Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Track or Treat

The 6th annual Track or Treat alleycat went on over the weekend and it always feels good to get back to my street racing roots! Plus, I had to defend my win last year!

This race is put on by Jeff Frane and up until this year, was only for fixed gear bikes. He decided to up the ante and allow gears this year with a time penalty. There was also a penalty for lack of costumes. Each was 30 sec but seeing that the 50 racers looked dressed up and most fixed, I assume that everyone took off at the same time. Rules are grey when it comes to alleycats and there is nothing wrong with that. Like the Circle Jerks preach, Question Authority

The race started and ended at Peacock Groove, the birthing room for Eric Noren's amazing creations. At go time, I got pointed in the right direction and hit it with a mass of youngsters.I was rolling three deep until the first stop at a bar called Merlin's Rest. I got out of the place a bit slow and was about a block behind five speed demons. I got to chasing through some neighborhoods and onto the bike path into downtown. I was pulling some dude and I got to the point where I asked the little brother to take a turn. We traded a bit and made it to the next stop. I walked into Hubert's as the first were walking out. I asked them to stay and wait to see if any suckers were among the crew but they took off. I got out and I was a block and a half back. I hit my own route and made it to Elsie's Northeast. I rolled in and out and continued on my solo ride to the 19 Bar and then off to Bryant Lake Bowl. Each stop I always like to play it a bit calm and cool to the volunteers. No need to stress them out, plus i like to flash them a smile and thanks for taking the time. After BLB, it was a dash down the bike path back to Peacock Groove. Not a long race but it was a sprint. The winning route, which was on a fixie, is here which is similar but he hit the BLB second and rode the rest of the race opposite of me...for the most part. I think the dude I was initially pulling made it in third and I was somewhere around 8-10. Good times, great oldies.

Some photos are on the All City site including a shot of me skidding in my lame RuPaul Bunyan outfit...just couldn't find the right wig but channeled Babe the Blue Ox with the blue weave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Acres CX

For the last few weeks, I have been struggling with getting amped for racing the bike. Me thinks me be burned out a bit. One of my favorite CX races, Theo Wirth, was the other week and when I woke up the morning of it, I was all moody and decided to bag it. I just didn't feel like racing and was fine with it despite knowing I would have snapped out of it once I got down there. I think I needed a weekend off and that set me up for racing with a new attitude for Saturday's CX race at Green Acres.

I woke up the morning of my birthday with muted excitement for racing. I was waffling and thought about not going but told myself to fuck off and got on the ball. My mom-in-law was in town and she needed to spectate her first bike race. I also wanted to race in the elite cat 1 and 2 studs for, outside of Tues Night Cross, the first time. I was not fearing the 60 minutes of racing but the climb was looming in my mind. The course is at a tubing hill and at one point you come around a turn and get to climbing. I did the race a couple years ago on a 42x16 fixed gear and ran up the beast each time. This time, my legs are a bit stronger and I was rolling on my standard 42x18, the fixie is retired from organized CX since they are not legal. There were a couple more additions that included a sandy run-up and a set of steps that some rode but I ran up each time. The latest and greatest was the addition of Minnesota's first flyover. What looked like a janky hack job on the first pictures online, turned out to be solid and a shit-ton-o-fun.

At staging I lined up in the back since I was just interested in rolling the legs out and not blowing my wad in the first few laps. On go, I was off with 30+ others and we went straight up the hill. The climb was a bit obstructed but nobody jumped off their bike so I was able to pace up it just fine. We then looped around a field and down a number of off-camber switch backs on the hill. A set of double barriers later and there were some twists and turns at the base of the hill and off to the sandy run up. Then on to some bumpy field turns, over the flyover, field, trail around a pond, up the stairs, through the swamp and up the hill again. Looking at the lap times, my fourth lap was my slowest. It was at that time that I started in on the beer hand-ups from the crowd at the sandy run up. The sandy run up became the highlight of the course. There was much yelling and ample brewhaha. Each time there after I had a tasty beverage. That made the rest of the race go and I was actually riding at an even pace. The legs felt good and I was listening for the bell lap to put in the final push. Halfway through my ninth lap, I heard the announcement of the race winners coming in. What?! No bell lap! I made some haste, had a Makers Mark shot on the run up and pedalled in wanting one more lap.

It was nice ending my first elite CX race with gas in the tank and the crowd at the run up were great. Yet another confirmation that beer trumps Heed and goo packets for a pick me up during a race. After succombing to the peer pressure on the run up, my lap times were fairly steady and improving! My ninth lap was 2 seconds slower than my third lap!! The course was awesome, the hill was cleared each time, I was able to race with teammates Matt and Spencer, the mom-in-law had a great time, the wife and kids enjoyed it, and I got renewed enthusiasm to do one more weekend of CX racing. In the end, I think a longer CX race is more my style since endurance racing is where I am most comfortable with setting a pace.

Friday, October 12, 2012

WEMS Championship at Levis-Trow

My fourth and the final race of the WEMS Series was the WEMS Championship held on October 6 at Levis-Trow. This race completes my goal of competing in the singlespeed category for the long races...long being 100 mile or 10 hours depending on the venue. I came into the race as the points leader and was stoked to ride the final race of the series.

