Thursday, July 27, 2006

Almost ready...I think.

The bike is good to go. I installed a new rear derailleur, chain, and shifters today, all SRAM. No bell though. I couldn't find one I liked. The bike is cleaner than it's been in years (not saying much) and everything has been inspected. Nothing could possibly go wrong...Right?

The clothes are in the washer and I'm starting to get all my gear together. Now I just need to stock up on some food, drink, and chamois cream. Anything else I'm forgetting?

I think I might make my goal for the race 200 miles. I don't really know if that's reasonable or not. I'd have to do 15 laps at an average speed of just over 8 mph. Seems slow I know, but I'm a pretty slow mountain biker. Actually, after some thought that's about twice as fast as I did the Arrowhead (with sleep) or 2/3 of my Dirty Kanza speed. Maybe I can do it if the course is willing.

In literature:

I returned a book to the library unfinished today. Thomas Pynchon's
V. wasn't doing it for me. It seemed too much like something assigned in a high school lit class. Well written to be sure, but I just couldn't connect with it. 100 pages in and nothing but party hopping.

Something I often look for in a book is that I can empathize with what is going on. I couldn't do that with this book. I didn't see any of myself in it. Now, a good book can make the alien seem familiar or the familiar seem alien and I can respect that, but this was just keeping the alien alien to me. Besides, the symbolism was a little bit heavy and that always gets me.

I decided to try the book because one of the blurbs on the cover of a Phillip K. Dick book I was reading called Dick a "poor man's Pynchon." Well, why not try the rich man's Pynchon I thought. I returned it and checked out another Dick novel.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nat'l Champ? No.

I've got my ride up to 9 Mile all set up. I'll be RVing in style with some guys from Irwin's in DSM. The trade off is I have to be willing to go to quilting shops with the support crew/drivers. I'm doing the solo thing, but I won't be Nat'l Champ material. I didn't want to pay for a license and heck, I know I don't have a chance anyway so I'm just a "solo freak." I'm still thinking about bringing up the 1x1 just in case, but I really think I'll ride the Rocket 88. I've got some new SRAM X7 and X9 stuff for it and I can't let that go to waste. Is it okay to do major parts overhauls days before a big race? I thought not.

Actually this isn't really a big race for me. I'm going to take it pretty easy. I think I'm going to focus more on the point-to-point endurance stuff rather than the 12 and 24 scene. My real goal is seeing how long I can make it before sacking out. I'd like to do the whole 24 without sleep, but based on past experience 2am is the latest I can make it without a nap.

I'm not really into the 24 thing. Something about crowds and going around in circles. Seriously though, the crowds do scare me and the partying. I don't know if I want to be on the trail with that many hooligans (and I mean that in the best possible way Dave). I probably should have done the Laramie Enduro. I've always wanted to go to Laramie and 70 miles of mountainbikeing seems like a good excuse. Oh, well. Next year.

Non-bike stuff: My friend Pinky challenged me to write a short story and so I did. We settled on a Sci-Fi time travel theme. It's pretty short. Maybe a page or two. It's not ready for the public yet though so you'll all have to wait before you see it...Maybe a long time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Movie Reviews

I've seen more than my share of movies in the last few weeks as well. Here are some one minute reviews.

It's a Superman movie. What did you expect? It's got all the essentials: Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, kryptonite, etc.. The new actor looks too much like Christopher Reeves. The whole 'son of Superman' thing doesn't work. Pretty thin really. And let me get this straight. Superman can get stabbed with a shard of kryptonite, almost die, barely be able to stand, then suck it up and still save the world by lifting a continent into space? I want a refund on my kryptonite. It just doesn't hurt Kryptonians like it used to.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2:
Not too bad. At some point the love story got lost (as though anyone was paying attention) and it turned into a vehicle for action (well, I guess that's no surprise). Good effects, some great sequences, but it doesn't hang together like the first one. Some action sequences seemed to last forever. The film was about 30 minutes too long. I'll see #3, but probably on videotape like I saw Star Wars Episode 3.

The Aristocrats:
A film about a joke that isn't funny. I know that no one will listen to me, but this is a pretty worthless documentary. I know you'll go out and see it anyway, I guess you have to, but the film has little redeeming value. It is disturbing and gross at the best of times and pretty boring most others. The high point of this film is Gilbert Gottfried. Enough said. See it anyway.

A Scanner Darkly:
I just saw this one tonight so I haven't had time to wax pessimistic about it. Good film. A good examination of drug addiction and drug culture. It delves deeply into realms of paranoia and helplessness, using others and being used. From what little I know of the addicted personality this seems to be accurate. At times we can laugh at the absurd actions of the characters, but at others we have to cringe at their logic and rationality in irrational situations. I like the cringing. It also goes into drug rehabilitation and recovery though not as much as I would have liked. This is a topic that has deep interest to me. So yeah, see it. It's some of Phillip K. Dick's best writing adapted for the screen. I'll have to read the book now, though I wish I had read it before seeing the film.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Gravel Grinder:
Two weeks ago I did a gravel ride with Eric. It was a hot day and neither of us were really prepared. It was Eric's first gravel ride and with a new bike to boot. I decided to really put the hurt to him and plotted a tough hilly route through the Des Moines river valley. By about mile 32 the hills had been enough for Eric and I wasn't feeling too good either. We turned around, headed into Boone, ate some sliced turkey and rode back to Ames. Not a bad ride, but we'll do better next time. We were chased by only one dog. A big disappointment there.

