What the Almanzo means to me

Two years ago this spring I saw an article in "Exposed Magazine" about the Almanzo 100 race. At that point in my life I had never ridden 100 miles, the race was only a few weeks away, but I was inspired. I found contact information for Chris and sent an email pleading to be allowed to ride. Race day came up quick! The 2nd half of the race was incredibly hard, but I kept my head down, literally, and battled my way back to town into that horrible wind. It was a great experience.

It was also free. At the time I didn't think too much about that- I was too busy just being excited about bike racing. Since that 2009 Almanzo I've been in 40 or 50 more official cycling events. None of them have been any more fun or provided anything beyond the experience of the Almanzo. Many of them have cost $40-70. I didn't mind paying, but I've thought a lot about it. Where was that money going? Is it right that any individual should make a profit from running amateur bike races? A good bit of that money has gone towards things that were absolutely necessary, but too much of it has not. I appreciate the importance of insurance, licensing, venue fees etc., and that they cannot always be avoided. That said, cycling should be affordable to everyone. More importantly, it CAN be affordable to everyone.

All it will take is for more individuals to step up and organize free races. The Almanzo this year will have over 500 people take the line. If just 1/10 of them get inspired, go home, and create something of their own we'd really have something. We would have an entire race season of free races. I believe this can happen. I will purchase and wear the Almanzo kit because I believe this can happen. I will wear this kit in every race I do this year with the belief that doing so can make a difference.

There are some limitations of this model when it comes to Mountain bike races (insurance and fees for using venues may make totally "free" impossible), but the entry fees could certainly be radically reduced. The Sandwich 50 is another local race and an example of this. They've got the entry fee down to a $20 club membership which is used to cover insurance costs and still leaves money leftover to go towards trail improvements.

I don't believe that the free races can or should ever take over the place of the higher level sanctioned races. Nor do I think they will pose any threat to those types of races. I was 100% happy to pay my $30 or $40 a race at Jinglecross. It was awesome to race the same course as Olympians and Tour de France riders. I do not think it is inconsistent to push for more free races while also enjoying racing Jinglecross and the like. I will certainly continue to support USA Cycling by purchasing yearly licenses. I may even donate some extra money toward youth development programs.

Along those lines, as the "free riding" thing keeps growing WE will all be able to choose how to spend our extra funds. We will be able to allocate them appropriately in order to build more trails, support youth cycling, educate people about the environment or animal causes, to cure breast cancer, or whatever suits each of us. Maybe the Almanzo can change the world.

Looking forward to wearing my new colors!



I am not green


I'm not green. I eat food, our food supply isn't remotely green. Even if you only shop Trader Mings and avoid meat. The cost of my daily meals is extreme when measured in natural resources and environment impact. I live in a house much too large for two people, even two people who need a lot of space... I heat that house to 69 degrees all winter. My dogs eat mostly meat. I read somewhere that a 90 lb dog requires more petro a year than driving the 12,000 miles a year the average american drives their SUV. My 3 dogs alone probably burn up enough gas a day just to lay around and exist than I would towing my camper to every race I do this year. I don't really care, I love the dogs.

I recently calculated that my inefficient ass gets slightly worse gas mileage than the mini cooper. Seriously, assuming that I eat the typical american diet (and who am I to argue otherwise) the 1000-1200 extra calories I burn each day on my commute require more fossil fuels than would be utilized in driving the mini cooper. In fact, I'm closer to the Tahoe than I am the Mini.


I'm not cheap. I pay for that food, it costs me a lot. Most of my budget that doesn't go towards that, too large, house or those, too many, dogs goes towards feeding my ass. I have XTR and Dura-ace bike parts. I have a carbon road bike. The bars on that bike alone retail for over $400. I commute on a bike many people would love to have as their race bike. It has carbon bars/stem, a thomson post etc. etc. all kinds of unecessary crap. I think that crap makes me more likely to ride it (in fact, it does! and my knee doesn't hurt) but the more I ride it the less "green" I really am and the more money I spend. It's easy to justify it- I've got 770 miles on the Nokians I bought this fall for $95. That is 12 cents a mile. 700 miles on the nexus 7 speed hub I paid $125 for already built into a wheel, 17 cents there. In fact, I can tell myself the entire bike, through all it's iterations since I purchased it this spring, has only cost me about 11 cents a mile. So what? In the end biking costs me and the world/environment more than driving would.

I'm sick of people thinking that I ride because I'm cheap or green. I'd like to be better at both, but I'm smart enough to know that my biking habit isn't helping a whole lot.

I'm sick of people who think they are cheap and green just because they bike.

