Sunday, August 30, 2009

Racing South of the Border

I ventured south of the Michigan border this weekend into enemy territory (OSU Buckeyes) to do a race I have wanted to try for several years, the Big Valley race at Camp Manatoc in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. The course is at a Boy Scout camp and is only open to bikes the one weekend of the year. The fact that it is less than 30 minutes from my parent's house makes it even better.

I arrived at the course on Saturday afternoon to preride and pick up my registration materials. The area had received a lot of rain overnight and I could see the bikes coming off the course were muddy. I decided to do the preride on the singlespeed to save the wear on the drive trains of the geared bikes. I also had the SS set up with mud tires.

The start of the course wandered through the camp on the roads and two track before entering the singletrack. At first the trails were dry but soon I came to the first wet and rooty downhill. Other riders were standing around figuring out the best line. I decided to just walk it, a decision I would make many more times during my ride.

The trails were not build for bikes but for hiking; many of the sections were straight up or straight down hills with a narrow bridge across a creek at the bottom. Other sections were long stretches of roots and off camber corners, up and down. In other words, technical and fun if it was dry, but slick and slow when wet. But other sections of the course were very fast, flowing sections of singletrack or open road so there was a chance to get some speed.

When I go to my parents the first thing I did was to change the gearing on the SS to make it a little easier to handle the steep hills. I figured if I was going to be riding in the mud I wanted to make it a little easier. Before going to bed I checked on the internet and people were saying the the course had really dried out later in the day. With no rain in the forecast I figured I would be able to use a geared bike instead. But I changed the rear tire on the SS to a slightly less knobby one in case I wanted to use it on the geared bike.

Sunday morning it was very cloudy and cool but no rain. My race didn't start until 1:00 in the afternoon so I had plenty of time to hang out at my parents. But about 10:00 am, the time the Beginners were to start, it began to rain. At first it was a light mist but then became harder with occasional hard showers. I figured I was back to the SS.

I left for the race and was surprised that as I got close to the race site the roads became drier. At the course there was very little evidence of rain and it was still fairly dry. I pulled out the Scalpel and then it started to sprinkle with what looked like more coming. Back in the van went the Scalpel and out came the geared F29 with slightly knobbier tires. I went out for a ride to warm up and check out the singletrack. I was pleased to find that it really had dried and the point that everything I had walked yesterday I was now able to ride.

About 20 minutes before the start of the race it started to rain again, this time a little harder. I dashed back to the van to swap wheels from the SS. Of course that also meant I had to put the cassette on the back as well. I wish I had kept track how many times the bikes were in and out of the van. Anyone around me that was watching must have thought I was nuts. Sometimes so many choices is not a good thing.

We had a large class and were the last to go off. Of course I didn't know anyone but at the start it didn't take long to find out who the local fast guys were. I missed the clip in and got away a little behind, about 10th but soon worked may way up to 5th and then 4th. When we got to one of the open hills I managed to pass two more and sat in 2nd. It didn't take us long before we started running into back markers in the singletrack from the earlier classes. Many times we would get stuck on the uphills and be forced off our bikes.

In one of these sections I heard a lot of shouting in front of me and assumed someone was upset with another rider but soon I realized they were yelling about bees. At that point I looked down at my left wrist to see a bee hanging on, stinging me. I brushed it off and continued; I heard later that others received quite a few stings. I saw one guy throw down his bike and rip his helmet off as he was getting stung. Thank goodness for the screen mesh in the front of the Uvex helmet to keep the bees out.

It was during the mad scramble up the hills that second and third passed me as they ran around the other riders. I didn't make the right moves and I lost them. Later in the lap I caught back up the third place rider and passed him. I didn't see him behind me but then somehow he was back, like a bad penny.

I stayed on his tail until we had an open uphill again and I put down the power to make the pass. I could tell he was not able to respond and I kept the power on as long as I could to try to get out of his line of sight. About this time I started to hear a pinging noise in may back wheel every so often. I couldn't really place it but thought it might be the derailleur or a broken spoke. I looked back but the wheel seemed to be straight so I pressed on, but the noise was making me wonder if I would soon have a problem.

