31 July 2007

The lead up

What a crazy, fun trip it’s been.

I just went back in time, to July 30, 2006. One year ago. My very first mountain bike ride. Ever. Check it out: http://cstrout.blogspot.com/2006/07/popping-cherry.html

Funniest is the line at the end, seems like I sort of knew what was coming. But seriously? Nothing could have prepared me for the awesome weekend I just had.

So this story starts a year ago, but really picks up steam in April. I got to go to Sea Otter for work, and see the premier of 24 Solo. As everyone around me was talking about how crazy 24 hour solo racing is, I just thought, wow, wouldn’t that be fun?

But it still wasn’t a reality. I was too new to mountain biking, didn’t have a crew lined up, wasn’t ready mentally or physically. And then a few things happened: I had to work Bike the Drive, which meant I couldn’t go to Iowa for Memorial Day. So there was an opening, and I raced New Fane. And then Ian shot from the hip with a suggestion about crewing. All of a sudden, I was thinking about it. And then my coach said it could fit. And then I was registered.

I did a lot of analysis in the lead-up, setting up a lap plan, dissecting past results, working through two 12-hour races with brutal mechanical issues. Jeremy signed on to help Kim, bummer about his collarbone, but happy accident for me! My coach had me doing some killer training rides, but then set up my rest cycle absolutely perfectly … as I noted on Friday, I was buzzing.

And somewhere along the way, my whole outlook on this thing changed. A year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me I was seriously considering a top 10 placing. All month, I was thinking top 15 was possible, top 10 was a stretch. Instead, on Thursday, all of a sudden I was Racer X. I shot Jeremy an e-mail from my blackberry:

Ok, f*ck top 10 ... I'm going for the box. See you tomorrow.

And that’s the attitude I took to Wausau.

The start

Kim and I headed up to Wausau super-early on Friday, got stuck in a little bit of traffic after heading into the office, but nothing too bad. It rained -- my poor bike was getting soaked! But the drive was uneventful, and -- even more important -- un-stressful. Having home-court advantage makes such a huge difference!

Jerry and Barb had us hooked up with sweet camping, and both Jerry and Jay had pits saved just in case. We went with the one over by Jerry and Ron, just at the corner of Main Street -- it was a great spot, but was a lot more work for Jeremy, since it didn't have a clear sight line, nor a good place to shout out needs. And you couldn't double feed ... but secretly, I think the Goat wanted to do the extra work!
I headed out on my pre-ride, two laps, first on the hardtail, then the Rush. The Rush was definitely the way to go -- there were some long pedal sections, but also a lot of singletrack, and even the pedal sections were pretty beat up. The suspension would smooth that out and make everything run great. (More on that later.) When I came in to make the bike switch, Kim was sacked out in the tent.

Kim and I made an ice cream run, had a great dinner, and then hit the sleeping bags for a decent night's rest. For once, I think I slept better than Kim, and I made it to 4:45 before finally having to get up and get going. I played ghetto camper all morning -- iPod in, sweat pants on, looking grubby ...
Before I knew it, it was time to start the warmup. Nothing major, just a quick ride up the first hill, a bit of a push to get the legs open, a little singletrack, and something unexpected ... a bee sting on my arm! But nothing was going to hold me back, so I just shrugged off the swelling and jogged around a bit ...
Last minute advice from Jeremy. "Just stay here."
So I did. Right on the start line. In the middle. Where first Ernesto walks up. Then Mark. Then finally Chris. Hendershot gives Posner (Chris' go-to guy) a huge hug. This was the scene ... Eatough. Hendershot. Strout. Marenchin. Strout?
Meanwhile, the Rush was primed and ready, Gatorade on board.
And then we were off! The run was absolutely crazy, with Namrita throwing an elbow (see Renee's pics :-) ), one guy going down at the turn, and the mass of riders making their way back to the chute and through the timing mat. Then we were grabbing our bikes and were on our way ...

I had a decent start, knowing that a bunch of team guys and some solos were going to hammer the leadout and I just needed to be strong and smart. I wasn't conservative, but I wasn't killing myself either, and I settled into the second group on the fire road. We skipped the first sections of singletrack on the first lap, so the pedaling was super-long, but eventually we headed into the trail and the race was on.

Daylight

From here on out, I just have impressions and half-memories; I'm not sure what's real and what was imagined.

First off, the course was awesome. Probably 55%+ singletrack, they added in two really cool sections early in the course that we had used for WORS. But, there's been a ton of logging up there, and some of the best trails were affected, as was the long slog up to Checkpoint Charlie. I was NOT having fun on those parts at 4 a.m.

Kim and Jeremy were flying the World Bicycle Relief colors out there all day, all night, and all morning ...


Meanwhile, I was out there riding!

I started OK, with two good laps. And then the cramps started. Uh, oh. Cramps on lap 3 of a 24-hour race? OK, think. Why am I cramping? Try Tums. Cramps got worse. What do Tums have? Calcium. Balance calcium ... magnesium and potassium. Banana. I NEED A BANANA!!

That helped, and by lap 5 I had the cramping under control. The temps had shot up along with the humidity, and I was still sore from the cramping, but I was doing OK. It was hot, so I requested a double feed on my first lap through -- there was no way I could make it through on just one bottle. In fact, I took a warm Gatorade from the Checkpoint Charlie crew early on -- it was kind of comical watching a grown man in a kilt stumble along a horrible logging road trying to open a thing of Gatorade Endurance Formula ...

