Me and Dzangel

Me and Dzangel
RMC 5K 2007

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

29er Hardtail vs. 26er Full Suspension

Since I haven't been doing much riding lately, I've been thinking. And that's usually dangerous. I have been considering getting rid of my trusty Specialized Epic Expert 26er full suspension bike and moving to a 29er hard tail.
I raced a 29er hard tail last year, although it was a single speed. I really liked how it handled. Maybe it was just the simplicity of no gears. Just pedal as fast and hard as you can and try to maintain that momentum.
This year I raced the Epic. And the ride was amazing. Gears, and lots of suspension. My old body really appreciated that after some of the tougher races.
Halfway through the year I picked up a 29er hard tail. But to make a long story very short, my wife seems to have made it her own. So, I'm back to the Epic.
So why the thoughts of switching? I'm not really sure. The Epic is going on five years old, so a new bike would be nice. But, there isn't anything wrong with it. It's a great set up. Not the flashiest or lightest, but then again, I'm not the flashiest or the speediest!
Truth be told, I'm leaning heavily towards keeping the Epic and upgrading to a 2x9 setup. I rarely use that small chainring anyway. Maybe 2x10, but the 2x9 would be a little easier on the wallet and probably easier to convince the wife.
So, any opinions or thoughts? Let me know. Or maybe you're interested in a well maintained Epic?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

WORS wrap up

Finally, a long season done! And I'm already looking forward to next year. That my seem like contradictory statements, but that's how I feel.Overall, I had a great year. I had a goal of finishing the year on the podium again, and I met that with a 2nd in the Sport 50-54 category. While I'm pleased with how I did, there is definitely room for improvement.I had some great races, some good and a couple that I would like to have a "do over". I had races where I felt like my bike and I were one. The force must have been with me! I had races where I wanted to leave my bike out on the course somewhere. I raced in sun, rain, hot and cold. I raced ten out of the twelve races, plus the short track and super D at Subaru Cup. I brought home a medal in 6 of those races. First and second in my age group weren't decided until the last race. That's competitive!The main thing is that I had a blast! I made some new friends and totally enjoyed myself. I know where I need to focus my off season work to try and improve for next year.I want to thank everyone who raced the series this year. And everyone who is involved in keeping this going year after year. It makes for a very busy and tiring racing season, but I wouldn't change it for anything.Now, maybe for some 'cross before the end of the year.
Photo of Sport Male 50-54 That's me on the left, along with Todd Fletcher in first and Jim Feuerstein in third. Thanks to Melissa Kennedy for the photo!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rested and ready? I hope!

I've had a great week of riding this week. Plus I'm getting back in the swing of pushing some weights around at the gym, albeit very light weights! I'm feeling rested and ready to go, even a little antsy. The weather has been phenomenal and should hold through the weekend. The upcoming race in Sheboygan, the Wigwam MTB Challenge, is shaping up just like last year. I need a solid race, actually I need to pull out a great race. Can I do it? I'll let you know in a couple days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

WORS #11-Bear Paw Rock and Roll-Mud Fest

Well, that is one race I'm glad is over with. And I survived! Not the worst conditions I've ever raced in, but pretty damn close!
It was a bad sign for Sunday's race when I spent my bike commute back to Plover Saturday afternoon in the rain. The drive up to Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort was through hit and miss showers. I was hoping I might get lucky and the rain might hold off but I knew better. That's the bad thing about having a phone with a weather app!
The Citizen racers lined up and the minute Don let out his fist GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! the skies opened up. Of course I was standing on the highest point on the course, without an umbrella, so I could get some shots of my wife and her team mates. So I was soaked before my race even began.
The rain quit for a while during the Citizen race and while I warmed up. Maybe, just maybe, I might get lucky. I knew it would be muddy, but if it held off raining, it wouldn't be TOO bad.
I lined up for the start of my Sport wave and BS'd with some of the other racers in my age group. I knew that Jim was going to go balls out at the start and fly up the opening climb. Todd would probably go by me on that climb too. After that it would be a race to the first single track section. And that's just how it played out. I couldn't even see Jim when I got to the top of the first climb. Todd had a little gap on me too. Now, to play catch up. I stayed on Todd's wheel through most of the first lap. I just couldn't get up enough speed to pass him. The single track was like trying to ride through grease, as were some of the more open sections. It was rideable, but definitely a little sketchy. Todd put a little bit of a gap on me and I just settled in to a good pace, hoping I would catch him on in the single track on lap two. As for Jim, I had no idea how far in front he was. 
It worked out just like I thought. I caught Todd part way through lap two and finally picked it up and made my pass. I felt good and kept the pace up. That's when the rain started again. And the course got even muddier! But, I kept pushing. When I passed Todd I yelled that we should work to try and catch Jim. He gave me a kind of odd look but didn't say anything. I thought maybe the mud, rain and tough course was just taking it's toll.
I pushed as hard as I could, trying to catch Jim. Where the hell was he? We both figured that he would lead out on the hill and then I'd catch up in the single track. I just figured he was having a great race. But, I thought I would at least get a glimpse of him.
I pushed hard through lap three and the rain kept coming. My only comforting thought was everyone else was putting up with the same conditions. And, the Elite class would have it even worse. My hat is off to those guys! The really had some awful conditions to race in. Anyway, I kept trying to catch my elusive quarry. But, no luck. I felt good but just couldn't reel him in. I finished in a spray of mud and rain and headed off to at least try and clean up and dry off.
When I checked the results, I was first in my age group!? What the #@!! I told my wife, "that can't be right. I never caught Jim! There must be a mistake." Todd came up and I asked him, "what happened to Jim?"
He said he crashed on the switchbacks in the first single track. That would explain the weird look when I said we should try to catch him! All that time I had been pushing hard to catch someone who wasn't really in front of me. But, it worked. It kept me pushing.
Results-1st in Sport-50-54 and 30th overall. And now 1st overall in 50-54 for the WORS series. Two points separating Todd and me with one race to go. I know what I have to do. Time to put up or shut up!
Hearty congratulations to everyone who raced at Bear Paw this year. Tough conditions and a tough course. A really big salute to the Elites. They put up with rain the entire race and still put in some great times! Way to go guys-and ladies!!
Sheboygan this Sunday. Hoping for a good result. Going to have fun no matter what!
Finished-muddy but happy!
More later. Gotta go............

