Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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this time I had upgraded again to my Tomac Eli, full suspension mountain bike, keeping the Pro-Flex because it was so outdated it would not bring much money.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 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!
Monday, February 11, 2008
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
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
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.