Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ouachita Challenge

Well... its all over. The race was a success. First, I would like to thank Q7 for their support and sponsorship. Second, I would like to thank Karen for helping Aaron and I. Without her I don't know if we would have made it through the weekend, and for sure not as easily. We had a great time camping at Ouachita River Haven, saw Niles Boxer and Boxer's Crystals, ate some delicious BBQ, and thankfully didn't freeze even though I pack very poorly. Enough pussy-footing around though, this is all about the 60 miles of pain lovingly referred to as the Ouachita Challenge.

The course ran clockwise this year, which was opposite of last year. That puts the major climbs of Blowout Mtn, and Big Brushy first, and leaves Fish Hatchery and The Womble until last. I geared 32x18 and while I may have been a bit overgeared for some of the climbs, anything less would have sucked on the gravel stretches. The race started with a 7-8 mile gravel/road stretch that saw the group of 275 stretch out pretty significantly. I was pedaling my ass off just trying to stay in the main pack. I kept myself in the front quarter or so of people, and was riding with two other guys on singlespeeds. We just kept jumping from one line of people to the other taking short breaks and then hammering up the small inclines that would slow the geared guys. I knew from last year that I wanted to be as far up front as a could be when we hit the singletrack, but also realistically knew that with guys like Fuzzy in the mix that I had no shot of winning, so I needed to focus on riding my own race. In my estimation there were three SS'ers in front of me when I hit the actual trails, and two right on my tail. We killed the first sections of Blowout, with the climbing starting almost immediately. Then the rock gardens slowed everyone down. I don't know if anyone could ride these rock gardens entirely. After the rocks strung the group out even more, I found myself with two guys really riding well. I was comfortable with the pace and felt good about how I was riding through the trails. We kept picking off people one by one but the group as a whole hadn't totally separated so there wasn't any opportunity to let off and relax. I blew through the first check point, and started up Blowout Mtn. More climbing was forcing me to burn all of my energy just to keep the pressure on any competitors. In a race like this if someone gets out of your sight many times they are gone from there, and you never see them again. After reaching the summit and starting to descend I noticed that my rear tire was feeling squirrelly in hard turns and I feared the worst. I had put a dent/crack in my real wheel two days before after hitting a nasty rock at Sylvan, and was concerned about the tire holding pressure. Luckily, I guess, I found a puncture in my rear tire. I tried to get it to seal up using Stan's sealant and inflating it with a co2. Finally I got it sealed well enough, or so I thought. I took off again after being passed by one singlespeed, and focused on descending as quickly as I could. DAMN, about ten minutes later I had the same loose feeling in the back of the bike. The hole had opened back up and I was running out of co2. Thank God I got it fixed up, but lost one more spot pushing me back to sixth. I rode down the rest of the way and saw Aaron at the bottom. He had the same problem, only his was even a bit more severe. I stopped at the second aid station to grab a banana and some fluids. The climbing continued and my legs started really feeling it around mile 25. We hit a long gravel stretch where I narrowly missed a group of guys who could have pulled me down the eight mile gravel stretch that we had. On top of that another SS'er caught the group and I was forced to watch him ride away in a lovely pace line. The next 20 miles or so consisted of the same crap: climbing, cramping, dying (mostly), being resurrected by Gu, and repeating. Aaron had caught me after fixing his tire and then I passed him while he ate a banana. Honestly most of this race is a blur. We hit some more gravel sections in between trails, I hit a tree so hard the right side of my body went numb, I climbed some things and then wondered how I got to the top, I destroyed the last aid station's food supply. I have never been on empty so many times in one ride. I can recall pedaling as hard as I possibly could and looked down to see that I was going eight mph (epic fail). The finish came after riding with a group of five other guys for the last fifteen miles or so. Mercifully, at 6 hours 12 minutes Aaron and I crossed the line and saw Agent and Karen waving and cheering for us. I finished 8th in the Singlespeed class, and around 45th overall, not too shabby.

Race stats: 62.2 miles, 6 hr 12 min ride time, 9000 calories burned, 5 gus, 8 oz of beef jerky, 5 cookies, 2 natural chocolate nut bars, 24 oz water, 24 oz Accelerade, 48 oz Heed, and 6 cliff bloks. Post Ride included 1 cheeseburger, 1 mtn lightning, 1 grape soda, Pizza hut salad bar, breadsticks, and sausage pizza, and 2 Cutthroat porters.

