes and sausage to provide a going away meal for the travelers as well as those staying behind. All too soon it was time for them to pack up and leave for Indiana. Fortunately Jason will be back next week before flying home and Emily will be up with the kids in a couple of weeks. Even though we would be seeing them again soon it is always tough to say goodbye.

The house really seemed quite once they left. But tonight Sandy and Greg were laughing hard as they played video games and watched episodes of Frasier. Life goes on.

While Jason was here I didn't really get in any training but got out for a while today. The rain had washed away a lot of the snow but it also left behind a lot of ice. Thank goodness for studded tires. There is some snow falling now so maybe it will cover the bare spots to make everything look fresh again. With another week of vacation yet to go I plan on riding as much as possible and hopefully get to XC ski as well except we may need to head north.

I tool so many picture and videos this past week that I could post a new one every day for over a year. But instead, I will probably post a few every day for a while, to showcase the week that just was.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On my ride today

We had about an inch or two of snow overnight and I wanted to get in a decent ride early. I managed to get out the door at 8:00 am and headed first to ride some of the school trail before heading into Bald Mountain and beyond. The snow didn't really slow me down too much but since I was on the singlespeed I couldn't just shift to an easier gear either.

The back roads had not been heavily traveled yet and there was ice under the snow. I was glad I had decided to put on the studded tires a few days ago. Every so often I could feel a wheel slip and then catch. I ended up with about 2.5 hours on the bike and maintained a pretty good tempo the whole way. This off season I am going to try and get in the higher tempo efforts during the week and do longer, endurance paced rides on the weekend when possible.

I took a few roads that I hadn't ridden on much with the bike, normally I am in the car. I spotted a few big houses and then came across the one at the bottom of the page. Just a simple summer home I presume.

Later I was riding up the Paint Creek Trail when I spotted two young deer ahead of me. They stood watching me as I approached until I finally stopped fairly close to them. We eyeballed each other for a while until they slowly proceeded across the trail and up an embankment. A little farther up the trail someone had made a snowman.

I am almost through with work for the year, hopefully I will get plenty of opportunities to ride and XC ski. I may also get enough exercise shoveling the driveway since I went to start the snow blower today and it wouldn't start. I had taken it in for a tune-up back in August but didn't try to start it when I picked it up. Of course now that I need it it wouldn't start. I guess I have to take it back to the shop. Hopefully they slot my blower ahead of others since it's rework.

Just s simple country home

One of the two deer I watched as they crossed the trail

A snowman built on the side of the trail.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The farmer in the dell

Not really a dell but a hilltop. Jason and Emily worked with the church this past summer to start a vegetable co-op on a piece of property right outside their front door. Next summer they will be managing the co-op and taking care of the majority of the gardening.

Vegetables were just the starting point, they are now branching out in to chicken eggs. And you know where those come from, right? Chickens. They took delivery of 30 very young chicks last week and for now they are raising them in their basement bathtub. At least until the chicken enclosure that is being built in the shed next to them is done.

A lot of people think it is crazy but the kids are getting a great education and something that most adults, let alone children, never get to experience. They hope to branch out into additional livestock as the co-op grows. Managing the co-op also has a monetary benefit as they are getting a % of the gross.

The church ans school is trying to become more self sufficient as a way to not only eat more wholesome and organic foods but also as a way to save money. Interestingly the original seminary built on the site once provide a majority of the food to Gonzaga University which sits down in the valley a couple of miles away. A history of the property can be found here.

We wish them the best of luck and envy them a bit. I know we had thought of moving to the country and trying to become more self reliant ourselves. We had even bought some books on the subject but never pursued it any farther than that. Maybe Jason needs a hire hand?

The chicks were sent out via the mail.

Olive had practiced caring for a toy chick prior to the arrival of the real thing.

Isabel was also captivated by them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First tracks

Although the racing may be over for the year that doesn’t mean the riding stops. We finally have gotten some snow here in SE Michigan and while not quite enough for XC skiing, it’s also not enough to keep me off the trails. I got out early Saturday morning for a couple of hours to take in some trails and back roads. I certainly didn’t set any land speed records while navigating through the snow but it sure beats riding the roads or trainer.

Only two more months until the winter race that I help coordinate. And less than two weeks to the shortest day of the year!

