Friday, September 13, 2013

The Dakota Five-O Report From A Single Speeder on 2 hours of Sleep

Just one week has past since the Dakota Five-O race. This was my very first visit to the gem of South Dakota, Spearfish. My only stops here were when I was super young on a family vacation and passing through on the way to Jackson Hole, WY. I've heard of this race from several friends and have read many reports of it. I had to enter. April Fools Day at 8am MDT the registration opened and soon after I registered it was closed. Many race plans had been made, but due to some unplanned financial contingents they had all been cut from the summer plan list. Lutsen 99er, Breck Firecracker 50, Rusty Ride 100 ETC, all out of the plans. All but the Dakota. My hope was to do all races single speed to avoid excessive bike maintenance and simply put, to see if I was able. Racing or not, I still managed to put in several hundred miles over epic terrain, including 100+ miles of the Chequamegon National Forest in two days of camping. A place I had also never been, but instantly fell in love with. It made for the perfect prep for what was to come.

Chequamegon trip:
Lots of ferns

Weeks had past since that Cheq trip and we were making our plans for Dakota as well as our future. It was no secret, I've been evolving and needed change. Both career and environment needed some work. Not that Minneapolis isn't home, nor a bad place to be, we as a family needed growth in the mountains. It was also time to make more time for my family and get myself out of a slump. My work schedule wasn't fair to my family and my lack of availability wasn't fair to where I was working. Also I wanted to make plans to attend school and change careers completely. Long story short, we quickly planned our move to Colorado. This made very little time for training, but I could already pull 60 miles of local single track with road mixed in, in under 4 hours on one gear. A little cross fit and a whole lot of box loading was my only training in the remaining few weeks prior. I actually felt confident with what I could do.

The Weekend came and not after a lot of trouble getting a hitch installed on our car and getting out trailer late. We loaded what we could the night before with a few friends and our plans to leave the next morning at 5am was banished. The trailer was loaded by 1:30pm and we had to make one last stop at Angry Catfish for coffee and goodbyes. With only a few stops along the way for gas, food and rest for two in diapers we arrived Sunday morning at 2 am. I knew it would be nearly a 12 hour drive from Minneapolis and I didn't know if I could do it at all at this point. If I didn't get up at 5:45am MDT and get my gear on, my road partner would've left me for dead in the Black Hills.

So, I put my big kid bibs on, grabbed some food from our bags and went to the continental breakfast area and prepared my oatmeal, blueberries, gluten-free toast, hard boiled egg, green tea and big glass of scratch labs with some cranberry juice. The cooler holding all of my race day foods was trashed. Nothing was good. I had a few hard boiled eggs, cherry/chia kombucha, homemade sweet and savory rice cakes and some other stuff that would've made my morning that much better go to the worms. I did with what I had and just enough time to hop on my bike before I prepare my gear and get my packet. Spinning around in the nice cool weather was enough to wake me up. I had only a few minutes to be sure I had my food, water, tools, emergency tube kit and extra chain. With a quick check of the air pressure I had only a couple of minutes to get to the line for wave 2. That started at 7:10 and was intended for folks to finish in about 5 hours. Failing to find my glasses, I was running out of steam and about to break down and give up. Melinda found my sunglasses, not my sport glasses, but what the hell, they protect me from sticks, rocks and sun. Grabbed my bike and bolted the 1 mile from our hotel to the race start, only to see the second wave begin the climb up the hill. I hammered the opposite direction to be sure that was my start. Confirmed, I turned and high tailed it to the back of the group. I felt like a total fool missing my start like that.

From here it was a long steady climb to the single track up Titan road. Slow and steady I made my way to the middle of the group and stalled out there when I found friend and riding partner, Rob Williams. Perfect! I had someone to share my grief with and suffer up the long climb. My legs wanted to keep climbing as we turned into the single track. I felt nervous taking the lead over him. I wanted to let him pass me, because I knew I would get too tired to make it work. Not to mention, my rear tire just wasn't what I needed for this dusty path on 33x19t ratio. I was off the saddle and going a snail's pace behind many people getting stuck in their climb or just going too slow for what my bike (not I) wanted to do. The single speed El Mariachi is a mountain goat and wants to climb all day. It takes a special rider and group to keep up with it. It just wasn't going my way, the the way my bike wanted it to be.

Finally breaking up on a descent down a hard, choppy, gnarly fire road I fell back from most of the geared riders with cushion. Rigid and single I could only do so much. My fat Nobby Nic on 25 PSI plus carbon bar was all there was to keep my arms from turning into the oatmeal I had for breakfast. I hammered through and on to the next single track section, up another climb and passing many that passed me in the downs. Typical story of a single speed racer. The thing to remember, you're in your own category when taking on one speed. It's a whole different game. The next few climbs is where I finally cried mercy and bounced off my saddle. I wasn't the only one, however. Many were finding the first dozen miles a bit challenging.

