Thursday, November 22, 2012

Give Thanks...

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of giving thanks for all the wonderful things in your life.  I suppose it was originally somewhat of a somber holiday, but over the years it has turned into a day of watching not one or two NFL games, but now three games, eating yourself into some sort of pants unbuttoned, lying on the couch in a carbohydrate and tryptophan fueled coma and (for some of us) planning to cap our giving of thanks by trampling over our fellow citizens to get a dumb-assed toy for 99 cents at Wal-Mart at midnight that will be collecting dust in the back of the closet by December 29th.

Let me put all of it into perspective for you.  Last night I got a call from a friend telling me a friend, classmate, and fellow Queen City Rambler-Colorado Division, Scott Marr was in a serious car accident.  The accident sent one of his children, via helicopter, to the hospital and took the life of his wife.  Even as I type this, and I've had 12+ hours to digest it, my stomach is turning and my hands are shaking, I can't imagine what he is going through right now.

I have all these things I want to say about this situation but as I type, none of them sound right.  I've typed and deleted more lines than I can count.   I want to tell you what a solid person Scott is and how amazing his family is and nothing sounds right (although I suppose I just did).  I want to offer my condolences and express my feelings on this but it all rings hollow and nothing can take away what the Marr family is going through right now.

You'd think at a time like this I could muster up at least one funny anecdote to inject a moment of levity, but I can't, so I apologize.  So, for the Marr family, (and your own) today at your Thanksgiving meal understand what it is to truly give thanks.  Hug your family and friends and be glad for all the wonderful people you have in your life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Takin' Time Off...

I know I said my next post was going to be about the shenanigans on our recent Mickelson ride, but recently there's been a lot of chatter around the guys I ride with about the #ahhffseason or the lack thereof for some guys and I couldn't let it go (I'll get to the Mick ride soon).  A couple guys are still out hitting up 5+ hour rides and some of us say this aggression will NOT stand!
C'mon guys...let's have an off season!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for going out when the sun is shining and it is a beautiful autumn day and hitting up your local trails for a FUN ride, but this heart-rate-monitor-wearing-power-meter-watts-tracking-Strava-KOM-points-collecting stuff is no buenos.  The off season is a time to rejuvenate, to take some time off the bike so you can see your family again, you remember those people that you saw sleeping in their beds as you slipped out the door at 5 am to go on a training ride before work, those people that you waved goodbye to as you headed out on a weekend to go on a 50 mile mountain bike ride, those people that supported you at your races all summer long?  Yeah, recconnect with those people.  

Ahh, rollers, the road to nowhere.
Off season is a time to watch football, to get chores you've neglected around the house done, to rediscover Sunday afternoon naps, to drink all the great fall beers that are available, to, well, do all the crap you haven't done since April 'cause you were too damn busy riding your bike.  Will your fitness wane?  Probably, but only if you don't do anything.  Will your biking ability fall off?  Most likely. 

And actually, that's what I'm hoping for.  I need every advantage when spring rolls around and if more guys I rode with would take more time off, I'd have more advantages.  So, please, take some time off...get slow and out of shape.  I'll keep riding rollers, swimming, lifting weights all winter so once spring comes around, if only for one or two fleeting moments, I can see what the front of the pack looks like.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gettin' rowdy at Curt Gowdy

 If you were to jump into the Way Back Machine with Sherman and me and go back 3 years you'd find a report on the Rambler trip to Curt Gowdy.  Who really gives a rats-ass about a post about 8 stinky guys riding their bikes at a place in the middle of the least densely populated state and what does that have to do with this post you might be thinking to yourself. Well, it was the last time we went to Curt Gowdy, or a fall trip for that matter and I suppose enough time had passed for us to forget the soul-sucking-tent-destroying 60 mph winds and have another trip to southern Wyoming.

JT's plan (this is where we should have intervened as JT's plans ALWAYS involve getting up at some ungodly hour) was to roll out of SD at 3 a.m. (did you know there is a 3 a.m. where people are awake?) drive to Curt Gowdy so we can ride all day Friday, go to Ft. Collins and ride bikes around to a bunch of the breweries and then do a ride in the Snowy Mtns. west of Laramie on Sunday to return late Sunday night.  Sounds rad, lets do it!

I rolled out of NSS Headquarters around 3:10 in the luxurious mini-van ride of John M.  The plan was to meet up with the northern Ramblers at Mule Creek Jct. and if we left around the same time, our ETA would be the same, although since Jay was pulling a "camper" for us to stay in (more on this in a minute), we could leave a touch later and still meet up at the right time.  John and I got to MCJ and after a couple phone calls, we found they were about 20 minutes out.  As we see the crew roll into the rest area, I see that Jay is not pulling a camper at all, but a small house!  Seriously, this thing looks like a semi-truck rolling down the highway.  No shit, we're gonna be living in luxurious digs for the weekend!  I just feel bad for Jay's family as I am sure there is no amount of air-freshener that will clean up the smell in that 5th wheel from having 8+ guys creating a fog bank of pit-stench, sweaty cycling duds, nut-mist and ass-gas.

NW Gowdy Ride
Anyhow, we made it to Curt Gowdy and started riding.  The riding at Curt Gowdy is really cool stuff.  The work they did (and are doing) there is excellent, with trails for all abilities (which meant there was a lot of shit WAY above my riding ability).  The park is kinda divided into two halves, ride wise anyhow, the Northwest half and the Southeast half.  Both halves are rocky and technical, but couldn't be more different.  The NW is more forested with big, chunky granite rocks causing you to make big moves, rail steep ups and tire-rubbing-your-ass descents.  The SE is more high-plains-desert with broken rocks, dry, yucca covered trails.  There is a bit of transition in the middle where some of each blends into the other, but for the most part this is they way it is.  We rode the NW section in the morning and the SE section in the evening.  We rode down stuff above our ability, with some guys making some moves that were mind-blowing, and others being far more intelligent than the rest and walking down some of these steep sections.  I won't get into the minutia of the rides, you know "we rode over a rock here, then around a tree there, yada, yada, yada..." kind of stuff, but I will tell you we went on a ride in the evening that was forSURE a Rambler ride.

Nick, why is your crank arm off your
bike?
SE Gowdy Ride
Our ride for the evening took us on a trail called End of the Line which was cool and technical and made Nick pull his right crankarm off while leaving it attached to his shoe as he was trying to pedal up a tight switchback.  After a trailside fix we ended up on the Canyons trail which was marked "expert" and holy shit, it was!  With the sun setting we were carrying bikes down big, chunky rocks, down through gullies and back up the hill on the other side.  As we were nearing what we thought was the end, we looked across the "canyon" to see the trail wind back up another BIG hillside.  Riding home in the dark was going to be a distinct possibility.  We decided to ride back to camp on the gravel road and we made it back basically at dusk after Nick lost his crankarm again (and John having to go back to rescue him in the van).

