30 June 2007

tivo

Just got word that CNN or CNN Int'l is running a piece on our project partners in Zambia. We are already in Peoria - if you have tivo or a vcr, and cable, can you please record the program "World Report" and let me know? I really appreciate it !!

tivo

Just got word that CNN or CNN Int'l is running a piece on our project partners in Zambia. We are already in Peoria - if you have tivo or a vcr, and cable, can you please record the program "World Report" and let me know? I really appreciate it !!

29 June 2007

The Source

Check it: Chicago Athlete has a new blog! As they say, it's not the place for weekly announcements, but Eliot, Amy and the crew are putting out a good magazine every month, and I'm sure a lot of stuff just doesn't fit. Good stuff!

New policy

I didn't want to have to do this ... but from now on, all anonymous comments and comments from people thinking they're funny by signing someone else's name will be deleted from this blog. If you can't stand behind what you have to say, shut up and ride.

As Lacan noted: "Le dit tuer." You kill what you say.

28 June 2007

Liquid nectar

Have you ever noticed how a drink can change your whole day? I mean, I'll be the first to admit that I'm a food guy -- the sweeter, the better. But lately I've become more aware of the impact a drink can have on my mood, on how I feel, on my very outlook of the universe.

Take, for instance, Dunkin Donuts coffee. I've been a HUGE fan of DD's blend for a long time -- especially when they load it up with cream and sugar. It's nice and smooth, a real joy to drink. Even their decaf is smooth, since I like to save the real stuff for race days.

So imagine how excited I was to discover that their iced coffee comes in decaf, AND is the "same" -- all of a sudden, I've got a new favorite drink! I love iced coffee, but most places only serve decaf Americanos over ice -- it's too expensive and wasteful to put together ground decaf for cold drinks. The real stuff, yes, but now I can get it unleaded! Woo-hoo!

If you haven't had a chance, give DD a try ... it's not the "gourmet" stuff you'll find at Starbucks or Peet's, but it has a nice flavor and can change your whole day for the better!

And it's a good thing, too!

It's a good time to re-discover iced coffee!
12th warmest June suggests a hot summer
... We identified 16 years with comparable average temperatures through the 27th, then tallied the 90 (degrees) occurrences in those years. Those 16 years produced an average of 32 days per year at or above 90 (degrees), versus the long-term average of 24 days--a strong suggestion that the above--normal trend of temperatures thus far this summer is likely to persist in July and August. ...

27 June 2007

30 days, 24 hours

It's just after 10 a.m. on June 27.

Thirty-one days from right now, I'll be headed uphill, nose-to-stem, fighting like hell to establish some sort of position and rhythm in the opening minutes of a race. But not just any race ... this time it will be at the 24-Hour Solo National Championships.

That's what the past couple of weeks have been for me -- tests to see whether I really wanted to tackle a 24-hour solo effort. New Fane was fantastic, an absolutely perfect race, and although John Muir was tough mechanically, the way I felt by the end and the lap times I was putting in were very encouraging, despite riding Kim's bike.

This weekend was the final touch, back-to-back-to-back rides on a slightly modified (read: a bit more technical) Rock Cut race loop, starting early Saturday and ending mid-day on Sunday, with a few night laps thrown in for good measure. (Night riding is legal at Rock Cut.) Along with the most awesome training partner in the world, my niece Kaylie, I managed to experience the best MTB ride I've ever had on Saturday morning, get my "night eyes" back (it's been 2 years -- thanks to Lou at the Shop for letting me borrow his light) that evening, and then clean lap after lap after lap on Sunday morning in absolutely perfect conditions. I felt great, the bike was dialed, and the decision was made.

The four of us -- Kim, Kari, Kaylie and I -- camped out, and every chance she got, Kaylie was on her bike. She wanted to ride before breakfast, after breakfast, skip lunch, the whole deal -- and her favorite was to go over the "bumps" -- imagine this speedy 3-1/2 year old, going full-bore at the speed bumps, training wheels and all. She was quite the inspiration!

As noted in the comments section of the last post, I did have one small mishap -- on the night laps, I hit one of the big log crossings, and the transition log had been moved on the landing side. I was a bit too far forward, and instead of rolling out I was suddenly staring straight at the ground ... I landed on my right shoulder and hip, but nothing too dramatic. Worst part was that the ejection force caused a spring leaf in each of my Crank Bros Candy pedals to bend -- thankfully they have a great warranty department!

(For those of you who raced there, this was not on the course -- there's another trail we didn't use in the race that is more technical and has even better crossings followed by some sweet water-bar jumps.)