So Jeremy started riding over to the base of Red Bud Road, and I just kept trying to stay hydrated. They refused to tell me what place I was in, correctly knowing that if I knew, I would stop riding my own race and would get into trouble. At one point, Ron asked me "Where are you running?" I looked at him. "Wausau, I think ..."

Somewhere in there, I made a mistake, and kept my fork locked out on a rough section. Until then I had been running my rear shock in pedal mode, and with a pretty tight gate -- essentially locking out my suspension despite the rock gardens and bumpy paths. What the hell was I thinking? When the shock was finally able to work, because I had locked the fork, it was night and day, and from then on I started flipping the switch every chance I got. What a difference!! Unfortunately, keeping it on pedal beat up on my back a little, as I was about to discover ...

4 p.m. came soon, and my lap times were decent. But then I did the math ... if I could pull out two good laps, I could get a "free lap" without my lights. Game on!! I pushed it hard for two solid laps, and came through the chute at 6:27, with three minutes to spare. A huge moral victory, and a bit of a celebration with Kim and Jeremy as they fed me on the way up the start stretch. It was not without its toll, however, as my back started to tighten and I told them I needed to take it down a notch.

Even so, I really wanted to get to lights on before Eatough lapped me. Before the race, I told Kim he would get me every 6 hours or so (based on a 10-minute lap time differential), to lap me at least 3 times if not four. When I made it past lights on, I was super-stoked, and I spent the next hour and 10 minutes hoping I could make it back to my pit for my lights before he got me. It was not to be, however, and he caught me just past Red Bud in my favorite section of singletrack ... I'd like to say I held his wheel, but I'd be lying! He was on fire, with Ross breathing down his neck ... as I pulled into the pits for lights and a chamois change, Ross and a few others came flying by ... This was the only pit where I stopped. For 8 minutes I was off the bike, putting on new clothes while Goat put lights on the bike and lubed the chain and Kim fed and watered me. We were awesome, a well-oiled machine hell-bent on moving forward. They still wouldn't tell me where I was, only that I was doing well ... little did I know that I was in or near 6th place by this time, close to the box!

The night and the Finish!

I was a little nervous about night riding, since it's been so long, but thanks to Niterider batteries and lights borrowed from Lou, Troy, Todd and Jeremy, in addition to my own, I was all set. One on the bike, one on my head, and with the full moon the trail was light up almost bright as day ...

By the time night fell, my back was starting to hurt pretty bad. I was worried but OK, and realized I needed to do something to conserve. I started walking for a minute or so at the second checkpoint, taking the opportunity to grab a HEED or water and eat a little food.

Jeremy and Kim kept encouraging me, trying to get me to go faster. I was trying to tell them how bad my back was without getting too negative or down, I seriously spent 30 minutes through a couple of singletrack sections crafting how I could tell Jeremy that I was pushing as hard as I could but not seem like I was giving up.

I always heard how bad the 3 a.m. lap was ... Kim made it all better. I pulled in -- and there she was with oatmeal, even spoon feeding it to me! I REALLY wanted to change my chamois by that point, but Jeremy wouldn't let me, the race was that close! Damn him! So I settled for a glob of Butt'r and off I went ... man, that oatmeal was awesome.

Somewhere in there, Mitch from Mars and I hook up, and I follow him/lead him through sections 2 and 3 across Red Bud. He was super-smooth on a hardtail, totally awesome, and I relished being able to follow his great lines. Made that lap end so much better.

And then there I am on my last night lap, ready to go lights off. As I bust out of the woods at the base of the Red Bud climb, there's Jeremy with a new helmet, standing with Poz and Hendershot's crew guy. It was so surreal -- Posner is one of the protagonists of 24 Solo, and there's my pit guy with the same idea as the national champ's. How cool is that!

We did a quick helmet change, and Jeremy finally tells me there are four guys fighting for the top 10. At least, that's what I heard, and that we were only 4 minutes apart. Crap! So I bust out sections 2 and 3 really strong, but by the time I'm pulling into the pit I can hear and see the two guys behind me in the dawning light. CRAP! I stop, and we start pulling lights, and sure enough they go past me ... they're both technically more astute than I, and my back is killing me ... can I do it? I think now I'm in 12th, little did I know I was better off than that ...

I pull out, and they're still in their pits. Maybe, just maybe ... but they end up catching me a bit later. Damn. By the end of the lap I've lost a few minutes, and I tell Jeremy I can't chase any more. I'll ride strong, but I can't make that extra push to try to catch the guys in front. My back just won't go for it -- by now, I'm walking three times per lap, and just barely getting to the next walking section before my back seizes up. Plus, they were working together, making my job that much more difficult ... I tried to hold their wheel as they passed, but there was nothing I could do. Crap crap!

Somewhere in there, as I head into the chute, Eatough catches me again and then pits. I make it my mission to "hold him off" as long as possible ... that lasts for 30 minutes before he comes flying by with Jesse and another rider at 100mph ... I also get passed by Daniel Brennan, who eventually takes the last spot on the box in his first 24 hour race. He put 25 minutes on me in the last three laps. Damn.

