Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not even Last of the Mohicans

In order to even be last you have to finish. Unfortunately I didn't, nor did my racing partner Jay Jones. Even though we didn't finish we still had a good time.

Jay and I drove to Loudonville with my regular traveling companions Shari and Robin Scurr. Shari is the consummate pit crew, having done it now for the past several years while Robin and I raced. This time Robin wasn't racing but went along for the vacation and to enjoy the racing scene from a different vantage point.

We drove down Friday afternoon and checked into the motel. I had forgotten that the motel advertised it as a get away spot to enjoy the natural setting; there were no TV or phones in the rooms. But we didn't expect to spend much time in the room anyway.

We headed over to the registration area to check in, receive our number plates, and do a short ride to stretch the legs. Jay and I rode while Robin and Shari ran some errands. After the ride we headed back to the motel where they were putting on a spaghetti dinner. We managed to get to bed before 10:00 in anticipation of the 5:15 alarm the next morning.

After stopping at McDonalds in the morning we made it down to start in plenty of time and got a prime parking spot right by the start line. In fact, right after we got there they blocked the entrance to our parking area so we pretty much had it to ourselves. Jay and I got ready and got in place with the other 400+ riders.

At the gun all the riders proceeded down the main street in town and out to the big hill that soon separated everyone into a long line. I was taking it easy since there was nothing for me to gain in a 100 mile by going out hard at the start. Other than when we finally got to the first trail section it seemed that we were with a lot of riders that didn't have very good technical skills.

The weather was the best it has ever been for this race as long as I have participated in it. The trails were also dry, a first for me. Usually rain has been a part of the race somehow. I was riding at a steady pace and enjoying the trails instead of pushing too hard like I have don in the past.

Jay got past me and disappeared up the trail. I was surprised when I came to the first checkpoint quite a bit earlier than I had last year. I think the drier trail had something to do with it. Robin and Shari were waiting for me and I felt like a pro as they quickly took care of everything I needed. They said Jay was about three minutes in front of me and I figured I would catch him once we got to the road sections since I was on a geared bike and he was on a singlespeed.

About 15 minutes after leaving the checkpoint I was surprised to see Jay walking toward me pushing his bike. His bottom bracket had gone bad and he was not able to continue the race. I gave my condolences for his bad luck and rode on.

It couldn't have been more than another 20 minutes when I heard a loud crunch by my rear wheel and felt the wheel lock up. I slammed on the brakes and looked down to see a large stick had jammed in the rear derailleur and had broken the hanger. Fortunately I was carrying a spare so I pulled the bike off to the side of the trail and bent down to examine the damage. To add injury to insult a rider came by and crashed, causing the rear of his bike to swing up and strike me on the side of the head. It rattled my cage for a while and I had to get the cobwebs cleared before working on my bike.

Try as I might I could not get the bolt out of the old hanger as rider after rider came by. I resigned myself to trying to shorten the chain to make a singlespeed out of the bike and at least ride out. I was between two aid stations in the woods and had no idea where I really was. It was either SS or push. Once I finally got the chain to stay in the cog without binding I rode, or pushed depending on the steepness, as much of the rest of the trail I could before finally deciding to try and find a way back to the start.

I recognized the state route I was crossing but wasn't sure which way was back to town. I pushed on a little farther before finally asking someone standing in their yard how to get back. Fortunately it was only about another five miles or so along fairly flat roads. The ride back was actually very scenic and I was enjoying the ride.

Once back I sat by the Cannondale tent and wondered how to get in touch with Robin and Shari who were waiting for us at another aid station. I asked the promoter to call out there so the workers could let them know. No one at the aid station answered the phone so I just had to wait.

A little while later Jay pulled up in a ranger's car. He had been helping the ranger at a road crossing and the ranger brought him back once the racers had passed. I used Jay's phone to try and reach Robin and Shari but they didn't answer. Jay and I hung around watching finishers of the shorter race come in and then we got to see the pro's finish up the 100 mile race. Normally I am still two hours or so behind them.

Cannondale was well represented as four of the top six riders were riding Cannondale bikes. And the top women was also on the Cannondale Factory Racing team. Michigan put up a good show as both second and fourth place in the Men's class went to Michigan riders.

