30 June 2008

One year

Somehow I lost track. I thought tomorrow, July 1, was the anniversary. Now, looking back, it wasn't. Today was the day -- June 30. My thoughts go out to the entire XXX Racing community, and to the family of Beth K. May all your memories be fond ones.

Best sign EVER

I forgot to mention another really cool feature at Levis Trow -- the sign in the trail center:
"Hiking, snowshoeing and mountain biking is PROHIBITED on cross-country ski trails. Please use the SINGLETRACK."

Awesome.

Logging the miles

L-T – Isn’t that a workout?

Chicago traffic on Friday, Delevan rest stop, finish the drive Saturday morning. Just enough time to pre-ride a climb, not enough time to get a sense of the course. Pre-race meeting, drop the bikes, jog in place. Shout outs to Dave, JPE and Michele (who won her race!) JPE tells us about Lee – damn, that sucks. Get well soon.

Shotgun start, second on the trail, third into the singletrack. Melcher is the one to watch, when he attacks on a small climb and takes someone with him, I don’t respond. I think I left my climbing legs in Delavan. Let a couple of guys go. Renee is back there with a camera stuck to her face. Hey there!

Sitting seventh or eigth, top out on the first mound, enjoying the bridges when Brad catches up to me. I let him go, try to stay with him but I just don’t enjoy riding through trees. He mis-gears a switchback, I go ahead, but on the next drop my front wheel washes out and I pull a BMX-style wraparound as I flip to the ground. Lose a couple of places, and a few minutes getting the bike back together – this is not a course where you want your cockpit to be wonky. I get cautious, which will cost me in the long run.

Roll into the pit, fiddle for a couple more minutes, roll out. I’m just not feeling it today. Decent lap, Brad is going 90% until I see him up ahead and tell him not to wait for me. Then I’m alone. Miss the lead-in to the last bridge – save a complete crash, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Kim is already expecting.

Third lap, keep it rolling, catch up to a solo. He turns it on, I don’t respond and keep my cool. Next thing I know, I hear the tell-tale breaking of tree branches, come around a downhill bend and he’s climbing up the side. Turn on the gas, one place made up. Bottom bracket begins to creak something fierce, there’s no hiding from the riders in front of me. Some of them are pulling over two sections early because they know I’m coming.

Last lap, head in the game, catch a rider in the first section of singletrack. Can’t shift to the big ring – my front derailleur cable has pulled through. OK, middle ring, let’s roll. Follow him through the bridges, then he suddenly pulls over to let me pass just as we hit the first little rise. This is my chance – I pour it on, knowing I have 55 minutes of riding to go but wanting that spot. Top out the first mound and he’s gone, but I can’t let up now. Come out to the first widetrack and BAM – both legs, full-on cramping. Can’t put it in the granny, shit. Just … turn … it … over. Whew. Coast down the singletrack, starting to feel better. Keep it smooth, smooth – I manage to put several minutes on him in the last 2/3 lap, and roll in for 6th, 7 minutes behind Brad.

I’m a little disappointed in my result, but I feel good about where I’m at. Levis is a fun place to ride, but a tough race course – it rewards familiarity and aggression in the middle ring. I’d never been there before, and I’m more of a big-ringer …

Get cleaned up, and hang out with the Johnny Sprockets crew waiting for Dave N. to finish the hundie. We talk about Nationals – what else is there?

Roll over to Wausau. Dinner at the Roadhouse is perfect. If you’re at the party on Red Bud on Saturday night and a gaggle of college-aged Roadhouse waitresses show up to party, you can thank Brad and me later. Hotel too late and too hot, another lost night of sleep. Starbucks has never been more welcoming.

6:15 in the 9 Mile parking lot. Quick bike work, roll out with Scott and Mark about 7. Two full laps of last year’s course – holy cow. 2008 is not 2007. Ten pounds lighter in body, two-plus lighter in bike, 29er up front, another year of experience – sure, we were “fresh,” but I never rode those trails as well last year as I did yesterday. Still need to figure out one log crossing on Flower Trail and the right-hander amid the rocks on Ho Chi Minh, but I was so much more comfortable out there that I thought we were skipping sections, that’s how “easy” it felt. I can’t wait to race it! (Alas, no photos, couldn't risk the camera with the swirling possibility of rain showers overhead.)