Meanwhile, Goat passed the crewing duties over to Zoe ...

Finally, as I came to Red Bud, Jeremy tells me I'm in 8th place, with a lap and 12 minutes on 9th. Just ride your own lap, all is good. Pull into the chute at 9:10, one more lap in my body ... and Jeremy tells me it's only 12 minutes! Where did the lap go? CRAP! No time to think about that, just gotta' go ... go ... go ...

I kill myself for just over an hour, pushing my back to its limits and fighting like hell to get over every bump and hill as quickly as I can. I bust out onto Red Bud, and there's Jeremy with a big grin -- they hadn't updated, and I really did have a lap, and 9th place didn't go out! Woo-hoo! I can just ride sections 2 and 3 on my own, my favorite parts of singletrack. Whew!

Only then it was Blue Mound all over again. With two sections left, I see a solo guy behind me. Not sure I trust Goat at this point, I start pushing the pace, railing the corners and driving myself into the ground to outdistance the guy behind. I'll be damned if I was going to lose 8th place in the last 5 minutes of the race ... yeah. Totally unnecessary. Maybe he didn't even exist. Turns out, 9th had sat out the lap, and I flogged myself for pride. Ah, but the joy of finishing was excruciating ...
And that was it! I was done! I got a HUGE shout out from the FORCs and DORCs, and I sort of rolled around for a few minutes, thoroughly spent but very happy about how I did. I ran my eye into a couple of branches out there, so it was super-red, I guess I sort of had a devil look about me ...
And what an awesome race. It was so much fun, and I saw so many great people. I can't even remember everyone -- I fell horrible about the poor woman stuck on the side of the trail, "Do you need help?" "YES!" and I was already 100 yards past her on tough singletrack, "there's another guy coming ..." Passing Namrita was heartbreaking, seeing her struggle. Meeting Mary and Brendan from Siren at SRAM last week, and then seeing them out there was pretty cool. Lee gave me some great props when I saw him, as did Scott. Endurance folks are the best, and I can't wait to get back out there soon.

With that, I leave you tired and sore. Ride on.

In the pits

I got some great knowledge back at New Fane from Lee Unwin: "These things are won and lost in the pits." He's right -- and now that the detailed results are posted, I can prove it: I missed 4th place by just 30 minutes! Kim and Jeremy really did keep me going, so awesome. All my time lost was during the riding portion, and as I go lap by lap it makes for an interesting read, especially on the two guys in front of me (who were working together) ...

A couple more shout-outs for now, and stories and pics to come later today -- Thanks to Lou, Bob, John and everyone else who threw a voicemail or e-mail my way in the 24 hours before 24 Hours -- all the encouragement was greatly appreciated!

30 July 2007

Thank you

Before I get to the stories, I have some major props to hand out. First and foremost, Kim and Goat kept me fed, watered, lubed and rolling for nearly 25 hours straight -- in fact, the only pit where I stopped was when we put lights on and I changed clothes, a whole 8 minutes. I mean, think about that: I raced for 24 hours, 42-plus minutes. Because my back was so tight, I was reduced to walking up Main Street the last 9 laps or so, and once up the hill to Red Bud road, but even then we were moving forward, with Kim and Jeremy giving me bottles, wet rags, food, and stuffing my pockets with more supplies. And Jeremy was doing it twice per lap -- first in the pit with Kim, then riding over to Red Bud to hit me again, then going back to before the pit to double-check my requests before I got there. These two are the reason I was able to do what I did. I just had to pedal, they did the rest.


Big shout-outs to the rest of the folks at the party: Jerry and Barb for the super-sweet camping/pit hook-up; Jay for saving me an extra great spot for the pit (just in case!); Rachael, John, Casey, Zoe and Carbon for the pre-race entertainment; Ronsta for just being Ronsta; the kids from Mars for showing such awesome class -- says a lot about the adults they hang out with; Amy D for making the trip just to hang out; Scott Cole for the encouragement and advice, even when he knew he was not feeling well; the guys from SRAM for knowing I was crazy but letting me do my thing anyway; Ed for the mad props when I came through the chute; and Kevin and the whole 24-9 team for putting on an awesome race. I know a bunch of guys who plan on skipping nationals next year just because they like 24-9 so much. That's the mark of a great event.


Stay tuned for more; my mind is on overload right now, even if my body isn't. Goat has pics already ... I'll have words and more in the next couple of days. For now, I'll just leave you with what it feels like to win a National Championship. Go Ron!


29 July 2007

Dead phone

Sorry everyone - my phone died, so Goat couldn't post. Thanks to him and Kim, I was in a big battle for the last spot on the box, at one point only 8 minutes out, with 7-9th only 4 minutes back! I eventually got caught by two of them, and took 8th, a lap up on 9th. More tomorrow!

28 July 2007

7 hours in

Chris was in 14 then 12 and now 9th. He is looking good and staying strong. Night is coming soon.

7 hours in

Chris was in 14 then 12 and now 9th. He is looking good and staying strong. Night is coming soon.

1 lap started

Goat here, chris is on the course for his first 24 hour race. Stay tuned for updates.

1 llll

Number 17

I am No. 17, awesome.

Decent sleep tonight.

I once read someone who described peaking for an event as feeling like you are literally buzzing.

Right now, I have a wasp nest in each leg.