Saturday's plan was to get up, have a big breakfast, saddle up the troops and roll down to Ft. Collins, in a car of course, get the bikes out and ride from brewery to brewery, taking tours and sampling the finest barley, hops and malt the fair city had to offer.  The liver is an evil organ and must be punished!

Starting the Odell Tour
John looks kinda happy...
Sampling one of many...
Beauty in a barrel!
We were on a touch of a schedule as we had lined up a SWEET tour of the Odell brewery.  I have a friend, Jeff Doyle, or just Doyle, that is one of the brewers there and agreed to take this motley crew on a private tour of the facility, and what a tour it was!  There is nothing that can describe how truly awesome the tour was other than to keep using the way over played adjective awesome, in the literal sense of the word.  We learned about grains, how high sugar beers make your teeth bad and make you fat, and learned about hops, we sampled beers that will never get released to the public, beers that were not quite ready to be released to the public and beers that were having their release party later that day and I'll tell you that there wasn't a one in the bunch that I couldn't love.  All of them were, well, awesome. I'll finish by letting the pictures do the talking and just say 2 1/2 hours later, we walked out of Odell's happy, very happy.  Our livers were a bit less happy, but it was nothing a little bike ride couldn't fix.
John mesmerized by the
beauty that is Woodcut...
John getting all hoppy!
John & Ginger Bear having fun.
What an AWESOME tour!







Jay and the Ice Cream-Stout float.
The rest of the day was just visits to the taprooms and not actual tours of the breweries.  Our next stop was the Ft. Collins Brewery for lunch.  A well needed break for food to soak up some of the alcohol.  The beer was good, but not mind-blowing like the Odell beer, but the food was great!  The problem with the rest of the day was we started at Odell's and the tour and all the beers set the bar really, REALLY high for the remainder of the day.  After being sufficiently fueled and a little less inebriated, we headed to Funkwerks for a quick beer before rallying the troops and heading to the brewery synonymous with mountain bikes, New Belgium Brewery.
New Belgium!

Nick rolling the stone.
As we rolled up to New Belgium we see that it is somewhat of a cluster-fuck there with about 500 people (and about 200 bikes) there.  We head in and have a beer or two and some of the guys play a game out back that is a cross between curling and shuffle board which was a good time, despite the fact that the place was bonkers.

This is the way I'm doing a bike tour
next time...
One more stop at Equinox brewing rounded out the day, and for me, none too soon.  It wasn't that I was drunk, although I could feel my liver writhing about in my body, but the fact I was FULL.  I couldn't get anymore beer in me cause there was no more room.  A short ride back to the car and we were off to Wyoming and our campsite.
Leaving the Fort and scaring kids
along the way.
Snow Mountains Ride
The Crew before rolling out.



We were up early Sunday to hook up with Bobki and Writer to head up into the Snowy Mountains for a more or less downhill run back to a little town called Centennial.  I had a bit of uneasiness about this ride as when I've been on a Writer led ride before there was a lot of bushwhacking and general being lost involved.  Thankfully there was none of that involved on this day.  The day started at over 10,500' on a ripping descent to a little mountain lake called Bear Lake, which at 10,000'ish feet looked super cold.  And JT could have told you how cold it was as he stripped down, jumped in, swam out about 30 feet or so, did one of those double breath gasps for air that you do when it is so cold your testicles are crawling up into your lung cavity for warmth, turned around and swam back to shore.  When asked, JT said he almost died out there.  We continued on our descent when Writer decided to get all rad and wheelie through some scrub when we were looking for the trial and rip his rear derailleur off.  Some trialside voodoo was performed and we had Writer back up and running, with a lot less gears, but still running.  We continued on to Centennial without getting lost, which was a nice surprise.
The finale.

Ginger Twin powers activate!
A LOT of beer later (seeing a theme here?) and some pizzas as we left Centennial to roll back to get Jay's camper and head home.  All in all an awesome (there's that word again, I need to get a fucking thesaurus) trip, but I did discover something about why we only do this trip every 3 years...we need time for our livers to regenerate.

Next Post: Ramblers take on the Mickelson and punch out their livers again!
Leaving Wyomin'.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Yet another Five-O wrap-up

Another Dakota Five-O is in the books.  My 5th one to be exact and even though nothing has changed about the course in the 5 years I've done it, other than the minor re-route that added DakoTA Ridge, it still never gets boring.  I suppose it has everything to do with the fact that it is a top notch event with a festival like atmosphere encompassed in one day.  Everything from the packet pick-up to the start of the race to the well-stocked aid stations to post race eats to the family friendly atmosphere makes this race a must do every year.

I had high expectations (for me anyhow) for this year's race.  With all the other races I've done this year I had the best fitness I've ever had for this race, so I figured I could "end" the mountain bike race season with a PR (personal record).  All that was on shaky ground starting on Friday as something was going drastically wrong with me.  I felt achy and my stomach sounded like a percolator with not quite enough water in it.  Super.  Two days before the Five-O and I feel like shit.  Now, understand this isn't Shit Cyclists Say or any excuse for my performance, which we'll get to in a minute, but the honest to god truth.  If I woke up Sunday morning and felt like I did on Friday or Saturday morning, I woulda pulled the plug on the whole thing.  Hell, I didn't even ride home from work on Friday, although my Lovely picked me up to go get groceries for camping, but still, I didn't ride home.

Needless to say, I felt better on Sunday morning.  100%?  No, but at least 95%, which was more than ample.  This year's race had riders picking from three starting waves since there were somewhere between 600-700 competitors.  If you thought you were going to be under 5 hours, you went in the first wave, second wave was 5-7 hours and third wave was 7+.  Since I knew I'd be in the 5 hour range, I opted for the 2nd wave.  I figured being more toward the front of the 2nd wave would be WAY better than at the back of the first wave.

Without getting into the monotony of the race (not that the race is monotonous, but my description could be, "I rode over a rock here, I almost crashed there, blah, blah blah") I'll tell you I felt EXCELLENT for almost the entire race.  I went out on my own pace and kinda stayed there for the whole race.  If you're not in the Dash for the Cash and you really have no chance of being at the front of the pack, you set goals like I wanna be at this time, I wanna beat this guy or that guy, which tends to evolve as the race wears on (you know, a guy passes you and you push it a bit harder or you see a guy ahead of you and you push to see if you can catch/pass them).  So I set some goals, one of which was to beat my time from last year.  And I did beat my time...by 30 seconds.  THIRTY LOUSY SECONDS!  Shit.  After all the riding I've done this year and I can only muster beating my time by 30 seconds?  Consistency is a good thing I suppose, but I would have liked to have been a bit faster.  Oh well, at least I felt WAY better after the race this year.  I was completely wiped out after last year and I was the opposite this year.  I guess I could have pushed it a bit harder during the race.

