Sunday, June 26, 2011

Killer Bees

A ride/run/race isn't worth mentioning if everything goes perfectly. Two weeks ago I did two gravel metric centuries, but everything went well, so that's that. Yesterday though was a different story.

A group of us from Skunk River Cycles went down to Newton for the Renegade Gravel Race. It was originally supposed to be a team race with five person teams, but due to popular demand a solo division was created. As a consequence only two teams showed us and one other and the other didn't have five members, only four. I think that counts as some sort of moral victory on our part.

The weather forecast played a part in the low turnout too. 60% chance of thunderstorms. Well, we didn't get the thunder, but we got plenty of rain.

We hadn't had much experience working as a team and so we couldn't take advantage of team tactics (drafting mostly) as much as we would have liked. After the field thinned out we were able to make a paceline for 15-20 miles, but due to differences in skill and strength it was tough to hold it together. After the checkpoint in Kellog we mostly didn't bother.

It rained pretty steadily for most of the race, but we had a good group of people and there wasn't any complaining. I flatted about 45 miles in and told the rest of the team to go on. Fixing a flat in the rain was about as fun as you'd expect, but really not that big a deal. I did have trouble locating the cause of the flat and that bothered me, for several miles afterward I was constantly checking to make sure I wasn't losing pressure. I caught up to the team a few miles later as they contemplated the B road.

The roads were just fine, at least until we got to that one B road on the course. There was some discussion about killer B roads and my destroyed derailleur problems of earlier this year. We opted to be (B? bee?)cautious and walk if anything looked sketchy. It looked pretty sketchy. We weren't cautious enough. Less than 100 yards into the road Stephen's rear derailleur self-destructed. Well, I'd been through that before and luckily it was another Surly Cross Check so we had the option to single-speed. It took me longer than I would have liked to single-speed it, and we were on our way, walking.

Only later would we realize that this was the very same B road that destroyed my hopes at this year's Trans-Iowa. It looks different in the light, but it might still be evil.

Once we managed to push/pull/carry our bikes down a mile of sticky Iowa clay we cleaned our bikes and got back on. We had to stop a few times to adjust the chainline and gear on the kludged single-speed, but eventually we found a gear that worked and Stephen was able to finish the race.

We rolled up to the finish in last place, but we made it. Working with a team is certainly a different dynamic. With a little practice and one fewer wet B road we could do pretty well.

Photos C/O Wrecked'em Racing

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting the X-Wing out of the swamp.

Those of you who know me know that I am a very habitual person. I tend to do the same things every day, eat the same things, go the same places. Recently I abandoned one of my usual haunts (several reasons) and it has been taking a toll on me. For the past week I haven't been eating well, I've been sleeping too much, and generally not been doing to well.

It all kind of came to a head this weekend when I found that I didn't have any reason to get out of bed on Saturday. I laid on the couch-that-hurts-my-back all day and read a schlocky fantasy novel even though I knew it would hurt my back and make me feel generally like crud. And it did. I felt like crud and my back hurt.

Today (Sunday) I did the same thing until I finished the novel and found that now I really didn't have anything to do. Of course I knew that I should be doing something. I had wanted to roller-ski on Saturday and run on Sunday, but I just couldn't find the motivation to do it. Finally at about 2 in the afternoon on Sunday I got out of the house, got some coffee and some internet and felt better.

We'll see if this lifestyle change is going to be worth the trouble or if I should just go back to old habits. At least I'm reading a better book now.

I did make it out to Ada Hayden and roller-skied today. It didn't go quite as I had planned though. I found that I couldn't skate like I had wanted to. I had always used the skis for classic technique and now I found that the skis really wanted to trip me up when I tried to skate. I'm not sure exactly what the problem was. It could be that I have the bindings mounted too far forward, or that I have floppy combi boots, or soft flexors. It could just be bad technique.

So I double-poled around the lake for 20k or so. I haven't double poled that much since attempting the Arrowhead in '08. I quit at 70 miles that year and couldn't lift my arms for days afterwards.

Since I've been doing some upper body strength work I think I did better than I might have otherwise. It was tough work, but I managed to be faster than all the runners, though slower than the bikers and skaters. By February I hope to be faster than at least half of the bikers.