Five hours to go.

27 July 2007

Surreal

Eatough, Marenchin, Hendershot, Posner ... I have watched 24-Solo so many times that they became characters ... Seeing them live, riding past our sweet camp/pit on Main Street, brings on a feeling of un-reality. And oh yeah, I'm racing them tomorrow!!

This is so awesome!

26 July 2007

Why solo?

Check it: http://www.dirtragmag.com/web/article.php?ID=689

Attitude is everything

Thanks Windy City Sports. I needed that today!!!

By the way ...

By the way, the falafel was real ... and it was spectacular.

Racer X

When I'm feeling really good, really in the flow, I call it my "Racer X mode." Sort of lame, but I was a huge Speed Racer fan when I was a kid.

This morning, Racer X mode kicked in, full-force.

It's pretty rare for me to feel this way before a race. It's only happened a couple of times before, and both races were huge breakthroughs for me. When it happens, I'm on -- nothing can stop me, confidence is super-high, sensory perception is through the roof. It's a pretty wild feeling -- in small doses on the trail, it helps me ride above myself; pre-race, it gets me ready to kick some ass.

I'm somewhat realistic about this weekend, but I've set myself a pretty stretch goal. I will do everything in my power to make sure it happens. I have a lot of assets on my side -- killer pit crew, rock-star pit placement, relatively light travel (compared to everyone else), singletrack that suits me, widetrack that I can just power. The only thing I don't got is experience -- but if Chris Eatough can win his very first 24-hour race (World Championship), I think I'll make it OK.

48 hours to go.

25 July 2007

If they keep pulling everyone out ...

Maybe Levi really will win the Tour?

http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2007/tour07/news/?id=/news/2007/jul07/jul26news

Hell, at this rate, Disco has two guys on the box. Too bad Levi isn't Greg -- that would make for an interesting few days, wouldn't it?

The Tribune ...

... continues to follow me ...

Get high on adventure at Victoria Falls

Sweet nothings

I've gotten more work done this July than any July since I started riding. Yea me. But it's killing me -- the live feed on cyclingnews makes it sound like the stage finish is a good one. Even if they are all doped.

Boat cruise tonight. Not necessarily the best prep for 24-9, but we'll be having falafel. As Renee knows, that's my traditional pre-Nationals meal. Yeah baby!

Confidence has returned. In spades. I'm ready for this. Granted, I have no idea what I'm getting myself into, but I'm ready. Only about an hour of packing left, finish charging lights, and load up. T-minus 71 hours, 32 minutes.

Everyone I've read says the field will be stacked this year. Um, it's a national championship. When is it not stacked?

Started watching 24-Solo again last night for the last time before the race. It opens with a stylized shot of Chris Eatough on the trail at Conyers, with his voiceover: "There's something that happens to you during a 24-hour race. You come face-to-face with your very soul." I started laughing hysterically. I think I'm ready.

24 July 2007

Confidence

OK, I cracked. I downloaded the data from this morning. And in a word: awesome. I'm ready.

Two weeks ago:

Tonight. Dialed and ready:

And now for something completely different

So surreal. And the Tour was just starting to get good.

Finding confidence

Download or not? This morning's workout was a tough one, intended to really kick my legs back into gear after some much-needed recovery the past two weeks. Combined with this past weekend's trail riding and Friday's opener, I should be good to go.

So right now I'm searching for every possible confidence builder I can find -- anything that will confirm my equipment is good, my food is the right choice, I've done the right training. Subjectively, this morning went well -- high heart rates, power seemed good, great immediate recovery. So in my head I'm asking -- do I download the data tonight? Do I look at it and risk seeing something that doesn't jibe with how I felt?

This is the crap that goes through your head when you're tapering.

Feeling better

Thanks to The Shop, the freehub body is replaced. Two bikes ready, one nearly so. Last workout this morning before pre-ride -- first time I've gone that hard in weeks. Man, did it hurt. And I'm supposed to do this for 24 hours?

23 July 2007

Freaking out

Everyone is riding more than me. Everyone else knows what to expect. Will there be room for us to camp? Support? Setup is on Thursday, we don't get there until midday on Friday. I just destroyed another tire to go with the one from Blue Mound. That's two down, now I don't get to run the tire setup I wanted on the backup bike. Plus one of my freehubs is bad and needs to get replaced. Crap.

OK, I'm done. For now.

Don' be a hater

Surreal moment of the weekend: Driving between Tomah and Madison in the SRAM Volvo. Some guy in a little Suzuki pulls up next to me and stares. Then he accelerates. Then slows and I pass him. Five minutes later he blows past me, flipping us the bird.

I'm still not sure the whole thing just happened in my mind. Very strange.

... just a few days to go ...

20 July 2007

Any suggestions?

Namrita O'Dea is in a bind -- just lost her support for next weekend ... anyone have any suggestions? Any locals who haven't committed interested in heading up?

Entertain me!

C'mon people, UPDATE YOUR BLOGS! I need some entertainment. My rest week is almost over, I'm bouncing off the walls, and my mind is going a million miles a minute. I have work to do, but it will only take me like 10 minutes, I've got that much energy right now.

Off to RAGBRAI this afternoon. Like 18 hours in the car in the next 3 days will do my mental status any good. At least I'll get to check out some new (to me) trails tomorrow and Sunday.

