31 August 2006

The Tribune continues to follow me ...

So she's incorrect about there not being a color-coded map before now, but I suppose CAMBR's map isn't exactly official ...

Map reveals secrets of Palos
New programs unlock mystery of forest preserves
Published August 31, 2006

A day in the life

This is sort of how I feel today at work today. I have to give a review in a few minutes, which shouldn't be too bad. But I've already been accosted by the guy in the office next to me about a project that was killed 4 months ago by the president of the company, and I have a meeting later with someone with whom I just clash. Badly. And this morning my PowerTap decided to stop downloading. Crap.

On the plus side, Kim's bike is spic-and-span clean, and rode well this morning on our spin. It's always a crap shoot with her bikes -- for some reason, every time I touch them, they start making some sort of noise or other. This time, there was just one small thing, easily fixed. And the Rush is ready to go too, in case I need it -- the word from Hudson is to "expect mud" for the duathlon this weekend. Yippee!!

(The plan right now is to run the Colnago -- if it's a bridle-path type course, the 'cross bike will be MUCH faster. I hope!) We leave tomorrow, which means packing tonight and an easy commute ride to work tomorrow morning. Then we're off to Jubilee College State Park, where we will hit the trails a bit, race over in Hudson on Sunday, and ride on Monday before coming home. This is such a huge departure from most Labor Days for us -- it's always been St. Louis (or Iowa in injury years), and this year I won't even have a road bike to ride!

I'm pretty excited though -- this is Kim's first-ever race on a bike (she's done running races before), and I hope she has fun!

ONLY 108 DAYS TO NATZ!!

30 August 2006

You mean it's Wednesday?

Kim starts back to school tonight -- her last official class! Yippee! It's an early one too, which means I won't have to re-learn how to fall asleep before she gets home. That usually takes two or three or four weeks each semester, which really puts a damper on recovery for a while. Instead, we may even be able to eat dinner together and have a "normal" weekday schedule ...

There's one other consequence of school starting again -- traffic sucks. My commute went up by 30% this morning, a definite check mark in favor of riding to work. Unfortunately, it's raining today and I have to go to an appointment this morning, which requires driving. Ugh. (The appointment is with a vendor -- a research company at a mall. Who the hell invented malls? They scare me. A lot.)

So nothing much to report today. I did my first trainer workout last night, since it was raining then too -- this weather is super-weird. It's not raining that hard, but the rain and wind is coming in off the lake, so it's just sort of gloomy and wet. Perfect 'cross weather! Trying to be safer than sorry, I pulled out the trainer last night -- got through Transition and started on Off-Road to Athens, had a decent workout, and called it a night.

The duathlon is on Sunday, and I'm in full-on taper mode. Tapering is fun -- you get to sleep a lot, ride a little, and almost eat anything you want. Almost. Of course, then the real fun begins -- we're only three weeks from Detroit!

ONLY 109 DAYS TO NATZ!!

28 August 2006

Comin' down the mountain ...

So this is pretty much how I spent the entire weekend – a BIG smile on my face and a bit of mud on my legs:


The atmosphere at the event was so cool, so much fun, I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to race! A BIG BIG THANK YOU to Kim, Shannon, Jim, Dave, and everyone else who offered help and had words of advice and encouragement as I started out on this new adventure!

We did end up camping, as the weather cleared just enough to be damp but not problematic. It was pretty cool to hang out in the “campground” all weekend, spending time with our new neighbors, including Nate from Iowa and his dog Dreamer. Oh, and Kim definitely has something going on – some guys I know are chick magnets, Kim is a kid magnet!

The Super D/time trial was on Saturday, and was a perfect way for me to get my feet wet – literally! I took a header into the first creek crossing, but still managed a respectable finish. I caught my minute man at about 5 minutes, giving me a HUGE burst of confidence – of course, the crash came soon after that! Funnily enough, the TT results were a bit messy, some things just are the same no matter what type of bike you ride …

Elites and Pro/Semi-Pro raced three events for the stage race, so we hung out Saturday afternoon to watch the short track. It was CRAZY! Basically a 20-minute ‘cross race without barriers, STXC was pure suffering – here’s Jim on his Sobe bottle, trying to move up the outside:
And another view, you can just feel the pain …
Sunday dawned damp and cloudy, but got better as the day progressed. I took an easy spin with Kim early (she was doing a brick workout), and the legs felt pretty good. The butterflies were in full force, though, and it was all I could do to relax and read before getting ready – thankfully Tammy has loaned me an awesome book that I can’t seem to put down!

