Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Modest Record

Under the Boardwalk: Trail expansion in Quaas Creek Park
I rode 30 miles today.  The first 7 were mountain bike miles at Glacial Blue Hills, where I was one of perhaps a dozen riders enjoying sunshine and mild temperatures.  Those 7 miles took me nearly an hour of ride time, so technical is the terrain and so unrefined is my technique.  I did the remaining 23 miles on my FCR3 at considerably higher speed but with considerably less effort, splitting most of that time between the Eisenbahn State Trail and West Bend’s Riverfront Parkway.  I went through Quaas Creek Park to see whether the new bridge were in place but it’s still sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the crane.  There were signs of progress, however: the city has installed supports for the boardwalk that will connect the new bridge to the trail south of the Milwaukee River.

By riding today I established a modest personal record.  November 28 is now the latest date on which I have ridden my bike outside.  The old record was Nov. 23, 2006.  Now I’m hoping for a nice day in December.  Normally I wouldn’t be able to ride on a weekday, but I still have 10 hours of vacation to burn and riding on an unseasonably warm December day would be a great use for it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Season’s End?

Jeff Melcher concentrates before the start of his race.
Today my son Ryan and I went to Hales Corners to cheer for the racers I knew in the state cyclocross championships: Patrick Brock, Ben Marchewka, Brian Petted and Jeff Melcher.  The guys didn’t disappoint.  I had been worried that Ryan would get bored—he refuses to watch cycling on TV—but he got into the spirit of the event.  (He was especially interested in Planet Bike’s outstanding 15-year-old Sarah Huang, but for reasons I suspect had little to do with her racing prowess.  He’s 12 and, well … I guess it was the allure of an older woman.)
P-Bro approaches the barriers.

Tristan Schouten—it will surprise nobody—was the class of the professional men's field.

Anyway, good times all around.  And there were good times yesterday, too.  I spent two hours at Glacial Blue Hills testing my mountain biking skills.  On the upside, I didn’t crash.  On the downside, there’s a lot of work to do!  But there's also a lot of time between now and the 2011 WORS & WEMS seasons. 

Ben handles an off-camber turn.
One of the best things to come out of Saturday’s experience was the understanding that I could dress for 32-degree weather and ride in relative comfort.  Being in the woods kept me out of a northeast wind that would have made things uncomfortable.  But with the wind or without, 32 is still cold and a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have bothered.  Hopefully I can ride again before it’s really too cold.  I'm done with the road bike until 2011, but maybe I'll try Glacial Blue Hills again next weekend when it's a balmy 37 or 38!  Beats getting on the trainer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What’s Old Is New Again

The bike that began my obsession with this sport ...
From 1988 until 2003 I didn’t own a bike.  Then I bought a 2002 Gary Fisher Wahoo mountain bike, new old stock, at Pedal Moraine’s spring sale.  It’s still in the family, providing good service to my son Ryan.  I haven’t used the Wahoo since I got my Giant FCR3 in 2008, as the Giant is much more efficient on long rec trail rides like my frequent excursions on the Eisenbahn State Trail.  But now I’ve got a mountain biking itch that I need to scratch and on Saturday I’m planning to take on Glacial Blue Hills, so I’ve exercised my power of eminent paternal domain and, er, secured the use of the Wahoo through the end of the year.

That was the easy part.  Now comes the To Do list, some of whose tasks I was able to pick off tonight:

Lose the kickstand.  Check!
Replace the slicks with knobbies.  Check!
Raise handlebar and saddle.  Check!
Replace platform pedals with SPDs.
Wash bike.
Clean and lubricate drivetrain & cables.
Install a bike computer.
Replace seat wedge.

The pedals and the seat wedge stay with me when I hand the bike back to Ryan.  Basically, he gets a bike computer and real mountain bike tires out of the deal.  And he’s happy.  He has been asking for a computer, and the knobbies look way cooler than the slicks he was running.

I’ve ridden something like 8,000 miles on this bike, but I have never really used it for mountain biking.  At first it was my rec trail bike, and then I found myself riding it on the road more and more.  In late 2005 I got a real road bike and the Wahoo started to fall into disuse.  Time for me to show it a little appreciation … and then give it back to Ryan to make room for the next mountain bike that strikes my fancy.  I’ll try not to be such a fickle lover with the new one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

WORS And Rumors Of Wars

And power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth

If earlier this year I flirted with mountain biking, then today I’m in full stalker mode.  I’ve got pictures of it on paper and on my computer, I know who its friends are, I know where it hangs out, and now I know its schedule.

Last night the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series—known as “WEMS” instead of “WEMBS” because silent Bs are dumb—announced its 2011 dates.  The Wisconsin Off Road Series—known as “WORS” because nothing else would make sense—published its 2011 schedule back on November 9.  Now that all of the race dates are available, it’s time to make some plans.

I want racing to become a bigger part of my cycling experience, on-road and off-road.  In Wisconsin we’re very fortunate to have two mountain bike series and two road series: Wisport and the WCA’s Wisconsin Cup.  But I haven’t yet felt the urge to commit to one of these in pursuit of season-long series points.  I would rather pick and choose from them and from the handful of competitive events that don’t fall into these series.