I had a good time duking it out with friends and new aquaintences during the race.  I said I wouldn't get into the minutia of the race but I will tell you about just one exchange with another racer (I don't know his identity).  Starting around the infamous Bacon Station, we started passing each other back and forth.  He'd pass me on the downhill sections, I'd pass him back on the climbs.  He passed me as we exited the DakoTA Ridge singletrack.  I caught him a short time later on the Johnson Fireroad climb, and of course as we went downhill towards the Tinton Trail he passed me again.  I didn't see him again until we were climbing the Passion Play hill where I decided I was going to pass him once and for all.  I reached down, locked my fork out and stood up and hammered (as best I could at 46 miles in) to catch him.  As we descended through the completely decimated parking lot, I was right on his rear wheel.  We went down the last pitch to the final 6 or so blocks to the finish line.  As we were entering the marked off areas for riders to follow into the finish, there were volunteers stopping traffic, and my "victim" slowed up just a tiny bit.  That was my opportunity.  I slammed my shifters up into the highest gear and gave it everything I had.  I went rocketing past him like he stopped.  I kept that pace up all the way down the street, around the corner onto the final straight away and through the finish line.  Even mid-pack there still is a lot of fun racing to be had!

So, Five-O number five is all but a memory now, and a great memory it is!  A fun race with excellent support, an awesome atmosphere and post race festivities, and a great time with family and friends.  I am looking forward to #6 for me and lucky #13 overall!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poor Lance

I suspect he's got this "Oh SHIT" look on
his face all the time now.
Last week some cyclist named Lance Armstrong gave up his fight against the behemoth known as USADA effectively admitting his guilt in the whole doping scandal/debate.  Now we've got Lance supporters already coming out en masse saying that his quitting his fight against USADA proves nothing and even if he did dope, look at all the good stuff he did for people with cancer, giving them hope and courage to fight.  Two unrelated arguments really.  I mean, his exploits in the Tour de France have very little to do with his cancer foundation other than the fact that he used his "story" to inspire people, but just like actors and actresses, we want our heroes to be the same person in real life as they are on the silver screen, which is messed up.

Then on the other side of this Harvey Dent coin, we have USADA with their bravado and their posturing saying they are going to strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour titles as well as his other small lead up races and give him a lifetime ban from cycling.  Even though the really don't have any authority to do so AND cycling's governing body, UCI, gives cyclists a 2 year ban on their first offense.  And really, what do they do if Armstrong's titles are stripped?  Do they test/go after Alex Zulle, Jan Ullirch (oops, popped for doping already), Joseba Beloki, Andreas Kloden (suspected doper) or Ivan Basso (already popped for doping), the racers that got second?  How about 3rd?  Armstrong was the best in an era of dopers, so when in Rome...or Paris in this case.

Which brings me to the REAL reason for this post.  I couldn't give a hairy rat's ass about what happens with Armstrong and his Tour titles.  Strip him or don't, I couldn't care any less about it and more importantly, I don't know how you could strip him and not give the same scrutiny to every single other racer at those 7 Tours.  Give the titles to the lanterne rouge, I really don't care.  BUT, there is one title that I do care about, Leadville.  Strip that title away from him and give it to a guy who is decidedly NOT a doper, but a real hero and a guy that everyone that rides should look up to, Dave Wiens.  A seemingly all around good guy and a guy that has poured his heart and soul into a sport he loves without getting all caught up in the win at all costs mentality that seems to go hand in hand with the world cycling view, and especially the Pro-Tour/road side of things.  Give Wiens his 7 titles in a row.

So c'mon Life Time Fitness or Ken Chlouber or whoever the hell owned the race at the time when Mr. LiveWrong stole the title away from the true deserving winner.  Do the right thing.  March down to Texas and get your belt buckle back and give it to Wiens.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My mind is a beyootiphul blank.

Here I sit, post ride, trying to spew some crap out of my fingertips and onto this virtual paper, and sure there is some stuff dripping out, but really it's nothing.  Hell, this blog is turning into the Seinfeld of blogs.  It is a blog about nothing.  I went for a ride...there's a post.  I ate something cool...there's a post.  I drank too much beer and peed on my shoes...wait, that actually could be a good post.
This is EXACTLY what my mind looks like right now.

Really, I was working on this post all about the Black Hills Back 40 and life as a mid-pack racer, but I re-read it and it was crap.  Well, I whenever I re-read any of my posts I realize they're crap, but this one was stinking up the joint way more than most, so it sits in my draft folder.  Waiting there like a good little post, waiting to be sprung on the world and have the oohs and aahs slathered all over it, or more likely the boos and blaahs.

I haven't gone away, just regrouping and pondering all the boring shit I've done.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll do something REALLY cool this weekend and I'll have the greatest post ever to start next week.  Or, as the cool kids are saying now;  Greatest. Post. Ever.  But I doubt it.  So, be prepared to be amazed by nothing.  Coming soon...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stravassholes and the real reason for cycling

How cyclits used to crunch their data before Strava.
If you've been riding a bike for any length of time at all, odds are you've either had, have or will have a servere affliction of number and statistic crunching.  I don't know what it is about cycling or cyclists, although I realize this happens in a lot of sports, but data gathering tends to go hand-in-hand with our sport.

It all starts out innocently enough.  "I'll get a computer to see how fast I go down this hill" is BIG reason a cyclist first gets a cycling computer.  But then, you realize how many other bits of info you can glean from the little 2" x 1.5" LED screen.  Top speed sure, but how about trip distance, total distance, or average speed?  Soon the data on a cycling computer isn't enough and you take the next step to a Garmin (or other GPS based cycling computer) which adds elevation gain/loss, current elevation, grade %, direction, temperature, and more.  Throw in a Quarq Powermeter and a heart rate monitor and you can add your wattage output and make sure your keep your heart rate within a "target" zone.  Whew.  That seems like a LOT of info, but wait, there's more!

I suppose at some point a person was bragging to his cycling friends on Facebook about his cycling exploits of the day when the idea struck him to combine his passion for cycling for his passion for social networking and VOILA, Strava was born.  Now you can take all your information from your Garmin or smartphone and upload it to Strava and BOOM it compares your ride to everyone else that has done that ride (or parts of it) showing you just how damn slow you really are.  Every ride or climb has a KOM status (King of the Mountain for those not in the know) for the person that has done it faster than anyone else.

And just like society's obsession with social networking, a big chunk of the cycling community has become obsessed with Strava.  Strava has gotten so big in the cycling world that someone in San Francisco, or some other big city that has more hipsters per capita crawling around its surface on fixies than we have rednecks in jacked-up 'Merican trucks, got killed in an accident on their bike and his family is suing Strava because it made him want to beat his best time which caused his fatal accident.  You just know that when you're being sued in this fashion you're huge OR you've jumped the shark, which might just be one in the same.

