2012 – The Year So Far…

2012 – 1,519 miles, 2 road races and the first WORS race: DONE.

Mountain bike racing is hard.  Iola was hard, and not fun.  I have done many rides and races that were really hard, but afterward I always felt good – a sense of accomplishment.  Iola was just hard.  When it was over, I was glad to be done.  My crappiest time ever, I probably wouldn’t even have made the Citizen podium.  Even worse, it was my debut in “Singlespeed Open” (Comp).  I’ve really been digging riding on the road for the past year, and I was considering skipping Iola and driving to LaCrosse for the Omnium.  Probably should have gone with that plan.  I’ve run a 32:16 for the past 3 years at Iola, same this year.  With all the peanut butter mud, that was a bad plan, but I got to the race too late to change it.  Mentally, I was never in this one.  I hadn’t realized how much I’ve been spinning a smaller gear this off-season and not working on power.  I’m really stoked to race ToAD this year, and Iola really didn’t help fire me up for WORS.  I race the Whitnall Spring Classic Crit in April and did the Masters 4/5 and Masters 3/4 back to back.  It was hard, but fun.  When I finished, I was stoked and looking forward to doing another road race.  Bump and Jump was way harder. 

The 69er is sitting in my garage, still packed with mud.  I can’t even get motivated to clean it.

I changed my mind… NOT fun today.

 Next up – the Bone Ride.

The end of an era

7,437 miles and counting…

In the past 2 calendar years, the longest I’ve been off the bike was 9 days: November 30 to December 8, 2010.  Before that, I wasn’t keeping track.

I’ve enjoyed every mile – every adventure, every race, every crash, every one of the 316 rides so far.  But it’s time for a little time off the bike.  I’ll run, lift, do something else.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be riding on a regular basis, just much less… for now.

Ah, who am I kidding?  I’m riding tomorrow.

2011 racing season – that’s a wrap!

AKA – the continuing evolution of a fat dude…

Here I am in summer of 2006.  Riding an old mountain bike on the road with my other fat old friends –  Bob Roll and Greg LeMond.  OK, we’re not really friends – just fat.  I had taken many years off of the bike, and was inspired to get back on for the Trek 100.  I did the 32 mile route that year.  Slowly.

My Official Return to Cycling - 2006

That was enough incentive to get me rolling again, literally.  I had so much fun, and it felt so good to be doing something I loved so much, I started making time to get on my bike.  Just a little at first – probably only did a handful more rides that year, but I did one very important ride: on the trails of the Southern Kettles.

My off-road skills were anemic, and that’s giving me more credit than I deserved, but I knew they were in there somewhere.  Covered with years of rust and beer and God knows what else.  I was slower than a stampede of turtles.  Hill-climbing?  That’s where my dominance really showed!  I could climb anything under 10 feet tall in less than an hour.  Maybe.

I rode a little more the following year, even got a road bike.  I remember telling my friend Mark how proud I was after a 15 mile ride where I had averaged 17 mph.  (This year I did a 161 mile “fun” ride and averaged 19.6mph).   Late that summer I was really starting to feel the mountain bike bug again.  My fitness was starting to shape up a little, and I had started trying to get out and ride a bit more.  The whole idea of a single-speed bike really seemed to make sense to me.  After all, I was a reformed BMXer – not a roadie.  On the road, I had nothing, but get me into some single-track and I could at least hold my own with stronger guys by riding smart.  In 2007, 29″ wheels were just starting to get some attention – most bikes sold  still had 26″ wheels.  Trek took a chance and produced a small run of Travis Brown inspired 69ers.

NOTE: When it comes to “stuff”, I am not a technical guy, I’m an impulsive guy.  I’ve never researched a major purchase.  I liked the idea of a single gear (only later did a I realize that you might need to change out the gears for different courses…) and I liked the idea of the 29er, but I wasn’t sold on it.  The 26″ riders liked the cornering and climbing of their bikes, the 29″ riders loved the way their bikes flew on the flats and rolled over everything at speed.  A 69er seemed to make sense so I bought one – without riding it.

2008 was the year that the MTB virus really took hold.  I started riding the singlespeed quite a bit, getting out to the Kettles or Crystal Ridge occasionally to grind out a few miles.

Fast forward to 2011:

2011 - Year of the fat boy!

My 2011 season started with the Burnham Racing Spring Super Criterium on March 26th, and yes, it was snowing when we started.  My 3rd road race ever, I managed to finish a respectable 13th in the Masters 4/5s and avoid getting crashed out coming into the sprint.  Did a few more road races and 5 WORS races.  Managed to get (3) 3rds, (1) 1st and (1) DNF, so 2012 will mean a move up to Singlespeed Comp/Open to get my butt handed to me.  Even though I raced less than I wanted to, I rode more than I thought I would (and I’m still riding of course).