So the path now is clear. Proctor this weekend, 12 hours of Blue Mound (in part so Kim can get more crew experience), WORS Marathon 2, Evanston, and then the big show. I'm not entirely sure what I'm getting myself into; all I know is that racing my bike sounds like the best possible way to spend 24 hours of my life.

Just 30 days and 23 hours to go!

26 June 2007

... and he walked away

Turns out I wasn't the only one sustaining front-end damage this weekend ... thankfully my dad is OK ...

23 June 2007

Part the first

First part of my super-secret training done. Second starts in 4 hours. So far, so good - I have never felt better fitness-wise, and I have never had a bike this dialed. Only one slight tree-hugging moment, and tons of slippery rock and root practice. If all goes well later, go time will be confirmed ...

Why do three laps in April feel so bad, and three in June feel so good?!

22 June 2007

Something in the air

Constant comments: It's either something in the air or the water. It's that time of year, everyone is throwing down, verbally, physically, mentally. Just remember we all look goofy wearing Lycra.

Murphy at work: In an effort to make the UPS man deliver faster, I worked from home today. And it worked -- just got word that my package has arrived. At the office. And I'm at home. Nine miles away. Crap.

I'll make you famous: Did you hear there's going to be a Superweek stage in Evanston?

Big green blob: My super-secret training may be a bit delayed tomorrow morning; there's a big green blob off to the west. Although it's breaking up as it hits the easterly winds and dry air surrounding Chicago, there's a good chance the rain will push through enough to get us wet this evening, and make the trails a bit damp. Hopefully we'll have some sun and wind to dry them out pretty quickly tomorrow ...

21 June 2007

Yes you do

Two hours this morning on the Lakefront Path, cruising along with Sean (getting ready for tomorrow at the track) and then losing the Commuter Cup to a guy from U of C and another firefighter/TT guy on a brand-new Felt with 404s. Hey, where were you two last night on Turin?

Rolled into work a bit late, probably 9:05 or so. Open the back door, see a big guy in a suit waiting for the elevator. Doors open.

"Fourth floor? You look like a fourth floor type."

"Yeah, that's me. You can tell when your clothes match the van parked out front."

"How was the ride?"

"Oh, it was great, thanks. Beautiful day for it."

"Yeah, I wouldn't know. I sure wish I had your life!"

And then he was gone, since he was a second-floor type.

20 June 2007

Something to be

On very heavy iPod rotation right now: Green Day's cover of "Working Class Hero," part of Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur.

I was first turned on to Messrs. Lennon and McCartney when I was about 8, digging through a stack of old 45s my parents had stashed in a closet. A double A-side of "We Can Work it Out" and "Day Tripper" got heavy play on my Fisher Price record player, right alongside Batman and The Story of Star Wars.

My parents are not exactly into rock and roll -- my childhood was dominated by show tunes and John Denver. Or, at least, John Denver before he became "political." So you can imagine how stoked I was about 3 years later when I found another stack of full-length albums hidden away, this time with the likes of Credence, Simon & Garfunkel, and ... Sgt. Pepper. I used to wait until my parents left for work, in the hour or so I had before going to school, to drop the needle and blast "She's Leaving Home," "Fixing a Hole," "Lucy," and the most amazing Beatles tune ever, "A Day in the Life," throughout the house.

As soon as you're born, they'll make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
'Till the pain is so big, you feel nothing at all


See, up until then, my only exposure to the genius of John Lennon was the occasional tune on the radio -- usually the more pop-esque old Beatles -- or the gawd-awful Bee Gees movie that came out in the late 70s. Until I heard Sgt. Pepper for myself, sitting there mezmerized, just staring at the record player, I had no idea of just how powerful music could be, and just how much it could influence your life. I dubbed the album onto a cassette tape, and spent the entire summer listening to it over and over and over ... somewhere between "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Within You Without You," I learned to think for myself, to form opinions that ran counter to my parents and the world I knew around me.

They'll hurt you at home and they'll hit you at school
They hate if you're clever and despise the fool
'Till you're so f*cking crazy you can't follow their rules

That's why, several years later, it was almost comical when my parents cracked down on my music. I must have been 16 or 17, Gulf War I was in full swing, and I had a real problem with where our country's leaders were taking us. So I protested ... which didn't go over all that well in the lilly-white, exurban town in which we lived. One thing led to another, a baseball bat was swung, the cops were called, and I ended up spending several hours in the Good Shepherd ER awaiting my turn to get an MRI and stitches to my head. When my parents found out why I had been attacked, they went ballistic: at the time I was pretty heavily into new wave and punk music, and they took away my boots, my military-esque clothes, and banned me from going to any shows.