The most challenging part, several times in the single track, I knew I could make my climb only to have someone fail on theirs and leave me to hike up with them. For the first miles before the first aid station this was exhausting me. A couple of times I seriously questioned whether or not I was going to make it to the aid station at all. Finally arrived, I found my wind and met up with another single speeder, Mike from the Angry Catfish team, who was having back issues. I scarfed down some fruit and prepared a new skratch labs mix, showed him some stretches to get the pain out. Feeling better I jumped back into the saddle and found myself fast and feeling great, until one or two more climbs. My tire choice for this course was so off, it would only spin and nearly throw me off my bike. This was a let down. 

Another fun, technical descent prior to the second aid station put me in a bad place. What started off as fun and flowing turned into a deep rut disaster. Going all too fast I snagged my front tire against a high wall of a rut and threw myself over my bars. This was a beat down. I pick up my bike and cleared the way as I took a moment to sit and think this lack of sleep and mid move race over. I planned to finish in less than five hours. Maybe a little over. I heard the course backwards was challenging and longer, but trained for it. No matter what you plan for, there's always changes and let downs. At this point, I wasn't going to drop and needed to put my head back in. Cramps, crashed, washouts, bonking, tired, no sleep--- no excuses. I was not giving in. 

The cheer of the crowd at the second aid station was such a refreshing sound. The good jobs and positive comments on racing single speed was the best fuel. That positive energy will always keep you going. I snagged whatever was gluten-free, refilled my bottle and lubed my chain and hammered on. There were some climbs to come. The double track climbs weren't the worst of my day. The grades were just a little on the higher percentage for what I was used to at this distance. The dust in my lungs and the tired in my brain forced me to break. I yo-yoed with others that would pass me when I'd break. Staying strong through most of the longer climbs I managed to make lots of passes. The fire road descents and a couple techy drops, not so much. When it came to the super technical descents, complete with drops and other root varieties, I found that I was more enduro minded than some others. I managed to pull off some of the more technical feats. Hammering up more switchbacks in another round before finding my way to break for some amazing views of the canyon before the water station, I felt fortunate to just be here, breathing the fresh air and knowing I was forever changed after this day. I moved on. Hit the water station and emptied the accidental gross heed from my bottle and refilled it with fresh water. Popped a few enduralytes and moved on to another long climb, hoppi g to keep the constant cramps away. Beer and bacon was in my near future, then it was all downhill. 

Note the folks walking. There was zero shame in that all day for everyone. I wish I had taken any photos. 

I made it through the last of the longest climbs cramp-free and feeling positive. Got to the party that is a beer and slice of bacon. I was offered seconds, but grabbed an orange instead and hammered on. 

Totally beat down I got through the last gnarly miles and found pavement. A woman behind me shrieked with joy. We both agreed that it was a blast and wanted to go another round. Secretly, however, I've never been so happy to see pavement. Down the Titan road I went. Hammering my way only to be passed by several geared riders. A little bummed, but didn't care about anything but being wave to the finish. What's this!? Another steep climb through the neighborhood!? Yes please! Pounded past all of those that past me in the long descent out and made it to hit the downhill into town. Without realizing, another Minneapolis acquaintance, Paul Coe was seconds ahead of me. I was more focused on the hugs and kisses that awaited me. 

Tacos, beer and watching my son tear around on his strider made the 50 miles of torture that much better. After having a few minutes with friends I was leaving for Colorado and meeting new ones from my neighborhood, I was content. The lack of sleep didn't matter. The cramps piercing my muscle tissues were forgotten. All that mattered was the adventure all g the way, the stories after, handshakes and hugs. Human contact. That's what it's really about. In a world that had gone so disconnected and digital, it's nice to have a moment with people that experienced something so real with you. 

We may want to chase a clock or make it to the finish first sometimes, but in places like Spearfish, South Dakota, that stuff is out the window. So many people in front of me and so many people behind me all had something in common that day. We all had amazing stories to share. That's what the race is really about, no matter where you put yourself in the standings. 

I'll be back next year. We'll see if the sleep makes a difference. And yes, I'm doing it on a single speed El Mariachi. 

Now we're home in Colorado:

Next- trails, discoveries, climbing and the challenge of the new commute. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Getting Paranoid

My Apologies. I will no longer be posting a lot about my personal family life. As the internet grows, so do ways of obtaining a a person, or child's identity. I did choose to leave a couple posts up, because I feel they are relevant to the blog itself. For to protection and safety of my family I will be very picky about what I post from here on out. Call me paranoid, but it's something that came to mind recently and spooks me a little. We can't be too careful with our children.

That brings me to the ethical question of posting too many pics of our kids. It's hard to stay in contact with family, for sure, so the best resource is becoming social media. I have the largest love/hate relationship with it. More often, I hate social media. However, I use is as a great device for networking with cyclists, snowboarders and the companies that promote the sports. That's mainly my Twitter account. As for Facebook, that's strictly personal. However, I've felt it's become the biggest conversation killer. I hate hearing about what so and so said on Facebook. Whatever. You get my point.

