Friday, January 28, 2011

"Don't wait up fer me, Honey...this may take awhile."

Wish me luck as I am off to go race my 37th Arrowhead 135. Back when we first did this race fer the first time, America had just made the world safe for democracy (and investment bankers) by ridding it of them fascists, Nazis, Tojo, liberals, tree-huggers, gun-control pot smoking hippies, and a host of other nasty types— Pramann was young and unstoppable and folks got along. Back then...We didn’t allow them runners or skiers or Alaskans or clown-bikes to wreck the trail and we didn’t judge a MAN solely by how wide his rim was…Back when Pramann ruled the roost...A man was judged simply by his character and how many beers he bought me at the bar the night before the race. Now these young ones…all they care about is carbon forks, high energy nutrition, and whether or not they can get cell phone reception. Well I’m going anyway cuz I can’t do nuthin’ else... I'm too slow to road race, too clutzy to mtb race, I only run from the cops and I sure as heck aint gonna do no TRIATHLON…so wish me luck cuz I sure am gonna need it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A past entry....from years ago...back when the author had aspects of HONOR

Note: The author is away on a forced tour of an assisted living residence in which his "loved-ones" are attempting to have him "placed" where he can live out his final dayz in a "haven of peaceful serenity," but also where trained professionals (with hairy arms and backs) can attend to his specific and complex physical and psychological needs...until the inevitable.

From his archived collection....a recap of the classic 2006 Arrowhead 135--

February, 2006

Hey Mom & Dad: Below is a recap of the race that I did recently. As a requirement of the secret club for which I am a part of, one is suppose to write up personal accounts of the races and submit them to the honor board, etc. I always tend to add high drama to the pieces I write so as to garner favoritism from Sir Mallory and Sir Earnest…The one below, while packed full of hyperbole, does perhaps offer some insight into the experience that is the Arrowhead 135…Crystal, Sophie and I are fired up to see you on Saint Patrick’s Day weekend in March…Irish ale is my favorite...

The Big Dance commenced on Monday, February 6th at 7:00 am, I was as excited and giddy as a little school girl out on her first date…According to some folks that were at the start, the temperature was 19 degrees below zero, but dropped to 21 below around 8:00 am, then slowly rose throughout the day. I am not sure as to the technical accuracy of these numbers, but I can tell you that it was pretty cold, as we all had problems with camelbaks freezing up, etc... During much of the day, the temp was around 10 to 15 degrees above zero. A day that was beautifully sunny with a slight breeze. Thirty-two racers started the event, but one doomed biker had to start off walking as his rear hub froze up even before the gun went off, so it goes…apart from bikers, there were two skiers and four “goofy runners.” The runners, especially, carried strange looks about them…they looked to me like reluctant gladiators going down the dark hallway towards the lions. Ultimately, none of the skiers pulled it off, but two runners incredibly finished.

This event is the love child of Pierre and Sheryl Ostor [Note: Sheryl is from Knife River] and they did a great job. This husband/wife team is committed to making this a premiere ultra-endurance winter classic. Next year, they hope to attract an even larger field, including racers from Europe. Pierre is in charge of R&D at Park Tools and is a savvy veteran of many ultra-endurotype endeavors including two Iditabikes in Alaska, plus many more…he leaves soon for Alaska, where he hopes to complete the full Iditabike [1050 miles ending in Nome!!!] and he is a great guy, super funny and witty and tough as nails. Sheryl is super nice as well and very organized. I was so impressed with her attention to details, her unwavering optimism, and supportive approach to all of the racers and support staff. It seems to me that Pierre and Sheryl with all the complex logistical time and effort put into this show surely have acted out of great generosity and even perhaps loss of personal income to make this such a great experience. I was totally impressed. As a team, we need to support these kinds of local venues.

