Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cyclocross is a Blast, but not when ya can't run....

Even though I am not very good at it (mainly because I am such a klutz), in years past I have greatly enjoyed the fast paced fall cyclocross season. Last year I did five CX races and the year before I did even more than that racing nearly every weekend in late September and all of October, but this year my injured heel has not healed to the extent to allow me to attempt a CX race...I hurt my heel in a dynamic crushing event while chasing my crazed offspring on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail. I was chasing her as she crossed a small bridge spanning about two feet across a dried-up rocky creek-bed; she ran over with no problem, but when I hit the old rickety wood structure it gave way and I violently jammed my heal into the underlying rocks. It hurt something awful and had it not been for a stash of Summit Porter Ales (Note: for the money; a fine local St. Paul, MN Ale ) back at the camp, I may have elected suicide rather than hiking/limping out the next morning...Then the very next weekend I jammed the same heel into the bottom of a pool while chasing the same crazed off-spring up and down one of those cheesy motel water-slides. Again access to fermented grain beverages saved my will to live as it felt like one of them mean, old Taliban fellas had hit me with a full swing on the bottom of my foot with an ax handle. X-rays revealed a "significant" bone spur and the doc shot it up with cortisone, but that was way back in mid-August and it is still is too tender to run it goes...My hope is that I will be able to race the November 15th Minnesota CX Championships...But hey you don't want to read about my problems, you got your own problems!!!! Plus I can still ride my bike....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A slightly confused amateur makes a bid for the Top Spot at the Arrowhead 135...Hey, by the way, there is still time to sign-up!!!!!!

Confused author throws his hat in the Ring…Look for change at the Top come February regarding The Arrowhead 135 Suffer-fest

“In response to an overwhelming outpouring of support and encouragement from ‘Main-streets’ all across America, I am at this time announcing my candidacy for the TOP SPOT at the 2009 Arrowhead 135!”
CP Farrow, October 20, 2008

Monday, October 20th came and went; the financial markets continued in a downward spiral, the presidential front runners with great sincerity warned us of their opponent’s disastrous tax proposals, and the bighearted oil cartel continued to drop the prices at the pumps to allow the masses an unbridled Christmas spending spree at Wal Mart— So my official announcement regarding my intention to pursue a well constructed and thoroughly planned-out campaign to win the Arrowhead 135 come February 2009 largely went unheralded. The lack of mainstream press coverage is not surprising given their Hollywood elitist liberal bias and their connections to the NRA and the evangelical right. The fact of the matter is that I do not welcome their gratuitous exposure; I am not running for the Top Spot at the Arrowhead 135 to please the gun-toting, tree cutting, oil drilling, far left media circles that dine with the Nancy Peloski/Barney Frank bunch nor do I seek to satisfy Karl Rove and his socialistic-leaning, anti-American, Castro-lovin’, tree-hugging media crowd as well. I am running for the hard working people of America, the most productive, the most humble, the most peaceful, and the most ecological people on this great American-made earth of ours.
Certainly winning the Arrowhead 135 is not an easy goal and there are others that will also vie for this great objective. Yet unlike the other racers, the likes of Dave Pramann, Terry Brannick, Dave Gray, Joel Calahan, and other socialists, I will not rely on mundane training regimens and healthy life-style choices. Americans are sick and tired of these antiquated approaches. The people are ready for change, the people yearn for straight talk, and most of all-- the people want a new rider to win the Arrowhead 135 in 2009! The American People are tired of the same old thing, the same old Dave Pramann outpacing Gray, Brannick, and Calahan year after year after year. Those people are NOT racing for you, they don't care about mainstreet, they don't care about Joe-The-Plumber, all they care about is Wall Street and their fancy-pants carbon-burning sponsorships!!!!

Partnering up with Dave Simmons and the rest of the true Red White and Blue Nordaakotah contingency for this upcoming Arrowhead 135, the author promises new faces on the podium. The time is now to throw out the greedy old guard and to look to change, change NOW; yes the American people want CHANGE on the Podium in 2009!!!