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chequamegon 40

Bikes lined up at the start of the Chequamegon 40. Mine is at the other end!
It's been a little over a week since this years Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. If my recollections and memory didn't fail me, this was number 19 for me. And it was my first 40 in about 10 years. To say I was nervous is quite an understatement. I just wasn't sure if I was ready for 40 miles on a course like Chequamegon.
I've been racing fairly well this year. The only problem is all my WORS races have been around 15 miles. I did have a 24 mile race a few weeks before Chequamegon, and did well and felt strong. But 24 miles of mostly flat ski trails is not quite like the roller coaster ride that is "the 40"!
I got to the start area around 8:00 a.m. and put my bike in the start area-behind over a thousand bikes! I knew I should have gotten there earlier if I wanted a better starting position, but I figured I had 40 miles to improve my standings. Next year I will get there a little earlier, as it took me over two and one half minutes to actually reach the start line!
After that, I had a good race. After the road roll out, I hit a bit of a bottleneck when we actually hit the trail. Again, I just took a deep breath and kept telling myself to be patient. After all, with 1900 riders, I knew I wasn't going to win-DUH! Things finally opened up and I settled in for the long ride to Telemark.
It was a perfect day for the race. Things started out chilly-34 degrees when I left the hotel-but warmed up nicely. The course was in great shape, maybe a little dry and dusty. Only a couple wet spots, and those had a way around them.
Since my number one goal was to finish, I just settled in to a hard, but what I hoped was a pace I could hold. I passed when I felt good and followed a wheel when I could. Although I had to get off and walk a portion of the Fire Tower climb, I rode strong the rest of the race-in my opinion! After the Fire Tower I think I passed more than I was passed. I finished hard and felt like I had a few more miles in me.
All in all, I am very happy with my race. Sure, I wish my time was faster, but I always want that. I raced smart, felt strong and most important enjoyed myself. My Specialized Epic worked flawlessly - no surprise. And I was surprised that my training got my through the way it did. Maybe, just maybe, I'll add some endurance next year and see if I can't knock a few minutes off my time.
Until next time, thanks for checking this out. Gotta go........

Monday, September 12, 2011

A weekend off!

I had the opportunity to race this past weekend. Actually, I had a choice of two races that kind of, sort of, fit my schedule. This all kind of fell in my lap accidentally. My normal work schedule this week would have been 11pm-7am, Wednesday off. Due to some co-workers wanting trades my schedule looked like this - 11pm-7am Monday and Tuesday. Stayed over an hour Wednesday, which remained my day off. 3pm-11pm Thursday and Friday, 7am-3pm Saturday (this was a last minute trade to help someone out!) and back to 3pm-11pm Sunday. All three shifts in one week, which I haven't done since ???? (at least 10 years) and all three jobs in my department. I squeezed in one run and five bike commutes, one on my quick change. By the end of the week I was beat. But, I still tried to finagle a trade to have Sunday off. I kind of wanted to do the WORS race in Lake Geneva, but then again, I didn't. I'm still up towards the top of the standings in my age class and every race is a couple more points. But my heart really wasn't in it. It would have been a long drive, alone, since my wife had to work. I really wasn't disappointed when the trade didn't happen.
I also could have done the trail race just done the road from me in our local State Park. There was a 10K and a 25K. I did the 25K last year. I run the trails often  and know them well. I considered getting up and doing the 10K and then going to work. I knew I didn't have the running fitness for a 25K. I figured I could put in a passable effort in the 10K.
I chose to sleep in instead. After feeling guilty about it, I know I made the right choice. I was tired, my head and heart weren't 100% behind either race and I don't think my effort would have been either. I've got the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival 40 mile off road race this Saturday, the 17th and I'd like to have a good race up there.
So, who says you can't teach an old racer new tricks. I'm learning, after 25 years of racing that skipping a race and a rest day aren't bad, they're good!!!
More down the road........or trail.

