Friday, August 24, 2007

So it was off to Mount Morris last Friday (a week ago - yeah, I am really bad at updating sometimes!). I couldn't find anyone from Duluth that wanted to go and I couldn't talk my teammate, Doug, into changing his plans which is completely understandable. I'd want to be where my loved one was too. Speaking of such, Scott stayed home to race at Spirit Mtn, so I got to drive alone which wasn't so bad. It was pretty quiet except for my Ipod. I can't remember the last time I went to a race by myself. It is not nearly as much fun without Scott! I tell Scott all the time that if he stops racing, maybe I would too. Although, he is THE BEST water boy so as long as he would still be up to the task and want to come along I would probably still race. I want to be like Scott's dad, Irv, when I get older. He is 68 and still racing. He did the Spirit Mtn race this weekend and ended up second in his class of 50 and older. The guy that beat him is 'only' 60. Pretty cool. Irv doesn't really care to race fast, he just likes to go downhill and through the technical stuff fast and then 'get the uphills over with'. Guess I would feel the same at almost 70.

So I got to the race venue after 5 hrs in the car. The course is brand-new. Don, from WORS, saide 300 volunteer hrs went into making the course and he hopes to bring the race back each year and build upon what they did this year. It is a 4.8 mile loop. Kinda interesting trail in that it cloverleaf's in, out and near the start so that spectators can see the racers often throughout the race. The start is a pretty slow uphill. Then there is a lot of switchbacks both up and downhill through rocky and smooth singletrack. There were a few roots, but not bad and the course slowly climbs the downhill with plenty of opportunity to pass other riders as the course goes in and out of the woods. It also had some flat sections and then an infamous bridge over this tree about 10 feet into the air. Thankfully, there was a trail around it as I still avoid bridges when I can - probably due to Scott's accident a few year's back.

I was a little sad on my pre-ride cuz I was riding alone, but things perked up on race day when I started to run into fellow racers, our team manager Chris, and teammate Tristan. Tristan was back racing. Chris brought the infamous Travis Brown with him and along with the Lalonde brothers, we had quite a nice group. It was overcast while I was getting ready and once I started my warm-up it started sprinkling. I wasn't worried about rain cuz Duluth hasn't seen much rain all summer (we're in a drought) and I just didn't think it would rain.

The men's race started and 5 min later the women's race started. I was expecting to see a few more Pro women there, but Sue Juedes showed up along with the rest of the WORS regulars. We had a nice and pretty big group of women! It was really good to see Sue - she's looking really fit. Our race started in a light rain, but I didn't think it would continue to rain. The course was slippery as some (most?) of the corners are on a downhill slant and along with the grass and powdery dirt that turned to slippery topsoil once saturated enough, the course got more slippery each lap. The first two laps we OK, but the third lap I went down on this steep right hand turn due to the off-camber nature and the soaked grass. I didn't make that mistake twice. I rode at the front from the start and was never seriously challenged, although with the nature of the course, it looked the the other racers were closer than they were. My legs felt a bit tired yet from the Ore to Shore, but I was pleased with my effort for the day. I finished almost 6 minutes up on the second place women.

It rained the rest of the day through the Comp, Sport and Citizen races with the course deteriorating with each lap. Luckily, Wendy needed a warm place to sleep and DJ was nice enough for me to help him change my tires to mud tires for the expected races on sunday. Wendy and I had a great chat and nice dinner at the bar of the hotel with our choice of either 'pizza or cheese sticks'. Pretty funny that was it on the menu. But it was late and we needed to get to bed. DJ hung back at the race venue to sleep with the dogs.

We showed up the next morning - after finding the biggest cup of coffee I have ever had - for the time trial and short track. After the race meeting with Don and the other racers, the course had not recovered enough from the previous day's race to allow us to race! Bummer. So by 9 AM that morning I was back in the car and heading towards home. Dj and Wendy hooked me up with some homegrown tomotoes (which are great on salty pizza and omletes) and nice Clif bar parting gifts. If I got back in time I would get to see part of Scott's race. It was pouring rain at times on the way home. At times it felt like I was in a waterfall mist - it was so white all around. I had not seen it rain like this since last spring! By the time I got to Spooner it had let up and by the time I got home, the ground was still dry and dusty. I got to see Scott race his last lap at Spirit (the race was 2.5 laps long). He was in a group of 5 guys coming around his last lap. I was really hoping he'd he'd come through first of the group up the last singletrack climb, but he started cramping and by the time he hit the finish, lost about 2 minutes to his group. It was fun to watch him race! Jeff Hall loved the course and would really like it if we hosted a NORBA national. This is his type of course and I think he could podium on this course.

