Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stony and PLRA

Tuesday after work, I swung into Stony Creek for a hard ride. My legs were feeling recovered from the past weekend, and I was in the mood to pile on the mileage. I started with my usual lap of the Pines followed by a lap of the roller coaster. After that, I rode the Pines again followed by a bit of 2-track in the SE section of the park. The deer were out in full force here, including a nice looking 6 pointer. One really nice thing about summer is that the bucks are still in velvet. He was a nice size deer. Not as big as the 10 pointer I saw out on Gruber's last summer, but still a very nice sized deer.
After the 2-track, I rode the roller coaster 3 more times (4 laps total) and the pines once more (3 laps total). The computer showed just a tick over 24 miles for the day, and a couple minutes over 2 hours riding time.

This evening I met up with the guys from for the Thursday evening PLRA (Pontiac Lake Recreation Area) group ride. I haven't been able to make this ride for a couple months now, due to weather and other commitments. So, I was happy to be able to make it out and ride with Duke, abbeytrails, and the rest of the guys. There were about 8 of us in all, including a couple guys I hadn't met before.
I had a really nice ride. Due to some freehub trouble with the Rig, I was riding the GT today. My freehub was starting to get really tight, to the point where the pedals would turn on their own "fixed gear style" when I walked the bike. I took the wheel to the bike shop today, not expecting to have it back till tomorrow. Well, they called me today to let me know that they got it as good as they could, but the thing is basically roached. A new one is on order, but at least the wheel is "rideable" until it comes in.
So, I brought the GT today as I anticipated the wheel not being finished until tomorrow. It was quite interesting riding the rigid fork today, especially with the braking bumps (late summer at PLRA). PLRA is notorious for being rough and bumpy.
One lap was it for me today; just a touch under 10 miles.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pontiac Lake XC

I had a feeling that yesterday's riding would turn out to be an unwise idea, and today's race proved that right. Yesterday I was pushing myself harder than I should've. This morning, although not feeling horrible, my legs were a bit tender.

I did a brief (and not sufficient) warm-up, and headed over to the start. They staged us, and a couple of minutes before the start I glanced down and saw my bottle of HEED (an energy/electrolyte drink) was not in the cage. Not enough time to go fetch it! Thankfully I had my hydration pack, so at least I wouldn't be hurting for water.

We started, and I settled into a spot in the back half of the pack. This is not unusual for me, as I am a slow starter anyways, preferring to let others take off hard and come back to me later in the race. I was keeping a decent pace until the first major climb. This put me near blowing up, and after that I was basically in to survival mode. What really was killing me was the gradual uphill sections; later in the race my legs were wanting to grind to a halt on these. On the bright side, I ran a good race from a bike handling perspective. It was just that my legs had no "pop" in them. Also, the last 1/4 of the race was spent very near bonking. I was amazed that I was able to make that last climb right before the end.

The weather and trail were just about perfect. Friday's rain really helped to pack down the loose stuff. Also, I had a really good time despite the reluctance of my legs.

I finished up in 6th out of 10 in the class, with a time of 1:40:13 for the 19ish mile race.

Now Begins the Waiting Game

On Saturday I made the trek out to Charlotte, MI to pay a visit to Scott Quiring of Quiring Cycles. I met with him to get fitted up for a custom frame. It will be a 29er singlespeed specific frame, titanium, with a brushed finish. Also, it will have Paragon sliders for tensioning the chain. No more EBB (eccentric bottom bracket) for me. The one on my Rig is basically good for 2 things: creaking and slipping.

Scott is a great guy to work with. He measured the Rig, measured my body, and we discussed riding and my riding style. In the end, the overall dimensions for my new bike will end up being close to the Rig, with one notable difference, a steepened head tube. This will address the slow handling issue.

After the fitting stuff, he offered to show me the new trail which was opened in Charlotte just this summer. We got ready and rode down to the park, a short 1 1/2 miles away. I thought it was really cool that he offered to ride this with me.

The trail was very fun. Not a lot of elevation change, but some technical spots and an all-around great flow. It was slow due to Friday's rain and the fact that the trail is brand new. This trail seems like it'll be a blast after more people have ridden it to pack in the tread.

After finishing up, I loaded up and made the drive over to Yankee Springs. I rode there in the spring for the race, and really liked the trail. I was excited to be able to ride it at something less than a race-pace. With the Pontiac Lake XC on Sunday, I wasn't planning on riding hard. Actually riding Yankee probably wasn't the smartest decision to make (20+ offroad miles the day before a race).