Monday, August 22, 2011

WORS Border Battle

I wanted to get this post out while thoughts are still fresh in my head!
The race this past Sunday, August 21st in River Falls was the best race I've had in quite some time. I wish I could really nail down why. It was one of those races where all the pieces fell in place. Maybe it was a combination of things? I was on vacation all week, so that didn't intrude on my training or just generally mess my days up. I laid off the weights all week, but I'm not convinced that made a big difference. I got in a couple good runs, which for some odd reason seem to help my biking. What ever it was, I hope it continues for at least a couple more races.
Tammy and I went up to River Falls on Saturday afternoon. We spent the morning watching the local triathlon and all the triathletes run and bike by our house. It is always hard for me to spectate at a race. I want to be out there doing! Maybe that helped my race to-all that pent up energy! Anyway..... we checked in at the hotel less than a mile from the race, changed quick and unloaded the bikes and headed out for a preride. Nice and easy, nothing too hard. I rode quite a bit of it with Tammy. Ended up with a little over 11 miles and most of two laps. We had a couple of subs for supper and spent the night relaxing and soothing our muscles in the hot tub!
I didn't sleep very well that night. My back was bothering me a little and I just couldn't get comfortable. When the sun started peaking through the shades we got up and had a good breakfast. I tried to fill up as best I could since I wouldn't be racing until 11:30 a.m.
Once we got to the race site we got the bikes ready and then met up with our cheering section-Lara, Jeremy and Kaelyn-daughter, son-in-law and grand daughter. I watched Tammy start her race, waited for her to come around and start the next lap and then headed off to get ready for my race.
Waiting in line for the start, I was talking to some of the other racers and they were all talking about the second hill in the middle of the course. Hmmm.......this didn't sound good. I didn't ride that yesterday! I must have missed a section of course. This didn't look too promising!
I had a good spot for the start. Towards the middle on the line. I had my usual good start and was right up front when we hit the hill. It wasn't much of a lead out to the hill, maybe a couple hundred yards. I kept a hard but steady pace up the hill. I didn't want to kill myself right at the start. Once at the top the course opened into a field before the first section of single track. I tried to limit my losses and get in to the single track in a good position. I rode the single track pretty well but didn't push it too much on the first lap. I wanted to have something left for the unknown hill and the second lap.
Sure enough, I came out of some single track and there was "the hill". Man! Nice and steep with lots of loose rock. One line that crossed the hill part way up. Down in to the granny ring and grind to the top. Off through more single track and a couple more open field sections for passing.
At the start of the second lap one of the Minnesota racers passed me up the opening climb. Man, he was scooting up the climb like a mountain goat. "Don't worry" he said, "you'll pass me in a couple minutes". Me, I wasn't so sure! I kept him in sight, especially when I saw the 50-54 on his back tag. It was tough in this race knowing where I was in relation to the others in my age group. Lots of Minnesota racers made it hard to know who was where. Most of the race I thought I was doing well, but never really knew.
I passed the Minnesotan in the single track and put the hammer down to catch a few others that I could see. We were starting to get behind the slower riders from previous waves and I was trying to pass when ever I could.
Coming out of the single track and on to that second climb my rival went by me again! Man, could he climb!! I put my head down, gritted my teeth and probably had my tongue out trying to limit my loss up that damn hill. I caught him and stayed on his wheel through the single track and field sections of that second lap.
As we came out of the single track and headed in to the last long open field section I shifted up and passed him just before we entered the last single track. Then I let 'er rip. I felt like I was flying through the single track. As fast as I felt like I was going, it just amazes me that the elites are going even faster! I was pushing harder than I have all year. As goofy as it sounds, the bike and I were one! In and out of the trees, around the corners. I was in the zone. I felt like I had tunnel vision and all I could see was the trail. I hoped my bike could keep up with how hard I wanted to push it. I passed a couple more riders in that last section and then came out of the woods for the short push to the line. It was a dicey finish, with a straight field section and then an almost 180 degree turn about 50 yards from the line. I popped it up to the big ring and sprinted with all I had. I didn't know where anyone was behind me but they were going to have to be flying to get by me!
I made it to the line 3.5 seconds ahead of my new rival and friend from Minnesota. As we were talking in the finish chute, one of my chief competitors in our age group came up behind me. What the ???????? He had been so far ahead on the opening climb I figured I'd never see him again. Apparently I had passed him in the last section too. I had been concentrating so hard I never even saw him!
Waiting for the results, I felt I had done well. I really didn't care too much-okay, a little-how I finished. I just felt good. I had been in the "zone". No matter the results, I had a friggin' awesome race!!
The results showed me in 2nd out of 17 in my age group. I never saw the leader after the start. I was 62 out of 172 Sport class riders-less than six minutes from the winner. I'm usually 10-12 minutes back overall.
I still don't know why it went so well, I'm just glad it did! I'm going to give most of the credit to having family there cheering me on and trying to make my littlest fan, Kaelyn, proud of her Grandpa.
Now, a short week before the Reforestation Ramble on August 28th. A little farther distance that normal, but not as hilly or technical. It's gonna be like a road race through the pines. Man, I hope that mojo stays with me.
Thanks for suffering through this long winded post.
Gotta go........

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CamRock recap

Welcome back! Or if this is your first time, just welcome! Since I have a race coming up this weekend I thought I had better recap my last effort.
The weekend of August 6 & 7 was the Battle of CamRock, in Rockdale, WI. Tammy and I went down on Saturday and did our pre-ride in the afternoon. We weren't too sure about the venue when we parked and unloaded the bikes, but after a lap around the course we both really liked the layout.
We woke up at 6 a.m. Sunday morning to a heavy down pour! We haven't had a really muddy race yet this year so I was crossing my fingers that it would let up before the racing began. By the time we were ready to walk to the diner and have breakfast the rain had stopped. Hopefully it was just enough to dampen the course and knock the dust down.
My race started at it's usual time of 11:30 a.m. After my last race I was hoping for a little better race. My main goal was to race hard and not mail in the last lap, which is kind of what I did at Eau Claire. No matter what, I wanted to give it all I had and finish strong.
The race started with a short but fairly steep climb. I had a good start and was 3rd or 4th in my wave at the top. I saw one racer in my age group (50-54) pass me part of the way up, but I let him go. I didn't want to blow up in the first couple hundred yards.
The course featured a lot of single track. Some was wide enough to pass, otherwise it was a waiting game until the course emptied in to the open field areas. I felt good in the single track and tried to push hard when the course opened up. Going up the climb at the start of the second lap one of the racers in my age group caught, and passed me. I pretty much knew this was going to happen because it was his home course and he knew where to push, where to catch his breath and where to take it easy. Home course advantage does help!
I finally caught the age grouper who had flown up the opening climb in one of the field sections on lap two. I could see him ahead of me for quite a while and just bided my time. I didn't keep lap splits but I felt I was riding steady and consistent.
Halfway through lap three another age grouper caught and passed me. I figured this put me in third, but it's hard to tell with the mad, land rush starts. I felt good and tried to stay on his wheel but we got some slower racers in between us and I just never found a passing opportunity. I can't see running somebody off the course for the sake of moving up a spot. Maybe it's a lack of killer instinct or just trying to be polite. I guess I hope for the same consideration when I'm the slower rider.
As I came out of the last section of single track at the end of the final lap, I heard some fans yelling at a rider behind me. I was sure it was someone in my age class so I picked up the pace and headed for that damn climb, one more time! I pushed as hard as I could, not daring to look over my shoulder. I was sure he was right on my wheel. The course leveled out a little for the last hundred yards to the line. I pushed, sure he was there. When I dared to look back there wasn't anyone there. And when I finished I found out it wasn't who I thought it was. But it did give me added incentive to finish strong.
I am mostly satisfied with my race. I had a little bit of an issue with breakfast, mainly keeping it in, but once that was resolved I felt great. My only other concern while I was racing was riding a new bike. I had put maybe 5 miles on a new Trek X-Caliber and was a little nervous about the little fine tuning a bike usually needs after a ride or two. No worries though, as it worked great.
I ended up 68/156 finishers in Sport overall and 3/13 in my age group, just a little under 2 minutes from first and 26 seconds from third. I still feel like I need to work on my fueling and hydration but it's coming around. Fitness wise I felt good. Definitely much stronger and more endurance than Eau Claire.
This weekend, August 20 & 21 is the Border Battle in River Falls. My goal here is of course, to finish and do well, but more important, to represent Wisconsin well, as this is also a competition between Minnesota and Wisconsin. All of us Cheeseheads want to keep the trophy in Wisconsin. Hopefully being on vacation will have me rested and ready for a strong race. I'll post that race a little quicker.
Thanks for checking this out.
Gotta go...........

