30 April 2007

Home-court advantage

(This one is pretty long. More user-friendly race reports can be found here and here.)

Kicked off the season “for real” yesterday with my debut at the Do the Rock mountain bike race. The Rock Cut Trail Crew did a fantastic job putting together an awesome course on some of Rock Cut’s best trails – some challenging opening singletrack led to some wide-open stuff before sending us through the Willow Creek area singletrack (including a very refreshing creek crossing), then on through the “new” singletrack before dropping us down and forcing us to climb back up on some long widetrack and pavement sections. Due to the rain this week, the course was shortened to 10 miles … at first I thought that would make a difference, boy was I wrong! Part of the section they cut is a long, 2-3 percent gradual climb, and I was grateful by about the midpoint of lap two …

I’ve been looking forward to this race for a while now for a couple of reasons. First, Rock Cut is my “home” trails – I have spent more time out there on a ‘cross and mountain bike than on any other trail system here in the Midwest. Based on the map, I could do the race with my eyes closed (which was helpful when I was trying to sleep at 3:45 a.m. the night before the race!). Second, this race tends to fly under the radar a bit, since not too many people have ridden there, so I wasn’t expecting a huge turnout, or too much high-level competition. I just wanted to go and test myself, and get in a good, long MTB ride.

Well … welcome to WORS Marathon #1a! I learned the night before that Jesse and Marko were coming down. I was checking out his blog, and was surprised to see that they even did a course recon last week – actually, his description was a pretty strong endorsement for what I already knew, Rock Cut is a pretty good place to ride!

As I was warming up, I saw Abby Strigel, Brittney, and a host of other WORS women, along with a ton of Wisconsin men, ready to stretch their legs a week before Iola. Hmmm … this was going to be interesting!

There is one trail at Rock Cut that I’ve never been able to clean – four log crossings and a small (usually dry) wash in a row, with the second and third crossings being the largest. I’ve been through there a million times, each time practicing ‘cross instead … so yesterday I knew I’d have to practice before the race. I dragged Kim up there super-early, kitted up, and headed to the logs … and cleaned ‘em, first try! And second, and third, and fourth … I was ready. Maybe today was going to be a good day after all! (Funny roadie moment – I didn’t feel like getting wet before the race, so I walked the wash each time. On the third time through, the Lalonde bros. came flying through as I stood on the side like a dumbass roadie … I can only imagine what was going through their minds after the fiasco at Sheboygan last time we all raced …) (And no, I was NOT the roadie at Sheboygan who got caught in the tree. It was someone else.)

The time approaches, it’s almost 11 o’clock, I make sure to get a front-row start. B-Matter goes rolling past. The Lalondes line up. Gatto is right behind me. Other A-type personalities are circulating. Fifty-odd riders. We’re all standing there staring at each other, swapping stories, and all of a sudden, someone is yelling at us to go?!

And so we went! Downhill, uphill, level, then BLAST off the end of the parking lot into about 200 meters of widetrack with some turns, before slamming on the brakes into the left that takes us to the logs. We go from three wide to tight track in 5 feet, with some idiot in a TREK jersey bombing the inside … only to crash and tie up the trail 50 meters later. Dumbshit!

Amazingly, I found myself jumping off the parking lot with the leaders, and diving into the logs in about 8th place or so. Huh? I’m that close to the front? How the hell? Maybe all that trail riding is starting to pay off?

Passing and getting passed, Gatto goes by in a blaze of green and black, before hitting the long widetrack uphill from Lions Club … only it’s been graded for utilities, and so the soil is just sucking us under. I’m losing contact with the very front, no real idea where I am (10th? 12th? 15th?), and I start to settle in for the very long 3-lap effort … in heat that will hit 87 degrees by the end of the day. A Kettle Moraine rider and I sort of settle in together, I rail the pine trees, he outclimbs me a bit, I’m riding the singletrack better than him? Cool!