Yankee was a blast. It was very dry despite the deluge received on Friday, and even had some sandy spots still. There were a few downed trees I had to lift over. Although not as fast as the race, my pace was still quite quick... quicker than it should've been with a race the next day. But the legs were feeling good and I was having fun. I did stop at a few spots to take in the views. Around 4~5 miles in, there are some large ravines the trail winds around, up, and down. During the race I couldn't fully appreciate the size of the ravines, especially compared to what we have in SE Michigan.

At the end of the day, I had put in 23 miles, had a blast, wore myself out, and ordered up a frame!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Some Restin', Some Runnin', and Some Ridin'

Monday was basically a continuation of Sunday afternoon/evening. I spent the evening alternating between the sofa and the keyboard, doing a whole lot of nothing. It was nice giving my legs a full day to recover from Sunday's ride
On Tuesday, I ran the roads in and around Imlay City. I headed up Blacks Corners to Bowers Road, turned around and headed to Weyer Road. I then took Weyer to Fairgrounds/Almont Avenue, and finished by going around my block. All told, this worked out to be 9 1/4 miles. This was good seeing as I had been neglecting my running to some extent; it's been over a month and a half since I ran more than 6 miles at one time.
Today I met up with the MMBA group ride, actually driving to the normal meeting point this time. I wasn't planning on riding the trails today: I checked the radar when I woke up and the "green blob" covered a chunk of Wisconsin and Lake Michigan. During the day the blob shrunk to the point where SE Michigan received just a small amount of rain. I made a game-time decision on my drive home to do this ride. Thankfully I made excellent time, got ready quick, made equally good time to Stony Creek HS, and arrived with a few minutes to spare. The Rig was set up in fixed gear format again this week, and I was able to clear the logpile at the start of the Snakes twice without striking a pedal. One time I actually had to unweight the rear wheel and adjust the pedals prior to the log - and I did this successfully.
Today ended up being a short ride, with only 9 miles showing when I was through. I wasn't looking to brutalize myself, as I am planning on riding Yankee Springs Saturday, and will be doing the Pontiac Lake XC race on Sunday.
I did find a website that really interested me, and would interest anyone who frequents Stony Creek Metropark. In fact, I posted the link to the MMBA discussion forums. This website is, and contains a rich history of the Shelden family and their estate. For those who don't know, the portion of the park where the mtb trails are used to be owned by the Shelden family. In 1982 this land was deeded over to the metroparks authority. The website contains a number of pictures of the old buildings on the estate. Some of the ruins (stairways, tennis courts, wall), can still be found today. This link has also been added to my Blogs link section.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sunny day... Keepin' the clouds away...

That may work for Sesame Street, but it wasn't quite the case for the Assenmacher 100. In the days leading up to the ride, I was treated to gradually worsening forecasts for Sunday. Because of this, I was on the bubble for this ride up until Sunday morning at 6:30am, when I pulled out of my driveway. The last forecast I saw called for an 80% chance of rain, and a look at the radar revealed the "big green blob o'fun" creeping into the area. However, the "green blob" appeared to be heading ESE, and that the bulk of it would pass to the south.

I arrived in Swartz Creek at about a quarter past 7, and saw a small group; a sharp contrast to last year's mass of riders. I did the registration thingy, and was rolling by about quarter to 8. The first 27 miles went rather uneventful: legs getting warmed up, a brisk east wind (this'll suck on the flipside of the ride), passing a few riders, and getting passed by a couple riders. I rode for about 15 miles with a guy on a Bianchi fixed gear, and we talked fixed gear bikes, riding fixed, and tours. As with last year, I skipped the first food stop, which was located 10 miles into the ride.

The 2nd food stop (and the first I stopped at) was in a neat little park in Durand, about 27 miles in. I ate a banana and a couple of good homemade cookies, rested for a few, and was back on my way. This is when the rain started; a light rain which lasted for a little over 45 minutes. A few miles later, I caught up to another rider who was doing the 100 miler, and he offered to trade pulls. We rode in this manner for about 15 miles, and I enjoyed the reduced effort. This was my first real experience with drafting for an extended period. It seemed to make no difference in effort when I was pulling, but when I was drafting I could really notice a benefit. After about 15 miles, he decided to drop back. I was finding that I was pulling ahead of him on the hills by a good margin. I guess riding singlespeed offroad has done well for my climbing. Also about this time the rain let up.

The next food stop was at Sleepy Hollow State Park, about 55 miles in. I talked with the staff, and found out that one other rider had been through (not a lot of customers for the century today). The rider I drafted with and another rider pulled in about this time.