Finally it was time to go, and Jim and I did a quick spin to warm up. I rode around the start/finish for a while too, spending way too much time talking and not enough getting ready! It was just another indication of how different and fun things were – I didn’t feel the crazy, stick-up-my-butt attitude that’s so prevalent at road races …

Finally we lined up, and after hearing from Lou (as confirmed by Jim) that mountain starts are like ‘cross starts only even more insane, I used my best Superweek mojo to find a place in the second row, just behind the call-ups. As we stood there waiting, staring up this long, harsh, rutted, soggy, sloppy, ugly climb, I couldn’t help but think of Off-Road to Athens, and the mountain coming down on top of them …

We got the 2-minute warning, and the next 60 seconds were SO LONG! We stood there waiting, I got my watch going, and then, finally, we got the 1-minute call. Then 30 seconds. 20. 15. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. the announcer fell silent … and GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Holy cow! We blasted out of the gate, full-on sprinting up the hill in the effort to be the first to the singletrack. The left side had a drier line, and those of us on the right pushed through soggy ruts to try to gain position. The right side basically swarmed over, and by midway I had my heart in my throat, my legs were burning, and I was SUFFERING! And we'd only been racing for 3 minutes!

I made it into the woods in about 5th place, just tagged onto the back of the leaders. I figured out I could climb fairly well, both on widetrack and in the narrow stuff, but as soon as we went downhill, I struggled compared to everyone else. The ground was pure peanut butter – and I’m allergic to peanut butter! The lack of sun meant that all the rocks and roots were slick, so I dabbed more than I should have and biffed somewhere on the first lap.

I also had to let small groups go by me, which put me back into the 20s by the end of the lap. I was still climbing OK, though, and put in hard efforts everywhere I could …


You can see the blood on my right knee here – I think it scared some guys into letting me pass!

And here’s Kim, moments after asking me if I needed a feed … it was all I could do to croak “nooooo” as my tongue was stuck to the top cap on my stem …

The second and third laps were much better, and although I dabbed quite a bit I finally got into a great rhythm on the last lap, cleaning stuff that had hung me up earlier. It was so much fun bombing down hills that I used to ski as a kid -- but this time on a bike! What an absolute rush! (Ha, ha, get it? Seriously, though -- that bike is awesome, I didn't want to stop riding!)

Here’s me at the finish -- Kim got an awesome shot!Results: So ultimately I was there to race, and how about this? I qualified for NORBA Nationals next year! Because this was an American Mountain Bike Challenge race, the top finishers in each age group earn a ride to the National Championships. Now if I can only do that in the next few months for ‘cross …

In the end, I was 8th in the Super D (I’m not too sure about that, but that’s what will get sent to NORBA), 5th in my age group and 12th overall in the cross-country, and 4th in the omnium. Even better, the results are already posted at Wors.org! That’s efficient!

While you’re there, check out the results for Kim Eppen – she dislocated her thumb at the end of the second lap, popped it back into place on the trail, and still finished second! Now THAT’s racing!

Birthday wishes: Happy b-day to Erik Tonkin, West Coast ‘crosser and member of the U.S. Worlds team. He and his wife pack a serious one-two punch when it comes to ‘cross!

ONLY 111 DAYS TO NATZ!!!

Blogger ate my homework

Photos and thoughts to come soon ... Blogger ate my homework ...

25 August 2006

Off we go ...

... into the wild blue yonder!

Kim just called, "standing at the elevator, waiting to go down." Five minutes to get to the car, 20 driving, and then we're off on a brand-new adventure in our already adventure-filled lives. I can't wait!

First we'll have to get through the red zone:

And then, because the Holmeses are such great people, we even have a dry place to stay tonight! Thanks Jim and Shannon, see you soon!

Let's race!!!!!

I must be French

Say what you want about France and the people who inhabit it, but here's why it's great to be French:

Work in August? Non!
In France, vacations are sacred. In the U.S., the work ethic seems too strong to let us relax.
Published August 20, 2006

AS an American who lives in Paris, I am always amazed at the way the French close up shop and go on vacation for the whole month of August. It's a sacred rite, sanctioned by the law that gives French workers five weeks of paid vacation a year. Many head to the beach or vacation homes in the country. Others spend the month traveling to such far-away places as India, French Polynesia and the Seychelles.
...

That's me. Of course, my job as a travel writer is easy to like, and I'm happy to take my identity from it, as do many Americans in other lines of work.

Not so in France, where it's considered gauche to start cocktail party conversation with "What do you do?" and where work is avoided on whatever pretext occurs, including long lunches, Monday mornings off, multitudinous national holidays, strikes (enjoyed even by uninvolved people who tend to stay home whenever big protests threaten to stop or slow down mass transit systems) and my favorite, the unexpected closure, or fermeture exceptionnelle.

Mamma always said ...

By the time I got home last night, the storm had pretty much blown into Lake Michigan, so I headed out to the Lakefront Path and into downtown. There was a pretty nasty south wind, and almost as soon as I got onto the path, I picked up a wheelsucker. By the time I turned down toward Hyde Park, I had a following -- I felt like Forrest Gump!

I want to give yet another shout-out to the Shop -- Lou is gone this week, but Alex stepped up big-time to dial in my shifting, and Peter offered some great advice forthis weekend's hill climb extravaganza. (I don't have a lockout on my fork, but following his advice I dropped the negative pressure a bit and can really tell the difference when I'm pedaling -- we'll see how it goes on the downhill parts!) That's part of what makes me proud to be wearing the blue and white this weekend -- I know the guys are behind me 100%!