Thanks to the Cole Bros. for making the early-morning trip, and a huge shout-out to Brendan for building the perfect 24-hour race bike. The Song is going to FLY out there – I can honestly say that it has made me a better rider.

Oh, and notes on the race – look for it to be FAST this year. I think the top end of the field will be a little bit deeper, and the course itself will be faster. The singletrack is in perfect condition, the wood chip sections have bedded in very well and have a line, and they’ve gravel paved the long widetrack down to Four Corners for logging. They’re actively logging the top of the singletrack on trail 7 (first singletrack just after you do the other side of Red Bud and have crossed back over), so if they don’t clean that up the course will have to use more widetrack, which will make it faster still. (They’re also actively logging the top of the hill before the descent to Four Corners, but there’s a widetrack workaround there.) As always, it’s Nationals, so it will be super-stacked – Bring it on!

(One other note – they’ve started paint marking the trees in sections 1, 2 and 3 after Red Bud for logging as well. Let’s hope that’s a late summer project, and doesn’t start before the race!)

27 June 2008

Steppin' up

It's go time. 5 weeks to go, to be exact. Holy crap.

Sacrifices are being made. Scratch that -- the sacrifices made so far have paid off, now just 5 weeks of extra focus. Latte becomes coffee becomes tea with honey becomes water. Fresh fruit and vegetables coming out my ears. If I don't turn orange I will turn violet. Carotonemia sucks, I've been there before. No distractions, no cookies. 35 days until pre-ride.

You can feel it in the (virtual) air. Chris J rips it at Cowbell, add another name on the watch list. Brandon sets up a block of training to rebuild. Chris E heads to BC, Ernesto to Breck. Goat and Snob are living the life. Huge props to Mary for keeping it ticking over -- you go!

50 miles tomorrow at LT. LQ comes through with a free room tomorrow night. On course for the first time in a year on Sunday. Legs feel great. Jumping out of my skin. This weekend will be awesome. Pray for dry.

Bring it on!

26 June 2008

Defection

Wow. We're not even to July 1 yet, and 'cross is in the air. Jim's pimping out himself and his bikes (and counting down!), Ben's buying plane tickets, Kevin is trading in his fat tires, Goat is only using flat bars for a couple of weeks (and for a very specific reason), and even Mike is doing running workouts. We're just inside 3 months away from the first race, and it seems that everyone is looking ahead ...

... Except me. I have to admit, I'm not feeling it this year. When I set my sights on 2008, I had just two goals: 24-9 and Montrose. As I've gotten deeper and deeper into the endurance training, though, my view of Montrose has become fuzzier and fuzzier -- I've come to realize that my relationship with 'cross is kind of like a hot-n-heavy, flirtatious fling that simultaneously sizzles and burns; my relationship with endurance racing has become more mature and satisfying in a way that makes me feel good about myself and my riding.

This isn't to say Montrose is off the table. Sure, there's a certain due date to worry about, but that coveted championship jersey is hanging out there, taunting me and my cycling goals. Oh, to win a state championship ...

What it does mean, though, is that September and October aren't what I thought they'd be when 2008 began. Instead, I'm re-thinking my schedule to include rendezvous at Shenandoah, Palos, maybe Vegas, Muir, and either Moab or Sheboygan. If all of that comes together, it will delay my 'cross season until early November at the earliest, and may mean just 3-4 short weeks of barriers and mud. Strangely, despite my early-year planning, I find myself very OK with that, and am looking forward to extending the mountain bike season so deep.

That said, all of this may change again. We're just 5 short weeks away from the big one, and to be honest right now nothing exists beyond 11 a.m. or so on August 3. The focus is so total that I can't even answer basic questions about plans for traveling home from Wausau, let alone where I'll be racing in September. In the meantime, the knobbies are calling, and I hear Levis Trow is a pretty awesome place to ride ...

Another addition to the family: Welcome to Michael Hemme on the blog roll to the right. Mike's a standup guy, World Bicycle Relief volunteer, and killer on the x-c course ...

25 June 2008

Whew

Power outtages, no video, storms brewing over Basle and absolutely horrible play by the German side ... but they squeak through and on to Sunday!

High water mark

The Turks score first in the 22nd minute. Germany equalises less than 5 minutes later. Let's hope it's the high water mark of the Cinderella run.