Honestly, my point really is, let's drop out iPhones and stare at the world in front of us. There's too much reality getting by. Life happens outside of out social devices. I'm on a rant now.

Get outside, but when you can't, keep daydreaming about it.

Setting Goals not Resolutions and the Art of Making Changes

In this blog:
Babies times two
What Happened Last Year
Mountain Biking Colorado in December
Welcome back to the 18MPH blog

Welcome 2013! I welcome a new year always with hopes of reaching goals and getting out of the funk of the previous year's energy. However, on the contrary I am a firm believer that time is arbitrary and nothing but an invention to keep order in the chaos. With that said, time is a great tool for setting goals. I am a walking contradiction, indeed.

In 2012 we had the birth of our daughter, our son is growing to be quite the little human and we didn't get as much done as we had hoped. However, it's an amazing journey and experience of just learning  Since this is a blog about raising kids and being normal parents with abnormal activities and better than average lifestyles, I didn't get much writing done since that last entry. We have have been a little too busy baby wrangling. I didn't set too many goals for myself. Not much biking has been done, unless you count commuting to work everyday. Although there were some highlights and some ideas made.

When you have kids a lot get put on the back burner. Even yourself, however, it is important to still set out and make yourself active anyway possible. We have been doing this by getting in crossfit routines while the kids are napping. I've been doing a lot of squats while holding my son, because we both enjoy it. You have to stay fit. When I don't exercise or even get outside to play the lady of the house tells me I'm a grump and she can't be around me. It's this way for a lot of people. Breathing fresh air and being healthy and active is just as important as those kids.

Recently I was sent away for 5 days to Denver. There I worked a few days at a shop called Sol Tribe. As some of you know, my day job is body piercing and has been for a long-ass time. Going to this studio breathed new life into my career. Working there I felt as if I were a part of a family. Everyone worked together. A friend who works there as a tattoo artist, named Aries Rhysing is one amazing human. Clean living to the core. We share a lot in common. It was nice to have time to discuss so many things that I don't get to talk about where I currently work. Going there I packed mountain bike and snowboard gear. Unfortunately Aries had to work in the time I had to be out and about.

Colorado hadn't seen much for snow by this December in 2012. I set out to Golden Bike Shop, where I had a great selection of bikes to rent. at 45.00 you can't beat it. Niner, Santa Cruz, Salsa, Surly, Rocky Mountain, ETC. My favorites. It had snowed the night before, so instead of the Spearfish I set out on a Salsa Beargrease, a fatty race bike. I had only rode one fatbike previously a week before in Minneapolis. My friend, Rob's Surly Pugsley. No mountains for sure, but fun indeed.

first rest on the way to the trail

 I rode from the shop out to the Apex trailhead. Just about 5 mile up a paved path I actually needed a short rest. One goal came up, work on that VO2 Max stuff. The Beargrease and I arrived after only getting slightly lost. On to the trail I was stuck in a snowy valley. Slick though. The 45 nrth Husker Dü tires did a great job handling that rocky and snowy climb. The switchbacks up felt a little sluggish compared to what my niner could do, but the bike still held on to some difficult ones. Once on top, I felt charged for the downhill. I already knew this was going to be a fun bike. It bobbled some, so I let a little pressure out of the tires and that smoothed out the speedy descent. Rolling off that trail, I had found myself both joyed I got to experience that, but saddened that I don't have that in my backyard anymore, like we did in New Mexico.

 first big climb over. Realized I haven't been in the mountains for a while. Damn that's a sexy fatty.

Once returned to Minneapolis I had a head full of ideas and a heart that belongs to the mountains. This year I have a few goals.

The snowy to dry, winding descent

The goals and major changes
• I will be leaving my current job at Saint Sabrina's sometime in the late spring and attend school for surgical technology. Eventually turn that into an RN, working with Orthopedic surgeons. To be honest, though, if I could simply support my family by working for a bike shop or resort, I'd just do that. But I know that turning my career around is whats best for the family and we'll be capable of traveling where ever there's an OR.

• Better diet. No matter how much you work out and ride you never feel truly good unless you put true nutrition back into your body. After my ride in Golden, I devoured pizza and beer. I've never felt crappier. Later I was recovered with delicious sushi. I haven't been into pizza since. Nutrition blogs to come. There's going to be more on training and nutrition as I go. We tried paleo recently. I made my own bars and they were amazing. We did feel super clean and energized. It just hasn't been financially sound for us just yet to keep it going. We do need to make some sacrifices and get back on it.

• Do every race single speed. Just because I can, I like to suffer and try new things.

• Work in a bike shop. Something I've always wanted to do and it can help me stay happy transitioning out of piercing. Mainly I'd like to make sales to people that are making healthy choices for themselves and transitioning to better living or living life by bike.

• Get the kids outside all of the time. I want to raise these kids to respect their bodies as well as the outdoors. They're going to be cooped up a lot in the winter. I want them out at any chance.