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Commuting and training

I've been thinking and musing again. I know, some minds shouldn't be left alone or they get in trouble.
One of my goals this year is to commute more on the bike. Trying to be a little more green. My commute involves driving part of the way to work, parking the car in a church parking lot and then biking the rest of the way to work. It ends up being a little over 13 miles by bike. The entire commute of 40+ miles just isn't feasible for me. Even doing it this way means getting up around 3:45 a.m. when I work day shift.
While I was riding in one day a couple weeks ago I started wondering if my commuting is hurting my regular training. I don't really have a training plan set in stone but I do try and get in some planned rides-and runs-every week. But, when I ride to work, it takes up such a chunk of time, and energy some days that I don't have, or make time for other workouts.
I've been doing okay in the WORS series this year, but after my last race I started really wondering if the commuting is hurting. That week I had worked the 3pm-11pm shift and commuted by bike four times, including Friday night before heading to Eau Claire for the race weekend. Just mostly easy commuting miles. Did it have anything to do with my off day?
Since then, I've been trying to add some structure to my commutes. Depending on the shift and the weather I've tried doing tempo efforts, short and hard intervals and other rides. It makes it a little more challenging carrying a full backpack. And I do need to save a little energy for work, if I do these rides on the way in versus back.
I've been trying this plan for a couple weeks and have another race coming up this weekend. We'll see if these changes helped.
Any ideas? Suggestions? Let me know.
Thanks for checking this out.
Gotta go.........

Friday, July 15, 2011

What went right-what went wrong

It's been a few weeks since my last disjointed rambling and I've completed a couple more WORS races, with mixed results. I've had a chance to mull this over in my overly analytic brain. I bet you can't wait to read what I've come up with.
My last post had me musing whether or not I push hard enough during races. My first race after that post would have me answering a resounding yes! On June 25, I raced the Subaru Cup XC at Mt. Morris. Three short and hilly laps around the trails at Nordic Mountain. Short but intense climbs, some excellent single track and just enough open sections for passing. The night before this race I worked until 11 pm. By the time I got home, relaxed a little and hit the hay it was well passed midnight. I was up around 5:30 am the next morning for an 8 am race. This is about 3 1/2 hours earlier than my usual start. I felt good. I hadn't done much riding the week of the race due to lots of rain. Most of my training was short runs. This race was run with the Comp class since it was a National race and we all raced as Cat 2's. I was a little leery of racing with these guys since I was sure I was going to get my butt kicked. My goal was to ride hard and see what happened. The start was a little hairy since there were no call ups, so once we got Don's GOOOOOOO!!!! it was a mad dash to the first single track. It was hard to tell where I was with the mixed classes racing so I just pushed at a hard pace. I felt good on the climbs and did pretty well in the single track. I wasn't getting passed much and seemed to be holding my own. I had a couple guys I was watching/listening for behind me so I kept pushing, assuming they were always just behind me. I ended up 5th in my age class-1st in Sport. I was really happy with this result.
I raced the short track and the Super D on Sunday with mixed results. I got blitzed in the short track. I almost made the entire race but got pulled when the winner of my heat just lapped my at the line. I never seem to do well at these really short and intense races. The Super D went a little better. After a poor start I passed a couple guys and ended up with a solid finish.
Now for the ugly race-in my opinion. Two weeks after this race we headed up to Eau Claire for the WORS Chippewa Valley Firecracker. I like this race and the course but just never have a good race here. This year was no exception. I had an awesome start and was sitting in third going in to the first single track. After one rider lost it on the rocky switchback downhill I pushed a little harder to keep him behind me. The first lap went well. Through the single track sections and out in to the open areas I kept a solid pace. Just as I entered the second lap, someone threw out the anchor! Not really sure what happened. I had two racers in my age group catch me as we started lap 2 and I latched on to their wheels and figured we'd push through the lap and keep pushing each other. Not!! They rode away from me with no problem. I saw them gap me and just lost all my motivation. I kept trying to pick up the pace through out the second lap but just never found that comfortable groove.
So, what was the difference. My wife seems to think it has something to do with how much rest I get, or the lack of it. For whatever reason, some of my best races seem to be on little or no sleep. I actually race really well when I work 11-7 the night before and go on a couple hours sleep. When I look back, it does seem to work that way. I think the courses had a big bearing on how I did. I seem to do better when there is some climbing in the course. According to my GPS, the race at Mt. Morris had 500 ft. of climbing in each short lap. I'm not a great climber, but I don't mind suffering on the climbs. In contrast, Eau Claire was mostly flat, with very short climbs. And it has a fast and long-for me- lead out. I tend to go balls out and try to hang at the front at races like this. Then I just never get a good chance to recover. Hmmm......looks like I know where I need to focus my training on!
As far as pushing hard, I feel I gave both races equal effort. My heart rates were about equal for both races. I felt more relaxed and stronger at Mt. Morris than Eau Claire, but I can't really put my finger on why. I had less traveling and stayed at home for Mt. Morris vs. a 2 1/2 hour drive and a hotel stay for Eau Claire. Could that have something to do with it? I just felt better at Mt. Morris. The course played to my strengths. Eau Claire, not so much.
I think I'll take a little time off and see if I can work on my weaknesses for the next few weeks. I'll let you know how that goes.
Thanks for checking this out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hard enough?