I was relieved to see the final section of uphill switchbacks before the finish. I thought that maybe the derailleur was hitting the wheel in the larger cogs so I shifted down to try and save it. It made the climb a little more of a struggle but I just wanted the bike to survive. I ended up crossing the line to hang on to third. After the race I checked the bike and sure enough, I had a broken spoke on the rear wheel. This was the first spoke I have ever broken where it broke in the middle, not at the head or nipple. I can't figure that one out unless something got caught in the spoke.

The race was fun, definitely a type of trail that I don't get to ride in Michigan. I'm not sure I would want to do it in the rain but plan on keeping it on the list for next year. For those of us in the Detroit area the drive is about the same as going to Boyne. And for the same entry fee I got a t-shirt, a chance to enter a raffle, free energy drinks after the race and a huge burrito from Chipotle.

Thanks to my Mom and Dad for coming out to the race and providing dinner and a place to sleep. As the ad goes, "priceless".

Sunday, August 23, 2009

0% = 100%

So why is it that when I looked at the weather forecast and radar this morning before starting my ride I didn't see any rain at all? Yet after an hour into the ride I was soaked? I guess I didn't look at the right weather web site or should have been better prepared, just in case. I ended up cutting short my planned long ride; soaked to the core my legs and arms were starting to turn purple. I wonder how many people have suffered from hypothermia in August?

Earlier in the week I added a new dimension to my training, trail running. I really, really hate running but with the cyclocross season around the corner I figure I ought to put in some time on foot; even now it is a little late to start but better than not at all. I was really sore from the effort for a day.

Yesterday I put in a hard effort on the bike for a few hours then followed it up with a run. I have a 5k course laid out up at LOHS that will be the course we will use for our fall running race. It uses all of the singletrack so it is a very hilly course with lots of twists and turns as well. It makes running a lot more interesting.

Earlier in the morning yesterday Sandy and I went down to Eastern Market, as much for the fruit and vegetables as to browse the antique shop. Sandy had her eve on a couple of vintage hats which we purchased for her birthday. We bought a few other items as well. I ended up using the money I had set aside to go to the races today but buying things for her was much more satisfying.

Next weekend I have preregistered for a MTB race down in Ohio. The race is only about 20 minutes or so from my parents' house. I have wanted to do this race for some time now but the schedule never worked out. The race is at a Boy Scout camp that is only open for riding one weekend out of the year. I'm looking forward to racing someplace new.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another one of those "seemed like a good idea at the time"

I hadn't had a lot of riding time lately with all the other stuff going on so I had planned a longer ride for today. I just wanted to make sure to get out the door fairly early to beat the heat as much as possible. Even though I had just finished getting over being ill on Friday I figured a long ride would be fine; I seemed to handle Thursday's ride without any problems.

I wanted to do a ride similar to one that I used to do that took in most of the trails in my immediate area. This time I decided to go with my SS and changed the gearing to a little harder than I used in the race last week since there would be some road sections and the trails were dry.

I left about 8:00 this morning and hit the first few trails but within about an hour and a half I began to feel really light headed and had to stop to catch my breath. I almost turned around to head home but instead decided to just back off some and see what developed. The pattern seemed to continue for most of the ride, especially as the day heated up. About every 1.5 hours of so I would end up at one of the trailheads and stop to pour some water over my head and let the cobwebs clear. At Bloomer I sat and watched the Velodrome races for a while.

I was still pedaling OK but the heart rate was higher than normal, I think due to the heat. I was glad when I finally made it home after over 5.5 hours of actual riding and was able to recover in the air conditioning. I didn't seem to suffer any lingering effects as far as I can tell but I'm glad I had decided not to race this weekend.

For the record I managed to ride all or part of 11 different trails. The Polly Ann, Orion Oaks, LOHS, Bald Mountain South, Bald Mountain North, Addison Oaks, Stony Creek, Macomb Orchard Trail, Clinton River Trail, Bloomer, and the Paint Creek Trail. I don't think I was ever much farther than nine or ten miles from the house as the crow flies.

I think I will do the ride again but later this fall when the temperatures are cooler. And when the cider mills are open :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dreamin' of Cruizin'

This weekend is the Woodward Dream Cruise, the annual celebration of the automobile in Detroit, especially the vintage cars of the 50's, 60's and 70's. Each year the event draws 30-40,000 old and custom cars out to Woodward Avenue, the original cruising highway. In fact, just this week the street celebrated its 100'th anniversary of having the first concrete mile of road in the US. It has been estimated that over one million people come out to watch or participate.