So, I hear it every week at least, "When are you joining Strava?" or "You'd love it, you should join Strava!" or something of the sort.  Well, if I did join Strava, I'd see hard data on just how fucking slow and pathetic I really am on a bike, which would decidedly NOT inspire me to try harder but would make me sad and make me want to drink even MORE beer than I do, which would make me even slower and drink even more beer, which would eventually lead me to quit riding all together.  BUT, then I could sue Strava for making me feel bad about myself and I would win thousands and thousands of dollars, with which I could buy a new bike and I would feel good about myself which would inspire me to ride harder.  All that sounds like a lot of work, so screw Strava.

Actually, I think I know myself pretty damn well and I know I'd get all wrapped up in the numbers and become way too obsessed with it, so that is the real reason I won't join.  I already get too wrapped up in the numbers on my Garmin Connect page, much less trying to see how I compare to others.  And while I can appreciate the desire to be faster/fitter on your bike, all of it distorts the real reason we ride (or should).  We ride for the freedom and the simple joy of pedaling a bike.  Next time you're out on your bike, don't look at your computer or even better, put it in your pocket or turn it so you can't see the numbers and just focus on the fact you're pedaling, steering, and balancing on a bike.  Just think of that, a bike cannot stand up on its own, yet we can balance ourselves on top of it, press down on the pedals and by giving gentle input into the handlebars and by shifting our weight ever so slightly, we now have one of the most efficient forms of transportation ever created.  Throw in some sweet technical singletrack and it should completely blow your mind that we can ride over some of that terrain.

How many people have actually seen the "Knifeblade"?  
If the fact that you can simply pedal a bike or  you can ride a bike off-road where we do doesn't completely amaze you, than think of the things you see when you're out riding.  Sweet locations, wild animals, or amazing views that a big chunk of society never gets to see.  And if that doesn't completely blow your mind, then, well, upload your ride to Strava I guess.  Just don't ask me to.  I'll be too busy enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tatanka 100

50-100 miles races are becoming all the rage.  For whatever reason, they have supplanted the 24 hour racing format as the endurance racing format.  And if you would have asked me a year ago if I'd ever do a 100 miler I would have laughed riotously in your face.  Not only did I not have any desire to do a race of this length, I knew I physically couldn't do it.  Boy, how time can change your attitude.

I suppose it all started last year in August of last year, watching Cleaver and Al line up for the Leadville 100 and having a bit of twinge of jealousy, even though those dreams were bitch-slapped around a bit after the whole torn quad debacle back in December. I had a plan to ride in a 100 mile mountain bike race this year.

No, it isn't one of those bullshit-check-it-off-my-bucket list stupid things. I say if you're truly living your life then you don't need one of those lame fucking things. Sure you can have some things that you're going to do in the future, but to say, "I've gotta do this before I die" is stupid. Don't plan out jumping out of an airplane, just get a wild hair up your ass and sign up before the reasoning center in your brain takes hold. But, I digress...

I did sign up for Leadville and (obviously) did not get in, so when news started burbbling out that there might be a 100 miler here in SD, I thought I might give it a whirl. When I found out it was in June, I was less enthused about it, knowing that getting enough miles (for me anyhow) in by that date was going to be difficult, so I postponed my decision until the last possible minute to see if I could get enough riding in to not only survive, but actually enjoy torturing myself for a LONG day in the saddle.

The ride that tricked me into the Tatanka.
My Lovely and the Boy decided to take a trip to Miami to see family, which left me home to my own devices, which meant either going to bed by 9 so I could ride in the morning before work OR riding until dark every day they were gone. And, I went out and peeled off a 70 mile mountain bike ride and turned around the next morning for a nice, windy 35 mile road jaunt, so I thought I might be able to pull off the Tatanka, so I signed up.

And the second I hit send on the PreRace sign up page, I wondered what the hell I got myself into, but it was too late now. Well, I suppose I could have just not gone, but I don't think I've ever signed up for anything and not seen it through, so a few more "training" rides and it would be race day.

The morning of the race came WAY to early, getting up at 3 so I can eat, get dressed and be to Sturgis by 4:30'ish (yes, 4:30 AM) to get signed in and be ready to roll by 5, all of which seemed to ggo off without a hitch.  After a quick talk by the race director, Kevin Forrester, we were off and riding.  We had a police escort to Ft. Meade and then it was 5 miles of gravel road to the Alkali Creek trailhead where we hit singletrack and the Centennial trail.  Everyone had settled into their "positions" at this point and I was floating somewhere around mid-pack climbing Bulldog.  But that wouldn't last for long.  Half way up the first climb, something decidedly did NOT feel right and I pulled over to find my rear tire was extremely low.  7 or so miles into a 100 mile day and a flat?  Not cool man, but no panic, there were a lot of hours and miles to go so no need to freak, even if almost EVERYONE passed me at this point.  I pulled the tube to find a hole in the tread of the tire as well.  A boot made from a Clif Shot Blok wrapper, a new tube and I was on my way.  If this were my only issue of the day, I'd be set.

Between flats somewhere before
Dalton Lake (courtesy of Les Heiserman)
If it were my only issue of the day, I would have been set, but for some reason the Flat-Gods were frowning upon me on this day and it would be my first of four flats.  Yes, I said FOUR flats.  After I got through the Elk Creek area of this first leg of the race and was climbing once again, I felt that tel tale sign that something was amiss only to pull over and find my tire losing pressure once again.  At this point I thought it was leaking slowly enough that I could just add some air and make it into the aid station at Dalton Lake and I'd fix it good and proper there, so I did.  I pulled over and pumped it up as all those people that I passed back, passed me once again.  And off I went only to have it pinch flat about 3 miles later.  This time, obviously, I had to fix it all the way, so off came the tire, I patched it, reinstalled it only to discover there was another hole somewhere in the tube, so off it came yet again for another patch, reinstallation and fill-up, which did the trick (mostly).  At this point I was SUPER frustrated with the way things were going and contemplated bailing once I got to Dalton.

As I rolled to the aid station, I saw my Lovely and my mom anxiously waiting and I am sure wondering what had happened to me.  As I explained they got me some food, a tube and a tire that I had stowed in the truck, which was good foresight on my part I guess.  I replaced everything and after eating I knew I couldn't bail just yet, so away I went and I would fend off the wrath of the Flat-Gods the rest of the day.  Actually, it was the end of any major mechanical issues the remainder of the ride, save for a few dropped chains and the like, so any issues I had were all my doing and not able to be blamed on an inanimate object.