I'm loving it how more and more people in Rochester seem to accept that I ride without questioning why. I've been here for four years and commuted most of the time. I feel like over the last year things have really changed for the better. It's pretty awesome. Every week this winter it seems I get fewer weird looks. Life is good!

Why do I ride?

It gives me a purpose and it makes me happy. I make extra laps through downtown Rochester just to see the beauty of the lights almost every night. Here are some crappy pictures.

I hope you ride for some of the same reasons. I hope you think about the actual costs (and benefits) of your riding. If you are riding to be cheap or green, make sure you are. If you are riding because you love riding, good. If you are riding because it is keeping you sane and saving your soul, even better.


reverse trans-michi-sconi-sota...

Keweenaw chain drive is June 18th. It is the beginning of the part of the year in which I intent to focus on XC type riding. It is also the same weekend as trans-wisconsin.

I had a ton of fun last year doing long rides. I have been thinking about when to tour/ride etc. this year while also trying to accomplish my goals of keeping my job and riding fast in a variety of disciplines.

The time I spent up at Wolverine Lodge in Ironwood was also pretty good and a perfect way to refocus myself toward the change in pace within my year of riding (endurance to xc). They have some awesome group rides up there and plenty of cool places to ride too.

So- What if I can find a ride with someone up to the Chain Drive, race, then adventure back home. I could spend some time on the upper, upper pensinsula camping, maybe spend a night in a hotel in Houghton and ride their trails, take 2 days to get back down to Ironwood, spend a couple days in Ironwood at the Wolverine Lodge, ride through Cable (Cheq 100 course basically in reverse?), then hightail it the rest of the way over to the Mississippi and on down to Red Wing and finally home. Can I fit all that into 7 or 8 days? Or would it be worth the effort to stretch it to 10 or 11 days if that meant I could ride up there on the way to the race?

I know that would be the right way to cap off the endurance portion of my year. I'd then rest a week, train a bit and start my main XC season the same week I did last year at the Eau Clair WORS race.

Want to come with?

EDIT- I took the week off previous to this. I'll be starting off on this trip after either the Wausaw WORS race of the Dirty Benjamin. Will have the 11th-27th free. Should be fun.


Dubuque Dyersville Durango

edit- sorry this thing got so long!

Almost got the mini stuck in a snowdrift at Royal's grave on the way down, glad we were able to push it out! Turns out his gravestone is completely under the snow anyways. Still glad I stopped by. Once we did get moving again we got to Dubuque just in time to check into our hotel and head to race headquarters for the Winter Riding Seminar. I definitely heard some things which will influence my future plans/purchases. Also, news about the trail conditions and weather reports. Heard it was going to be mostly rideable on a cx bike and the wheels started turning... if it was that icey my 29er might be an ADVANTAGE over the Fatbikes. How much of an equipment advantage would it take for me to maybe even BEAT the fast guys on their Fatbikes? Dinner at Tony Romas, some football and then a glass of champagne before bed (well, for me anyways. Kelly and Laura wound up at some bar with a door man, got themselves on "the list", and got into all sorts of trouble while I slept).

Sunday morning came fast. Pre-race meeting and more information on the course. Going to start out hard on private land, hilly, soft etc.. Then hit the Heritage Trail for most of the rest. Knew I'd lose contact with the Fatbikes early. Hoped my skinny tires would be enough of an advantage later to reel them back in. Knew that I'd have to ride smart and efficiently early. Trying to keep up with the Fatbikes in the deep stuff would render my advantage? later totally moot because I'd be in a coma.

Neutral lead-out ended and the first section of trail was rideable on my bike! Remembered running most of it last year and felt this was a good omen even if it was beyond bumpy. Lance Andre, Cody Larson and Ben Shockey flew by me after a bit but I settled into a pace that I could handle. It was obvious that the volume of the 26x3.7 tires was helping them absorb the bumps. We had a brief smooth/firm section after going under the underpass and I was quickly able to close the gap. Looked back for the first (and only) time and we already had at least a 2 or 3 minute lead on the field.

Settled into my own pace and slowly watched the Pugsleys pull away from me over the next 75-90 minutes. By the last couple miles on those early trails I was walking hundreds of yards of trail that the others had ridden, much of it on slight uphill grades. I was happy with my bike setup though and honestly surprised by how much of the trail I WAS able to ride. I really enjoyed the route. It was gonzo; up, down, along this road, across a random field, through a parking lot, school, shopping mall etc. etc., technical descending, barely rideable climbs, tons of vertical. Would be the route you'd take from Dubuque to the Heritage Trail if you had a motor on your bike and huge balls, must be nice...