Robin finally got the message about jay and I and they came back to the finish. All of us hing around the finish for a while soaking up the sun and talking to other racers while we enjoyed the free food and beer. We went back the hotel room to take a nap before returning for the awards.

We decided not to hang around for the prize drawing because they were taking forever and we wanted to go into town for dinner. Jason and I found a little place our first time down there and we have eaten there every year. This time we noticed that it was up for sale. The owner is looking to retire and we hope they find a buyer that can carry on the excellent food. While we were eating several of the Cannondale pros also came in to eat.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and the bar/restaurant to see if we could catch the rest of the Redwings game. Everyone was tuned to the TV when we walked in but it was the Cavalier's game as they were losing to Orlando. We convinced the bartender to switch the TV behind the bar to the hockey game and we were able to catch the last period of the game.

Heading back this morning we all agreed that the trip was still a good time in spite of the race results. We all wanted to return next year and would try to convince others to join us so we could rent one of the cabins near the finish area. And we are talking about coming back down some time just to ride the trails.

The next race on the schedule is the Lumberjack 100. Hopefully this race goes better than Mohican.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The weather doesn't get much better in Michigan

Wow! A three day weekend and the weather was darn near perfect. Mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the mid 70's and a light breeze. For Memorial day weekend it doesn't get much better in Michigan.

The trails have mostly dried up or are at least passable now. I spent the past three days on the bike for a couple of hours each day, riding a combination of back roads and trails. I was testing a few things on the bikes in preparation for next week's Mohican 100 which now looks like it should have decent weather.

I was going to get in a last hard effort yesterday at the rescheduled Bloomer XC race. I figured I would ride over to the race on my SS, race, and ride back home. While the race would be hard it should only take a little over an hour and half to complete. But once I got there I found out they were adding an extra lap to the Expert SS class so I decided to go ride somewhere else instead; it takes me a while to recover from hard efforts and I wanted to not overdo it before next weekend. I also saved $30.

This morning I joined about 15 other riders in a combination road/trail ride at an "easy pace", at least that's what the email invitation billed the ride as. It was hosted by the owner of Cycletherapy, the bike shop where I occasionally work part time. I should have known better since most of the guys/gals that showed up are also racers. The 2.5 hour ride was at times. "spirited", but always fun. I got to ride a bunch of new trails that I normally wouldn't as well as spend a great morning outside. I just wish I had left on the fat tires instead of switching to 'cross tires.

The rest of this week;s riding will be light efforts, maybe a few hard, short intervals to keep the legs from going to stale. I've not done as much training this year for Mohican, maybe legs with less hours on them will be better. We leave Friday morning to head south. I hope my new wheel comes in before then. I'm still trying to decide which bike to use.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Washed Out

Heavy rain overnight caused the postponement of the Addison Oaks 6/12 hour race for the second week in a row. I feel bad for the promoter as he has about $5,000 sunk into the event. He has rescheduled it for October 10. The Michigan race calendar is so full during the summer that this was one of the few open dates available. Hopefully a lot of people will come out in October to support him.

The storms also made the already muddy trails at Bloomer park even worse and the race for tomorrow has been postponed until next Sunday. With luck the course will be able to dry out some. I am not sure if I will race since it is only a week before the Mohican race.

Our final race at LOHS looks to be in danger of also being postponed based on the forecast for next Tuesday. We had a backup date for any rain outs and we may end up using it.

Long range forecast for the Mohican race does not look promising. Right now they are calling for rain just about every day in the week preceding the race and also on race day. I think this race is cursed as that would make four years in a row that it has rained on, or just before the race.

The postponements of race has made training even more difficult as you structure your week leading up to a race with the expectation that the race will consume a certain amount of energy. When it doesn't happen you have to try and make up for it or somehow adjust your plan. This spring has been very frustrating for both promoters and racers.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Slow to Report

I can't believe Jason finally updated his blog. He has developed a good eye for photo composition and the pictures of the kids are great.

It seems harder lately to concentrate. Several times I was going to update the blog and then put it off. It seems difficult to get some of the little things done.

A very big part of competitive athletics is the mental side. There are many book and coaches that address this subject. I believe that athletes who may be slightly inferior in skills may make up for it in mental toughness and voracity. I know this has helped me where I lack the physical attributes necessary to succeed. I think I have taken a few steps backward of late.