• More creative time. The boy already loves to draw. I encourage that. I've never drawn so many moose and bears before. It's fun.

• Get mad at all the negativity life offers a lot less. I'm already off to a good start. The way I've started, is to see it as every negative has a positive. You're put to a test. If you can suffer through this, you'll eventually be rewarded. dwelling on the negative in a situation only brings more negative. (I've had to let a few people in my life go this year because they were too negative. I'm sad about this, but I have less negativity to deal with.)

• Less gear that I don't need. Or even having the desire to want the stuff I don't really need. Every person that bikes, runs, rides, skis, climbs ETC says, "I need that!" We have a sickness. We need to be humble in the fact that we already do something amazing. If you already have something, enjoy what you have. Even if it's not the latest and greatest, holding on to it and using it can only make you stronger later. Mentally and physically. For example, riding a heavier bike with crappy components will make you a stronger rider (and mechanic) when you finally get to having the latest and greatest weight-weenie carbon blah blah. I'm riding rigid, steel and single 29er this year. But yes, I feel the need for Industry Nine wheels and a Niner RDO fork. I've earned it. Just sayin'. I'll wait on my full sus and be more of a bad ass. I think riding the 99er and the Dakota 5-0 with a rigid single speed can also bring respect from the weight-weenies, too. Splurge on some things. Save on others. I'm not in need of any power meters or 1x11 shifting.

• New workouts. New routines. VO2 max training, like I said, thorough interval running and biking. It's possible to get your cardio's ass kicked even when you don't have a lot of time. Yes, I said running. I'm going to do that more, too. We hope we can find some free time to get some swimming in as well.

• Finally, find a wise, financially sound way to move this family back to the mountains. Mom said I would miss it if I moved away. As always, moms are right. When we moved to Minnesota we had the intention of keeping it as home base and traveling often. The family life was not expected, but I can't imagine life without it. We don't make a lot of money to travel out all of the time. The Breck Epic is on my bucket list of things to do, so why not just live near by. Anytime I'm in the mountains all of the stresses in life melts off. I feel more fit than I ever have. I'm always positive and motivated to do anything and feel zero apathy. This leads me to where I want to be the following year to keep setting goals for me and my family. I'd like to eventually take my skills as a snowboarder and be an instructor or use my knowledge of health and safety for the National Ski Patrol. Bombing avalanche zones always seemed up my alley anyways. I threw away the desk job notion long ago.

Yes, you can be 34 and still say, when I grow up I want to...

If you only set resolutions, you're only going to be disappointed. It takes more than a year to change something about yourself. Instead achieve something you never thought possible. That way you can only keep evolving.

At home riding on cold, snowy days. Another goal: shave and get time for a haircut. I'm looking burley.

A note about the bike and the bike shop:

Salsa makes some of the most solid bikes I've come across. Straight to the point, but still innovative. The Beargrease I rode is one of Salsa's latest rides. It's a lighter, more stripped down version of the Mukluk. I'd really be into this bike for riding local trails in the snow, sandy days in the river bottoms and perhaps an Arrowhead 135 race. If I do obtain a fat bike in the future, though, I'd like it more adventure ready. Mukluk would be the way to go for that it seems. However, this thing gave me as much speed and float as any full suss I've been on. Golden Bike shop, Golden, CO has a lot to choose from for demo and rental, and very helpful. You can leave the shop and take your pick of mountains to ride.

Melinda and I will be on a pair of El Mariachi bikes this year (mine's the limited edition SS) check out Salsa's gear at They do travel- A lot and show off they're stuff. A Horse Thief and Mukluk Ti are on my list. I'm also interested in the Warbird as I'd like to get into more road/gravel adventure riding.

Keep evolving.

If you have any goals you'd like to share. Let me know!

Let's share some ideas.

Monday, August 27, 2012

You Know That Feeling...

Everything is about to change and get more intense and amazing, you know, that feeling. Do you know what I'm talking about? Even when you cash in on the single life, step away from the job with 3 days off midweek, those days spent biking the east mountains of New Mexico or the San Juan ranges in southern Colorado. There were perfect powder days in Taos, Santa Fe, Crested Butte and so on. Yup, those days are cashed in and spent forever in the memories. You now have a family and that is forever gone, never to return again. After having those experiences it was time to move home to Minnesota and explore all new adventures in a place all too familiar. Back to the old job in the city I'm from, Minneapolis. Minneapolis is a beautiful place where everything is accessible by bike. Lots of trail and micro beers, too! Ride to and from work, to the grocery store, long rides to the burbs, and all around park exploration. Sure, I'm not in the mountains any more, but it sure it good to be home and raising a family where there's great music and stuff to do.

About a month ago I sold off my beloved Niner EMD that was built and tuned all by me, for my first time. I gained an enormous amount of experience putting it together and working and racing on it. That bike was a game changer. However, with a daughter on the way and need for more space I had to give in and let it go. It's material and those things can be replaced. The important thing is that my kids aren't going to start their lives in a modern condo waste of space. These boxes that lay before me will be unpacked in a new home next week. Melinda starts her maternity and maybe our baby girl to be will hold off on being born for at least a couple more weeks. This is the feeling on complete change that feels so good. 