Crazy fast descent down a level B road. Didn't use brakes, knew the guys in front were "out there" at that point. Slipped on ice and wrapped myself up pretty good. Back on and still descending at 25+ and finally out and onto the Heritage Trail. Told myself it was "Suck 'em up time" (my grandpa's way of saying it was time to get the momentum, come from behind and destroy your competition... usually used when he was beating me at H.O.R.S.E.). Got the average up over 13 the rest of the way to Dyersville. Flying along in the big ring toward the end, "suck 'em up time, suck 'em up time". Lance and Cody were already coming down the trail TOWARD ME before I even got to the turn off for the checkpoint! Plus they were riding in a Fat paceline. Started my watch so I'd know how far back I was, but even then I knew it was likely useless.

PUlled into checkpoint- Ben's bike still here. He's on his way out. Gatorade, no time to find a faucet and make perpetuem. No time to pee. Go. Couple miles of pavement. Almost closed the gap. Kept on it on the trail. Started seeing other racers going "out" still. With each one the trail got worse. Ben started slipping away as I struggled in the rutted drifts. I cursed the other skinny tired riders. Reminded myself I bought a road bike instead of Mukluk and that it was the right choice. Ate a frozen nutroll. Finally made it back to where we'd joined the trail on the way out and therefore past where any other skinny tired bikes had ridden. Back into the big ring. Ben's orange jacket! 1 one thousand etc., 185 seconds back. An hr later, orange jacket! 180 seconds. Damn. Conversation with myself, "15 or 20 miles left. You need to ride your own race now and save something in the tank", "ok".

Back pain- stem flipped low and heavy backpack, what was I thinking? 4 miles to Durango checkpoint. cool ski area on the right, beautiful rock walls all around me. ORANGE JACKET, FASTER! Big ring again. Ben was leaving the checkpoint as I pulled in. Took too long at checkpoint. 10 miles to go with the last 4 being paved. Knew I would have an advantage on the pavement, but he'd have a huge advantage on that first section of bumpy trail, which would now be our last section. I would have to get there before him or with him to have a chance of pulling off third (and more importantly? beating my friend). Pushed hard and got down to about 120 counts back. Actually started telling myself that "Ben was tired, Ben wasn't ready to ride this far" etc.. We left the main trail again and I just wallowed. Wanted to keep pushing but I was done. He again had at least 3 minutes on me and I was riding./weaving at about 4 miles an hr through an ice covered driving range that he'd probably flown straight across.

Another goal (actually my only goal for the race) was still in my reach- to finish! and I had time yet to finish it comfortably before sunset. Had a quick siesta under the overpass with some perpetuem washed down by a shot of Patron. I'd brought the bottle with expecting a 10+ hr slog with good company. It was to be a celebration of finishing and was to be shared with whomever I'd shared the suffering with... but this would do. This thing had become a different animal than what I'd expected, but it was still worth celebrating. Puttered the rest of the way in, carried my bike up the stairs and signed in for a 6 hr 40 minute? (or so) finish.

Cody had beaten me by an hr, Lance by just 10 minutes less. Those guys are crazy fast. Ben is a badass for his whole ride. He could have slowed down and ridden with me the second half but he's too competitive (or hates me?)... wouldn't want it otherwise. Plus the way he finished it off I didn't deserve that anyways, he was stronger. I hope he was still chasing Lance and Cody to the end. Impressed and humbled by how all three of those guys ahead of me rode. Frank Hassler was next to finish after me, glad to see him do well. Bob Gritman from Rochester also had good race on his 29er, particularly for a first try in something like this. Awesome to see him out there. Lots of great efforts from everyone. It's not like its easier to go slower and have to ride in the dark and cold. The last person to finish this race IS the toughest. Woman finisher near the end! Laura and Kelly lost a bit at the casino, but had fun. Awards. What bar should we go to? Is there really a bar called "mason dixon"?

No lights on at the bar- barmaid says she's going across the street. No bar across the street? "Just go in that door and go downstairs"... Amazing Irish Pub in the basement, crazy locals everywhere. Some sort of combination of winking insurance salesman, burlesque, blues brothers, fishnets, ugly sweater party and an "Irish" bartender who wound up taking his dress shirt off and just wearing argyle vest. Good company in the form of the guys "from Milltown" (Cody L and his girlfriend, Ben O, Curtis and Ben W). A few good games of billiards with Ben W, a few too many dark beers... switched to Strongbow. Back to the hotel around 2:30.

Pretty good weekend.

If you are considering this race, do it! It's about as approachable as "winter" trail racing gets (well, other than the Dickie Scramble, right?). More importantly it's run perfectly. Everything is properly organized. Everything is thought of beforehand. The volunteers are where they need to be and doing what they need to do with a smile. The course is beautiful. Lance does it right.