ONLY 24 HOURS TO WORS!!

24 August 2006

I'm a wuss

So I did a full-on duathlon brick last night. My legs are a little heavy, but not too bad, and I was really looking forward to a long endurance ride today (original plan was to ride to work until the storm that brought 106mph winds to Michicago* blew through). So tonight was going to be 2 or 2-1/2 hours after work. Then I saw this. Crap. I think I'll just go home and pack.

* Michicago started out as a typo, until I realized that it sort of fits -- Michicago would be the area between the Chicago border, around the southern tip of Lake Michigan, and up toward Benton Harbor, encompassing Michigan City, IN, St. Joseph, MI, and the other resort towns frequented by Chicagoans. Sort of like Illisconsin, only not quite as red in the neck. Close, but not quite. A quick Google search shows that it's pretty much only used by UofC and Michigan for their annual joint conference. Hmmm ... birth of a new word?

Dear Jon

I got an e-mail from Jon today, asking about 'cross tire choice. Unfortunately, my return e-mail to him bounced, so this is for Jon ... sorry I didn't seem to get back to you ...

Jon -- If you're running clinchers, the Maxxis Larsen Mimo CX is the best all-around tire I've found. Good tread for all conditions, great all-around. Only drawback is they tend to wear pretty quickly, especially if you have a lot of pavement time (to get to/from cross practice) -- I usually go through a full set during CX season, and two more for the rest of the year. I also have a set of Michelin Mudd IIs for the really nasty days, but haven't run them yet. I hear they're great. If you can, though, try to find a set of tubular rims. Tubs are the only way to go in 'cross. I run Tufos myself, and have had some problems with flatting, so I make sure they've got Tufo sealant in them. Running tubs vs. clinchers is night-and-day! You didn't say where you're from -- are you in Wisconsin?

See the U.S.A. in your Chev-Ro-Lay

Oh yeah baby. Gotta love good ol' American logic.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/letters/cst-edt-vox14a.html

It could be a bit warmer ...

But I'll take it! Conditions are looking perfect for the Subaru Cup this weekend -- check it out!

ONLY 115 DAYS TO NATZ!!
And congrats to Renee on her CX upgrade!

23 August 2006

The man is CURSED!

For anyone who still doesn't believe that George Hincapie is cursed, I submit to you the following (with photos):

http://www.velonews.com/race/int/articles/10752.0.html

The Eneco Benelux Tour ended bitterly for George Hincapie on Wednesday after arch-rival Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) hooked him in the final 50 meters, sending the Discovery Channel leader sprawling to the ground and causing him to lose the race on time bonuses.
Real quiet lately. Lou's out fishing, and our bid for a 'cross race in Evanston is in the hands of the City. Everything else is coming together, as Renee makes final preparations for the Badger 'cross race (which I am really bummed I'm going to miss!), and the final schedule and course map are up for Devil's Head this weekend. (Yes, the link for the trail map is currently broken. Use some creativity -- open the schedule, but type Trail_Map over Schedule in the URL.) I've even written out my own schedule for the two days already ...

And by the way, JUST ONE MONTH TO GO!!!!!!!!!

ONLY 116 DAYS TO NATZ!!

22 August 2006

Is it Tuesday?

I'm in a training class all day, learning to become a better communicator. It's not bad -- at least this presenter is somewhat entertaining. Much better than the ones that have come before!

Tomorrow marks the one month mark before the start of 'cross season. Holy cow. There's been such a huge buildup for me (in my mind at least!), and now we're only 32 days away. Am I ready? Heck no. I haven't really had that much intensity in the past few weeks, and am looking forward to some off-road racing and (eventually) intervals to really kick-start my campaign. But am I willing? Oh yeah baby!

Two hours on the 'cross bike tonight, over on the DPRT. Next week Lou and I are going to get some "real" cross practice going in Evanston on Tuesday nights, out at Mt. Trashmore. Nothing too intense, and it will be good to get some barrier work in with other people. So far it's just been he and I on Wednesday mornings -- we know there are more people out there!

ONLY 117 DAYS TO NATZ!!

20 August 2006

Dialed!

Maybe it was the incredible homemade butterscotch cheesecake squares Kim's cousin made, or the mint brownies. Or maybe it was just a bit of serendipity ... Just a week to go before my first-ever mountain bike race, and I finally got my ride DIALED!

I headed out to Rock Cut this morning, bright and early -- I needed a sweatshirt when I got up! 'Cross is definitely in the air ... After a good cup o' Starbucks and a few minutes futzing with my tire pressures, I set the shock on ProPedal and did a short, 15-minute warmup loop. It got the juices flowing, and then I just hit it -- my big loop that takes me nearly 90 minutes on the 'cross bike, and 10 minutes less on the MTB last time, got down to a mere 73 minutes! The trails were in super-duper, silky-smooth, ultra-fast shape, and since I wasn't running my tires at max pressure, I could really rail 'em!

