Saturday, September 27, 2008

Commute week

Managed (for the first time in quite a while) to commute to and from work all week. 3 days on my single speed and two on the Karate Monkey. Having 100th street passable is really nice. Dealing with traffic on 86th in the morning was really starting to get on my nerves. I've noticed my appetite was unquenchable this week. I think even the small amount of extra riding is making some difference in how much food my body wants. The weather this week was perfect with morning temps in the mid 60s and highs in the upper 70s during the afternoon. One flat on the front going in on Friday, but I was able to just fill the tire with a C02 cartridge and finish the ride to the coffee shop and then work. Took a few minutes late in the afternoon to change the tube out and remove the offending thorn. No more issues.

Quarter Rage

Left the office early and took part in the fall Quarter Rage races. 30 minute ride down from the office, 20-odd minutes in the pain cave and we were done. All for $0.25. Can't beat that deal with a stick. Trails were in better shape than they were Wednesday, but there were still a few muddy spots. I need to work on riding log overs. I finished around 22:36 which was a lot better than I expected to do. Afterwards, I cruised down to El Bait Shop to meet Kathy for dinner. Stopped briefly to loan a multitool to a fellow MTBer with a broken derailer hanger.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Finally got all of my RAGBRAI photos sorted through and uploaded. Close to 400 photos. Most of them haven't been reduced to make them web friendly. You've been warned.

I had planned on a long write up, but so much time has passed that I've forgotten a lot of the names and things I was going to write about. So, here's the Cliff's Notes version.

10 days, 650 miles, Self contained. Good workout but hard on the legs and body Riding out with baggers was great. Riding with 10,000 people on the road, not so much fun. Beer gardens are good. Bloody marys and vodka lemonades are better. Best beer garden was in Albion (2 for $5 Fat Tire on RAGBRAI? Too bad I still had to ride to Tama). Great campground in Panora (free camping on Thursday nights). GREAT hostpitality in Marne (everyone at the bar and the surrounding houses was great. Too bad these people got screwed on RAGBRAI a while back). Great hosts in Harlan (fresh deer sausage and crackers) and North Liberty (great family that welcomed three strangers on short notice). Campground under a large tree in Tama was great. Food was great as always. Mexican breakfast in Panora. Burgers in Marne. Chicken and noodle supper in Tama. Pie, ice cream and more pie and ice cream. Kolaches as we started getting closer to the Amanas and beyond. Crawfish boil north of Toledo. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches at the Peanut Butter Jam bus. Excellent real meal at a restaurant in LeClaire. As always, Little Farm fair trade coffee and the "muffin girls" to start the day off right. A HUGE thank you to Steve the massage therapist for getting my hamstrings feeling better and stretching out my achilles for me in Tipton.

Will I do it again next year? Maybe. The ride out and meeting the rest of the people riding out was a great time. I might off route it a bit more next year. Maybe hang with John from CR if I can hook up with him again. Stay in the next day's pass through town instead of the overnight towns. Maybe things will change and we'll take that first gravel road on the left going out of the overnight town and gravel grind our way across the state instead.

What a great idea

This site has been started to help map out dirt roads around the country and tag places of interest, scenic overlooks, bad dogs, good meals, cold beers, etc. Sounds like a great idea to me. Help 'em out if you have the time.

IMBCS #9 - Sugarbottom Stampede

Met Kent at his place a little before 7 AM. Two hours of good conversation and a stop at Casey's landed us at Sugar Bottom for the penultimate race on the IMBCS calendar. We were surprised by the sight of Cam's Jeep sitting in the parking lot 3+ hours before his race start. A quick conversation determined that he showed up early to make sure that Julie could make the start of the beginner's race. Kent and I suited up in our finest black attire and headed out for a quick recon lap. This was (all together now) my first time riding at Sugar Bottom. I can see why it was rated as one of the 50 best trails in the nation. We cut our ride of the first half of the course short since the beginner race had started in the middle of our recon. Even with a short recon in, I could tell it was going to be a long day. I had been bouncing all over on the tree roots during our recon lap. Kent gave me some assist with the tire pressures and I immediately noticed an improvement in how the bike was handling. We hung around for what seemed like forever as there was a 2 hour gap between the start of the beginner race and the rest of the classes.