Finishing the race!
(courtesy of BH
 Endurance)
I won't bore you with details of the rest of the race like I made it here in this much time or to this spot in this much time, but I will say this about the Tatanka 100; if the first half was physically tough as it was a lot of rocky singletrack with steeper, albeit shorter, climbing, then the second half was a LOT more mentally tough with long, gradual but sustained climbs.  Once the ride got to the Mickelson Trail, it was a mind game with yourself on how you could keep going to finish this ride.  There wasn't much to take your mind off the monotony of just endless pedaling.  Oh sure, there is amazing scenery, cool old mountain towns like Rochford and the occasional day tripper that would roll by and give you a word of encouragement, but mostly you were alone with your thoughts and a playlist on your iPod that was getting on your nerves.

Profile of the day.
102.5 miles and 15+ hours later I rolled across the line at Woodle Field in Sturgis with a smile on my face knowing I just did one of the toughest mountain bike rides that anyone could do.  I was super happy that I finished despite the issues earlier in the day, but if you asked me in those minutes after the race if I would do it again, the answer would have been a resounding no.  Hell, at that point I wasn't gonna do another race until the Dakota Five-O on Labor Day weekend.  But, now I am signed up for the BAM (which is basically the same section of course, but backwards, on which I flatted all those times) which is this weekend, and the Black Hills Back 40 in a few weeks and I am already starting to look forward to the 2nd Annual Tatanka 100.  You can be sure I'll be there, with a new rear tire and a LOT of spare tubes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Explorers

If you've been mountain biking for any significant length of time, you'll know that finding the next great mountain bike destination is something that everyone wants to do.  It's natural.  We come from a long line of explorers.  If you didn't, you wouldn't be here, you'd still be in Europe or Asia or wherever your ancestry is from, unless you're Native American, and even then your ancestors from about 10,000 years ago were explorers coming across an ice bridge that Sarah Palin now uses to go to Russia.

The Not-So-Serious Sailor
We want to be the first to discover that next cool place to ride (except for the locals, who've known about it all along and didn't want you to tell anyone about it).  We want to be able to start stories about said riding destinations with "I remember when I could go to Moab and there was only 1 bike shop and one stop light" or "I was in Fruita before anyone knew about it."  Imagine back when Christopher Columbus was an old codger, sitting around at some Venice sidewalk cafe, "Hey yo Christobal!  I was readin' your "Not-so-serious Sailor" parchment last night.  Was you really the first one to find Cuba?"  "Hell's yeah.  I had the first Cuban cigar!  It was given to me by some young chap calling himself Fidel, said he had big aspirations to take over this island and have all those people in, ahem, America, fuck Vespucci it should be called Columbia, get their panties in a bunch in a few years.  Honestly, I hope he can do it.  Serve 'em right for naming their whole continent after that sumbitch Amerigo"

Or something like that.  You get the idea.  We want to be able to come back from an expeditionary trip and tell all of our friends about this awesome place to go ride your bike, so here it goes.  I'm gonna tell you all about the next kick-ass mountain biking paradise.

What would you say if I told you about a place that has more legal singletrack than you can ride in a year?  What if I told you that this singletrack ranges from loamy, pine needle covered, and smooth to the most technical trails you'll find anywhere?  How about if we add in not one, not two, not three, but four excellent endurance races rivaling the best the country has to offer?  And for good measure, let's add an exciting bike component manufacturer to the mix.  What would you say?  You'd say, "when can we go" wouldn't you?  Yeah, I'm sure you've figured it out, but if you live in any proximity to the NSS World Headquarters, you'll know it is RIGHT HERE!

A view from the trail.  Are we in the Black Hills or
are we at Tahoe?
It feels like there's something happening here in the Black Hills when it comes to mountain biking.  We've got big bike companies here (SRAM), we've got big companies naming bikes after places here, and as I've said, we have some big stuff going on with endurance racing, two new races in the Tatanka 100 and the Black Hills Back 40, a 4th year of the BAM and finishing the summer with the Dakota Five-O, which sold out its 600 slots in 4 hours!  In addition, we've got the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival, which is a top notch event, even if Mother Nature wants to throw the screws to it every year.

If racing a LONG ways isn't your thing, there are tons and tons of trails for everything from beginner to top level riders.  We truly live in a mountain bike mecca, it is just a matter of time before the devout start making their pilgrimage here.  I've ridden in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and even Nebraska and I can honestly say the riding here rivals the best riding in any of those states AND the best part is a lot of the riding is right out your door, no need to drive for hours to get to sweet trails.

The secret is getting out that we are a jewel in the middle of the sea of Great Plains, something we've all known for a long time.  As a local, you probably want to keep this secret for yourself, but there isn't much we can do to stop it, so start getting your stories ready, you can start it out, "I remember when..."


Sunday, June 3, 2012

This is it, I promise...

May is a busy month.  With the end of school, PTA carnival, Cub Scouts wrapping up, going with the Ramblers to Moab, and various other commitments, a TON of birthdays, (including mine which was on the 31st when I turned 41, (which is kinda relevant to this story) so if you've not sent a bike related present, what the hell are you waiting for?) we were running around like chickens with their heads cut off (which by the way, if you've never seen, it's gruesome and hilarious all at the same time, but that's a topic for another day).  And, anytime you're super focused on stuff for a while, when the end comes, there is a bit of let down.  Which having a let down for me at the end of this particular month in this particular year was a bit tougher than normal.

I know I just talked recently about my dad when it was his birthday, but I'm gonna do it again.  And other than the fact that he had a mountain bike and it is now mine, this won't really have anything to do with bikes, but I'll get back to 'em next time around.

video
So, get in the way back machine and go to the day Kurt Cobain decided he'd taken enough trips around the sun, April 5th, 1994.  This is the day this journey started for my dad and it was just few days prior to his 45th birthday, which made him a few years older than I am right now, which I suppose, is the reason I'm kinda feeling weird about it right now.  Anyhow, this is the day he went into the hospital for a biopsy of his liver and removal of his gall bladder and left finding out he had a super-aggressive Hepatitis C that would ultimately be his demise and that he'd never work again in his life.

Without getting into the minutia of EVERYTHING that happened, I'll just say he was on the liver transplant list for 3 years before a man in Boulder, CO, fell in a climbing accident and was an organ donor, giving my dad another 10 years on his life.  If you're not an organ and tissue donor, RUN, don't walk to your DMV and make that change and let your family know that is what you want to do. If you meet your demise, you won't need any of those things anymore, so give 'em to someone that can use them.  Sorry...I'll get off my soapbox now and resume this story.

After his transplant, everything went really well for a while.  But, ultimately my dad's version of Hep C wouldn't lie dormant and began the attack of his "new" liver, but I suppose that is fitting for a guy that didn't do anything half-assed and liked a challenge.  He ended up being a walking experiment for the Hepatology department at University Hospital in Denver since they really didn't have anyone that had a transplant with all the medications necessary for that AND taking a regimen of chemotherapy to combat the Hepatitis all of which was a drain on him.  It made him sick and tired (literally and figuratively) so he couldn't exercise, which would make him weaker, which would make him more sick and tired, turning the whole thing into a vicious downward spiral.