Sorry I don't have any pictures, I was busy. Check out the Triple D website for quite a few. I may add some here later.

Ben's Blog- http://theshockstar.blogspot.com/

Triple D- http://tripledrace.blogspot.com/

Lots more blogs over at the Triple D site- I'm guessing a lot of people have a lot of different write-ups, could be interesting to read.


Today's ride on the Dickie Scramble course

I decided I needed one more tune-up/gear test ride prior to Triple D. Why not the Dickie Scramble course... I've been telling people it will be decently easy and it's the best choice I have around here for riding my Mamasita without getting it all salty.

Since Sundays 2.5 hr ride we've picked up a couple inches of snow and had some decent wind. I was curious to see how that stuff would effect the conditions. The weather was looking similar to the temperature and wind speed that is currently forecasted for Triple D too, perfect to test equipment/clothing!

Left the trailhead at 2pm. Right away noticed conditions were a bit tougher than Sunday. Things were rideable, but generally I was riding in 1 or 2 gears easier than I had on Sunday. Snapped a few pictures showing the beauty of the trail, figuring they would be helpful to promote the race.

note that the 2nd one shows my bike on the edge of the trail which we will be riding and that the trail behind the bike is snowmobile only and NOT where we will ride.

The trail started out highly packed. Later it alternated between windblown and windblown. I saw some other skinny tire tracks prior to Douglas and some Pugsley tracks after. The Pugsley hadn't had a lot of trouble, but clearly had done some wandering to find the best track. I was always able to soldier on, but some sections were definitely challenging. Around 3/4s of the way out to Pine Island I looked down at my watch and realized it was almost 4. In order to beat the sunset I would have had to turn around approximately 20 minutes earlier. Whatever! I would continue. If the conditions were like this on the 12th I'd have made everyone ride the trail in the race, how could I not finish this thing off?

The return trip was more challenging that I'd expected. There are basically no real hills on the Douglas Trail, but loosely packed snow has a tendency to show you where they are... Even the slightest change in grade can mean the difference between the totally efficient and almost straight track vs. walking.

The sun was totally gone by the time I got to the "6 mile remaining" mark. It became harder to ride. Sections that would have been easy with light were no longer so easy. I wondered why I hadn't brought a light. I thought a lot about "Point Break", (surfing is the source, man) Going zen might have helped some, but it was hard to tell.

Somewhere I snapped this-

Pounded the two slimfasts I had with me, turned and...

Which changed my whole outlook. That minor act of defiance pushed any doubts out of my mind. Screw it, I was going to ride 5 or 6 miles of bumpy, snowy, slippery shit in the dark.

Passed a couple walking their dogs near the finish, "rider back" was followed by a scream and a fall. I rode by and smiled to myself.

Todays stats- 4.25 hrs, 25 miles, on pace for about a 12 hr Triple D. Feeling humble.


this bear can wait

I'm not really feeling the same. I'm sort of second guessing my plans for next year. Dreaming about just riding places. I can remember how badly I wanted to go fast in XC races etc. later in the year and how I spent part of the summer wishing I'd moved in that direction earlier... but now I'm not so sure. Part of me just wants to use all my PTO and money to go "bikepacking" 2 or 3 times for as long as I can. One thing is for sure- I'm excited about riding.


least epic century ever

Wasn't even a "real" century... just a metric. Intention was to go for a 4 or 5 hr ride in the am, but was too lazy to get up before noon. New plan was made to go for a 3 or 4 hr gravel ride. Possibly down to Chatfield and back. Wednesday night I had offered to give one of the guys from CORP a 32t bashguard for the cost of shipping (figured I didn't need it anymore). I had intended to ship it on whenever I went to the post office otherwise, but received an email from him that he really would appreciate getting it ASAP. So plan C... ride to the post office and mail that out.

HARD pace on the way down there. Kept the average up around 15.5 despite the snow covered trails and gravel. Again, felt lazy (weird)... so just looped home after sending it along. Total mileage 33.

At home I ate and showered, played with dogs, rested an hr. Back on the bike with 2 hrs before I had to be into work. Rode about every bit of "plowed" trail in Rochester and half of it twice. In the end it was basically all the way to Binkie's North, back down past the Post Office again (near Moffit's house) and then back to Downtown. Another 21 miles.

Four hrs of work and then back out for the return leg home. Noticed I was close to the metric century mark and figured I'd add the necessary mile or two to my commute to get it done.

All in all yesterday was fairly representative of my winter so far... very few individual rides longer than 2 hrs, but a lot of days with 2 or 3 shorter rides and a good number of hrs. Depending on exactly how you count things I've been on somewhere between 45 and 50 rides since December 1st.