Good ride in this morning -- the backup bike is dialed. Just need to clean it next week after riding it this weekend. Urban singletrack along LSD -- 1.9 in the back, 2.1 in the front. Yeah baby.

19 July 2007

Kicked in

Woke up this morning before the alarm, laid in bed but couldn't get back to sleep. Awesome massage this AM before heading to work -- dialed in RHCP on the iPod on the train, zoned out reading MBA and realized that it's happened: I CAN'T WAIT TO RACE. I've been at 8-1/2 to 9+ hours of sleep every night except one since Blue Mound, and I think today my body completely caught up. It's on baby, it's on!

Big shout-out to JPE, hope you heal fast and are back for 'cross. It wouldn't be the same without you!

Leaving for RAGBRAI tomorrow, in the meantime reading every endurance racing blog I can find and fretting about tire choices. Looks like it's going to be hot out there!

18 July 2007

The ultimate vacation

The reason I'm a cyclist is because of Alpe d'Huez. I'll never forget seeing Greg and Bernard cross the line holding hands back in the day -- and climbing up it the day of "The Look" just solidified it as one of my favorite all-time places in the world.

So I was only kidding a little bit when I told Kim of my dream vacation: base ourselves at Bourg d'Oisans (at the base of Alpe d'Huez) or Duex-Alpes (just across the valley) for a week in the summer, alternating between road cycling in the Alps (there are a million killer climbs within riding distance) and skiing on the glacier just over the horizon from DA. How's that for a multisport getaway?

Well, it just got better: turns out, there's trails there too! The last round of the UCI Marathon World Cup ran from DA down to BdO -- I can only imagine what the course was like for Dietsch and Sundstedt over the 100km route. I guess I'll have to start saving now for all the equipment I need to rent!

10-day forecast


We all know how reliable 10-day forecasts are, especially in Wisconsin and Illinois, but still, it's sort of nice to be "on the grid" sort of ...

Two more days of complete rest, including a nice massage tomorrow morning, then a couple of good workouts this weekend on the way to/from RAGBRAI. (We're going to hit the MN state park in Albert Lea on the way up, and the HPT in LaCrosse on the way home.) Unfortunately, that will be punctuated by 9 hours of standing on my feet, but at least Kim will be there to help me pass the time.
What else ... Got a couple more batteries from Troy and Todd, very cool. I'm going to have my own mini light show going on. I also broke out the super-fly pedals from my 'cross gear, just to make sure I won't, you know, unclip and ruin another set of wheels. Now it's just down to packing and getting the backup rigs dialed. 10 days to go!

16 July 2007

Insert rest week here

Oh, crap. I'm only on day 1 of my planned rest week, and I'm already publishing a second blog entry. Some people have been doing 20+ hour weeks; me, I'm on the rested-and-ready plan. So you want to be an endurance racer? Taper-nuttiness kicking in, time crawling, mind racing, body healing.

Worst moment yesterday? 45 minutes of walking to the start/finish just to officially DNF. (And get to the car.)

Best? Seeing Kim at breakfast with Giro marks on her forehead. I'm really sorry I made you crash and break your helmet. (This after she tells me the course doesn't have enough singletrack. How awesome is she?!)

Monday morning QB

First off, happy birthday to Renee, we love you even if you are a freak!

Been checking out the Reforestation roundup -- I'm pretty bummed but philosophical about yesterday. Old Crank Bros. pedals shouldn't be on a race bike -- they should be commuter only. And I knew that. And didn't change them. My bad.

On the plus side, I'm unscathed, and with two weeks to go until 24-9, there is very little mechanical work that needs to be done. I'll drop off the wheels at the Shop tonight, and with time to spare they should be good to go ... And to take at least a bit of positive from the race, I felt like I was able to get a handle on being agressive on my mountain bike for the first time. Good practice for Wausau!

Everyone is racing Superweek right now. Can't say I miss it. Good luck to everyone, especially teammate Mike Sherer, who was holding a top 20 place overall this weekend. That kid is fast.

15 July 2007

Oh-fer

Goooooooooo! Up and over, "neutral" start through the parking lot, up and onto the gravel, GAME ON, push it, push it, punch it, turn, move up, turn, bounce, turn, hammerhammerhammerhammer, up, down, up, down, turn, lose a place, gain a place, pushitpushitpushit, look back, big gap, back of the front group, 15? 20? guys, up, around, SINGLETRACK. Stop. OK, four a**holes jump in. Roll it, roll it, lose some space. Breathing behind me. Losing seconds, not too bad. One guy with me. He can't pass, I gotta' go faster. Blast out, lost some ground, gained on the guys behind us, STEPONITHAMMER, around up SHARP LEFT TURN AHEAD, "just you and me," turn, stump, BLAM Pssssssstttttttttt!!!

And that was my race. Right foot slipped out of my pedal and straight into my front wheel. Three spokes and a whole lot of Stans everywhere in the forest. Maybe this marathon thing isn't for me. WORS Marathon, 2; me, zero.

Congrats to Ronsta, heck of a ride. Wish I could have been with you guys.

Big results all around -- Lori on the box, Holly K right behind, awesome job!

13 July 2007

I'm not the only one

Check it.

Anticipation

Turns out the live VS feed was too good to be true, and their legal department is trying to track down the leak. Just as well -- I have a lot of stuff to do.