Through the river, up the hill, down the sand, slam on the brakes … he misses the left and has to run, I balance and am able to stay on. Down, around, up, up, up, up, and more up … Kim hits me with a perfect feed, and it’s full-on, 44x11 tailwind, into lap 2. (Lap 1: 43 minutes.)

Kettle and I trade place a couple of times, I gap him on the flats and singletrack, he gets me on the climbs. We’re pretty evenly matched, but somewhere mid-lap I lose my steam a bit – it’s hot and getting hotter, and I’m struggling. I wash out my front wheel on the sand and have to run, and now we’re even. We pass a few guys with mechanicals, I think I get caught somewhere in there, and then – thankfully! – Kim is there with the next feed, able to hand up two water bottles so I can dump one over my head. (Lap 2: 44 minutes)

Lap three was better, I recovered some of my momentum, caught up to Kettle guy and hung on as he climbed. I wasn’t going to jump him, as he was clearly out-climbing me, but I was definitely going better as the lap wore on. I cramped on some of the downhills, no standing for me, thank god for suspension. We both clean the sandy turn as we pass lapped riders … and I realized, given the length of the laps, we’re going pretty damn fast out here. Through the new trails, one of the BKB is coming up hard, we get passed by an older guy and BKB goes with him … I dig deep on the climb and hang on … BKB falters, Kettle is gone, and it’s all I can do to try to keep up with the older guy … not going to happen, but when I look back there’s no one! Just pavement to the finish, one more bottle dump, down the hill, and whew! It’s over! 30 miles in 2:15, last lap 48 minutes!

And I was cooked. I sat down on a chair in the shade of a tree, and couldn’t move for a very long time. Eventually, I got cleaned up and we headed to awards, just enjoying more shade as we chatted with all the WORS folks … Iola sounds like it’s going to be fast with some pretty full fields. They announce the Sport results, WORS riders on top in more than one place. Renee wins a raffle prize. Then it’s our turn, the “experts” who did 3 laps.

I knew I wasn’t in the running for the really cool overall trophies, but I was holding out hope for some category hardware. I was doing the mental math, and was certain I was out, given that I believed Brian and Jesse were 30+ this year, and John was for sure. That was, until I found out John was single-speeding it, and Brian and Jesse are only 29 and 28, respectively!

So I still had a chance … Experts 30-39 … I don’t know, big age breakdown … maybe … 3rd place announced … 2nd place announced … and the winner of the Expert 30-39 … Me!! Holy cow! I won!!!

I was laughing as I collected my cool medal, a Campy cog with a wooden insert that had the name of the race and my placing. I told John, “not bad for a reformed roadie” … I really felt like I was racing my mountain bike, not just out there for a hard trail ride. It’s a big step from last year, not that I was anywhere near Brian, Jesse, Marko (top three overall) or John (winner of the SS class), but at least I was in the game a bit, and somewhere near the top of the field. It was a cool feeling, and I’m really looking forward to getting out there this weekend to see what I can do!

Race notes: It's kind of funny when the race announcer doesn’t know the heavy hitters … he announced the placing for Jesse and Marko by calling out the “Ladonna” brothers! … I hope most of my bad luck seems to be out of the way for the moment, yesterday was one of the very few MTB rides I’ve ever done, and maybe the only race, where I didn’t crash! … I’m seriously re-thinking whether to double up this weekend, this trail thing seems to be going well, maybe I should just ride it out and skip Baraboo …

28 April 2007

Nutso weekend

Sorry for the lack of posts recently -- my boss is back from Zambia, and I'm just getting back on the ground myself, so things have been off the hook at work. Which means very little time at home ... I had to rebuild the Rush this week, in between trying to get a ride despite the weather. Oh, and sleep too, to fight off this minor cold I seem to have caught.

Last night was awesome -- Naked Raygun reunion show at the House of Blues. Bob, Go Faster Jim, the Belgian, Kim and Carlos ... awesome show. I spent the NR set getting an awesome upper-body workout in the pit -- good balance practice for the MTB.