2012 should be a great year for me.  I have a great Team that keeps getting better, and I’ll have more focus and more experience.  I plan to do more WORS racing, more ToAD and even a little CX.

As always, time will tell.

WORS #6 “Alterra Coffee Bean Classic” pre-ride report

82 degrees at 6am this morning – great morning to head over to Franklin and check out the Crystal Ridge trails.

Once again this year the Alterra team will host the Crystal Ridge WORS race and their crew along with the Metro Mountain Bikers have made the once “fun to ride but crappy to race” course into a legit WORS course.  It’s still one of the most technical races in the series, but over the past 2 years they’ve opened a lot more passing lanes and made the course a lot more “race ready” – especially for those of us with only one gear.  The biggest change this year is the elimination of the snaky switchback climb.  It has been replaced with a “straight up the backside” climb that is longer than you think.  The Team & MMB crew will be doing some more trail grooming tomorrow too if anyone’s available to help out.

Todd Somers from the Alterra team put together this summary of the 2011 course layout:

“No prolog lap. Up the hill and around the cap. There is a drag strip on top that will suck but should help to separate the milk from the cream. Then in the woods over to Alpha then back to CR up the west side of the hill and around to O’Malley’s on the south end (open spots again) out and back to the hill. Comp will go up the hill a bit but not to the top. Pave plunge is gone, then let it rip down the hill in the small intestine and back up the starting hill.”

Unfortunately, every year I forget how much fun this course is, and how close to home it is too.  I spent the second lap this morning picking bugs out of my teeth because I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  There are still about 7 million trees that seem to jump out at you around every corner, and the rain and (finally) sun have kicked the brush growth into turbo mode.  It’s hard to see what’s around every corner, and trust me there are more corners than you can count.  This morning I saw enough wildlife to load an ark, in fact I stopped and had a staring contest with a doe who was only about 10 feet away from me.

Do yourself a favor and get over to Crystal Ridge and ride it – or better yet, race it.  You are guaranteed to have a blast!

I can crush you, but I won’t… yet.

I was born a loser – small, weak, not into sports… in fact I was the last kid on the block to learn to ride a bike.  My parents moved us to a different state when I was 7 and then divorced when I was 10.  Since I didn’t play sports and was relatively shy, moving to new towns didn’t do much to boost my self-confidence.

I tried to be competitive, even raced BMX when I was 10 and 11.  I won a few trophies when the class was so small that everyone got one, or the time I had to beat a 10-year-old girl to get into the main moto.  I just never knew how to win; I never had the drive to be better.  Don’t get me wrong, I WANTED to be better.  I idolized my little brother who was consumed with the desire to win.  He lettered in 3 sports in high school – was all-conference on offense and defense in football and was romanced by 2 universities to play football.  But I didn’t feel that same drive, I was OK with just participating and then making up excuses for why I wasn’t the best.  I blamed everything and everyone and when things got too tough, I quit.

As a 20-year-old, I raced a few mountain bike races.  It was a relatively new sport [people were wearing acid-washed jeans and Billy Ocean had one of the top-selling records (yes I said records)].  My goal in these races was to “not finish last”.  That meant that my goal was second to last, a goal I always managed to hit.  That’s like setting a goal of breathing at least once every hour.  I had fun, but my “…bike was never good enough…” for me to do better or this reason or that reason.

I carried that same attitude into every aspect of my adult life.  It was OK for people to walk all over me and it was OK if I wasn’t the best, as long as I tried (a little).  But at some point, that changed.  I started to find focus – in my work, in my life and in things that I enjoyed doing.  I found a competitive drive deep inside me that brought out a will to win.

At one point, I got away from cycling and worked at a health club for a couple of years.  My high school graduation weight of 148 eventually went to 205 as I found something tangible and rewarding in working out.  I eventually returned to riding, and my weight settled in at 180, but I was a different person.  I put together a mountain bike that was too small from spare, used and borrowed parts, and I started riding like I never had before.  I felt an inner drive every time I clipped in to go harder.  I found a serious job that would support my family and I became very good at it.  I started a company and grew it into a successful business.  But over time I had stopped riding again.  I had lost that harmony that I was just starting to tap into in my 20’s.  So, on a beautiful fall day 5 years ago, I dusted off my old mountain bike and took a ride.  I was rusty and slow, but I felt the passion come through stronger than ever.  From that point forward, I made time for myself every day and I let that inner drive fuel me instead of defeating me.  3 years ago, I signed up for a few WORS races.  I didn’t do very well, but each time I raced I learned and I worked on getting better.  I had no excuses, and that felt great.  I owned the losses 100% and that felt even better.

