Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bikes, Beer and... Babes?

This is rediculous. Blogging is not that easy when your personality doesn't give a shit. Arguably the worst season, no, make that the first season where I went backwards in progress. It hurts the ego. After letting the season die, I decided to take a brake and recharge.
What does a guy do in an extended offseason? Brew beer I guess.
What did you expect, that I would actually get to editing the videos from the 24/9 or the Chequamegon. Yes I wore my helmet cam and would like to get to both video segments, but until I get a video compatibility problem fixed and find the time to edit it, I think it will wait. Adobe Premiere Pro does not like the audio on the camera file. I would assume that audio would be good and if you know me and video editing, I will not just put the raw file on the internet. Some day I might get to it, but until then, I have rekindled an old passion...brewing. I have pictures to post soon.

For those of you wondering, my buddy is doing fine after thyroid cancer surgery. It was fun to see him and long overdue.

Brew on until you can Ride on. Babes will have to wait.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blog This

Who has time? Time shows no mercy. I was at the Seeley Lions Pre-Fat race in Seeley Wisconsin talking to Ron Raymond and he suggested that there should be an award for people with jobs and families because we never have time to train like the ones winning. I thought it was a valid point until they called his name up on the Podium. Then I realized that I wouldn't win that award either. Then again, why should he win it if he can get on the podium and has a job and family? Oh well, I am okay with the fact that I am an average Mountain Biker. I did finish in the top half in the Expert Class. It was a very rough and satisfying race. Coming off a week straight at the cabin, it is a wonder I even finished.

My son entered the Cub Race and had little boy tip over on him at the start. He was dead last, even behind a trike. Teetering on the edge of tears, "suck it up and catch them" exited my mouth while giving him a push start. He impressed me that day by doing a great job at fighting back, passing many before the short race finished. Pride.

Back to the lack of blogging time. So much has happened, it seems pointless to go through it all.

I golfed in my work related event and my back managed to stay in. All the same, I visited the chiropractor the next morning after too much to drink. I had to finish packing with a serious hangover and then it was off to 24/9. I will post details, video and pictures when I have the time to get it done.

Another post I want to do is the Rock Lake Cluster and the taking of Mr. Kay's ear. Good stuff.

I built a mini ramp in the workshop. Sort of an afterthought to the skateboard I bought my son for his birthday. That would make a nice blog as well.

The Cheq 40 is approaching fast and that will be another post if I don't break my leg on the mini ramp. I'll be back soon...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Two Races Down

The Cable Area Off Road Classic is usually a race I look forward to. This spring it was met with anticipation as the first race, but that was mixed with dread because I was not in the shape I was in in Mid-March. I finished 8 minutes slower than last year. That is an eternity considering I would have liked to shave 3-5 minutes off the previous time. There is little consolation in the fact that everyone seemed to go a bit slower this year.

I was a techno geek on the start line, trying to get my new Vholdr camera dialed in, and fumbling with the Garmin GPS. I still have not had time to upload the video I took of the race. When I do figure it out, I will post a bit of the footage.

The first WORS race of the season for me was #3 in Wausau at 9-Mile. I loaded up my new race rig Karma (see photo) for a late departure on Saturday. Leaving great weather was not good for my kids, but it was also good for racing. Just over two hours on the road and I met Mr. Kay for a pre-ride. He was racing with his three boys, brother in law and nephew Long Hair. Bobby T also made the trip for is first MTB race in about ten years.

It was a fast course....too fast. Ron and I must have missed the rock garden. Over dinner with the Kay Klan, I was convinced of this. Back at 9-Mile, Karma proved to be an excellent rig for camping. I am not sure I have slept that well in a while. Two vehicles down was another Westy, camping with his family. Brian and I had a chat about the VW's and how much fun they were. I was now more confident in my purchase/investment.

Once the race started, I quickly found Mr. Kay ahead of me as usual. I contemplated letting him stay there but the competitive nature got the best of me. On the first real climb, Kay's single speed lagged a bit and I passed him.... immediately regretting it. Settling into my mid race complacency, I was passed by Russell, and knew that Kay would be sucking his wheel. A quick glance back at the end of lap two confirmed my suspicions. That look was enough to boost me I guess and a 36 minute lap yielded me only 30 seconds on Kay. I think if he would have been on a geared bike he would have toasted me.