Today was the Whitnall Park Crit -- we used a completely different part of the Park from what I'm used to in Superweek, but the course was similar: down, up, down-up, repeat. I did the Master's 1/2/3 to give myself a workout without overtaxing the system, managed to put in one dig and work on my pack skills all day. I told Kim afterward it was pretty cool -- all the mountain work has paid off in my comfort level in the peloton. My awareness seems to be right on, which gives me good sight lines and an ability to move as I need to. I got too far up as the last lap started, got swamped on the hill, and rolled it in within the field.

Tomorrow the season starts for real -- Rock Cut, the first local MTB race of the year. I'm not expecting too much -- the distance alone will probably be a factor, as will the heat -- but it should be fun, as I know these trails like the back of my hand. It promises to be a good workout, and I'm happy that the Rush seems dialed after the beating it took out in Virginia.

At the in-laws, shorter drive tomorrow morning to the race. Oh! And Starbucks has released limited-time-only mint mocha bottled frappachinos, so tomorrow I'll be wired but have good breath for the race. Yeah!

26 April 2007

Bad uncle

I hate to admit it, but I've been a bad uncle. Not too bad, I suppose, but very forgetful!

HAPPY BIRTHDAYS are in order for my nephews:

Gabriel, who turned six on February 15.

Levi, who turned 11 on Monday.

CJ, who celebrates his second birthday today.

(And my cousin Michael's son Ian turned two on April 14).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GUYS!!!!!

25 April 2007

"Racing for a cause"

We made the local evening news! Check it out: http://www.charlottesvillenewsplex.tv/home/headlines/7141696.html

I'm back on the ground now, in Chicago for a few weeks. I think. This weekend was incredible, with the folks at Blue Ridge School putting on a great event and raising enough for another 11 bikes!

As for me? Well ... let's see. Saturday's preride went great, until the last half of the last half-run of the day. That's when I rode over a metal wire fence that was hidden in the brush just as I shifted ... and exploded my rear derailleur. Not a little, but a lot -- it was a goner. After hiking out, one of the students and his grandparents graciously drove me to Performance, the only shop open at the time, and I grabbed an X-7 off the shelf and spent the next few hours trying to set it up ... Thankfully, that student also had a Cannondale jump bike at school, since I had destroyed my hanger and we had to cannibalize ...

Race day dawned warm and sunny, and it turned out to be a great day. I helped set up, got some of the students settled in talking about World Bicycle Relief, then did an abbreviated warmup. 1 expert (me), 9 expert vets (35+) and 2 expert women lined up at 11 for the gun ... and off we went. I had a great start, and led for half a lap before getting a bit bogged down on the steep, steep hills. The singletrack was sick, and I was cleaning stuff I hadn't gotten down in practice -- I felt great, but I also knew that three laps of the 6.3-mile course would be harsh.

Also, I was running my usual 2x9 setup, having not realizied that this is granny country when I packed my bike. All that added up to my getting caught about halfway through the lap by the first expert vet, and the race was on.

He got a bit of a gap on a hike-a-bike section, then I caught up on a climb, then he dropped me on a tight downhill, then I caught up again on another sustained climb. I was about 5 seconds off as we dropped into "Senior Rock," which is where my day ended: I went over a small log crossing too hot, and went straight over the bars. When my bike came down on top of me, the rear shifter bracket snapped off, and I was finished. I was also a bit dazed, having landed on my nose, and ticked off because we already had a 2+ minute gap that early in the race. D'oh! (We were flying too -- my practice lap was 55-57 minutes on Saturday; on Sunday, we were on 41-minute pace for the first lap. Wow.)

I hiked out, the second time in two days, thankfully this time with one of the sport riders who snapped his derailleur off. It was a killer course -- half of the combined expert class didn't finish because of mechanicals. Ouch! The kids had fun, though, and two of the Blue Ridge students took top honors in the beginner class -- one of them on a hardtail with platform pedals! That's hardcore!