We finally put up the Christmas decorations and lights. The tree is still in the garage and will get put up next weekend. We tend to put it up late and leave it up for quite a while.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back on line

We have been having intermittent internet problems for the last week or so. The connection would be lost and then come back. Greg tried a few things and got us going for a few more days but then it went out for good.

We called Comcast and they were able to get out this afternoon. We suspected the modem again as we have had several replaced over the years. But after hooking up the new modem the tech was still having problems. He determined it was the line leading from the pole to the house.

He called in another guy to help and the two of them installed a new cable. I felt sorry for them out in the -6 wind chill. They said the line probably had moisture in it because they could hear it cracking as they rolled up the old cable. They also found a previous repair that they felt had not been properly made. Now, with the new cable web browsing seems faster than before. Hopefully that is the last of the problems for a while.

Since my last post not a lot has happened. I managed to get in some good rides on the trails now that the ground has froze. We finished a new section of trail at the school that combined with some other sections we don't normally use, adds about a mile to the overall length.

I started working on the next section and was able to get it roughed in as the snow began to fall on Tuesday. I got the small stuff cleared and now all we will have to do come spring is to cut the fallen logs out of the way and rake it. We have another piece of school property that we will be studying over the winter to see how to best use it.

The winter race is only two months away and it's time to get back into training for next spring. I haven't ridden much the last few weeks so the body should be rested. Now that my ribs appear to have healed it is also time to get back into the gym. Just in time for the holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I got up early to get the stuffing done for today's meal so that I could go attend the annual Thanksgiving day Turkey Roll at Pontiac Lake Recreation Area. Even though they have been holding this ride for quite a few years I haven't been able to participate often due to kitchen responsibilities.

I counted 64 riders in the picture at the top of the page. I am in a blue jacket, the second rider to the left of the second sign from the left, next to the guy in the red jacket (you need to click on the picture to expand it). The trails were in pretty good shape, a little slick in spots due to wet leaves and some mud. I rode on my singlespeed and quickly warmed up once we got going. The ride is a great way to burn off some calories in preparation for the heavy eating to follow.

Since taking over turkey duties I am usually home when the ride starts preparing to put the bird in the oven so we could eat early in the day. But with Greg working in the morning the last few years it has meant that we eat later in the day, allowing me time to get back and still cook the turkey.

This year I tried a different brine recipe and I don't think I liked it as much as the normal brine I have used. But at least this one didn't call for me rotating the bird every so often. I also decided to try my hand at stuffing, something that normally comes out of the box since I'm the only one that normally eats it. The stuffing was excellent and I will definitely save this recipe. It used cornbread, sausage, and apples and the combination really worked well together. I'm not too sure how it will work with turkey goulash though.

I'm not sure what I'm doing for the rest of the weekend. Probably haul up the Christmas dishes, maybe put up some outside decorations if we figure out what we want to do, and ride if the weather is decent. I also plan on working on the trail up at the school that we started yesterday. It will add a fair amount of singletrack to the trail as well as create new options for the races. After this trail is done we have a few other sections to put in but those may wait until spring.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This is really getting old

Six years in a row Ohio beats Michigan. We normally have a party to watch the game and our house is split in loyalty between the two teams. And I have been on the losing side for a long time. My parents normally come up but didn't make the trip this year. It's just as well as my younger son had the regular flu so the party was canceled anyway. At least my Dad knows that his being here or not did not make any difference in the outcome. He was beginning to think he was a jinx.

So today I' rooting for an Ohio team (Browns) to beat a Michigan team (Lions) and with no time remaining the Lions win. I couldn't get that pick correct either. But living in the Detroit area I can't be too upset at them winning.

Not much else happening in racing. I didn't plan on doing the Bloomer cyclocross race today, instead riding for a couple of hours each day to enjoy the milder weather. I might go to the state championship race in two weeks.

Hard to believe the Thanksgiving is here already and Christmas isn't far behind. I'm trying a new recipe for the turkey this year along with one for stuffing. I've been cooking the turkey for the last few years since trying something we found in the Sunday paper. Hopefully this turns out just as good if not better.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This is November?

Hard to believe that we had another couple of great days of nice weather. I wonder if November's average high temperature is higher than October's was? I didn't get a chance to ride Friday because I got home late from work but made sure I was out early on Saturday. Nothing hard since I was planning on racing the Stony cyclocross the next day. I also wanted to enjoy the last day of riding on state land before the deer gun season started.

