Not the typical bike racing weekend

I got out of work around 9 Friday night expecting to pack up my stuff, get a bit of sleep and then drive down to Iowa City early in the morning.  I saw a number I didn't immediately recognize on my phone and wound up leaving Rochester afer 11 pm with Kesha.  About halfway down to Iowa City I figured out that we were couch surfing.  Rolled into Iowa City at about 3:30 am and found the Apartment complex, went to the wrong building first but then found the right unit and the key.  Said a quick word to myself about the Trans-Iowa riders who were starting right as I was falling asleep and crashed for four hours.

The Lillig Cup was going to be a totally bonus race for me.  I had planned on some very different stuff but here I was.  The road race was fast but manageable and I rode well most of the day.  Then the field split in the wind and I handled things poorly.  I guess I was just antsy.  In the end I burned matches I didn't need to, wasn't in position for the field sprint  and finished near the back of the 1st chase group in 22nd.  Didn't like losing to some of the guys ahead of me, but I knew full well why I had.

Time trial in the afternoon.  Not my forte last year (although prior to last year I always thought I was good at them?).  Felt like crap but hit my target time wise.  Not embarassingly slow, not as fast as I'd like to be able to go with a few similar efforts under my belt for the year.  This was honestly the first time I've sustained an effort like that for more than 3-4 minutes and all of those were for random Strava segments...  not quite the same.  They ran it in order of registration and I had done day-of...  so I was on the start-list as going last.  Felt like spartacus for a while...  but then Brian Eppen signed up even more last minute.  I was proud to hold my 30 second gap on him for about half of the course!

Saturday night I got out for a quick paddle at Sugar Bottoms...

Ok, honestly I padded maybe 1,000 yards total.  Mostly sat in my packraft and enjoyed sitting.  My arms were tired from the TT on a non-TT bike thing.

Then we had dinner at The Sanctuary with our couch surfing hosts.  This sounded weird at first, but turned out to be awesome.  Didn't make it back to the apartment until close to midnight.

Still got a solid 10 hours of sleep and then more great food from Monica's in preparation for the crit.

Went out for a warm-up with my friend Nathan Kullbom, actually we did this both days.  He is from Iowa City area so it was nice to go with someone who knew a good route to take etc..  When we got about the furthest we were going to get from the race he flatted.  Neither of us had anything.  Luckily I had my phone because Kesha was racing in the 3s and I had figured I'd use my phone to keep time then hand it to him with the keys.  However, he couldn't get ahold of anyone who could get there in time.  We wound up trying to flag down vehicles!  On about the fifth such try a punk girl with facial piercings and tons of tattoos stopped.  I rode up there as fast as possible and told her the deal and she offered him a ride!  We both made it back with plenty of time for the start and probably it's a funnier story from her end!

 As a hardened 'cat 2' roadie I'm probably not supposed to admit this...  but the crit scared me.  I haven't gotten much time on my road bike since early August of last year, let alone anything like a crit.  I recognized this as soon as I saw the course.  In particular I just didn't trust the corner after the downhill.  This sucked a lot because it meant I was on the gas on the flat prior to the climb while others were not.  I tried to overcome this a little bit each lap but by the time I got somewhat comfortable I had already wasted a ton of matches sprinting out of corners in full yoyo mode while others were coasting.  I was dropped and riding hard alone, determined to make as many laps as possible before being pulled.  At first the crowd on the hill was silent and I was a little embarassed.  I fixed my eyes straight ahead, stood and pedaled as if I were still with the field.  I watched my gps and tried to better my time each lap.  By the time I was pulled I at least got some applause.  I definitely got a good workout.

I guess I also look happy!  Or maybe Natalie Rekemeyer didn't upload the others (thanks for the photos).

I'm really looking forward to this weekend and the Dickie Scramble.  I got out for 3 hours this morning and checked on a couple of things out on the course.  I'll have finalized maps later tonight!


It's all about the bike?

My first experiences in Costa Rica felt very foreign.  We were either driving through slums, dealing with people we had no way to communicate with or were being virtually fleeced by the tourist based infrastructure.  This was initially very negative for me.  This all changed when I got on the bike.  That slight change of the angle in which my perception was working and maybe in how others were seeing me had an almost magical effect.

This dude spoke zero English.

On the bike the roads were just roads.  The interactions with other people and cars fell into the same old universal system.  Things were good.  Through it I was able to see the country in a way that I certainly would not have otherwise.

This was my favorite ride, it took place last Friday.

