Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Almost June

Went for a ride around the neighborhood with my sister, brother in law and son on Saturday. Nice 30 minute easy cruise, looking at the houses and such. Plenty of bikes to loan a couple out for a while. My brother in law got the hang of the bar ends on my Long Haul Trucker fairly quickly and both he and my sister seemed to enjoy the cruise.

I started on my next project tonight, which is getting my pre-war Colson fat tire cruiser cleaned up and put back together. My progress on it over the winter was slower than I had planned, and all I ended up getting done was cleaning the skip tooth chain. However, I'm pretty sure it's an original chain, so it's very cool to have that done. A few of the links still have some of the bluing on them which is pretty neat to see after all those years. Tonight, I got the paint cleaned off of one of the rims. Wire wheel and an electric drill made short work of things. I don't have the tire side portion as clean as I would like yet, but I'm not sure that it's completely necessary. I do want to make sure that I have all of the rust removed doing anything else. The wheels were in good shape, so it won't take a lot of work. I'm not quite sure if I'm going to repaint the wheels, polish the steel up to a high gloss, or have them chromed. I can benefits of each. The polishing would take the most time, and the chrome would be the most expensive. Since I haven't decided what color I'm going to repaint the bike, I still have some time to decide. I'll have to spend some more time over at Rat Rod Bikes looking for paint ideas. Flat olive with red tires for that Indian motorcycle look has some appeal, as does a nice candy apple red metal flake with chrome wheels.

The Dirty Kanza 200 is this weekend. I'm going down with Matt Maxwell from Ames. Unfortunately, my friend and riding buddy Paul Jacobson will not be able to make it this year due to some family issues that cropped up the last minute. It won't be the same trip without having Paul's positive attitude along. Hopefully things will work out alright for him and his family. The weather forecast for this weekend looks really good right now, with highs in the mid-80s and a light south wind. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I won't start believing anything I read until Thursday night at the earliest. It will also be good to ride with some people I haven't ridden with since last year, and as always, make new friends and acquaintances along the route. I'm hoping to finish more quickly than I did last year. However, the route, the weather, and time spent in the controls will play a large part in how that works out. There should be close to 100 riders starting this year. I'd be ecstatic with a top 25 finish knowing the caliber of riders that show up for this event. I have to finish to place, so that, as always is the main goal.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Almanzo 100 race report

This was the 3rd year for the Almanzo 100, a great 100 mile gravel road race organized by Chris Skogen of Rochester, MN. The number of participants has grown each year it has been held. On Saturday, May 16th, 88 people started the event. Rick Blackford and I arrived at Chris' house late Friday afternoon and hung out for a while, chatting with other racers and grilling up some food on a grill in the back yard. We also took this opportunity to get our race packets. Chris' devotion to this event was apparent after looking at our race packets. Each packet had our name on it and contained: the first set of cue sheets, a professionally printed photo with the event sponsors logos down one side, an embroidered patch for this year's race, an invitation to another ride later in the fall, rules, maps to the support town. Also included was a personalized note from Chris for each rider, whether they were a past entrant or a first timer.

Rick opted to head back to the hotel and get his bike ready, while I decided to take a tour of Rochester with Chris and some other local riders. We headed to Bicycle Sports and met some other people and then headed out in a light mist through some local bike paths, and to look at the first couple of miles of the course including the first big hill. It wasn't particularly steep, but it was a long steady grade with a false flat towards the top. It was obvious that this would break the group up quickly come Saturday morning. Back at Chris' house, more riders were showing up to get their packets, and set up tents in the back yard. Rick and I headed back to our hotel, about 2 blocks from the finish line around 9. While I prepped my new Salsa La Cruz and equipment for the morning, Rick ordered us each a brisket sandwich from the attached Famous Dave's as a nightcap. Rick set the alarm for 6 and we were quickly off to sleep.