With 50+ people lined up for the start of the sport races, I decided to sit in back at the start. I've made a habit of this during the year. It's not good for me as I have to work to catch anyone, but for some reason I'm concerned about blocking people unnecessarily and having to let them by on the course. Next year, I'll probably change that strategy and try to be further up. They let us go and I could just feel that my legs and the rest of my system weren't really warmed up yet. With my heart in my throat and a lot of dust in my eyes, I reached the apex of a small hill and turned to enter the single track. I spent the first half of the first lap trying to stay in touch with people, while not getting held up by slower traffic. At one point the rider in front of me slowed in a section that I had just rolled right through during our recon lap. Unfortunately I tapped his rear tire when he slowed, but it also caused him to put a foot down. I yelled sorry as I continued to ride past. There were other riders that were good about letting faster traffic by, even towards the back of the pack. That allowed me to make up a few more spots early in the race. Reaching the second half of the course I knew that I was pushing harder than I was going to be able to maintain for the rest of the lap, let alone the rest of the race, so I backed off a bit and let my heart come back down into my throat. When I reached cyclocross hill, I had already planned on jumping off and running up as the climbing on the second half of the course had really cut into my energy levels. The second lap was more about conserving my position and finishing the race. Without gloves on, my hands were being rubbed and blistered by my grips rubbing against them, so every root and drop I rode over was painful. After 2 laps, and 2 hours and 20 minutes in the pain cave, the race was over. I rode through the start finish area, set my bike against the truck and put my hands in some ice water to help take away some of the pain. Only one small blister showed, but my hands were definitely not feeling well. I made a quick change in to street clothes, downed some gatorade and had a quick talk with Kent and Cam. After another hour or so for the awards and swag give away Kent and I packed everything up and headed for home.

I ended up a somewhat disappointing eight out of nine in my class and 39th out of the 50 starters. With the bike feeling as good as it did during the race, and riding obstacles that I wouldn't have thought I was able to ride, I was hoping for a higher placing than what I had, even with a bit of implosion on lap 2. I have a lot of room for improvement in the handling, momentum and smoothness departments which will only come with time. Stiil, I was amazed at how quickly a skilled rider can walk away from you when they pass you on course. Good riders can make the difficult look effortless.

Kent finished third in the single speed class, and second place for the state championship. Cam finished first over Brian Eppen in a close expert race (dead heat until the last lap). I can tell that the season is winding down as I caught a glimpse of Cam taking a swig from a post race Miller Lite tall boy. Never would have seen that before now. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

IMBCS #8 - Science Center Time Trial

IMBCS #8 took place on September 7th at the Science Center Trails in Des Moines. I meet up with Lou, Basso and PIg at Hy-Vee on Grand for some breakfast and a piece of Denman's at 7 am. As we got ready to head out to ride I discovered that I had pulled a Basso and left my helmet at home. I called Kathy (unfortunately waking her up) and had her bring the helmet with her to the race. While I will ride on the streets without a helmet when I feel like it, I am definitely not comfortable mountain biking without one, especially when I'm working to keep up with Lou, Pete and Pig. I took it easy through Denman's, trying to keep the others in sight, but walking the log overs to avoid Murphy coming to bite me. After leaving Denman's through the new route along the creek we tried to ride through the path left by the equipment working to pave over where J11 used to be at. We were about 1/2 way in when the mud caked around my brakes and bottom bracket made it obvious that I wasn't going any further. I wasn't happy about having my bike completely caked with mud an hour before the race, so while the guys rode along Grand, I took a solitary trip on the railroad tracks to cool down. Pete wanted to race, but couldn't stick around due to other commitments. Race organizer Chris Maharry took pity on him and let him run the course while registration was going on. Lou and I make a quick trip to a car wash on 31st Street to clean our bikes off. A kind soul bought Lou's coffee for him at the Caribou drive thru as we headed to the car wash.