Even better, I DIDN'T CRASH!! I dabbed a couple of times, but nothing too bad, and I managed to stay upright all day! There was one close call, but I saved it at the last second, so I consider this day a total success. And I wasn't going easy on my big loop, either -- I was at or just below race pace the entire time -- I was crosseyed up some of those hills!

After the big loop, I headed out with a bunch of time to spare, intent on hitting the "drop trail" and discovering that my favorite loop is open again, as the creek crossing is dry. It was a lot of fun to take it easy on the uphills but rail the downhills, and I managed to catch a fair bit of air, all the while really working on attacking the berms!

Kelli and Gabe are out of here in about 1/2 hour, looks like Kim and I are driving them to O'Hare. I've re-fitted the pod on top of the car, just in time for five or six straight weeks of camping! I'm really looking forward to it -- I started as a Cat. 5 on the road camping and racing; this will be just like getting back to my roots!

Good luck to everyone at Downers this weekend -- the summer season is drawing to a close, and Downers is always an awesome time ...

ONLY 7 DAYS TO WORS!!

19 August 2006

Meltdown!

So it wasn't going to last ... Gabe just crashed on the couch (he's sprawled across 3/4 of the sofa, sort of bent in half, snoring), and Alaina and Kaylie are fighting over pillows and blankets ... yeah, it's getting time for bed!

High-speed

I'm sitting here next to Kaylie, Alaina and Gabeo on the couch, watching SpongeBob on the Cartoon Network. We've had a big family picnic, played on the slip-and-slide, had a bath, and just had chocolate milk -- and all that just since I got back from Kettle!

We woke up at 6 this morning; Kaylie had to use the bathroom, and Gabe had permission to wake us up if she was crying ... We watched a few minutes of the Weather Channel before it was cartoon time, and then it was breakfast and I was off to Wisconsin ...

I really like that Kettle has a trails hotline. It would be great if other recreation areas did too -- it takes all the guesswork out of whether you can ride or not, if there's weather in the area like we had yesterday. The trails were in pretty good shape, although I can't figure out who was smoking what when they designed the new connector -- off-camber, downhill log crossings in the middle of turns are not exactly my cup of tea, let alone safe ... And S-curves through the sand? I'm all for a challenge, but it would be nice to be able to get into a rhythm once in a while ... (and some of the straighter lines have been cut off intentionally)

I did take a couple of runs on the high-speed downhill out on the Emma Carlin trails -- the red trail is super-fast once you scale the switchbacks! It's a pretty wide open downslope, and it was a total blast flying down the trail and around the curves!

High-speed seems to be the theme of the day; once I got back, I was able to set up my in-laws with wireless satellite internet. They've been fighting with the router company and the ISP for weeks now, including something like 2 hours on tech support last night. I figure it's something like when you can't get a jar open, and you twist and twist, and then the next person comes along and just pops it open ... my father-in-law called India late last night, and then it took me just under an hour to get it all set up!

Tomorrow I will probably head over to Rock Cut -- it's free, and it's about 15 minutes closer to my in-laws' house. The trails aren't quite as tough, but it will be good to get out and get aerobic -- at Kettle it always feels up and down, or sneaking through the trees. (My handlebars are kind of wide for Kettle, there are a couple of spots where I have barely an inch of clearance on either side ...) I realized today that for me to really get into my rhythm, I need to do a fast, wide-open downhill a couple of times to feel "quick" ...

pk,;.;lk;lk[opk,'o.kpo,k';pk;;k,;o,kop';k;l

Sorry, just had a baby butt on the keyboard!

OK, I'm over and out. It's just too much fun to be 3 years old!

ONLY 120 DAYS TO NATZ!!

18 August 2006

A real "Downer" (NOT!)

Dragged out the fat tires for my commute to work this morning -- it's was a refreshing change to hit the "singletrack" next to the bike path and bridle paths on the way to work instead of the same-old, same-old. It's also fun to show up at work with a bit of dirt stuck to your legs ...

As it turns out, I won't be racing Downers Grove this weekend. It has been on my schedule for a year now, but as July turned into August I realized that I just wasn't prepared for it. Physically I'd be fine (pack filler, but fine), but mentally it's just not there ... and DG is NOT the place to be mentally disengaged.

Instead, I get to be UNCLE CHRIS all weekend! I'm so excited -- my nephew Gabe is coming in from Arizona (with his mom of course), and Kim and I are headed out to Woodstock tonight to see the fam. Kaylie will be there too, of course, so we'll have a 5-year-old and an almost-3-year-old fighting for our attention -- it's going to be so much fun!

(Can I just tell you how cool it is when I hear Gabe yell "Uncle Chris! Uncle Chris!" Or when Kaylie says her really cute, quiet "uncle kiss". It is so awesome.)

Just one week to go until I try my hand at WORS, and I'm going to get out to Rock Cut one day this weekend and maybe Kettle the other. With a full house out in Woodstock, Kim and I are thinking about camping in the back yard -- should be a really good way to get ready for Devil's Head!

ONLY 121 DAYS TO NATZ!!

17 August 2006

So you wanna be a pro?