I've managed a couple of endurance rides the past few days, but am fighting a travel-induced cold and the weather just turned to crap. So it looks like I'll be resting for the next 48 hours or so, then hitting the show on Friday night before launching the race season in earnest on Saturday and Sunday ... I'm not puking on my workouts, so hopefully I'll have some fitness to show!

21 April 2007

Ride the Ridge

I'm currently in St. George, Va., at the Blue Ridge School, site of the Ride the Ridge mtb race tomorrow ... Yesterday I got to speak to a couple of student groups, today is Earth Day celebration, tomorrow the race ...

I'm standing under the one tree on campus that provides shade and cell reception - we are out in the mountains, it's so cool!

Race tomorrow will be HARD - course is like they took Sheboygan and plopped it on Devil's Head. OUCH!!

19 April 2007

Name dropping

Last week Olympic mountain bikers, this week former presidents ... We just met and spoke with former President Bill Clinton in New York ... Wow. Politics aside, this guy is a real force in the world, and now I know why first-hand. We spoke for a couple of minutes, and he was gracious in thanking us for the work we are doing. Wow.

(Kevin Spacey was there too, but ducked out early. Darn!)

I'm off to Virginia now, stuck in nyc traffic. So far, this has been an awesome trip!

17 April 2007

What day is it?

It occurred to me last Thursday, as I was arriving in Monterey, that my schedule is a bit crazy -- I'm home from 11:30 Monday until I leave for work Tuesday morning, then not home again until next Monday afternoon. Today is Tuesday, I think, and I'm pushing hard to get through as much work as I can before going home to do laundry and pack again. Mmmmm ... laundry ... I need clean clothes.

Speaking of clothes, I forgot I have a meeting with a World Bicycle Relief partner at work today, so I dressed down. Woops. At least I shaved.

I managed to run all but one day in California, beautiful runs along the coast, listening to the waves crash and enjoying the beautiful weather. It was a fantastic way to start each day, especially as my jaunts ended at the Starbucks across the street from the hotel -- nothing says recovery like a chocolate croissant (pain au chocolate) and a venti half-decaf!

Between the runs and standing on asphalt for four days, though, my body is hurting. My shin is horribly swollen, although we elevated it last night and it seems to be better today. There's a lot of trauma in there, and it just needs time to clear out ... maybe next week? My main priority this weekend will be ensuring that I don't land on it again ...

The weather in New York (Wednesday-Thursday) looks OK; the weather in Virginia looks awesome for the weekend. After seeing the 24-Solo premier on Friday, I can't wait to get back on the mountain bike!

15 April 2007

Call Noah

From cyclingnews.com:

After two days of beautiful, sunny weather, the skies opened up on Saturday afternoon in Monterey, California. The severe downpours brought the Sea Otter Classic's road, short track, BMX, and dual slalom racing to halt as racers and spectators simultaneously scrambled to find shelter.

Perhaps the most unfortunate victims of circumstance were the pro women, who were in the middle of their National Racing Calendar (NRC) series event when the deluge began. After several laps of racing in the rain, officials decided to suspend racing action due to dangerous volumes of running water and some mud on the Laguna-Seca International raceway course. The women's race was cancelled.

14 April 2007

Class acts

First, let me just say thanks to Anonymous for calling me out. (Irony anyone?) It wasn't my intent to label anyone, or any class of people, in a previous post, and I can see how it can be taken that way. My bad.

In fact, I would like to call out the tops of the MTB world here instead: holy crap these people are cool. I have spent so much time explaining World Bicycle Relief to the elite of the MTB world in the past 2 days, and to a person, they get it. And they support it. And they want to help. It is SO awesome.

I mean, most of you know I only started mountain biking after seeing Off-Road to Athens. Of the four men profiled in that movie, two are now on TREK-associated teams, both of which have the World Bicycle Relief logo on the back of their jersey. And of those two, I had dinner last night with one and we talked about our projects, and one went out of his way yesterday to seek us out to offer to help in any way he can.

I've also had other racers, and even racers' wives, go out of their way to check in on us. We're talking major class here.