The race itself was pretty uneventful for me. We ran up the pavement and came down into some rarely used single track, along the rose garden and then took an unconventional line into roller coaster. In the midst of trying to catch the guy in front of me, I missed the turn by the pump house and had to back track, along with Paul Varnum of MOB Racing. I put a gap on Paul not too long after entering Rollercoaster proper, walked the switchback and proceeded to feel pretty good until I heard Cam Kirkpatrick coming up behind me (on his second run). We nudged a slight bit as he flew by me since I couldn't quite get completely out of his way. The price for the slow being in front of the quick I guess. The rest of my lap was spent working to to keep my heart out of my throat and my stomach contents down. I managed to successfully accomplish both (barely). I finished with a time of 26:12, which put me in 4th place in the 35+ Sport Men's group. Tom Anderson won our class handily with a 23:39. Overall winner was Cam Kirkpatrick with a 19:10. Kent Carlson handily won the single speed class with a time of 20:09. Oddly enough, my time would have been good enough for second in Sport Open. Looks like the old guys were faster for a change. :) Chris Maharry had plenty of swag on hand for prizes, including some bottles of wine, autographed photos of our own Oakley Rob, bike accessories and parts galore, and a number of pairs of sunglasses courtesy of Rob Versteegh and Oakley. After handing a good portion of the prizes, Chris opened up the rest of the "table" to anyone who didn't get anything and thought they deserved something for their efforts. After letting most of the others pick through stuff, I snagged a nice Aveda Shaving Kit filled with some cool stuff. Not your typical racing prize, but something more useful to me than a 26" mtb tire or a bottle of slime.

The course that Andy Lueck and Squirrel set up for us was a LOT of fun. I had ridden parts of Hillside that I typically don't ride, and they made the most of the mileage that was available on the trails. I think that if we were to cut off the run up the paved trail on subsequent laps, this would make for a great cross country race. I was a bit disappointed with the turnout for the race. With it being in town, I was sure that we would have a really good turnout from the local riders. There were a lot of people that I expected to be there that weren't. Hopefully next year.

After the event, Scott Sumpter and I rode over to Rasmussen's for a post race beer, pizza and bike party in the back of the shop. Good times as always. After an hour or two of pizza and beer, I rode back through Valley Junction and to Hy-Vee, loaded up and drove back home.

Beginning of the end

Next to last race of the 2008 IMBCS is tomorrow at Sugarbottom near North Liberty. I have the privilege of driving "Killer" Kent Carlson over there tomorrow morning. I'm sure Kent will continue his dominance of the single speed class tomorrow, as well as causing some expert class racers a few headaches as well. The weather is supposed to be perfect for tomorrow's race, with highs forecast to be in the mid to upper 70s. Racing starts at 10 for the beginners, noon for the expert and single speed classes, and a little after noon for the sport class.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CITA Ales and Trails

The focus of this past weekend was the CITA Ales and Trails event. This was put together by CITA as a way to celebrate its 10 year anniversary in a family friendly atmosphere. It took place at the Whiterock Conservancy south of Coon Rapids. The weather forecast took its toll, as only half of the expected number of people attended. We spent part of the morning walking around the Riverhouse, barn and exploring the flower gardens. Liz Garst gave an excellent talk on the history and mission of the Whiterock Conservancy, including a detailed account of the visit of Nikita Kruschev during the late 50's. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch and caught up on the Iowa/ISU football game.

The afternoon found some people taking naps, enjoying a guided nature hike through parts of the conservancy, canoeing on the Raccoon River, and/or biking on some of the 30 miles of trails that wind their way through the 4000+ acres we were on. Afternoon gave way into evening, and that meant dinner. While Sammy worked the grill, Justin and I acted as sous chefs and prepped the beans, rice and helped Sammy out in any way we could so he could keep his eyes on the grill. In the end, we had grilled chicken kabobs, burgers, dogs, and a bunch of other food and desert for people to enjoy. The rest of the evening was spent listening and dancing to the music of Brother Trucker in the Riverside Barn.

This was a fun weekend, and it was nice to see so many people attend the event with their kids, enjoying the outdoors and the company of others. Due to untimely illness, Kathy and Conor weren't able to come up. I know Kathy was looking forward to spending some time in the canoes for part of the weekend. It sounds like CITA is in the process of planning a similar event next year. Hopefully the weather cooperates and more people are able to attend and enjoy the conservancy.