Speaking of toast. Long Hair Kay roasted the Comp Class for geared bikes. Nice Job out there!

The photo of the start is Bobby T's race. He finished in good shape despite leaving a bit of blood on the trail. Welcome back Bob!

Thanks to Twin Six for chatting with me. I wear your apparel proudly fellas. See you at the 24-9 Ryan and Brent.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Motivation is a fickle mistress.

My good friend Bobby T says that Mother Nature is a fickle mistress, and I agree, however reading the KNW blog on THE WELL has made me realize that there are many fickle mistresses.

After an eventful but unproductive spring for cycling, it is difficult to get back into the saddle...consistently. I watched my weight go up by eight pounds. My diet is more "carefree". Time spent with the kids is more deserving. Work is more demanding. The weather has been for shit...The list goes on. It is time to get back on that horse, cast away the depression, the doubt and the excuses. Ride or get ridden.

MAY 06, 2oo8

I planned out a brutal course for 5 of us, hilly enough to make us hurt a bit, but I never planned on wind that nearly blew us off the road. We normally start riding into the wind, so I was fortunate that the wind was in the right direction for this ride. Supercrash brought a first timer, and although I was quite doubtful at the start, Brian gave me a lesson in judgement. It was 50 miles of wind and hills before he showed signs of weakness. Now, we don't have mountains, just hills that are short and steep. This picture by Supercrash shows Brian at his breaking point that day. I had plenty of pain in my legs at this point so the photo is by no means a shot at Brian, merely of him.

This was also the first day on a new ride. I decided sell my Trek 2100 because the geometry was different than my Cervelo Soloist. The logical choice was another Cervelo, this time the Team aluminum. After buying a complete bike, I needed to swap parts to make it the way I wanted. Other than the seat, it was a great first day on it. There have been a few adjustments since that time, but nothing major. Cervelo makes a great bike in my opinion.

The Cable Area Off Road Classic kicked my unconditioned butt recently. I have video that I would like to post, but it all takes time. Next time....right? Here is to Scope, off to Japan for two weeks. May you find a bike, good fast sleep and warm sake at your beck and call my friend.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Out Of England, Into The Fire

Blogging has fallen behind. Life has gotten in the way. April was a shitty month....Period.

From the moment I landed in England I learned that my son was sick with flu-like symptoms. No big deal, right? Well it is a bit of a deal because I am thousands of miles away and he is only five. I feel for him, and my wife who has to deal with it in my absence. To make things a bit worse, two weeks earlier we found out that her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Not a great two weeks.

But wait, it gets better. After I got home, and retrieved my truck with the new transmission, things looked good. My son had seemed to recover; my mother-in-law was starting treatment. Life was on track. But as you know, things are rarely what they seem. Two days after my return, there was trouble with my mother in law. Things were getting worse, fast. I took the first bike ride in a long time on Wednesday, April 23rd. Bob and I went for a quick 27 mile ride and finished in time for me to make it to my son's first soccer practice, with pictures afterward. At the exact same time that my wife got a phone call from her sister, my son started complaining of stomach pains. I figured it was from the Gatorade he slammed during practice, but he barely made it through pictures before running to the toilet.

You guessed it, my wife's sister was the bearer of bad news and her mother was gone. Six weeks is a short period of time for cancer. I find little solace in saying that "perhaps it is good that it went quickly". Pavel (my son) was oblivious to "nana kitty's" passing as his stomach pains worsened. Three hours later I woke a riding friend that is also a doctor and gave him the lowdown. Here comes a trip to the ER!

While I was in England and he was sick, a stool sample was sent out for analysis. Tested positive for the Norovirus and that would prove important over the next 18 hours. Getting an IV shunt, blood drawn for testing, x-rays, urinalysis, drinking barium and a CT Scan in on a five year old before 5am is not easy. I am utterly amazed that we actually had all that done that quickly. Glad I have insurance.