Over the coming winter I plan to work Sundays as a snowboard instructor to gain a little extra cash and it won't really take away from time with my family. The extra cash will be saved for the coming 2013 cycling season and some family travel to Tahoe for some snowboarding. Yes, we're saving for the kids, too. Don't be silly! Melinda wants to take up mountain biking and she's in charge of the budget. She's more than ready to have her body back after giving it up to two kids in the last two years we've been in Minnesota. She barely got any snowboarding done last year.  

Just because you're starting a family doesn't mean sacrifice to what you love outside of that family. You include it. Integrate the two. Melinda and I have had hardly anytime doing what we love with just each other, but can't imagine our lives without our son and our new daughter, due anytime now. 

Our training begins this winter. The trainers on the bikes in the family area of the basement and crossfit stuff in the garage along with the workbench. Other than training rides and just getting out to enjoy we don't have to separate home from what we have goals for next year. Melinda would like to complete the Lutsen 99er, but thinking more the 39er course. She'd also like to do another marathon and some off road trail run races. I'd like to get back at the 99er race with a much better time, the Dakota Five-O, some Minnesota series, but ultimately get on the Breck Epic. Sponsorship anyone? I've noticed that a lot of pros are in there mid 30s so there's still hope for me. Right?

The Breck epic appeals to me because I think it's becoming more of an outlet for suffering and achieving. My life is great. Living in Minnesota is great. This family is wonderful and I couldn't ask for a better partner. However, we greatly miss those mountains. I've spent some time in Breckenridge, CO and it touched my heart. Something about old mining towns with high altitudes. We're probably here to stay in Minneapolis for a while, so spending 6 days in these conditions and suffering makes it worth while. 

With all of this stuff there's a cost. We eat organic, sometimes eat out a little too much, and our kids need things. A lot of things. So how can we afford to do this stuff with out having a ton of money? That question does make me lose sleep. Is any of this important? Should we just bag up these ideas and goals and pinch every penny we can? Probably, but then where's the experience to share with your children and perhaps inspire them to do something great. One of those kids may get so inspired that they go pro and win a gold medal or something. Thoughts of that aside it's simply about getting outside. Enjoying life and sharing these experiences and inspiring each other. We don't buy a lot of things that we don't need. We don't even own a television. No cable here! Simple and humble is how we like it and it's how we're going to save for the future. There will be some improvements in our pay and things we can budget better. You don't have to be a rich kid to have fun. We're far from that, trust me. Some things are just more important than the latest expensive electronic gadget or going out to eat all of the time. That inspiration to each other in our family is what's important. 

Melinda's ability to pick up and leave Albuquerque with me, get through two pregnancies, run a marathon and just be a great parent has inspired me greatly. Just us being parents takes more endurance than any long distance anything. Just having the ability to hammer out this blog is pretty amazing with all that is going on. I've got some cleaning and packing to do. I'm sure Oliver will be up with a vengeance for some power playing soon. I wish I had a quarter of that kid's energy. 

So a lot is about to change again and it's going to be more awesome. 

A note on the bikes, since this is partially a blog about bikes and that sort of thing... 

Melinda will be most likely on a Salsa Spearfish now that it comes in extra small. We also have our eye on the new Niner Jet 9 carbon for her, too. Also available in XS. We had her set on a Niner EMD since that was the best 29er available in her size, but things have changed now that Salsa opened the flood gates to new sizing geometry in 29ers. I rode a 2013 Spearfish at a Salsa demo a week ago and loved it, but I still have love for the Niner bikes. I'm tossing ideas of a Salsa El Mariach Ti for the single speed availability. The Salsa Spearfish 1 stays on my sort list. I like the stiff rear triangle and low maintaining of the single pivot. The Niner Air 9 RDO because it's light and mega fast. Not to mention I love riding fully rigid. Finally on that list is the Jet 9, because I rode one last summer and felt indestructible. Pretty sure any of those bikes will get the job done. I have all winter to contemplate that debate. For sure I'm already planning to purchase the Surly Krampus for the fun fall/winter bike for next year. That's not even available yet. I'll be writing reviews as time allows and when I get test rides.

For now we're looking forward to some home improvements, grill outs, gardening and time with our children. Life is good and getting better.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Lutsen 99er and the Curse of Endurance Addiction (a race report of a newbe)

So, here I sit in a quiet house, wearing my Twin Six bibs, digesting tacos and yogurt, hoping to get some miles on the single speed CX bike, on this beautiful day. Since my last entry I did all that I said would happen. My very first endurance race of 99 miles (what turned into 104er). I'll get to what turned it into more than the 99 miler. Since then I've become more addicted to the thought of pedaling through the suffer and making it to the finish line.