I may come back to this, but honestly it is two days later and I am still pretty blown up so... this is all I have.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New sponsor and some much needed dirt time

I am happy to say that I will be riding for Team Q7 this year. I had toiled previously about what I should wear, whether or not it mattered to anyone (including myself), and in general how I felt about the whole team thing...especially in regards to mtn. biking. Boiled down to an obvious choice. Team Q7. Tom and Wanda are awesome people, and I am really happy that they were interested in having me represent their company. The team will be made up of a wide array of people, some who I have never gotten an opportunity to ride with. Some I have.
Aaron Robnett will also ride for Q7 this year. He is one of my favorite people in the world to ride with, and watch ride. I have heard that mountain biking isn't really a team sport, and that is fine, but you can train like a team, and motivate each other, and have in a built support group that competes together and against each other. It made sense that if I was going to be making bold predictions about the season, that I should do it about a teammate. Aaron and I would be traveling together most of the time anyways, so it just falls into place. I am really excited, I hope everyone involved with Team Q7 can benefit by having Aaron and I on the team and on the dirt.

Speaking of... got some riding in on Sunday at Sylvan Island. Did about 22 miles. I was tired. We rode maybe five laps of what we thought could be possible race laps, and then rode some of the rock garden descents and climbs. Had a lot of fun with Brett, Brandon, and Aaron. Brandon took some good pictures so everyone can enjoy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Beginning final preparations

So first congrats to my friend Todd on his new Specialized Epic Comp 29er. An easy choice in my book for him. I think he is going to love that bike and won't be joking about cutting significant time off of his Chequamegon times. I'll be excited to hit some gravel and then trails with him and hear how he is enjoying making the switch to the big wheeled side of things. I am really happy with how the 29ers have been selling in the shop lately. I just built one today in the morning and it sold in the afternoon. Even better is that this guy came in looking for a 29er and was aware of the benefits and drawbacks and I was more than happy to reinforce the positives and help dispel or counter the typical down-side ideas. A customer the other day innocently asked Aaron and I about the benefits of going tubeless. He was met with an onslaught of pros, and various benefits much more numerous than I think he expected. I joked with Geoff afterward that asking us about the benefit of tubeless opens just slightly less of a floodgate than asking about the benefits of a 29er. It makes me happy that people are coming in thinking that they like the idea of a 29er and that I can help point out the benefits of what I think is a superior wheel size choice for an ever growing majority of people, especially around here.

Big wheeled bikes take up more space though, so I needed a way to haul our stuff to these races. I got myself a new Thule roof rack system and cargo box. I wanted to keep the bikes inside if at all possible, and I think that we can fit three people and three bikes in the car pretty easily. I like being able to store the bikes indoors while we camp and if we run into nasty weather on a road trip. I will install that this week and use it heading down to Ouachita...hopefully.

Another super awesome happening is Karen's arrival on Thursday. It makes life much easier, allows me to keep focus, and Karen helps keep me on track. She helps with Agent and other stuff. "I am excited for her arrival"= quite an understatement.

Ouachita is bearing down on me now. I am headed to Sylvan Island tomorrow with Aaron and Brett. It will be really nice to get on some actual dirt and push the bike in new ways. I'll update tomorrow with a ride report, and hopefully replicate a race there, maybe five or six laps. Besides tomorrow I have one good intense ride and one long ride next week and just casually ride the rest of the days.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Unplanned metric/ sorry Aaron

Alright, I got some riding in today. I started the day with Wanda and Lisa and got in 25 or so miles. We got in a nice gravel loop around Sugar Bottom area. The ladies are going to be ready for Almanzo 100, and hopefully I can help. The ride today was super segmented, it makes me focus on the end result better so sometimes this type of riding is best for me. It is less comparable to race situations, but it keeps me focused on riding for a longer amount of time. After I left them I met with Steve McGuire to ride out to see Mr. Tom Teesdale. Rode with the wind west to West Branch very quickly. I was then introduced to Tom. He has welded production frames for Kona and Gary Fisher among others, and built countless trikes and bikes for individual people. He is also building prototype frames for a new Salsa/QBP snowbike to match the Pugsley, tentatively called the "Snowflake". We talked a lot about a new gravel frame and fork that I want. 42 c with fender clearance, 135 mm spaced, 3 bottles, and belt drive... damn right. It was really interesting talking to Tom. He has been around the industry for so long, he recalls all kinds of different parts and frames. I was happy after talking for a while that he didn't say any of my ideas or mental measurements were absurd or dumb. I went with an understanding of what I wanted for top tube, seat and headtube angles, chainstay length, and headtube length. After we had those in place we dialed in other measurements and just conversed about position and purpose. All in all a very productive meeting and I will keep the progression posted.

