Ragnarok 2016... first 1/4 of my season thoughts

Last year I didn't sign up for the Ragnarok.  I can't really tell you why.  This race means a lot to me.  My family has been in the area this course goes through for over a century and most of them still do live in Red Wing.  That aside, any of the original gravel races from the "almanzo gravel series"...  well, they are what got me interested in bike racing.  I rode them when it was a challenge to finish, when it was a challenge to try to compete, when it was a challenge just to survive (the year of the rain/cold).  It's still a huge challenge, but I came to the ragnarok this year to try to win.

I think I've had good legs all spring.  No wins, but all close misses since fatbike season.

CIRREM is a great first race of the year.  It was very fast this year with beautiful weather.  I may have had an advantage to press with 4 or 5 miles to go, but tried to play it safe and got beat in a mis-timed sprint effort.  I left feeling pretty good about the day, but frustrated with 3rd.  I've done CIRREM a ton of times now and am piling up the top 5s with no wins there.  Maybe it's better that way with it being so early, but someday I would like to win!

Testing the legs a bit at CIRREM

I then did a couple of Iowa mixed road races.  I was third in Hills and won a bunch sprint.  Fresh legs right to the end, but no strategic way to use them other than what I did.  Still a great training ride and fun.  It was good to see my friend Jason win and I was happy that one of us not from the local team, with 7 guys in the race, was able to take it.  The Crushed Rock Classic was a new event this year.  Fun course with a mixture of gravel, a bit of road and some CX style grass/mud even.  I was strong but tentative and wound up second.

This was a pretty ridiculous chase group that formed in the Crushed Rock Classic

On to the Ragnarok and the first 'goal' race of the year.  I had an idea of how the race would likely unfold going into it.  The first 85 miles are all about conserving energy and then a group of 2-4 would likely form over the top of Heath's Hill which would break up further over the second to last climb OR come down to a sprint on the final ramp.  I am racing a bit heavier these days (Dad bod?) and knew that a sprint up that final ramp was not for me.  Anyone who would be able to stay with me to that point was likely to beat me on that pitch!

Conserving energy early

This is a great shot of what the Ragnarok is all about!

The pace early was pretty ridiculous.  I wasn't in danger of being dropped until we got to the largest hills around mile 55, but I sure wanted to ride slower!  I was expecting a bit more gentlemanly pace and a chance to pee and remove my jacket.  Next time I won't wear a skinsuit under a wool jersey and will NOT start in a jacket.  The combination meant no rolling pee and little access to any food, which was compounded by frozen bottles.  In the end I wound up only consuming about 250 calories and 40 oz of water throughout the entire race.  Thankfully my wife was at checkpoint two though!  I only got one big sip of cranberry/cherry soda and a wish of good luck! but that helped me immensely on the last 25 miles.

The group dropped me on the large back to back hills, but I kept the gap reasonable and essentially coasted back on going downhill.  Jesse had flatted on that same climb.  When I caught back on the group really slowed and we finally did tentatively stop and pee.  This let me safely get my jacket off, let Jesse back on and probably really influenced the outcome of the race.  From that point on I felt the momentum shifting and was no longer hanging on.

Heath's Hill comes up at mile 85 or so.  I still had it fresh in my mind getting dropped on the large hills earlier and reflexively went to the front and started riding my own tempo.  I had to be sure to be in contact over the top.  It's a technical climb that takes about 8 minutes from top to bottom.  Throughout you have to look ahead and pick good lines while also putting down decent power.  Things started getting quieter and quieter.  The silence started to feed my desire to push a little harder and in turn it got quieter.  I wasn't able to match my own KOM time on the climb, but I did put between 20 seconds and 2 minutes on the remainder of the group.  After the quick pavement descent the course turns downwind and begins a much longer/gradual climb (perhaps a better launch pad for an attack from someone with my skills).  I was caught by Jesse and Sam E. as we turned onto that gradual climb.  I was Ok with that thinking that the 3 of us would be able to put time into the others and that was better than the big group had been.  However, it became apparent that neither of them were in a condition to make any pulls.  I slipped away as it started to go up and rode tempo the remaining 15 miles in!

It felt really good not to have to sprint on that final ramp.

I'm sure Jesse had used up a lot of his energy chasing on after the flat.  It would have been interesting to see how much more I had in the tank had I been pushed late.  I've been riding all week, but I'm STILL tired from the effort, no doubt.

LML has been moved to this weekend due to bad weather 3 weeks ago.  I think that maybe took a little bit of the luster off of it.  After all, Ragnarok was the "goal" in this early part of the year, but LML was supposed to set up as an important tune-up.  Now it's the beginning of the next chapter which ends with Almanzo.  Meanwhile, the crit season has also started.  Gravel and crits complement each other better than most realize if you ask me.