Nothing came back indicating appendicitis as they expected. The only explanation is that the Norovirus had cause inflammation in his lymphatic system and caused pains that mimicked appendicitis. After another round of blood work showed his white blood count to be back to normal, he was allowed to eat. First time in 28 hours. He was extremely happy. At 5:30pm that Thursday we were dismissed.

My wife had zero time to come to grips with the fact that her mom was gone because our son was in the ER. After a few days, it was off to the visitation and funeral in Hector, Minnesota. Everything happened so fast that I am not sure we still understand what our family went through.

Time will allow us to heal, but six days after the funeral, Pavel is running a fever for the third day. Elementary schools are a lab experiment. I am convinced of that. As I write this, I am sneezing and blowing my nose repeatedly. Virtually four weeks without a steady ride pattern has left me with little care about my weight gain and lack of training. I would settle for a reprieve for my family. Biking is always been second or third.

Some good news bike related. I made some decisions about my rides and have made many changes. I hope to write about them tomorrow and include plenty of pictures. Yes Supercrash, I will post yours as well.

Monday, April 14, 2008

An American In Meriden

Greetings from Meriden, England.

15 hours worth of travel and I am finally able to lay down and rest. True, it is not as bad as traveling to Japan, as Scope can attest to, but it is a long day for me. I managed a few hours of sleep on the plane to Amsterdam, and fought the urge to sleep the rest of the day in the UK, hoping to collect lost sleep from about 8pm on. The body clock is a funny instrument. Doesn't care where you are, or what your doing. Time is the only thing that can right the ship. At 12am UK time, I awoke feeling right as rain. That is 6pm Wisconsin time, I realized that it is EXTREMELY important that I fall back to sleep for the rest of the night. I have been in this position a few times before and forced myself to shut everything out and sleep. It took an hour, but I then tacked on another 5 hours of sleep. Nice.

Perhaps it was the meal at The Bulls Head that helped me rest. Perhaps it was the two pints of fine English beer. I do love the ale's in local pubs. So much for training.

In my cab ride to the hotel, I passed a cycling group of about 15 riders with a few falling off the back. Made me wish I had brought my ride, but there really is no time for it. With temperatures forecasted in the 50-60 range at home, I can only joke that I am putting on weight for long spring rides. The Manor Hotel is home for the next four days.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The New Phone Book's Here!

I am reminded of Steve Martin in the "The Jerk" when he gets wildly excited about the new phone book arriving. He whips through the pages and says "Johnson, Navin R."

That was my excitement level when I arrived home to see the Stan's No Tubes box waiting for me. Like Christmas in late March. The correlation between my excitement and the movie is probably more because while I was carrying the box inside thinking, "the new phone book is here", I thought about the absurdity of being as excited as I was. A later scene in the movie illustrates the fact that what I get excited about could mean absolutely squat to the average person. "Johnson, Navin R., sounds like a typical bastard" is uttered as he is shot at in this this scene.

So what's in the box? Bike stuff of course. Before I bought the Superfly that is calling my name to the right on this page, I convinced myself that buying it could also be justified by converting it to a single speed because it was a lightweight hardtail. Following through on that, to not let myself down, I ordered a new Stan's ZTR 355 29'er laced up with an White Industries ENO Eccentric hub. This ingenious hub sports an eccentric spindle that allows the axle's center to be adjusted. For those wondering, this is to allow chain tension adjustment in the hub on bikes that don't allow it in the frame. This is really only applicable in the singlespeed application, where you only drive one gear, like my old BMX days. White Industries has taken it one step further and designed the Dos Freewheel, which is essentially two gears on a freewheel that marries to the ENO hub. By setting the chain tension to the smallest cog/shortest axle length position, you can switch to the largest cog and simply adjust the hub position to gain the proper chain tension. Two gear positions with one chain and no removal of the wheel. If I ever get serious about the singlespeed application, I can just go to single cogs and multiple chains, but not now. Perhaps some pictures will help.