With everything going on at Chrysler over the last few months, heck, the last few years, it has kept many of us somewhat on edge. The uncertainty and dealing with the constant rumors and changes tend to wear on you after a while. But at least for now we still have our jobs. Although forced time off without pay may be on the horizon. I feel for those who may not have been as fortunate in the fallout.

My training has taken a hit this year in both time and intensity so I am using the recent return of the spring races at Lake Orion High School to try and get some fitness level back. But I can tell the bigger races may be a suffer fest.

The races have drawn the usual turnout, despite the fact that the first two races have not had any rain. In fact, last week the trails were almost 100% dry and it was sunny and in the low 70’s. I think it is difficult to get people out after work to race. Plus many still either don’t know about the races or may think that the course is probably some flat paths around a school.

In fact, I have been busy putting in new sections of singletrack that have added more elevation changes than before. And last year people thought there was a lot of climbing! At the last race one racer asked how I could possibly build a trail that was all uphill. Another racer commented that last week we ran the course in the reverse direction and it was all uphill then as well. They wanted to know what kind of vortex the LOHS property was in.

Last week was the scheduled 6/12 hour race at Addison Oaks. Many of the local trails have taken a long time to dry out due to all the rain we have had this spring, Addison being no exception. With heavy rains during the week preceding the race there was talk of cancelling the race. Nice weather for two days allowed the trail to somewhat dry out but would not be able to take on any more water.

Sure enough, the rains came down overnight and heavy rain a few hours before the start caused the promoter to reschedule to this weekend. A few years ago this same race caused major damage to the course that took a year of hard work to repair.

But the postponement of the race meant I could attend the demo day at Island Lake State Recreation area instead. For the past several years the event has been put on to allow people to come and ride demo bikes that are provided by dealers and bike manufactures set up at the event. Cannondale provides their big rig loaded with test bikes and the are sales rep, Jason Edinger, is also in attendance. It is a great opportunity to help represent the brand that helped me. Plus what better way to spend a rainy afternoon than hanging out with great team mates and talking bikes?

The weather has somewhat cooperated for this Saturday’s race but there is a forecast of rain and possible thunderstorms. Hopefully the rain will be short and the impact to the trail conditions kept to a minimum.

My plan is to race on Saturday if it is not pouring, I’m not sure if I will do the 6 or the 12 hour race. If I don’t race I may do the race at close by Bloomer on Sunday instead.

Next week is the last of the LOHS races and then in two weeks is the first 100 mile race for me, the Mohican 100 in Loudonville, OH. This course is probably one of my favorite 100’s even though it is also harder than some others. It has such a wide variety of trail conditions that you never really get bored, except for the long rail trail; that is kind of numbing. Maybe this year will be first in the four I will have done to not have any rain.

The Cannondale rig

Rolling some of my CFR bikes out for display at the bike demo.

The kids just keep getting cuter

Friday, May 01, 2009

Day 1 (again)

I have lost track of how many Day Ones we have gone through here at Chrysler since I started working for the company. Of course yesterday's big news was the company filing for bankruptcy and our announcement of the Fiat deal. Given the alternatives, this may end up a positive for the company but it will take some time.

In the interim there is much uncertainty about what will happen, especially since we are effectively shutting down the company for the next few months while the bankruptcy gets sorted out. Plants will be down and union members given most of the salary while off but no word yet on what the rest of us will be doing.

The plan for plant closings is more aggressive than originally announced. I was sad, but not surprised, to read that the plant that I started at will be closing next year, Twinsburg Stamping. Closing the plant had often been rumored and now that most of the assembly plants they supply will also be shuttered there was no reason to really keep it running.

Our shutdown plus the scheduled shutdown of some GM plants will have a big impact on the local economy over the next few months. GM will be the next company under the gun to complete their reorganization plan to see if they will receive additional funding. I think they have a more difficult task.

For now all I can do is wait and see how this will effect me personally and hope for the best. In addition to immediate concerns about continued employment there is also a concern about what might change to severance and retirement plans as well as other benefits. With the company in bankruptcy everything is open to change.

The upside is I may have more time to ride. But no money to race. Stay tuned.