Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just One...

I gave single speeding a try this past Saturday at the SS State Championship. It came to me Wednesday (I had a week off and time to think between jobs - left Seagate for Beckman Coulter in Chaska). A quick stop in to see Hollywood, and I was on my way to single speed heaven: a Top Fuel single speed. Yep that bike hit one more rung of XC racing. Saturday was my 3rd or so time on a single speed, but the first time in a couple years and first time on this bike so I had no idea what to expect. I got lucky (with Tyson's help=) and chose close to the right gear with a 42-18 combo...I could have gone a little taller, but I would have needed a stiffer suspension setup. Anyway, the State Championship win has me excited to try some more single speeding next year. I don't know when or what courses, but the Fuel SS will make another appearance.
After a 1:10 SS race, I found myslef at the starting line of the elite race - with gears. It turned out to be a fun but grueling 2:20+ added on to my earlier race. About 1:30 into my second race I pretty much popped. My legs were ok, but my lower back from all that SS'n was blown. I stumbled home in 4th. SamO was riding awesome as were Eric and Luke.

So finally 24 Hours of Moab is on the horizon - in 1.5 weeks! The main reason I skipped Chequamegon this year was to save body and motivation for this race. I will be racing with my brother Ben and a duo from the Trek/Honeystinger team of out CO, Ben Portilla and Max Taam. My bro is coming on strong with a recent win out east, Ben P got 4th Overall in the Pro division of the Mt States cup, and Max is coming off a solo win at 12 hours of Snowmass. I hope I can keep up with these speed demons! The competition will be tough and exciting, and every lap is sure to be a nail-biter.

Until then, I may find myself at a couple starting lines....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

29er or 26er

The data is compelling, but maybe equally effective in changing things are scare tactics.

Monday, September 14, 2009


29 down, 2 races left to go....the final MNSCS in St. Cloud and 24 Hours of Moab (team).

My 29th mountain bike race of the year felt just like it sounds, tiring. I had what I term "crappy" legs all week since Maplelag. I was sore/tire later into the week than I remember being all year, but there was no way that was going to stop me from making a trip with Chris and Jen Fisher up to Spirit Mt in Duluth on Sunday. The course is like a transplant of Mt Snow (or other NE style trails) in the Minnesota: by far the rockiest, rootiest trail I have done in the Midwest. It was a 2 lap epic, which is always welcome change after some of our 5-6 lap races we do. More than half-a-dozen elite riders flatted and at least that many more had big crashes. I managed to avoid both but did doink my carbon Bonti XXX lite rims on several rocks (knock on wood but they are still very solid).
All that said, I felt more like a pin ball than a proficient singletrack rider on Sunday. In talking to Scott Kylander-Johnson after the race, he claims that there are good lines through it all....I just didn't find some of them=) Beyond that it was a tough race. Off the start I got a good gap, but ScottKJ pulled the OBros back to me by the bottom of the hill on the first lap. Over the next 700 feet of nearly continuous technical climbing I was able to drop Eric and Scott and gap SamO by ~20 seconds. It was a relief to not see Scott with SamO because they surely would have closed that on the ensuing downhill. I rode a lot smoother on the second lap even though it rained for a bit making the roots and rocks a little slick. I ended up with the win and a little over a minute on SamO. Michael McBurney, a rising XC bike and run (or so I learned in talking to him after the race), star put in an awesome performance to round out the podium. He is another one to watch out for in the future!

Next up is a REST weekend (no Cheq for me this year). I need to save body and motivation for our charge in Moab.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Soaking in the legs in Little Sugarbush Lake was Heavenly...