When they've tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function you're so full of fear

What they didn't take away was this photo of John Lennon, which has graced my bedroom walls since I was 16. See, listening to Black Flag sing about six-packs and TV programs wasn't driving my new-found political voice -- instead, my ideas and ideals were all about imagining there's no heaven, no countries, nothing to kill or die for. I was active in our local Amnesty International chapter, I put an anti-war/anti-establishment spin on every speech I did in debate contests, I went out of my way to challenge the status quo of the crap most of my peers believed to be true.

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still f*cking peasents as far as I can see

Then I broke. The last straw was the t-shirt I bought at Lollapalooza (the first and only one) that had the cover of Ritual de lo Habitual (with its naked people on it). I was on my way to college, and my dad took it away. I was going to school to get an education, not to express myself.


There's room at the top, they're telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like all the folks on the hill

And that's the way life continued, up until a few years ago. Right about the time I started taking control of my life, I rediscovered the Beatles. I re-learned what it was that John Lennon had been preaching. I realized that I hated the way my life was headed, and began to reject the well-meaning principles that had been drilled into my head. I found my voice again.

I also discovered Green Day, and have been a huge fan ever since. Sure, there is some irony in Billy Joe (and John Lennon before him) singing about being a Working Class Hero. Hell, as I sit here at my keyboard I know there's more than a bit of irony in me identifying with it. But ultimately it's the sentiment -- that you can be who you are, and reject the ideas that others have for you -- that speaks volumes. It's not all about climbing the corporate ladder and "getting ahead." And for me, it also means doing what I can to make a difference in this world. I've missed that for too long.

Epilogue: That photo of Lennon? The first photo I put up in our bedroom in each of Kim's and my homes. I've been living with it for 18 years now. As I was preparing to write this blog entry, I realized that I don't even own a framed photo of my parents. It's not that we don't like each other -- we see them all the time -- but I guess our philosophies just don't fit.

And that's OK too.

19 June 2007

Dance class!

Happy first day of dance class!

They did it!

CONGRATS Bob Schrank and the rest of Team Type 1!!!

Man, 5 days and change across the country. You all will be just waking up by the time the next team crosses the line. That's FAST! Congratulations!

(Bob's the guy on the left in the photo. I'm guessing the Bone Ride doesn't seem so tough now, in retrospect?)

Signed up

I had this great blog entry planned for today, and then the lactic acid fog of this morning's workout set in, and I honestly can't remember it.

Maybe that's why I logged on and signed up -- I'll be doing FOUR road races in the next month. I'm not really sure what that means -- I did the Judson ride on Sunday and felt pretty good in the group, so I figure these will be good training for the end of next month. First up is the Proctor Cycling Classic road race and crit in Peoria, 10 days from now, then the MGA Proving Grounds and inaugural Evanston Crit during Superweek. In between I've got 12 Hours of Blue Mound and the WORS Marathon, so it's not all skinny tires and gatorade for me ... well, Gatorade yes, but fattires-n-beer is more fun ...

Let's see ... what else ... Mountaingoat has stirred the pot again. I have to say, I agree with him on this one -- I used to "blame" mechanicals, other racers, conditions, whatever for poor showings -- until he called me out on it once. I don't think I ever fully fell into the "would have finished" crowd (I was more of a "could have finished"), but I definitely didn't take ownership for falling short of my goals. Say what you want about harsh realities, but I think he's right -- suck it up and just race. The outcome is the outcome, and you have the power to influence that outcome in a million different little ways. Flat tire? When was the last time you put new rubber on? Did you sweep your wheels with your glove after riding through the glass? Did you remember that you're not running tubeless and pump it up enough to not pinch flat? (Damn it all!)

Sure, stupid stuff will happen. Not listening to your friends and/or pit crew, for instance. But thanks to a kick in the ass a while back from El Goat, I now look at my race prep in a much more complete way -- it's not just training and equipment, it's taking ownership for everything that happens. If I don't finish where I want to, it's up to me to figure out why, and correct the mistakes I've made. Now I have to work on not being so darned moody when I screw up.

Anyway, we're down to just 3-1/2 more days until my super-secret training weekend. I can't wait!

18 June 2007

Stuff

Great weekend in St. Louis. Raised a bunch of money, big shout-out to Mesa, Maplewood and Big Shark. And of course allsevens, who are the poster children for grass-roots fundraising. Got home late Saturday, up for the group ride yesterday, still need some sleep.