Sandy and I don't go every year and in years past we were fortunate to know someone who put on a picnic the day of the cruise so we had a home base to partake of the festivities. Since then we have only gone a couple of times, last year we happened to hit it on the tail end of the Friday night before the cruise. This year we stopped in on Saturday afternoon after first heading into the Motor City.

The temperatures were in the low 90's by the time we arrived; the crowds were down this year and we had no problem finding a parking spot right next to Woodward. The heat keeps a lot of vintage cars off of the road since the stop and go traffic tends to make lots of them overheat. Instead they are parked in various lots along Woodward so you can get a good look at them up close.

We couldn't decide which cars we liked the best if we were to own one but Sandy had her eyes on the older Corvettes and other muscle cars with the big engines. We also liked the older 'rods and decided that we would need a car of each type, depending on the type of cruising we wanted to do that day.

We stopped to admire one 1961 Vette and Sandy posed for a picture in front of it. The owner happened to be sitting close by and told her to go ahead an sit in it. That made her day! We talked to him for some time and he told us a lot about the car and that even though he was from Montreal, he has always been a Redwings fan and would drive from Montreal to Detroit to watch the Wings play at the old Olympia and then drive back home.

Earlier in the day we had gone down to Eastern Market, one of our favorite spots to spend a Saturday. We didn't really need much in the way of produce but always enjoy the sights and smells of the market and small businesses surrounding the area. We spent some time in one of the antique stores and found an oak chest/bureau that once refinished should be the perfect companion piece to the cabinet I refinished before we moved to Michigan.

After we left the market we went up the road a few blocks to the Pierogi Fiestival at the Sweetest Heart of Mary Catholic Church. The church offered pierogi and chicken dinners, all home made including the deserts. We enjoyed our meals while listening to the polka band. In addition to the food the festival offered games and raffles. We took a look inside the 116 year years old church and were amazed at the splendor and detail. It is simply gorgeous inside and reminded us of the pictures you see of the great churches of Europe. We were glad that we decided to include the festival on our itinerary.

I think tomorrow I will get out on the bike for a long ride before it gets too warm. I'm not sure if I will race next weekend but I have already signed up for one two weeks from now down in Ohio that is only about a half hour drive from my parents. I always wanted to try the race but the timing never worked out.

Sweetest Heart of Mary Catholic Church

Woodward Dream Cruise

1923 Hearse

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The visit

Jason, Emily, Oliver and Isabel arrived last Tuesday afternoon and stayed until this past Monday before driving back to Indianapolis to catch a flight back to Spokane. We had been looking forward to their visit since we had not seen them in person since January. At that time Isabel was barely two months old. We had been able to chat with them on video over the internet but to actually see them again was terrific.

The entire family looks healthy and it was fun to have the grand kids around for the week. Oliver is very active and now starting to say a lot of words, or at least try to. Of course that meant we men had to be on our best behavior when he was in earshot. Isabel looks just like a doll, with the curly hair and big blue eyes she could be a model for some toy maker.

The first night they were here we enjoyed egg rolls that Sandy had prepared and lounged around just watching the kids. On Wednesday Jason and I went for a bike ride and later in the evening Robin and Shari came over to visit. They are great friends of the family and hold a special place in our hearts.

We were fortunate to have my parents able to make the drive up from outside of Cleveland to spend some time. They got to see Oliver last year about this time and were looking forward to seeing him again as well as their first ever great grand daughter. They arrived on Thursday and took us out to dinner. Afterward we had a birthday celebration for my dad who just turned 85.

Jason and Emily made breakfast for all of us on Friday; Jason likes to cook crepes and they were delicious. Later in the day we went over to Trader Joe's to sample the wine, shop, and just relax. Back at home Sandy was watching Oliver who was helping her make truffles for my mom. For dinner I barbecued salmon on cedar planks that always seems to be a hit.

Saturday was the mountain bike race at the school and it just poured down rain, greatly reducing the turnout. Jason was doing the timing for the race using the equipment of the company he does timing jobs for back home. My parents came up to watch the start of the race before heading back to Ohio. Unfortunately they didn't get to see too much as they stayed in the car due to the rain.

Sandy and I babysat on Saturday evening so Jason and Emily could have a night out. Even though it was a long time ago that our kids were little, I can still remember how special it was to have a night out by ourselves. But this time we got to play the grandparent role and spoil the kids.