Half an hour of steady climbing on pavement to the turn-off for the south side of lake Arenal and onto the gravel.  Blew right past the arenal 1968 'singletrack', was headed for something better.

At about the 45 minute mark saw the waiter from the Observatory Lodge  who had seen my campagnolo hat and our loaded rental bikes then given advice about where to ride.  I think he was excited that we were out on a 12 hour self-powered tour of the area given what most tourists are up to there!  One of the more interesting things he told us about was the vuelta al lago arenal.  I wish I hadn't missed it.  By the time that conversation cycled through my mind I was another 5 miles up the road crossing a single lane bridge looking down on this...

Wound my way through a construction zone consisting of about 4 dudes with power tools and one backhoe, no signage.  At this point I was on the route of the Vuelta al Lago Arenal.

Ran into this friendly girl, who happened to be going the same direction for a while...

Scared up a couple of huge green lizards and heard something that sounded massive in the trees but don't have a clue what.  After about 90 minutes total I was in El Castille, a small town of maybe 150-200 that looked a lot like this, but with a dirt road.  The picture is from a different town we had stopped in Thursday.

Past the dirt jumps on the outskirts of town...  Yes,  dirt jumps in a town of less than 200.

After El Castille I didn't see anyone other than one boy on a small horse for about 2.5 hours.

Crossed the ominous (because of the bones) river, then crossed 3 more.

Still on the Vuelta route to here


and finally this kind of stuff and into the hills

Where eventually I was stymied by the 26" quasi-cruiser tires on the rental bike and horse footholed mud.  Not before I saw my second Toucan of the trip and a few dozen monkeys.  On that note I had expected to see many more monkeys everywhere, but we had to look hard most of the trip to find any.

Headed back out and completed the observatory climb and rode around in there for a bit.


The importance of looking around: natural thermal hot tubs with the locals

This pretty much sums up my experience in the La Fortuna/Arenal area of Costa Rica.  We were lucky enough to find it on day one and right on time too...  as we were heading back down the hill to our resort after a very hot bike ride.

Tabacon  is a 5 star (whatever that means) thermal spa resort thing.  The idea being that you will either stay there or take a shuttle from wherever you are staying, go in their water, have a few $10+ drinks, eat some food and overall drop about $120 per person.  You will also ride over there in a shuttle that probably says "eco tourism" somewhere on it but burns diesel fuel, where is the bike path?

Anyways, that first ride we took we were amazed at the amount of climbing.  Kim and I went up and up and up instead of going "down" to the lake.  It was very hot.  By the time we made the 18 or 20 mile loop we had planned.

I was ready to do some off the bike exploring.  On the way out I'd noticed some people walking down below a bridge and suggested maybe we check it out...

About 100 meters down the slope we walked through shallow water under the road to this

The guy to my left up there holding his head assured us it was the "same river, same river"...   in fact, it was only about 200 meters up that river to Tabacon.  This became the must stop on every ride before descending the final 800-1000' over the last 4 miles.

Lake Arenal/Arenal Volcano area Costa Rica 2013 trip overview

I was lucky enough to go on a few long rides, whitewater rafting and a buch of hikes.  These pictures give an overall feel, later I will have a write-up of a couple of the rides/hikes and also some comments/reviews of a couple of resorts/restaurants/'adventure' companies.


Costa Rica

By the way, we went to Costa Rica... Not much internet or time. Tons of pictures taken, none uploaded. Do have this Tomorrow we raft. Friday I may have enough time for over 100k at as "race-like" a pace as I've got with this heat, the vertical and a 40 lb Marin 26er.


Ragnarok 105 2013

Mostly a fun day on the bike.  Got pretty ugly for me for a variety of reasons late, but what's the fun if not the challenge?  The conditions were something that I'm sure a lot of people will talk about as being "epic" for years to come.  From my perspective this would have been great conditions for CIRREM or really most any ride on winter.  Of course, it 'should' be spring now and this is a 44 mile longer course than CIRREM with some roads that turned out to be long hikes (one took me 25 minutes to walk up).  This was going to be a tough day.

Here is a shot of the start (decent turn out, but I am surprised anyone with the mindset to do the Rok in general would drop out due to the weather???)

Notable moments in my race:

2nd in all of the KOM locations and lost barely overall to Jesse Lalonde.  If I'd really wanted to win it I should have gone harder to try to win the first couple but my strategy was more to pick up as many points as I could easily and without sprinting or raising my heart rate much.