Saturday morning we packed all of our extra stuff in my truck, grabbed a shower and breakfast, then headed to the shop a bit early. The temperature was in the low 40s with the windchill making it feel like 34F. The winds were forecast to be steady out of the NW at 15 - 25, with gusts approaching 35 all day. I opted for the standard black Rasmussen kit, supplemented by arm and leg warmers, the team wind breaker, cycling hat and a thinner pair of Specialized gloves. I snagged a couple of spare CO2 carts inside the shop, and after some quick announcements, Chris was leading us through Rochester and out of town. Once we hit the gravel, he peeled off to the side and the race began. As we began the climb up the first hill, familiar faces started picking up the pace. Charlie Farrow and Joe Meiser motored past me and the group of 88 quickly broke into a core of 16 contenders, with another 9 of us hoping to claw our way back into the group. As I reached the apex of the climb, I had to turn the pace down a bit to recover, and that would be the last I would see of many people for the rest of the day. I headed east on flats and over some decent sized rollers and towards St Charles averaging nearly 20 MPH. I then crossed under I-90 and then turned west for the first taste of the Minnesota winds. Even on the pavement, the headwinds were a lot of work. I noted the effort required to push a 36x19 into the wind and worked to catch a rider in front of me so we could work together. I caught one rider on a Surly LHT and worked with him for a while, but lost him heading west on a climb. After passing through Pilot Mound a few miles later, I met up with a rider I met in the hotel that morning and we proceeded to try and work together for a bit. Our group of two became a group of three for a while. However, whenever the third rider's turn to pull came around, he would gutter us so we couldn't draft off of him. After dealing with this for a couple of miles, I decided to let him and the other rider go and just ride my own pace, rather than deal with whatever issues he had. At this point I had caught back up to Rick Blackford, who had made the initial break, but had to back off as well. Rick was busy watering some roadside trees, so I gave him a quick shout and continued to ride on.

A steep grade sign (on a gravel road?) indicated we were getting into the meat of the first section. A long, steep and rutted decent gave way to the beautiful Bear Creek valley. Corn and clover fields along the valley quickly gave way to steep forested hills on either side of the creek. It was a break from the wind, and I was able to let my mind relax and take everything in until the climb out a couple of miles later. After a bit of a flat section, I was once again descending down into the valley of Deer Creek. As I navigated a 20 MPH corner, I found myself staring at the 100' wall of stone that suddenly filled my view. This area was definitely the most scenic of the route. I'd like to head back sometime just to ride this area and really take in the views. A few minutes later and I was at the checkpoint in Spring Valley. I had ridden the first 65 miles in just over 4 hours and was feeling pretty good. I opted to take a short break at the local convenience store to refill my water, grab something solid to eat and try and hopefully find a group to work with for the last 38 miles, as the route took us north and west back to Rochester.

The group I wanted to ride with took off, and about that time I saw Rick Blackford sitting on the side of the road near the checkpoint. I asked him how he was feeling and received no reply. After a couple of minutes of careful questioning, he said that a combination of leg and stomach troubles was really wearing on him mentally and physically. I suggested that it would pass, as it had for others during TransIowa a few weeks earlier, and that he should take his time at the checkpoint. He had 6 hours to ride the remaining 38 miles. Even if he stayed at the checkpoint for an hour and took a nap, he should still have plenty of time to finish. As much as I hated to give him the option, I told RIck that if he decided that he couldn't keep riding, he could call me for a ride in. I was hoping the offer would convince him to at least keep moving and that he'd feel better once he had some rest and started pedaling again.

I headed west into the winds, hoping that I could get find someone to share the pain with. There was a rider coming up behind me, but he wasn't making much headway. After a few miles of fighting the wind it was time to stretch my back and hamstrings out and put some food in my system. By this time, the guy behind me had caught up and we rode together for a while. He was having some issues on the uphills too, and then I noticed that he was riding a road race bike with 25 mm tires. We rode together for a while longer and then he dropped back on a long uphill. The next 20 miles were more fighting against head winds with a short break supplied by a bit of tarmac for a couple of sections. About 10 miles from the finish, a gust of wind came along and soon I was sprinting across a corn field chasing my cue sheets. Thankfully, they each caught on a clod of dirt that was sitting in between the rows of corn. That ended the excitement for the rest of the day. Five miles from the finish, we turned east on a fresh, wide shouldered stretch of asphalt. A long, well earned descent at 35 MPH descent was followed by some urban navigation and a turn onto the finish street, 8 hours and 12 minutes after I started.