The ride had a magical feel to it as I rode along and leaves crunched under the tires. The early morning light was filtering through the trees and a light fog. I wished I had a camera with me to capture the feel of the ride. Later while riding in Bald Mountain I came across a couple riding the trails and gave them a tour of the LOHS trails. I enjoy showing people the school trails; most have no idea that the trails are even there.

The nice thing about this time of year now that the leaves are down is that you can see deeper into the woods and sometimes new trail opportunities open up. I had already planned on a few additional sections for next year but discovered another potential expansion yesterday. It wouldn't be very long but more trail is always good. I went up to the school later in the day with the leaf blower and marked a rough outline of where the trail would go. I will need the help of the school to cut out some fallen trees but other than that it would be a quick build. I may work on it again tomorrow since we have the day off from work.

I headed over to Stony Creek Metropark this morning to do another cyclocross race. The weather was definitely not as nice as Saturday and it started to rain lightly as I was loading up the bikes. Fortunately it didn't rain hard or for very long, just a light mist that seemed to follow me over to the park. The gray skies and wind coming off the lake the course ran against made it feel colder than it was.

I had again planned on racing my converted MTB SS in the B race although team member Bernie was planning on racing his first 'cross race in the C class so I thought about racing with him instead. I didn't see him in time to get warmed up for the earlier C race so opted to race the B class.

The course ran along the beach in spots and the sand was mostly ridable but there were a few short sections that forced you to run or dig deep and power your way through. And then shortly after the sand you hit a muddy stretch that was almost as bad as the sand, it really sapped your strength. After doing a partial warm-up ride I elected to go to an easier gear but didn't really have the right chain combo so I just made the tensioner as tight as I could and hoped for the best. I finished the swap as they were calling for us to line up for the start.

I took my usual spot near the back and tried to keep up the best I could once the race started. I was in front of about a third of the group when we hit the grass but immediately the chain started to pop as it slipped on the cog or ring. It didn't do it consistently but you never knew when it would happen. I tried to be careful while applying power. Sometimes it slipped more when soft pedaling, I think it may have been because there wasn't as much tension on the chain.

I was pretty much near the back of the field but I managed to catch one other rider as he faded back to me. In the end I came in 20th and beat about four or five others. Sometimes I'm not sure why I do these races, especially knowing how much it hurts and with very little chance of even finishing in the top half of the field. Before Iceman they were great to add a little intensity to the training. Now I'm just racing and pushing myself for the exercise. Plus it will make the off season a little shorter. Two more cyclocross races are left, I may do them and maybe even throw gears back on the bike.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beat the Clock

There probably aren't too many who read my blog that remember the game show, Beat the Clock, or at least the first shows. I don't remember the ones from the 50's but do remember watching the later editions. Riding after work is sort of like playing my own version. Or at least it is if you want to get in a decent ride and still get home before dark.

Today I rode for an hour and a half, getting back about 5:15. Much later and it would be dicey for cars to be able to see me. I need to start putting the lights on just in case I'm caught out after dark. Certainly over the next few weeks it will be a requirement for almost any ride.

If we look on the bright side (pun intended) it is only 40 more days until we start going back to more daylight. In the meantime, let your light shine on.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Can it get much better?

60+ degrees in November and sunny skies! The Iceman this weekend probably set two records; most racers ever and warmest weather. It was strange to be waiting at the start line and not be shivering.

I left work early on Friday and headed north so that I would have time to ride the last portion of the course, both as a warm up for the next day and to see what changes have been made to the finish. Each year they seem to change the way the course winds around the last half mile before the finish line. This year you made a right hand bend with a few trees in the way as you went around a spectator area and then it was a short downhill to the finish. Knowing what is coming can mean the difference of a position or two in the final placing.

After preriding I made my way over to the Grand Traverse resort to pick up my registration material and check out the expo. A lot of bike related exhibitors have displays and you can usually run into quite a few people that you know. This year was no exception.

I stopped by the Cannondale display to not only say hi to Jason, the rep, but also to check out the Flash 29er that he had out. The new carbon framed bike is not available yet and I have a frame on order. Jason let me take it out to the parking lot to ride around a bit. I could tell right away that it handled a bit quicker than my current bike. It will be interesting to see how the bike really handles once I can get mine built.