All entrants were required to meet on Sunday to go over the proper protocol; weigh-in and to account for the required 15 lbs. of survival gear and to get acquainted with the course, etc. It was a good time as I really enjoyed meeting all these ascetic types. Although, some clearly were in for way more than they anticipated…I couldn’t help myself as I found myself scanning the room and picking out the ones that looked truly hard and the ones that looked like complacent, unsuspecting sheep unknowingly heading for the slaughter house. One guy, from Detroit, really stuck out as he packed up his huge camouflaged externally framed backpack with enough gear to walk across Europe. His plan was to carry the pack while he road his RockHopper to the finish— for some odd reason, as he explained his plan to me, I was struck at how similar it seemed to the one that Stalin ordered in the defense of Leningrad. Stalin’s plan, briefly, involved placing his best men and machine guns at the rear and to order the weak and unarmed to charge head long into the German onslaught. If and when the vanguard began to retreat, the rear guard had strict orders to open fire on their comrades. The plan worked and Leningrad was saved, sort of…

The brothers Evingson were clearly two of the most engaging and energetic characters in this cast of eccentrics. They are full of positive and contagious kinetic zeal. It was obvious that John was totally into the technical and logistical issues that represent a huge factor in success or failure in an event like this one. In fact, I would say that my mountaineering experience actually played a more important role in my effort than my skills as a bike racer. As I listened into the various theories and justifications and viewed the different gear/bike set ups, I began to second guess my own ideas about how this whole thing would play out.
Upon reflection, it seems that my plan of simply loading up and riding a high-end racing bike designed to go fast on a two hour mountain bike dirt course was unrealistic…Please know that I know that the following could be construed as if I am making an excuse, I know this, because its what I am doing, but also please know that I am quite certain that the three guyz that beat me would have still beaten me had I had all the proper bells and whistles in place. Dave Pramann, a Duluth native, would have beaten me even if he was on a unicycle, there is no question about it, and he was far and away the best rider in this race. And Dave Gray and John Evingson were far far far ahead of me…I just want to convey to the reader how foolish one can be after hours and hours of motion and yet I also want to convey the great power of positive persistent thinking. Plus, it is purely a human failing to make excuses, so in any event, I was way too hunched over for a twenty+ hour race and the loaded front end caused the Fox Race Shox to perform in an inconsistent, sketchy manner. But the main problem I had was with the XTR disc brakes as the calipers were very slow to retract causing a high degree of friction and in the very cold night temperatures the front brake would completely freeze up…upon which when applied sent this old fool down to the cold floor more times than I can remember. Picture a pitiful forlorn man laying on the trail cursing his stupidity, its 3:00 am and he has repeatedly forgotten his mantra, Don’t touch the brake, you idiot, Don’t touch the brake.”

After some fourteen hours of near constant motion, the early morning routine went something like this—I would be weaving along the trail, even falling asleep, like the proverbial drunken sailor, I would come to a big hill so I would dismount and start the long walk up. Using the time to try and warm up my toes, as I drudged upward I would start the mantra, “don’t touch the brake, etc.” At the top I’d jump on the bike and head down, I’d get going too fast and I’d instinctually touch both brakes…I’d lay there on the snow for awhile then I would pull my backpack off and dig around for my little Park tool, that Pierre gave all the participants. As I used the tool to lever the pads back off the disk, my camelbak tube would freeze up. I would get back up and on the bike, I would then discover to my dismay that the tube was frozen; I would curse with great dramatic emotion, place the tube next to my skin and start the whole process over again. I am not at all sure how many times I repeated this demented self destructive process, but it was more than three or four times. Eventually, the camelbak became completely useless, later on I figured out that I could put the tool in my pocket, and I did even finally have the wherewithal to jam an extra wool sock into the space between the front brake lever and the handlebars making it nearly impossible for me to use it. Although sometime later, I do remember looking down at the sock and thinking a foggy thought—“How odd; why is that sock stuck in my brakes?”