One more addition

Stephen, I'm a schmuck and forgot to add you to the blog roll. I knew there was someone I needed to add, just couldn't remember who. Even though we haven't met, the World Bicycle Relief team appreciates your support and Eddie and Namrita say you're a good guy. That's enough for me! You headed to Shenandoah?

Yes, this is the third entry today. Two days of rest + three iced soy lattes + a chance to almost make up for two years ago = hyperactivity. Thank goodness most of it is productive. One hour to kickoff.

Ouuuuuuccccchhhhhh

Jen from PRC pulls a Jeremiah Bishop in the Grafton crit. OUCH. Get well soon, healing wishes headed your way!

Gamecast

Euromeisterschaft-Halbfinale. 13:30 CDT ESPN360, 13:45 Start. Die Welt sagt, "Das 0:2 gegen Italien im WM-Halbfinale vor zwei Jahren ist noch nicht vergessen. Heute Abend hat die deutsche Elf in Basel die große Chance, es besser zu machen."

Bringen Sie es!

24 June 2008

Blog updates

Some of you may have noticed a few updates on the right side of this blog. In general, I only link to blogs of people I've met, and so please welcome Danielle, Eddie, Namrita (Lumberjack), Justin (Evomo), Julie, and of course Jay, Jesse and Marko. I think I'm the last blogger on earth to link to the Lalonde Bros. -- no reason other than I wanted to wait until we actually got to know each other better. Blog linkage is sort of like dating in that respect.

I also re-organized the sidebar a bit. I know the disciplines aren't exact, but they help me keep all those fellow Blog folks in order. I also added to the Wausau Watch column with my two exceptions to the aforementioned meeting people rule: Brandon and Endurosnob, both of whom will be at Wausau. Brandon's super fast and a pretty cool guy, at least virtually, and I think I've met Endurosnob so it's all good. All the links now open in a new window too, so I don't have to jump back and forth. Did you think it was for your convenience?

Finally, I've updated the calendar. All of a sudden we're just 36 days away from go-time, and I'll be mixing it up more than I thought in the coming weeks. And by mixing, I mean mixing -- from the 50-miler at Levis Trow this weekend to the XC of Alterra (with a 12er in between), I'll be taxing all sorts of different systems in the final push to the start line. Then the real work begins -- tapering!

After that, it's kind of up in the air and kind of not. I'm signed up for SM 100, so my Labor Day plans are set and it looks like I'll miss everything at Suamico this year. Then Palos is the next week, and depending on how I'm feeling DINO is in Indy or KISSCross should be starting on the 14th or 15th. Then it's Interbike, then we'll see ... John Muir is looking mighty sexy (but short!), but it all depends on the Intergalactic Championships and whether a trip to the desert is in the offing ...

23 June 2008

Wrapping it up

Great weekend at the Kettles with Brad and Kim. Stayed at Brad's family's place in Delavan, just a stone's throw from Starbucks -- which made Saturday morning's hotline-suggested 10 a.m. start time that much more bearable as we watched the rain come down. Met up with Todd while Kim rode the road. Whole lotta' singing going on. Wrapped up the laps following BKB to the parking lot.

At +/- 4 hours, Kim pulled out of the parking lot and my legs pulled the plug. Unfortunately, we still had an hour and a half to go. Took Todd back to Emma, then Tower to Young to Tamarack to Greening to H to Kettle to Jackson to O. Giant flags on the horizon never looked so good.

Gordy's says they're "In the heart of Fontana's lakefront." I would argue they are Fontana's lakefront. Grouper with fries, Sprecher heaven, then a drive around the lake with the obligatory stop at Kilwin's. Snake Road, Route 50, detour, and home. Fell asleep on the couch before I knew I was sitting there.

Up early Sunday, "single speed" the Song, blast out a loop and some Rainy Dew before calling it a day. Legs felt great, especially given Saturday's meltdown. Family time in the afternoon, storm clouds brewing, home early and a nice walk around the 'hood. Lather, rinse, repeat. Is it really Monday already?

Happy birthday Mr. Turtle!

Big happy birthday shout-out to The Turtle! Hope today's tailwinds are strong!

22 June 2008

44:23

Spent the day "single-speeding" the Song. Life is different when you don't shift.