The road schedules aren’t out yet.  Of the mountain bike events, these look good to me:

05/28   12 Hours of the Northern Kettles @ Greenbush (WEMS)
06/12   Big Ring Classic @ Wausau (WORS)
06/18   Muir South Kettle Classic @ La Grange (WEMS)
07/24   Alterra Coffee Bean Classic @ Franklin (WORS)
08/07   Battle of Camrock @ Rockdale (WORS)
10/09   Wigwam MTB Challenge @ Sheboygan (WORS)

Sponsored by West Bend-based Team Pedal Moraine, 12 Hours of the Northern Kettles should be a good introduction to mountain bike racing.  Because the venue is close to home, I’ll have opportunities to ride the trails in the weeks leading up to the race.  There had been some discussion of a WEMS race at New Fane too, but that proposed event didn’t make it onto the final schedule.  A race at New Fane would have been a no-brainer for me, as those trails are just 11 miles from home and I will visit them frequently to practice the technical riding skills that currently I don’t possess.  Development of those skills will determine where I go with mountain bike racing after May 28.

Unless there are some surprises on the Wisport and WCA schedules, my road racing season won’t really begin until July.  I’d like to return to the Wisport race at Omro, a race I’ve done three times in the past.  And I’d still like to take a shot at the Ride Across Indiana and Anthem Race the Lake.

As always, we’ll see how much I can afford to do when the time comes.  First, there’s the not-insubstantial matter of outfitting myself for mountain biking.  And all of these events come with other costs: racing licenses and registrations, state park and trail passes, travel expenses, etc.  Right now I like the way the cycling budget looks for 2011, but I’m one major home/auto repair away from being on the sidelines.  Best not to think about that …

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anyone For Hiking?

Going for KOM points while my daughter Katie slips off the back ...
This is my first weekend off the bike since August 14-15 when I was recovering from a separated shoulder.  I was a bit of a slug yesterday, napping early in the afternoon and then watching the USGP cyclocross webcast from Ft. Collins CO.  (It’s a two-day event, and if you’re reading this early enough you can watch today’s webcast here.)

Getting outside is important to me but getting on the bike when the “feels like” temperature is only 28 degrees is just not going to happen.  So today I opted for a hike through Ridge Run County Park.  Ridge Run, Glacial Blue Hills and the sections of Ice Age Trail that run between them provide miles of excellent hiking right here in West Bend.  It’s easy to forget that you’re still within city limits.

Done at a brisk pace, hiking is a terrific cross-training workout.  I do it throughout the winter, undeterred by snow.  Some people ride their bikes outdoors all year, but I’m not one of them.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be back on the bike trainer while I continue with stair climbing and weightlifting.  That’s a lot of indoor exercise and at times it will seem like a grind.  But hiking resets my Frustration Meter: it’s at least as useful psychologically as it is physiologically.

If you’d like to join me for a hike this winter, just let me know.  Sometimes it’s nice to be alone to clear out the head, but most of the time it would be nice to have company.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On A Pretty Sunday In November

Today I had two objectives as I began my ride: to cover the 16 miles between my house and downtown Campbellsport in less than 1 hour and to finish with 35 miles overall, giving me 4,600 so far this year.  Done and done.

If 16 miles in 58:40 doesn’t sound especially fast, it’s not.  But it was a good steady pace for an Eisenbahn State Trail ride in November.  I needed a performance target, however modest, to make me work a little harder today than I did yesterday.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nothing But Fresh Air & Sunshine

Surrounded by horsetail rushes at Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area
I rode my bike today.  I didn't have a route in mind when I left the house, so I took the FCR3 to keep all options open.  I rode through Forest View Park, Quaas Creek Park and Riverside Park before heading north on the Eisenbahn State Trail.  I unexpectedly met up with a southbound Jimmy Scharrer and we stopped for a couple of minutes to chat.  Then I took Sandy Ridge Road up to Kewaskum, noted with some dissatisfaction that they're making snow on the Sunburst ski hill, and turned south to head back to West Bend.  At Glacial Blue Hills, I took a trail I had never ridden before and I felt like I had all 208 acres to myself.

I didn't ride very far (25 miles) or very fast (14.7 mph average) or wear my heart rate monitor, but I rode my bike today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rise Over Run

This was Week 1 of my new stair climbing program and I’m happy with the way things went.  I did 30-minute sessions on Monday, Wednesday and today, using a stairwell in the three-level office building where I work.  Despite the repetitive nature of the workout and the absence of anything remotely interesting at which to look, the 30 minutes pass quickly.  I think that’s because there’s always somewhere to go.  Half an hour in the stairwell doesn’t feel as long as half an hour on the trainer.

I don’t intend to get on the trainer until December.  Between now and then I will do a handful of outdoor rides and some hiking.  I would run if I could, but my knees won’t stand up to the pounding.  (That’s one of the reasons I started cycling in the first place.)  Stair climbing—the way I expect to do it—certainly won’t hurt but it won’t be as beneficial as cycling would be if good weather and daylight weren’t going to be in such short supply.  My average heart rate during this week’s stair climbing sessions was just 58% of maximum … better than nothing, but the main benefit of the exercise is going to be muscular, not cardiovascular.  Maybe next week I’ll try taking some flights two stairs at a time to increase the aerobic challenge.  That’s still low impact, so it’s worth a shot.