Some would argue that this is a two speed bike not a single speed. I could argue that point too if I cared about doing so, but since I can only ride in one of the two gears without making a five to ten minute adjustment, it will never be anything more than a singlespeed. Those quick to critique the setup as not a pure singlespeed should only worry about it if they are behind me.
The hub is disc specific so the folks at White Industries also make an eccentric disc rotor adapter so that every adjustment in the gearing, or axle location, can be accomodated by an adjustment in the brake caliper. This is because when you adjust the wheel location slightly, the disc brake rotor is going to be out of alignment. It all makes sense in my head, and on paper, but will it work. That entry is yet to come. Once the snow melts, I hope to give it a thorough test drive.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Outside and In

Riding at this time of the year is always a bit frustrating. The excitement to get outside is always a driving force on nice days, which typically fall during the work week. Last weekend was the exception. Saturday and Sunday were mirror images of each other. Close to 40 degrees and very little wind. Three of us went out on Saturday for a quick 25 miles, and seven of us managed to get out for 47 miles on Sunday. It is always nice to have numbers out on the road this time of year. Drafting is warmer, cars can see a pack easier and it is nice to talk with everyone during rotations. This time of year though, people are excited to ride, but not usually in peak shape. After the first 30 miles on Sunday's ride, we were reminded that the spring is for base mileage, logging hours in the saddle and conversation when late in the ride there were three groups instead of one. Time will bring us back together I assume, but you never know, family and work take away from each persons devotion to the bike in their own special way.

Easter weekend (this weekend) was a different story. Temperatures hovered just at or below my 35 degree limit with winds a bit higher than I would like. I decided to do some power work of the trainer and push my legs a bit. Good Friday I took it easy, riding a 15 minute warm up and an interval course that takes just over a half an hour. Saturday I pushed it much more. After a short warmup, I rode a virtual course up Mont Ventoux in France, a climb that takes just over an hour. 12.8 miles up an average slope of 8.4%, with a max gradient of 14.8% totaling 5,587 feet of elevation gain. After that I did a 10 mile course of flat, steady pace work.

I had plans to do that again this morning, but I did not feel very good. Ended up scrapping the idea of riding all together. Instead I washed vitamins down with Guiness Extra Stout. After three days straight of forgetting to eat lunch, I think my body was upset with me. The forecast is for 40's and the Minnesota Wild are barely holding onto first place in their Division. Riding outside is quite appealing right now.

Almost forgot; Friday we drove through a blizzard to go to Eau Claire for some shopping. Stumbled upon a Bontrager RaceXLite 53/39 crankset for 99 dollars. This is one of only 5 cranksets that will work with a Cinqo Power Meter that are set to be released in April. Just maybe this will all come to fruition. I will write more about it later...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

46 Degrees...A heat wave!

A friend called me Monday night and asked if we would go riding Tuesday after work because it was supposed to be warm. I turned him down, half regretting it when I hung up. Fortunately, Mark (aka SuperCrash as named by my kids) is a tenacious animal. At 5pm on Tuesday he called me at the office and said, "If I get to your house by 5:40 will you go?" A quick check of the temperatures on the Internet confirmed that it was indeed 46 degrees outside. Plenty Warm, I'm In. When I got home I quickly called Ron (aka Sandbagger) and Bobby T. Ron was in but Bob was out. Fair enough. Ron started from his house and had logged a few miles before we met him a mile from my place.

The pavement felt good but surprisingly rough after hundreds of miles on a stationary trainer and coasting on downhill sections was remembered as entertaining. The wind was light but again, surprisingly strong compared to the guest bedroom fan that offers no resistance. Still, it was a ride in the spring time sun on dry paved roads. Seventeen miles is no epic ride, but it was fun and we really couldn't go much longer without needing lights. The snow covered ground cooled the air quickly and once the sun set, any wet spots were quickly turned to ice. I offer a picture from my less than adequate phone, for no other reason than to document the day and the piles of snow in the ditch.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Endless Winter

Ahh, the new daylight savings time (DST). Four weeks of extra sunlight. While the verdict is still out on this topic, I love it. Way to go Department of Energy. A simple clock change can save up to 100,000 barrels of oil every day and increase the hours to ride a bike early and late in the season.