Awesome weekend at Kettle, big thanks to Brad for the housing.

20 June 2008

Thumper

OK, so these are a little bit old, but you get the idea ... heard the heartbeat yesterday ... HOLY COW!

19 June 2008

Portugal 2 - 3 Deutschland!

On to the Semis. Next up, Wednesday, winner of Turkey/Croatia. This could be a tough one.

Lumber-ing along

You may not know this, but "Team World Bicycle Relief" is actually a SRAM-sponsored grassroots MTB sqaud. You may be thinking "duh," but in reality Dan, Brad and I (mostly Dan, thanks!) had to apply and be accepted along with everyone else, and work within the construct of the program to get support. And all I can say is ... thank goodness we did!
Just two weeks after building her up, I had to completely strip down the Song and start over from scratch -- that's how nasty that water and sand was after 100 miles on the trail. The non-drive side of my BlackBox ceramic BB wouldn't even move until I blew out all the crap, the leaf springs on my pedals were fixed in place, and don't even get me started on my drivetrain. Thankfully, chains are cheap and X.0 derailleurs and Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes are fully servicable!
Here are a few photos from the weekend -- as Brad put it afterward, when we were still in our post-race stupor: "We'll look back on this as a fun race. But man, it was one of the hardest I've ever done."
A little marketing, a little vanity? Drop me a line if you want some for your own ride ...
This is the ribbon of singletrack that greeted us during our warmup ride. So incredible!
Downtown Manistee. It took us a minute to figure out why everything was "open," but yet no one was there. Very strange with all the power out downtown.
Courtesy of the KISS crew, I always make strange faces when riding.
This guy, on the other hand, always looks cool, calm and collected. (Also courtesy of the KISS crew)
Here he is, storming to a strong finish, with a smile no less!
This is just one small section of the Mud Bog that Ate the Lumberjack. It just got worse as the day went on ...
... and our poor bikes showed it!
Some serious love needed ...

18 June 2008

10 YEARS!!!

Today is a pretty awesome day in my life -- as of today, I have now been an EX-smoker as long as I was a smoker! Thanks in large part to the QuitSmoking.com message board (which was in its infancy -- I can totally trace my Web surfing habits to those first few weeks after I quit!), I only backslid once about a month after quitting, and haven't had a cigarette for 10 YEARS!!!!!

6-18-98 forms the crossbar on my chest tat, joining my wedding and another special day as the three key dates that mark who I am. I can't even begin to tell you how important Kim has been to me through all this -- if it wasn't for her, I'd be a washed-up 35-year-old guy trapped in the body of a 60-year-old! Instead, I'm celebrating a full decade smoke-free! WOOO-HOOO!

17 June 2008

Second guessing

I hope my previous post doesn't sound like I'm second-guessing. I made the best decisions I could during the race, pushing my limits in ways I haven't before. I'm happy with the way I rode, especially the last lap -- riding that fine line between too conservative and too hard when the clock is north of 6 hours. I had fun, learned a lot, and found a groove that will carry me to Nationals -- exactly the result I was hoping for on the long drive to Manistee.

Like I said, fuel for the fire!

Not so sweet sixteen

Sixteen seconds. That's how close I was at the end to Dejay Birtch, who rounded out the top 15.

I placed sixteenth. By sixteen seconds. To a former SS National Champion. Damn.

Now the wondering starts ... what if I didn't stop to pee? What if I hadn't grabbed that extra cup of Heed? Was I too conservative on lap four, trying to stay smooth and not crash? Sixteen seconds in the span of 8 and a half hours is nothing, a sneeze. Damn!

Of course, what really bakes your noodle is this: If I hadn't stopped, if I hadn't drank, if I went a bit harder, would I have survived to get to that point? It doesn't matter, it was a good race, learn and go faster next time!

Looks like I lost about 15 minutes to the guys I was with on lap 1, with Columbus Cannondale guy in 10th. I got beat by four singlespeeders (including Dejay) -- that had to be tough out there. Props to them.

Fuel for the fire!

16 June 2008

Yeah!

I just got the most awesome phone call from a certain niece of mine - she rode a bike without training wheels for the first time today! Yippee!!!!!!

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm OK!