This is just dumb: New Jersey Passes Bill Banning Quick Release Wheels

This would be a lot more exciting for me if it weren't that particular weekend: Chicago to Welcome Cyclings Elite Racers for the Inaugural Chicago Criterium 2008

I have other plans. And did you notice the mayor's comments about an entire series of races next July? I wonder what Otto has to say about that?

15 June 2007

I'm so lame

I've been a full-time bike racer for, what, 7 seasons now? And I've never managed to ride my bike to work on Bike to Work day. In the past, I've always had to drive because we'd be heading down to St. Louis to race that weekend. This year, no races, but I again find myself driving down to St. Louis for work ... of course, I get to sport the SRAM NRS Volvo this time ... yeah baby!

At least I rode the L this morning with my helmet. I'm such a poser.

Great ride this morning with Kim to Tower and back. She's getting back into riding a bit now, this would be her third ride in the past couple of weeks. I love it when my easy days coincide with her rides, so we get to spend a bit of time together. It was cool when we pulled up to our front door, and the lady across the street who was walking her dog smiled because we were together.

Check out the RAAM standings ... Bob and his team are kicking some serious butt out there!

13 June 2007

Welcome to the blogosphere, Ian!

A good friend of mine has just launched his own blog -- if you're into trail running, some mountain biking, and a healthy dose of British understatement, check out:

http://www.denalifc.blogspot.com/

I've known Ian for almost 10 years now (hard to believe!); we met back when I was still a full-time runner training for the Chicago Marathon. He's an awesome guy, often turning up to cheer me on at races when he's not racing, crewing, volunteering or attending Chicago Fire soccer games himself. And he's the one who talked me into this summer's big event!

Welcome to the blog world!

12 June 2007

Go RAAM

Oh! And a BIG shout-out to Bob and the rest of Team Type 1 ... kick some ass out there!

Back to normal ... almost

Feeling much better today after a killer 11 hours of sleep. I think that was the kicker yesterday as I dragged through the day -- Sunday night when Kim got home, I had already fallen asleep ... I woke up when she got home, and then couldn't fall back asleep -- tossing and turning at midnight when you have to get up at 6 isn't very fun.

So today I'm feeling pretty good. The blisters on my hands are healing, my chamois doesn't feel like sandpaper, and my legs feel pretty good. The tat seems to have survived pretty well, and the whip marks on my arms from thorn bushes are starting to disappear. I really appreciate all the awesome encouragement and comments I've gotten from everyone -- it helps put everything in perspective and makes me anxious to get out there and try it again.

Couple of work-related appearances if you're in the area and want to heckle me ...
  • Thursday, 12:15: Chicago Cultural Center, World Bicycle Relief presentation
  • Friday, 5 p.m.: Mesa Cycles, St. Louis
  • Saturday, 7:30 a.m.: Maplewood/Mesa group ride, St. Louis
  • Saturday, 10 a.m.: Maplewood Cyclery, St. Louis
  • Saturday, 2 p.m.: Big Shark Bicycle Company, St. Louis
The St. Louis trip is in support of 'allsevens,' a group of guys who are riding 777 miles in 7 days across 7 countries visiting 7 Tour Prologue cities on their way to London for 07/07/07. These guys are going to raise $22,000 for World Bicycle Relief, enough for 200 bikes!

11 June 2007

Dropped the ball

OK, I totally dropped the ball in my post last night -- blame it on fatigue. BIG congrats to Renee and Dave, who both took home hardware on Saturday -- this after Renee raced the state ROAD race earlier in the day and scored a medal there! That's hardcore!

Kari was doing everything out there ... crewing for 3 solos and two teams, running into high school friends, setting up, tearing down, babysitting ... and snapping pictures!

The start ...
Cruising into the pits, last half of the race
Where's Culvers?

10 June 2007

Second guessing

WEMS results posted. First place, not second, at the end of lap four. Even with the nasty first stop, I was still in second with two minutes in hand over third at the end of lap five, and only five minutes down. Why didn't I listen to Rachael sooner? Live and learn ... and get better ... OK, I'm done beating myself up.

On the other hand, check out the awesome win Mountaingoat pulled off over his geared competitors ... way to go man!

A day in the life

Pre-race: Took longer to set up than I planned. No warmup, no chance to get my trail legs. Feeling pretty good, do a quick once-over of everything with Kari. Go time, 8 a.m.