I began the series with a race at Levis in June and from my race report, I had a rough time with the heat. This would definitely not be the case this time around since forecasted highs would be in the upper 40's. I made the early morning drive and showed up with enough time to register and get everything ready. The race was toned down and it would only be 6 laps with a distance of 11.5 miles per lap. Nice. Even better was the removal of a climb from the race held in June. The trails around the base of the mounds were basically the same but the climb up was one of the descents of the June race and then there was trail riding at the top for a bit.

At the sound of the shotgun, the race was off, about 6 heads got to hammering and I got to a moderate pace going in the chase group. I got to the front of it pretty quick since the singletrack approached fast. It was nice to keep my own rhythm when we got to the singletrack and I rode away from that group and ended up catching a couple of stragglers off the back of the front group after a few miles. There has been little rain this summer and it was apparent in the height of the roots all over the place. While some hid under a leafy blanket, many looked you in the eye each time you went through a particularly dense section and just laughed at ya. The worst were around miles 2 thru 5...or so. After about 5.5 miles, the climbing began. The incline was manageable on the 32x20 until a particularly sandy part at the top. Everytime, my rear wheel spun like the tasmanian devil...heck my toungue was probly out and I was gruntin and snortin too.

Made it through the first lap feeling fine and hit the second with gusto. A few miles in, I came across a couple orange clad hunters carrying large rifles. Here I am in my black and purple kit, just getting the fear of dodging bullets from a trigger happy hunter. Good thing I left the antler attachment for my helmet at home. I got to thinking that the quicker I get the race done, the better. I didn't stop at the end of the lap and at the sandy part of the climb of the next lap, I was caught by Charlie Farrow! He got into his books on tape driving to the race and over shot the exit. He got a late start and was on his second lap, while I was on my third. We rode together for a number of miles until the final climb up to the Northface. He was strong and rode away from me. I was feeling a bit of the fade and decided to just pace it out. I didn't stop and took on the fourth lap. The laps were getting a bit more difficult as seems to always be the case for me around the 50 mile mark. After the lap, I hit the car and took about 10 minutes to eat and get a bit of recovery time.

I waited for the two lap race to take off and then I followed after a couple minutes. When I started again, the legs were a bit tight and it took a bit for them to loosen up. I was dragging and was getting worried that Charlie would catch and pass me. At the end of the lap, I was stoked for the final lap. I don't know if it was the sound of gun fire about two miles in or that my second wind kicked in but I had a real good lap. I was thinking that I have ridden my bike through sketchy areas of Chicago and NYC, but I was not afraid of getting shot like I was riding thru the woods of Wisco. I ended up finishing up the 70+ miles in 7:37. That was good enough for fourth finisher overall, top singlespeed of the day and series winner for single speed.

The day ended with awards, and a raffle of a bunch of stuff. As stated before, if you like riding singletrack and race in a low key environment, give a go at one of the WEMS races. Good times, great oldies.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Metal CX - St. Cloud

The first CX race of the Minnesota Cyclocross Rider of the Year (CRY) in the newly created Singlespeed category was held this weekend in St Cloud. The singlespeed category races with the Master 35+ (cat 3/4), Master 45+, Master 55+ and Women 123 who start 2 minutes before the rest of us. I've been wondering if I should try to compete in it and deal with some of the scheduling conflicts it creates with family time. I wanted to do well and was looking forward to the race but I knew there were others who wanted it more than me.

The day started with an awesome weather report of upper 70's and sunny...not so awesome for CX racing but perfect for just about everything else. The hour drive went fast and I was happy to be a passenger for it. I hadn't done the race before so time was spent talking about the course description. The race is held in a park next to the Mississippi river which is filled with oak trees and a few pines. Really nice place to have a race or BBQ or whatever. The start/finish was held on the higher ground of the park and the course weaved it's way through trees and around some tennis courts. It then descended off camber down to river level and onto an asphalt path. The asphalt hammered to a small incline and to a set of double barriers. From there, you ended up going downhill over a woodchip filled low point of a parabola and up to a quick turn. Downhill the hill again to a wide hairpin turn taken with speed on an ascent and back through the low point and up to the top of the park again. A short recovery section weaving through the trees and then a straight descent to another fun, high speed, wide hairpin turn on an ascent. Speed could be maintained and a quick approach to a single barrier at the bottom of an ascent lead to a run up. A quick hop on the bike, an off-camber descent shot you to a sketchy turn and to another barrier at the bottom of an ascent. Another run up and then a quick turn to the start/finish line. Whew!

Based on the previous race times, it was figured that 8 laps would be covered in the 45 minute race. At staging, there looked to be only 6 other singles...not a big turnout but maybe because we were an hour away from MPLS/St Paul. At go time, I got to beating cheeks and ended up on 6th wheel or so for the first tight turn. The ground was dry and firm so the energy was not being drained excessively. There wasn't too much position change in front of me until right before the descent. A couple geared heads and a single passed me and got to hammering on that asphalt path. I got passed by a few more gears and then it was up and over the first set of barriers. I was still in the lead group but I was acting as the caboose. Up and down the little valley we rode and the first run up went well. At the second one, most chose to hop on their bikes and grunt up a steep, little incline shortly after the barrier. I elected to run up and save the grunt work on the single. It pretty much ended in a wash timewise with those that rode it but I like to think my legs appreciated the cross training. As the second lap went on, I watched the lead group ride away and I was caught in between them and the chase. I rode like that for a lap and while upping and downing through the parabola on then next lap, I was caught and passed by the chase made up of a couple gears and another single. Not long after the next lap began, I got passed by another single...I was going in the wrong direction!