So, it is off to Seeley for the Pre-fat and then to Rhinelander for the last of the WORS marathon races.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

This week I have been focusing on recovering from the Ore to Shore. I rode easy on Monday and then due to work and poor sleep was not able to get back on my bike until today. I rode the Spirit Mountain race course for the race happening this Sunday as part of the MNSCS series. The course is fantastic! It has two new switchbacks - one going uphill in the pines (instead of a steep climb that 99% of riders had to run anyway) and one downhill to prevent erosion. The side of the hill that was disappearing has been re-bench cut with a nice retaining wall. The noteable "Puker" uphill has been replaced by a singletrack uphill that courses along the creek. It is a fantastic uphill, in the shade and challenging in spots - much more exciting than the long grind up the gravel uphill. The course will then take riders to a section of trail that has not been part of the race course previously. It will cross a creek several times. The course should be a 2/3 loop followed by two full loops. A nice change from the five laps the Elite class normally gets to enjoy. Spirit Mountain is a real mountain bikers course. Full of roots and rocks, fast descents, switchbacks, tricky climbs and downhills and fantastic scenery (not that you'll have time to enjoy it during the race). I wish I could race it, but our regional team has the WORS cup this weekend instead. Good luck to all the riders this weekend!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Scott, my teammate Doug, and I packed ourselves, along with all three bikes, inside the car and left for Marquette Friday morning for the Ore to Shore 48 mile Saturday. Doug stayed at our house the night before and got to experience the natural air conditioning of our basement spare bedroom accommodations. Little did he know he would miss that on the drive over. Once we got to Marquette, we did a quick pre-ride and then headed to dinner with the Eppens and Chris Shaw.

Neither Scott nor I got any sleep that night. Our hotel was really loud and our room was next to the laundry room - we could hear the washer and dryer running part of the night. Our room was too hot, then too cold. I got up twice to adjust the temperature. I am still not sure if I slept at all. I was trying to not get worked up while trying to sleep that night and reminded myself that I am still laying down and resting, even though sleep escaped me.

Scott went out for breakfast as I always bring my own from home and brought me back a coffee. Not the best coffee, but a nice way to start the day after a sleepless night. We joined Doug and Chris and headed over to the race start. Luckily, it was not hot. I was really nervous, but was trying not to get wigged out. I had not raced in a month, took a whole week off the bike during that time, and I cannot remember the last time I have done an interval. I was wondering if I could go fast at all. During the warmup my legs felt a little sluggish, but I wasn't expecting them to feel like rock stars. I did a few hard efforts to test things out and spun my legs out before awaiting the start.

I lined up second row and got a pretty good position. The lead-out car kept everyone tight and I was suprised that the start wasn't faster. The race truely started once the lead car pulled off the road and the race proceeded onto two track. Kyia was ahead of me on the paved sections, but I was only two riders behind her. Gabor passed me on the road as well. I was sitting in third going into the two track. I got in front of Gabor, but I didn't actually see her as I passed and then slowly pulled in Kyia. I got by her just before the first climb and could hear her breathing behind me as we climbed up the steepest part of the hill and as the course turns left, then right and then I couldn't hear her anymore. I didn't look back. I kept passing guys as I climbed to the top and then was chasing the guys in front of me to get into a good group. I was working my way up through the pack when Ron Raymond, now riding a Gary Fisher complete with kit, comes by me and yells for me to 'hang on'. I hung on the best I could for as long as I could. We cat and moused a little bit due to the deep sandy sections and the climbs. I'd catch back up on the technical descents and then try to hang on during the flat sections. Ron was a great alli to have out there. There was another guy that was working with us and then our group tended to work together, then break up a bit, then come back together. Later in the race some guys caught us and then didn't want to do any work; pulling the old person card. Ron dropped us all then and just started flying with about 8 miles to go. I was starting to feel my legs want to cramp wirh about 13 miles to go so I forced myself to slow down a bit, drink more, and just hold onto the lead while avoiding full-blown cramping. My right quad partially seized for a bit and thankfully let go.