That may not apply this season however. It seems that winter will never end. The snow on the trails will not melt until the temps moderate. Two nights ago it was around -20 degrees F. That is not typical March weather. Riding on the roads is not even an option for me when it is below 35 degrees, mostly because I have a great indoor trainer that makes riding outdoors in that type of junk pointless, but also because it is harder to get others to go for a ride. It is also questionable in terms of time before it gets dark. Even the DST is not quite enough during the week for a long ride after work this early. I guess there is always snowboarding if it warms up. Turns are tough to learn on ice for the little man.

My son has it all worked out. He rides in the driveway, but the ice under the blanket of snow causes him to fall if he goes too slow. At least he is learning how to fall properly. Like me, he can't wait to ride mountain bike. He wants to earn more medals in the WORS kid races.

If somehow I could get my daughter riding mountain bike (probably in a Princess Dress) and my wife to run in the WORS Trail Runs, then we could all enjoy something together, but that is not likely. It is not something I will push for, but with every day there is fresh hope of a spontaneous shift in the MO of the ladies.

Pavel and I are off to the WILD game today. We need some serious points or we will be out of the playoffs faster than you can say Marian Gaborik. The team is not firing on all cylinders and it is really starting to get on my nerves. We always seem to lack grit at the end of the season.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mountain or Road?

As time goes on and friends are made in the cycling community, I am often asked if I am a Roadie or a Mountain Biker. Before I answer, let me give a bit of background first. I was a BMX grommet in grade school, doing the flatland tricks and riding ramp. Not very good at either I might add, but I burned time daily on two wheels for a number of years. Miles were put on the singlespeed 20" bike. The Redline RL-20 and Haro Master were my favorite bikes. Day and Night I toiled on them until I got my drivers license, and like most high school kids, that ended my biking days.

In college, U of M - Duluth, I bought a Bridgestone MB-3 mountain bike to use as a ride to class, but really never did. I entered a race with a friend named Sven on Hawk's Ridge and got my butt handed to me. I never really wanted to race at this point, it was just something to do one day. Occasionally I would take that steel beauty out on the trail, but it was a rare event.

After graduating, my brother started to get into mountain biking a bit more, and he and I decided to upgrade to the new full-suspension mountain bikes that were out on the market now. Enter the Pro-Flex 856 (I think that number is right?). This bike gave me a new interest in mountain biking as a more worthy past-time. However, my small town was over an hour away from good mountain biking trails which limited biking to a few weekends a summer. The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival was one hour away, so it was a race/goal to enter and finish the smaller race called the Short and Fat.

Still, mountain biking did not capture much of my attention, even as my brother became quite involved, racing quite a bit in the WORS series. I could not get past the fact that I needed to drive one hour to ride good trails. Riding for two hours would take 4 hours out of the day at a minimum. In 2002, my son was born and this meant even less time. As my brother continued to get more serious about mountain biking, I actually bought a Harley Davidson in late 2003 to ride to work, or go on little rides right from the house without taking too much time away from the family.

That same year brought another impulse purchase. The Trek 2200 Road Bike. Road riding ignited the pure desire that was lost in me somewhere. I could leave from my door and ride for an hour or two, halving the time of mountain biking on nice trails. By this time I had upgraded again to my Tomac Eli, full suspension mountain bike, keeping the Pro-Flex because it was so outdated it would not bring much money. I experimented with both road and mountain bike racing a bit more. Trying some one of the WORS series events and a couple road races in the WISPORT series. Road riding and racing was certainly fun, and much easier to train for. Ironically, as the cycling industry started to pull me back in, my brother started to fade out of it.

Despite the addition to my family with a daughter in 2003, riding became more frequent. My first road race was the Firehouse 50. It reduced me to the unconditioned amateur cyclist that I was. But for some reason I wanted more. New friends were met with the same intentions and it was all over. I was hooked.

Over the next four years, I have treated road and mountain biking equally. Road riding provides excellent opportunities, more convenient training and group rides with friends on a consistent basis. It was not until this last month that I realized which type of biker I was. While determining my schedule for the season, I realized that the 24 Hours of 9 Mile was the same weekend of the Firehouse 50. Having finished in 22nd place last year in the Firehouse, I wanted to better my finish and/or be a domestique for a friend going for the 60 year old record. But the 24-9 took top honors. The chance to ride mountain bike for 24 hours straight and put myself through ultimate suffering again made my decision easy. If you cut through all the BS, I was a mountain biker if given the chance. I may put three times the miles on a road bike, but I prefer to ride the single track trails in Northern Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Cold Wet Desert

A lengthy blog covering many days.

