Thursday, January 31, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Assumption: That the entire 134+ mile trail up there is very similar to the ones that are within the immediate area near Duluth right now…thatz a great big risky “if.” Last year’s course started out relatively good and was pretty good until after the half-way point, where it abruptly turned into an unrideable morass, but the 30+ mile abyss was such a mess that even the endomorphs could not ride it (except Pramann, as the rumor is that he was able to ride much of it), so in that case, it would not have mattered…The Kelly is just as easy to walk as the Gunnar!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
D.P. (The favorite— Pros: holds the course record, veteran racer, nerves of steel, intelligent strategist, wily, never outwardly shows emotion. Cons: no spring chicken, has applied for an AARP card, DNFed in Iowa, has he loss the hunger?).
D.G. (The Sentimental favorite—Pros: last year’s winner, took second the year before, makes it look easy, designer of the Pugsley, has great support system with Dad and other funny relative, drinks whiskey, nothing seems to rattle him, unassuming, beats ya with a smile on his face, young. Cons: sustained serious hip injury last summer, upon entering Heaven will be stopped and questioned about his role in the design of the Pugsley)
J.C. (A favorite—Pros: 2nd place last year, had a great 2007 mountain bike and cyclocross season, easy going and yet tough, young. Cons: gets lost and very lean)
B.S. (Has a legitimate shot—Pros: two time finisher, lives way up North in Canada, young. Cons: obsessed with neoprene and electronic devices)
D.G. (Has a legitimate shot—Pros: takes a measured “scientific approach” in preparing, balanced, big aerobic base, lots of enduro-experience, has first hand knowledge of the course. Cons: Busy schedule, has lots on his mind, trusts C.F.)
D.S. (Has a legitimate shot—Pros: Hez one of those great guyz from Nord da Koda, young. Cons: Hez one of those great guyz from Nord da Koda, young, with a baby on the way!)
D. R. (Has a legitimate shot—Pros: Lots of experience traveling in the winter. Has lots of time in the saddle. Cons: Is not worried about having a legitimate shot).
J.P. (has a darn good chance-- Pros- Veteran Fast MountainBiker from way back. Young. Appears to have overcome his past cold weather wardrobe anomalies thru study and running out of errors left to make. Multiple weapons for varying conditions. Lots of riding this winter. Cons-Doesn't seem to drink whiskey much anymore. A gaggle of little kids. His wife can beat many of us on a bike. He has a real job for a living.
C.F. (A Long long shot—Pros: Drinks whiskey, short memory, will cheat if he thinks he won’t get caught, suffers from dementia, rides a bike made in Waterford, Wisconsin, a shameless opportunist, suffers from delusions of grandeur. Cons: confused about what it means when they say to drink a lot before a big race, ain’t no spring chicken, lacks focus, )
Monday, January 21, 2008
I wasn't gonna...but then I decided that I wouldn't be able to face my daughter as she grows into a beautiful women and global humanitarian; So...
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I am pumped to see how da boyz did down in Iowa...Pramann is tough as nails, but Calahan has youth on his side...but since the race is comparatvely short, if I had to pick a winner, I'd have to go with Cully Todd or Team Tandem (the husband and wife team of the Eppens... real nice people) from Fat Tire and Ore-to-shore fame...