Race reportish thing:

For training I hardly put in nearly enough miles. The weather would always crap on me or I'd end up with some mechanical. One day, climbing the hills of Duluth I had the worst of mechanical problems. Nothing I did would fix my situation. Of course I fix the problem when I returned to Minneapolis. Every other time I'd venture out on a training ride I'd run into bad weather. Before I knew it it was race day. That day almost didn't happen. 

There was a week of non stop rain in the Minnesota Arrowhead. From Duluth to Grand Marais was underwater. I'd booked a hotel room and couldn't get through to cancel in Grand Marais. All the lines and internet was out. We were only a day from race day. The race director hadn't posted any cancelations, so I moved to send him an email about the situation. Turns out the race was on. They only had to reroute a portion of the course to loop twice. That loop was to be the worst 2 hours of my life. 

Upon arrival on that Friday evening I was registering very last minute. Not the last to register though, I'm sure. I was 304 and I'm pretty sure the 99er crowd ended up over 350. After registration the only thing on my mind was getting rest, proper nutrition and feeding my family. We were on a tight budget, so we brought food. Needless to say, I wasn't getting a huge carbo-meal, nor enough rest. It happened to be the same week as the big piercing conference in Las Vegas and I held down the fort while the boys ran off to learn some piercing knowledge and buy some beautiful jewels for the shop. So, I clocked in several hours of work and hardly any miles on the bike that week.

After 4-5 hours of rest I was up at 6:00am loading up my goodies and putting on the chamois cream. I had a little miso/garlic broth, two bananas, 2 heaping spoons full of coconut oil and a joint health emergen-C for breakfast. On the car ride down to Lutsen mountains I had a probar. I was good to go. After checking the shifting, air and brakes it was time to get to the finish line. My first thought, WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? I'm on a rigid 1x9 geared Niner EMD, with one older tire (far from pro) surrounded by pro athletes and I haven't been able to train much. Before I knew it, hundreds of us were zooming down to highway 61 north and heading up a 5-1/2 mile climb to our muddy doom.

At the top of our cat 3 ascent, we turned on to our first off road section of XC ski/snowmobile trail. Most of the course was to be this, dirt road, jeep trail, very muddy and rocky gnar and a little bit of greasy single track. For the first 15 miles I kept up with the very best of them and carried up to the top of steep, rocky climb ahead of most of the racers. As we turned on to the gravel and I though I was about to haul ass, I discovered I was getting a flat on my rear tire. I figured I could pump enough air in from the pump in my bag to get a seal. No avail. Sealant and water were just spraying out of a puncture I had located on the tire. A few racers stopped to give me a hand, one with a Co2 pump blasted my tire up to a high pressure and we just watched the sealant blow out. I thanked the great people who attempted my rescue and proceeded to get a tube installed in record time. Unfortunately I wasn't carrying Co2 for some stupid reason. My little dumb pump got my tire up to a 15 psi and I was off. Another racer stopped to use my pump, who also got a flat early on. After that I was off, only to find trouble with the control of my rear tire.

After another attempt I pumping I figured I had wasted too much time and made some poor decisions and should get a move on. All alone. From the start of the race I wasn't alone. I had to be with the top 10 riders. Everyone of them so positive that it was going to fuel me through the next 84 miles ahead. Nope alone. Just how I ride most days anyway. I carried on through the gravel to find a cut off with arrows leading me to some nice, wet rock in the trees. I was hauling ass through this section. Low tire pressure works well in this terrain. After a few miles I felt a little odd. I hadn't seen anybody for some time. I knew I wasn't in dead last. There was no way. There should have been tire tread around me in the mud. Oh bother, Whinny the Pooh would say in this situation. I was starting to feel like Eeyor. There was a lot of doubt about finishing at this point. Doing the only thing I could do was to turn around, carry my ass up the hills I just bombed down, in the wet, muddy rocks and hope I make it to the aid station for air.

Once I traveled back on the course I noticed that I followed the arrows painted on the ground, but the flags were pointing the other direction. Those flags were knocked over. There should have been a marshall to direct racers at this point. Angry, I turned down the once grassy path, completely destroyed and turned into a mud pit. Here I think the low pressure saved me. Eventually I made it back on the gravel and to the first stop at the aid station. Freewheel bike mechanics greeted me with a tire pump, blasted the pressure up to sealing my tire once again. I ate a bite of a pro bar, refilled my water and I was off to my first lap of two in this section. Here I got word that other racers fell further off course and just arrived after me. They were about to do the 109er.

After keeping up with this group for several miles, I decided to just take it easy and cruise through the rest of the race. There was no way I was going to gain the energy to catch up at all. I wanted to finish in eight hours, but at this point there was no chance. Two hours of time wasted from a flat fix, riding low pressure, falling off course and having a few mechanicals with my chain that my jump stop wasn't preventing. Well, here goes a long ass bike ride I thought.