Leaving the state park meant riding in an easterly direction, and into the wind. Thankfully there were some northbound and southbound jogs in the route to break things up, but there were a couple long stretches into a headwind. I would just move to the drops, grit my teeth, and bear it. This about summed up the 2nd half of the ride, with food stops in Owosso and Kerby respectively.

I rolled in to Assnemachers about 2:15. Time spent in the saddle was 5 hours 50 minutes, with 101.7 miles on the clock. As I was loading up, it started misting... the first rain that I saw since just before the state park. In all, the weather held out better than I had hoped, and I had a very nice ride.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Bit of a Catch Up, and Getting Fixed

Seeing as I haven't posted in a week, it's only fair that I give an update.

Last Saturday I enjoyed a nice road ride outside of town. I started on one of my usual loops (as described in the Brooks saddle post), but decided to ride Newark all the way to Lapeer Road.

Total distance was a bit over 35 miles. I had a very nice ride, and the weather was beautiful. There was one issue; I had some chain issues about 12 miles in. The quick link on my chain decided to start to come undone, and became stuck only half latched. I noticed this as a rythmic skipping of the chain. I futzed with the link on the side of the road for about 10 minutes before I pulled out the chain tool. The offending link was removed, and I was back in action. With the shortened chain, I lost the big chainring big cog combo, but that combo is one I never use anyway.

Wednesday after work I did the Stony group ride again. I did my usual thing; park at the main trailhead, do a lap of the Roller Coaster and Pines, then ride down to the school to meet the group. This time I decided to do things a bit different; I had the Rig set up to run fixed gear... no freewheel. This is something I've been dabbling in since late last year, mostly at Stony and some dirt-roads around town. Riding fixed is a unique sensation. Since you can't coast, you can also slow down and stop using backpressure on the cranks. You also gain a heightened feel for the trail surface and available traction. Logpiles, while do-able, present a new level of challenge. You have to time your cranks to make it over without striking a pedal. This is something I'm still working on. However, I was able to clear the logpile at the start of the Pines twice, albiet slowly, to the chagrin of the rider behind me (he was hoping to hop the log).
On this ride, I met a fellow rider by the name of Kevin. As luck would have it, this was the same Kevin who sent me the drilled out cog that I use to run fixed. He is an avid off-road fixed gear rider, and all-around cool guy.
Last fall I attended a large singlespeed group ride at the Poto, and afterwards at the trailhead I took a brief spin on a fixed gear bike. I liked the feeling of being directly connected to the ground through the drivetrain, and was intrigued with the thought of this on the trail. After this ride I found a site with instructions on drilling out a cheap cog to an ISO disk brake pattern and mounting the cog in place of the rotor. A flip of the wheel and you have a fixed gear bicycle. Well, a half dozen drill bits later I was posting on for advice. Kevin offered to send me a cog he had drilled out when he first experimented with fixed gear. I've ridden the Rig set up this way a few times outside of town, as well as about a dozen trips to Stony and one trip to Bloomer.
So, it was nice to meet Kevin. What made it really cool was that it was on a day when I was riding fixed gear.

Rear-End Pleasure

No..... not what you may be thinking! I actually got a new saddle for my road bike. Specifically a Brooks Team Pro, recently ordered from Wallingford Bicycle Parts. The Brown Santa dropped off the package today, and after work the saddle got mounted up. I then went for a ride to try it out.

My trusty road steed, a 1982 Raleigh Super Course. My dad bought this bike new.
New saddle... ain't she a beaut??? The Proofide was still soaking in when I took the photos.

For the maiden voyage, I did one of my usual loops. This took me out of town along Attica Road, Peppermill, Lake George Road, Newark Road, Wilder Road, and Imlay City Road. This loop is 25 3/4 miles, and took me an hour and 45 minutes. Pending a couple of minor adjustments, I think this saddle will be a keeper. I did have a bit of an issue with sliding forward, and the saddle needs to be lowered about a quarter inch.
The ride was nice, barring the wind. We had a brisk wind out of the north this evening, and it seemed like I was fighting it for most of the ride. There was one stretch towards the end, along Imlay City Road, where I had the wind mostly to my back. I was able to hold my speed between 25 and 30 mph for the better part of 2 miles.