Holy cow, the Turin ride last night was nuts. There's a bunch of pros in town for Downers Grove this weekend, and Turin invited the Victory Brewing women's team to join the ride ... along with a few traveling Cat. 1s and a smattering of other pros (including at least one Navigators rider), the ride grew to more than 60 riders "cruising" through rush-hour traffic in the North Shore ...

So there's me, on my 'cross bike, thankfully with road tires, sporting a 48/39 up front. I know of at least one guy who still had his 54 on from Superweek ... and it was FAST! Every Cat. 3, and almost every clubber in the Chicago area, decided this was going to be the day they get a pro contract. I joined the ride on the run-up to Tower Road, and I swear it didn't slow down until we finally rolled into Evanston about 8 p.m. Attack after attack went off the front, as the pros just sat in and conserved -- they're racing for real in a couple of days! More than once I found myself in my biggest gear, cruising along at more than 50 or 52kph ...

All in all, it was really fun, especially for a midweek ride. My legs were a bit heavy from our 'cross workout in the morning, but they didn't feel too bad, and I was able to sit in and conserve when I needed to, and go hard when I had to. And I'll admit, it was fun being out there on a 'cross bike with cheater brake levers and everything!

Today is a complete day off for me, and I dropped Kim off at work this morning so she could ride home and do a brick workout. We've only got a couple of weeks until the duathlon!

ONLY 122 DAYS TO NATZ!!

16 August 2006

Nana

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death. Far from being a sad occasion, though, Kim and I turned it into a happy remembrance – we had a picnic lunch at the Botanical Gardens, under the tree my family dedicated to her (and my grandfather’s) memory. It was an absolutely perfect day, low 80s, sunny with a nice breeze. One of those days where you could spend all day lounging on the blanket in the shade …

Then, as I drove home from work, the strangest thing happened. I was listening to the radio, and the announcer came on to give away two tickets to see Evanescence in Milwaukee in October. Tenth caller wins. I didn’t have my phone up front with me, but just on a total whim, I grabbed it out of my bag in back and dialed. Busy. Damn. Hit “End.” Hit “Talk” to redial. “CONGRATULATIONS YOU WIN!” “What? Are you serious?”

It was totally surreal. I have never won anything on the radio – instead, I get the busy signal every time I try! He took down all my info, explained how it will work once they get the tickets in house, and even gave me a first-name/last-name/hometown callout on the air. (About 8:45 last night on 95.1FM by the way, didja hear it?) How cool is that?

But here’s the kicker: I don’t believe in coincidence. Three years ago, during the week following her death, my family spent days cleaning out Nana’s house in Huntley. On one of those days, I needed some down time, alone, so I headed up to Borders in Crystal Lake. While there, I bought a CD: Fallen, by Evanescence. Then, on our first family vacation without Nana several months later, the band was playing in a Tahoe casino near where we were staying. When I made an iPod mix for Kim with music from our years together, I chose “My Immortal” to symbolize that part of our life: the acoustic version is still one of the most haunting melodies I have ever heard.

After her memorial service, one of Nana’s friends told us about these feelings Nana used to get. Sort of like the “I’m not getting on that plane and then it crashes” types of feelings. Like somehow she was connected to the universe on a sort of higher level than the rest of the world. All I can think is that last night, three years after her passing, she is still somehow connected to our lives every day, and wanted to be sure we knew it.

Happy b-day! Today is Matt Kelly’s birthday, he of the “I’m gonna’ win the ‘cross worlds as a junior and then do some other stuff before coming back to the sport and becoming a pro …” way of doing things. Happy birthday!

ONLY 123 DAYS TO NATZ!!

14 August 2006

Excitement!

I guess I'm not the only one getting psyched for 'cross season -- Renee is so stoked that she posted her blog about starting 'cross training three times! Well, either that, or Blogger is acting up again.

12 August 2006

Sunrise, Sunset

What an incredible weekend!

This was how it started, "up north at Hollywood, water on the driver's side ..."
Sometimes it's fun to play tourist in your hometown. Driving LSD as the sun comes up on a sleepy weeekend morning has to be one of life's finer moments!

I had every intention of using my camera on the ride at Palos, too ... so that didn't happen. I got down there a couple of minutes late, and by the time I was ready, Lou and Chris Mosk were chomping at the bit to get out on the trails. And when they go, they go hard! No warmup, and before I knew it we were shooting down the blue trail, cutting over to the next picnic area, and driving it fast around Turf 1. I was off the back immediately, my engine not quite ready to go, and started struggling a bit in the technical stuff as a consequence. I endoed on a log crossing (again!), and eventually caught up to them at the base of the rocky climb. This was going to hurt!

As I warmed up, my fitness caught up, but I was no match for their skills. They took me on a huge loop that I had never been on, and it was fast, technical, and did I mention fast? I was well behind them at every checkpoint, but they were gracious to wait for me as I struggled to keep up. There were maybe two places where I did OK, when I could use my fitness rather than skills to keep up! It was exactly what I needed -- hard and fast, perfect to get ready for the WORS race!