Barn Hockey Rink

We have a structurally sound, but sort of useless barn on our property.  It's not a proper "barn" the way most picture barn architecture but more of an early "pole shed", at least in architectural style, made from wood.  When we moved in it didn't even have a large enough door to put a trailer or store a boat in it or anything.  We put a huge sliding door on the far end last year and I built a large dog indoor/outdoor dog kennel down there as well.  Anyways, most of it has just been storage for us.  A lot more storage than we really needed.  It was a pretty big mess.  Here is a photo of it from down near the dog kennel.

It was built in 1950 and originally had a series of pens for chickens in it.

I got it into my head that we should turn it into a hockey rink for the winter.  The issue with having ice in a yard or whatever is always maintaining it, right?  But if we did it in the barn it wouldn't snow on it!  Plus it would be protected from the wind etc. etc.

What you really can't see there is just how much of a pain it was to level the fllor out with a shovel and rake.  We had planned to have someone dump gravel in the future and to bring in a skid steer at that point.  I was in a hurry and did it by hand (in about 6 hours).  The frame is 4" sewer and drain pvc.

The liner is just two layers of the thickest plastic we could find at Fleet Farm.

I added about half the water first then let it freeze.  I've since added a few thinner layers on the top after filling it all the way.  It's about 3" deep at the close end and 6" at the other.

I wired up some speakers and christmas lights and we've been out there about twice a week since.

Here is a quick video of Riley at just over 3 years old.  This was the second time she ever skated by herself (with her walker).  The first try was about 1 minute previous.  Prior to this I've carried her around a lot letting her get used to how the ice feels under her feet.  She likes to ride on her little slide while I push it around the ice and plays hockey from her knees with a cut down stick. 

The slide which shows the rink a little bit better too-

And another after a couple more practice attempts (still on her first night of standing alone)-


2016 Untitled

Facebook sent me a bunch of posts I'd made "on this day" in the past.  I've had a lot of fun on January 31st!  The Untitled ride was always great, when it happened.  Of course, it kind of died out because two years ago it was -15 or whatever and no one can really ride 5 or 6 hours safely in those temperatures (or is going to drive just to do so with me).

Anyways, this weekend I was supposed to race in a one hour fatbike race (cx style laps/bell) on Saturday and then go to the bike swap.  I wound up staying home both days and riding 4 hours each day.  Three days this week I was lucky enough to ride for a while, sit down and eat lunch, ride home.  I guess that was my version of the untitled.

Soon here I'll have a newborn at home and I may not get to do that as much for a while.  I still hope to race quite a bit this spring though.  We will see, I guess.


Snow Crush Fatbke Race

I had planned to start my season in the middle of December.  Might have had a lot of miles on by now too.  However, the same sinus infection that took me out of Jinglecross took me out all the way into early January.  I did have a mediocre day at the Solstice Chase but went totally back in the hole after that.  Since getting on antibiotics early in January I've felt much better.  Thankfully, too, because I had a great trip to Colorado last week skiing!

Anyways, that meant I pulled the plug on the Triple D and was free to race the Snow Crush on what little training I have in my legs.  More or less that consisted of the ride where I took this picture two weeks ago!

The Snow Crush was a lot of fun.  The course was firm and fast and the River Bend Nature Center is always scenic.  It was also a great place for Riley to hang out and check out the animals etc.. pre and post race.

The paper always gets things just a bit wrong...  but yeah, I was really hot at the end!  The Almanzo is a lot of fun (although, the Dickie is my event).  The PWC appears to be dead moving forward (disappointing to me because I love that type of racing...  riding a tight rope!).  Oh, and I did win.

It was very windy and with such cold/firm temperatures it was not very technical.  Riding skill wasn't going to be what separated the fastest people on the front in those conditions.  In the end it came down to 'road' type tactics.  I knew I didn't have too much in my legs fairly early on, but was also able to get into the ideal position in second wheel.  On the first lap I was worried Dustin Gaffke was going to just ride me off his wheel and take off, but with each hill it was easier to hang on.  I'm sure the wind was wearing him out some.  He certainly had an opportunity to drop me early.  By the last lap I had an idea of how the race would go down.  It was a challenge not to attack too early.  In fact, I did try to attack too early on the one technical descent but my gap was short lived.  That served to put me on the front of a group of three though heading to the finish.  Not the worst place to be considering how I expected things to shake out.  Patience would be the key.

There was a relatively long hill with about 600 meters to go with a false flat.  I knew things would go off on the way up.  Both riders came off my wheel and opened up decent gaps on me on the main pitch.  I was able to stay patient though, do my own thing and then run them down on the false flats before the final descent/sprint to the finish.  Results are here.

After the Solstice Chase I was sort of excited about fatbike racing this year.  The combination of the sinus infection and my second daughter being due in about 2 weeks now will mean that I may be done after just these two races.  Maybe next year!

Yeah, I wore a ski helmet and goggles.  GOGGLES.