Well, tomorrow I'll make a couple of saddle tweaks. Then weather permitting I'll put the new Brooks through it's paces during the Assenmacher 100.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Blueberry Stomp and other assorted stuff

As promised, here is a (belated) race report from Saturday's Blueberry Stomp 5k. This is a local 5k that is part of Imlay City's Blueberry Festival, and Saturday was my 2nd time running in it. Last year, I finished in 22:25, placing 2nd in my age group.

I walked to City Hall were the check in/registration was, registered, and did a brief warm up. By 5 to 9, everyone was at the start line. The gun time was supposed to be 9am, but about that time we were informed that there would be about a 10 minute delay due to a minor fender-bender along the route. After the wait, the cop who was set to lead us out informed the starter that it was clear. Set..... GO! And with that, we were running. I quickly settled in to a fast but comfortable pace, and was really feeling good. As is typical with these races for me, I couldn't tell for sure who was in what age group, so I made it a point to just run my own race.
We rounded the first turn and headed on to the Polly Ann trail for a short stint. Here, close to a mile in, I started wondering "what the bleep are you doing????" This seems to happen in every race I enter, but thankfully the feeling quickly fades, and I find my groove.
We rounded the bend at the halfway point, and as this race has an "out-and-back" layout, I was able to see how I stacked up against the other runners. I knew I was a few minutes behind the fast guys, as was to be expected, but I was in the top 1/3 of the runners.
The last half was a mix of fighting the pain, trying (successfully) to pick off a couple of runners (who turned out to be in the 40-49 age group, and hoping to be able to ratchet the pace up for the last 1/3 mile.
I crossed the finish line at 21:25, which netted me 2nd in Men 30-39. I was half a minute behind the class winner, and a minute ahead of 3rd place. Best of all, this was a personal best for me in the 5k.

Saturday afternoon we hosted a small party along with some friends of ours. The highlight of this was getting to see my Niece, who is 2, and my Nephew, who is a month old. They are a couple of cuties!

On Monday, I rode Stony after work. There were not a whole lot of riders out there, which didn't suprise me since it was quite warm and humid. The small bit of rain we received Sunday helped to firm things up some.
I rode 3 laps each of the roller coaster and the pines, and with some doubletrack added, I put in 23 1/4 miles. Total riding time was 1:55. This was probably my fastest non-race ride at Stony. I made it a point to focus on my lines through the turns, and being smooth at the enterances to the turns.
One other bright spot: there's this left hand climbing turn in the new section added this past spring. This particular turn is near where the new trail re-joins the old, and has been the subject of a few gripes over on Particularily, this turn has been a thorn in my side, with me being able to make it about 1 in every 4 attempts. On Monday I attempted this turn 3 times, and completed it 3 times. I think I may have the line and the technique for this turn down finally.

Friday, August 3, 2007

No Training Today

I took yesterday and today off from any sort of training. Tomorrow I'll be running in the Blueberry Stomp 5k, a local race that is part of the Imlay City Blueberry Festival. Race report to follow.

Till then, here is a warning to Plainwell dog walkers. Photo was taken during PALM 2006.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stony Wednesday

On Wednesday I did the MMBA Stony Creek group ride. I went mainly due to the fact that my friends Erick and Katie were going to be there. Erick just got back into riding this year, and this was to be Katie's 2nd time ever riding the trails.

As I leave work at 5:00, and the group doesn't meet until 6:30, I had time to do a quick lap of the roller coaster and the pines before heading down to the high school. Despite the heat, there was a nice size group there.

We rolled up Sheldon road, and entered Stony. After a quick regroup we headed towards the Pines. Two of the more experienced women took Katie under their wings for the evening, while the rest of us did the pines, a lap of the roller coaster, and a 2nd lap of the pines. This ride was a nice "no drop" format, with periodic stops to regroup. This was a refreshing change of pace from Tuesday's solo ride, where I held a faster pace and only stopped a couple times.

The GT handled great... once I got used to it again. It handles quite differently than the Rig (26er vs. 29er, smaller frame, standard bars vs. Mary bars). I can throw the GT around easier, but the Rig is much less affected by small obsticles and bumps in the trail. The flipside of this is that the GT is twitchier than I'm used to. Running a 2.3 Vertical Pro in the front and a 2.1 Fire XC in the rear, both pumped to 28psi yielded a rather cushed ride, and the tires hooked up great in the dry loose conditions. I'm considering lowering the pressure on the Rig a bit: I usually keep them around 36psi.

Earlier today I spoke to Erick, and he said that Katie really enjoyed herself on Wednesday, and that she is starting to get hooked. This is really nice to see; someone brand new coming into the sport, and someone else picking it back up after a long absence. I hope to see more of those 2 out on the trail.