They had to get back to open the shop, so I set out on another loop. I did this one at almost race pace, really pushing in some places, but the damage had been done on the first loop -- by the end I was really starting to feel it, and although I didn't quite limp home, I wasn't as smooth as I should have been, and I was starting to cramp. It felt good to go that hard, and I can say I'm ready to push even more at the race!

(I did do one last small loop, looking for a water bottle that I ejected and hitting the jump trail a couple of times. When did it become fun to catch air?! At some point I also jacked my front derailleur, and spent 45 minutes trailside trying to fix it -- thanks to John and Lou for answering my phone questions and talking me through it!)

Kim still wasn't home by the time I came back, so I headed to Jiffy Lube and the car-wash place to get that done, before heading to the Pony Shop so the pros could work on my bike. While there, a couple of customers came in while everyone else was busy, so I got to be a salesman for a bit -- it was a blast! I'm sure it drives Lou nuts when I answer the phones or talk to real customers, but I really get a kick out of it. Hmmmm ... maybe a career change?

I finally made it home, and the real work started. I got my couple of to-dos out of the way, and then FINALLY re-engineered our dining room! The hardware has been sitting there for 6 months, and Saturday was finally the day ... By the time Kim did get home (at 10 p.m.), I had been at it for more than 5 hours, and we had several new holes in our plaster walls ... but all the wheels were hanging up in an orderly fashion! Spackle time!

We hit the ground running on Sunday morning, as I rode part of the Judson ride on my road-bike-wheel-equipped 'cross bike and Kim went for a walk/run. Then it was back downtown for a company event at Navy Pier -- a boat cruise for a few hours along the lakefront. It was pretty spectacular! The weather was perfect, and of course I got a bit sunburned ...

We then drove up to Kenosha to visit Christina and Tom for Pork-off 2006. This was a head-to-head, no holds barred, husband vs. wife throw-down -- Christina's breaded-and-baked pork chops vs. Tom's marinated-and-cooked-on-the-brand-new-just-built-flamethrowing-supergrill. It was pretty spectacular, as the smack talk started once we got there, Brodie was entertaining Kim as the girls rolled and boogied all over, and everyone was working up an appetite ...

Tom's grill was pretty cool, and in the end we all enjoyed some pretty awesome "other white meat." It's always fun to visit the Millers, since a) they grill year-round; b) we don't own a grill; c) they are awesome cooks; and of course d) they're a lot of fun to visit! The home-made honey-lime salad dressing was declared the winner, and we all celebrated the victory with some Cold Stone Creamery ... mmm ... ice cream ...

Needless to say, Kim and I passed out by the time we got home, a weekend well spent!

ONLY 125 DAYS TO NATZ!!

Kid in a candy store

I'm in that fun, exciting, exhausting place where everything is so new, so cool that adrenaline takes over, sleep is impossible, and all I want to do is experience. Maybe it's the new ride, maybe the new discipline, probably a combination of both, but after a very short night of sleep I woke up well before the alarm, ate breakfast, drank some java, watched some of Off-Road to Athens (it was either that or infomercials!), have checked my e-mail, checked cyclingnews.com, and am finishing my packing for the ride today.

And it's only 5 a.m.

Good thing Kim wasn't home last night.

To fit in a ride today, Lou and I are heading to Palos mega-early, with a 6:45 a.m. start time. I want to get there a few minutes early (provided the gates are open), to monkey with my shock and get everything set up. Lou says "2 hours hard" -- it's stoner-bashin' time!

ONLY 127 DAYS TO NATZ!!
Good luck to everyone at Elk Grove Village this weekend -- sorry I can't be there, should be pretty amazing!

11 August 2006

Worlds ... collide ...

First, on Monday someone at work called me out, having discovered my gig writing for Chicago Athlete. Then today, Kim gets an e-mail from her cousin in Cleveland, who has gotten into cycling by way of an MS charity ride, telling her to send me to two blogs that I already read! Next thing you know, my father-in-law will hop on a 'cross bike and do barrier practice through the corn rows in the back yard!




(OK, Kari -- stop laughing at the visual. But can't you see it? With his beard banana-clipped and tucked into a tight cycling jersey?)

Yet more change

HOLY CR@P! I walked out the door this morning, and it was BRISK! WOOOO-HOOOO!! 'Cross season is ALMOST HERE!!!

Of course, by the time we got back to town, it was getting humid again, so we're not there yet ... yet ...

In keeping with this week's theme, I've saved the biggest change for last. If you had told me a year ago that I would be ditching my road bike in August in favor of riding trail, I would have said you were crazy. Even into the autumn, as much fun as I was having with 'cross, I was still not an off-road rider.

That is, until Lou got me out to Palos. That day was the start, and I haven't looked back since!

Sooooo ... I SIGNED UP FOR A WORS RACE! And not just any race, but the "biggest" WORS weekend of them all: the Subaru Cup! I'm going to try my hand at the Comp category, which has an omnium for the weekend: a SuperD (time trial) on Saturday and a XC race on Sunday. I'm sure I'll get my butt handed to me on a platter, but the thing is, I can't wait!