Friday, January 18, 2008
Good luck to Lonny M., Dave P., and Joel Calahan in the tune-up this Saturday down in Iowa....I wish I could have pulled it off...so many races...so little time!!!!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I have a long standing working relationship with zippers. Zippers have in general made our time here on earth better (or worse)? Itz hard to say definitively whether zippers are team players or selfish soloists, there are so many variables... Having caught myself in sensitive areas in a few instances, etc..., but for the most part zippers have been friendly to this aging amateur...Yet in the 2007 version of the Arrowhead 135 I must say that I felt betrayed by the zippers. I breathe cuz I need air...but when itz 30 below the moisture in the exhaling of air freezes forming frost. The frost accumulated on my zippers to the point that I could not use them, they essentially froze shut...this caused big problems because in order to access my camelbak tubes (tucked inside the top two layers of insulation), I needed to unzip...Note: I remember that Steger and da Ely boyz back in the 80s anticipated this problem before they left for their historic run to the North Pole and therefore left the zippers home and instead went with velcro and old fashioned snaps and even buttons. Finally, I gained some respite by using a neckgator to beathe through and thus capture the frost, but that ain't me and in any event the neckgator froze up solid and then I had yet another problem to deal with...so it goes...I guess, in hindsight, it wasn't that big of an issue, but if a guy was going for the Iditarod, a thorough investigation of exactly where the zippers' loyalties reside would be prudent...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I have made no secret of my yearning for very cold temps with the 2008 running of the Arrowhead 135; the reason being that cold temps are systemic of a hard, snow-free, and therefore fast race course. Hard pack snow with clear frigid temperatures translates into the kind of course that will essentially render the godless Clown-bike community impotent. But with cold temperature comes the problem of staying both warm and dry. Being both warm and dry normally is not a mutually exclusive bargain, but in winter bike racing the two are often at odds with each other. Personally, it is that zero to twenty-below range that offers one the most challenging of circumstances when racing a bicycle, especially during the daylight hours when the sun can really reek havoc by warming one’s back causing profuse sweating, while the front stays cold. If it is warmer than that, it is easy to simply race cold by wearing a very light hat and layers of manipulable breathable synthetic fibers (which can be unzipped if need be) and if it is colder than that (and at night), one can wear a down sweater or some kind of techy Gore-tex type outer wear that will trap the body’s core heat. The challenge, therefore in this mid-temperature range, is how is the rider to achieve a scenario where he can have his “cake and eat it too.” In other words the question becomes: How does one stay warm, but also dry? Because without being dry, warmth is but a fleeting pleasure of the flesh. For example, with last year’s super cold temps, I was able to regulate the sweat and thus stay relatively dry and therefore warm throughout the race. In contrast, in the 2006 version where the temperatures were mostly in the zero to ten-below range, I found myself continually soaked with sweat and thus chilled throughout the entire adventure. So to the point of this dissent—wool has its place, especially when one is confronted with a situation where sweat is an inevitable negative factor.
But alas, like all things, wool has its pros and its cons: Politically, wool is remarkably bipartisan in that it is appealing in many ways to both sides of the political debate. The pros are that the liberals embrace wool because it is good for the environment and good for the sheep. Also, sheep tend to be pro-union and embrace "change". The conservatives, (especially the evangelicals) like wool because its owners are mentioned throughout the Holy Bible. Plus wool products tend to be resistant to "change". The cons are that while wool stays warm even when wet, it absorbs sweat and thus can become heavy and itchy. It does not transport sweat out like the synthetic fibers do and it takes a long time to dry out. So wool has its place in a winter rider’s arsenal. In conclusion, I will bring my classic wool long sleeved jersey and I will use it if the conditions warrant…
Resting the Rat!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Gear Note: This weekend promises to provide an excellent test for the reliability of my rear free-hub’s functional capacity in Arrowhead-like temps. A few weeks ago, during a stint of cold weather, the free-hub was not engaging consistently (which is a death-sentence in a race like the Arrowhead 135). Consequently, in an effort to fix the problem, I ordered the Free-hub buddy tool (and special Electric-Soup lube) from Paul Morningstar, a committed veteran cyclist and libertarian out of California. Of course, as soon as I completed the overhaul, the temps rose into the 30s and 40s….so it goes…
Culture Corner: By the way I just purchased Kurt Vonnegut’s “A Man without a Country.” Vonnegut is my favorite author, my sister generously gave me his very early works of Player Piano (1952) and Mother Night (early 1906s) for Christmas and I gobbled them up in a week...so it goes
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Hope this helps!!!!
“Detailed planning is imperative for a successful military campaign, but of course once the bullets fly, throw out the plans and run like Hell.” Uttered by some famous Civil War military leader, (whose name escapes me), that clearly maintained his sense of humor despite the ironic horrors of war…
Note: sorry about the censor's knife, but in the interest of national security, some minor details were deemed to be off limits for public digestion...but I am sure what is left will be somewhat helpful!