Thursday, February 14th.
Up at 5am and off to Phoenix. Of course there was a weather advisory for the (normally) two hour drive to the airport. I actually felt all four wheels drift in the Nissan Titan this morning on an overpass. About ten cars apparently did not realize that black ice was covering the roads and ended up in the ditch. I love the Upper Midwest!

The forecast for Oracle, AZ was a mixed bag leading to last minute changes in the suitcase. Snow as far down as 3000 ft, rain and cold for Thursday and Friday. Saturday and Sunday are supposed to clear and warm up. Let’s hope so because night laps at 35 degrees and rain/snow is just a bit frustrating. I can get that at home.

Saying goodbye to my family on Valentine’s Day is not fun. My son is feeling better and actually went to school today, just for the Valentines Party. Hopefully he will give cross-country skiing a try after school to get ready for the Barnebirkie. My daughter is supposedly good at skiing, practicing at her school, but I have not seen her do it and so I always tell her that I don’t believe she can ski, just to make her want to prove how good she is. When I get back, I will be ringing the cowbell and cheering them on.

If all goes well, we should be able to set up camp at 24 Town around sundown. I meet Scope in Phoenix and we get shuttled to pick up the RV. Then it is off to pick up the Superfly, buy groceries, drive two more hours to the race site and set up camp. Busy day!
Scope arrived just before me and was waiting at baggage claim. It was good to see one of my best friends, Uncle Scope as my kids call him. This blog is no place for a detailed explanation of my history with Scope, but as a high school classmate, college roommate and close friend, let's just say there is history there. The same can be said for Uke, who we should meet tomorrow afternoon. The three of us are not often together anymore as work and life has separated us, but I am looking forward to the three amigos being together again.
Off we go in a shuttle to pick up the RV. Our driver was nice enough to swing by the UPS Store allowing me to get the Superfly before arriving at the RV pick up point. The RV was truly a welcomed site that would serve us well. The sun was shining and we were off to the race site. Peoria to Phoenix to Coolidge to Florence to Oracle. We stopped at a Wal-Mart Supercenter to buy groceries and beer before hitting the long chattering road into the race site. It seemed that 24 Town was just around the next corner for around 20 minutes before we finally arrived. Finding a level site to put the RV was difficult in the dark but Scope found a suitable spot and camp was made.
A late dinner, a few beers and we immediately opened the bike boxes and got to work. It didn't take long to have them ready for a nice ride in the morning after breakfast. Unfortunately that never happened. Clear skies changed to grey and the predicted rain started to fall. It was quite heavy at times making us think that the rocks we used to prop up one wheel might wash out. Fortunately we were too tired to care.
Friday, February 15th.

The morning brought little change. No, I take that back. The rain changed to heavy wet snow which actually started to accumulate. This was not the desert that I expected, or experienced in 2006. All day it fell, changing back to rain later in the day. As Uke and Clay arrived, we heard reports of the road being quite challenging for some vehicles, others even turning back. This news was not met well considering our time frame to exit the venue once it was over. Our exit road (No Tubes Rd.) was turned into a sloppy mud bog because of traffic, rain and snow. Even worse was a truck pulling a travel trailer that was stuck in the puddle for about ten minutes, making any chance of getting an RV out very slim indeed. So much for treading lightly.
The idea of getting in two pre-ride laps was ambitious, and based on better weather. Getting my warm clothes sweaty on the inside and full of wet mud on the outside didn't seem like a good idea. Even worse, the weather had taken all the desire to ride out of us. So we decided to eat and drink well. The weather was unrelenting all evening as well. The firepit outside the RV door was where most of the team gathered and drank beer, but I saw no reason to exit the camper that was warm and dry. As the sun went down, we all watched 24 Solo in an effort to get excited to ride.
Saturday, Race Day

Temps made it down to about 30 degrees that night. 45 degrees warmer than home, but of little conciliation. Morning showed signs of eventually clearing and by the Captain's Meeting the sky was actually breaking up. Clay nominated himself for the Le Mans style start, a 400 meter dash to his bike with a few hundred others. I would follow Clay, then Scope and Uke would be clean up. It always seems like a long time until your turn to ride when you think about it, but when you are actually IN rotation, there is a lot to do. My turn would happen at lunch time, so I needed to put a little something in my stomach. Then mix up bottles of Hammer Heed for the lap, check the tire pressure and decide the proper attire for a quickly warming day. The sun was out now, doing its part to dry the earth. Nice.

