Thursday, June 25, 2009
For some reason I haven't quite figured out, I decided to remove about 70 years of cycling innovation from my bike (except the hydraulic disc brakes). The gears came off and I've gotten the taste of the single life. It's hard to explain why I did it, why I like it, or why I'm thinking of a dedicated singlespeed bike.
It has taken a lot of the thinking out of biking. Either you pedal or you walk. If the road starts to go up, you pedal harder or you push. Somebody more clever than me described riding a singlespeed as "99% rider, 1% bike and 100% more fun". I never "got it" until I tried it. I'm looking forward to trying it on dedicated singletrack trails.
Anyway, here is how it went (the abbreviated version):
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
We're moving. We've been looking to move to another place for awhile now. We had been looking at a lake place, but it turned out to be cost-prohibitive. We then told ourselves that we wouldn't look for another place until at least the end of summer. Of course, we kept looking and found a nice place in a great neighborhood that just happens to be close to my frequent biking partner, Big D.
We decided to go for it. We made an offer, put our house on the market and unbelievably, it sold in 6 days. We are moving from our place on July 3rd and move into the new place on the 10th.
What's that you ask? There is a week between the two dates? I can't believe we overlooked that. Oh wait, isn't that what the two "professionals" that were hired to get this thing put together would handle? I guess not. What it means is that we are staying in a local hotel (on the realtor's tab) for 5 nights between closing dates. M will love it since it has a pool and our friends are helping a ton by having us over for dinner a couple of nights to get us out of the hotel. Rant over, lessons learned and once we're into our new house, all will be good.
We are busy packing and so the riding has been limited. Fortunately, I was able to get out today for some gravel. New gravel was ridden and some new possibilities for our tentative Fall gravel race/ride Big D and I are thinking of organizing. Details to follow.
PS: I've decided to start including random photos on this blog. Why? Because I want to, that's why and often I have pics that don't fit with the post otherwise but I want to share them. Here's one that would have fit yesterday's post better:
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
M had her first taste of swimming lessons the last two weeks.
She loved it. She is very much like her Mother, and so not like her Father when it comes to swimming and enjoying the water. Wife was born and raised in Rock County MN, a county with no natural lakes. From this she loves the water and swimming, was a lifeguard at the local pool, and taught swimming lessons. I was born and raised in Becker County, MN a county with several hundred lakes (135 square miles of water, 9.32% of the total). From this, I learned to swim but more on the order of survival and not enjoyment, would rather look at the water than be in it, and I drive the boat rather than be pulled by it.
Meredith is sitting here on my lap and wants to tell you what she liked about swimming lessons:
- Noodle choochoo train with the other kids
- The girl teachers and the other kids
- Playing at swimming lessons
- Bake a pizza in the water, and the cupcake and a cookie in the water
- Blowing bubbles
- Sweeping and ice cream scooping
She ended up passing the class and already is talking about next time she will get to go swimming. It will be soon with our uncoming 5 day stay in a local hotel. That story will be told later.
I'm glad she likes swimming so much and needless to say her Mom is very proud.
Monday, June 22, 2009
It's been a busy month and I've had great intention to get some blog posts up but haven't taken the time. So here's the deal; over the next several days I'll post up some of these posts I've had in mind the last several weeks. I figure by announcing them, then I'll have to since all six of you readers would be disappointed if I didn't...I think.
Anyway, here's some of the upcoming posts:
M's swimming lessons
The Big Conversion
The first ride as a Convert
A state park visit
Monday, May 25, 2009
I was able to get out the other day. The first ride since Almanzo. It felt good to be back on the bike. Big D was sick, so it was a solo ride and perfect weather. Enjoy the pics.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
We knew that the race up till this point had been easy, relatively speaking. Sure there were some hills, but the wind helped with those. What we were waiting for was the turn back to Rochester. We got a little taste of the wind between St. Charles and Chatfield and on to Spring Valley, but the valleys and hills were the highlight of that stretch. There is some beautiful country in Southeast Minnesota and we saw it from a bike seat. There is no better way to see it.