The following is a strategic outline of what the American people can expect from me and my Northdaakotah partners as we take on and ultimately defeat the entrenched power-brokers of yesteryears:

This campaign to victory will NOT take any prisoners. We plan to fight viciously, unfairly if need be, and to retain both out-of-work and bitter statesmen Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton as our legal counsel. This campaign to victory with always put country first, and if in order to keep Hockey Moms and their cute little hockey brats safe, we will use water-boarding and even “extra-ordinary rendition” against the competition ( but only on Canadians, Frenchies, bike designers, bike store managers, engineers, and most of all Air-Traffic Controllers). This campaign to victory will employ the latest in American cutting-edge technologies (manufactured in China) in terms of incorporating the best in snow-bike design into our race strategy and ultimate victory. Now even though the author is on record as having taken a solemn public vow to never ride a Clown Bike, this campaign to victory will, but only if conditions warrant it, use a “clown-like” bike with “clown-like” bike features, but only in situations where the circumstances are such that the safety of the American Heartland is at dire risk for attack from a rogue terroristic state (or in the event of fresh unconsolidated snow). Also, it is important to emphasize that the bike that the author may race at the Arrowhead 135 is not a Clown Bike per se as it is not colored “suspect-telle-tubbie purple” but is instead painted gun-metal NRA blue-gray. [Note: Regarding the use of the Clown-like Bike in a seemingly period of relative global peace or sound snow conditions; while it may seem to the American People that they are not in imminent danger, the American people will need to trust that this campaign knows what is best for the American People regarding the use of the Clown-like Bike in the name of national security.] This campaign to victory will also seek to have the Patriot Act expanded to allow for the not-so-noble use of various pharmaceuticals and other “enhancements” in the very noble and honorable effort to dethrone Pramann, Gray, and Calahan

In sum: Straight talk, pro-America, change at the AH 135 podium, no surrender, country first, save the working people, no Clown-bikes (but a gun-metal gray bike that may slightly resemble a “commie” clown bike), your guns are safe, pro war, pro death penalty, pro-life, pro drilling, and drug use to defeat the axis of evil….
Feeding the Rat: Week #1 for the 2008/2009 Season...16.9 Hours!!! Yes....Just like Rocky V

Monday, October 13, 2008

The author is passed over for sponsorship consideration by all the major players except maybe TEAM INVICTUS...

W. E. Henley (1849-1903)

OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The title "Invictus" is Latin for "Unconquered." The poem was first published in 1875. I ran across this amazing literary work prepping my Knowledge Bowl Team. It sums up my approach to adventure racing, especially the Arrowhead 135 (and life in general). Since I have no other sponsors per se, I am contacting Mr. Henley's estate in London with a proposal for full sponsorship for both cycling and life in general. But no matter the outcome; from henceforth and forever more: The author will be racing his bicycle and climbing mountains under the royal auspices of The Avenging Mallards Adventure Club, TEAM INVICTUS, & Team DBD...My ship has finally come in as Tim Ek and I will form the foundation of TEAM INVICTUS--"The Unconquered Ones." Once we are up and running, surely the sponsors will come a calling...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Feeding the Rat: 7+ hours on Saturday & Sunday and 16 hours for the week...The Arrowhead 135 is only four months away!!!! I'll never beat that mean old Dave Pramann at this rate....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Thunderdown @ The Underground Parts II & III

Part II: The Actual Bike Race…Or Life without Coffee is NOT worth living.

As eluded to in Part I, after my salvation and subsequent deliverance to the race site the rains came just as I was setting up my tent. The tent, while well made in Todd Bibler’s garage, is twenty-five years old and leaks precipitately, but at that point a few drops of water were not going to bother me in the least. Yet all was not well in my humble camp for as my heavy head hit pillow I was struck with the realization that I was missing a fundamental necessity of my pre-race ritual; namely the life-giving elixir known as coffee. I am hopelessly addicted to coffee and without itz recuperative powers I am rendered impotent and confused. I knew I could not start a twelve hour race without coffee, I was sure of it…What to do??? Despite the heavy rain, in an attempt to draw my harried mind away from the coffee dilemma, I climbed out of my little tent and went to my car trunk to retrieve a soothing micro-brew from my trusty cooler. Instantaneously upon seeing nothing but water-bottles and Slim-fasts in the cooler the full weight of my total negligence hit me like a sledgehammer; First No map, then almost getting assaulted by morons, then No coffee and now NO BEER- OH THE FOLLY!

Over eight hours to get to this god-forsaken place, then No coffee to get me going for the start and NO beer to look forward to and to celebrate with at the ending of the race…At that low point, sometime in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I felt like an AIG executive, like no one loved me, like a rolling stone with no direction home…Like Elvis’ croon ”with the rain in my shoes, looking for you”…Overcome with grief, I bitterly wept as I limped back to my tent. In a desperate cathartic effort at refocusing my acrimony, I pulled out my trusty little yellow legal pad and took a few general notes and supplemental musings about endurance racing in general and specifically the Thunderdown course. Below is a summation based on my tear-strained scribbles retrieved from my tent post race—