It's been a couple weeks, so it's time for some fresh rambling. I've got some thoughts rambling around in my tiny brain and a fresh pot of coffee. Don't worry, it's decaf, so this shouldn't be too long or disconnected.
I did the Big Ring Classic yesterday, June 12, at Nine Mile Forest. I had a pretty good race. Great start, rode the single track well and pushed hard up the hills. I finished well, 4th in my age class and 88 out of 222 overall. Not too bad for an old guy. Maybe went out a bit hard, but that's not unusual.
On the ride home, Tammy and I were talking about our races. She was saying how the hills kicked her butt and that she needs to work on that. I mentioned that I was mostly pleased with my race. But I wondered, did I give it all I had? Did I push hard enough? I was a little beat at the end but I'm pretty sure I could have done another lap.
I've been thinking about this for the better part of a week. What got me thinking about this is some blog and social media postings about people being injured during/because of their training.
One of our sons has called me a "genetic freak". As weird as that sounds I take it as a compliment. At least I think that's how he meant it. Okay, barely started and already it seems I'm rambling. Believe me, I'm going somewhere with this!
I turned 50 years old earlier this year. I've been running, cycling, cross country skiing and other silent sports since I was in junior high school. Throw in mostly consistent weight training once or twice per week. I've been competing since I was 25. Holy crap, it doesn't seem like I've been racing 25 years. I've had a little local success. I've done 5K's to a marathon, road and trail races, road and mountain biking, cross country ski ultras. I'm not good but I'm a multi-sport threat. I'm no elite/pro racer but I have raced one level below (comp in the WORS series) some years back.
Through all of this training and racing and just enjoying my outdoor sports I've never really been injured. I had achilles tendinitis (okay, self diagnosed) one spring when I tried piling on the bike miles too quick. I've had the occasional ache and twinge. During racing or training I've never crashed my bike bad. The odd unplanned dismount here and there but nothing serious. Although if you look at my left elbow you might wonder otherwise. No real overuse injuries. No torn muscles, ligaments or tendons. No dislocated shoulders or even serious road rash. No ITB or PF. I better shut up or I may tempting the wrath of the deities.
This is what has me wondering, am I pushing hard enough? I've never finished a race or workout and wanted to throw up. To me that's a good thing. But am I leaving it all out there? Believe me, I want to do my best. I am competitive. My last two races have involved pretty hard sprints for the line. One of them was for a placing in my age group and a podium spot. If I see a runner/biker ahead of me on a training ride it turns into a personal race to see if I can catch him. I'm serious in my training. It may not be very structured but I usually have a plan, at least in my head. I have followed training plans. Tweaked for my weird work schedule, but they were training plans. I do tempo runs, intervals, track work, long rides and I commute by bike. I've trained/raced when it was 100 degrees and when it was well below zero. I do this while working rotating shift work six days per week. Sorry if this sounds like I'm tooting my own horn, just trying to make that elusive point.
All this, and like I stated no injuries. So that's where I come up with this question. Am I pushing hard enough? Maybe I just don't have that killer instinct. I don't think that's it. I may not run people over to pass during a race, but believe me, I'll do almost anything else to get by. Maybe I just need to turn it up a notch. Maybe I need to find that fine line and see how close I can get. Maybe when it starts to hurt a little in that next 5K I need to suck it up instead of letting up. I'd like to do well at my next WORS race, not that I don't want to do well at them all. Maybe I need to push until it hurts and then push just a little harder? When that lead group starts to get away I guess I need to put my head down and find another gear. But hey, check out the photo, I am pushing and trying to pass that rider in front of me!
I wonder if my bike commuting takes just a little away from my training. It is time intensive. Leave for work an hour or more early, drive part way, get on the bike and then repeat on the way back. My eight hour day ends up being more like almost twelve hours. Plus, it's hard to do sprints or a hard tempo ride on the bike wearing that big backpack. But, I don't plan on giving it up. It is miles, it makes me feel good and I'm polluting the air a little less and using less gas.
I'm going to start to push the training little harder, or at least try. See just how much more I can squeeze out of this tired old body. I'll let you know how it goes.
Thanks for suffering through this disjointed ramble today.
Gotta run.........harder.........

Monday, May 23, 2011

Crystal Lake Classic-WORS #2

I had a good race last weekend in Rhinelander. I was hoping for a good result, but you know how that goes.
Tammy and I drove up to Rhinelander on Saturday but didn't pre-ride because of the weather. It rained all the way from Waupaca to Rhinelander and I just didn't feel like dealing with the mud, rain and then cleaning bikes afterwards. Okay, call me wussy!
I woke up a couple times during the night to hear it hailing once and then raining a couple hours later. Looks like I was going to get muddy after all.
Tammy and I got to the race area early enough to ride part of the beginning and then we cut over to ride the last mile in to the finish. Tammy got ready for her race and I headed down the course to get some photos. After watching Tammy come through and start her second lap I went and got ready for my race.
I did a short warm up on the road and headed to the staging area at the start. Between the 2 cups of coffee and a Roctane gel with double caffeine I was ready to jump right out of my skin! This thing better start damn soon!
Don sent us off with his usual GOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! and away we went. The race started with a long section on the gravel road through camp area. I tried to hang at the front of the pack but the first bunch just slowly pulled away. Well, I guess I know now that I have to work on my start!
After the long gravel section the trail narrowed a bit. Not quite single track since there was room to pass. It wound through the trees, twisting and turning and lots of nice ups and downs. I was trying to keep some of the racers in front of me in sight. I had no idea how I was doing or who was where. I felt like I had an awful start so I just put my head down and kept plugging along. I was slowly catching the slower riders from previous waves but wasn't really seeing any racers from my wave-50+ and Clydesdales.
There were a few sections in the single track that were a little greasy from the rain but nothing too bad. A couple nice puddles on some of the gravel road sections that were unavoidable. Overall the course was in remarkable shape considering the rain that fell overnight.
For most of the last part of the first lap and the first half of the second lap I felt like I was in no mans land. I couldn't really see or hear anyone in front of or behind me. My back was getting a little tight and my calves felt a little tight too. Occasionally I would see a rider in front of me and push just a little harder to catch him. I picked off a few racers this way.
Entering the last section of single track before the finish I could see two racers a little bit in front of me. I pushed a little harder thinking I could pick off one or two more before the finish. I caught them towards the end of the single track. From this point it is a gravel/dirt road to the finish-maybe a half mile. I tucked in behind these two and noticed the racer in front of me had a 50-54 on his back tag. Okay, now I just needed to stay on his wheel and hope I had just a little more than him at the line. He looked back once or twice but I'm sure he didn't know I was in his age group. Just as the finish line came in to view I came off his wheel and gave it everything I had. As I came by he realized we were racing for a position and tried coming around me but I had just enough to pip him at the line. That made me feel pretty good. In the finish chute he remarked how he hated getting beat by so little. That's racing though. I would expect him to do the same if the spots were reversed.
I had some food at the finish and waited for the results to be posted. I wandered over to look once they were posted and saw I had taken 2nd, .3 seconds ahead of the racer I had nipped at the line. 1:22:55.8-2nd in 50-54 and 61st over all in Sport.
All in all a good day. Tammy took 2nd in her class and met one of her main goals. I had a good race and know where I need to do some work. Now, a few weeks off and then it is the Big Ring Classic at Nine Mile Forest in Wausau. Can't wait!