As always, I took some photos. So did Squirrel, and Justin

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Slow and Sloppy

Friday's ride didn't turn out quite like I expected. The photo is a good summary of the 75+ miles of gravel I rode on my way to Whiterock Conservancy. Wet, sloppy and sandy. Pair that with a bike that was, once again, loaded too heavily, and it made for slow, if steady, going. I made it a point early on to not display anything but my map on the Garmin. I didn't want to know how slowly I was going, how far I had gone, or what time it was. I gave in slightly north of Redfield while I was drinking some tasty coffee and eating some pop tarts. 32 miles in 2.75 hours. This was going to be a long day. Made it into Panora about 1:30 PM. (5-ish hours for 55 miles). Stopped at the grocery store to get some garbage bags so my sleeping bag would stay dry. After stop for lunch and some time at the laundromat to dry out my sleeping bag, I was on my way again. My next stretch took me 20 miles straight north. It was rough going, and by the time I hit Cooper I felt my energy waning. I opted to take a short break and head north on the Raccoon River Trail for a few miles to give my legs a break.

At the point I turned west, I ate an apple and finished the last of my (still hot) coffee. With my energy levels as low as they were, I should have ridden the 3 miles into Jefferson and grabbed an additional meal at a cafe. Instead, I turned west and planned on refueling at Coon Rapids. After a very slow 10 mile, I had stopped to take a rest when Gil, a local, pulled up next to me and asked if I needed any help. I explained what was going on and he offered me a ride to the conservancy. I told him that once I got some food in me, I'd be in good shape. Gil ran back down the road to snag some granola bars for me and I continued my trek west. By the time he got back, I had decided to throw in the towel, rather than be out another 4 hours in the cold and rain. Gil wouldn't accept my offer of filling his truck up, but he did accept the case of Busch Lite came out of the convenience store with me. (Score one for being observant when getting in someone's truck). A few minutes later, and I was in the campsite, with Squirrel grinning at me once he saw my face inside of Gil's truck.

The Long Haul Tucker worked out well as a gravel grinding platform, especially with the wider tires. I had no issues with seat or hand discomfort during the ride. I did notice the extra drag of the Panaracers. Despite the sandy wet conditions, I think that I would have been just as fine using the Continentals. I would REALLY like to see WTB build a Nanoraptor in a 1.9" width. Again, I managed to bring too much stuff with me for a two day stay. I'll eventually get the packing right for a short 2 day trip. Too many tools and bike parts are with me "just in case", but I figure a little weight is better than being stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I have also decided that I need a lighter rain coat as it was at least a pound by itself. My Friday morning switch over the the Arkel Samurai panniers was a good idea. Nothing inside of them got wet, and they stood up to the sand well too. Some additional planning around waterproofing of certain items (tent and sleeping bag) will make another ride in the rain better. Since this was my third camping trip on the bike, I still have a bit of learning to do. I do feel like I'm getting closer to having things dialed in. My eventual goal is to be able to be ready to leave for a one or two day camping trip within two hours.

So, 200 miles planned, 75 or 80 actually ridden. Instead of being even on gravel centuries, I now find myself even further behind than when I started. Lots of riding to do in October and November if I'm gonna get a cup. Damn that Mable all to hell. :)

I took some photos along the way. Some good, some pretty plain. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Camping Trip

Leaving tomorrow morning to ride to CITA's Ales and Trails birthday party at the Whiterock Conservancy. Whipped together a gravel century route to get September knocked out. Riding the same route back on Sunday to get my century count caught up for the Cup O Dirt challenge. As I sit here and type, my light batteries are charging, as is my Garmin 605. I spent about 3 hours getting things ready for the trip and mounted on the bike so I can leave with a minimum of fuss tomorrow morning. I mounted 45mm Panaracer Firecross tires on the LHT for the trip this weekend. I'm going to be very interested in how the LHT feels on a long gravel ride. Based on some shorter runs earlier this year, I think it will handle everything fine, especially since I don't have it completely loaded up. The only question mark for this weekend will be the weather. We've had rain on and off Thursday morning and afternoon, with many of the cells training across the same areas as they cross the state. The roads are going to be sloppy and a lot of work tomorrow, especially coupled with a northwest wind. There is rain in the forecast all weekend, so we may not get much, if any, trail riding in at all this weekend.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Been thinking more about this Fargo, and the whole adventure bike/monster cross thing. I had some time after coming home from the IMBCS time trial, and went to work in the garage.