In the late spring of 2006 he slipped getting out of the shower and broke his knee.  Both my mom and I knew it was ultimately going to be his demise.  Not that the Hep C wasn't, it was, but this injury was going to speed everything up substantially.  What little exercise he was getting was now gone and just getting up to his bedroom and around the house was going to be a mighty challenge.

That autumn saw him try to go see his dad in Arizona for a 80th birthday party, but he was turned away by the airline because he looked so sickly they were afraid to let him on, which was a good thing, since he went into the hospital for a few days.  Like usual, they were able to get him stabilized and he ended up going home.  But, these episodes would start happening in higher frequency throughout the winter and into the spring of '07.

Late in May of that year, I had to go to Boulder for an overnight meeting for work.  Through some crazy circumstances and maybe a bit of destiny, I ended up having to go back to Littleton and spend the night at my parents house.  Little did I know it would be the last time I'd actually see my dad when I could converse with him, though I spoke a few times on the phone.

That next weekend was Memorial Day weekend.  My dad watched Dario Franchitti win a rain shortened Indianapolis 500 and late in the afternoon went up to his room.  A short while later he went to the bathroom and slipped into one of those "episodes".  Usually my mom could just talk loudly to him and he'd snap out of it and go to his bed or like at the airport 6 months earlier, to the hospital and they'd fix him up.  But this time he wasn't snapping out of it, which is when I received a frantic phone call from my mom asking me to talk to him, that maybe a different voice would snap him out of it, which it didn't and at that point I told her to call 911.

The emergency service came and took him away.  He had done a living will earlier in the year, but because they wouldn't let my mom ride in the ambulance, by the time she got to the hospital it was too late to convey this information and they had put him on all sorts of life support equipment which gave us the unenviable task of "unplugging" him.

I'm just being honest here, but selfishly, it did make it convenient as we were able to make arrangements, which I suppose we should have been doing all along, but when you're living in a bit of denial and really everyday was a struggle for my mom to balance work and care for my dad, the last thing you have time to do or want to do is go make funeral arrangements.

So, we made the decision to take him off the life support equipment on Friday, June 1st.  To me we could have done it anytime, including on my birthday, but my mom refused that, so now I know the day after my birthday is the day we did that.  Trying to still celebrate my birthday that year was kind of difficult, but my aunt (his sister) stayed at the hospital with my dad, torturing him to the very end by reading him articles from Oprah's O magazine (FYI, if that EVER happens to me, I'll haunt your ass for eternity), while my family and I went out for dinner to celebrate as much as we could.

The thoughts of the next day are surreal as I remember a ton about it and hardly anything about that day, more like a collage of thoughts and images of that day.  I remember being there when the nurse came in and took all the tubes and junk out of his nose and mouth.  I remember his face grimacing when she pulled the stuff out which caused me to think maybe we shouldn't do it even though there was no chance of improvement.  I remember feeling bad for him as he lay there all day long, heart pounding along like a champ after the doctor told him a long time before he couldn't engage in sex anymore because his heart couldn't take it (lying bastard!).  I remember feeling a bit like a ghoul, not unlike going to the vet to have your pet put to sleep.  I remember getting a phone call late at night from my Lovely asking what is going on and I told her that nothing had changed.  I remember after I hung up with her things started to change rapidly, like he heard my conversation and didn't want to be a bother to any of us.  As his heart rate slowed, we all gathered around and said goodbye.  Then everything stopped and the nurse and doctor came in and called the time of death.  I remember all of us leaving and I was looking back seeing him lying there I felt weird about it, like I was walking away from one of my possessions and I should leave it lying there unless I knew exactly what was going to happen to him.  I remember going to the bar with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and uncle and getting kinda tore up after that.

Whew.  A lot of crap just spewed out of my finger tips.  I apologize for this long post, but on this 5th anniversary of his death which was on the same day of the week, I kinda felt like I needed to get it out.    I'm headed out on an epic ride this afternoon, so I'm sure I'll have a lot more fun stuff to talk about next time.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cycling in May

May is National Bike to Work Month with May 14-18 being Bike to Work Week and May 18 being the official Bike to Work Day.  Whew.  In these Northern states May doesn't work too well for bike to work anything.  Don't get me wrong, I've ridden to work every day possible this month, but take yesterday for example, raining cats and dogs outside.  If it were just me going to work, I'd probably just roll in the rain, but delivering a soggy 10 year old to a school probably isn't the best idea I've had, so we had to drive.

Our "bike to work" day.
Dangling legs and the ubiquitous bike shot 1000'
above the valley floor.
And, to boot, on May 18th, I couldn't ride to work as I was decidedly NOT working that day.  Instead, I was in Moab, UT with 13 other crazy bastards that I ride with and we were out riding Gemini Bridges to Magnificent 7 (or at least 4 of them) to Gold Bar Rim to the infamous Portal Trail.  Yes, the Portal Trail of lore.  The one that has claimed lives of people trying to act like heroes or fools, which I suppose the difference between a hero and a fool is the outcome of the action.  But I guess I was riding that day, a big, epic, death march of a ride, full of exposed trails, chances to fall to your death, and full of stark, rugged beauty that is the red rock world of Moab.
The 8 pm neutral roll out...

The only direction my derailleur was
OK was going down.
We left town on Tuesday, May 15th at 8pm and drove all night long to arrive in Grand Junction, CO to ride Holy Cross at 8 am (or there abouts).  From there we popped over to Fruita to ride Horsethief before crossing through the Zion Curtain into the red rock playground of Moab to check into our condos and fall asleep by about 9pm.  The next day saw us hit the world renowned Slickrock trail, where my bike decided to bend it's derailleur hanger and shift like shit the rest of the ride.  The evening had us ride to the top of the world on Amasa Back, throw our legs over the edge and take in the amazing views.  You know about Friday's ride and Saturday's ride was AMAZING.

Saturday morning saw us get up early to have a shuttle pick us up for the hour drive into the La Sal mountains.  Sixty minutes in a van with 13 other guys, hot, in the back, on a twisty road and voila! I was car sick.  Not hurling sick, mind you (I've got a 15 year no-puke streak going on) but enough to feel like shit for the first hour of the ride or so.  When unloading the bikes, I discovered my bike had a flat front tire, which should have been a sign for the day when our group ended up with a total of 15 flats!  But, besides the flats, it was a spectacular day, starting out at close to 10,000' descending from the cool, wooded aspens to scrub pinon covered high desert to the stark red rock beauty to the Colorado River.  A super way to end an awesome trip.