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Door County Half Marathon

The 2011 Door County Half Marathon is over! I've had a couple days to mull it over and reflect on what I did right and wrong.
First, let me give a big thanks everyone who helped make this event spectacular. From the folks who put it on, to the sponsors, volunteers, spectators and lots more that I'm forgetting to name. Without all of these people this race wouldn't happen. THANK YOU!!!
Tammy and I drove up to Door County on Friday. We left home under warm, sunny skies but slowly drove into rain and cooler temps. I don't mind running in rain, but wasn't really looking forward to the prospect of it. We hit the Ephraim Town Hall to pick up our race packets and then headed to our hotel to check in. We relaxed for a little and then drove in to Fish Creek for a filling supper of spaghetti and meatballs. Stuffed, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get ready for Saturday.
I tossed and turned a little more than usual that night. I'm not sure why. I was a little concerned about my quality of training, but I knew I'd at least finish. The alarm woke us at 6:00 a.m. and I ate some oatmeal and a Clif bar. I had a cup of coffee and some juice and got my clothes and drop bag ready. I stuck my head out the door and was pleasantly surprised to see sunshine and feel mild temps in the 50's. Perfect!! We packed up our car and waited for the shuttle bus to take us to Peninsula State Park and the start.
My goal going in to this race was a sub 1:45:00 race. 8:00/mile pace. My training really didn't point to this happening. I knew from previous races that my training paces never seem to indicate what I can do on race day. Not sure why, but I can never even come close to my race day speed in training.
Tammy and I got comfortable in the starting area. We wandered around a little and then did a short walk/run just before the start. Then we headed to the starting area and lined up. I stayed back from the front in the hopes I wouldn't get drawn in to the excitement of the start and go out too fast. That's my big downfall. I knew the course had a few sizeable hills and I wanted to have something left to get up them. I hoped to stay around 8:00 pace the first few miles and then pick it up once I got up the first hilly section.
The gun went off and I started out at what felt like a comfortable pace. I wasn't gasping for breath. I wasn't weaving through the crowd trying to pass people. I was feeling pretty good! I looked at my watch at the first mile split and saw 7:09. Holy crap!! Way too fast! I backed off a little and felt like I reined it in. Mile 2-7:16! What the hell?! I knew the first big climb would come around the 4 1/2 mile mark. I figured at this rate I'd be walking it. I slowed a little the next couple of miles but was still well under that 8 minute per mile pace. But, I was feeling good. Then I turned a corner and started the climb up Skyline Rd. I tried to keep my cadence light and quick up the hill. Okay, so it's not a mountain, but for Wisconsin, this was a nice and steady grind. A little over a half mile steady climb. Well, that certainly slowed me down and dropped my pace where I originally wanted it to be. I got to the top and felt strong. I popped a gel and took some water and pushed through the rolling middle part of the course. From about mile 5 through 9 the course rolled up and down. My splits were still staying under my goal and I was feeling good. I was walking through all the aid stations and taking water or energy. My legs felt good and other than a little side stitch nothing was bothering me. Around mile 9 I took another gel and got ready for the last 5K. I kept telling myself that I push it a little at that point if I was feeling good.
The last 3 miles had a lot of nice downhills in them. The climbing that had gotten us to the top rewarded us with a nice downhill around mile 10. I ran through the last few aid stations and pushed the pace. I wasn't watching the splits or my time. I just kept going at a nice hard pace. The music on my iPod seemed to be in sync with my running and helped push me along. Of course the last mile seemed like it would never end but I finally saw the last mile marker and the finish banner. I turned it up and gave it all I had. A nice finish kick ( I think) and I crossed in 1:41:22. 5/58 in my age group (50-54) and 106th overall.
I walked to get my drop bag, changed in to some dry and warm clothes and waited for Tammy to finish her race. She finished strong and smiling, arms raised and she entered the finishing chute. The best part of my day was watching her finish her first half marathon and seeing the big smile on her face!
So, what did I learn? I need to take this a little more seriously. I had somewhat of a training plan mapped out going in to this race. I printed out a couple training plans and kind of mashed them together to fit my schedule. But I tried to fit in some cycling and weight training as well. Trying to train for this and the beginning of the WORS season probably wasn't a good idea.I hit most (okay, some ) of the important workouts. I tried to hit the planned paces and distances as best I could. When I do this race next year, I'm going to train for this race! Plus I won't do a hard tempo run and a 46 mile bike ride in the days before the race. DUH!
I learned I need to work on the hills. I felt strong in the hills but know I can do better. I have enough hills near home that I can do this part easily.
Now that I know what the course is like, I think I can knock a couple minutes off, under the right conditions, of course.
I learned that race day brings out a different level in my performance. I kind of learned this after my first half marathon a few years back. My training runs never came close to the pace the plans called for. On race day though, I seemed to find another gear. Chalk it up to race day atmosphere and endorphins.
All in all, I am 99% happy with this race. My original goal was sub 1:45:00. I nailed that-on a hilly course. Of course, I always think I can do better. It's just the nature of the beast. If I apply myself, train specifically for one event and push a little and not be afraid to suffer a bit, I know I can get under a 1:40:00. I plan on being back for this next year!
Now it's time to get serious about biking. WORS season is in full swing and that is going to be my main focus. Plus I'm doing the 40 at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival this year. That means I need to work on my endurance.
The Crystal Lake Classic in Rhinelander on May 22nd is up next. It's a course that suits me. We'll see how it goes.
Thanks for suffering through this long winded recap. I appreciate it! As always, feedback and comments are always appreciated.