I was riding solo and started to lap a few people but it was the middle of the race and I was feeling the hurt and fighting deamons in the head that always ask, "Why and WTF are you doing?" I pulled out my only defense and that was to get in my own pace and ride my own race. I did that for a bit and I was feeling better for the last few laps. I ended up catching and passing the single, who passed me a couple laps back, at the start of the last lap. I upped the pace and rode away. Passed a few more heads and ended up 3rd place single and 13th overall...room for improvement.
At the end, my mouth was drier than the Sahara and I resolved to carry water in any race with the temp over 60. The course was fun and hills were more than challenging. While I don't believe I am in the running for winning the CRY, I do believe i can podium more throughout the season. One thing I need to work on is to not start the race so heated. Pace the start and give it more toward the end. Closing the race well will likely lead to greater dividends in the end. I guess it really depends on the course and the field. Stay tuned race fans...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cyclocross Preamble

Fall arrived this weekend and rushing in on its wind streams is the beginning of the cyclocross season in earnest. Woot! Leading the charge has been the Tuesday night CX series that began four weeks ago. These races are held in a park right off a bike trail in a first tier suburb of Minneapolis. More than a few things about this series make it a good time.
1) I can bike to it. Word! It ends up being around 7 miles and mostly on a bike path so the round trip feels good.
2) The discount rate, $15 for the first race, makes for a reasonable entry fee. Though the $10 it cost last year led to no complaints of a heavy wallet, I can't say a discouraging word on the loot exchange.
3) It is great to see my single speed brethren. Though there is no SS category in this series, the CX calendar is full of races "singling" out us one speed cheek beaters. Competing against the same gearless junkies the last few years in the numbered or age categories is now hitting the next level since we got our own place to shine.
4) The race environment is low key and efficient. Keeping it simple is so under appreciated. There are no sour faces.

So enough of my race series hand job, how have these races gone so far, you ask. I have raced the last two weeks and the change in race style is putting the legs into a confused state but one that can be remedied. Two weeks ago, it was over 90 F and that is not CX weather but CX fever was at 104 F!! I took the ride out there at a slow pace. It seams that with age, I need 5 miles just to start getting the legs to work. I mean, who do them lazy string beans think they are? Well, I guess they own me for race time so I gotta listen...I digress as usual. Anyway, for the last mile plus, I latched on a body who passed that looked to be heading to the races. It was a real windy day so I spent the energy on high cadence as opposed to more wind breaking. Upon arrival, I noticed a bit of dust kicked up in the air. The course was like Pig pPen from Charlie Brown, I tell ya.
For real! It was gonna be tought but I was gonna try to ride in between the dust. I signed up for the 35+ and the cat 1,2,3 race. The 30 minutes of 35+ race started with a stifling dust storm and I immediately felt as if I was caught in the Grapes of Wrath. The dust was thick. I figured that being up front was a good idea and I lined up two back. My plan was foiled by the guy in front of me forgetting how to clip in and nearly taking a few of us out. So 30-40 riders led the charge into the first turn, and then I hit it. Whatever right? That's what I said and got to passing folks. After a few laps, I got on the wheel of the same dude I tailed on the way in. There I stayed and finished the race.

Come end of the race, I felt like I had a sandbox in my throat and drank as much water I could and then lined up in the back of the 1,2,3 race. This one I took at a different pace and as 45 minutes went on, my legs decided on taking a slower pace. I finished but was shelled from the heat, dust and over zealous attack of the CX course.

Last week, I signed up for only the 35+, my body took a beating the week before and I wasn't feeling too stoked to race in the first place but the cooler weather, 60's, was enough to kick me in the pants. I got there and was happy to see a bunch of folks and got into the race. Once again though, I lined up in the second row, only to be held back by another clip in issue...What am I? A magnet for those who can not clip in correctly at the start of a race? Fine, it is good to put this pressure on the legs and pass a group, catch a group and then pass the group. It fills the competitive cup. I felt good after the race and ended up happy with the results from the two weeks of racing. That happiness lead to days of red, bloodshot eyes. Though I can't blame the eyes on wacky tobaccy, I just want to state that mud was picked out of the eyes the next morning.