Fast forward to today – I love to toe the line at races.  My heart is beating like a lawnmower and I can’t sit still until the race gets underway.  I am racing to win and I’m disappointed if I don’t.  I expect to win now, yet I’ve never stepped onto the top step of any podium.  I have a lot of 2nd and 3rd place medals, which now represent “1st & 2nd loser” to me.  I still wrestle with the demons of mediocrity though, like Gaylord Focker with his wall of 8th place trophies.  I still want that recognition of a job done “well-enough”, but I know I won’t stop until I step on top of the podium.  I might be 80 when I do it, but I know deep down inside that it’s mine for the taking now.


WORS Iola report (finally)

Once again, the 1st WORS race of the year has come and gone.  I saw lots of chatter about how people were just there to have fun, see old friends, not necessarily to race.  Huh?  I think that’s an easy way to say “…if I don’t do well, I can just say I was having fun…”

I saw a lot of people racing, and a lot of people having “fun”, but I didn’t notice anyone stopping to take pictures during the race or check their email.  Despite the frigid temps, the racing was hot.  Iola is a favorite course among a majority of the WORS racers, myself included.  It has a little of everything and it’s the inaugural WORS race, so everyone comes to the line extremely amped up.

This year was no exception – when Don yelled go, we blasted up the fire road on the backside of the ski hill jockeying for position.  I immediately felt the fact that my warm-up (if you could call it that) in the cold temps did little to warm me up.  I also immediately felt the failure of my activities the entire off-season.  Last year, I hit the gym quite a bit and continued to do some cold weather riding too.  This year I just rode, 2-3 times a week, throughout the winter – avoiding the gym almost completely.  That plan worked out pretty well in the 2 early season road races I’ve done so far, but it backfired horribly once I hit the hills of Iola on my single speed.  I have zero upper body/core strength compared to last year – those hills sucked the life out of me in a hurry.  I’ve become a much better climber over the years, many times making key moves on the steepest hills, but that was not the case in Iola.  It took everything I had to make it up the steepest hill on the last lap.

Overall, I felt good and I felt like I left it all out there, despite having a much slower time than last year.  I placed a distant 3rd (last year’s finish had me 2 seconds out of 1st).  On the first lap I wanted to die and stop pedaling, by midway through the second lap I had found the groove and I used the last lap to wring out any energy I had left in me.

Unfortunately, as soon as I crossed the line my stomach started to cramp up – which turned out to be some kind of bug that kicked my ass for the next 48 hours.

Due to scheduling conflicts, my next WORS race won’t likely be until the end of July.  I’m hoping to make a few changes and add some horsepower before then.

Training vs. riding – what are you doing?

Most weekdays, my alarm goes off at 5:00am (4:30 on sunny Tuesday summer mornings).  I roll out of bed, throw on my gear and head to the ride of the morning.  I don’t wear a heart rate monitor, I don’t use a PowerTap, and I don’t even have a computer on any of my bikes.  I’m not using RPE, VO2 max or wattage (unless you count the wattage in my lights).  I’m getting up at that ridiculous hour to get a ride in before I start my work day, and I’m riding because I need to.

I have always loved bikes, but we had a trial separation that lasted about 12 years or so when life got in the way.  I started a family, started a business, survived a horrible motorcycle accident and forgot about riding.  I put on some weight, and prepared to become “Middle Aged Man”.  At some point though, things started to change.  For some unknown reason, I got back on my 15-year-old mountain bike, and on a beautiful fall day I headed out to the Southern Kettle Moraine trails with my friend Mark.  I think we did 1 Blue Loop, which was enough for me at the time, and all the old feelings came rushing back.  As we exited into the parking lot a photographer snapped a picture of my fat ass for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  I was literally back in the saddle from that day on.

“Then” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel picture)

"Now" (www.xtrphoto.com)

Fast forward some years, and I more fit than I’ve ever been.  I’m riding 12 months a year, putting on more miles than I ever have, racing mountain bikes, and starting to add road bike races to the 2011 calendar.  I built a cyclocross bike this winter which can only mean there’s at least 1 ‘cross race in my future too and I’m starting to ride with a lot of people who train now.  I’m starting to get questions about my training too.


When exactly did my riding become training??

As Mark will tell you, this is a dangerous spot for me to be in.  I would make the World’s worst poker player because I have a habit of just going “all in”.  He knows (better than I do) that if my riding becomes training, I will instantly suck all of the life out of my greatest passion.  I’ll begin posting Zone charts and uploading HR data and buying books about science and other crap I could not care less about.  Worse yet, I’ll start geeking out about bike stuff – relying on the latest high-tech garbage to shave seconds off my time, blah, blah blah.  Worst of all, I’ll start to hate all of the “work” I have to do just to get out and ride.  I’ll forget why I ever got back on the bike on that beautiful fall day…

Thankfully, (and thanks to my friend Mark and others just like him) I know that I love riding too much to train.  If it means I lose a race because of it, or even skip a race to do a ride, then so be it.