One could describe our trip as a drinking trip where we do some biking in between, but things felt a little more subdued this year than in years past.  I think it had to mostly do with the fact we stayed in two condos instead of camping so we couldn't get our in touch with our primal selves acting out a bit of the Lord of the Flies but maybe it was the fact our group was split up into two units, or the fact that two of the normal instigators, Bob or Greg, weren't there, or the fact that we had a pool across the street so the group split up and people did their own thing apries ride as opposed to sitting around a campfire, drinking and telling stories.
A motley crew.

But, don't get me wrong, the trip was a lot of fun and when we were driving the LONG, monotonous drive back home (why is it the trip to your destination seems a lot shorter than the trip home?) I was thinking that it was a good group of riders and friends to ride with.  And the fact that I came home without even ONE hangover story, well, that can't be a bad thing, can it?  Well, maybe I bring some Dramamine next year for some car sickness, you know, just in case.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A New Cycling Savior?

If you've been following American cycling for the last 30 years or so you'd know that the storyline arc of the sport read something like a Rocky movie.

It started out as with a rag-tag bunch of cyclists, Team 7-11, going to
A picture of Team 7-11, featuring Davis Phinney and
some guy named Bob Roll...
Europe with no real business being there, to do battle with the giants of the sport of the time. Like Rocky knocking Apollo Creed to the mat, Davis Phinney wins a stage of the Tour de France. Then, like Rocky winning the belt, a break through came with Greg LeMond winning 3 Tours de France (and possibly more had his dumb-ass brother-in-law not shot him while turkey hunting). After LeMond's retirement, it was like Rocky going into seclusion in the wintery woods to train to fight Ivan Drago. Basically, US cycling fell away for 5 or 6 years. Don't get me wrong, there were guys out there doing battle, but no big results to speak of.  In '98 there was a glimmer of hope with Bobby Julich standing on the podium.  Like Rocky coming out and beating Ivan Drago for 8 straight years, we had 7 years of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour and then Floyd Landis winning the next year (only later to be stripped of his title for doping).

Now, not unlike Rocky 6: Hang It the Fuck Up, and Sylvester Stallone getting popped in Australia for having HGH, American cycling has had a lot of doping scandals and has fallen on hard times once again. Oh sure, there are guys like Big George Hincapie, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer riding in lead roles and many others in domestique roles, but I don't think there is anyone to excite the fan base like LeMond or Armstrong did. Well, not until now.

Taylor on the ITT at the Giro (Image stolen from Velonews.com)
Unlike Hollywood's inability to reboot the Rocky franchise, US cycling has a reboot underway. I've been anxiously following Taylor Phinney (yes, the son of Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, US cycling royalty) ever since he's come onto the scene. He's highly decorated in the Junior and the U-23 categories, having World Championship wins on the track and also the Paris-Roubaix. Now, at the ripe old age of 21, he's out there swinging with the big boys and yesterday, he won the opening stage of the Giro di Italia. As Big Jonny says, he's a straight up baller. Taylor has a lot riding on his shoulders. He has a lot of expectations because of his parents. He has a lot of expectations because he's the white knight that will save the reputation of US cycling in the American media. He's in the snake's den with all the temptation of the dark side, and so far so good. And, since I'm SURE Taylor reads this blog on a weekly basis I know he'll take this message to heart. Don't fuck this up. Keep fighting the good fight, hang onto that maglia rosa as long as possible and just know that the future of US cycling is in your slipstream. No pressure, no pressure at all.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday.

My dad got one of the very first mountain bikes in Spearfish, SD.  Heck, it was one of the first mountain bikes in the Black Hills...maybe even South Dakota.  It was a 1983 Cannondale, with a 26" front and a 24" rear wheel, Shimano XT "Deer Head" components and Mafac brake levers that could have easily worked on a motorcycle.  That frame, oh that frame, made of aluminum (back when a good chromoly frame was the only choice) and it had a downtube about the size of a beer can.  Painted in a dark charcoal grey with chrome bullmoose handlebars, that was one cool looking bike. 

I suppose that is what sent me on my path of mountain biking, even though my dad didn't ride his off-road a ton, mostly on gravel roads and such.  Back then, Cannondale had a really cool upgrade program that allowed the original owner to send their old frame in, regardless of condition, for a new model for only like $50 bucks.  So, somewhere around 1992 or so, we did trade up for a new, shiny red C'dale frame.  With a Rock Shox Quadra fork on it, it was about as technologically advanced as my pops would ever need for a new bike. 

I think that this is the exact look and gesture he gave me after the
crash.
Now with his new bike, after much cajoling from my brother and I, we persuaded him to ride up Lookout Mountain with us.  He made it to the top and actually did pretty well considering he was, well, old.  Nah, actually looking back on it, he was not any older at the time than I am now, but when you're only 20 or so, 40+ years old seems old.  After taking in the views we descended the mountain, with my brother and I pulling way ahead of him.  Unbeknownst to us, he had crashed somewhere along the line, getting himself tangled up in his bike while we blasted on down the trail, back to my waiting vehicle and off we went, thinking the old man had stopped off to take a leak, smell the flowers or was just taking his sweet time.

Needless to say, that was probably the last true off-road ride with him, for multiple reasons.  One, he didn't trust me anymore to take him on a trail, even though I promised him I'd always wait for him.  Two, just a short while later he would be diagnosed with Hepatitis C and since he was on some sort of chemotherapy for the next 10+ years in a futile attempt to control his unusually aggressive form of Hep C, it left him too sick to do much physical outdoor activity.

The "frankenbike" SS.
Somewhere around 2005, I finally bugged him enough to get his C'dale from him, as he knew he'd probably never ride it again and if he was ever able to get back to riding a bike, a nice cruiser/comfort bike would be the most he'd need.  So, I took the bike, stripped the cherry red paint, had it painted flat black, and turned it into a singlespeed.  In a stroke of genius which turned out to be paying homage to that original C'dale of his, I had a custom 29'er fork made for it, with as low axle to crown measurement as I could make to keep the handling somewhat normal.   So, now it is flat black (looking somewhat like the original bike's charcoal grey), with a 26" rear wheel and a 29" front, giving a similar profile to the original 24"/26" configuration.

The 29th would have been my dad's 63rd birthday, so happy birthday Pops.  I hope on that day, wherever you are,  you got that replacement cruiser and went for a spin.  Or better yet, I hope you got a cherry red Cannondale and went on an off-road ride.  I just hope if you crash, whoever you're riding with waits for you this time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dreams wasted...or fulfilled?



Like many of the things I post here (and on that Book of Faces interweb site) I lifted this from another, far more profeshonal, funnier weblog than this one.  And this particular video struck a nerve with me.

Get in the way-back machine and travel to around 1989 or so and you'd find a 17 year old, mulleted (just an FYI for you too young to remember, when you went in and asked for a haircut you got a mullet, no choice), Bermuda shorts, Vans wearing kid that wanted to be a Clint Reynolds.  I wanted to load my Lovely up with my then coveted Diamond Back Turbo BMX bike and head to San Diego and live the bike bum lifestyle, at least for a little while.