Bob Roll just said "Bougie."
What can I say. I've been watching the Tour these past few weeks and that has kept me from writing as I should. Now it's over and hopefully things can get back to normal.

Lantern Rouge:

That's French for dead last. That's how I did in the Iowa Games this year. In the time trial I was last in my age group and missed my goal of 30 minutes for the 20k race. The mountain bike race was indefinitely postponed. Then there was the road race. To make a long story short I was dropped by the peloton after about 5 miles and had to ride the rest of the 52 mile race alone and way off the back. At the feed zone (where I had no one to feed me) at mile 26 someone yelled, "nice effort." Great. Just what I wanted to hear. With about 10 miles left to go the race director's van started following me down the road pulling up race signs and markings. As soon as I crossed the finish line they pulled it up off the road. Demoralizing. I hope that 9 mile isn't so bad.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Crosscheck Challenge

Here's tomorrow's route for all of you following from home. Lots of hills, mostly gravel. Start at 1:00pm, my house. End at Stomping Grounds sometime before dark. What else you want?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dog Gone Ride this weekend

Just a quick post today. Sunday is looking good for a gravel grinder. I'm thinking about doing a route that I did before TI where I was chased by, at least, 30 dogs. Up to 5 at a time. It'll probably be better with a group. Lots of hills and I might throw in an extra section down by Ledges just for fun. Eric and Nick are coming for sure, I think Cory knows about it, but everybody's welcome (sorry I didn't get in touch with you last weekend Paul). I wanted to write more, but, you see, there was this bike race on TV that I just had to watch.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's the Pits for me.

I felt pretty awful today so it's a good thing that Eric and Cory showed up and dragged me off of the couch for a ride. I had woken up early for work, not eaten, drank a beer after work, and all I really wanted to do is sleep. I was really hoping that no one would show and I could just go on sleeping.

Originally the plan was to ride at Seven Oaks, but the clay soil out there is notorious for slippery footing after rain. Plan B was a gravel ride, but that didn't sound too exciting so we compromised on a ride out to Peterson Pits. We pushed pretty hard going out and gave Eric a taste of gravel riding. None of us were really set up for gravel. Eric was on his single speed and Cory and I were on full suspension bikes.

Once we got out to the pits we previewed the Iowa Games race course. Much of the time we rode at speed, but after a while we mellowed out and just rode. My bike was acting as a stick magnet and as soon as I got one out of the derailleur another got caught. I think my shifting is a little off now, hopefully I can get it taken care of when my SRAM X-7 stuff shows. Horses had torn up the trail pretty badly and I'm not sure whether having suspension was a help or a hindrance. With all the little bumps it seemed like the suspension was always active and dragging me back. I think I would have been happier on a rigid bike using my legs and arms for suspension. Probably I need to get a rear shock with adjustable rebound, but I'm too cheap.

As we were headed south along the river I tried to hop over a log and crashed. My first thought was that I had fallen poorly and landed on my hands which is a mistake, a good way to break a wrist. Then, seeing that my wrist was okay, I checked my knee which had hit pretty hard, but it seemed okay. I got up and started riding again only to realize a little further down the trail that my right leg near the Achilles tendon was pretty scraped up. I stopped a bit further on and had a look at it. It was ugly. It looked like someone had taken a potato peeler to the back of my leg and ankle. There was a four inch "peel" of skin hanging off.

I don't usually carry a first aid kit with me while riding. I've never had an injury that I felt needed attention. I figure the injuries I'm really worried about are broken bones and there isn't really much I can do with a first aid kit for that. This is the first time I've wanted something. It wasn't a serious injury, but it looked bad and I wanted a bandage to cover it up. Pretty much all I could do was remove the flap of skin and keep riding.

After that we decided to head back home. It was a pretty short ride overall. A little under 3 hours, but it was good to get out and stretch the legs. It made me feel a lot better overall. The ankle injury isn't too bad. It just looks like someone painted a red stripe on the back of my leg.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Does this mean Hushovd will win?

The satellite TV is working better today so I've been watching the Tour. The Tour isn't really all that exciting at this point. I'm more enjoying the sight of bicycles on television. All this doping controversy along with that one guy who won like seven times or something has got me thinking though.

I think that the prevalence of the "who wants it more" attitude has made doping inevitable. The person who wants it more is obviously the one who cheats. Of course the race isn't really about who wants it more. It is about who is the best cyclist. I'd bet that the guy in second wants to win as much as (or more than) the guy in first. However, the person who wants it more might be willing to do something a little underhanded to get the win. I guess that's pretty obvious, but at the top levels everyone want to win so much that cheating is an unsurprising result.

