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.