Yesterday, I needed some miles so I got on the CX bike and rode away to the River Bottoms. Next to the Minnesota river lie a seires of paths and tracks with more than enough opportunities to get your sand riding skills on. I really dig riding through sand and the 40+ mile round trip is always a good feeling for the legs. On the way home though, I stopped off at another installment of Bandit CX. These races are thrown at a few discrete areas around the city. They go across railroad tracks, through single track, up and over all sorts of crap, and often end at a firepit or VFW. The entry price is your signature on a waiver sheet and the prize is that you are having a great time. Flaming danger dollars are up for grabs and it is always festive. Time was running short for me so by the time the race started, I would be able to take two laps and then ride home. On the first lap, I got to hustling and took the lead about halfway through. I lead into the single track and lead for the second lap. At the railroad crossing on the third lap, my escape was planned but tharted by a passing train. By the time the train passed, there were about 10 heads ready to bring the heat again. I hit the bike path and rode away from the race happy from a great day on the bicycle

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rusty Ride - Cuyuna 2012

Based on my previously written race reports on endurance XC, I choose to go to other states to ride myself around for many hours in the woods. Up until now, I basically did not have a choice. I heard of the Rusty Ride early in the year and signed up in the spring to race the 100 mile, single speed 39+ category. The race was also a benefit of MORC so I purchased an extra flask during registration to do my part and allow myself to be better prepared in the future when biking around town.

The race took place in Crosby, MN, home to the Cuyuna trail system, the premier mountain bike trails of Minnesota. I had never ridden there but heard only good things. The last few weeks, I have been a bit busy with this and that but lazy with biking so at the 7:30 am start, I was not sure how the day would go. There looked to be about 35 folks lined up for the century and the morning was cool and basically, perfect!

At go time, we got a police escort for about 7 blocks through the city until a left turn took us only a snowmobile/4 wheeler trail. The grass was full of dew so as we all started stretching our legs, we were getting pelted and eating sand. I was all geeked up and excited so I decided to stay with the studs in front. After a bit more than a mile, I was fourth in on the single track. In front of me was a NUE series racer Trevor Rockwell, Larry Sauber, and another. Trevor took off with Larry chasing and the rest of us were paced by the other dude. I wasn't sweating too hard at all as we moderately got through that 1.5 mile stretch of single track and the two were only ahead of us by 15 seconds or so. A group of us got to chasing and I sat in the front group made up of Garrick Holey, Sheldon Morgan, the other dude, Eddie Karow, and Danielle Musto. The road section ended onto a grassy snowmobile trail and then up over a big, steep bump where the other dude decided to put his foot down and cause everyone behind him to run into each other...Nothing good about that. The trail now was more snowmobile/four wheeler style and after another mile, we climbed up to a field with a freshly mowed path about 4 feet wide. The ground was soft and I was riding with Garrick and Sheldon. After another mile or so, i looked around and saw that we were alone. We rode around the path which was a bit draining cause the ground was soft with morning dew. At an intersection, we took a wrong turn and ended up going around again. I recognized a turn and then a rock and we were confident that we were doing the loop again so we got over to the spot were we missed the turn and ran into Eddie, Danielle and others also wondering on the direction. We got it right that time and Trevor, Sheldon and I rode away again. The trail took us through a couple more loops in other freshly mowed areas and along a lake to a feed and turnaround point. That initial lap was a bit confusing since there were some two ways that we were not aware of at the beginning.

After that trail we were spit back out onto the grass briefly and then back on the road. From the paved strech, we rode a couple minutes on gravel and onto some of the funnest singletrack I have ridden. It had more flow than the mighty Mississippi and more rhythm than the P-Funk Allstars! So good! There were about five uphill sections where two were not bad at all, one moderate and two that had a few spots ya had to work on. One of those hills though, took you up to the top of Sidewinder which as you went down, the curves and berms filled the excitement well to the top and then spilled it over. That ride is a piece of interactive art!

From there, you end up making your way up Miner's Mountain. Then down and out into the city to complete the 25 mile lap. The first two laps went by fast and I was feeling good. I was trying a new endurance fuel called Half Evil by Carbo Rocket and it was sitting well in the belly. I had some jerky that I was chewing on along with some shot blocks but the third lap started to get a little sloppy in the single track. I was feeling ok but that worried me a bit. The miles around 60 - 70 are always the hardest for me. The question of WTF and why always pop into the head. Through experience, I know that perseverance defeats it but the fourth lap started slow. I came across Danielle on one of the two way sections and got to worrying that she would catch me because she was looking strong! That lit a fire. Maybe since I was riding alone for the last 60+ miles I needed a kick in the pants but that got me going. I amped the speed up and kept a rollin. I felt safer once I hit the single track section but kept the heat on. At the feed zone, in the woods, there was bacon to be had and two pieces were downed to take me through the last 10 mile. Since I was alone, that was the only chewing the fat i was gonna be doing. I made it through and got out of the single track relieved to just hammer out the last mile plus. I went to change my hand position and somehow got all twisted and ended up on the ground, in the gravel. I hit hard but was surprised to get up and feel relatively good when all I wanted to do was grunt and grown on the ground. I hopped on the bike and pedalled in for a final time of 8:12. My fasted XC century and good enough for 4th overall and 1st 39+ Singlespeed. My gear of 32x18 was all good and I cleared all the climbs.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cycle Messenger World Championship - 2012

The Cycle Messenger World Championship (CMWC) was held in Chicago and about 250 gritty, grimey, urban bike fanatics from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia showed up with their skills and their stink to clear any room entered. The phallic-shaped race course was set up as a series of one-ways and U-turns in a parking lot of Soldier Field and there we baked in the sun and had much fun.