Let's see ... Amy has a great description of Blue Mound. In 24 Solo, Gary Fisher describes the "black claw of death" that jumps out at you during night riding -- Blue Mound was sort of like that all day. I did one lap with sunglasses on, and then took a page from Schotz's book and decided to go without -- it was that dark and jungle-like down there on the side of the Mound. Straight out of Apocolypse Now.

What else ... Rachael has a sweet new ride -- it's even sexier in person. She had it at Blue Mound, and I'm guessing it will make an appearance here and there during the rest of the summer ...

Renee has some big news -- the 'cross clinic is on the calendar! August 19, again at Badger Prairie. She's been doing this for the past couple of years with CycleSmart coach Ben Turner -- a very cool way to kick off the CX season and really get your game on. Maybe this year I can get over there? Hmmm ... tough call ... Subaru Cup is the same day ... but it's 'cross! With this weather we're having, I'm ready for some running and sand -- I even rode my 'cross bike in to work the other day. It felt weird, but in a good way! 'Cross is in the air ...

And of course there's the big 800-pound gorilla in the room ... two weeks from today we'll be on our way up to Wausau! I'm not quite ready, but I'm close -- with no racing next week, the Rush is all set (as of this morning), I've got my tools reorganized, and now I'm just doing the final touches such as burn-throughs on my lights and getting the spare parts bin together. Because of the difficulty at Blue Mound, this week has ended up being a recovery week, with another scheduled next week ... and then a few days of workouts to really hit the peak going into the race. I anticipate a bit of cleanup from the marathon this weekend, and Kim's bike still needs to be set up for me, but all in all, I think I'm ready ...

12 July 2007

The Tour effect

You know, it's the darnedest thing. I can sit at my desk for hours on end and have no one call or come by to speak to me. But nearly every day during the Tour, for the past several years, I will inevitably have a meeting, or receive a call, or have someone come talk to me, right at about 10:30 a.m., just as the sprint is happening. It's so weird.

Yesterday, I recieved THREE phone calls, all at the exact same moment as Thor was winding up. Today it was a visit. Strange.

11 July 2007

Thanks Tristan!

Day I love my job #194:

Check out Tristan's blog for a link to the LIVE feed of the Tour de France at Versus. That's right -- you can now WATCH the Tour unfold from your desktop. No more waiting for Cyclingnews or Velonews to try to update their tickers ...

And the best part? Having it on in the background here at work doesn't raise an eyebrow. In fact, this may be the one job I ever have where we get all-office emails that remind us we're not allowed to talk Tour in certain parts of the office, so senior managers can watch the replay that night ...

10 July 2007

Weird

I'm in a weird place today. Super-busy at work, really focused on some big projects, and not quite sure what day it is. I'm still a bit sore from Saturday, but I'm sleeping really (REALLY!) well, and the mornings are the toughest until I get on the bike and loosen up a bit. I can tell I'm still fatigued, and not in a really great mood -- but not a bad mood either, just sort of neutral. Which comes across as surly to some people.

I'm registered for the WORS Marathon and 24-9. Woo-hoo! But I just found out that my registration for Evanston has been refunded. wtf? So I have to look into that. Then again, we'll be in Iowa on Saturday the 21st ... actually, only 30 miles from Sioux City, SD -- 9-ish hours from Evanston. The RAGBRAI expo goes until 9 p.m., which I didn't know, making the drive home for the crit look very ugly. Especially just one week before 24-9. So ...

Hair cut on Thursday, marathon, massage next week, RAGBRAI, boat cruise, race. This month is over before it began! I also have two stories for Chicago Athlete due in the next two weeks. On the plus side, I have all the parts I need to rebuild that which Jeremy scavanged, and it should only take an hour or so to have all the bikes up and running this evening. And then it's time for a nap.

I'm out.

09 July 2007

Blogger doesn't seem to want to let me put a title on my posts, so I'm not sure this will work. Check out photos at Mountaingoat's, Kerkove's and Unwin's. Rachael just wants to steal them. I have to find our camera to see if Kim was able to get anything.

And as sore as I am, thank goodness I can still use all 10 of my fingers. Ouch.

08 July 2007

Learning experience

First off, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Jim and Shannon. Hope your camping trip was a great getaway!

Second, just want to say how nice it is to have air conditioning! After 11+ years together, Kim and I finally installed a window unit in our bedroom ... I'm now in a wonderful 76-degree cocoon, just chilling, literally! It's 93 or 94 degrees outside, so the can of refried beans holding up the backside of the a/c unit should be nice and cooked in time for dinner ...

Third, I need to give a HUGE shout-out to Mountaingoat. This guy totally saved my ass yesterday, turning what was becoming a complete disaster into a podium fight that came down to 58 seconds after 12 hours. Thanks man, I seriously owe you one.

So what can I say? I have now raced Blue Mound. Easily the most difficult race course I have ever seen in my life. In a 14km loop, there was maybe 500 meters of smooth pedaling. Everything else was rocky, rooty, steep, bumpy, or any combination of the above. Rachael was having a blast -- at one point I was getting close to her, and could see her on a switchback, but then it got so technical that it took me almost 15 minutes to finally catch her. You know you're on a tough course when you can run most of a lap in the granny gear and still bust out a decent lap time (me, not her).