I am sorry to Aaron for possibly posting this before he gets to write up his blog but, his new bike is here and is going to be bitchin. He can and will write up all about it I am sure, so I will leave that to him. I am going to say this though, and sorry Aaron if it puts pressure on you but, I will say that Aaron WILL win at least one race this year, AND will win the Iowa Series. I am throwing down the gauntlet, I will personally drive him to Ida Grove and Council Bluffs if I have to. Cam is an excellent rider who works hard, rides well, and does an amazing amount of work for mountain biking in this state, so this is no kind of disrespect to him, but Aaron is ready. I will say it for him since he may not... he closed the gap last year, and has busted his ass this year in the offseason... plus he has an amazing new geared mtn. bike to help level the playing field. I am loving seeing the races become more competitive and hope that it spurs more people into racing at all levels.

One more long-ish ride on Sunday and then Karen next week and Ouachita. She got an interview with NPR so cross your fingers, that would be awesome for her.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March century and a salsa review

I thought I had screwed the pooch on my March gravel century. Days were passing and I didn't want to wait until too close to Ouachita. Thankfully, the weather and other things worked out and I was able to get out with Steve McGuire for 100 yesterday. The weather was gorgeous as we headed east out of town towards West Branch. About 15 miles in my Garmin died and with it went our directions. Luckily Steve had his on so I was able to officially record the ride. It was kind of nice to not have a set out route. We just rode whichever direction we thought we should go. We rode along the Cedar River, broke away and got into Tipton where we had lunch, 37 miles in. The wind was out of the North and after Tipton we were basically as north as we would get. That meant only tail and small cross winds for the next 63 miles. The roads were super fast, I will be sad when they put down the new gravel and ruin them. We rolled through Sutliff and into Solon for refueling. Then we headed back to West Branch and in. The ride had more climbing than any of our previous centuries, and it took less time, so that is a good sign. I also was very happy with how I felt the whole ride. I was getting down on myself for not feeling very good on the last couple hard rides (Thursday with Aaron and Nate and Sunday with the Doc group), but I think that I am just easing my way into that type of balls to the wall pace from the start. I felt strong yesterday and felt like at anytime I could accelerate the pace or really hammer up a hill. Group ride today will blow me apart and I am ok with that. This is a really focused week preparing for Ouachita's 60 miles of fun. Those are future rides, here are the stats from yesterday: 100.04 miles, 8 hours 17 minutes total time including stops, 5,986 ft of elevation gained, 12.1 mph average, 8,000 ish calories, 2 pop tarts, 4 servings of cliff bloks, 3 beef sticks, 48 oz of Accelerade, 48 oz of water, 2 12 oz red bulls, 1 big chicken sandwich combo at Hardees (includes fries and a Mellow Yellow/Powerade mix), 1 oatmeal cream pie, 1 pineapple flavored Gu. Post ride was not my normal pig out fest because Agent is sick and had to go see the vet. It was just a dozen wings, and some mac and cheese along side a Mtn Dew.

I was looking at my Garmin and found out that I have 742.86 miles and over 65 hours on it since the new year. That is just the rides I have recorded, so if you figure in fun rides and commuting I am guessing that I have gotten in around 1200 + or - 100 miles so far this year. I need to keep putting them on this week and be prepared for Ouachita and then ride the wave into the Bone Bender six hour race. I am going to that on a mission. Last year I was prepped to go down and the whole car destroying me thing kinda got in the way. This year I'll be even more ready. I know that I can maintain a level of intensity for six straight hours, Ouachita will let me know how intense that can be.

*************SALSA TIME *****************
Newman's Own Black Bean and Corn Salsa (medium)

Cale recommended a black bean salsa with corn, but I couldn't find it anywhere so I settled for this. Maybe with the help of my blog I can become Banjo Bill and people will just start sending things to me.