Pre-race – Heat and storms made sleep tough on Thursday night; installing an air conditioner in your bedroom window at 11 p.m. isn’t the best way to make friends with your neighbors. Friday came too fast, but Brad knows me well enough by now to know that I’d be early. 6:30 pick-up, 6:38 Starbucks, 6:53 on the road to Michigan. Nice drive, no traffic, clear sailing until Ludington. Then, emergency vehicles; Rt. 31 washed out, 60-mile detour around the National Forest.

Arrive at Big M, get geared up, hit the inner, 8mi loop twice for pre-ride. They had 10in of rain and 80mph winds the night before, but you wouldn’t have known it, except for all the sticks. Sand sucked up the rain, trail was sweet. Awesome volunteer effort. Sandy tries to get my autograph – she thinks I’m Floyd! Start the ride; first few minutes, Brad says “this is the sandy climb?” Then we turned left. Ouch.

Got done, said hi to Danielle and the O’Deas, so I'm no longer the wierd Blogger stalker guy on Danielle's site. Endurance people are so cool! Headed into town and settled in a the hotel. Dinner recommendation nixed due to no power, so we drove up to the steakhouse just out of town. Everyone was there. Watched Tiger. Tortilla chip-encrusted tilapia with fries. Yum. Sleep came early, but predictably didn’t last long.

Race day – Pumping tires at 1:30 a.m. wakes up your roommate, even when you hide in the bathroom. Dozing and dreaming of big, sandy hills doesn’t help you sleep. 3:58 is not a 4 a.m. wakeup, but it’s enough time for a second cup of coffee. Load the car at 5, out at 5:12, we’re not the first on the road. Killer parking spot, gear up, drop the cooler, pre-ride the end of the lap, jog a bit, say hi to Scott and Laura and the kids, head down the road for the start. 58 degrees but 100 percent humidity.

Line up behind Eatough, damn he’s looking thin. And a single-speeder – he better be fast, it’s 2 miles on the road. Clock starts when we hit the dirt, mini van lead-out. Go.

Lap 1 – I can get used to road lead-outs. I know how to ride them. Top 10 onto the trail, pinched to the right but that’s where I want to be, except for the deep sand early on the climb. Get through it, still top 15, hit the wall, two guys walking, time to run. Jump off, make up two spots, power the last part of the climb and we’re rolling. Settle in with a guy from Columbus riding a Cannondale – nonstop talking, we can see the lead group cresting as we start the small climbs. Stick jumps and smacks my jaw, branch in my eye, misjudge a turn and he’s leading me. We catch Johnny Cash, a guy in all black, at the end of the 8mi inner loop. 90 seconds back from the lead as we start the big loop.

Cruising the next 4 miles, another Canondale guy in green catches us. I sit on the back, enjoying Johnny’s pace. They miss a climb, I have to run, catch on easily. Cruising. Fly past the aid station. Green Cannondale misses a turn, I’m in third position. Then SPLASH. We hit the swamp. Ride, run, ride, run, wrong turn, thank goodness it was four of us or the swamp creatures would have taken the stragglers. I make it out fourth, fight a bit to stay with them. Manage to catch before the big hills. Then CRUNCH. Crap. Stick in the rear mech. Stop, pull it out. Start to chase.

Up, around, down, up, up, up. Around and there they are, turn a corner and all of a sudden I’m on the deck. Slammed a pedal on a stump. Crap. Bike OK, body OK. Chase, but it’s not going to happen – they’re gone. Up the switchback, hit the hills, I’m alone with a long way to go. Pull into the pits and Laura says I’m in 16th. Cool, thanks. BIG MISTAKE – I only grab one bottle, with a half still on the bike. Roll it.

Lap 2 – Cruising, feeling good, not sure I’ll catch but don’t want to be caught, so keep the pressure on. Lose two spots early but gain back two. Or are we already lapping people? That can’t be, can it?

Catch Johnny at the end of the inner loop – hey, you were with the Cannondale guys, right? Blow past him on a climb, he digs to stay with me. The two of us keep it up, talking. He works for Salsa in Minneapolis. Cool He passes me in the swamp. I’m climbing better, but he’s faster on the downhills. Stick in my rear rotor, and I’m chasing again. Have to pee, stop so I don’t climb with a full bladder. How friggin' far is it to that switchback? Catch him just after, he’s running the steep so I do too. He bombs the downhill and we enter the pits almost together. Laura apologizes for not knowing what place I’m in – no worries, thanks for the encouragement! Down a Coke, two bottles on the bike, and I’m off.