Apart from attempting to emulate the hydration practices perfected by one of my favorite American writers, E. Hemmingway, a primary motivation behind my writing is that I simply like to put pen to paper; long before the Internet I kept copious journals and as my friends can attest, I wrote long letters. Some of my most valued processions are the long letters that I received from my climbing buddies (Rocky Hardman and Mike Conway represent some of the best of the lot) as we corresponded back and forth regarding the logistics and anticipations of upcoming alpine expeditions. Essentially, I love the written word. However another reason I currently keep a record of my cycling exploits is to promote the fantastic sport of cycling. Over the last four years or so I have become especially intrigued with long endurance cycling events; perhaps because the experience is quite similar to alpine endeavors. Yet one problem that I have with most long mountain bike races is that one is only “out-there” for an hour or oft-times even less as the venues are almost always short circular affairs. The result of these short laps is that ones “support-team or apparatus” (or lack thereof) can to some extent benefit a racer’s performance but at the high expense of self-sufficiency and forfeiture of ones sense of personal adventure. While not close to some of the classic point-to-point gravel and snow races in terms of self-reliance, The Thunderdown at the Underground with itz extraordinarily long lap distance and remote position allows one the opportunity to extend ones experience as a soloist. It is important to note that while I submit to the reader that these lapped mountain bike endurance events do not comparatively challenge the rider in terms of the compelling requisites related to aspects of the pure autonomy associated with events like the RED ASS 300, they do in many concrete physical ways require more from the rider in terms of keeping ones wheels rolling fast over the required timed constraint. Case-in-point, the Arrowhead 135 is a penultimate winter cycling challenge (perhaps overshadowed only by the Alaskan Iditarod Classic) that requires a major commitment in both logistical planning and physical endurance, but the 24 Hours @ Wausau with itz one hour+ laps, beats me up physically (and mentally) substantially more than the Arrowhead. But I digress…so in any event, I really like the Thunderdown because of the comparatively long laps. Also the Thunderdown has everything that a good course should have from lots of climbing, technical single-track, fast sections, bumpy sections, beautiful vistas, lakes, streams, etc. I miss my beer…and I am worried about falling asleep because what if I fall asleep and there is no coffee available in the morning? What then???

Well I did eventually fall asleep and I did wake up to the dismal reality of attempting to ready myself for a twelve hour race sans coffee. My good friend and ardent training partner, Tim Ek, too was in a bit of a quandary come Saturday’s dawn. His torment is reflected in the following piece he generously crafted and sent to me with his consent to publish on my little blog. It makes for fun reading—

"I knew stacking two12 hour epics together back to back in two weekends would test my willingness to live, but I had no idea how bad I would want to die. Given the fact that my White Brothers (W.B.) front shock seized-up on a legendary course the previous weekend @ Blue-Mounds, I was forced to mount my super-fly HT S-Works. As the W.B. shock was residing in some Grand Junction, Co. laboratory getting its obligatory re-build, I was in pursuit of the lead pack, sans rear shock. The hard tail that I own is purely designed for fast 2 hour efforts, built entirely for speed and ease of climbing. It is fitted out with a butter knife for a saddle and numerous other replacement parts to make this thing feel like Balsa Wood. Sure, I felt light and nimble, but as anyone who has attempted these beast-like races knows; light and nimble doesn't suffice when the trail calls for plush and burly. After two hours I couldn't stop asking myself why I didn't switch out the saddle at least; how could I think that a 130 gram paper thin, saddle would feel good through 12 hours? I quickly lost the lead group on the first lap as the bike felt awkward and somehow new compared to the old full suspension I had been racing and training on all season. I watched Rosscoe float away from me on the wings of a butterfly while I twitched and over steered through the demanding single track, all the while cursing my own name. I found resolve after 5 hours in that I was on my own and the prospect of winning was now gone. I pushed, plugged, and fought through the course feeling last weekend's effort creeping into my legs in that sort of DEEP fatigue one feels after say a dehydrated double summit of an “Everest” attempt. The worst was the fact that the laps were so long that one's head became one's worst enemy. Loneliness came to me in many forms and visions. I found myself in dialogue with her (loneliness) and even singing to her at times. As the hours wore on I longed for some sense of the time. Without a time piece (no watch or heart rate monitor mounted on this rig) I actually began to look to the sun for answers. I started to make friends with the squirrels and even got excited by the occasional honking of geese overhead, calling out to them, "Hi friends.” In one particular instance a chipmunk darted out in front of my wheel and I heard my own voice cry out, "careful little buddy". What was happening to me? Those in the know would refer to it as "SLIPPING ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE". Pulling in to my pit I confidently reported to my crew/wife, Amy that I was going for six laps and that's all I could muster. However, through the fifth lap I knew the gig was up and five would be the number I would go to bed with that night. It just wasn't happening with the hard tail; in fact I was planning out what I would say to the doctors in the Wausau hospital. Something like this..."Well, Doc, I don't know how to say this so I'm just going to say it, will you please remove my anus?" I pulled in finishing the fifth lap awaiting the reception of my wonderful wife, fully expecting applause and congrats all around. Instead, I was greeted with the cold hard reality of her sleeping in a lawn chair looking snug as a bug in the sleeping bag (all joking aside, she was instrumental in my accomplishing 5 laps and keeping me fueled and moving, thanks Amy). I dismounted saw her eyes open and I simply said, "I'm done honey". So goes the life of a 12 hour racer. It don't mean nothin'."