The start was cold, still, and beautifully remote; the scene reminded me of my time in Northwestern Alaska— sparse struggling evergreens and lots of high taiga-type grass. Even though the trail follows the general direction of Highway 53, it had the feel of a real wilderness environment. Dave Pramann, took off at the start and as always I took off right after him, but his pace was simply too much for me. I tried to draft off him, but he was still too much for me. I knew the guy was tough, but I remember thinking that he was crazy and that I should back off and let him eventually self-destruct and implode. As I found a comfortable pace and settled in for the long haul, in my overly optimistic mind, I conjured this self serving, sick vision of him totally cracking, falling apart, mega-bonking, begging for mercy, clawing at and eating the snow, later a search and rescue team working on him, me slowing down my racing steed, just enough to see him laying there in the fetal position, a mere shell of a once proud man, in passing I offer him my insincere condolences and then I fly on to victory…

As I rode along the hard bumpy trail, a slight twisted smile on my frosty lips, daydreaming about Pramann falling apart, the sun began to rise to full glory. Then John Evington and Dan Gray caught me up and easily passed me. It was a hard truth that I had to face. These guys were kicking my butt! If anyone was going to self-destruct, it was going to be me! In an effort to comfort myself, I stopped to take a long pull off my camelbak and realized that the tube was frozen solid. Reality hit me hard and I was confronted with the harsh certainty that for me, this thing was not all about trying to win a race; it was about simply finishing…

The three leaders left me like OJ leaves his glove behind. While I kept a little hope in the back of my sloth-like mind that one or two or even all three would crack, and that I would find them camped by the trail, the fact is that I would not see them again. The mind mannered, amicable, and unassuming Dave Pramann went on to destroy the course in something like sixteen hours, while Dave Gray and John Evington both put in very impressive times finishing close together about four hours behind the winner.

I couldn’t bear to ride alone so I slowed and waited for the two guys coming along behind me. The sun heated up the trail and I began to feel the rubber breaking through, so the work load increased, but also the camelbak began to thaw and the brakes began to retract, and the guys I was riding with were very cool, so life was pretty good. By this time, there was a group of about four or five riders all riding at about the same pace. We all arrived at the forty-three mile point about the same time and all took the one mile detour to a little gas station on Highway 53 to reload on water, etc. I felt good, so I only took a few minutes and took off, hoping that I could somehow catch up…I wanted so much, as Harry says, to quit “pretending” and start “contending.”

Almost immediately after leaving the gas station, I came upon Matt Evingson. He was on the snow trying to placate a disagreeable knee into some sort of a compromise. I imagined a kind of “deal with the devil” scenario with a conservation that went something like, “Come on dear knee, please, work with me, come on, my God, aren’t we a team? I have always been there for you! Just give me a little more, just ten or so more hours, and I promise lots of designer drugs, a long whirlpool session, and I promise no more winter races, no more mashing on clown bikes, instead long slow walks on a sandy Caribbean beach…” But alas, sadly no deal was consummated with the knee bitterly betraying him. He made it to the halfway point, but the belligerent knee was adamant about cutting no deals and the younger Evington was forced to bail. Matt Evingson is a great guy and I was really bummed for him.

I was well on my way to madness when I barged in on the cozy support crowd at the halfway cabin. John’s wife had been a little ways up the trail and she had conveyed to me that John had just left, so I was buoyed by a renewed sense of manic, surreal hope. In a harried dream state, unconscious of the folks hanging out inside, as I was crazed with thirst, I greedily gulped down Dan Gray’s Red Bull that he had left on the table. Then I went after all the Oreos that were on the table. Next in frenzied, jerky gloved movements, I gobbled up salty pretzels and chips, until one of the race directors sort of grabbed me and told me to relax. “Dude, relax, take off your gloves, take off your backpack, you got a lot of race still a head of you, just relax, settle down, sit down for awhile.” It was a funny moment. At the finish they were still laughing about the crazed look on my face. I remember being just wild, totally amped up, like one of those ADHD kids after a full on mega-sugar buzz. It is actually a pleasant memory, in a sick twisted sort of way… The folks there were super nice; they shoved into me delicious hot soup, ham & cheese sandwiches, and lots of encouragement. After I calmed down a bit, I found out that actually the elder Evington had left about thirty minutes ahead of me and even so I rushed through the break and after a quick change of socks and shorts, I was in and out in about forty minutes. Matt Evingson arrived and shortly thereafter Pierre did as well as I was heading out the door. I had done better than half way in less than eleven hours and I still thought I could pull it off in about twenty hours, even considered the notion that I had a chance to still catch up and maybe get third or even second. I figured that the dance was only half way done. I knew I could never catch Pramann, unless, just maybe. Certainly stranger things had happened in my life…. I took some time to briefly speak with Pierre, and he cautioned me that the second half was quite a bit harder…