Lap 3 – Cresting the hill, look back and there’s Johnny way down there; I beat him out of the pits, can I hold him off? Feeling good, going fast, drinking, drinking, drinking – oh, crap, I’m so dehydrated I feel like puking. This is not good. OK, calm, riding OK, two bottles should get you to the aid station. Can you hold him off until then? Probably. Concentrate, stay smooth, fly on the downhills, ignore your thirst. Forget the cramps, keep it up. Don't look at your watch. OK, look -- BAM! I catch my right grip on a tree. Dumbass.

An aid station never looked so good. One cup of Powerade. Two. Three. Four. Five. A cup of water over the head. Another in the mouth. A cup of Heed. A bottle refill of Heed. A volunteer refilling my water bottle. Do you need something to eat? No, thanks, just fluids. A Coke? No, just had one 12.5 miles ago. Deep breath, roll it.

Whew. Feeling much better. Cruise to the swamp, still no sign of Johnny. Run the length this time, bottom has gotten too deep. Can I make it to the hills? Dig it, fight the cramps, keep it up, keep eating. Damn that sand tastes like crap on my bottle tops.

Make it to the hills, lap traffic, have to ride to look good. Did I pass someone too? Maybe. Not sure. Chain is screeching. Thank goodness I can get them cheap. Stand to the tree, then cruise to the pits. Scott is there with lube. Bad day for him. OK if it’s this brand? Beggars can’t be choosers! 2:30, longest pit, plenty hydrated. See you in a couple of hours!

Lap 4 – I’ve been here before. Stay on the gas, you need the training and don’t want to get caught. Make it to the end of the inner loop. Make it to the aid station. Make it to the swamp. Pass people. Are they really only on lap three? Sandy is out there on her tandem, “Hey, it’s almost Floyd! Good luck!” Thanks. Just a few miles to go.

Cruising now, feeling good, not as fast but feeling better than lap 2. Just three downhills and two hills to go. Two and two. Two and one. One and one. 8 hours comes and goes, body starting to shut down. C’mon, it can’t be that far. Push it, push it … and whew. Onto the switchback, there’s a guy in black over behind you – it can’t be, it can’t be, whew, it isn’t. Stay on the gas anyway, cruise the downhill, and ahhhhhh … there’s a guy finishingrighttherecanIsprintnocraphe’sdoneand so ... am ... I. Whew. Collect my patch and I’m a Lumberjack!

15 June 2008

Lumberjack quick post

What a day! Top 15 I think, Brad in 20th. Rode near the top 10 in the second group on the trail until I got a stick in my derailleur, then caught a pedal and went down, then another stick in my rear brake rotor. 8:20 finish time, 100 miles of singletrack. No lie, 100% singletrack. Swamps, sand and climbs. The Song was amazing.

12 June 2008

Tracking

First off, GOOD LUCK MARY! Tomorrow is the start of the Tour Divide race -- this isn't just border to border, this is Banff to border! It's not an understatement to say that Mary will be making history with this ride. Between now and Mexico, she'll be facing snow, 100 degree temps, and a host of other natural obstacles ... oh, wait, that's just the drive to get to the start!

Follow the leaders, wherever they may go ...

And speaking of leaderboards, Bob and TT1 are currently in 2nd place in the 8-person RAAM competition. Looks like they have a challenge on their hands this year ... follow along as they make their way through Arizona and on across the country ...

Isn't technology amazing?

Closer to home, Brad and I are ready to head out bright and early tomorrow morning. Yes, you read that right, I am ready. I don't think I've ever been fully locked and loaded a full 3 days before a race before. Phsyically I feel great, the Song is DIALED, and now just 100 miles separates me from the finish line ... bring it on!

11 June 2008

Flume Trail

Monday was my last full day in Tahoe, and I didn't think it fair to be this close to part of an IMBA Epic and not go! I wanted to do the whole Epic (actually, wanted to do it out and back!), but the longer portion was closed due to snowpack (see below).