We have made a lot of great connections this weekend so far, especially on the racing side and also in the industry. These people are a class act, and I'm super-stoked to be associated with them.

11 April 2007

long day

Travel totally sucked today - more later. I'm standing here waiting for my bags next to Todd Wells, Alison Dunlap, Greg Herbold and others. I love my job.

10 April 2007

I can't go back

Today is my lucky day! I found a penny (heads up) outside Dunkin Donuts this morning, and then I won a free bagel on the scratch game on the side of my coffee. Yeah baby, that's what I'm talking about!

How I got there is interesting, at least to me, and may have far-reaching implications for the rest of my life. See, today is the day I think I finally realized:

I can't go back.

I rode to work this morning, departing super-early and hitting the lakefront path for a sub-threshold workout. I rolled into SRAM about 7, parked my bike at my desk, hit the shower, grabbed my bag and headed downstairs. All the 20" SRAM courtesy bikes were gone, so I grabbed an 18.5 and headed out the door ...

(Yes, you read that right. SRAM has a fleet of green Rolla bikes that we get to use to go to/from lunch and appointments. How cool is that? I was cruising in style.)

With my "biker jacket," rolled jeans and bag, riding with my knees in my chest, I looked a bit more messenger and a bit less bike geek/commuter, or at least that's what I told myself when I rolled up to Aon Center. I was a bit early for my appointment, so I headed inside and down to Starbucks ... and that's when it hit me.

I can't go back.

For most of 3 years, that Starbucks was my go-to place -- for meetings, for head clearing, for java. It was very much a part of my life: in some places, beer is the currency; at Aon, it was all about the mid-morning Starbucks run. I learned several very important life lessons from mentors and friends on those comfy chairs, and I made some very important decisions there.

As I walked in, dressed as I was and surrounded by suits, I realized that this was not me. The tables had been removed to make more room for the line of bleary-eyed execs. Here I was amongst my "peers," and in that one moment I realized that I rejected everything they were, everything they represented. No longer am I part of the zombie culture, subsisting under the flourescents in dark caverns: I am a creature of the light, able to hop on a company-provided bike in early-morning sunshine to cruise to an appointment. I don't work in an office so much as I work in a combination warehouse/bike shop. And I love it. Most importantly, I realized:

I can't go back.

It would kill me.

In some ways, I've come full circle. What started in March and April of 1998 has culminated in where I am today, in April 2007. See, the close of Act I of Rent ends with an ensemble number dedicated to the "Bohemian" lifestyle, "La Vie Boheme." Nine years ago, somewhere between "This is Calcutta" and Maureen mooning Benny, something clicked in my head and I started to change. And on a day like this, a morning so glorious that it could only be spent pedaling around the Loop on a green Rolla with a giant-sized squeaky squeeze head, all I could think about was the lyrics that helped change my life:

To days of inspiration/making something out of nothin'
The need to express/to communicate
To going against the grain/going insane/going mad
To loving tension/No pension/to more than one dimension
To starving for attention/hating convention/hating pretension
Not to mention, of course, hating dear old Mom and Dad ...
To riding your bike, mid-day, past the three-piece suits!
To fruits/to no absolutes/to Absolut
To choice/to The Village Voice
To any passing fad! ...
To being an us for once
Instead of a them
La vie Boheme!

09 April 2007

Misc.

Crazy couple of days.

Spent 7+ hours rebuilding and cleaning the Rush, only to break it down again for shipping today. It got beat up pretty bad -- my big chainring became a 42-1/2 instead of a 44 last weekend. Which explains why shifting was pretty ugly there for a while. Sad part is, after all that, I noticed some dirt on the frame as I was packing it ...

A bunch of that time was spent trying to figure out Stan's. It's not rocket science, but it absolutely pays to watch the videos. The secret is the soap and water ... once I figured that out, I was golden -- my first attempt was a dismal failure, then I watched the video, so my second wheel went swimmingly. Unfortunately, by then I and my dining room were covered in sealant, which smells faintly like ammonia. At least it's a clean smell, right?