I'm really happy with how things went this weekend. Rick Blackford finished 20th and I finished 23rd, so I felt it was a good showing for Rasmussen Bike Shop, especially with the conditions that we were handed. I went in shooting for a sub 7 hour finish time, but with the wind, the weather, and a new bike, I'm pleased with the time I posted. My food and drink strategy for the event worked out well, and I learned a few things about the bike that will need to be changed before I head to Kansas at the end of the month for the Dirty Kanza 200. I am definitely planning on racing this event next year. There should be a new course, and new challenges, and the event organization is absolutely top notch.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Finally done


Build list

A very special La Cruz frame
Avid BB7 w 160mm rotors
Salsa Semi 29er Disc rims w Chris King hubs
Shimano Dura Ace rear mech (from parts bin)
Shimano Ultegra front mech (from parts bin)
Stronglight Pulsion carbon crank (from parts bin)
FSA Platinum Pro Ti BB (from parts bin)
Chris King solto voce headset
Thomson Elite seatpost
Specialized Rival SL seat
Specialized bars and stem
Shimano 105 brifters
Schwalbe Marathon Extreme 40mm tires (not pictured)

I haven't weighed it yet. Might see if I can track a scale down over the next day or two.

After a short ride last night, my initial impressions of the bike are positive. The BB7 brakes will take a couple of rides to get bedded in. My biggest disappointment is the Shimano brifters. After using the Campagnolo Chorus on my Paramount, the 105s feel like a large step backward in terms of refinement. The front shifting mechanism feels fairly clunky and unrefined, and I really miss the micro-adjustment. I went with the Shimanos to avoid having to use a JTEK shiftmate hanging off the back. I guess there is something to be said for Italian design after all.

I'll be riding it a lot this next week so I can get my fit dialed in for the Almanzo 100 next weekend. Hopefully the Marathon tires show up early next week so I can get them installed before the race.

Monday, May 4, 2009

TI V5 - A learning experience

First off, thanks to Guitar Ted and David Pals for putting on one heck of an event. This is grass roots racing at its finest. These two men, the volunteers, plus the challenging course make this event a gem. A round of applause to everyone that showed up to ride, and an extra round for those that finished. The event would not have been the same without each and every one of you. I only talked to a few people before and during the race. I hope to meet some more of the competitors next year. A big thank you to Rasmussen Bike Shop for ordering the myriad bunch of weird parts I've requested over the last few months and supporting me and other mountain/dirt cyclists in the area.

Summary. First attempt at TransIowa and resulted in a DNF after about 150 miles of riding. I think my physical fitness was fine, but a lack of long rides to develop the appropriate mental training led to me not being able to finish. We couldn't have asked for nicer road and weather conditions. Most everything we rode on was dry, and the temps were warm, but definitely not unbearable. In the end bad nutrition choices and bad racecraft sealed my fate.

Nutrition nutrition nutrition. It is impossible to eat enough during any ultra distance event. I thought that by regularly taking in Perpetuem and tossing down a Clif bar and a piece of pizza every now and then that I'd be able to keep myself topped off. I spent the the last 20 miles of my race trying to dig myself out of the deep deep hole I had been digging for the previous 130 miles. I had burned around 9800 calories for the 150 miles that I rode that day. I know that I didn't take in anywhere near that many during the race.

Racecraft. I rode too long by myself, especially bucking a 10 - 15 MPH headwind for 110 miles. Everyone that finished was riding with at least one other person for a good portion of the race. I should have backed the pace down earlier and settled in with a group of people for the ride rather than riding hard by myself thinking that I could bank time by getting to the checkpoints earlier. In the end, I was not more than 15 minutes ahead of some of the finishers for the first parts of the event. I abandoned my plan and I paid for it.

Next race up is the Almanzo 100 on May 16th in Rochester, MN. After that, the Dirty Kanza 200 in Emporia, KS on May 30th. I'l be riding my new Salsa La Cruz at both of these events. Hope that it performs well.