I had brought only my singlespeed bike this year and I had intended to ride it in my age class. I had figured I wouldn't be as competitive this year so instead I would try to have some fun and see how well I could do while riding a bike with only one gear. But since all my usual riding buddies had signed up in the SS class I decided to switch my registration to the SS class and join them.

After the expo I headed over to the house the team had rented for the weekend. This is the third year we have rented a 5 bedroom house overlooking the golf course at the Grand Traverse resort. We used to get 2 or three bedroom condos and it was always a little cramped when we had our team dinner the night before the race. The house is plenty big enough to get everyone in comfortably. Shari always has things well organized and prepared for everyone.

Race day morning was warmer than it has ever been that I have done the race. We were more worried about being over dressed than freezing. Everything was going like clockwork as we loaded up the van and headed over to Kalkasa for the start. We easily found a parking spot despite our fears of 4,000 bikers clogging the town.

The race started in town for the first time, taking us down one of the side streets and then over toward our regular starting area before dumping us onto the dirt. The town seemed to be more involved with the race than in years past and the new start made the race feel even bigger. The extra mile and half or so of pavement allowed the field to string out some but it also resulted in some crashes as riders touched wheels or bumped into each other.

Our wave of singlespeeders over the age of 39 also started with the tandems. There were probably somewhere close to 100 bikes taking off at one time and we made it through all the potential trouble spots on the pavement without any problems. But when you only have one gear you are spinning your legs like crazy on the flats and not moving anywhere near as fast as the geared bikes. If you could you tried to draft the tandems since they were moving at a higher speed and offered some nice wind resistance.

It took me a few miles after the start to settle in to a good rhythm, initially i thought I wouldn't make it 5 miles. I knew the top guys had already opened up a good lead but that was to be expected. The class include former pros that have decided to race in the singlespeed class. Unlike the geared classes , singlepeed does not have classification by ability. Everyone races together. My goal was to just finish the best I could, try for a top 20 placing , and hopefully beat my friends' times.

The course was super fast this year and we were moving pretty well. We quickly began to catch the slower riders from the waves that started ahead of us. Fortunately most of the trail is wide enough that you can get around without a problem but you have to watch out for the ever present sand. A couple of us seemed to stick together for most of the race, occasionally trading positions.

I was able to climb all the early hills, winding my way around the slower geared riders and continued to feel pretty good as well. I knew from my previous races where the biggest hills were and I had pre-ridden them the day before. Actually pre-walked them would be more accurate. There are times when certain hills are either impossible to climb given you gearing or just more efficient to get off and walk or run. I knew in the last 6 miles where those hills would be.

Each time we got to the hills I would get off and make my way up the hill, pushing my bike. I was fortunate to not have anyone pass me while doing so and actually passed a few others on the climbs. The last climb was near the finish and it led directly into the narrowing twisty chicanes prior to the last corner. I hustled to get around any remaining SS guys in front of me so that it would be harder for them to pass me back.

I tried to pass as many of the geared riders I could in the remaining distance as we wound our way around the finish venue. I wasn't sure who was behind me but didn't want to take any chances. Just as I was starting my way around the last right hand bend I caught a glimpse of someone starting to come up on my right side. There wasn't quite enough room for him to squeeze by as I sprinted to the finish. I have no idea who the rider was but later when looking at the results I saw that I had beat someone by one second.

While I didn't have my fastest time I ended up with a time of 2:02:19 which was good for 18th in a field of 81 finishers. It also meant that I had beaten my friends that had raced in the same class with me. I determined later that at least no one older than me had bested me; there were only four riders older than me in this wave and three the same age, everyone that beat me was under 50. So I guess I could look at it as winning the SS 50+ class if there was one :-) The interesting thing is that I would finished in the exact same position if I had raced in the other SS class, under age 40. That class also had 81 finishers. Strange.

When I analyzed the overall results I would have finished top 20 in my age group as well but I think I would have been faster on the geared bikes due to all the fast sections. Possible I could have had a top 10 placing but it's all speculation now. Anyway, I'm happy with my results accomplished all of the goals I set for the race.