Lap 1: Good start. Sixth onto the trail, first four are teams/duos. No warmup means I’m not 100% ready to ride trail – I don’t yet have the muscle memory I’ll build up over time. So I make some stupid mistakes, wash out the front wheel twice and go down. Lose some places but feeling really good in the legs. Not aggressive enough behind a singlespeeder, lose some time through the middle part of the course. Happy with the backside, wide open and fast. Kari tells me my camelbak bladder is broken when I come through, and no splits to other riders yet.

Lap 2: Still pushing hard, too hard in a slick mud corner and go down on my left knee. Ouch. I manage to stop my watch, too, and don’t notice for 45 minutes. Whacked in the head by a sapling after the first S-curves, and again at the end of the lap. Cleaning the rock gardens, only one dab spot that I don’t clean on a normal day at Kettle anyway. Plenty more laps to try to get it right, I tell myself. Way too much 24 Solo in my head, “got it in the dog” on the first and last part of the course, legs feel awesome. Still no splits, but my neighbor Ernie has fixed my camelbak. With a tube patch.

Lap 3: Still flying, but something wrong with my shifting. Can’t use two biggest cogs in the rear, and chain keeps falling off the big ring. Shit. Still, able to clean everything with a combination of middle ring and big ring where I can. Get hit in the head AGAIN. Finally the course and rocks and roots start to dry, and I’m feeling great. Kari is awesome at handing me what I need, every time.

Lap 4: Still feeling awesome, great lap despite the shifting and getting whacked in the head again, catch the Subaru/Gary Fisher guy after the sand, we’re on the same lap. I tell him I’m having shifting problems, and he can go past me on the hill … but then I drop him through the last part of the course. When I come in, Kari says I was in 3rd to start the lap, 1 min down on 2nd and 4min on first – that means I’m in second place, having caught the Gary Fisher guy! Decide to get the shifting fixed, have some help – the cassette is bent! Change wheels, but I lose 10 minutes or so. My seat pack has worked its way open, and I lose my brand-new multitool. Kari is a super task-master – when I try to play with Zoe for a minute, she tells me to get back out on my bike!

Lap 5: Rear shifting seems OK, but now the front is completely FUBAR. Start the lap with another rider, and I bobble on the new rear wheel and cause him to hit me and go down. God, did that feel horrible. Hit my head again, and he caught up. He was OK, we ride the first half of the lap together – he’s in his third-ever race, having done Grand Geneva … and La Ruta last fall! This dude is NUTS, and I wonder if I have a chance against him. But he’s on a hardtail, and the course takes its toll … about halfway through, he bobbled and I was gone. Shifting completely messed up, pull into the pits. The 6-hour race is about to start, but Jeremy and John Gatto try to help me anyway. Rachael keeps telling me to just jump on Kim’s bike (my backup) and go, but I don’t trust Kim’s bike, so I try to fix the Rush. BIG mistake, and one that a ‘cross rider shouldn’t ever make – I lose 35 minutes dicking around, and end up racing the rest of the race on Kim’s bike anyway. And it was awesome for that course. Crap!

Lap 6: Blast out of the pits going 100 miles an hour, legs feeling great after such a long break. WHACK in the face by the sapling – glasses broken, split lip, total head shot. Gatorade with salt STINGS on my now-bleeding lip. I have no idea where I’m at in the standings, but at this point it doesn’t matter. I just need to keep going in order to get good training. Kim’s bike performs flawlessly, and her suspension setup is even better than the Rush’s for this course. Who knew?! Somewhere in there, pass by Amy, but I'm on a mission and I wasn't really nice to her. Sorry!

Lap 7: More of the same. Still feeling good. Surprised that I’ve “got it in the dog” after 7 hours of racing. Thanks Craig Gordon. Start to feel real hunger for the first time. Manage to place the sapling, and miss it this time. Come into the pits and ask how I’m doing – Kari: “Last check you were in 8th place, so we’re not talking about that right now.” Off I go.

Lap 8: Still passing people, getting some mixed traffic when we merge with the 3/6-hour loop. Even after 8 hours of racing, able to pass some folks doing the shorter races. Finally having some fun again. A small cramp on Peanut Butter Hill; grab some Tums in the pit. Should have grabbed more Chamois Butt’r, starting to chafe. Kari tells me I’ve moved into 5th place. Cool! But 4th is way ahead, she says. Time winding down – at 55-56 minutes per lap, unofficially, I may be able to do 4 more laps, but it will be CLOSE … like, 1-2 minutes close. Gotta’ go.