No George this time to judge, but I liked this salsa a lot. The taste of black beans didn't get overwhelmed by onions or tomatoes which happens a lot. Also the sweetness of the corn every now and then helped to balance out the salsa as a whole, and it was nice to have bites that had whole black beans or pieces of corn. It made the salsa seem much more substantial. I ate it with some Hy-vee blue corn chips, which are my favorite style of tortilla chip. Although does not matter for judging, I put some of this salsa on a breakfast burrito and it may have been the best idea ever. Only downer, if it even is, was that the salsa even for a medium didn't have much heat.

Texture: B+
Heat: C+
Taste: A-
Overall grade: B+

No pictures today because my camera sucks and is possibly broken again. I will invest in a nice durable small one that I can take with me on rides and not always worry about whether or not it will work. Just have to get the funds together and quit buying new bike parts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dirty Kanza means:

Dirty Kanza is a bicycle race. It is one that I am really excited to participate in, and would like to do well in. It, more specifically bike choice for it, has been constantly going through my head and last night I believe it was 100% made barring total weather debacle. Big decision because DK is a 200+ mile self sufficient gravel race. Jim Cummins, one of the promoters, did a 13 minute podcast on Ciclirati.com, and I really encourage checking it out. It gives some history of the event and a good description of what I will be expecting.

I decided to ride the Crosscheck, but it needed wheels. So after a fairly lengthy decision making process I decided on a pair of Paul components hubs laced to Stans ZTR 355 rims with DT supercomp spokes. I decided that if I was doing the wheels I should jump on a sale on a Winwood carbon fork. Had a Chris King headset on the bench so it got that. Overall the Crosscheck received a massive upgrade, and I built the wheels and did all the labor in the comfort of my own home which was also nice.

Nick and I went out on the maiden voyage for this set up and what was intended to be a fairly relaxed ride turned into a two hour investment in the pain bank. It was lightning when we left and looked a bit sketchy, but we decided to head out anyways. We were seven miles in before we had to stop under a tree because we were caught in a total downpour and lightning looking very close. Waited for a bit and decided that the rain wasn't getting any better and that we would trudge on. Ended up riding the Quincy- Jordan Creek loop. The rain began to let up and we ended up tacking on a Res. loop, and got about 25 tough miles in. Good ride, good mental training, nothing fell apart so we'll call it a successful ride.

I will be shopping for new salsa soon. Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

STD/cross bike prep and salsa review


I haven't posted anything for a while so this is going to cover a few topics. I had a birthday on Friday. A really fun ride with Nick, Brett, George, and Aaron. Hit up a couple bars for a few drinks, rode a whole lot, George won most impressive rider of the night. We rode the Coralville trails and they have been so packed and smashed by walkers that it is just constant rumbling but totally rideable. We were trucking right along and Aaron said he would look back and expect George to be falling off the back, since George rides in a very recreational way, and he would be trucking right along. He also rode down a staircase or two, and won a derby. Good night, missed people who couldn't make it, and really appreciated the people who made it out.

I am sorry to Steve that I backed out of riding 113 tomorrow. I found out we had a work meeting at 5 o'clock and there is no way I would be able to get that in. I am a little bummed, but I know I will get a century in this month at STD so that eases the pain. It is nice though because it opened up the opportunity to ride with the group at Doc's house. This is like polar opposite for ride tempo. I am at the luxury now of having spent so much time on the Eriksen before Ouachita, as opposed to last year. I know I am comfortable for a long time, so this leads to the ability to start getting time in on the Crosscheck. Which is what I decided to ride for Dirty Kanza and Gravel Worlds. Earlier this year I wanted to do every single long ride on the Eriksen, but now I am not worried. Then, when I want to go to a faster paced ride I am not concerned about not putting time on that particular saddle. I am pretty excited for the ride tomorrow, and I'll make sure to recap it.


Alright first, probably most crudely done salsa review. We are figuring out our judging criteria but for now it goes like this: texture, heat, taste, and then an overall grade A-F. Heat is going to be not just hotter is better, just how appropriately hot it is, whether it is labeled mild or hot.