I drove home after the race rather than stay a second night since my wife hadn't come with me. Getting home in the early evening allowed me to sleep in my own bed plus take advantage of the beautiful weather for the second day in a row. I went out and put another couple of hours on the bike, just not as fast as the previous day.

The season is really winding down now, a couple of cyclocross races left and the nothing until our winter race at LOHS on Superbowl weekend. But hopefully we get lot so snow this year so we can go XC skiing. If not, the studded tires are jsut waiting for some action.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What is, was, and will be

This week is marked with many events, not the least of which was the celebration of our 31st wedding anniversary. We went to a local restaurant that we had not been to and neither of us were impressed with the food. It is part of a chain of local restaurants that has a good reputation and even though this location has been in our area for several years, we had never tried it. And I doubt we will be back. But at least we got out and celebrated.

I opted to skip the cyclocross races in Ann Arbor to allow more healing time before the Iceman this weekend. I did ride both days and spent half of Sunday cleaning up the yard. I'm not sure how much healing I actually did.

Yesterday was the big day here at work as we had several hundred journalists and VIP's in to attend the presentation of the 5 year plan for Chrysler. Employees get the overview today but it was pretty well documented by the media yesterday. Most of us were scanning the Internet for news updates from attendees since we did not have live access to the event.

The plan is ambitious and in the long run should help the company. Short term we don't see much for the next 9 months and hopefully our company will survive on the limited sales we have. They say our spending is way down so we are more likely to survive slow sales.

This weekend is the big Iceman race from Kalkaska to Traverse City. The event is supposed to have over 4000 racers, the most ever. Fortunately the starts are by different groupings every 5 minutes so it's not like we are all starting at once. I don't usually get too serious about the event and with the injury a month ago I'm just going to have a good time. It would be even better if I can ever get my wife to go with me. Instead I have to be content with my team mates and the huge crowd of racers expected. This blog has a very good description of the event and why it is so popular.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I found an answer

A web page that seems to answer some of the questions I posed yesterday about when leaves decide to fall.

Why Do Some Trees Lose Their Leaves Faster Than Others?

By Paula Swenson
eHow Contributing Writer

Trees that lose their leaves in the winter are called deciduous trees. They lose their leaves to conserve moisture and reduce the amount of energy they must consume in order to stay alive. The leaves of some deciduous trees turn bright colors before they drop to the ground, while others simply fade or turn brown. Environmental factors and the genome of the tree affect how quickly the leaves fall.

Time Frame
1. As the days get shorter, starting around the autumnal equinox, there is less light, heat and water for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis utilizes chlorophyll as it provides energy for the tree. With less hours of sunlight, the chlorophyll content of the leaves decreases and the green color no longer hides the yellows, oranges and reds that are also in the leaves, so we see bright autumn colors before the leaves fall. Trees with a northern exposure often will change color and lose their leaves earlier than the same types of trees that are nearby but getting more hours of sunlight.

Trees respond to the duration of daylight, and will start to lose leaves when the days are shorter even if temperatures have not yet fallen. Different species respond to slightly different lengths of days. A tree living under a street light will have its cycle disturbed by the light.

Chemical Signals
2. Leaves fall because of chemical changes that occur within the tree sap. First the veins transporting sap into and out of the leaves slowly close down. Deciduous trees produce chemicals, mainly ethylene and abscisic acid, that basically cut the link between the leaf and the tree's nutrient system. As the veins close down, a layer of cells, the abscission layer, forms at the base of the leaf stem, and when it is complete, the leaf falls from the tree.

Stress Factors
3. Environmental factors also have an impact on when trees lose their leaves. Trees in cities experience a variety of man-made stressors such as air pollution, salt damage (from both home water softeners and use of salt to melt snow and ice), industrial pollution (heavy metals introduced into the soil) and herbicides used to kill weeds and unwanted plants near the roots of the tree. All of these factors can influence when an individual tree will lose its leaves. For example, a tree planted closer to a busy street may lose its leaves earlier than a tree of the same type in a park few blocks away.

4. All deciduous trees shed their leaves. Some species like maple, beech and aspen are noted for their spectacularly bright fall color. Others, like the oak and chestnut are less colorful. Different species form the abscission layer at different rates, causing the leaves to fall at different times. The oak is unusual because it does not completely form an abscission layer, so oak leaves often remain attached to the tree throughout the winter.