The 2.1" WTB NanoRaptors are SO close to fitting that it's not even funny. Plenty of (well, enough) clearance in the front, and a slight bit of rubbing on the chainstays due to the side knobs. Even if I file them off, it's gonna be pretty tight. I'm going to try and track down some 1.8" tires this week and mount them up and see how it goes. If I can get them to fit, I'll break the setup on the double gravel century this weekend.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I have been thinking about the "perfect" gravel bike lately. My Karate Monkey is nice in that the large tires allow me to float over a lot of things that I've seen people with cross bikes have some difficulty with. However, on a long ride, the straight bars don't really help with the comfort, like the drop bars on my LHT. Putting something like On-One's Midge or a Titec H-Bar on the KM means that it's going to not be that great for XC racing. I have noticed some people putting larger tires on the LHT for a "monster cross" type approach. Some tires fit well, and others have clearance issues. My LHT is really set up for touring with the fenders and the racks, so removing all of that once or twice per month for a gravel grinder is a lot of work. I'm also not that happy with the brakes on the LHT, and disks are not really an option. So we're back to the cross bike again. Decent tire clearance, but not as much as the KM. I might have something good coming with the Salsa Fargo:

Disk brakes: check
big tire capable: check (up to 2.3" possibly)
drop bars: check
full rack mounts: check
water bottle holders: SIX

This is an adventuring bike in the same spirit as Thorn's eXp and Sherpa or one of the Kogi-Miyata adventuring bikes, but built around a 700c wheel. The full bike is spec'd pretty nicely, and it will also be available as a frame only for build up. I haven't ridden a sloping top tube bike before and I'm curious if there's any difference in feel vs a standard horizontal tube. I can see running the Fargo with either drops or an H-bar and just setting out for a really long day of riding back roads and single track. With a skinnier set of tires (38mm), it may make a reasonable road touring bike too. Looks like I'm going to have some thinking to do in the next few months. Not completely sure that I would give my Long Haul Trucker up for the Fargo, but the braking on my LHT is currently one of its weakest points.

Tagged - I'm it.

So, Mr Happy Training blog-tagged me. Guess that means I should oblige him (and my other 2 readers) and respond. :)

Where was I ten years ago?

Living in my first house with my wife and son. Working too many hours as a network engineer at a consulting company. Staying up late, drinking to go to sleep, and watching too much TV. 

What are 5 non work related items on your list today?
  • Finish putting the ridge shingles on my shed
  • Replace the middle ring and crank arm on my mountain bike
  • Have the yard mowed
  • Finish the computer wiring in my house
  • Go to the Rasmussen team/supporter party with my wife
What snacks do I enjoy?
  • Ice Cream
  • Fresh peaches
  • An ice cold can or bottle of Coca-Cola or Mountain Dew
  • Peas right off the vine
  • Cashews

What I would do if I was a billionaire?

  • Hire a financial planner I trust
  • Hire a lawyer I trust
  • Change my phone number
Standard stuff
  • Help my immediate family out in a sensible way. Some people wouldn't have to worry about working as they've worked long enough. Others would get enough to lift them out of the holes they've found themselves in, but would have to work somewhere in order to keep receiving assistance.
  • Set up college funds for my son, and the children of my immediate family. 
  • Set up a scholarship fund for students from high school. 
  • Take care of some close friends that I think deserve to have life be a little easier
  • Set up a fund and use the interest from that to fund any charities I felt like working with. 
  • Put the remaining money into a trust, and receive a regular "paycheck" from there to live from. 
  • Ride a LOT more. 
Fun stuff
  • Trips to Italy, Ireland, Japan
  • See all stages of Le Tour
  • Own a lot more bikes
  • House in Aspen, CO
  • House in Ireland
  • Hut in Fiji