Lap 9: And so I went. At the top of a hill. Only my second bladder stop, but it cost me a minute or so. And I was starting to hurt a little. Still felt OK, still strong, but time was really ticking. Picked up a passenger at the end of the lap, who “just wanted to see what 12-hour pace feels like.” I’ll remember that next time we go head to head! Seriously, though, I was happy for the company, and he was super-encouraging. But it’s embarrassing when you’re counting down the hours and starting to struggle on the hills – I don’t like to show weakness to anyone I race against, even if it’s not that day. My 1-2 minutes has now become 4, but it’s still mathematically possible if I have a great next lap.

Lap 10: Blast out of the pits, Is that 4th place in his tent? Keep it going, keep it going … but the dog is tired. The first half-lap, where I was flying up until now, suddenly gets very difficult. The middle is even tougher. Recover where I can, coast a little too much, crawl my way up peanut butter hill. This sucks. Time ticks away. 55 minutes becomes an hour – that was it. Game over. One more lap is all I can do in the time allotted. Crap. At least I made the effort, and will finish no worse than 5th. Or so I think …

Lap 11: Start out very conservatively. Knowing I’m finished, and feeling it too. Feel OK, but ready to be done. A bit too conservative in the middle, lose too much momentum in a couple of places. Pop it in the dog at the end of the rock garden, it doesn’t want to turn too fast, so I pump the suspension to get it going. Hit the sand and start to worry – is that a bike behind me? Is that 6th place? Kari says I had a good lead, but she wasn’t sure … did I go too slowly in the first half-lap? Oh shit! I can’t lose 5th! Go! Go! Go! Cram and jam, dig deep to finish before him. Gogogogogogogogo … ugh. Over the hill, pop it in the big ring, bounce through the trail … and whew. That’s all folks!

In the end, that last half-lap was for pride more than anything – I had moved up to 4th place, and I was more than 30 minutes in front of 5th. So whatever it was that was chasing me, it wasn’t the next spot in line … which begs the question, was there anyone really behind me?

All in all, a fun race and a great way to spend a day at Kettle. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, rebuilding my bike, but I’d say it was worth it … and I feel good about how I raced. It’s easy to have a great day when you're 30 minutes in front … the real lessons, though, are learned on days like yesterday, when you’re 30 minutes behind. Now I’ve got 3 weeks of no racing ahead of me to recharge and rebuild, and I’m happy about how my first block of racing has gone … and today I got to start my calorie replenishment in style … Dunkin’ Donuts and a turtle concrete malt from Culvers … Yummmmmm …

09 June 2007

Mechanicals and mistakes

I'm alive, sleeping at kari's tonight. Today was awesome, I felt great, had a good race all things considered - for a guy who doesn't like to stop, a 10-minute pit followed by a 35-minute pit because of mechanicals just sucks. Especially when you're feeling good. Learned a lot, made some mistakes, Kari was a rock star. More tomorrow.

3 a.m. lap

Everyone I've spoken to about 24-hour racing has mentioned the 3 a.m. lap. It's the lowest ebb of a body's biorhythm, you've been racing for 15 or more hours, you've been under the influence of your HID headlamp for 7 hours in near-total darkness, and it's the point at which, as Chris Eatough says in 24 Solo, "you come face to face with your very soul."

All this comes to mind as I sit here at 3 a.m., eating breakfast, getting ready for today's race. Granted, I haven't been riding since noon yesterday, but all the same, I can't help but wonder if the hour-plus of planned sleep I've lost tonight won't somehow affect me as 8 a.m. turns into 8 p.m. today out on the Blue Loop. Silly mistakes magnify on the mountain bike, and silly mistakes start happening when you're tired after having been awake since 3 a.m. and racing your bike for 12 hours.

I'm not quite sure where this insomnia comes from -- adrenaline? excitement? -- but it can be pretty frustrating. I had it for a year or two back when I first started racing, and I can remember a 2:30 a.m. eating-in-a-hotel-bathroom Clif Bar before the Chicago Marathon, but for the most part I've managed to sleep fairly well before road races for years, especially if I'm at home the night before. (OK, OK, some of you who have shared hotel rooms with me know it's not always dreamland, but I'm better now that I don't have any caffiene in the evenings ...)

That all changed when I started riding trails. For a year and a half now, on nights before 'cross- and mountain-bike rides at Palos, Kettle, Rock Cut, I have tossed and turned and been awake way before I needed to. And don't get me started on race nights! There's just such an aura of anticipation that my mind gets going, my body goes into overdrive, and I find myself tossing and turning, making hourly trips to the bathroom, and trying in vain to find that last bit of sleep that will help my body recover and get me ready to ride.