Environmental Factors
5. Common environmental factors also affect when leaves fall. The amount of water the trees get, early or late frost, high winds and unseasonable temperatures (both warm and cold) can change the pattern of leaf loss in deciduous trees. Trees that are watered regularly and stand in sheltered areas often hold on to their leaves longer than others of the same species that are in a more exposed setting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Raining leaves

Sitting at home today for the second day in a row of being sick, I watched the birch tree outside our kitchen window shed almost all of it's leaves in one day. At times they came down in such large quantities you would think someone was up top grabbing handfuls at a time and throwing them. It was if I was watching something out of a movie where the props person was dumping them from above the set.

I wonder what makes a tree decide that today is the day to give up their leaves? And why other trees seem to linger forever, often well past the first snows before grudgingly letting go? Are the oaks more stubborn than birches? Are our maples weaker still since their leaves have been gone for a week or more? I guess I want to be like the oaks, not giving in until the inevitable.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One day

We missed the good weather by one day. Our second LOHS Fall Harvest Run and MTB races were held on Saturday. It started raining on Thursday and continued into Friday night, off and on. Saturday morning was a light mist at times but certainly nowhere near what we experienced back at the August race. Sunday the sun came out,it warmed up and the trails were a lot drier.

We ended up having the largest turnout for our races so far, both in the run and bike portions. The trails were slick and the grass sections were soft but not impassable. I think a lot of riders were not used to riding in wetter conditions, judging by the lap times. I used my singlespeed and cam in third in my class and third overall. The SS was the perfect bike for the day, assuming you had the correct tires and gearing.

Not content to just race on Saturday, Sandy and I stopped by the cyclocross race that was on the way home from church. I entered the B class again but only managed to complete four laps before pulling out. My body was shot from the previous day's efforts; from spending hours clearing and marking the course on Friday to actually racing on Saturday. Hosting the races puts more stress on me than I think I realize. Plus I am not giving my ribs a chance to really heal, as they painfully reminded me on Sunday. I had taken a muscle relaxer on Saturday and it seemed to help.

I'm not sure if the weekend's activities left me in a weaker state or it was something else but I woke up sick this morning and spent most of the day in bed. I doubt I would have ridden today but at least I would have spend some time outside to enjoy the nice weather.

I can't figure out what we need to do to attract more racers. The events have been publicized and we generally get good feedback on the races from those who participate. By fall many racers are through with MTB racing although the Iceman in two weeks has 4000 riders registered. I thought we might be able to draw out some who wanted a last hard effort two weeks before Iceman. Maybe our trails are too hard, or maybe it's just the weather. It is kind of disappointing to put in all the work and continue to get low turnout. But the school is happy since we were able to raise money for the Food Bank and GAP program.

Next weekend is a the cyclocross double header in Ann Arbor. Races are on both Saturday and Sunday and I have to decide which day, if any I'm going to race. And then the Iceman is less than two weeks away, Long range forecast is calling for cold weather and some snow. Hopefully my new frame arrives but I'm ready either way. Now the question is what tires to use?

10 24 09 LOHS Results

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Riding, racing and eating

And not necessarily in that order. Saturday we hosted the Cannondale Midwest team ride and BBQ. The weather was kind of chilly at the start of the ride but we warmed up quickly as we headed out on the Lake Orion school trails and then hooked up the Bald Mountain north and south units before heading back. We were honored to have Jason Edinger, our Cannondale sales rep, make the trip up from Toledo to join us for the day.

After the ride everyone came back to the house and we were joined by those team members and family that didn't ride. Everyone brought a dish or food to share while I cooked up plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs, and marinated chicken breasts on the grill. On Friday Greg and I put up all the patio furniture, thinking it would be too cold for people to hang around outside. So where were most people? Outside of course.

It was nice to have a lot of the team get together in a social setting. For most of the year we only see each other at the races and even then for a short time. A lot of us will be together again in three weeks at the Iceman since we rent a big house for the team to stay in.

This morning I raced at the Lower Huron cyclocross race but used my singlespeed in the B race, which lasts 45 minutes. I found that two weeks ago I had fun racing in the geared bike class since I could usually find someone to race against. Unlike two weeks ago, this time it was a faster group where instead of competing for a podium spot I knew I would probably finish near the back and even stood a chance of getting lapped.