Let's see ... it was another day for mechanicals. I was fourth or fifth into the singletrack, and was third place in the 12-hour solo for the first four laps. Actually, I was in second for a while, after first place flatted, then caught back up, then second place flatted, but then he passed me too. It was that kind of day.

This was the first time I didn't get a chance to pre-ride a race course -- ever -- road, mtb, or 'cross -- and it showed. It usually takes me 4 laps to dial a course; yesterday, I didn't have the luxury, so I was big-ringing stuff that I shouldn't have been, and missing stuff I should have cleaned early in the race. By lap three or four, my middle chainring decided to quit, and kept dumping onto the granny. At one point I was pitched forward so violently that I swear Kim and I will never have kids. (And then it happened again later when I stalled on a rock, just in front of John. He heard me scream -- thinking about it now, it's kind of funny. It wasn't at the time.)

So when I rolled into the pits, I switched out for Kim's bike and hit the trail. As dialed as it was for John Muir, Blue Mound is a whole different story ... and the Rush was ready; Kim's bike wasn't. I did what I could to limit my losses, hoping that neutral support could solve my shifting while I was out on the lap. My lap times tanked, but I was still only 2 minutes out of third when I came back around to find out there was nothing neutral support could do. Damn.

Thankfully, great minds think alike, and even as I was hoping that Jeremy would show and be able to help, sure enough he was back in the pits starting to work on the bike. Unfortunately, a big rock decided to jump me on the trail -- mind you, I was JRA, on a fairly flat section, when all of a sudden I heard a massive blow and the sidewall of my rear wheel was spewing Stans all over the place. Crap! Tube it up, fill it with CO2, start rolling. Not enough air, can't risk a pinch flat, put more CO2 in there. OK, now roll.

Get to the pits, Jeremy isn't quite done. One more lap on Kim's bike, but want a tubless wheel. Bad move -- it was leaking air. Had to stop twice to shoot it up. Crap. Another bad lap. By this time, I've been passed into fifth place, and finish the lap 10 minutes from the podium.

BUT ... Jeremy's a magician, and the Rush was dialed when I came back around. Hop on, and it was perfect -- my lap times went down, life was good ... I did the math at about 5 hours, so around 3 p.m., (I left just as the 3-hour started) and figured that I could pull out four more laps as long as they were sub-1:15. First one was great, second was even faster ... and, although I didn't know it, I had moved into 3rd by the end of that lap, when the guy ahead of me broke his pedal!

Here's where I second-guess myself, just a bit. On my 9th lap, I was almost in survival mode. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either -- the course was taking its toll, and I wasn't sure I wanted to finish another lap. I was feeling slow, and not really flowing well ... about 2/3 of the way through, a solo guy caught me and passed me -- when I asked him who he was, he told me we were fighting for 3rd place! Crap! Here I was just making sure I wasn't going to fall into 5th, and in reality I was fighting for the podium! I couldn't lift my game, and had to let him go ...

He put 4 minutes into me, and when I crested the hill with 1:35 left to race, Jeremy told me he was waiting. What?! I had already decided to do one more lap -- you never know if he would crash, or flat, or what -- and when I heard it was going to be head-to-head, I was ready. Or so I thought.

Past the timing table, around the bathrooms, into the knarly downhill, and BLAM! I crash. He goes past me. BLAM! I crash again. BLAM! After the third time in the space of 50 meters, I knew it was time to back down just a bit and ride my own lap. If I tried to race him, I might end up hurting myself. I was so focused/out of it that I didn't notice my water bottle cage was busted and the bottle gone until halfway through the lap.

So I let him go. And rode my own lap. Towards the end, a team rider caught up to me ... in my mind, he was 5th place (they both wore red jerseys!), so I turned on the gas. I rode the last third of my last lap better than I rode any other portion of that course, cleaning stuff I had walked all day and seeing lines that had never existed before. It was awesome, and I dropped the team guy and closed within a minute of the podium. I was worked, but it felt good to finish on a positive note.

So Blue Mound was a good learning experience. I'll never get a better training opportunity on a course like that, so different than what I "like" -- which means it was definitely worth every minute of bouncing and hopping and falling. And I didn't give up, as much as I thought about it -- there were a million reasons not to keep going, and just one that kept the pedals turning. And when I rolled a perfect end of the last lap, that counts as a victory in my book.

OK, time to get some sleep. I think I'll be dreaming about rock gardens for a very long time.

06 July 2007

Changing plans

Checked out Lee's blog, he says Kerkove is coming up for the 6, not the 12 ... flipped over to Jeff's blog, sure 'nough, 6 it is ... Too bad Jeremy isn't able to race, that would have been a killer one to watch ...

Just goes to show you can't waste too much mental energy, 'cause you never know what will happen!

Then again, why is everyone opting for the 6? After last year, Kerkove says the 12-hour guys looked like "death" ...

A ding-dong battle

So what goes on in the head of an endurance athlete when they’re getting ready to toe the line? Well, for me, it’s usually a landscape of what is going to happen: course, equipment, event logistics. And, when I can do so ahead of time, a full-on handicapping of my chances against key competitors. As “Fred Long” (Frank Shorter) noted in Without Limits: “Nobody studies each other more than distance athletes.”