Every time I passed spectators I got filled with positive energy. It was better feeling than any ounce of water (which the aid station ran out of on my second lap), GU gel or any bar could fill. Even the racers that were passing me on their second lap were cheering me on. This kept you on the bike. If you didn't hear these words and you were in my shoes, you'd be calling for a ride back to Sven and Ole's to eat your weight in pizza and cry in your beer.

I found myself passing others in the race after mile 60. I rode with them, cheered them on and pushed harder. When arriving to another aid station, I stopped for just a quick water fill and some tablets and rode on. All I could think of at this point is Melinda and Oliver waiting for me at the finish. Oh, did I mention I didn't pack my phone? Melinda had in mind that I'd be done with this thing in 7-8 hours. I hit that 8 hour mark at mile 85.

Hammering on in the last 15 miles I had been hanging with a group of riders that also fell victim to the mislabeling of the fork in the road. However, I needed that hug and kiss. Melinda needed to know that I was okay and that I was going to finish. When I saw two little girls cheering me on I got severely choked up. Melinda had been pregnant with our second child, which I just found out was going to be a girl. As the tears of joy welled I hammered on the pedals harder. The brake rotors were making a strange noise, mud had filled my shoes, but I needed to ride faster while I was on the gravel.

Meeting a lot of nice people as I passed them I felt like we were all in this together. We were all going to get out of it together. I met a local from Grand Marais, Chad Byers, we kept a great pace together and shared some stories. It was really cool, the energy you got from everyone. It made for a great experience. Letting Chad pass on once we made it to a very technical slick section of trail, I went in to demolish this trail mode. Nothing would stop me. This nasty, rooty, rocky single track is what I thrive on. Until I got to a beautiful rapid river crossing. Again I got emotional. Damn the last 92 miles for making me crazy! After I shook out of that daze I carried on through the rest of the nasty single track.

Getting to a sweet downhill section as I entered back to the realm of the chair lifts at Lutsen, I heard people say, YOU'RE RIDING RIDGID!? GO GET IT! On to the last climb. I met a fellow who was hiking his bike up and he wasn't looking too well. Stopping to help him was the only logical thing to do. He told me that he was fine. I offered food, water, electro tablets, but he didn't want my help. His wife came down to his rescue, who was racing with him. So, I hopped back on and ground my knees to a pulp in the last few miles of climbing.

Before I was anywhere near done with the climb, I heard the loud cheer of the people at the finish. Pedaling faster, off the saddle and my fist in the air I knew I had finally made it. Only 2 hours off my goal time, Melinda and Oliver greeted me. I've only felt this happy once in my life. That was on March 21st, the year prior.

Next year Melinda wants to ride the 39er portion of the 99er. My goal is to stomp it out in 7 hours or less. I'm hoping in just about 6 hours. I can learn from my mistakes. Training for it has already begun. Towards the end of next Summer, I'd also like to complete the Breck Epic. 6 days of stage racing.

Now, we're about to have Ella. Two kids. That's the biggest endurance challenge there is.

To more adventures.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Walk For Animals

This week my partner/fiancé, Melinda lost a friend of 19 years. When Melinda was 11 her dad brought her a cat. Unable to give him a proper name during a vet visit, she named him, Boots. A fitting name for a black and white cat, with a heart shaped nose and little goatee like marking on his chin. Boots was a hearty cat that traveled a lot with Melinda. He even went along on family vacations. I'm telling all of this through secondhand information that she explained better in her blog, Owl Always Love you, writings of our life as a family together.

Boots has been suffering for a length of time. Unable to keep food down and forgot how to use the litter box properly it was inevitable that we had to say goodbye to a friend. He was still spunky and would still play with our younger cat, Yossarian. Well, he'd play without choice. The happiest part to this story is that Boots lived a long, full life and was loved by the same person for so many years. It's not rare that this happens, but the people of the Humane Society are happy when they see this. They peacefully put Boots to rest and he no longer suffers. 

It's hard to think of the many animals that don't have this love or this kind of happy, long life. So many of them need our help, even if we can't take them all home with us we can still support them. My friend, Gini is doing the Twin Cities Walk for Animals. She has reached beyond her goal, but you can still send your support if you like. 

Heart nose and goatee chin. 

Oliver, already an animal lover saying farewell to his kitty friend

Though I won't miss him peeing on my bike shoes, I'll miss is his snoring, snuggles and abrasive meow. We love you, fuzzy critter. I hope there's lots of blankets to snore on where you are. 

Remember to always let your animals know how much you love them and never take their cuddles for granted. They love you no matter what. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

2 wheel Addiction, Release and Coping... MN MTB Races and Other Oddities

So the addiction worsens. Finally, I've drank from the competition Kool-Aid. As if the need to just ride wasn't bad enough. The masses of riders in Minnesota only speak of racing this time of year. It's insane, the amount of people I talk to everyday that race road, cross and MTB here. The Minnesota Mountain Bike Series is kicking off next month and I've decided to join up in some of the races, including the Freewheel Frolic, at Afton Alps. The main race I planned out this year in the Lutsen 99er. Unable to get enough torture just commuting to work and taking long rides on Sundays, I need to destroy my already aging body on more aggressive single track. Der! Why must we do this to ourselves!?