Maplelag is my family's favorite biking weekend of the year and this year it came with a cherry on top: perfect weather.
The racing action was hot and had TJ beating me in the XC and overall by 11 seconds, but let me start from the top.
One of my goals coming into the weekend was to set the course record for the TT that Doug set the prior year. Well, Doug, TJ and I all set the record, but I was just a little faster...1 second faster than TJ at 9:36 for the 3 mile course=) So things were off to a good start, but I was wondering how long the legs would hold out after the 2-4 last weekend....
The STXC is a super fun course that saw a group of about 5 of us getting away. You can see TJ and I were excited about it (not sure what I was doing=)!
I didn't want to try to sprint Doug so I attacked on the second to last lap, but slipped a little on a loose turn. At that point, I caught back on and just rode it out, as Doug put in a last lap attack and got a little gap on us. Again, it was a tight finish w/ Doug, TJ and I finishing within 1 second of each other.

That left the XC, and it was on like donkey kong! With some "All about Performance" pumping us up and a very well done singing of the National Anthem by Jack Richards, we were ready to go. I felt fine at the start and decided to see if everyone was awake so I turned it up a little, which left TJ, Doug, myself and SamO just off the back. I knew at this point that my power on the climbs and doubletracks was not there, but I continued to have a blast railing the rocky, rooty, twisty singletrack that is Maplelag (built by mountain bikers - for mountain bikers). For the next couple laps, the lead would change several times, but eventually I was able to gap TJ and SamO in the singletrack.. at least it was a gap that wasn't immediately pulled back as I crawled along the double track sections. Going in to the last lap, things started to fall apart. My legs were cramping even though I was hydrating well...it was the muscle fatigue from Afton finally setting in. I had to sit up a little so my legs wouldn't seize; it was PAINFUL. TJ caught and passed me on suicide hill as I soft pedaled up the big steep climb. I kept focused and continued to dangle off his wheel for the remainder of the race. I could see him the whole time, but when requested more power from the engine room, all I got was more cramps. TJ and I met at the finish line both with smiles on our faces however because it was an epic 2 day, 3 race battle that came down to the very end. Awesome.
Pics are from Bruce at Skinnyski.
I should note that the my 8 day marathon of 24 hour race, a TT, a STXC, and XC were all done on the same bike...my Top Fuel(s). The only tweaks I made were to the lockout/propedal and tires. I have never owned a bike that is the exact right tool for ALL those jobs with no compromises. All I can say, is that if you get a chance to demo one this Fall or in the Spring, do it...
Enough writing for now. Spirit Mt this weekend.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Guest Blog: Mr Dan Dittmer

Dan is a friend, teammate, co-worker, and repeat winner at 24 Hours of Afton. Here is his race recap:

It was another perfect weekend for the Salsa 2-4 Fest. The forecast was calling for a chance of rain, evening temps dropping into the 40's and 20 mph winds but none of these things materialized. There were over 50 entrants in the solo category including Sean Nelson and my Velo Rochester teammate Charly Tri who I knew would be serious contenders for the win.
The race started with a le mans start. I went out hard enough to avoid the traffic but didn't make any attempts to keep the race leaders in site. I kept a close eye on my Garmin heartrate monitor and tried to keep my heartrate below 165.
Charly had a sizeable lead for the first couple laps but I slowly reeled him back into sight. We exchanged the lead several times. We continued like this for the first seven laps...always staying within a minute of each other. I found that he would always pull away from me on the singletrack and I would usually catch back up on the climbs.
Each lap I was drinking a half bottle of Hammer Heed/Perpetuem, bottle of Gatorade (from my camelbak), and a handful of Sport Beans and Skittles. At the end of each lap I would swallow down most of a can of Mt. Dew and maybe eat a chocolate chip cookie or two. Most people would expect to have bad stomach issues with a diet like that but this crazy combination of sports nutrition and junk food usually works really well for me.
My stomach started getting a little off on lap 8 which made it hard to ingest enough calories. Allie scrounged around camp to find some food alternatives and eventually we discovered that I could stomach Coke and Pringles. I didn't eat much while I was riding on laps 8 through 11 but I forced myself to keep getting fluids down. At the end of each lap I ate Pringles and sipped on Coke. Just before lap 11, Mike (Allie's dad) made me some chicken noodle soup. Over the course of the next hour that soup seemed to get my stomach functioning again.
Charly had opened up a 15 minute lead while I was working through my stomach issues. His lap times had barely even slowed down since the start of the race. Knowing how strong Charly is I wasn't sure I'd be able to catch back up but I reminded myself that I still had something like 15 hours of race left so anything was possible.
Much to my surprise I found Charly sitting in camp after lap 12. He decided to take a little break and fill up on food before heading out again. He suggested that I should take a break as well which was very tempting since the sleep monster had been creeping up on me during the last lap. Since my stomach was finally feeling good I figured that I better keep moving. I drank a Red Bull and had some more Pringles and soup and took off on another lap.
Those hours from 3am until sunrise are always the toughest. There are fewer riders out on the course and most of the time you are completely by yourself. The extent of your world is the bubble of light given off by your headlamp. In other years this is when I get clumsy and start bouncing off trees and rocks. This year the Red Bull worked its magic and I actually was able to maintain a respectable pace all night. Each time I rode through camp I was informed that Charly was still resting so by sunrise I had a 3 lap lead.
Things get much easier when the sun comes back up. The light makes it easier to ride faster and I could shed the 5 lbs. of lights and batteries I had been carrying all night. The sun also brought warmth which felt really good on my achy muscles.
Charly had fallen into third place at this point but he turned in a 47 minute lap when he started riding again. I figured he would reel in second place really quick at that pace but he came down with some GI issues that forced him out of the race.
A steady stream of friends met me at camp though out the morning. It felt really good to have so many supporters out there. Every 3 or 4 laps I would also get some well wishes from my other Velo Rochester teammates that were racing on a 4 person team as they lapped me yet again.
At this point I had a healthy lead so my mind started turning to how many more laps I needed to do before I secure the win and stop riding. My support crew gave me the stats on the top 5 riders each time I completed a lap. The told me that the race for 3rd and 4th was really tight which meant the second place rider would likely be pressured to keep riding which ultimately meant I had to keep riding. Finally after 21 laps they informed me that if I did one more lap it would be mathmatically impossible for anybody to beat me. As a bonus my friend Tim who was doing the 8 hour race had waited for me at camp and offered to ride the last lap with me. I wasn't exactly feeling fresh but it was fun to have somebody to ride with. I could tell that Tim wasn't having to work very hard despite the fact that he had already done 4 laps in his race. Even though my whole body was hurting I found myself really getting into the single track and really
enjoying what I hoped was my victory lap.
It felt really good to cross that finish line and know that I was done riding. I was completely exhausted. My total ride time was 21:13:28. I had stopped for a few minutes between each lap but I had never stopped long enough to sleep like I had done last year. Jeffrey Austin-Phillips crossed the line just a few minutes after me having completed his 18th lap which was good enough to secure 2nd place. Tim Hayes had to keep riding for the full 24 hours to secure 3rd place (even more impressive considering he was riding a single speed).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

32K = Monkey Butt

For the second year running, my Velo Rochester teammate "Dirty" Dan Dittmer rocked out a solo win at 24 hours of Afton. He won by an astounding 4 laps climbing 32120 feet over 165 miles. I am awaiting an email from him and will post a guest blog when I get it...for now, I can tell you that he is still walking funny this morning (he is a co-worker too).

Paul sums up how the team felt after the race. We each did 9 hot laps (a less impressive 13500 feet or climbing each=) winning the race by about 2 laps. For some reason my legs felt stale prior to the race, but I pulled out the "race" bike - the other laps were done on my backup bike -and did a ~33.5 minute first lap (hottest lap of the race dispite what peaktimings fastest lap link says). When I came in, I would have predicted a 40 minute lap based on how I felt out there. Jack "Kid Slapshot" Hinkens put in the second hottest, a 34.5 minute lap, on Saturday morning...impressive for a 24 hour first timer.
I also got some bike experimenting in. I left it in the big ring for the first 2 laps to see if a 1x9 setup makes sense for me. It really wasn't that bad. In statistical nerd speak, I can't disprove my null hypothesis that a 1x9 with 42 tooth chainring is reasonable;)

Hopefully I can recover enough to have some gusto at Maplelag this weekend. I am not sure right now...