Being an Internet junkie, I’m not above checking out blogs and personal web sites for competitive intel. It doesn’t do my mid-pack skills any good to try to glean some knowledge from Tristan or Jesse or Brian, but when it’s someone with whom I’m more closely matched, in an event more suited to my abilities, I will scour their on-line musings for any hint of an advantage I can use against them.

Case in point: Tomorrow’s 12 Hours of Blue Mound is shaping up to be a hum-dinger of a race. In addition to WEMS regulars sure to be there mixing it up – Charly Tri, Chris Schotz, Lee Unwin – we’re going to be facing off against “Mr. 24” himself, Jeff Kerkove of Waterloo, Iowa. Jeff’s a tough competitor, and won the solo 6-hour event at Blue Mound last year by a full lap. Despite vowing that he’d never race Blue Mound again, he’ll be there tomorrow, and Charly, Chris and I will be battling it out with him all day. (Lee is going single speed for the rest of the series.)

So how do I stack up? This is the mind game I’ve been playing for a week now … let the insecurities begin …

Kit
Strout: The Snoopy factor, but the kit looks very similar to Chary Tri’s Subaru-Gary Fisher colors. Both Charly and I have World Bicycle Relief going for us.

Kerkove: Racing in his company’s signature green and black, but reversed from Team Mars, and therefore not as cool. Kim won’t have a problem tracking his progress through the race.

Advantage: Push. Who the heck wears baby blue on the dirt?

Experience
Strout: What experience?

Kerkove: “Mr. 24.” Won at Blue Mounds last year. Raced Sea Otter semi-pro. Raced the Firecracker 50, USA Cycling Mountain’s marathon championships. 21st at the Mohican 100.

Advantage: Kerkove, by a large margin. The only thing I have going for me is that I raced the rocks in Virginia earlier this year.

Equipment
Strout:
Rush is dialed, more than it’s ever been. Kim’s bike is ready on standby, and there might be a third mystery machine just in case. Could stand wider tires, but the Racing Ralphs are serving me well. UST tubeless, the only way to go at BM. SRAM rocks the world.

Kerkove: Sports a nice rig from his sponsors, with a hardtail backup. Used to be a Cannondale guy, so knows the limitations on the Rush. Ergon grips may be helpful on some of the climbs, but won’t be a factor in the rocks.

Advantage: Push, as long as I don’t repeat John Muir.

Fitness
Strout:
Big training block, good races for top-end speed last weekend, ready to go.

Kerkove: Endurance guy with a semi-pro license, races national-level events on a regular basis. Coming down from altitude.

Advantage: Push. Not sure the altitude will help, and I would argue that a good crit will dial in your top-end a bit better than a mountain bike race.

Rested and ready
Strout:
Coming off a huge training block, legs a bit heavy last weekend but body/mind feels great. Easy week this week; had to cut ride short on Wednesday when I broke a spoke. Staying with Mr. and Mrs. JPE this weekend, the hosts with the mosts. Didn't sleep so well last night, but should be OK.

Kerkove: Got home from Ste Anne, then flew from Iowa to California, then drove to Breckenridge to race the Firecracker 50 on Wednesday, then drove home.

Advantage: Strout. I was already packed with the bikes dialed, and he wasn’t even home yet.

Pit crew
Strout:
Kim is the man. And Jeremy has offered to stop by after the Mars junior races, since he can’t race. John and Rachael will be there, with a standing invite to share pit space. The JPEs will be there too, not sure which race. And Amy is going for the series.

Kerkove: Unsure. Haven’t been able to figure it out – if he’s solo, he’s good at it; if Buchanandale is there, he’s got an experienced crew. Could be tough.

Advantage: Kim. She wins every time, hands down!

Motivation
Strout:
Training for Solo Nats. Really ready to race first time on the dirt in a month. May need a result to seal a spot at 24/9 (solo riders are required to submit a race resume).

Kerkove: Solo Nats not on his schedule. Doesn’t like getting beat up at Blue Mounds. Just coming off a National Championship race.

Advantage: Strout, but not by much.

And the envelope please … Let’s face it, anything can happen on race day. Just ask Lee (New Fane), or Kari (John Muir). We won’t know what’s going on until about 7 p.m. on Saturday, one hour to go, when we’ll just be deciding whether we can squeeze in that last lap. But in the meantime, I’ll have another cup of coffee and sit here wondering …

05 July 2007

Hidden gems

Today's Tribune: Better hide the tattoo if you want the job

Stamstad

What is it that some people read this and think he's crazy, and others can totally relate?

September 1996, Outside magazine: That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger

03 July 2007

Why we ride

Sometimes it's important to remember the innocent wonder of the bike. This is a shot of Kaylie at Rock Cut two weeks ago, waiting for Mom to put on her training wheels ...

02 July 2007

Trying to make sense

Having a hard time today coming to grips with this weekend. I didn't know Beth; I'm not sure we ever met. But the cycling family isn't very large, and when one of your own is taken in a senseless tragedy, it cuts pretty deep.

My thoughts are with her family and friends, the XXX Racing-AthletiCo team, and with the women's peloton right now -- especially the women who were there racing on Saturday morning.

"Running, some might say, is an absurd pastime upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, you can find meaning in that other absurd pastime: Life."

-- Bill Bowerman, University of Oregon running coach