All due respect to the folks at the top, but I seriously got through my first Stan's attempts by telling myself that if Todd Wells can do it, so can I. I conveniently forgot that Wells is a friggin' computer science geek, not a dumb jock ... which explains why I and my dining room were covered in sealant, which smells faintly like ammonia.

Finally today, I want to know why Saturday gets screwed in Christianity. I mean, really: Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday (and Spy Wednesday), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, and Easter Monday make up a pretty sacred 7 days. But check out how Holy Saturday is "celebrated:"
  • A commemoration of the day that Jesus lay in his tomb
  • In the Roman Catholic Church, daytime Masses are never offered.
  • Colors seen throughout the chapel or on vestments: None

BORING!

06 April 2007

Finally!

Wooo-hoo! Painful in the short term, but man will it be awesome when it's done ...



Sheridan Road Improvement Project - Public Meeting on Construction Project to be Held Thursday, April 12

In November 2007, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the City of Evanston and the Village of Wilmette will begin the total reconstruction of Sheridan Road from 10th Street to Isabella and Isabella Street from the CTA tracks to Sheridan Road . The scope of this project will include a new paved road surface, extensive underground utility replacement, modernized traffic signals and streetscape enhancements. While some of the necessary utility work will begin this Fall, major construction activity will begin in March 2008 and continue through July 2009.

The Village recognizes what an integral role Sheridan Road plays in our community and that many residents depend on it for local transportation, so after much thoughtful consideration and coordination, a necessary detour route has been developed to accommodate the intensity of the underground utility work. This southbound detour will be in effect for the majority of the construction process; however, one lane of northbound traffic will be maintained on Sheridan Road at all times during construction.

The southbound detour routes will include portions of 10th Street , Wilmette Avenue , Lake Avenue , 4th Street and Isabella Street . This precaution is necessary to keep Sheridan Road safe for drivers and contractors during construction. Every effort will be made to minimize the duration of the detours whenever possible.

Once completed, the improvements on Sheridan Road will provide for one travel lane in each direction, a center two-way left turn lane (similar to the one in Kenilworth), as well as bicycle lanes flanking the roadway. This new lane configuration is intended to significantly improve safety and reduce accidents. Brick paved crosswalks, pedestrian count-down clocks on the traffic signals and sidewalk improvements will also be added to make the Sheridan Road corridor even more pedestrian-friendly .

At what point do you just stop?

Wow. This is interesting. I'm firmly of the belief that anti-homosexual sentiment is the new (accepted) racism in this country. To most people, it's OK to "gay bash" -- what is shocking to me is that no one wants to take a step back and listen to themselves: much of the rhetoric used by anti-gay folks is the exact same language used to justify race inequality. Very scary.

So in that vein, check this out: an army recruiter responds to a resume on Careerbuilder. The resume postee admittedly does a bit of baiting, at first pretty innocuous. Watch what happens:

The Army recruiter vs. the gay man

04 April 2007

Phone phlog

Kim had the camera most days, but I managed to capture a few decent images on the phone ... not sure how they'll look to you ...

If you're not sure which way to go when you're in Usery ...
... just follow the sign!


This is from the top of the paved climb I did -- Trail 100 to Trail 45 (I think), then all the way up to the towers. Wow, that was a rough ride.
Trail 100 is down there somewhere ...
And this is my new screensaver on my phone. "Not Recommended." Ha!

03 April 2007

Don't grip the bars

Mountaingoat is right, but it's hard to not grip the bars too tight when you're riding stuff like this ...

I got a lot of help from little people this weekend -- every time I was working on my bike, they were there! It was so cute!

I went SRAM for my first day at South Mountain ... OK, yeah, I was showing off ...

Check out the style, she's almost ready for South Mountain herself!

Or maybe flight school ...

Gabe tells us he has a big noggin. He's right.

Levi was super-super good with Kaylie all weekend -- he's a becoming quite the young man!