The exchange tent was a zoo. Riders waiting for their team numbers to be called, then rushing up to the officials to exchange the baton and get out the other side of the tent to the bike. As I started the lap, I quickly remembered the course from 2006. It was fast and smooth even though it was a bit damp. Not muddy, few puddles and a bit of soft clay-like sections that slowed my momentum. For a midwestern guy, it is always interesting to see bits of Cholla cactus laying in the middle of the trail. I would assume running over it would cause a flat, but then I don't know how sturdy the spikes are. I always take evasive action when I see them, but just trying to avoid them can divert your attention just enough to cause disaster. The course is lined with all types of Cacti, reaching out at your shoes, knees and elbows as you weave the singletrack. It is quite exciting.

I felt good about a 1:20 lap time since the fastest lap was 1 hour, nine seconds. It was somewhat depressing doing the math and realizing that my next lap would be in the dark cold night. As excited as I was to ride at night, one day lap was not enough to start things out. As our rotation progressed, Scope finally got to ride in the desert. All I could communicate to him in the exchange tent was "watch out for cactus". The temperatures started to fall early and getting food in your stomach at odd times when you are cold is not easy.

Uke and Clay continued the rotation and it was my turn soon enough. Seeing the course under the power of Light & Motion was beautiful and a bit more dangerous. I had a few twitches in the left leg that I was able to hold off. It prompted me to drink more during the ride which is easy to forget about when it is cold. The clothing choice was typically me, more than I needed, but I like being warm so fluids needed to be replaced. The second lap was a bit slower at 1:25.
As the night progressed and sleep deprivation set in, our excitement dwindled. Temps got down to 28 degrees by my watch, Clay's knee started to swell, and it was increasingly difficult to get out of bed for rotation. Clay decided he would try his turn, ignoring the advice of his teammates. Remember, this is for fun. A blown knee could mean that earning a living after the race is more difficult. He took Uke's bike (full suspension) for a more plush ride and ended up blowing two tires, and losing a light battery. Half way out, he abandoned the lap and walked back in. That must have been a cold dark walk Clay. Two hours after he left he made it back to the RV. The Two-way radios that I brought had failed miserably for unknown reasons, so there was little need to wait in the exchange tent for unspecified periods of time. Abandonment in a 24 hour race lap is not exactly kosher, but the officials said the time would have to be added to my lap, which I knew.
1:29 minutes later I had completed the most enjoyable lap ever. Just before sunrise, the mountain range was back lit by the sun showing a beautiful skyline, stars and a warm glow in the coldest part of the day. 24 Town was coming alive and the sound of music caught my ear at the His/Her Trail. By the time I got to the Highpoint Singletrack I could turn off my lights and put the hammer down knowing it would be my last lap. Scope was not in the exchange tent, somewhat expected, and I found him in the RV sleeping. He was beat, but I knew he would regret not getting to do the sunrise ride. Twenty minutes later he was on the trail. When he returned, he was smiling again. Uke would ride the last lap while Scope and I packed the bikes for the return trip. The sun was out, the weather was unbelievable, and we were leaving.

Getting the RV out turned out to be easy. One moved car and we took a different camp road out to avoid the mud puddle. Willow Springs Road was tore up, but dry. Large potholes and chatter ruts shook the RV to its core. We made it to our drop off point in time, slept like stones in the La Quinta hotel and had breakfast in the Sky Harbor Airport at Starbucks. Finally walking in the door at 7pm on Sunday, February 18th. Straight to bed. Team 3 O'clock Shadow: 11 laps, 168 miles.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Guarded Excitement

Three days from now I will be sitting in an RV with my buddy Scope, hopefully watching some biking videos, sipping a beer. Perhaps I will be out on the trail for a practice night lap. That would be nice. The sunset behind the race site is quite spectacular.