I lined up at the very back of the group, not wanting to get in the way during the long opening straight on the pavement where everyone would probably accelerate away from me before hitting the grass. Once we started I was surprised to find myself passing some riders as I was getting towed along in the draft. And once we got onto the grass and the turns began, I was passing a few more.

I slowly worked my way up for the first two laps before the ribs were causing enough pain that I had to back off some. I almost pulled out but decided to finish so I could get in the much needed intensity training. I could hear the announcer talking about the leaders and I knew they were getting closer. If they passed me before I finished my next to last lap I wouldn't have to do another lap. I managed to get through the finish line in time to go out for one more lap. Lucky me. But I did catch and pass one more rider during that lap so I guess it was worth it.

All told I finished ahead of eight riders in my race, even lapping one. I think my ribs cost me a few more places but at least I finished. More importantly I got in a good workout and had fun. Sometimes going into a race without any conception about winning is the best way to race. It is not about how you finish, but that you do and have fun. Too often the pressure to do well spoils the day, especially if you don't do as well as expected.

Today, and probably for the rest of the cross races, it is all about just going out and racing hard but having fun. I think I need to treat Iceman the same way, since I didn't do as many xc races this year or train as hard it is unrealistic to expect top results. The best race I had there was a few years ago when I raced the SS in may age group just to see how I would do. The whole race I had a blast and actually did better than expected. Something I need to keep in mind three weeks from now.

Next weekend is the LOHS race, hopefully we get a good turnout to benefit the Food Bank. I've seen a lot of riders up at the school so that is a positive sign.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frost on the Pumpkins

The temperatures really dropped in a hurry this weekend. It seemed like we were enjoying temps in the 70's or so and then boom, the mercury fell 30 degrees. Frost once again has started to appear. No scraping the windshields yet but I am afraid it won't be too long before I will be.

A bunch of us hit the back roads yesterday to do my hill route. It is a good training course for the Iceman in four weeks since there are lots of hills, a couple of them big, and some fast sections in between. The only thing missing was the sand. But due to the heavy rain the day before we did have some mud to make up for it.

Joining me were my team mates Bernie and Shawn, Cycletherapy team members Mark and Derek, and Mark's girlfriend Jen. Bernie, Mark and I were on our singlespeeds, the others had gears. I had driven the course earlier in the morning and marked the top of four hills with orange ribbon so we could have our own little king of the mountain competition. We all knew Mark would probably take first on each one but the other places were up for grabs.

The sun played hide and seek all day and the wind would sometimes make the ride seem very cold. We didn't set any land speed records on the ride, I was struggling with my ribs and they felt worse as the ride went on. We made a stop part way through at one of the cider mills before pushing on.

By the time we got back to our starting area most of us were both cold and tired. It took me a long time to warm up after getting home. But we all had a good time and thought it was a good training ride. It was also fun to ride with someone for a change. Oh, and the KOM competition? It turned out that the singlespeed guys beat the geared riders on every one, and always in the same order; Mark, Bernie and myself.

This morning I started early to head out for a ride by myself up into horse country. The temperature when I started was just above freezing. But I was dressed for it so I wasn't cold nor overdressed. The sky was beautiful blue and the sun made the leaves show up even more. While we haven't hit peak colors yet the maple trees looked especially fine.

I didn't have a lot of power, but my ribs weren't as sore as yesterday. I think the pain pills I took last night were still doing their thing. But the slower speed allowed me to enjoy the sights that much more.

My route today took me past some great old farm houses and big horse farms. But it also took me past one of the stranger things you will find out here. One of the places also has camels and their barn is close to the road. I've never had a camera with me when riding past them but today I did. I only saw one camel, they did have two. I hope the other one is still OK.

Next week we have our team ride and BBQ at our place and then on Sunday I may do another cyclocross race. In two weeks Lake Orion High School is hosting the second annual fall harvest MTB and running races to benefit the local food bank. Hopefully we get a good turnout.

No guesses as to where you are riding.

One of the farms

This "horse" looked a little different

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Saturday night lights

Although the weather is changing there are still a lot of races around to choose from. The local cyclocross promoter held a race under the lights this past Saturday and I wanted to give it a try. My ribs were still sore and I hadn't ridden much during the week but I needed to see how they would hold up in a race so I can make a final determination about doing the Iceman race.