Turn left to go to Stateline and South Lake Tahoe, turn right to go to Incline Village. You are at Spooner Summit!
Understatement of the year.
Spooner Lake is beautiful, but I had another agenda, and was focused at the sign on the bottom ...
Heed the warnings! Thankfully at least the Marlette Flume Trail was open, but snow?!
You start at 7,000 feet, and immediately you climb. And climb, and climb. Then you come to this beautiful alpine meadow. And then you turn left, and face a brutally steep wall!
But I couldn't stop smiling!
Ah, finally! The summit! But damn, when will this winter ever end?! The ride up was awesome -- 7,000ft. up to 8,000ft. in 3 miles, average grade 6%. Then a 1.5mi drop back down to 7,800ft. at Marlette Lake.
This is Marlette -- a pastoral, serene view all around. Beautiful!
Follow the trail! I had to go to the left (in the photo); going right would have been up into the snowpack.
Um, uh, follow what trail?!?!
OK, crawl through the lake, down the rock switchback, and you're on the Flume ... starting with a bridge even Goat would envy!
What a trail! Not technical at all, in fact very easy -- it's just getting there that's so tough! It's about a 1% downgrade heading north, right along about 7,700ft. The Spooner access is the easier end, with the 3mi, 6% grade, then the drop to Marlette. From Incline, you head up Rt. 28 to the trailhead, and then have a 2.6mi, 10% climb! OUCH! (Yeah, out and back from Spooner is TOUGH, ok?)
Rock slide area! Walk the bike!
The view looking south.
And north.
A happy, happy bike day. Life is Beautiful.

America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride

We're going to continue our Tahoe phlog today, with photos from the bike ride itself ...

It was a little cold at the start, but not too bad ... thanks to the Team Kenda mechanic for the photo op, see you at Nats!

Heading out of South Lake Tahoe, "Wait, let me get in front!"
The view up ahead. We got to the next intersection, turned right, and I went to the front and started to cruise ... until I looked up and had to shout "BEAR!!!!" A medium-sized black bear was staring at me from the side of the road. You can see the HR peak in my workout file; too bad I couldn't get my camera out in time!
After making our way through the forest, we started to climb; this is on the way to Inspiration Point.
At the top -- 60+ and still kicking it!
Isn't great that we have the same wardrobe?
Cruel course designers -- up, down, rest stop, up. OUCH!
The west side of the lake is pretty, but not too much to report. Then we made our way up to the state line -- apparently this was quite the hangout for the Rat Pack.
Crossing state lines doesn't get you in trouble.
On the way back south -- we came from over there!
Approaching Stateline -- you have to stop and hit the button for the tunnel warning, too bad they didn't turn it on all day.
The tunnel entrance, pretty cool!
Stateline. Not the best shot, with Heavenly rising in the background, but this really is a pretty view, cemented in my memory as what Tahoe is all about.
And now, crossing the line that counts! 72 tough miles and tons of climbing, we made it!

10 June 2008

Blow me down

Conversation today revolving around whether they're really that dumb. Consensus is that yes, they're really that dumb. WTF?

It's fascinating to see Americans and Brits (especially the media) get indignant about doping in (or near) sport, when the rest of the world pretty much accepts it. Anglos are historically the last holdouts to the ideals of "amateurism." We were in Germany when Puerto broke, and the consensus "man on the street" was that everyone's doing it, no big deal. Cycling is sort of like the WWF over there, blue collar and gritty, and didn't Hulk Hogan deny steroid use before finally coming clean in 1994? That doesn't seem to have tarnished his popularity. And yet, to an American cycling fan -- including me -- drug cheats are evil, never to be spoken of again.

So that said, I'm an Anglo cycling fan, and I think it SUCKS. These guys are dumbasses -- they know the rules, and they just don't care. What a crock. If they don't care, why should I?

I'm also an amateur, and it pisses me off that I race guys who are dirty. But that's a blog for a different day ...

In other news: DT came through, and the 190 Ceramic hub wheelset is built (by me!), Stan'sed and rolling ... suweeeeeeeeet!

09 June 2008

Rock Cut-ting

Headed out to Rock Cut this weekend for camping with the Ks. Saturday was National Trail Work Day -- did you help? I headed out with about 10 other members of the Rock Cut Trail Crew and spent a few hours cutting back eye poppers and ankle biters. Tons of fun, and now the best techy singletrack out there is even better!