Should have ridden my bike more with the wheel/cassette/derailleur combination I was going to be racing prior to the race.  Things were close and got worked out during the race but 10? miles in I dropped my chain over the top of the big ring, swung my leg over at speed to fix it and realized the ground was very icy vs. my shoes.  Piled up onto my bike, left me with some nagging sore spots.  Thought I'd have time to catch up comfortably but then remembered we had an MMR in 1.5 miles.  Was forced to run most of the MMR to catch onto the lead group of 6.  Had to do it, but running is not good for me.  I'm going to have to find a way to run more before next cyclocross season, but I still have knee pain whenever I do so and I do not want to make things worse.

Was able to ride the entire MMR leaving the Zumbro off of county 86.  At the top it was just me and Jesse with Josh Roeser eventually chasing hard.  I was thinking this was great, but things didn't play out like last year where stronger riders than myself had worked with me all day...  this time Jesse was obviously just going to ride away.  I was forced to try to get as much help from Josh as possible all day while slowly losing it as we gave chase.

I lost it far more than I should have.  I thought it was just a regular bonk type thing (and it certainly partly was-  I was trying to ride with some very strong guys and going pretty hard) but I think I made a nutritional mistake as well.  All of my water was mixed with gu roctane powder in a pretty high concentration.  As early as right after the first checkpoint I passed some really painfully burning, sweet smelling urine.  This persisted until I was able to drink some straight water after the race.  My first reaction was that I needed to drink more and so I kept drinking the roctane throughout.  I don't think my body was able to process something about it correctly without more water.  Next time I'm mixing it 1/3 or so as strong, or maybe half strength and also bringing a pure water bottle.  It was stupid of me to do this in this race.  I had the idea that I wanted to carry all of my water in a camelbak for this so that I could theoretically walk/run up the MMRs with the bike shouldered.  I never did shoulder my bike and the camelbak thing is what led to not relying on mostly water and the regular gu roctane gu shots that I have a lot of experience with.

Jesse had about 6 minutes on Josh and I at the final checkpoint.  I knew I was really fading at that point and hoped Josh could give him a run for the win.  Felt like Josh had been waiting for me for way too long given how strong he looked, I feel bad.  The rest of my day was a matter of survival.

I spent 26 minutes like this...

and I could barely get back on my bike.  Charlie Schad was able to catch me on the walk and simply rode away while I struggled to loosen my lower back enough to pedal.

I looked back with 4 miles to go and saw Sean Mailen.  Luckily I was able to find something and power the rest of the way to the finish/maintain my gap on him.  I think I actually feel much better about my day because of him being there at the end, it was really nice to finish on a 'high' note rather than just limp across broken.

Congratulations to all who finished.  As always, the longer you were out there the harder it was.  Those who took 9, 10, 11 hours are the real heros, the tough ones.

Look forward to coming back next year.  


caffeinated winter racing bars for Ragnarok 2013: It's still winter

Snow on the ground, people talking about studded tires.  I'm not going to discuss my tire choices but I did go full-on "winter" conditions with my feeding plan for this years race.

Complete ingredient list-

1 cup Target brand pumpkin pancake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup chia seed
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate covered espresso beans
1/4 cup chopped raisinettes
1 heaping scoop of chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup of 'realsoy" chocolate soy milk drink powder
2 tablespoons real butter
a bit of canola/olive blend
a bit of water

Everything just goes in the mixing bowl and gets stirred well.

 Onto the griddle at 275.

Off in about 10 minutes total.  15 minutes total prep time!

Nutrition information on these?  Off the charts.


New things- Trader Joe's Hacks: Gingerbread

winter isn't going anywhere, may as well make gingerbread!  seriously, this is so good I want it year round.

As with anything the directions are a guideline and a way to make boring/bland stuff.  Change them however you might see fit.

This is a double batch...  here is what went in-

two gingerbread packets
6 eggs
about 1/2 cup of canola/olive oil blend
1/2-3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chia seads
honey (for on the top)

 This is everything in a bowl.  I mix it as much as possible and then add just enough water.   The amount of water called for on the box is way too much with the addition of so many eggs.

Split evenly between two bread things.  About 1.5-2" deep at this point.  Then drizzle the honey on the top.
 Bake for 50 minutes at 375.

Sliced up and ready.  I could eat an entire loaf in a sitting.

I'm too lazy to figure out the nutrition information.\

Expect one of these every once in a while...  next up will be energy cakes for the ragnarok.