Somewhere around 2:00 in the morning on Sunday the power went out; there had been some big storms come up on Saturday evening. Sunday was supposed to be one of the hottest days of the year but I hauled out the generator and got it going so I could plug in the fridge and some fans. Sandy made us french toast with homemade bread outside using the camp stove. Later we decide to go to the mall and cool off when the power did not seem likely to come on soon. Unfortunately we had to cancel a planned get together of some of Jason and Emily's friends.

I wasn't feeling well and because we had driven in two cars, I came home and went to bed. Jason and family shopped some more and then went to visit one of their friends before coming back later that evening. I pretty much stayed in bed the whole evening, night, and most of the next morning. That was not exactly the way I wanted to spend my last day with the family.

All too soon it was time for them to leave but first they wanted to go to a restaurant for a couple of drinks. I think part of it was to use the alcohol to help make the goodbyes easier. I still wasn't up to it so said my goodbyes at the house and watched them drive away. I could have used a few drinks myself by this point.

So, here it is a few days later and it is still hard to adjust to them being gone. We were so torn last fall about whether or not to take a job out west and be closer to them or stay here. Seeing them again initially makes us think I made a mistake. But I have to sit back and realize that there were, and still are, valid reasons for staying here. But is is still so tempting to move closer if possible.

I can appreciate what my parents, and parents the world over, have gone through as their kids grow up and move out or away. I know when our family was young it was an adventure to move and while hard, we were still together. This is a whole different ballgame. I like the idea of those communities or cultures where the kids live in the house next door or just down the road. Of course ask me that again when the grand kids are in their teens.

Jason and Emily are doing a great job raising their growing family and make us proud. Whatever their plans are in the coming years they can count on our support. I just hope that someday we can all be closer to them.

And now some pictures from the week.

Oliver liked the truck.

Uncle Greg

Blowing bubbles

Helping? Grandpa

The lifeguard

Isabel liked her truck also

Helping daddy make crepes

Great Grandpa

Great Grandma

Outdoor cafe, courtesy of the power outage

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to save on your electric bill

A quick tip on how to cut down on your electric bill; just use DTE Energy for your electrical needs. As often as we seem to lose power it's a sure fire way to trim your bill.

The power went out early Sunday morning around 2:00 am on what would be one of the hottest days of the year and didn't come back on until after 4:00 in the afternoon. but then went back off three hours later to finally come back on again about 1:00 this afternoon. In all the places we've lived and even growing up I don't ever remember losing power as many times as we have since moving to Michigan.

We bought a used generator a few years ago but don't have it hooked to the main circuit but instead just run a few cords to the refrigerator and to power a few lights. Practically everyone in the neighborhood has generators now. But after this recent outage I'm considering one of those units that runs on natural gas and automatically comes on in the event of a power failure.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

They call me Noah

I had the reputation for a while of being responsible for rain to occur whenever I would race. I thought I had managed to break that streak when we were rain free for all of our school races this spring but lately I seem to be resorting to my old ways. Last week the 12 hour race was shortened due to a threat of rain and then today, after weeks of almost drought conditions, it started to pour a few hours before our race and continued for almost nine straight hours. I know we needed the rain but c'mon, couldn't it have waited one more day?

We had a small turnout as expected but the rain didn't dampen the enthusiasm of those who showed up. In spite of the rain the trails held up well, probably because they were concrete hard to start with. Only a few sections started to get soft but even the sections with standing water were solid underneath.

We ended up canceling the Beginner races that were to start later in the afternoon; those Beginners who preregistered can get a refund or credit for the next race which will be on October 24th to benefit the Food Bank.

Thanks to Cycletherapy and Jet's for sponsoring the race and to the school for the hosting the races. Also to Zachary Brehm for driving over from Pittsburgh to make the race part of his weekend plans.

Results are posted here: Milliseconds Timing The DNF's do not appear in the results.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Older guys kick butt!

Yesterday I raced the 12 hour race at Stony but as part of a four man team; this was only the second time I have done a team endurance event in all the years I have raced. In fact, my introduction to endurance racing was the other time I competed on a team but that race got cut short by two hours due to torrential rains. So guess what? This race was also cut short due to the threat of a storm. I see a pattern here.