I will still shave my legs, and will NOT put a visor on my helmet. And really, I just want to see how it goes -- at the very least, it will be a nice change of pace from the road scene, and will serve as good practice for the upcoming 'cross season. I may be taking my life into my hands, but isn't that the fun part?

ONLY 128 DAYS TO NATZ!!

10 August 2006

More congrats!

HUGE congrats to John and Rachel Gatto on their latest addition to the D'Arcy team! I can only hope she's a screamer -- anything to slow John down come 'cross season!

Change is (literally) in the air!

Congrats to my sister-in-law, who has found a new house! The moving starts this weekend, and aw shucks if I can't make it out there! (Seriously, I would, but Kim and I are splitting duties -- she's going to help out, I'm cleaning house for guests on Monday. I secretly think she wins.)

The new house isn't purple and pink like Kaylie wanted, but it does have a floor and a roof, so that's good!

And in the surest sign yet that 'cross season is on the way, Mr. Skilling tells us Saturday morning will dawn cool and crisp:
Only a quarter of summer nights produce temperatures lower than those predicted by daybreak Saturday. The Canadian air mass on its way is to lower temperatures and humidities to eminently comfortable levels here. Areas away from the Great Lakes are likely to register the coolest overnight lows in more than a month--particularly Friday night when 50s are expected.

ONLY 129 DAYS TO NATZ!!

09 August 2006

Change is all around

So it's not just me ... BIG CONGRATS to my nephew Gabe, who had his first day of Kindergarten today! He's getting all grown up -- can't wait to see him next week!

Congrats Renee! (and everyone else!)

Today's change is brought to you by Monster.com, as my best employee is leaving us to pursue greener pastures ... it was nice to have a full staff for, oh, 18 days!

Check this out, from cyclingnews.com today:

Alan cross team for 2006-2007
The Alan Factory announced today its final roster for the 2006-07 cyclocross season. The team will be based in Minneapolis, MN and covers 14 regions around the US. The team will be lead by elite team riders with grassroots programs in each of the 14 regions. The 2006-07 elite roster is headed by former junior world champion Matt Kelly and former US national champion Jed Schneider.

The full squad includes: Samantha Williams, Nick Weighall, Kevin Hankens, Renee Callaway, Kristopher Auer, Matt Kraus, Troy Barry, Paul Schoening, Bjorn Selander, Dag Selander, Logan Loader, Marc Swart, Ryan Rish, Shawn Adams, Ali Goulet, Kirk Olson , Scot Van Asten, Patrick Morrissey and Morgan Gerlak.

For more info, check out their new web site (still under construction).

ONLY 130 DAYS TO NATZ!!

08 August 2006

What he said

I've never met Trek/VW pro Nick Martin, but through a link to a link a while back, I started reading his blog. Here's why, from an entry about his first-ever Top-10 finish at a NORBA National event:
Hidden just beyond the painfully boring plains of western Utah lies some the best singletrack and views I have ever seen. These moments remind me that no matter what result I walk away with from the weekend, it’s the act of packing up the car and exploring new limits that makes this culture on two wheels my passion.
Congrats to Nick on a great result!

07 August 2006

Things are coming together

We're only a little over 6 weeks until the start of 'cross season ... more changes happening ... exciting stuff!!!

ONLY 131 DAYS TO NATZ!!

So that's why it itched

I just pulled a 1/4-inch thorn from my elbow/forearm area. No wonder it was itching so bad!

I feel like I'm back in 9th grade, Mr. Nee's first-period algebra ... I crashed just before school started, and had blood running down my leg, caking in my sock ... a little bit of that going on today too ...

Ch ... ch ... ch ... changes

The theme for this week is change. It's very early on Monday morning, and I can already tell that's going to be the way things are.

Change can be good! To say I'm a different person than I was before that first trip to Palos in January may be a bit of an overestimation, but to say I've changed is an understatement. This weekend was a case in point: I skipped a road race on Saturday to hit Veteran's Acres with my brother, the first time I've ridden with him in more than two years, and on Sunday I was able to take my lack of racing form in stride a bit better than usual in the second installment of the Elgin Cycling Classic.

Then, this morning, was the biggest indicator of change: for my easy recovery ride, I grabbed the mountain bike and headed out to the Des Plaines River Trail ... to session a small tabletop jump I found last week! I've never really been comfortable when my wheels aren't in contact with the ground, but thanks to some studying I've been doing, and my bro's encouragement out at VA, I figured it was time for me to fly ... better late than never!

It's not a big jump, but the run-in isn't very long, so it sort of evens out. And it was FUN! I top-landed the first couple of tries, then really started to get into the flow, pumping the front on each pass to really get up and over the table. I had a few perfect landings -- it felt effortless, weightless -- and one funky front-end wheelie, and by the end was frustrated when I caught the lip on the last pass. It was time to go anyway, and now I can't wait to get out there again!

So change can definitely be good, and take you places you never thought you'd be. If you had told me a year ago that I'd be out there looking for jumps, I would have said you were crazy. Now I want to find another, bigger one, and soon!

