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.