My wife and I made it into town on Friday afternoon and got settled before I hit the registration/package pick-up. This would be my first out-of-town messenger event since 1999 and I had a goal to race well on Saturday and qualify for the finals on Sunday. It has been a dozen years since I completed my last run but dipping my toe in a number of alleycats the last 4+ years, as well as the annual Stupor Bowl, my jonez for routing and riding is still running high. I got on the bike and rolled the streets of Chicago for the first time since 1998, maybe...Tough to remember, I think it was the Chi-town Showdown...in any case, it felt good. I arrived at the Chrome store early and the coolers were full-o-beer and the room was not yet the sauna it would become from the funk of sweat. I ran in to a few Mpls heads and got comfortable. Shortly thereafter I was tapped on the shoulder by Squid from NYC. It has been about 8 years since I seen him last so we got to gabbing. Before long, the crowd and stank forced me out and more talk was had with many folk. I took off before an alleycat started and had dinner with the wife. A great evening was had, I memorized the names of the stops and it was the perfect commencement for an awesome weekend!

The course was to be open for riding at 10:00 am Saturday for 30 minutes so I got down there at that time and was surprised to see so many folks already getting their legs moving. I was rolling on my All-City Big Block set up brakeless with a 46x16 fixed gear and using my little PAC bag. Taking the turns on the course made for a lot of changes in speed so skidding was on the menu and a bunch of back pedaling. I was thinking a 46x17 would have been a more practical gear but I was more than happy to make do. Around 10:30 am, all gathered around the "dispatch" checkpoint and information was given out and we were told to line up. The sun was beating down and I opted to let the crazy long line shrink while sitting in the shade keeping cool. There was no cover when waiting and getting overheated was not what I wanted. At about 1:00 pm, the line was still long! That totally surprised me, so getting nervous about not getting out before the 4:00 pm cut-off, I lined up by jumping in with a crew from MPLS. The organizers had pity on the sun baked masses so they took our numbers down and called us up so down time in shade could be had. I was lucky to not have spent too much time waiting.

When my number came up, it was go time and I was handed a sheet of paper with two columns of 11 "picks, drops and roundtrips" that can be done in any order. The picks were at each of the named stops on the race course. There were a couple of stops that you had to lock your bike up, a couple required you to take off your bag before approaching the table at the stop, a couple required you to sign in on a time sheet. All was meant to mimic dealings in a typical day of courier work. Some stops were roundtrips where a package was picked up, brought to another stop, and then brought back to the pick up. At each pick up and drop, a stamp was giving on the manifest as long as you had the correct package. The packages were made up of envelopes, rectangular boxes, square boxes and triangle tubes. Once all the stops were hit and the manifest was full of stamps, the next stop was at dispatch where you were handed another to complete. Once the second manifest was complete, the qualifications were done.

Initially seeing the manifest, my mind went a bit blank and the analytical routing was sputtering. I just started hitting the stops and tried to get in a rhythm. After some stops were getting done, the routing started taking shape and the final half went much more efficient. For the second manifest, the route was set to only hit the stops once where you had to lock the bike, do pick and drop at the same time. That helped much but no help was gonna fix the problem of using a bag that was too small to carry all the picks at times. I had to work the drops accordingly to get some of the tubes and boxed dropped at stops instead of on the course. In the end, I finished the qualifying race in 1:04. After racing, I took off and met the wife and strolled back down Michigan, through the throngs of people being kicked out of Lolapalooza because of an impending rain storm. I skipped out once again on the nights activities and had quality time with the wife. I was not sure if I qualified when I went to bed but I was thinking I did. When I woke up, I found out that I qualified in 16th place. I was stoked because since racing CMWC in 1995 and 1996, I have always wanted to qualify for the finals. The gorilla was off the back. The goal was accomplished and now was time to have some fun.

The racing was set to start at 10:00 am so I got down there at 9 and there was a bunch of course set up that had to be done. It was a good chance to do some socializing and enjoy the morning. To fix the problem of stuffing too much into my small bag, I brought a backpack made by the folks at Freight Baggage and was a bit stoked to try it out for messing. I didn't think it would be as fast slinging a shoulder bag but the space was what I thought of as essential. At 10:45 the 100 qualifiers got to lining up the bikes for the Le Mans start and getting our first manifest. The finals race was a bit different than the qualifiers the previous day. There were 12 different manifests and they were handed out so every 12 qualifiers had a different mani. These manifests were much smaller and had around 4 picks and 4 drops on average that you could do in any order. There were still the lock up points for the bike, there were still round trips to be done but it was much easier to route at a glance. One difference was that there was a "driver pull" stop. This was a person on a bike who rode around the course and you had to find him and have him sign the manifest for a pick before you hit the listed drop spot. I told him it would be easier to hone in on him if he were blaring some classic rock.