Although we had rain most of the day, it was not raining at the race site and the course was dry. At the last minute I decided to race two classes, the C class and the singlespeed class later in the evening. I didn't have much time to warm up or even get a complete preride of the course before it was time to start. I as near the back of the 40+ group so that I wouldn't get in the way.

Once our wave started I found myself moving up very quickly before the first climb and worked my way into the top 10 or so. I was able to pass a lot of riders in the corners due to my being on a MTB combined with a lot of rider's inexperience with racing or technical abilities. The C class is sort of a beginner class but the racing is still just as hard, just not as long.

On the straights I was at a disadvantage to the geared riders so I would try to tuck in behind them to draft, plus try to stay out of the strong winds. On the secon lap I was behind a rider that had started in an earlier wave when another rider caught us. As he started to go by he told us not to worry since he wasn't in our class. Since there were only two classes racing he to be with one of us. I asked him what class and it turned out he was in mine.

We both passed the other rider and I decided to just stay with this guy that caught us. He was moving at about the same pace I was. HE was a little faster in the straights but I had the edge in the corners, uphills and barriers. I couldn't see anyone else from our group ahead of us so I just stayed on his tail.

I guess he didn't like it after a lap or so because I never went on the front. He started to do a weave to shake me and then did a brake check, a quick slowing to try and discourage me from following so close. I told I couldn't go any faster in the straights since I only had one gear. I mean,c'mon, he had at least 18 to choose from. I also told ho to be cool since I wasn't going to try and beat him at the line, I just wanted to stay with someone.

We did two more laps together where I would pull up next to him on the hills and then drop back on the flats. On the last hill and finish straight I just stayed behind him and didn't contest the finish, ending up one second back. Turns out he took the last podium spot which was good. After all he did do all the work. Besides, I would have felt funny being up on the podium in the lower class than I normally race.

After sitting around for an hour while the next race was held before mine, I went back out to warm up again. It didn't take long to see that my body was not up to another hard effort. The legs were OK but the ribs were stiff. I decided that one race was enough that evening. But it was probably the most fun I've had racing for a while. I think I may race in the next class up next time against the geared riders. I will be near the back but should have at least one or two riders to compete against.

Sunday I managed to miss most of the rain and went out for about three hours. I kept it on the rail trails to avoid the muddy roads and also to keep the bumps to a minimum. My legs felt good, the cross race the night before wasn't really that long to cause a lot of fatigue.

Now I need to try and determine if I will be able to race in the Iceman competitively. The past two days I have done shorter rides and while the legs are fine, I have a harder time while sitting over rough ground. The race is just over four weeks away so there may be time for healing but I also need to keep training to stay sharp. I plan on using this weekend as a final test before deciding whether or not to sell my entry. I only have about a week to do so. I would hate to find out too late that I won't be racing and have to eat the entry fee.

Friday, October 02, 2009

And Baby Makes Three

Three, as in three grandchildren. Jason and Emily gave us the good news earlier this week. Their third child is due in early June. While some may be concerned about having three kids in such a short period of time, we have seen what great parents they are and how much each of their kids are loved. We are confident that another little one will be just as special as the first two. Besides, two more and we have a basketball team.

By no stretch of the imagination are they wealthy in the traditional sense of the word. But they have found other riches that are even more important, something I think a lot of us envy and would like to emulate, if only we could let go of our attraction to possessions and what seems like a never ending pursuit for more "things". I know I am guilty as charged.

They have been fortunate to have a community around them that not only has taken them in, but they in turn have been able to give back to through their teaching and social efforts. Next year they hope to take over the small community farming area they started this year. Maybe they are just following their agrarian ancestors and raising a family big enough to help in the fields.

Jason has taken up bow hunting after getting a bow earlier this year. The property on the Mount is rich with wildlife including turkeys, pheasants, deer and elk. Jason just missed a deer in the last days of the first deer season, he got his hunter safety course late in the season. But yesterday he called to tell us he did manage to bring down a turkey. He was as excited as a little kid on Christmas. He dressed it out and they plan on enjoying a wild turkey dinner tomorrow.

Now Sandy is thinking how good a wild turkey would taste. I am not a hunter but maybe that will change. I have seen a lot of turkeys around here, some are even birds.