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
The trails around Duluth are rock hard, but slippery...perfect for my set-up re: AH 135...But will these primo conditions last?
About this time last year here in Duluth, we had very similar trail conditions leading up to the Arrowhead 135. Hence, I remember seriously considering racing the Kelly Knobby X equipped with 2 inch mtb fast rolling tires. The Kelly is a great bike due to itz multiple applications, plus it is very light compared to the Gunnar 29er. I guess I am not really seriously considering the Kelly because of last year's experience with the marshlands that exist just beyond the halfway point of The Race. The Kelly, while versatile is not a mountain bike and the Gunnar certainly would be a better choice if conditions are less than rock hard. (Note: Both bikes have soul, were made by guys that I have personally met, guys that love cycling, and guys that are trying to make a well crafted product in the good ole USA--a rare thing now with the advent of the Wal-Martification of the world). Still the Kelly is fast and comfortable for just about all conditions except for snow. For example, last night I rode for 90 minutes on the local sno-mo trails on the Kelly (equipped w/ 700cX35 cross tires) and I was flying...it was scary fast as the hardpack is smooth and rockhard, it was only on the corners that the potential for a washout caused me to touch the brakes. Last year's AH 135 course was initially such that one felt like he or she was in a bike race. The Kelly would have afforded the author an advantage in the first half of the race. It was not super fast as the course was rutted and the snow was coarse and grandular. Coupled with a relative high degree of friction from the bitterly cold temperature, I would say that on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being wide-open fast (like currently here in Duluth) and 1 being unrideable, last year's initial 60 miles or so was about a 3...Of course, what no one knew was that a major section of the second half of the Arrowhead course was essentially unrideable due to inadequate snow cover. At about the 80 mile mark or so the course drops into an expansive low-lying marsh complete with briars and hummocks. Last year, with it's dismal snow depth, this span of the trail was simply impossible to ride, even for the guyz on the clown bikes. I would estimate that I walked at least 25 miles (maybe more...we walked for hours and hours and hours) and I know from speaking with others and reading race recaps, that the other finishers agree with this assessment. Finally, with about four or five hours to go to the finish, the trail vastly improved and with the addition of a significant heaven-sent tailwind the final stretch bordered on being pleasant. So...I guess what I am getting at is I better be careful about what I wish for. Still, A big snow anytime in the week leading up to the start of the Big Dance would make riding nearly impossible on a standard mountain bike...so I am praying for cold temps...but no SNOW!!!!! No Snow No Snow No Snow No Snow.....
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I am a pro at Tapering!!!!! Yesterday, major overhaul on my trusty steel horse, The Gunnar Rockhound!!!!
Starving the RAT: This is Week #1 of the BIG TAPER... The goal this week is maybe ten hours if I wanna. If I don't want to ride...I don't ride...cuz I'm in taper mode...I may try and get a few high-tempo short rides in and for sure nothing longer than three hours...The fact of the matter is that with three weeks out from the Arrowhead 135 all the money is in the bank and there aint gonna be anymore deposits made, maybe some withdrawls, but nothin' goin in...now itz just a matter of resting and getting the bike and gear all put together.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Notes on Arrowhead 135; Feb. 2007
Post Race Debriefing:
Ø Bring two pairs of liner gloves…wear liner gloves inside of the Granite Gear mittens…have two more pairs of liner gloves waiting for me at half way (Cancel that, gotta bring 'em with this time.) Vapor barrier between the fleece mitten liner and the glove? Note: Gloves got really wet with sweat…use the green gloves for liners…the ones Tommy has access to. Is somekind of a vapor barrier appropriate?
Ø Need some kind of tight weave breathable outer-layer like the ibex wool jacket…? I lucked out that the wind was at our backs for the second half...
Ø The camelbak system worked but rubbed my back bloody raw, itz ugly…need a pack that will keep the camelbak off my back, but will still allow me to wear it under the outer layers…
Ø Get a new pair of lake shoes…get several sizes too big...Overboots :"A+"
for warm, but "D" for weight and bulk...Is there a solution?