I could go on and on about the hills. We went from grinding up them in the lowest gear at 5-7 mph to white-knuckling it down at 30+ mph. We of course liked the downs but as the race went on, rather than purely enjoying the downhills, there was a voice in the back of your mind reminding you of the next grinding uphill.
There was a time cutoff in Spring Valley, 63 miles into the race. We had to be there by 2pm. We showed up at 2:10. We were hoping as we came into town that Chris would change that given the wind and the fact that there were still several riders behind us. Fortunately, that was the case. The new cut-off time when we rolled in was 2:30. We made it.
We checked in, got the second set of tulip cards and headed for the gravel rider's favorite restaurant: the gas station. The Kwik Trip in Spring Valley did brisk business that day as I'm sure just about every racer stopped there. After refilling water bottles and the Camelbak, enjoying some chocolate milk and a ham and cheese sandwich, we were on our way once again.
Anybody who rides longer distance knows that it can take many miles to get the legs again after stopping. Unfortunately, we wouldn't have a chance to ease our legs into it after our stop. We were now facing the full teeth of the wind out of town with no end in sight. It was incessant. I thought I was going to blow-up. The legs didn't have it anymore. It reminded me of the last few miles of the Fat Tire 40, except we had 40 miles still to go. Big D was riding strong and I was trying to get any draft off of him I could. The wind was too strong and we were going slow enough that it was hard to find the sweet-spot. That is to say nothing about the fact he was just about riding me off his wheel.
After a couple of miles, I needed to stop. I felt bad about that as Big D was riding well, but he was kind enough to comply with my wish. I needed my iPod. I needed something to drown out the howl in my ears from the wind. I needed something to take my mind off of 40 miles of wind and hills. I needed something so I could go inside myself. I needed some music.
Bruce Springsteen, Wilco, The Gaslight Anthem, Kings of Leon, Dire Straits, Steve Earle, Coldplay. I'd like to thank all of them for the last 40 miles.
The next 25 miles are a blur of gravel, wind, hills, music. We kept eating, drinking and pedaling. We met and rode with a woman from Rochester. We would ride together for a short time, she would stop to walk a bit, and then would pass us again when we would stop. We leap-frogged each other until the finish. Mentally, for me, it was helpful to see another suffering as much as us. That doesn't sound very nice, and I wish she wasn't suffering, but it was nice to know we weren't alone out there.
As we neared Rochester, our spirits rose, knowing we would finish this thing. There was even a short section with the wind; it was like Christmas morning. One last push into the wind on gravel and then pavement to the finish line, including a paved downhill at 35 mph. Hearing the cowbell and cheers after 11 hours on the bike was perfect. Shaking the hand of the organizer, Chris, after finishing was pure class on his part. Never at a race had I had that kind of appreciation for finishing 62nd out of 66. Again, pure class and it shows his love of cycling and in particular, the Almanzo.
A couple of beers (thanks Summit), a water bottle for finishing, a congratulations and thanks to pedalgrl, and a final thanks to Chris and we were off. It was a fun day in the end. I learned a bit more about how far I could push myself, both physically and more importantly, mentally. On the ride home, Big D and I were already talking about next year's race as well as other gravel adventures ahead.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
We picked up the race packets the night before, which by the way were excellent. It was the first indication that this race was much more than anticipated. Chris Skogen, the excellent race director, runs a very professional race. I only wish all the events that I enter were even half as well run. The most incredible thing is that the entry fee was $0. I could go on, but won't; just be sure I'll be back to enjoy Chris's attention to detail and his obvious love of cycling.
The night went by quickly. I'm sure the busy week contributed to me sleeping so well. We were up and off for some coffee and breakfast. We decided to pass on the pancakes that Chris was cooking up at his place (I know Dad, turning down pancakes is hard to believe). We got back to the hotel, ate breakfast and started to get things together for the race start at 8:00. I won't go into the details except we didn't cross the start line, just the two of us, until 8:10 or so. It involved leaking Camelbak bladders, tough to fit gear, and a broken seatbag I'm proud to say we were able to patch back together with a zip-tie.