What chemical imbalance do cyclists have in their brains to keep this sick, sadistic part of our thought process kicking? It's simple. As children it starts. We innocently raced each other on bikes down the streets of our respective neighborhoods and it evolved into something greater. Today, kids get real dirt comps with the running bikes and their own discipline in the races their parents attend. When I was a whee boy, in the Suburbs of Saint Paul, I attended Little Canada elementary. Behind the school, we had a large wooded area with all kinds of trail. We used to get on our Huffy bikes (if you were rich it was Haro) and pedal through those trails. No idea, this was to be mountain biking. We found pump tracks and single tracks in Como Park and fought to see who was the fastest. For only a few of us, we couldn't get enough. Only now, it's more serious of an addiction and more painful. Not to mention, more costly. My tires alone are worth as much as that Huffy I pedaled through the woods of the LC. Is it possible that those tracks still exist? I would hope so.

Personally, my job as a body piercer I see people get this same adrenal high from a simple piercing. One of my co-workers hangs from hooks, others get exercise watching football from the comfort of their TV rooms. It's the same feeling in different ways for every person. Even online shopping can score you a buzz. Personally, that piercing and tattoo stuff enough for me any longer. My body needs this torturous burn in my quads after 50 miles of single track. Perhaps it's also the need to get the giggly, whiney teenaged know-it-alls out of my head after my week of work. (I know, there's worse jobs.) For some, I have a dream job. Of course I dream of working for something like Burton Snowboards or some other fantasy land job in the mountains, but this is where I landed and it's been pretty good to me. Still a day at the office anywhere can make anyone nuts. So we need that release.

All work and no adventures make me a little crazy.

So, the reality escape is what probably makes mountain biking so appealing to so many people. It's time spent in to woods to calm, and get the heart pumping, too. Personally, I've been a snowboarder for well over half of my life. There's nothing better than taking in a beautiful view, then pounding out turns in a 60º slope of powder, dropping some pillows and getting through a skinny couloir. So what to do when the snow melts? Each year the drive to do more, faster and be a better rider gets more intense. The urges never seem to leave the mindset. Like some drugs, you can't get enough and it only gets worse. Riding the mountain bike is now the closest thing I have to replacing the backcountry snowboarding. It really works the mind and body in the same motions. A major difference is owning a climb up some gnarly switchback to claim a gorgeous view. It's worth the burn.

When I moved back to Minnesota I was going to give up on the mountain bike and just build a commuter and be just that. It's too expensive, not going to be the same as riding in the mountains. I'm over it. Once I found that Minnesota has a strong MTB community and a cares for the trails I had to jump back on. Figuring it wouldn't be as challenging as riding Colorado, Washington or New Mexico. Until I had a couple rides at some of the local trails, north to Duluth and the Cuyuna range. Riding these spots spiked my interest. It's not riding in the mountains, but it's still challenging in some places.

As if just putting in 50 miles in an afternoon with a couple friends or by myself wasn't enough...

Besides the Lutsen 99er challenge in June, there's a whole list of races by the sponsored by Peace Coffee

2012 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Race Schedule

2012 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Race Schedule
5/20/2012      Freewheel Frolic, Afton Alps, Hastings, MN
6/03/2012      Bluff Riders Charge, Mankato, MN
6/17/2012      Red Wing Classic, Red Wing, MN
7/08/2012      Dirt Spanker, Mt. Du Lac, Superior, WI
7/22/2012      Buck Hill Birch Bump, Burnsville, MN
7/29/2012      Single Track Attack, Elk River, MN
8/12/2012      Border Crossing,  River Falls, WI
8/19/2012      The Great Hawk Chase, Duluth, MN
9/02/2012      Laddie’s Loppet Stage Race, Maplelag Resort, MN
9/23/2012      Revolution’s Single Track Escape, St. Cloud, MN
9/30/2012      St. Croix Valley Woolly, St. Croix Falls, WI

Cuyuna weekend warrior!

It's safe to say that riding in places like Cuyuna and the Duluth area is a lot like riding the Pacific Northwest and simply enjoyable. Competing or not, it's getting out and enjoying yourself. Nothing compares to the joy of winding thorough the trees, up and down hills and getting away from whatever stresses you. It brings you back to those innocent days of just pedaling around the block with your friends. Now, I see families getting on the trails and spending time outside together. It's not always the addiction to speed and adrenaline. So speed freaks, watch out for those people just enjoying the woods. So everyone on two wheels, regardless of ability and what bike they're on, that cycling is for everyone. I have to remember that at times myself BIcycles mountain, road, track, cross, commuter or comfort, it's always been cool. 

We have MORC and the IMBA to thank for these places to play on two wheels without the hassle of a hiker yelling at us. Give to them if you give a damn about where you ride. 

Get outside and play!