Briana's Salsa from Ottumwa Iowa
George rates it: texture: B, heat: D, taste: B-, overall: C
Adam rates it : texture: C, heat: D+, taste: C+, overall: C+

We felt like it lacked any type of heat and was called a medium salsa. The texture was too runny for me. The taste was very mild. It had the basic ingredients of salsa: tomato, garlic, onion, some peppers. The entire salsa was like a puree and made it have a more singular taste instead of tasting the ingredients individually. Even though I know this is the first official salsa review we did compare it to all salsa's we had ever tasted. I'll try to do one of these every week or so.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ouachita mindset and NEW FEATURE

Ouachita 60 mile mtn. bike race March 28th in Oden, Arkansas. Ouachita 60 mile mtn. bike race March 28th in Oden, Arkansas. Ouachita 60 mile mtn. bike race March 28th in Oden, Arkansas. This is going through my head right now. I just saw two cool videos on XXC's blog from the '09 race. (vid1 vid2)

I really want to work on these things before the race:
  • quicker start up
  • climbing
  • higher intensity
  • work core
  • lose weight
I have some new things implemented to help reach these goals including a new route to school, more yoga, and more focused rides. Just making sure I don't overeat and starting to cut back plus the higher intensity rides should help shed the winter pounds easily. I am lucky that I know my fit on the Eriksen is dialed in. This will allow me to maybe get in some higher intensity efforts on the Crosscheck which is going single for Dirty Kanza and Gravel Worlds. Friday is my birthday, I think we are going to get rowdy on our bikes... foot down for sure, probably some snowy hill climbs and failures. Sunday is a long day, 124 miles maybe. Then in a week, Spring Training in Decorah. I am happy to know that Kent will be there; I enjoy talking with him and riding (trying to keep up with) him. The whole group sounds really good and I imagine the social aspect will be as good as the riding. I think the plan is that besides these three long days, I will do one other 60 mile-ish ride at a high intensity no later than the 20th. The rest of the rides will be focused on either climbing or short high intensity stuff, probably some intervals.

On another note, I am going to start trying a new salsa every week or so and my roommate George and I will grade the salsas on texture, heat, and taste and then give the salsa an overall grade. I plan to try some wild salsas in the future but we will ease into it. That first salsa will be posted in a day or so.

Monday, March 1, 2010

NAHBS and personal musings

So, for anyone who doesn't know the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was this past weekend. I just wanted to put out some of my favorites. Also I am jazzed because Kent Eriksen won Best Titanium for the second straight year, and it is possible that a geared version of my frame contributed to this win. He made a frame identically to mine just with vertical dropouts and cable stops and had previously told me that he was thinking about building it up and taking it to the show. I haven't seen a picture of it for verification yet, but I am searching. So here are a few of my favorites:
Not a bike but I am a Chris King fan. I have said before that I may get hubs that come in wheelsets that aren't Chris King, but if I buy just a hub I don't think I'll buy anything else.
Moots snow bike... Smoots. Cool winter camo rims and pedals. I love the chainstays just bowing out to I think 165mm. That also means the front is 165mm... burly but I bet it rides like a dream... may be a dream bike.
Engin cycles had maybe my favorite bike. I just love the subtle colors, the sliders blend in perfectly. I love the lugged stem. I just think that it looks real sleek and real clean. I think the won Best-in-show this year as well.

Today was an awesome day on the bicycle. As I type at 5:38 it is 37 degrees out. I took a new route to school which I think is going to become permanently integrated. Instead of going up Dubuque street, I am going up the long climb of Ridge Rd. I know that Ouachita has a brutal climb right away, and my legs can't feel dead like they have been at the beginning of rides or that climb will suck. So I am putting a good, long, not too steep climb right away in my everyday ride. On the Soul it is a good climb that forces my legs to respond before they are really ready. So after a good maybe hour long ride to class in the morning, I took a back route to pay rent which included monster trucking through some snow. In two or three more days of the snow melting: the fixed 29er is going to absolutely shred some snowmobile trails. Rode downtown, got some food, then headed across town to see Doug and Kelly's new place... pretty sharp. Yoga tonight rounds out the day. Some things are happening right now, and when they are fully ironed out I'll put it up. Riding tomorrow hopefully, and considering a 124 day on Sunday with Steve McGuire and Dave Pals, happy birthday ride for me.