I'm glad that I don't care about winning that much. I think that's why I go in for the endurance events. The race is as much against myself as it is against anyone else. Especially in the point-to-point races or extreme conditions races it is just a challenge to finish. When I signed up for the Arrowhead race all I wanted to do was finish. I was really pleased with my result, but mostly I'm glad I finished. In a way I'm glad that I didn't manage to finish Trans-Iowa because that makes finishing the others more meaningful. I'm not testing myself if I succeed every time. What's the point of cheating when the only one who cares is you and you'll be happy just making it to the finish line.

Another phenomena that I've noticed is that of the comeback from injury and eventual triumph. Think of LeMond after his shotgun wound, or diver Greg Lougainis after hitting his head on the board in the Olympics, not to mention that one guy with cancer. I can think of other examples from people I know. The formula seems to be: be close to the top of your game, get hurt, recover and gain sympathy, come back and win.

It's possible that it's just a fluke, that for every miraculous recovery there are dozens of normal wins, or maybe it's just that at the top of any sport you're almost guaranteed to get hurt at some time (okay, this doesn't work for LeMond or Armstrong, but it might apply to many others who suffer from sport related injury, think of mogul skiers and knee surgeries). It seems to apply in other walks of life too. Almost die climbing a mountain, become successful in business. Recover from alcoholism and become president.

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger...right? I don't think so. I've seen too many contrary examples. I think people just like a good story. In any case please don't push me down the stairs and think you're doing me a favor.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rained out at Seven Oaks

Well, I did that Seven Oaks ride I was talking about, but it didn't turn out the way I'd planned. I rode out Saturday at about 4pm and got there with plenty of time to spare. The wind was pretty strong out of the west so I had to gear down on the gravel. I was only chased by one dog so I'd consider that a success.

Once I got there I set up my hammock to hold my campsite and went out on the trail. There were a surprising number of campers there (probably because of the holiday and free camping), but none of them looked like cyclists. I had really hoped to have the place to myself, but I should have known better. The trail was in good shape, dry and packed, and I was able to clean some sections that I hadn't been able to ride before. Four dabs and three dismounts for the first lap. I'm slowly becoming a better technical rider. After the first lap I laid down in my hammock and rested for a while. After about half an hour of rest I went out for a second lap. I did better as far as dabs go, I don't think I had any, but I dismounted four times and one of those was over the handlebars. I still can't get the hang of those downhill switchbacks.

After that I made some mac & cheese, tried a yogurt granola bar (pretty good, thanks Amy) and laid down for some more rest. It was tough to relax the way I'd wanted to with the other campers though. They had some bad music blaring, kids crying, 4x4 pickups revving, and other general noisiness. A little before dark the races started up at the Boone raceway to add to the general hubbub. Did I mention that you can hear Hwy 30 and the railroad tracks well too? I think I should have opted to ride into one of the harder to access campsites down in the woods. It would have been a lot quieter, but I would have had more insect problems.

Just after dark I started to hear thunder, I hoped it would pass me by, but it just kept getting closer. I got up and rigged my tarp over top of the hammock and hoped for the best. Shortly thereafter it started to rain. I hoped it would be one of those quick rainshowers, but I wasn't in luck. The storm lasted all night. At first I stayed pretty dry, but then I started to get splashed and the longer it lasted and the harder it rained the wetter I got. I started to get cold and though I knew I wasn't in any life threatening danger I knew I wouldn't get much sleep if I didn't warm up. I hadn't brought a sleeping bag since I hadn't counted on getting cold, but I had brought my emergency blanket. You know, one of those Mylar sheets. I've used them before and they aren't too bad, but they don't breathe at all. So I had to choose, damp and cold, or soaked and warm. I chose soaked and warm.

I could feel water trickling down my body and insects crawling all over me, but I was too tired and uncomfortable to do anything about it. At least the thunder and rain cut down on the disruptive noise. I put up with it until morning when I decided I'd had enough and got up to make some breakfast. I've had some pretty miserable nights out and this wasn't the worst, but it definitely ranks as "miserable." I pulled quite a few bugs out of my gear, including two grasshoppers and a spider out of my helmet. After making some more mac & cheese I decided to pack it in.

I had planned to stick around for the IORCA State Championships today, but I thought that with the rain and so on the race would be cancelled and I didn't want to spend $30 to ride (if you can call it riding) on a muddy course. I rode home through Boone on the pavement in the rain and had to wait for a long train at Jordan, but I got home pretty quick anyway. I was home by 8:40. I hung up my wet things, showered, and took a nap to make up for the restless night.

So yeah, I guess I had a good time. Hopefully the trail will dry out by Tuesday for Cory and I and anyone else who'll be joining us (Paul? Eric? Nick?). I'll have to rethink my packing list for ultralight camping though. I don't really care to be that miserable on a longer trip.

Update: it seems that the championships were not cancelled. Oh well. I'm a slow XC rider anyway. I'm trying to watch the Tour on OLN, but our satellite reception is horrendous. Sometimes I can tell they're on bikes but most of the time it's colored squares and "Geo...capie...Pelo...eak awa..." and so on.