Unfortunately, the weather had plans of its own this weekend, and our trip was cut a bit short, and I didn't get a chance to enjoy the trails myself. Oh, well -- a couple of hours on the lakefront with Brad and all was good ...

In other news, good luck to Bob Schrank as he and the Team prepare to defend their RAAM victory ... Go get 'em!

And did you see who was in the top 10 of the Ft. William XC? None other than 'cross god himself, Sven Nys. Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Cyclocrossers crush Teva Games cross-country. Not exactly man-bites-dog news, but very cool nonetheless!

06 June 2008

Driving the Lake

After the Pony Express ride on Saturday morning, my dad and I headed into South Lake Tahoe to pick up our race packets. It was a bit of a long line, but AMBBR had it going on, and we were done and out pretty quickly. Plus, we got free water bottles and lip balm!

Then, it was over to my favorite coffee shop in the entire world, the one I've been waiting to return to for 4 years -- Alpen Sierra. Sure, they share space with a sushi joint (see below), but their coffee is, bar none, the smoothest, most awesome house blend you will find anywhere. Plus, the shop is super-cool, with bike posters everywhere, and Saturday was stripes day -- show your stripes and get 10% off! (For our post-ride mocha on Sunday it was sports day, same deal!)

The little green sign I've been waiting 4 years to see.
Another sign, this one on the way around the lake. The ride starts from a casino in Stateline, then heads through South Lake Tahoe out toward Inspiration Point.
This is the view from there, looking out over Emerald Bay toward the Vikingsholm lookout.
The route takes you up a few nasty switchbacks, then drops you down, then up and over to the Vikingsholm rest stop. The views from up there are stunning!
Vikingsholm (this bizzare castle structure) is down below, only reachable by private boat or by hiking down a ton of stairs. We weren't quite up to the challenge, knowing what Sunday had in store for us ...
This is my dad at the lookout, with the spectacular waterfall in the background. Last time I was here, this was all frozen, a very different view!
We continued our drive around the lake -- this is from California Rt. 28, looking back toward South Lake Tahoe from just outside Incline Village.
Why did I ever come home?

04 June 2008

Pony Express

Last weekend sort of snuck up on us, and all of a sudden I'm sitting at O'Hare with a ton of Team in Training folks awaiting our flight to Reno/Tahoe International Airport ...

For those of you who don't know, my dad rides recreationally, trying to get in a century or two each year. His goal ride is usually the Door County Century, but a couple of years back he got cancer and had to bail ... his goal was 100 miles just before he turned 60, and he was pretty crushed that it didn't happen.

Fast forward a couple of seasons, and Dad is healthy and riding again. In the meantime, he and my mom have bought a property out in Dayton Valley, Nevada, just east of Carson City and Lake Tahoe. He happened to be out there a year ago on the day of America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a 72 (or 100) mile ride around the most amazing alpine lake in the world. What's a cyclist to do except start training?!

We flew out Friday morning on a plane packed with TNTers -- AMBBR is a TNT destination event. It was kind of cool to see their camaraderie, even if a few of them were confused about their cycling habits ...

The ride wasn't until Sunday, so on Friday afternoon we built the bikes and rode around the neighborhood. We shipped my dad's bike out first, and damned if he opened the box and there was no front wheel ... I'm a dumbass, and the wheel was sitting back in Chicago! Thankfully, The Bike Smith came to the rescue -- if you're ever in the Carson valley, definitely pay these guys a visit, they were awesome!

Saturday morning came, and I was off for a bit of exploring -- the guys at the shop recommended some jeep tracks up above Dayton ...

This is the view from the neighborhood. Imagine this, 360 degrees surrounding you ... wow!

El Dorado Canyon was first, as I climbed up to "D" Hill and dropped down, through dry creek crossings, buzzing back and forth between the canyon walls

Then it was over to the Carson River along another track, cruising in the big ring and enjoying the view!

Since I had a bit of time on my hands, I sped up the NDOT right-of-way jeep access trail along Route 50. This is the route of the Pony Express, the old Overland Route.

Trivia question: what is the name of the county in the U.S. that allows prostitution? And the name of the town at the county border? That's right, my parents live just a 30-minute ride away from the bordellos of aptly-named Mound House in Lyon County, Nevada!

I passed through, no time to stop, over to the city limits. They tell me there is fun singletrack just over the hill, maybe next time ...