Monday, May 2, 2011

WORS #1-Iola Bump & Jump

Well, if nothing else, the first mountain bike race of the season showed me where I need to focus my attention. Having not spent much time on the bike I wasn't looking to do anything spectacular. I wanted a solid finish and a chance to get used to my bike. I think I got what I expected.
Race day was cold and blustery. Or, normal for central Wisconsin this year. Low 40's and gusty winds around 30 mph. Being in the woods knocked the wind down a bit but it was still a little noticeable. Cold enough that my hands and ears stayed cold the entire race. My solace was that everyone else had to endure the same conditions, so I couldn't whine to much.
I watched my wife, Tammy, start her Citizens race and then ran around trying to get some pictures. I watched her complete her first lap and then headed to the car to get ready for my race. By the time I got dressed-(oh yeah, in brand new shorts bought that morning, since I forgot mine!) got the bike out and hit the porta-potties I didn't have much time for a warm up. I headed up the road a bit and then headed back to stage for the race.
I managed to weasel my way towards the front for the start. Just enough time for a few butterflies, which I always have and we were off. I had a fair start. Starts aren't exactly my strong point. This race has a short straight and flat section and then a right turn and s short but fairly steep climb. I held my own up the climb and then got caught behind a couple guys who decided to tangle tires. After that first climb the race shoots downhill and through a bowl by the lodge at Iola Winter Sports Club. Through the bowl and then the only real climbing in the lap. Three climbs with some roots thrown in to make things interesting. Once at the top it's back down the edge of the bowl and into some ski trail and zoomy and twisting single track. The back two thirds of the course really don't have much climbing as it is all ski trail and single track. This is where I tried to make up some ground, or at least not get caught by too many riders.
The first lap wasn't too bad. Still lots or riders to help push/pull me along. By the middle of the second lap I felt like I was in no mans land. I managed to hook up with one rider who could just fly through the single track. I tried to stay on his wheel and then tried to help pull him up the small climbs on the back of the course. It was nice while it lasted but I lost him on one of the climbs leading in to some single track. Lap three I just tried to keep the hammer down and catch riders from previous waves and keep the guys behind me off my wheel. I could hear riders behind me and that helped me push just a bit harder. I finished strong and still felt pretty good.
What did I learn? I learned I need to figure out how to shift a bike again. This was my first race aboard my Specialized Epic. I've had it since last year but raced a singlespeed last year. I had a few moments where I shifted the wrong way and a few unplanned shifts when my hands accidentally hit the shifters. Other than that the bike worked great. Having full suspension helped with the beating my old body takes!
I also learned I need to work on my starts. I need to be willing to suffer a little and keep the hammer down. My climbing was okay and I don't think I held to many riders up in the single track. I need a bit more endurance but that will come. I'm used to racing myself into shape. It also might help if I wasn't trying to train for cycling and a half marathon at the same time. One more week and I can focus solely on the bike, with a run here and there for cross training.
I finished okay. 82/196 overall and 5/16 in the 50-54 age group. A little slower than last year but I am chalking that up to still fighting a cold/sinus infection and the cold. I don't do well in the cold. Bring on the heat and humidity.
Next up-taper week for the Door County Half Marathon on May 7th. I'm on vacation so the taper part might be hard. It will be tempting to try and get in some nice rides, but I'm going to do my best to take it easy.
Link to the WORS site-
Thanks for reading. Any training hints, tips and general suggestions appreciated.

Friday, April 29, 2011

On your mark.....

Can you feel it? I can. I can feel it in my stomach. The little butterflies that start this time of year. I can feel it in my twitching nerves and muscles. No, I don't have a spring cold. It is the start of race season! At Last!!
My first race of what I consider race season is this Sunday, May 1st. I've had a couple pre-season warm up events. Not to say I didn't take them seriously. I actually worked harder at Point Bock than I have in years. But, when WORS season kicks off, that's when I get serious. Or at least serious for me.
I had grand plans at the start of the year. I was going to follow a plan, train hard, lose a few pounds, eat better. Well, I have done a little of all of the above. Not quite as well as I would have liked. But, I tried. And I'm still trying.
I've been fighting a bit of a sinus infection, which slowed me down a little the last two weeks. Add to that a long run that I pushed a bit too hard on and should have cut short. That had me battling some back and hip issues. But, I'm feeling pretty darn good now. How good? Well, that is what I'm going to find out on Sunday.
I'm excited to be racing in a new age group. Last year I raced in the Sport Single Speed class, which didn't go by age. Just everyone lumped in one single speed class. It was fun, but tough racing against guys 10-15 years younger than me. But, the old guy gave them a pretty good fight.
I'm not expecting too much for the first race. I want to see what kind of competition there is going to be in the 50-54 age group. Where do I need work? Can I get used to riding a geared bike again? Lots of questions. I'm sure I'll get answers, and hopefully they won't all be bad answers!
I'll let you know how it goes after the race.
Thanks for checking this out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Iola Trail Run 15K