Scott and Chris were instrumental during the race, providing both Doug and I with handups. I ran out of Cytomax about 5 miles before the first handup and started to suffer a bit. I got my hand-up and ran out again. I was forcing myself to drink everything. I had to get two bottles for the third hand-up and downed one while Scott was running next to me up the blacktop hill in order to get the bottle when I was done. Climbing, sucking down gel, and drinking as fast as I can so I don't lose my group and get dropped on the hill. I ran out again before the last hand-up and again had to grab a bottle, drink part of a second bottle while Scott ran alongside in order to get when I was done. I had to get enough fluids to prevent full-blown cramping that happened the first two times I raced this race. I was impressed with the Fuel and how it ran in the sand. I kinda like the sand as it is the only type of technical riding where I have any chance at passing Scott during a training ride. It was incredibly dusty on the trail and according to locals, Marquette hadn't had rain in three weeks! They were having an unusual dry summer. Much dryer than last year. The conditions showed it. I don't remember riding in that much sand for long stretches of time. My time was slower than last year and last year I felt really bad during the entire race.

This is a really long, tough race. There are so many things that have to go right, and not go wrong that it could be anyone's day. Kyia is a tough competitor and I know I am always going to have to ride fast when she shows up. I have to bring my 'A' game to these big races and I was nervous that I would not be able to go fast due to some of the races I have had this year where I have felt just terrible. I am lucky that I was able to go fast enough during this race to win. Doug didn't have such a good race as he took a wrong turn and lost a ton of time. I am sure his blog will have an interesting race recap.

With the awards not until 6:30pm, Scott still got a ride in at the Mount Marquette (South) Trails. They are full of fantastic singletrack and start behind the Nordic Bad Lodge. Our friend, Michelle, joined him as she DNF'd due to flat. Not much of a birthday present for her, as I am sure she would have been on the podium.

We got home at 1 am after the race. Some fellow racers had hit a deer, losing one headlight, so we escorted them as far as Duluth. They were headed to St. Cloud and can't believe they were continuing on. It was early in the morning! Unfortunately, I didn't sleep in very long and have been in a fog all day. I must be overtired as I have been unable to fall asleep after several attempts at a nap. No riding for me today. My head is so tired I would probably hit a tree, or worse.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Scott and I took a week off from riding and got back on the bikes last Monday with the ski hut ride. That ride is always fun cuz we just chat with our friends and get to know any newcomers. We both also had to go back to work last week, which I was surprisingly ok with. It is nice to have a break, but it also nice to feel productive. I am battling a little poison ivy - for the third time this year. It is on my back and I didn't realize what itched so bad for about a week. I can't reach the area to scratch it or tell what it was. I thought I got bit by a bug while gardening, but evidently I must have gotten it on my bike jersey or shorts somehow during our vacation. I tried to ignore it until finally I asked Scott to put some Tecnu on it. A few more applications and it should be gone.

I have been just riding easy this week and taking rest days when needed. I am feeling really tired today. Sundays are not usually rest days, but my energy levels are so low that I will focus on training tomorrow instead. The Ore to Shore is coming up and I want to feel fresh. I have found that I tend to overdo my training, so I am trying to err on the other side of the spectrum instead. My legs have been feeling the best they have in months. Granted I am just riding easy, but I have had problems with my legs burning evening during easy rides prior to taking some time off. I am feeling much better. It can be a challenge balancing work and training and I think most people try to cram it all in and forget to get proper rest. I try to remind myself that training should make myself faster...not just tired, and not overly tired making getting through a regular day tough. I've been there during my XC ski days at NMU. Dragging my butt through training, school and having zero social life as I didn't have energy for anything else. That sucked! Doug plans on riding over with us to Marquette, so the ride should go pretty quickly. He can be pretty entertaining.

Scott watched a Twins game with Dan S and Jesse R the other night and also scoped out the I-35W bridge collapse. They couldn't get very close to the site due to the police guarding a large area surrounding the bridge. Scott's brother lives only 5-6 blocks from the bridge, so we were pretty thankful he was at work during the time the bridge fell. It is so sad the people that have died.

I have not been blogging much due to not riding much, but also due to building huge gardens in our lawn. We are working to get rid of our lawn. We plan on growing berries and vegetables and prevent using our gas lawn mower. We hope to have so little lawn left that we can use our reel (human-powered only) mower for the entire lawn. We no longer have much of a front or south side lawn. Our back lawn is also in the process of conversion and then we have a huge field we'll convert next year. I love garden work, although I am not very good at it. The deer also really appreciate my efforts, so this year I put up an eight foot deer fence. Now the bunnies and the chippies seem to still get in. I don't want to poison them, so I'll have to find another solution to that problem.