The second half was considerably harder, with many long hills and as the starry night came on the temperature really dropped. The new crescent moon had a vague, albeit silvery ring around it, punctuated by a long narrow wisp of a cloud cutting through the center of it. It provided a magical bluish hue that enhanced the whole scene. For lack of a more poetic description, it was way way cool, dude.
The guys at the cabin had advised filling the camelbak with hot water, so I had ample water for few hours. But eventually it froze up, and eventually I began the dazed frazzled vision quest described earlier in the account. I remember that my little man got very cold, so I took off the pack and found my spare socks. I used one to stuff in my pants and, as mentioned earlier, the other one to cram into the space between the front brake and handlebar. My legs and feet were also getting pretty cold so I took all the chemical packets that I had with me and randomly, even chaotically started stuffing them into my booties and even on my calves. I must have stuck one directly on my bare skin, because as I write this, I look down to my sporty new chemical pack-sized burn blister on my right lower calf. Such is the mentality of a crazed lunatic out and about on a bike tour.

I took my watch off and fastened it to my front load, put it on timer mode and tried to ride for at least forty-five minutes. When I hit that magic number, I would dismount lay my head on the seat for a few minutes and then walk until the timer read one hour. I did this for quite sometime, maybe three or four hours. I was in the pitiful head-on-seat position when I looked up and saw a light heading towards me. At first, I remember thinking, “Yes, I finally caught one of those boyz.” Then I remember asking myself, “Self, don’t you think that it’s strange that he is coming from the wrong direction.” Then self answered, “Well, he was probably so wasted, so demoralized that he was hiding in the snow when you went by him and now he wants to ride in with you.”

In reality, it was Pierre. He had caught me on his single speed Surly clown bike. Once I sorted out the reality from the wishful thinking, I was super happy to see him… As stated earlier, he is a top-notch fellow and tough as nails. We talked for awhile and he offered me some sort of a sausage product. I, of course, hoped that he would next offer life giving liquid sustenance, but alas he too was carrying only useless frozen water. I did notice with envy that he would from time to time lick a frozen glob of Hammer Gel. We rode together for several hours, but in a sort of see-saw fashion. I tried to stay true to my time parameter [a regime I have used with success on many mountain suffer fests]. So when I was on the bike I would out-distance him, but then as I walked he would catch me and sometimes he would stop and walk with me, but his gait was much faster than mine so he would eventually get out ahead of me by a quarter mile or so. When the timer hit one hour I would jump back on the bike and head out after his red flickering rear light. By this time it was a couple hours or so before dawn, like around 4:00 to 5:00 am. We both were battling bad gut aches, dry throats, and very cold feet. We both figured, from looking at the maps that we could finish in less than twenty-four hours, but 7:00 am came eventually and went and the trail just kept extending itself out across the horizon. A horizon that championed a new beautiful sun, its life giving warmth, and thus a renewed resolve to finish this damn thing.
In the last few miles, given the advantage of a geared bike, the fact that my feet were completely numb, and with Pierre’s blessings I took off and made for the finish. Pierre followed some nine minutes behind. It was a little after 8:00 a.m. We had been on the trail for over twenty-five hours, [a personal record]. It had been a great time and I know I will go back next year for another taste of the sickness and I want to encourage the rest of you guyz to consider it as well. For more accurate, sensible, and plausible details on this extraordinary bike race go to


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Like a newly hatched chick, growing honor is a tricky endeavor!

A fledgling precarious dignity with a mere smidgen of honor is detected as a fallen man begins the long awkward crawl out of the depths of despair and debasement. For there is a trace of hope as long as he still holds visions, albeit dim and blurry, of future velo-challenges. Perhaps he can regain honor lost and reconcile with his DBD compatriots? After all, the country is beginning to forgive Nixon, perhaps this broken man too can one day walk erect with head held high at endurance-cycling events without fear of ridicule and chastisement? Perhaps renewal lies in a job well done at the soon to commence classic Arrowhead 135 or even racing the 2nd annual Trans-Wisconsin that commences on June 17th?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If it doesn't kill will make you.....?