But, and it is a BIG but, to live that lifestyle, or at least to be able to get to a place where you can live that lifestyle, you had to have some money, or be from a family that had money, and I was neither.  So, I continued working and going to college and later that year (1989), I "discovered" mountain biking.  My dream then changed from going to San Diego to be a BMX bum to going somewhere where I could be a mountain bike bum, maybe Northern California, Oregon, Colorado or Utah.  Once again, there is some money involved here, and while I had some money now, I was also on that I.V. drip of money and it was difficult to let go of it, just walk away, especially since I was now on a career path with that grocery store where I worked.

In 1991, I packed up my truck with my brother and headed out to a place on the map we only read about in magazines, Moab, UT.  If you've been to Moab in the last 10 years or so, I'll tell you it is NOTHING like it was in 1991.  It was a town with only 1 fast food joint, McDonald's (not that a fast food joint is important, it just illustrates a point) no movie theater and only one bike shop.  It was a dying former mining town.  Mountain bikers has just started going there in the previous few years. Now, it has many fast food joints, a theater, at least 4 bike shops and the town has exploded, thanks in large part to mountain biking.  Coming back from that tangent...we headed to Moab without much of a plan other than to go to town, find a place to camp, buy a trail map and go hit some trails, which we did.  We didn't have a lot of money in our pockets, so were kinda bumming it, making PB&J sandwiches, camping at a cheap spot, etc.  

Since 1991, I've been to Moab many, many times (somewhere around 20 times, averaging almost once per year!) as well as biking trips to California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado and right here in my back yard in the beautiful Black Hills.  And almost every time I went on these trips, I didn't go and stay in a fancy hotel anything like that, but we camped or stayed with family or friends, sleeping on their floors, couches or for a luxury night, their spare bedrooms.  I've slept in the back of my truck in a downpour in Moab with a friend, I've camped at the Fruita Fat Tire Festival in the same truck with my Lovely and the Boy when he was only 11 months old.  I camped in primitive camp sites along the Colorado River with friends, near people that were living there full-time.  Looking back on it, I have lived the mountain bike bum lifestyle, albeit 1 or 2 weeks at a time.  Then when that trip is over, I get to go back home to a nice house, a warm bed, a refrigerator stocked with food and beer and a family that likes me better when I leave for a little while then come home with an attitude adjustment.

Now that we're planning our next biking trip to Moab, I am getting ready to go be a bike bum for another few days.  And if I can keep this up for another 10 years or so, I'll have logged enough days of being a bike bum that it would be the equivalent of being a bike bum for a year or two.  Doing it a week at a time probably works a lot better for me.  I admire Clint Reynolds for following his dream, and  youth is definitely NOT wasted on the young in this particular case, but I think I might just go ape-shit crazy living in a tiny little Airstream like he is.  I get to be a bike bum without the uncertainty of where I'm gonna sleep tonight and without the dumpster diving.  So, my dreams are not wasted, but fulfilled, a week or so at a time.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Someone Bring Me to My Senses and Punch Me in the Sack.

I got my first mountain bike (an electric blue Trek 950 with Mountain LX 7-speed Hyperglide) with birthday and graduation money in 1989, so other than my relationship with my Lovely, I've been working at mountain biking longer than anything else in my life.

This is what it looked like at an early 90's race, but without
Tomac or Ned.
If you rode a mountain bike at all in the 90's, you raced.  There was a rule I think that you had to race your mountain bike if you had one, or even access to one, anytime from 1990 through 1998 or so, which is what I did.  There were plenty of times that I was WAY off the back, and then there were times when I was more at the front of the pack, even placing in the top 5 in the Expert classes at races.  BUT, those top finishes required a LOT of training and committment, which eventually made mountain biking a lot less fun.  So, when my work took me to the Front Range of Colorado in the late winter of 1998, it was a good time for me to change my focus of riding.  Sure, I still did a few races after that, but it wasn't the only focus of my riding, but more of a by-product.  As a matter of fact, I remember distinctly telling myself that I was no longer going to race except for a new'ish (at the time) format of 24 hour racing, which was a festival like atmosphere.  Eventually, even 24 hour racing fell by the wayside.  Now riding was all about just riding for fun, nothing more.

The 600 nut-jobs from last year's Five-O.
Fast forward 10 years to 2008.  We (the family and I) are preparing to move back to our current locale of the Black Hills of SD and I have friends racing in the Dakota Five-O and they have persuaded me to give it a whirl.  Without the gory details, I finished, but it wasn't a ton of fun, so why I signed up for the next year's race is beyond me.  I did and I got a little better, so I signed up yet again the next year (2010 for those keeping track).  I had mechanical issues (if you search this sad little blog, you'll come up with that gem of a race report) which were my fault, but I felt like I was getting better, so even though my time was worse, I felt good about it.  And of course last year I raced and peeled off my fastest time by far (almost an hour faster than my 2009 time).

So, when sign up day for this year's Five-O came around, 7:00 am on April 1st, I was at the ready on my computer and by 7:06 I was entered in my 5th Five-O.  And, by 11:30 am, all 600 spots were SOLD OUT!  What the hell?  Most of the time, I barely know what I'm gonna do next weekend, much less on a Sunday 5 months from now.

But wait, there's more.  In addition to the Five-O, there are some new races on the scene here in the Black Hills.  The first one is called the Black Hills Back 40, put on by super fast and nice guy, Phil Busching (yes, the same one that tortured me at my physical therapy) and others, which I'm planning on doing.  In addition to that one, there was one more mega race put on the calendar for this year, the Tatanka 100, a new 100 miler that I am contemplating (this sucker is early'ish in the season, so being ready for a 100 miles might be tough, at least for me).  In addition to all of this, I'm kicking around the thought of the 24 Hours of Moab, hopefully with Teamfubar intact or some other variant of it.  So what the hell does all this mean?  It means I'm back into being a mountain bike racer!  How the fuck did that happen?

I'm sure my face will look like this after most
rides this year.
I spent the previous 10 years just riding along.  Albeit fat and out of shape, and now I fat and in shape, or at least more so.  10 years of just riding my bike, not feeling like I had to, but when I wanted to.  Now, I'm putting 2, 3 and maybe even 4 of the biggest, longest races I've ever done on the table in front of me.  That Not-So-Serious moniker might be slipping away, maybe turning into a Somewhat-Serious Cyclist or even the Moderately-Focused Cyclist.  But never worry, it will NOT turn into the Very-Serious Cyclist, since if I have to choose between a "training" ride or a fun ride with friends, the fun ride will always win out.  Racing will still be a by-product of my riding, not the focus...but maybe I'll wear my heart rate monitor to the next "fun" ride, you know, just for fun.