I did my first, and hopefully not last, trail run this past Sunday, April 17th. I used this as more a training run than a hard race. I'd been having some back and hip issues the previous two weeks and just wanted to finish this and feel good when I got done.
Sunday turned out to be a cool and windy day for the race, but much better than Saturday. Saturday had winds and rain most of the morning. Sunday was sunny, but only the low 30's and still blowing a brisk northeast breeze. I got up and kind of experimented with my breakfast. I know, not a good idea. But, like I mentioned, it wasn't an "A" race so a little tinkering was in order. I added some protein, in the form of a couple of scrambled eggs. I've heard that the protein seems to help with the fueling. Can't remember exactly why, need to check on that. I figured it couldn't hurt, right?
Tammy and I headed out to the race and I was surprised when we came over the last hill before Iola Winter Sports Center and saw the field full of cars. I figured the cold and blustery day might keep the turnout low, but that didn't seem to be the case. We parked, headed in to pick up my bib and went back to the car to get things set for the start.
I did a very short warm up and headed to the start area. I felt a little cold but knew I'd warm up once the race began. I lined up towards the middle of the pack and when the horn went off I took off with the rest of the group.
The race was a combined 5K/15K and both started together. I settled into a comfortable pace and got ready for the hills I knew were coming up. I'm fairly familiar with the course at Iola. I've skied here before and done WORS mtn. bike races here for years. I knew that after we passed the lodge that we would hit some pretty good climbs. Okay, nothing mountainous, but pretty good climbs for central Wisconsin. I didn't want to be sucking air right away so I took it pretty easy and even did some walking. I didn't seem to lose much ground doing a power walk up the climbs and stayed in a nice small pack.
The 5K/15K was the same for the first loop. I was a little worried that when the 5K runners finished and we 15K runners went out for our second loop that I'd be running solo. Not too worry. The group I was running with turned out to be all 15Kers.
I got ready for the hills again and kept my steady pace. I wasn't exactly lighting the course on fire, but I wasn't getting passed much either. I'd fallen in with one of the female runners that was running a similar pace. We talked a little which helped the miles go by a little quicker. I guess if I was talking and not gasping for breath I wasn't running that hard!
After the initial climbs on one side of the lodge the course settled down a bit. Some nice wide open running with a few little climbs. Mostly ski trail with some of the Ice Age Scenic Trail tossed in. Nice flowing sections of singletrack broke up the ski trail sections. The course was in nice shape but amazingly, or not, if you know what the weather has been like here lately, there was still snow on a good amount of the course. Nothing deep, definitely runnable, but it did make the footing a little tricky at times. All in all, an excellent course. Well marked, lots of up and down with enough flat to catch your breath.
I didn't wear my HRM so I don't really know how hard I was working. I felt good the entire run. Never gasping for breath. In control. No aches or pains. I would say maybe a 7 out of 10 for effort.
After the race I relaxed a bit and got my results and then headed home. For the race I was 26th out of 71 males. 5/17 in 50-59. Nothing exceptional. Could I have run harder/faster? Yeah, probably. But I always think that. Full results-
Now I have two weeks to the first WORS race of the year. Interestingly, it also at Iola. Will it help? Probably not. Then another week to the Door County Half Marathon. I plan on running that one a little harder, with a goal time planned.
My hip/back issues seem to have resolved themselves but now I'm battling one heck of a sinus infection. Knocked me on my butt the Monday after the race. Enough to send me to the clinic. If you know me at all, it takes quite a bit before I head to the doctor's office. Hopefully this will clear up quickly.
As I write this, we've gotten another 3"-4" of snow in central Wisconsin. Apparently Mother Nature can't figure out what the hell she wants. Maybe this will give me a couple more days to get the herd of bikes ready.
More later this week. Hoping I can say I'm finally almost back to 100%
Thanks for checking this out. Comments and suggestions are appreciated-good or bad.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mid week musings

Well, it's been a pretty good week so far. I've been having some hip and back issues on my right side. I think it's my wife using a voodoo doll and getting back at me for always saying, "I never get injured"! I've been taking it kind of easy, for me. This has always been hard for me to do. I am not exactly a sit around the house kind of person. And, I am not use to being injured! I've been pretty lucky my entire life this way. No big muscles strains, sprains, over use injuries, etc.....Not sure why? When I do get hurt I usually grit my teeth and try to work through it! This time it didn't work real well. It didn't help that my job the last few weeks has had me on my feet most of my shift. Walking around on a slanted steel floor wasn't helping much at all. I've been hitting the foam roller pretty hard and rolling on the Biofreeze. After a few weeks I'm glad to say I'm feeling much better. Maybe 80%. How will it feel for my 15K trail race on Sunday? I'll let you know after I'm done. Thanks for checking this out. Gotta run.......

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's been too long!!

I'm back! Not sure I've been missed. First thing-new goal. I WILL update this weekly, hopefully a couple times a week. Promise! Nothing long winded. Training updates, race plans or recaps, the usual BS that occurs during my days. I want to use this to inform and also to hold me accountable when I have a goal. If I put it out there, I'm likely to work harder at it.
It's been a long winter, but I think I can safely say spring is here. After yesterdays rain, the snow in my yard is gone. And good riddance!! I never did get out the cross country skis. My work schedule didn't jive with any of the races. Hopefully a year away will just kindle the fire a little hotter for next season.
Training has been going well so far this year. I'm a little more focused than normal. I have a couple early season races planned. Then it's time to dive in to the WORS season. I'm racing sport again this year, but racing age group instead of single speed. That doesn't mean I won't bring out the single speed a time or two. Since I've turned the big Five-Oh this year my goal is to win my class. I hope that doesn't sound like smack talk or being boastful. Can I do it? I think I have a pretty good chance. But, if I don't, I won't say the year will shot. My number one goal is always to have fun and race hard.
I have a 15K trail run this Sunday, April 17th. It is at Iola Winter Sports Park. I'm feeling pretty good about this one. My only concern is I'm having a bit of an issue with my right hip/leg. Kind of a general dull ache. Then, I managed to add in some sort of back strain/spasms/pull. I can run without much pain. Biking doesn't bother much either. Just makes going through the day a pain-physically and literally.
So, 11pm-7am this weekend before the race, but it's my weekend off so I should have one good day of rest. I'll go out and run until I drop and do my best. That's my goal. I'd like to shoot for 10 minute miles, but it's a hilly course.
I'll check back in later this week and after the race on Sunday evening. I hope everybody had a good winter and is gearing up for a fun spring/summer of outdoor activity!