Determined to initiate the long foreboding process of regaining honor lost, despite chronic melancholia—I forced myself to leave my convalescence within the safe confines of my humble abode to mount me trusty Pugsley, committed to a two hour training ride of substance. Not more than shouting distance out from home I encountered an icy patch, went down like a ton of bricks, jamming my shoulder. Stunned, I laid there wallowing in self-loathing for a few moments, gathered myself, and quietly wept as I limped my treacherous bicycle back home, where I climbed back onto the Couch of DISHONOR!

Dear Reader: If you are a God-fearing man, pray for my soul….

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reports of my demise/devolution have been somewhat embellished...

Happy 2011!!! I am now back from the brink, having circled the proverbial and fabled crypt for many dayz since that unspeakable debacle occured over in Wisconsin...In other words; It have been about 15 dayz since my grave act of "supposed" dishonor @ the Tuscobia 150. For the record, I apologize for NOT doing my duty upon the trail immediately after my demise, but me WWI British-Officer issue revolver failed several times and then I unconsciously collapsed en-route to throwing myself over (and into) a bottomless abyss of eternal torment, via a high railroad bridge into churning ice-ridden rapids, only to miraculously find myself in the care of a kind and nurturing Mrs. Roe at the last checkpoint. Again I apologize to my DBD brethren and promise that I shall have me current fire-arm replaced with a more recently crafted and practical alternative for the Arrowhead and Trans-Iowa, etc... In any event, I am finally back on the track to life w/Honor (thanks to my personal physician and a team of committed health care professionals), albeit wobbly and very unsure of myself and my current place within the DBD wolf pack. Although I am happy to report that my pending case with the DBD Honor Council is certainly going to go my way as my attorney has assured me that my defense of total collapse is "rock solid"... Clearly at this point, I am NOT the Alpha Male that I once was in my glorious youth (I doubt that I ever was)...Yet, I rode me trusty STEEL Puglsey today for about 90 minutes at a slow pace in Hartley Park and while I did feel weak, it was not pathetically weak, and the sheer velo-movement on snow, brought a smile upon my normally taciturn demeanor.

Once I get back to 80 or 90% of normal; I shall present and publish the highly anticipated 2010 Awards pertaining to the Greatest Cycling Accomplishments of 2010. Just off the top of my head--Some of the favorites that will get serious consideration include: Chris Skogen; Scott Cole; Tim Ek; Jeremy Kershaw; Rich Hendricks; J. Buffington; COGGS; J. Novak; C. Tri; S. K.J.; D. Pramann; J.Oakley; T. Rockwell; G.Ted & Associates, J. Meiser; J. Boyce; Ragnorak 105 Race Organizers; Tim Roe (and Tim Roe's mother); Adam Blake; Nebraskans Cornbread and his buddy T. Kruse?; L. Andre; Braun; Salsa; Surly; 24@9 Mile; and several others that I cannot remember right now as I have been drinking (as prescribed by my medical team--"drink lotz of fluids!")...Also I shall submit the Top Ten List of Greatest Gear Innovations of 2010 as well.* Please feel free to submit names and gear for both lists in the next few days via comments.

*Just a few on the short list for greatest gear innovations for 2010 include: Farrow's Ultra-endurance Man Diaper; the Salsa Wood-Chipper bars; the 1988 Merlin MTB Ti-Frame conversion kit c/o Pride Cycles; Kershaw's frame pack design; Buffington's Man Foot-Warmer Bootie; DBD Adventure Society wool jersey; Surly Stainless Steel Whiskey Flask; Lance Andre's Old Man Winter Cycling Suit; Buffington's Heck of the North Ale; Eki's Super Sweet CK Wheel-set c/o Slender Fungus Cycling Club Executive Officer; Bar-Mitts; Kershaw's Clock Work Steel 29er Frame, etc.
Of Note: While his decision to race the 75 mile race raised some eyebrows amongst the more traditional of our breed, clearly a CONGRATULATIONS is in order to Mr. Charly Tri for his impressive effort @ Tuscobia. The stage is set for a GREAT Contest to commence in International Falls in just a month's time!