Tim Ek and I match up very well, both of us thriving on the inherent sickness and folly that are fundamental components of these long races. The goods news is that Tim is moving up and has great potential; the bad news is that the author is sliding deeper each year into the abyss. Yet, as far as the Thunderdown was concerned, in my world, I left the start of the race confident that Rosscoe would win the race. Rosscoe Fraboni has seriously raced in only three twelve hour events in the last two years and he has never lost one. He did an initial 12 hour race three years ago at the 9 Mile course near Wausau, but he was not on his game that day and had actually decided to do the race at the last minute with no planning or really any understanding of what long races require. However, he is a quick study, and since that first race I have always considered him the favorite if he shows up. Now it would be very interesting to see how he would compare with Ron Stawicki, Scott Cole, Chris Schotz, Chris Strout, Brad Majors, Charley Tri, and a few of the other local proven enduro-players, but from what he has shown me over the last two years, I would take even odds on Rosscoe. He has the perfect temperament, endurance, and skill at single track to someday be a great endurance racer. Like two other up-and-coming stars, namely Constantine Peters and Justin Lund, he also is quite young and yet he is not at all afraid to hold back and pace himself. Plus he has the tools to ride incredibly fast even when it’s late in the game.

At the Thunderdown, Rosscoe and I set back on the first lap in about fourth and fifth position. I did so because of an incredible headache from not having enough beer the night before coupled with zero intake of coffee during my morning race preparation. Rosscoe probably stayed with me partly out of respect for his elders and more importantly because he knew he could turn it on and catch the leaders. I must say I was greatly impressed by his nonintrusive confidence. For example, on perhaps the second lap, I remember telling him that the very strong and talented single-speeder Lee Unwin was ahead of us and that maybe it was time for him to leave me and chase down Lee. He responded in a kind of matter-of-fact manner that he would wait for another lap or two and then reel in the leaders. Later on during that lap we did catch up to Lee who was attempting to ride the course using a very stout gear configuration. Note: It was very impressive to see Mr. Unwin battle the numerous hills with his single speed. As I recall, Rosscoe and I rode together for the first three laps and then early on the fourth lap, I set him “free.” I remember saying something dramatic to the affect, “Go Rosscoe, if you love someone, set him free!” So he took off and left me with ease. Once on my own, like Tim, I settled into the rhythm of the forlorn forsaken ones. The ones that ride neither for glory nor for fame, but only to finish…so it goes…I really suffered on the last two laps. I remember distinctly on the fifth lap “crotching” myself on a hard hill when my hands slipped off the bar-end grips and thus being forced to lay down for a bit to “collect” myself. I remember this clearly as I did the same thing at the same place on the sixth lap. I remember laying there a second time in agony muttering to the unsympathetic wilderness “please beer me, someone PLEASE beer me!”

Part III: The Ratkovich’s hospitality is unmatched

Upon finishing the race well behind the top two (Rosscoe and Justin Lund) and a few minutes behind Lee Uwin (third overall and winner of the single speed division), I was treated to a wonderful meal put on by Kate Ratkovich’s Mom and Dad who live on a beautiful place only a few miles from the race course. I sincerely hope I got the spelling right, but if you are reading this…please know that I greatly appreciate your generosity and I hope that I can raise my child in the same fashion has you have with your three most impressive children.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Big Stuff...what really matters in life

What really counts is….
Sure the world is a rat race and we all become obsessively consumed with our own little dramas, but every once-in-a-while an event comes along that really makes a guy stop and consider and to give thanks…Finding a comfortable chair is such an event!

Seriously: Huge congratulations to my good friends, Scotty and Sara for the birth of Kiera Ester… For the next year, sleep becomes the over-riding force in their lives
Part II of the Thunderdown Saga is in the works!

ATVs and Jeeps--The Thin Blue Line

Friday, October 3, 2008

Itz the weekend, take a break and do some serious relaxation

Below is the link to a little video that is quite funny - just a silly quick comedic video... I don't know if the hyper-link will work but in any event it is very well done, itz appropriate (my students' loved it), and very clever...very very clever!!!!