My bike was lined up right behind 2010 CMWC winner Craig Etheridge so as we were bunched up I got to talking to him. Real good guy and I hope see him at the Singlespeed CX Nationals in Wisco this January. At go time, it was chaos running around bikes and finding my own bike. I jumped on and got to speeding down the course with the masses. My first mistake happened right away with my choice to get to the first stop on my mani. I took the slower of the options for some reason but whatever, what is 8-10 seconds or so...The sun was hot but I was feeling good and the first manifest was finished fast. After each mani was done, you had to stop at dispatch and turn it in and pick up the next one. Most the time there was a line so it was a crap shoot on how long the wait would be. In any case, it was an opportunity to catch the breath and quickly recover. Ticking down manifests and seeing other racers from Mpls and volunteering at the stops was a blast. Giving shouts and hammering it out was what it was all about. Another difference from the qualifying race was that we were only delivering flats so the backpack I was using was overkill. It added a bit of time taking it off and putting it back on as packages were picked and dropped but that is life in the big city. The time cut-off for the race was only 2 hours so I started asking how much time was left about an hour in, then 40 minutes were left, then 20. I was thinking that I was only getting one more manifest finshed in the 20 minutes but I made it back with about 10 to spare and found out that partially finished manifest counted so I grabbed one more and hit it. I put in the route and made a mistake that cost me about a minute and took away an option of finishing another complete pick/drop combo. I made it back to the dispatch before the cut-off and turned in an incomplete 10th manifest...only got it half done. After that it was all about hanging out and having a blast with new and old friends. I went to awards that night and saw that Craig Etheridge won again so props to him. The results were posted the next day and I came in 35th overall. I was 16th in the track bike category and 4th* for the racers who were not active messengers. I am very content with how I place against a bunch of young bucks. My only regret is a few of the little mistakes added up by the end of the race but that is what it is all about. Pedalling your ass off and keeping your wits. I would like to race more CMWCs but it is gonna be hard to get me and my bike over to Lausanne in 2013 and Mexico City in 2014. There is the NACCCs in Minneapolis in 2014 so count me in for that!

I gotta give a huge shout out to the Chicago crew; Christina, Nico, Augie, Alison and everyone else who put together a whole weekend of activities and super fun race! Thanks to the Cuttin' Crew, Trash Bags and all the other stop sponsors and volunteers! Thanks to Minx for the water hand-ups during the finals and shout out to all the other racers from Minneapolis!! Way to put 8 racers in the finals!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Prepping for CMWC 2012

OK. I am not currently a bike messenger but I was from 1992 to 2000. I worked as a rider, dispatcher and for the last year, a business owner. I carried all sorts of crap, boxes, reams, legal papers and subpeonas. I met so many good people in foyers, elevators, mail rooms, and on the streets of Minneapolis and for a brief stint in the summer of 1997, New York. It was absolutely exhilerating! Racing through traffic feeling ownership of the streets that were all part of the open office. The community was tight and extended all over the world. I was lucky enough to race in two Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) in 1995 and 1996 held in Toronto and San Francisco respectively. I also raced in the North American Cycle Courier Championships (NACCC) in 1999 and 2000 held in Toronto and Minneapolis. Other races included alley cats in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and Philidelphia. Much fun was had!! Much beer was had!! Much sleeping on grimey floors that had not seen a vacuum for what seemed ever was had. The beer helped with that.

Toronto, 1995, was the first bike messenger race that us green couriers from Minneapolis had attended. There were five of us: Dan Carlson, John Swanson, Chad Selberg, Mike Rudnick and myself. We drove there and made it to town, parked the car, and got on the bikes to represent. We did not know what to really expect but Dan had a bit of insight from his days of messengering in D.C. so we got to meeting people and checking out the course. One of the first people we met was Squid form NYC. He took us on a tour of the course that included a bunch of ramps, a ride in the back door and out the front of a cafe, and a set of angled train tracks, which Chad hit and broke his finger on when racing...treacherous. We were fast on our hoopty bikes but did not qualify. Messenger racing is not a point A to B go as fast as you can type race. There are challenges and some planning and scheming involved with where to stop and what route to take. We did not get that at the time and it showed. We partied that night and lost Chad, found him the next day sans bike and vowed to do better next time around. SF was the next time around and we had a bunch of folks make it out. We got the manifests and climbed the hills but failed to qualify once again. The points and all that scheming failed us and we got to partying. This time Sam crashed that night and broke his skull. We were lucky he survived and happy that he pulled through. He made it out of the hospital after a while and chilled out but eventually returned to those evil messengering ways for a while after that. That story and other details tied to the other races may show up in furture posts but I can say that beginning in 1997 with a race in NYC, the Apocolips, Minneapolis started to show some colors and represented well.

Fast forward to 2012, the CMWC is in Chicago and I feel I have unfinished business. The race is close and I always was a bit discouraged that I never qualified for the main race in 1995 and 1996. I gotta try to put that monkey to bed and take on the pedalling youth of today. It is a bit of a shift in gears...not with respect to speeds on a bike, I still only roll a single on the street, but a shift in how to race. I have been concentrating on the endurance this year with gravel or XC centuries and 10 hour races. The ding to the confidence is how will the legs respond for the short qualifying heats. I think I am good at getting the jump on for the Le Mans start so keeping the cadence is where I am gonna focus for that race on Saturday. Pedal my ass off and make it to the longer final race on Sunday. Needlesstosay, it is gonna be a great time seeing some old heads, seeing Mpls heads, seeing those crazy Chi-town heads and meeting a bunch of new ones. I am hoping nobody ends up hurt like the previous CMWCs I have attended. I am definitely not partying as much as back in those days, I can only do it one night in a row now. I am also taking time with the wife so a better influence will keep me from being under the influence. Fun will be had and documented here.