Where have I lived?
  • Toddville, Iowa
  • Ames, Iowa
  • Ankeny, Iowa
  • Altoona, Iowa
  • Urbandale, Iowa
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Johnston, Iowa

Where jobs have I held?
  • I sold vegetables out of my garden as a kid
  • I mowed multiple lawns as a kid/teen
  • I ran a fryer and made sandwiches at Burger King
  • I detassled corn and walked beans
  • I worked on a well drilling rig one summer
  • I was a computer lab monitor at the College of Business at Iowa State University
  • I was a general laborer and stage hand for a number of years at the Iowa State Center
  • Worked for a temp agency as "someone who knew computers"
  • Took a second job as a night janitor at a Holiday Inn right after I got married
  • Built and sold computers for The Computer Supply Store in Des Moines.
  • Worked evening internet tech support before most people knew what the Internet was
  • Worked as a system administrator for Equitable of Iowa
  • Worked as a computer / network consultant for Networks Inc
  • Have worked as a systems manager / admin for Dice Holdings, Inc for almost 10 years.

I'm tagging Kent, Squirrel, and Justin.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Commute - 7 miles total on the single speed. 100th is open to local traffic, which means it's open enough for me to ride it to work without being a bandit. About f-ing time. Ride home wearing jeans and a t-shirt in spitting rain and a 15 mph head wind. Guess I should have checked the weather before I left.

Other - 6 miles on the LHT to go get ice cream. Willie Nelson's Peach Cobbler from Ben and Jerry's. Mmmmmmmm

Rasmussen Team and Supporter party tomorrow night. IMBCS #8 on Sunday.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ritual Taco Ride

With the MTB out of order, I headed out for the Ritual Ride last night. Took the newly cleaned and working single speed out for a change of pace. The ride was a good workout with the rollers and the the climb outside of Walnut Woods Park on the route. Two laps and I was spent after sprinting the hills and trying to keep up with a 46 x 17 on the flats. Made it back to 63rd street just behind the main group and then headed north on 63rd and down into Valley Junction to meet the Taco Riders for beers and tacos at Griffs. Since I arrived early, I had a few minutes to get my one of my shoes out of the pedal and retighten the one remaining bolt that was holding my cleat to the shoe. After a few beers and a couple of tacos, I headed back to the shop with some of the riders and after a short bit of time on the trails, took side streets home.

My new chain ring showed up at the shop today. Kathy went and picked it up for me. Legs were definitely feeling the effects of last nights ride as I rode into work this morning. Sluggish and a bit achy. Gonna take a couple of days off the bike before the IMBCs race this weekend. Maharry's timetrial on Hillside and Rollercoaster. Should be a leg breaking good time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Memorial Day Pain Ride

Went to Bike World in West Des Moines for the annual Labor Day ride. Morning was a bit humid, but nice. Met Lou for coffee at 6:30. Pete and Pig decided to play in the dirt at the last minute on Saturday. Kelly Mente from PRC showed up, along with about 30 or so others and we were on our way at 7:00 sharp. We headed west on Ashworth at a fairly leisurely pace. Once we crossed the freeway, Lou pulled up beside me and suggested we catch the group at the front. That was to be the start of one of the harder rides I've had recently. With Lou, me, and a couple of others, the front group swelled to about 12 or so people. Some of us were feeling a bit frisky as we headed south towards Booneville and the pace picked up noticably. After the turning west onto Grand we stuck together until the first big hill and then the group started to break in half. After the turn into Van Meter, we were down to a group of seven for the rest of the ride. We rode the normal "short" loop of 45 miles or so, heading north for a ways, and then back east into Adel and then taking the Raccoon River Trail back in to Waukee and ending up at the shop. We averaged close to 21 MPH for this loop, with my heart rate solidly in zone 3 while in the pace lines, and into zone 4 on the climbs and when working my way back into the group. Afterwards, Steve, Ted, Lou and I pulled back into Amici for a quick drink before heading home. A good solid ride, and I was happy to be able to hang with some strong riders on this loop. The Paramount was really the only choice for this ride, and it didn't disappoint. I'm getting to like it the more I ride it.