There is reason to be guarded however. Saturday night my 5 year old son showed signs of another cold. Even though he was just getting healthy, as was the rest of the family, parents will appreciate the sheer number of illnesses in one school season. So tonight as I watch him suffer with a fever I am certainly conflicted. I want to help him in any way I can, but I also would like to be healthy for the coming trip.

It makes me think of the well chosen name for my solo entry to the 24 Hours of Nine Mile last July, Kharma's Bitch. If sickness is going to happen, then it will. Sure, I'll take the necessary precautions to guard against it, but asking my boy to contain his illness and wash his hands frequently is a losing battle.

I look forward to the Old Pueblo trail lined with cactus, breathing the dust of the desert and maybe "bikenelson style hydration". Boddington's has been a part of my training table for years.

Looking back at the photos from 2006 reminds me of getting passed by Tinker Juarez in the middle of the night, Uke and I trying to sleep with a head full of adrenalin, the allen wrenches as tent stakes and a sinus infection obtained just before I arrived at the race.

In 2006 there were four of us, until Clay's wife gave birth weeks early. That left the three you see here. John, Uke and I. This year Clay is put back on the roster, but John is out, replaced by Scope. If you don't know Scope, you will in the coming entries.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bike Packing 101

Don't get confused by the title, I am not an expert at packing bikes. After researching bike boxes and cases on the internet, I realized that all the materials used to make a great box were in plentiful supply at work. After a quick sketch, and gathering of supplies, I went to work making the cardboard box. My friend Howie helped me cover it in black vinyl, heat welding seams and affixing velcro to close the flaps. With some scrap aluminum angle I created a base structure and put masonite into the aluminum frame. Another addition was a quick release fork mount that Scope left at my house years ago. A little adhesive, foam and some handles and it was complete.

It had been decided that the new Gary Fisher Superfly would be the ride of choice for the upcoming 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. Having bought it around Xmas time, it's presence was haunting me, literally calling my name every time I passed by it. Yesterday it made its first voyage via UPS in a box I designed, making me a bit nervous. I hope it travels well! It would be difficult to justify the expense of this trip if anything happens to the bike in transit. Insurance, you bet! Tape, oh yeah! Straps too. Stickers all over it: Fragile, This End Up, Do Not Stack. Fingers Crossed? Check!

Experienced packers would argue the helmet, shoes and containers of nutritional powder just laying in the bottom. These items were later packed in foam and secured so I don't unpack a bike covered in Hammer Products. I have read that shoes and helmet should travel with me, not the bike, but think about it, if the bike doesn't make it, I am not going to rent or ride a friends bike, I am going to be at UPS making someones day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

First Blood

As an amateur cyclist, they tell you to keep a diary or record of your training, racing an whatnot. Having put it off for the past three seasons, I decided that this year would be different. However, instead of a diary that no one would be able to read, I decided to chronicle the 2008 season with a blog. Hopefully this would allow my friends and family to see what it is I have an addiction to and anyone else that might give a damn. Maybe it won't work out and I will be the worst blogger on the planet. Maybe I will crash out for the season next week in Arizona. Then again, maybe it will all go according to plan.

The sun is starting to stay longer in the sky, meaning that the snow will soon be melting and the days will soon be warming, despite the prediction for a deep freeze this weekend. Roads will soon be free of ice and willing to accept the thin rubber tires of my bike. It could be considered the beginning of the outdoor riding season, but living in the northwoods as I do, steps have been taken to secure a 70 degree windless day 365 days a year. The RealAxiom trainer I use has given me solid results over the past two winters and I am hoping this spring will again show the fruits of my labor.

I will never be the in a Grand Tour or the Mountain Bike World Championship, but there is a relief in knowing that. I can just settle in and have fun with my friends without giving up time with my wife and children and the other things I enjoy doing. "What were they again?"

For now I will see what this blog looks like and add to it as I prepare for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. A race with old friends, cactus, cattle and cold beer. We won't win, but I challenge anyone to have more fun than us.