*The 53 single front chainring with the 11-23 cassette worked perfect! (Just kidding!)
Ø The zippers all froze…? Is there a solution? Maybe silicone?
Ø Have wool socks and vapor barriers waiting at the half-way point. Cancel that as a new rule makes the event even more self-sufficient...which is very cool!!!
Ø Tight wool weave for bottoms? Or maybe a pair of ibex wool cycling shorts and the craft pants. Note: the craft wind-block long underwear worked well...but sweat was a problem
Ø Do not bring the Patagonia bibs…too uncomfortable and baggy
Ø Maybe its time to reconsider the Patagonia ninja top…the zipper froze and made it hard to unzip and therefore hard to access the camel tubes....How to fit? Can modifications be made...like velcro?
Ø Tubes…bring three tubes...absolutely no tubeless Stans in '08
Ø Bring a good pump…a good one, no mini pump...borrow Scotty's ?
Ø Get the ergon grips
Ø The gels and the other gel-like blocks worked great
Ø The perpetuem worked great
Ø Go with a big DAS parka, borrow from Hansi?
Ø One brake in the rear is good, no problems
Ø Keep flat repair stuff in easy access area
Ø Goggles don’t work…back to the drawing board
Ø Go with a scarf, the neck gators freeze and are un-workable
Ø Cashews worked
Ø Smaller heater packs worked…
Ø Glove don’t work in 20 below
Ø Stove worked
Monday, January 7, 2008
DBD III : Adventures on THE ROAD to nowhere...
Eki and I embarked on a classic DBD ride on Saturday, 97 miles in tough conditions. [Disclaimer: Dedicated readers may recall that DBD is an acronym for a secret tactical planning force in quasi-collaboration with many high level, mega-classified super important federal agencies that make it their sole business to protect our national security. I am sure that you all understand, therefore, that much of the specific details surrounding these DBD exercises must be suppressed in the name of keeping America SAFE from those that would do it harm; especially those who question our God-given hegemony over the rest of the world.] So given these vital security restrictions the following is an abridged version of events—
Armed with a shot of good coffee, we left my dedicated DBD training partner’s house (Tim Ek) a little pass 6:00 a.m. into darkness, complete with a weird swirling fog…Yet, prior to leaving Eki’s secure compound I could not help but to be impressed by his decision to forgo winter over-boots in favor of a little neoprene toe cup-like thingy. Especially given the fact that I was sporting my new top secret set-up that will insure toasty feet throughout the AH 135. Later as the day progressed and Eki’s feet progressively got colder and colder, he embraced the pain proclaiming, “I deserve the punishment.” Also worthy of note was Eki’s decision to ride on cyclocross tires that are designed for fast conditions on a dry golf course on a sunny fall day in Saint Paul. With at least 70% of the roads ice covered with one 40 mile section being scary for me on my studded front tire and two-inch rear mtb tire, it was a miracle that he was able to keep that bike upright for the whole eight hours. Most of the ride was along a bleak desolate snow, gravel, and sand covered ROAD...seemingly at times-- a Road to nowhere...from which there is no return...(think Cormac McCarthy)
During the course of this bleak epic ride, my partner and I discussed a multitude of manly topics including the flagrant overt acts of desperation by the eunuchs that drive their snow-jet laden bank-owned mega-trucks over the backcountry roads of Northern Minnesota. One guy in particular came by us going at least 100 miles an hour pulling a cart full of toy-colored snowmobiles and purposefully swerved scary close to us…then inexplicably later down the barren gravel road he was parked and working on the sleds. Being a friendly sort, I yelled out, “hey howz it going.” Silence…so it goes. Yet, in contrast on the same road, a guy carrying a huge load of freshly fallen timber gave us ample warning and room, coupled with a Minnesota-nice wave!!!! Of course, Eki and I have been at it long enough to never take any road abuse personal. Itz all part of the game! Perhaps Eki sums up the whole affair best; “What an epic, one of my best ever! Man just think about it, a ride of that magnitude in the winter just for training, cool.”