We went through a thorn field on Saturday, so we spent a bit of time patching tubes and learning about rubber cement. It was a lot of fun!
Sunday morning it was time for Easter eggs ...
The Mexican place was awesome as always ... Grandma and Grandpa, wish you were here ...
I think this is the first nurse I've had who has been more into my injury than I am!

The rest of the family went mountain climbing while I rode on Saturday -- I think the kids made it up the furthest! It's pretty awesome that these sisters are so close, even though they're thousands of miles apart!


And it says a lot about each of them that the cousins are close too.

That's it for now -- I have more photos in my phone, I'll post them soon. We're all pretty exhausted, didn't get luggage until midnight ... sort of in a fog right now ...

02 April 2007

i've got blisters on my fingers!

John Lennon would be proud - if you didn't know me very well, you might be forgiven if you thought I spent a bit too much time in the bathroom this weekend ... Both palms are covered in massive blisters ... I guess new gloves and a big weekend on sun-baked trails don't mix the way I'd like ...

Another great day today. We saw Gabe off to school, and then I headed to Usery to spend about 4 hours just carving and cruising. Actually, the competitive instincts kicked in, and I strung together a couple of trails for a wicked cool super D course ... Best time was about 9:20, but that was after only one practice run ... I know I'm faster than that ...

Otherwise, it was a lot of fun hopping and rolling, such a great way to end a great weekend!

We are at the airport now, 30 min delayed. I beat the heck out of the Rush this weekend, so we're flying home with it so I can tear it apart, clean and rebuild ...

Cheers!

I am not myself

Oh! I almost forgot the best part. On Saturday, Kim stole a sticker that pretty well summed up my day:

"I am not myself today, I visited Urgent Care."

The mine shaft

Made it over to Hawes on Saturday, doing a big loop and making it around Red Mtn. I was on fire, cleaning stuff that I had no buisness even thinking about just a few short months ago. It was awesome - I even figured out Twisted Sister, which drops into a 5-mile connector trail over to Usery and Pass Mtn. Pass Mtn is "not recommended" for bikes ... It took me about 75 minutes to get around ...

One of the.cool features of Red Mtn is the Mine Loop, a long, steep ascent followed by a super technical downhill that has these deep, exposed mine shafts. It's pretty wild!

Well, when I got home and showered, I realized I had a bit of a mine shaft of my own - the cut on my shin was a very deep hole, and I don't think it was rock I pulled out! I could look right through and see the muscle sheath underneath - if I flexed my ankle, I could even see it move! With two more very dirty days of riding, I decided it might be good to have that closed up a bit, so after a fantastic Mexican dinner at Tres Banderos (a tradition for us!), Kim and I headed to the Urgent Care place in Mesa.

Evryone there was super cool, and really psyched that I had a cool injury instead of just the flu. The nurse spent about 10 minutes just looking into my leg before irrigating it, telling us that we really made her night by having such a cool hole in my leg. The doctor rides too, so as the nurse pumped fluid into my leg and got it to swell up, the doc was asking me what I knew abou spacers on a Race Face crank set! In the end, he put in two sutures, no biggie, and sent us off with a wad of bandages so I could ride the next day.

So on the doc's recommendation, I spent all day yesterday at Trail 100, putting in a bunch of hours on it and some of the side trails. It was awesome, rocky, flowing singletrack with some knarly climbs and killer downhills. My legs were definitely feeling the effects of Fri and Sat, and thankfully so were my skills as I was again challenging myself and cleaning some pretty wild stuff! (My road skills even came in handy as one trail dumped me about 1/3 of the way up this super-steep paved climb to a radio tower ... Of course I had to do it, we are talking Tourmalet steep ...)

Today I am going to hang out with Gabe before school, then head up to the flow trails at Usery, just a 15 minute ride up the street. These trails are awesome, a lot like Desert Classic at South Mtn, except close to home and without the crowds. For just $1 that goes straight to trail mtnce, I'll spend 4 hours swooping through the Sonoran desert before packing up and heading home ... What a perfect way to end this awesome trip!