What am I riding you say....well the fixie-converted Merckx has been retired because of a spied out crack. I am rolling an All-City Big Block brakeless with a 46x16...i think.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rhinelander - Part 2

Redemption for Washburn! I rode it twice in the last couple days and I have seen the light. The first time through, I was not too stoked. The next time I went I hit the trails in the opposite direction and it made the difference. Instead of hitting the rock gardens about a half mile in, I hit them around mile seven. By that time, I had my hustle and flow on and was getting into the groove like Madonna.
From The Scales: Balancing Bikes and Everything Else
I started with the Original trail and took it to the Perch Lake park and on to finish the loop. The trail had race tape up in a number of spots so it was easy to follow the main trail. The singletrack was full of quality sections including this sick berm:
From The Scales: Balancing Bikes and Everything Else
Too much fun to shake a stick at! There are also more rocks than you can go through on a whiskey bender.
From The Scales: Balancing Bikes and Everything Else
So after that lap, I was stoked and hit the dirt again. About midway through, I took a turn on a little used path and bushwacked my way over many downed trees. Enjoying myself, I was surprised to suddenly hit a large black bee/wasp/hornet smack dab in the middle of my forehead. Not too bad until it bounced to my nose and gave me a good sting! Fortunately I have been stung a bunch in my days and my best strategy is to ignore it...I tried but I started figuring out a quick way out incase the nose began to swell. I got on the XC ski trails and made my way to the trailhead. Thing is though is that I got to enjoying the rollers and speeding up and down them. Heck with the nose, I worked in a quick go on the XC trails before riding back. Fun was had and repeated again a couple days later, minus the bee sting. Recommended!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rhinelander - Part 1

So after two weekends of WEMS racing, I figured it was time for a rest week. Only a few hours was logged on the bike, I caught up on work, and then took another week off for some family time in Rhinelander, WI. What even makes it better is that there are XC trails to check and that is the word Curtis!

We left on Sunday and stopped at the park in Ladysmith to let the kids run around. There was quite a collection of merry-go-rounds along with this nifty thing.
From The Scales: Balancing Bikes and Everything Else
The little guys logged some time on that. I took part in some riding and only lasted a few minutes before I got all dizzy. Dang age creeping and taking the fun out of parks. Anyway, the wife was geting all mad at me during the ride. She got sick of hearing about how stoked I was to get some riding in on the trails of Rhinelander. I shot an email to Jeff Frane and got the 411 from the expat. He hooked me up with the names of trails and some info. I did some googling and found that I was only a couple miles from the Washburn Lake trails. This is where the WEMS race, the RASTA Rack N Root, will be in a few weeks and I was stoked to check it and hopefully not wreck on it. Jeff called Washburn out as his favorite because of it being tight and tech. There are others around, I got the time, so I will be hitting as much as possible. The in-laws are around so it is relatively easy for me to dip out for a few hours each day.

Logging hours in the Underdown a few weeks back, the name of Rock N Root and Jeff's description, I figured the singletrack to be heavy on the rocks and roots. That is fun at times but so is a nice flowing trial so the mood was essential for me to make the best of it. I rode to the Washburn Lake trails yesterday and worked on getting into the rhythm but since I hadn't ridden much the last week, I was feeling a little week in the knees. Some trail was treating me right and others were taking too much concentration. I must have been a bit lazy. I liked the trail but not my attitude so after a couple hours I rolled back and resolved to get a better sleep and hit more trails. I would be back in a few days after further XC exploration.

Today I drove out and tried to find the Mud Lake trails...I did some drive-by's and cruised the location like a greaser in the 50's but I could not find the parking lot. I had to pull over and consult the phone. I found that parts of the trails are closed from Memorial Day to Labor Day because of a Boy Scout camp. Shooo...The back up plan was then to hit the Hanson Lake Trails. The skys were threatening when I got there and the 30% chance of rain was looking more like a 90% chance. I got to riding and hit the trail which took me to the lake. I took the trail around the lake a few times and there are a lot of trails that go off of the main trail around the lake.
From The Scales: Balancing Bikes and Everything Else
I was having some fun and found some good flow and some techy parts too. After about an hour, the sky's were turning grey, some thunder was rumbling and the light rain came for a third time. I got to a clearing and looked at where the clouds were coming. The west was dark and that was approaching. Rats! I got to the car with a real light rain and packed up. Driving back to the rented cabin, the rain started and I got to thinking about some tacky trail riding tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stump Farm 100

For the second weekend in a row, I raced in a Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS) event. The Stump Farm 100 is a 100 mile XC race through the Reforestation Camp outside of Green Bay, WI. Some history of the area plays into the terrain of the race. This park was logged by settlers and crops were planted. Thing is, the ground is so sandy that the crops did not do so well. So eventually a prison was built and the acreage was plowed and trees were planted by the convicts.