By the way, the weekend was good. No crashes at VA, and even got in a run with Mike Naughton, son of one of my Mack teammates. My brother Tim hasn't ridden in a while, so although his skills were good, the fitness wasn't there ... and yes, it evened out! Sunday was OK, I suffered but stayed with the pack, was only really in difficulty once after pulling together the group after a crash (and pushed hard to hold on), and am happy that I finally got some good racing miles in my legs. There are only a few weeks left until 'cross!

(And to make up for Saturday, I biffed a downed tree this morning and endoed spectacularly. This is my "easy" day?)

ONLY 132 DAYS TO NATZ!!

04 August 2006

Subculture of a subculture

First off, I've had two people tell me that they don't crash when mountain biking. I say you're not pushing the limits hard enough. So there.

(OK, seriously, I admire people who are able to ride in control and still rail the heck out of the trails. I'm sort of that way on skis -- I'm fast, but I haven't crashed in years, even on mogul runs out at Squaw. I've been skiing since I was 7. I've only been trail riding for 7 months -- I am not yet that way off-road. I will be. I will be.)

Second, folks in the Mountain world have WAY too much time on their hands. Sure, it makes for entertaining reading, but yesterday I found this bizzarre-o subculture of mountain biker blogs -- there's like 100 of them from WORS competitors alone! I mean, I've been reading some 'crosser blogs for a while, but this takes the cake -- there's some sort of strange incestuousness about it that is kind of like watching a car wreck ... you just can't look away ...

Speaking of car wrecks, you just gotta see this picture of Lenny: http://lifeintherustytoolshed.blogspot.com/

And if you want to waste a whole day of work (not speaking from experience, of course), just start following links ...

... and speaking of links, one of the funniest videos I've seen yet (and it's OK for work -- sort of): http://www.bestofgooglevideo.com/video.php?video=362

ONLY 135 DAYS TO NATZ!!

03 August 2006

Gettin' excited

Got an e-mail from JPE, already making plans for Gloucester! Woo-hoo!

Had our second "cross Wednesday" ride yesterday morning too. Dropped the bike off at the Shop last night b/c it's shifting funny. Hoping it's just a bent hanger, not a messed-up shifter! Good news is, the "B" bike with the "A" wheels is back in the house, so I can still do my skills practice tomorrow.

And the weather broke overnight -- 71 and raining this morning. 'Cross is in the air!

Yes, Gloucester is more than 2 months away, but that's prime "leaf viewing" season in New England. Now if I can only convince my boss to let me skip the Friday night social and Saturday slugfest that finish out our annual national sales meeting! (And if not, I'll probably head up to Sheboygan ...)

OK, this is freaky

Check this out from the Chicago Tribune today: Show your true colors.

Now guess which color shirt I'm wearing today. I'm such a slave.

ONLY 136 DAYS TO NATZ!!

02 August 2006

BRICK!

Today called for a ride, a run, and some lifting. With storms coming in this afternoon, a weight room at work, and a standing appointment for a Wednesday-morning 'cross ride, there was only one solution to fit it all in: BRICK!

Lou and I hit the Lagoons this morning (more on that later), and then once I got home I threw on the running shoes (a super-fast transition, I might add) and hit out for 30 minutes of tempo. It wasn't quite as bad as I've heard people say it is, but then again Lou and I weren't going that hard for the last 15 minutes of the ride, so I sort of got a cool-down before running. We're a month out from the off-road du Kim and I are doing, so I really need to get in a few run/rides and ride/runs to see how my body will react ...

The Lagoons were in rough, rough shape. The bulldozer work from earlier this summer has shredded the entrance passage, and consequently the trails in the main loop are overgrown in most places, since there hasn't been that much traffic all summer. The 'dozer tracks themselves have become swamps, and aren't draining at all, so there's this huge consequential overflow: 1) folks are riding around the 'dozer tracks, "opening" new trails where there weren't before (essentially making new singletrack where there was widetrack before); and 2) traffic on the other two loops has been heavier, so the "damage" (mostly from BMX kids) is greater.

Most of the fun, open sections are now slow and ugly, and the backside is returning to nature pretty quickly. It's unfortunate -- the trails aren't officially sanctioned by the park district, so they really don't care what happens; the fisherman can still walk back there; and anyone who tries to actually clear trails for riding risks getting into hot water with authorities. I'd hate for us to lose the big loop, but we may not have a choice ...

Other than that, today is our umpteenth day of 90-degrees plus, but relief is supposed to be coming in the form of thunderstorms tonight. I hope they hold off until at least 7 p.m. or so, so I can get the rest of my riding in (MTB on the widetrack Des Plaines River Trail across from work, just need to get some time on the new rig), but if it rains I won't be too heartbroken -- riding when it's 93 isn't the most fun. Oh, and dipsh*t me forgot my helmet this morning, so I shouldn't ride anyway ...

ONLY 137 DAYS TO NATZ!!

01 August 2006

Happy birthday mom!

Just a quick happy birthday to my mom. She's put up with a lot of crap from me through the years, and definitely deserves this day to celebrate!