So here I am on another 3 a.m. lap of my own, Off-Road to Athens playing in the DVD player (24 Solo was dinner last night), cereal and yogurt and banana and coffee by my side. Just a few more minutes and I'll start going through the final preparations, checking the list one last time and hauling the last of my stuff downstairs to the car. 12 hours from now I'll still have 4-1/2 hours to race ... "a rather insane notion if you stop and think about it."

And holy cow am I looking forward to bed tonight!

08 June 2007

Tat-two

Got my birthday present today! Probably not the best prep for a 12-hour race. But when
Harlan's schedule is open, you go. Made the appointment 3 months ago, hoping to do it around my birthday ... June 8 was the first opening he had. In March.

Yes, Jim, photos to come, if I can find the camera. Kim may have taken it with her. Speaking of which, she doesn't know yet -- first time I've kept a secret from her for that long, ever. I had to get nasty a couple of times to scare her off ... she likes to ask questions. A lot.

07 June 2007

Coolest job in the world

My day:
  1. Dress in shorts and a t-shirt for work. Consider wearing sandles, opt for shoes and bike socks in case it rains on the way home
  2. Hit Starbucks for an iced decaf Americano on the way to the office
  3. Conference call with Zambia to discuss ways to expand our programs
  4. Make the connection between two advocacy leaders at two bike industry giants
  5. Make a quick run to storage to get parts for two Africa bikes
  6. Trade e-mails with coworkers about the race this weekend
  7. 90-minute ride with a couple of coworkers
  8. Eat lunch
  9. Read cyclingnews.com ... for work

And it's only 2 p.m. I may still have time to strip down and rebuild my Specialized road bike before I go home; if not, it will still be here tomorrow.

You know you've got it good when you basically do what you would do anyway, and they pay you for it.

05 June 2007

Countdown

To some of you, my fascination with endurance racing may seem like it’s a new thing. For people like Kim, though, who have been around me for a while, it was never a question of “if” but of “when.”

See, when I was a kid, there were two events that absolutely captured my imagination: the Tour de France and the Race Across America. For every time I pretended to be Greg Lemond scaling Alpe d’Huez on my Sears Free Spirit, there were 10 times where I was Lon Haldeman, blazing his way across the plains of Kansas on a killer tailwind as he made his way to New York City.

It was probably a good thing that I didn’t realize how close we lived to Haldeman. If I had, there was a good chance I would have tried to ride there to meet him – even at 10 years old, in the year he won RAAM solo and set the transcontinental tandem record with his new wife, Susan Notorangelo, I was just crazy enough to try. (For the record, he lived all of 30 miles away from us.)

I still remember watching Jim Lampley interviewing Haldeman on Wide World of Sports. I remember the year McDonald’s sponsored him, with that gawdawful minivan. To me, his hometown of Harvard, Illinois, was worlds away, because of the dangers of riding on those back roads, even as I turned my bike southward on the newly created Fox River Trail and challenged myself to ride as far as I could.

Nearly every day for entire summers, and most days before school, I would head out and ride. It was fun to reach Carpentersville (Dairy Queen!) and Elgin (8 miles), but there was a world beyond that needed exploring. I risked life and limb to make my way along Rt. 64 to The Bike Rack in St. Charles, having ridden there from Algonquin via the path. And one day when I was 11 or 12, I made it all the way to Aurora – 35 miles. And then turned around and rode back. Riding was all about getting as far as I could in the time I had available.

Then cars, girls and cigarettes intervened, but I never lost my fascination with going long. When I got into running a few years ago, I set my sights on the marathon as my goal distance, with the thought of trying an ultra. And when I started bike racing, my training and focus were on upgrading as far as I could – because the distances were greater, the races longer. At one point, I even considered taking up swimming (and let me tell you, that would be a HUGE step for me) so that I could compete in Ironmans, just because I wanted to race for that long. It just sounds like fun.

So when I started mountain biking, I was OK not purchasing a pure XC machine. I knew the Rush would be a bit of a disadvantage on the super-fast, blitzkrieg WORS circuit, but I also knew that if I had to choose one bike, it would be one that I could ride for hours and hours, and race in endurance events. I even tried to fit in a WEMS race last year, but ‘cross intervened.

So that brings us to the 6 Hours of GEARS. In the meantime, I put in hours of trail riding on my ‘cross bike, and then on my mountain bike, with 4- and 5- and 6-hour days the norm. If you’re going to drive to a trail, you might as well make the most of it, right?! At GEARS, it all came together: the riding, the desire, the crew (thanks Kim!), and I had an absolutely perfect race. It’s not often that happens, and when it does, you celebrate. It was awesome!