OK, enough history...I'm signed up for the WEMS series so I went into the race as a points hound. The final goal is to win the Long Ride Singlespeed category at the end of the series. I took it easy after the Thunderdown in the Underdown the week before and rode 3 times for 1-2 hours on the Wisconsin gravel roads near the in-laws place to keep the legs stretched. The legs felt good, rested and ready to go. I hadn't ridden the course yet but from what I read, it is relatively flat and a bit sandy so I went with a 32x18. The lap distance was just over 10 miles which I figured on a 55 or so minute lap time. Water is real important to me on these races and I have resolved to having too much liquids so as I was prepping the night before, I noticed my camelbak bag was moldy. Hell if I was gonna use that so the plan was to stop at the camp (my car) and grab a new water bottle after each lap. After every two laps, I would grab a bottle of Perpetuem so I had both cages holding. The plan worked well for the most part.

The race begins with a Lemans start. Everyone gets to run down a small hill and up about 100 meters to the bike. This is by no means a sprint for this kid so a healthy jog was in order. The 30 or so starters took off and I got to spinning with 6 or 7 geared speed demons getting the jump on me. The course started with a mile+ of wide cross country ski trails. It had me spinning and I got passed by two other single speeders and a few more geared heads. I worked on staying close to the SS'ers but a few geared guys got in front and when we hit the single track, a couple showed their true colors and were not tecnically adept. I watched the two SS'ers ride away and I just rode the given pace.

Once out of the first bit of single track, I passed those guys on the XC ski trail and entered the next single track behind a couple other guys. They were a bit better but I was still hugging their back wheel. On the next bit of XC ski trails I passed them and got behind a couple others... Patience was necessary on this first lap until the field spread out. There was a section of the trail that was new...it was dubbed mile 7. Many people were whining about the mile+ long stretch that really made you realize that this area was indeed once plowed. The bumps were unforgiving, like riding across a corn field. Row after row after row after...you get the idea. The remains of the plowed rows where the trees were planted were very much apparent in this new section. Sitting down was a limited option at best for this long mile of singletrack. The two guys I was riding behind at the time were crying to each other about it...Pull the Fug over then and give each other hugs was all I was thinking. Upon exit of that section, I snuck in front of them on the next XC ski trail right before the last bit of single track before the stretch leading to the end of the lap. Good riddence.

I would then pull up to my car and grab a new water bottle just before the end of lap and this first time through went quick. I took off and hit the second lap ready to get into my own rhythm. The first stretch had a short, sandy climb that was bearable and riding the first section of singletrack was great. The next couple sections of XC ski trail had a couple more short, sandy climbs but nothing that could not be handled. The next couple sections of single track also felt real good. In fact, the goal during the race when in those sections was to not hit the brakes for the whole section. They had more flow than Mel's Diner on Alice (Kiss my grits!). The fourth singletrack section with more ridges than a bag of Ruffles was the challenge but the feeling when exiting made it all worth it.

My lap times were in the low 50's so my pace was good and after the fourth lap, I refilled my water bottles for later laps and took a few minutes to snack on some vittles and have a seat. After 5, I got antsy and got going. The course reminded me of a forgiving, juvenile Chequamegon. The relentless hills and numerous rocks where absent but more sand and the washboard were present. This and the multitude of laps made for a race were recovery could be planned. My pace was holding and by lap seven, the count down began and my plan was to reload with a fresh water bottle and prep the water bottles for laps nine and ten since I figured on not stopping before the final lap. After lap seven, I got all prepped and took off. A half-mile into the lap, I realized I forgot my water bottle. Doh! Mistake #1 but I did have a half bottle of Perpetuem so I made that last. At the end of the lap, I downed much water, and loaded my two last waters.

The countdown of laps soon turned into a countdown of miles and a short goal was to finish within 9 hours. I came in at 8:53 which was way better than I expected. I didn't know what place though. I hadn't seen the other SS'ers during the day. As I was cleaning up, I heard the announcement that I won the Singlespeed category. I won by about 15 minutes so the quick turnovers between laps was essential and may have been the difference maker.

All in all it was a fun race put on by some good people. Each of these WEMS races are all low key and filled with real good singletrack.

What's this all about?

I have a few places where I post this and that so it is time to consolidate. I'm going through a purge time in the life where I want to unload things so I'm gonna unload some words and pix documenting bike adventures. Some other aspects of the life that get some attention when my obsession with bikes takes a back seat will likely pop up.

I'm gonna list some links below to previous race reports that I've written. Check them for any races you want to know about. Going forward, race reporting will be written here.

Thunderdown in the Underdown - written 07/02/2012
Levis-Trow 100 - written 6/11/2012
Chequamegon 40 - written 9/18/2011
Dakota 50 - written 9/6/2011
Powderhorn 24 - written 8/15/2011
Lumberjack 100 - written 6/21/2011
MNMBS Mt. Kato - written 6/6/2011
Chequamegon 100 - written 5/23/2011
Almanzo 100 - written 5/16/2011
Buck Hill - written 5/13/2011
Bandit Cross - written 5/2/2011
Ragnarok 105 - written 4/13/2011

If you can't tell from the reports above, I'm a POS glutton for XC and gravel endurance racing.