Two weeks ago I was riding with Bernie Wendel, one of my Cannondale Midwest team members and we started talking about the then upcoming race at Stony and maybe doing it as a team. We recruited Shawn Schaffert from the team as well and started looking for a fourth. We checked with a few other team members, both male and female but did not find any other takers. Fortunately we recruited Mark Parmalee, one of the faster riders in the state even though he does ride a different brand of bike. :-( Mark went with me to the Paris/Ancaster race earlier this year.

We entered the Veteran 35+ category where the average age has to be 35. Our average age was 40 with me on the high side at 53 and Mark at 27. Mark's youth and speed was our secret weapon. We set up our rotation to have Mark start first, myself second, than Shawn followed by Bernie. We would adjust later in the race if necessary. With a four man rotation it meant each rider would have over a two hour wait between laps. Each time out was almost an all out effort; the time between causes the legs to stiffen up.

Mark started off the race by posting a super hot lap, coming in well ahead of the next riders and sending me off with no one close behind. I felt pretty good after the initial hard effort out of the gate and settled into a good pace. I was cruising along one section of gravel two track and blew right past a turn and kept going, not realizing I was not off course since I was actually still on the course but for a section that shouldn't have come until later in the race. I got to the top of a big hill about 15 minutes later and realized I had missed a section. I had to go back and do the section I missed to not cheat and make my lap count. My mistake ended up adding about seven minutes to my lap. And all those teams that were behind me were now in front.

I pulled into the team hand off area and told Shawn what to watch for on the course markings. I was upset that I had missed the turn and cost our team valuable time. It was my fault but this promoter has never been one that is liberal with the course markings.

Shawn came in with a great time and Bernie went out next on his singlespeed and was soon back in with a time matching Shawn's. We were still behind the first place team as they were also turning fast laps. We were confident that Mark would pull back some time and when he came back to the finish we now had a lead that we would never relinquish.

I managed to stay on course my second time around but my lap was slightly slower than Shawn's and Bernie's first lap. Shawn came back next in an almost identical time as his first lap and then Bernie was next and went out on a geared bike. His lap time was also slightly slower than his first. After Mark went out for lap three the second place team came in shortly after only 30 seconds back.

We decided that we would have Mark do two laps back to back; of course we decided this while he was out riding. Shawn rode up to the top of the last climb so he could tell Mark of the decision. It was kind of rotten as this was so close to the finish and you thought you were almost done for the lap. Mark was a trooper and got a fresh bottle that we had for him at the finish line and went back out.

This time when he came in I was ready and back on my 29'er that I rode for my first lap. I wasn't sure how my legs would respond after sitting around again and being asked to put in a third TT type effort. I was surprised that I came back in with my fastest time yet, on par with Shawn's and Bernie's first laps. I also found out that we had a pretty good lead on the second place team and they didn't gain any while I was out.

Shawn turned close to the same lap time as the first two times out and then Bernie went on the SS again. His lap was also back to close to his first lap time. I guess our time between laps didn't slow us down too much, it was probably more the mental aspect of having to get out of the chair and get back on the bike.

We had made a decision that after my lap Mark would go back out to see if he could get in before 8:00 to allow us to complete a final lap. But while Mark was out they announced that due to a major storm coming at us they were ending the race as of 6:30 and that no one else would be allowed to start another lap. In effect, as long as Mark didn't have a problem while on the trail we would have won our class.

Mark came in at 6:35 after putting in a heroic effort to turn a fast time so that we would be able to squeeze in two more laps. All was not in vain though as our team not only won our class, but we were the top team overall, including the Open Advanced and the Elite money class. For some old guys we were were pretty fast, and it helped to have a younger, faster guy to give us some breathing room. But all of us held our own against some pretty good competition.

Riding on a team in an endurance event is far harder than doing it solo. The requirement to go out each lap and ride as hard as you can after sitting around is tough. I would rather sit and go my own pace for 12 hours anytime. So why is it we were talking about a team again in October for the Addison 12 hour? only time will tell.

Jason and family arrive this Tuesday. We haven't seen them since January and are looking forward to the week they will be here. Both Sandy and I took vacation so we could spend the maximum amount of time possible with them. It will be a busy week as my parent come for a few days, other friends drop by to say hello, and the Lake Orion High School race is this Saturday. Whew! But it will all be worth it. I'm sure lots of photos to come.