Now I’m ready to take the next step. Seventy-one hours from now, on Saturday at 8 a.m., I’ll be lining up for my first-ever 12-hour race. The 12 Hours of John Muir is sort of a home court for me, and while I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting into, I am going there to kick some ass -- even if it's my own. I’m ready to challenge myself in ways I can only imagine at this point, and see what comes out on the other side. This is what it’s always been about for me: climbing on and pedaling as long as you can. Bring it on!

Epilogue: I got to meet Lon Haldeman in Evanston a few years ago at a talk he gave at the Ecology Center. He was fascinating to speak to, and some day I look forward to riding with him, perhaps on a PAC Tour, perhaps on one of the super-concentrated brevet series he sets up in the run-up to PBP. As for RAAM? Who knows … do you know anyone who wants to crew?

Every time

If I can take one positive from the race on Sunday, it's that I was better in the mud than I was at Grand Geneva, and I cleaned (ha, ha) this climb every time I rode it. Seconds after this shot was taken, the guy in second wheel declared that it was faster to run and proceeded to do so, even though his teammate and I rode up his butt as he tried to gain traction. So there!

Mmmmmm ... mint!

Good news this morning. I was super-bummed because our decaf tea was out, and apparently they don't make it any more. BUT, the mint doesn't have decaf. Even better! I love mint tea with honey. Great way to start the day.

Training again after taking last week off. I'm always flat after a rest week, hopefully history repeats itself and I feel good after a week of riding again. Crazy week, though, with work and Kim leaving on Friday to go to Minnesota. Her sister has stepped in to crew for me on Saturday, how cool is that?

OK, this has to be one of the lamest entries I've done in a while. Later.

04 June 2007

Not my day

Winner in 2:33 yesterday ... in the rain. 2:45 was 12th place. So much for predictions.

I was good for 100 meters, up the first part of the first climb, then slowly drifted backwards. Or not so slowly. Felt OK, but just couldn't match the power of the front half of the field. Don't know why, training not geared for it? Looked at my watch -- we'd only been riding for 18 minutes. Shit. First lap -- for me, mid- to back pack -- at less than 53 minutes. Holy crap.

Put a foot down at the top of the first singletrack, not because of me but because we were backed up. Traffic for the rest of the race, most not too bad because of the wide course, some really stupid stuff. WEMS riders know how to get out of the way faster. And there are fewer of them. Never had to stop again, thankfully, and rode the mudslide every time. But I definitely got caught by riders behind me because of traffic.

Actually, when the downpour started, I was feeling pretty good -- not fast, but technically. Stayed upright through all the crap, even managed to avoid a few knarly crashes right in front of me. Maybe too cautious? The singletrack was more ridable once the rain rolled in, perfect peanut butter.

And then ... flat. So I grabbed my Big Air and tried to reinflate. Nada. Crap. Couldn't get the tire to re-engage. 1400 meters of walking to the chalet. Clean the bike. Back to the parking lot. And ... the tire has a tube in it. Shit. I thought it was tubeless. I must have put a tube in maybe 2 months ago? No wonder the air didn't work. Pinch flat. Damn. Game over.

On the plus side, 9 Mile ROCKS. I may have blown my warmup a bit, instead of going out and hammering a few intervals to open up, I was having too much fun on the black-diamond singletrack on the other side of Red Bud Road. Those rock gardens are awesome! Too bad 9 Mile is 5 hours away. I'm trying to figure out when/if I can squeeze in another trip up there before 24-9.

03 June 2007

9 cups at 9 Mile

My percolator runneth over. Filled it to the 9 cup mark, then boiled it all over JPE's table. He is flying solo, Mrs. JPE just did a five-day race in da UP. And we think 24 solo is tough?

Thanks to modern technology in the form of a massive tower on Rib Mtn, I have a better crackberry signal here than in Evanston. No, I will not be blogging July 28-29. Maybe Kim will do the honors?

10.6 mile laps today, times four. Winner in 2:35 or less if it stays dry, 2:45 if not. One long climb could be tough in the mud. Don says it's "just enough for a marathon." I say then let's do one more lap. Singletrack is where it's at, but most of this course will have me locked up and locked out. Can't wait to do 24 here.

02 June 2007

Marathon man

Slept pretty well last night. Woke up at 2:15, mind buzzing, no caffeine. Hopefully it was just because I've gotten so much sleep this week already.

Things are falling into place. Looks like it may be a wet weekend. The ride is dialed, finished packing early last night. Bringing extra maps of 9-Mile, may do a bit of recon. Watched it again last night. Does it always rain in Wausau?