The tulip notes got us through town without incident and soon we were on what we came for - the gravel. The course started with a prelude to the hills we would see later in the day. It was a relatively steep, long, and steady climb out of town. It was the first time of many that day when I would see 5mph on my cycling computer.
Once we were on top of the climb we felt what would turn out to be the good and the bad of the rest of the day: the wind. It was sustained in the mid to upper 20's mph with gusts up to the upper 30's mph, all from the NW. We knew what we were going to be in for on the return leg. All cyclists, runners, and cross-country skiers know that if you have a choice, you choose to start into the wind and enjoy the tailwind on the return leg. Unfortunately, we had no choice today so we decided to forget about the wind and enjoy the ride.
We enjoyed the wind all the way to St. Charles and then on to Chatfield. The bike set-up worked well and once again I can't say enough about the Crosshairs. It was comfortable, fast, efficient, and fun.
We slowly reeled in small groups of riders, but our goal was simple: we just wanted to finish our first gravel hundo. Because of that, we tried to conserve our energy and continued to remember to enjoy ourselves. But we weren't ignorant to the fact that once we turned back towards Rochester, the sh*t would hit the fan.
We started to get a taste of what was to come with the Westerly turn out of Chatfield. A little appetizer, so to speak. We were about 40 miles into this little adventure of ours and knew that the last 60+ miles would take a much bigger bite out of us physically. What we didn't count on was how big the bite would be on us mentally.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
It's hard to try to put down in words the Almanzo experience. I could just tell you the facts, try to describe the route and wind, try to explain the places we went - both physically and mentally, or some variation of the above. I've tried to package the race in my own mind these last few days without much luck.
The week prior is a bit of a blur. It was one of the busier weeks with a trip to the Cities for Mother's day on Sunday, a trip back to the Cities for a Bruce Springsteen concert with my brother (it was awesome, by the way), bike club responsibilities, work, Wife out of town, etc, etc. I only got on the bike once which was less than ideal. I spent most of the week in between the above responsibilities obsessing over the details with Big D. I guess just like any big goal that is upcoming the planning and anticipation is part of the fun.
Finally got the bike and myself packed Friday afternoon just before leaving for Rochester. I had decided to try to keep everything off of my back as I had done previous rides with an overloaded pack and it didn't turn out well. I had my water in a Camelbak bladder in my frame pack, my Endurolytes and camera in the top tube pack, Perpetuem in the water bottles, and Hammer Gel flasks in my jersey pockets. It worked really well and a system that I will repeat on future adventures.
We arrived in Rochester around 9:30 or so, just enough time to grab a couple of beers at Newt's bar downtown Rochester. They were tasty, but looking back, we should of been packing and preparing bikes for the morning instead. Oh well, it all worked out in the end.
Coming up: the start and the easy leg of the race.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
M was quite the helper today. She picked dandelions, washed her wagon, and helped her Mom plant flowers. She also helped me pick out the Mom's day present, card and wash the car. She'll sleep well tonight.
Almanzo is now only one week away. I can't wait. I got in a nice road ride today. It was a little brisk but was able to knock off 44 miles and felt really good.
Hope you enjoy the pics of our little helper.
The two green thumbsJRA
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Big D and I got in a final gravel ride today. 26 miles and we both felt very good. We are confident that we will finish this thing and still have enough in the tank to converse with the other nutjobs doing this race.
Big D's Almanzo set-up
We rode the upcoming Gravel Grinders ride/race loop. It is a mix of hills and flat, good gravel and bad. We're thinking the last Sunday in May will be the first ride/race for the Gravel Grinders. Should be fun.
Otherwise, got the lawn mowed. Man, that is not my favorite activity, but it's looking up. My in-laws are moving here and my Father-in-law has no immediate need for his riding mower. I say "rider" but this thing is just short of being a tractor. It is zero-turn, 50 or so inch cut. What takes me 1:15 now will take me 20 minutes plus some trimming after getting that beast. I can't wait. Looks like more riding time to me.
Mom came over for dinner. Nice to see her. She said she was missing us, and that is likely true, but it is M who she really wants to see. Wife and I are ok with that. Had a nice dinner.
Another pic of M: