Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Statistical Review

I had a very special year in 2012 and I knew as this year began that I would be foolish to expect as much from my cycling endeavors in 2013. By almost any measure, 2013 was less successful, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad year. If you look at two of the simplest metrics—how often I rode and how far—then 2013 was above average:

Year   Rides  Miles
2013   153    4100
2012   204    5005
2011   170    5113
2010   137    4650
2009   146    4800
2008   120    3787
2007   131    4410
2006    98    3161
2005   117    3050
2004    88    1454

I didn’t race as much in 2013. At first, that was by design: I delayed the start of my mountain biking season and then raced a limited schedule because I wanted to give cyclocross my best effort. The plan seemed to be working until Sep. 8, when I broke my collarbone. I was able to start riding again one month later, but my fitness and motivation were gone.

For the second year in a row, I rode outside in all 12 months. But I didn’t beat any of my personal records for monthly mileage. And the hours I spent on indoor workouts actually increased, partly due to colder weather and partly due to injury:

Year   Trainer  Treadmill
2013   26.5     30.0
2012   14.5     12.5

In 2013 I went snowshoeing on 6 occasions, went hiking on 4 occasions, and completed 100 upper-body strength training workouts (down from last year’s 156 because of time lost to the collarbone fracture). I went to Planet Fitness on 39 occasions this year and on 3 occasions at the end of 2012, so my membership worked out to less than $2.50 per visit. That was a good value, but the experiment is over: in 2014 I will be content with my home gym and other options.

Which bike covered the most miles in 2013? As usual, this race wasn’t even close:

Year     Diamondback     Raleigh       Trek
         Steilacoom              Competition       X-Caliber
2013     2341            1270          489
2012     2889            1462          654

I use the Trek only for mountain biking or for winter rides when I might encounter snow. I use the Raleigh only for the road. I use the Diamondback for cyclocross, for rec trails, and for the road. Considering the frequency with which I do mixed-surface rides—some combination of asphalt, gravel, dirt, turf, and boardwalk—it is no wonder that the cyclocross bike gets most of the attention.

Off the bike, 2013 was enormously successful. I was able to do a bunch of things that, taken together, I could not have imagined being able to afford when the year began:

  • Refinanced the house
  • Replaced my car
  • Repaired my wife’s car
  • Replaced the water heater
  • Replaced the kitchen range
  • Replaced the washing machine
  • Repaired the furnace
  • Replaced the lawnmower

It’s all paid in full; I didn’t go into debt for any of it. And that puts me in a very good position for 2014. There are still some home maintenance concerns—there always will be—but most of the imminent threats have been addressed. As the new cycling season begins I look forward to a few important equipment changes and a full schedule of races and other special events.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Putting A Period On 2013

Crossing the Milwaukee River today at Quaas Creek Park ...
In West Bend, today was our first 40-degree day since we reached 50 degrees back on Dec. 4. We have spent almost all of December below freezing and tomorrow we will be there again as high winds from the northwest usher in a few days of below-zero lows and way below-zero wind chill. I went out on my mountain bike at the warmest part of the afternoon—43 degrees—and enjoyed a 19-mile ride around town to reach 4,100 miles for the year. Even the quietest residential streets were in good shape, but most of the trail system is covered with several inches of snow. I attempted a couple of trail sections, but the 29er just sank.

I might go snowshoeing early tomorrow before the temperatures fall into the single digits. On Thursday I went snowshoeing at Pleasant Valley Park to pack the fresh powder for the fatbike riders. (Those guys might have had a chance on the trails that defeated me this afternoon.) On Friday I went snowshoeing at Sandy Knoll County Park. Today’s ride took me past Lac Lawrann Conservancy, where volunteers were busy handing out loaner snowshoes to a big crowd of families. It’s a great way to try snowshoeing for free before investing in your own equipment … or an opportunity for someone like me to share the experience with someone who doesn’t have his/her own snowshoes. LLC will offer free snowshoeing a few times this winter when conditions are right and when volunteers are available to administer the program. And because those factors are unpredictable, these events can pop up with little warning. LLC didn’t announce today’s event until Thursday, and still more than 100 people turned out! Follow LLC on Facebook and/or Twitter to be notified.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Presenting The 2014 Cheesehead Roubaix

Four months from today you will be glad you circled April 27, 2014 on your calendar. The 5th Annual Cheesehead Roubaix is going to be a great time with a great group of people. We will follow the same challenging route, departing Fireman's Park in Newburg at 9 a.m.

The cobbled classics of the professional racing season are the inspiration for Cheesehead Roubaix. My event is a tough 63-mile ride. It’s not a race, but you will feel the spirit of Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, and Gent-Wevelgem as you test your fitness against biting headwinds, sharp little hills and more than 10 miles of dirt and gravel. Moroder Photography will be there again to capture all the action!

Cheesehead Roubaix now has its own website from which you can download the cuesheet and map. There’s also a data file for Garmin GPS devices. As always, Cheesehead Roubaix is free of charge and registration is not required. But if you plan to attend please let me know on the Facebook event page, via email, or by leaving a comment below. The awesome staff from Belgianwerkx again will provide goodies at the mid-ride rest stop, and by letting us know that you’re coming you will help us to ensure there’s enough food and drink for everyone.

Aside from the rest stop, there will be no support along the route. Cheesehead Roubaix runs on open public roads that are, by design, at little bit out of the way. You should be a self-sufficient cyclist with enough food, water, fitness and mechanical skill to get yourself from start to finish. I look forward to seeing you in Newburg on April 27 … twice!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


This afternoon I visited Erik’s on its first day of business in downtown Grafton. The new shop occupies the space that until earlier this year housed Grafton Ski & Cyclery. The Minnesota-based chain now has six Wisconsin locations. Grafton's store is really nice looking, though not all of the remodeling is finished. And it’s a little snowboard heavy at the moment; I’m sure I will like it better once warm weather returns and the cycling stuff gets displayed even more prominently. It’s mostly Specialized with a little bit of Raleigh.

From Erik’s it takes just a few minutes to reach the new mountain bike trails at Pleasant Valley Park. That was my next stop today, just to see if anyone was around. The parking lot was empty and I assume no one was on the trails. With several inches of snow in the forecast for tomorrow, and with a week of vacation ahead, I might return to Pleasant Valley Park in the next few days for my first snowshoe outing since March 2. The fatbike crowd is grateful whenever snowshoers pack down fresh snow, and I will be happy to help if I can. I am definitely not going to ride outside anytime soon. At Erik’s I spent a couple of minutes looking at a Surly Pugsley, but only out of curiosity and without even the smallest twinge of desire.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Moving Around

Visiting all 50 states is a “bucket list” project for a lot of people. I have visited the 41 states you see in blue on the map above. I may or may not visit the remaining 9; completing the list isn’t a priority for me. And to whatever extent reaching 41 was an achievement, it was mostly my parents’ achievement. I have not been to any state as an adult that I did not first visit as a kid.

A generation ago, having children encouraged my parents to travel more than they might have otherwise. For my wife and me, having children has had the opposite effect. Our only trip west of the Mississippi River was in 1999 when our first child was just 1 year old. Our second child was born in 2000 and, well, here’s what things have looked like since:

Business trips to Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have added a little southern flavor to the map. Without them, my out-of-state adventures would have been confined to the I-70 and I-80 corridors that connect me to my native Pennsylvania like umbilicals. The occasional dash down I-95 to visit Washington DC is an add-on to a trip whose main purpose is to reunite with family in Philadelphia.

Beginning in 2014, I would like to use some of my vacation time to explore relocation possibilities. I don’t expect to move away from Wisconsin earlier than 2019, but I do expect to move someday. My “must haves” for a new community include significantly warmer weather, a stable local economy, access to quality healthcare, and abundant cycling opportunities. I assume that I will be a cyclist for many more years. That assumption drives my desire for better weather, but it also adds a dimension to my search that isn’t important to the rest of the family. With that in mind, I might be traveling solo to some of the locations in which I am interested. If I find them bike-worthy, then they may merit further consideration!

Mid-sized cities with major universities are emerging as some of the most attractive options. I’m talking about places like Fayetteville AR, Columbia MO, Knoxville TN, and my current infatuation, Lexington KY. I have been touring houses on Realtor.com and taking virtual bike rides with the Street View function of Google Maps, but I have no real-world experience with any of these places.

The things that make a city fun to visit are not necessarily important to daily life for the year-round residents. I want to experience my relocation possibilities like a local. I’m sure I can find a nice house in a nice neighborhood almost anywhere, but can I find a place surrounded by 750 square miles of good cycling country? That’s roughly the size of my current range, which includes most of Washington County, most of Ozaukee, and parts of Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.

With just 5 years to go before my earliest feasible relocation date, I need to get busy. There are more possibilities on my list than those I mentioned above, and a good goal for 2014 would be to narrow the list rather than to expand it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


The idea of cyclocross appeals to me, but the reality is far from a perfect fit.
As   the Cat 4 Masters race began this morning at the state cyclocross championships in Milwaukee, the wind chill was -12. Far from being able to rally myself to compete, I did not even go to Dretzka Park to spectate.

I love cyclocross, but not unconditionally. My collarbone fracture was just one of the factors that kept me out of the action this year. I was on the bike again by Oct. 8, in time for the Grafton race and everything thereafter. So, why didn’t I come back? What made me feel like a stranger to the cyclocross world this fall? Here are the other factors:

  • The weather. I want warm and dry conditions. This season had several cold, wet races. For some people, that’s “real” cyclocross. I understand why they like it, but it’s not for me.
  • Series points. In my category, there weren’t any. This was a departure from previous seasons, a “scorched earth” policy by the WCA to weed out sandbaggers by removing what it saw as an incentive for them to remain in Category 4. The better solution would have been to compel upgrades in the few cases where it was needed. With no series points on the line, the only race that really mattered was the state championship.
  • Media changes. As I fan of professional cyclocross, I depend on streaming video from a handful of websites to watch races from across Europe and the United States. This season the European feeds have suffered from more than the usual number of technical problems, and coverage of the top American races is now available only by subscription. I chose not to pay for races that I used to watch for free … races that aren’t even part of a series anymore, now that the USGP is dead. Even “Behind the Barriers” has lost much of its charm.

So, I still have never done a race later than Nov. 5 and I should stop lying to myself that next season will be different. I expect to return to cyclocross racing next year, and to mountain bike racing, but I think my main focus will be on the road. I am not prepared to share all my plans—the ABR, WCA and Wisport dates haven’t even been published—but already there are five time trials on my 2014 calendar. Add a couple of road races and it should be an interesting year, one in which I will again be a jack of all trades but a master of none.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

There’s No Place Like Home Gym

Tin Man, I feel you.
This morning I went to Froedtert Hospital for another pair of X-rays and a consultation with my orthopedic specialist. Make that a final consultation: the doctor is happy with my recovery and I shouldn’t need any more medical attention for the collarbone fracture I suffered back on Sep. 8.

My doctor gave me the OK to resume upper body strength training, so tonight I returned to the home gym for my first weightlifting workout since Sep. 6. I began, as usual, with a set of pushups to awaken the muscles gently. Wow. I could feel the effects of my long layoff immediately. I moved on to other exercises, using much lighter dumbbells than normal. Tonight was all about knocking off a little rust and rediscovering the discipline of the movements. If you can’t handle the weight with proper form, then the weight is too heavy. Moving today through two sets of six different exercises, what once was very routine had become much more deliberate. But I have been here before and I know that I will need a few more sessions like tonight’s before I can add any real weight.

After breaking my collarbone for the first time back in August 2008, I returned to the home gym with a new emphasis on exercises for the shoulders. I got back all of my original strength and more. From that point I continued to work the shoulders hard, and I think such dedication contributed to the relative ease with which I endured my most recent injury. Consistency is the key and I have both time and motivation. It’s a long road but the first step is now behind me.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Training (Just A Little)

Regner Park on Saturday.
I rode outside yesterday and again today, making this my first two-ride weekend since Nov. 2-3. The weather has been cold and I have been less than properly motivated. Statistically, there isn’t much to say about this weekend’s rides. In both speed and distance they were completely ordinary for this time of year. Saturday’s ride was remarkable only in that it pushed me past 500 miles post-injury. In the immediate aftermath of my collarbone fracture, I had good reason to believe that I was done riding for the year. And today’s ride was remarkable only because it occurred in December, so I now can say that I have ridden outside every month for the past two years.

The last month in which I didn’t record any outdoor miles was January 2011. In recent years I have made an uneasy peace with winter riding, and working from home creates opportunities that simply didn’t exist when I was a commuter. There may even be a couple of opportunities for lunch hour rides this week. But not on Tuesday: that’s when I will have another set of X-rays on my shoulder to see how the collarbone is healing. Hopefully it will be the last such visit to the hospital. And I really hope the doctor clears me for weightlifting, something I have avoided since my crash. Usually I am several weeks into a new off-season conditioning routine by December 1.

I have almost completely abandoned the idea of competing in the state cyclocross championships on Saturday the 7th. My fitness is not where it was at the beginning of September and the weather forecast is extremely unfavorable. With 15 degrees as the afternoon high, what will the temperature be at 9 a.m. for the Cat 4 Masters race? Cold air is such a reliable trigger for my asthma that I just don’t think I can compete. My goal for next year should be to accumulate upgrade points quickly at the beginning of the season, then jump to Cat 3 so that I can take advantage of the later starting time! That still wouldn’t matter on a day like I think we will see next weekend, but there are plenty of autumn days when the temperature rises 10 degrees or more between 9 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., and for me every degree counts.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful For You

Happy Thanksgiving, gentle reader, this post is for you. When I started this blog in May 2010, I never imagined that someday I would have more than 1,000 visitors per month. At first it was pretty much just me in the role of a diarist. My earliest readers were friends and other cyclists from Washington County or thereabouts. But eventually I found a broader audience and now I don’t know every visitor on a first-name basis. In December this site should reach its 30,000th visitor, and sometime next spring I should make my 500th blog post. There’s more to do and more to say.

Since the inception of this blog you have had the ability to add comments to my posts. And I enjoy hearing from you, so I’m giving you an additional way to contact me. If you have questions or comments that you want to keep private or that don’t seem to fit with any particular post, use the new Send Me Email function. You can find it in the column on the right side of this page.

Now, I don’t expect to hear from everyone. Sometimes I can see the keywords that bring visitors from Google and not all of them are here for the cycling! This little post from July 2010 continues to attract people who apparently are looking for nothing more than a picture of Wally Gator, a goofy cartoon character from the early 1960s. It’s one of my most reliable sources of “hits.” But whatever brings you here, thanks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Eisenbahn I Want To See

Did you ever wonder just where the Eisenbahn State Trail would take you if it kept going south instead of ending at Rusco Drive? Don’t get too excited; the railroad corridor is still in use by local industries. But it’s fun to fantasize and it’s not unrealistic that someday we will see additional development of the trail.

Just within Washington County, the Eisenbahn could be extended another 14.85 miles to the south:

From that point you would be less than five miles from the southern terminus of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail in Mequon and less than four miles from the eastern terminus of the Bugline Trail in Menomonee Falls.

Jackson would be the big winner. An extended Eisenbahn would bisect the village from north to south, forming the western boundary of Jackson Park. Just one block away from Jackson Elementary, the new trail would be an attractive route for school children. Get those kids riding to school at an early age and maybe they will follow the trail north to West Bend when they’re in middle school and high school. From Main Street in Jackson to Decorah Road in West Bend, it’s an easy 6.25-mile ride. For some kids, taking the trail would be quicker than riding the school bus.

Things get more complicated south of the county line. In Milwaukee County this rail line connects to many others and crosses a lot of surface streets. Once you link up with the Oak Leaf Trail, it probably doesn’t make sense to push farther south. But wouldn’t that be nice enough?

Extending the Eisenbahn to the north should be a no-brainer … someday. All of this takes money and coordination just to get off the ground, and then the willingness of local authorities to maintain the corridors that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the railroads make available. Today the trail ends in Eden but it’s not hard to imagine it extending another 6-7 miles north to Fond du Lac:

Once in Fond du Lac, the Eisenbahn would connect easily to the Wild Goose State Trail, the Prairie Trail, the Mascoutin Valley State Trail and the Peebles Trail. Fond du Lac is a major trail hub already. Imagine it with access to the Eisenbahn and to an extended Old Plank Road Trail, something that Fond du Lac County and Sheboygan County have been talking about since at least 2006.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Eisenbahn Access At MPTC

There’s a new access point for the Eisenbahn State Trail. A wide 0.10-mile trail now connects the parking lot of Moraine Park Technical College to the trail just northwest of the Milwaukee River. I don’t know if it will encourage more students to commute to school by bicycle, but it can’t be a bad thing.

For folks unfamiliar with the area, the map above needs a little explanation. There’s no trail access at River Drive, which passes under the trail, or at Woodford Road, which passes over the trail. The next-closest access points are 0.25 miles south at Northwestern Avenue and 0.62 miles north at Lighthouse Lane. That makes the new access from MPTC a nice development for people who live in the neighboring residential areas on the west side of the river.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bicycle Rider Injured In West Bend

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A 44-year-old bicyclist suffered minor injuries when he stopped short to avoid hitting a motor vehicle on Rivershores Drive in West Bend and flew over his bicycle shortly after 4 p.m. Friday.
West Bend Police said the unnamed bicyclist was riding northbound on the sidewalk of N. Main St., but veered onto a crosswalk to cross Rivershores Drive.
A motorist heading southbound on N. Main St. and turning onto Rivershores had to stop abruptly to avoid hitting the cyclist.
Police cited the bicyclist for failing to yield.
Maybe there is more to the story. If we can assume that the reporter has shared all of the relevant facts, then this one is on the bike rider and not on the motorist. This is a pretty hard intersection to screw up:

Google Maps Street View

It’s a two-way stop for traffic on Silverbrook/Rivershores; traffic on Main has the right-of-way. Sight lines are excellent and there are turning lanes on Main Street. In the picture above you can see the intersection from roughly the point of view of the southbound driver.

Just four weeks ago I explained West Bend’s rules for sidewalk riding. On Friday the injured rider wasn’t doing anything unlawful by being on the sidewalk in that part of town. But had he been on the road itself, then he would have had the right-of-way and it would have fallen to the motorist to yield. Riding on the sidewalk turns every cross street into an intersection at which a bike rider must stop. Riders who utilize the sidewalk already are less visible to motorists than they would be on the road. Sounds like the rider in this case was lucky not to be more seriously injured. Let’s hope this becomes a lesson learned.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Keeping One Streak Alive (At Least)

With my cyclocross bike I averaged 17.4 mph and topped out at 32.6 mph on today’s 26-mile ride.
Today I reached 4,000 miles of cycling. This is the fifth consecutive year in which I have reached that milestone, and the sixth time in my 10 years as a cyclist.

Year  Miles
2013  4,001
2012  5,005
2011  5,113
2010  4,650
2009  4,800
2008  3,787
2007  4,410
2006  3,161
2005  3,050
2004  1,454

Back in 2008, I was certainly on my way to a 4,000-mile season when I crashed and broke my collarbone on Aug. 20. I didn’t ride again until 17 days later. Daylight waned and temperatures grew cold. I wasn’t as well prepared then as I am now, and I did my last ride of that season on Nov. 2.

This year I crashed and broke my collarbone on Sep. 8 and I didn’t ride again until 30 days later. Having the right clothing is allowing me to push deeper into the fall than I could five years ago, but working from home is the more important difference. Every day now comes with at least a chance for a lunch-hour ride. Today’s ride was my 12th on a weekday since resuming my season on Oct. 8. Getting to 4,000 miles became a worthy goal when I started riding again. I was stuck on 3,547 while I waited for the doctors to decide whether I would need surgery.

What’s left before the end of 2013? There’s a chance that I will break personal records for miles in November and December, but I’m not very motivated by those. If I come up short, then this will be the first season in which I didn’t establish any new monthly standards. Here are my existing records:

Month  Year     Miles
01     2012      117
02     2012      137
03     2012      516
04     2010      650
05     2009      750
06     2007      772
07     2011  1020
08     2011      756
09     2009      800
10     2010      532 (Tied in 2011)
11     2012      330
12     2012      175

As much as my non-cycling friends think I overdo it already, just imagine the numbers I could put up if I didn’t feel so restricted by bad weather …

Friday, November 8, 2013

Resurfacing The Eisenbahn

The Eisenbahn State Trail is being resurfaced north of West Bend. There’s a thick new layer of limestone screenings that runs for a little more than two miles from the end of the asphalt at Northwestern Avenue to the road crossing at the southern end of Sandy Ridge Road. The new surface is very smooth, but riding on it still requires greater effort than one would expend on asphalt at the same speed.

Did You Know …

  • When the City of West Bend decided to pave its section of the Eisenbahn, it assumed all maintenance for that part of the trail from Washington County.
  • Asphalt is more expensive to install but actually is the cheaper option in the long run because it lasts longer than limestone screenings.
(Asphalt also doesn't dry out and turn into a fine dust that gunks up your bike, but that's a blog post for another day.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Time To Race Again?

Just one week ago I praised the reliability of my Toyota RAV4. I should have known not to tempt fate like that: on Friday it failed and I won’t get it back for at least one more day as the mechanics perform engine repairs that will cost me about $1,400. Ouch. I was considering a short solo vacation before the end of the year, but now it might be hard to find the money for such an unnecessary trip.

Some of my friends traveled to Michigan last weekend for The Iceman Cometh mountain bike race. Others stayed close to home for the WCA cyclocross races. I did a 30-mile road ride on Saturday and a 40-mile road ride on Sunday. I’m now just 123 miles away from my fifth consecutive 4,000-mile season, but I won’t reach 5,000 miles as I did in 2011 and 2012. Both of my weekend rides began with a familiar route in the direction of Covered Bridge Park, but then they became quite different.

The collarbone injury that kept me off the bike for a month cost me something like 600 miles. Since restarting my season on Oct. 8, I have ridden 330 miles. I’m still reasonably fit, though not as fit as I was on Sep. 7 when I raced so well in the cyclocross season opener. The state championships are just five weeks away and I would love to be on the starting line. But I need to see improvement in my top-end fitness and I need reasonable weather.

Now that Daylight Saving Time has ended, riding after work is out of the question. In the weeks to come I will look for opportunities to ride on my 1-hour lunch break and I will get back on the treadmills at Planet Fitness to burn some additional calories. Weekends will be used mostly for long-steady-distance rides, but to be prepared for the state championships I should add a couple of races to my plans. Here’s what remains on the schedule in Wisconsin:

11/09 Cam-Rock CX Classic @ Cambridge
11/10 Ripon College Cookie ’Cross @ Ripon
11/16 Blackhawk Border Bash @ Janesville
11/17 Kringle Kross @ Hales Corners
11/24 Booty Cross @ Madison

If I line up next weekend, it will be with the expectation of getting smoked. But competitive fire is a hell of a thing, and racing would be better training than anything I could do on my own. And bridging that two-week gap between Booty Cross and the state championships is Norge Ski Jump Cyclocross in Fox River Grove IL on Nov. 30. I’m sure I won’t be the only person who recognizes its potential as a final tuneup.

Let’s see what this week brings. High winds and rain are in the forecast for the next few days, and fewer hours of available daylight will have a depressing effect on me. If I can’t stay motivated enough to get on the indoor trainer when necessary, then thinking about the state championships is silly.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

When the guys at Belgianwerkx updated their Facebook page with this picture of Team Extreme’s Brian Petted, resplendent in devil horns at last Saturday’s Halloween ’Cross race in Milwaukee, I was moved to poetry by some unseen and sinister hand ...
For the cyclist who goes to Hell
There is no pain or strife.
He had quite enough of both
In his unhappy life.
But greeting him in his new home
The Devil has no doubt
That he is just the sort of man
To dish some suff’ring out.
And soon he finds himself employed,
With demons on each side,
To punish all the curs’ed souls
Who never learned to ride.
The Devil always will make work
For idle hands to do.
It is best to be a cyclist
Before he gets to you!
And that is why for Satan’s team
We cyclists are well vetted.
Woe to you, my evil friends,
When you next see Brian Petted.
Inspired. And yet, only two “Likes” on Facebook. That’s my curse: too hip for the room.

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Here’s The Deal ...

I have a “new” vehicle, a 2003 Dodge Caravan that until today belonged to my wife’s parents. It replaces a 1999 Ford Taurus that had seen better days. I never thought I would own a minivan, much less be excited by the prospect, but I think it is going to be a very good fit for me.

Replacing the Taurus didn’t seem possible until a few days ago. It just wasn’t in the budget. But what a target of opportunity! My in-laws wanted to trade in the Caravan as part of their new car purchase but decided to sell it to me on very favorable terms after they saw how little the dealer was going to give them. Resale on minivans is brutal. In a lot of cases you’re looking at vehicles that were owned by the parents of small children. High mileage and hard wear are typical. Mine was a grocery-getter for a retired couple who kept up with the maintenance schedule. They bought it new and then used it far less than is typical for a vehicle of its age.

Working from home for the last three years, I haven’t really needed a car. The Taurus was our backup, a vehicle used only for short trips around town. Our Toyota RAV4 has been very reliable and my first choice—really my only option—when I have driven to a distant cycling event. But the RAV4 is not very big. With its removable second- and third-row seats, the Caravan has a ton of interior space. I imagine taking it to a race and simply sleeping inside it rather than paying for a hotel or setting up a tent. And it will accommodate bikes, extra wheels, tools, etcetera. No more living out of a footlocker; I will have my own mobile service course.

My employer gives me a lot of vacation time, and the job itself is something I can do wherever I find an Internet connection. Because of their work and school schedules, Maria and the kids have more restrictions. I expect the new vehicle to allow for trips that otherwise wouldn’t fit into the family’s plans—cycling trips in particular. WORS and WEMS weekends just got a lot easier, but I also can contemplate more distant venues. Will I head south for a few days of warm weather before the end of the year? Maybe. Will 2014 will be the year in which I finally do the Ride Across Indiana? How about a multi-day rail trail adventure or a spring training camp? There are lots of possibilities now.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Bike Lane For West Bend?

If you wanted to bring a bike lane to West Bend, where would you put it? Before you answer, let’s look at how current state statutes and municipal code handle bike traffic.

As a limited-access freeway, US Highway 45 is off-limits for cyclists, but all surface streets are yours to use … plus the Eisenbahn State Trail, plus miles of city park paths, plus 99 percent of the sidewalks. Why not 100 percent? Well, you may not be aware that the State of Wisconsin prohibits adults from riding bicycles on sidewalks unless the local municipality expressly permits such activity. And West Bend does, except in areas that are zoned B-2 Central Business District. That means no riding on the sidewalks in downtown West Bend or in downtown Barton. (For my out-of-town readers, Barton is a neighborhood on the city’s north side that was a separate village until 1961.) The reason for the prohibition is obvious: high pedestrian traffic. It’s simply not safe to have cyclists and pedestrians sharing the sidewalks in those areas. West Bend’s other commercial areas don’t have the same limitation, and even very competent cyclists would agree that the sidewalks along Washington Street, South Main Street, and Paradise Drive can be better options than the streets themselves.

I understand that in larger cities with bigger traffic problems, or in places where geography demands that everyone share the only road, protected bike lanes make sense. But I can’t think of anywhere in West Bend that needs one and I am entirely unsympathetic to the notion of signed bike routes, as I think it would send a message to cyclists and motorists alike that such routes are to be used to the exclusion of other options.

Establishing a bike infrastructure in West Bend wouldn’t be a practical matter; it would be a political one. So, then, where do you want to make your statement? Take the busiest thoroughfares out of the equation, because you’ll never get the City Council to fund bike lanes there. Think small. Think Vine Street:

This is where I would start. Paint a bike lane from 7th Avenue to Sylvan Way and you will connect McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, City Hall / Police Department, Ziegler Park and Decorah Elementary School. And the lane would meet an existing bike/pedestrian path at Sylvan Way, connecting the street to the Eisenbahn.

Again, as a practical matter there isn’t a good argument for a bike lane on Vine Street. It’s already wider than average and is flanked on both sides by quiet sidewalks. But as a visible and enforceable place to take a symbolic stand, I think it is the best option. Your best option.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Peak Colors

This was the view from the old Woodford Drive bridge late this afternoon. Not bad, but those pretty autumn colors won't last much longer. Get out and enjoy the scenery while you can.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cleared For Takeoff

This morning a new set of X-rays showed excellent progress. The doctor says my broken collarbone now appears unlikely to require surgery. I will go back for another set of X-rays on Dec. 3.

The doctor wants me to stay away from mountain biking, but otherwise I am free to ride. I will continue to train with the Dec. 7 state cyclocross championships in mind.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Watching, Riding, And Still Hoping

Grafton’s PumpkinCross would have been one of my highest priorities this year if not for the broken collarbone that has kept me out of competition since Sep. 8. On Saturday morning I cheered from the sidelines and wished I were able to participate. The crew from Belgianwerkx did a great job setting up the Bike Science Coaching-designed course, so different from previous editions of the race and so much to my liking as someone who can climb a little bit. All those ascents of the hill on my practice course at Royal Oaks Park would have been good preparation. Congratulations to Jeff Melcher (Team Pedal Moraine), Mike Bown (Belgianwerkx) and Patrick Brock (My Wife Inc.) for representing West Bend so well by winning their respective categories.

Melcher also won the singlespeed race today in Verona. I did this, counter-clockwise:

My ride was just 20 miles but that was all I wanted today. It wrapped up a return to training that covered 120 miles in 7 hours spread over 5 rides. This afternoon was sunny and, well, warm enough. I need to make peace with cooler temperatures now—and with legitimately cold temperatures soon—if I want to be ready for the state cyclocross championships on Dec. 7.

Today I had it better than the pros at Bpost Bank Trophy Cyclocross in Ronse, Belgium. Rain and high winds certainly affected their race and may have limited the online coverage. I watched the text updates and occasionally got to see a video clip of a highlight from a few minutes earlier, but there was no truly live video.

Paris—Tours was on NBC Sports Network this afternoon. It wasn’t truly live either; it was tape-delayed. But at least it was free of technical glitches and it actually began and ended on schedule. NBC Sports has had a really bad history of bumping its cycling coverage to accommodate other programming. And the network has taken a beating in online forums from disgruntled viewers, so it’s strange to me that NBC said nothing about today’s coverage on Facebook or Twitter. If I were in charge, I would waste no opportunity to call attention to the things the network does right.

Tomorrow a new round of X-rays will show how my collarbone is healing, but it still may be too soon to guess when I will be able to race again. I will be OK as long as I still can ride and work toward new goals. For example, my fifth straight 4,000-mile season is now just 333 miles away. Not too long ago, a 4,000-mile season would have been the goal; now it’s a consolation prize.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Commencing Countdown, Engines On

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.
Cheesehead Roubaix will return on Sunday, Apr. 27, 2014. That’s 200 days from today. Some of the details still need work, so keep watching this blog and I will release additional information as soon as I can.

The state cyclocross championships are just 60 days from today. There are many arguments against my participation—not the least of which is my broken collarbone—but right now I still can hope. This afternoon I did my first outdoor bike ride since Sep. 8. I am not fully healed and another crash could be really bad. I will stay away from technical terrain for as long as I can, but eventually I must work on my bike handling again. During today’s 90-minute ride I covered 23 miles on my cyclocross bike. It was one of those mixed-surface rides that I like so well:

Some asphalt, some gravel, some dirt, some boardwalk …
With today’s ride I reached 39,000 career miles. Coming into the season I really wanted to reach 40,000 and I was well on my way until an entire month was wiped out by injury. You don’t suppose a slim chance remains, do you? I still have unscheduled vacation to use before the end of the year, and those three cousins in Texas whose invitations always sound so appealing as the Wisconsin winter approaches …

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A 2014 WCBC Time Trial Series?

If I revive the Washington County Bicycle Club time trial series for 2014, then I may know already where the course will be. Last February I identified a course in the Town of Addison that would be great for TTs. I envisioned an event of 40 kilometers, the same distance as the state championships. At the time, I was thinking about a new date on the WCA or Wisport calendar, not about a club-level event.

Washington County doesn’t produce a lot of time trialists. But Washington County does produce multisport racers, and a lot of those triathletes/duathletes have shown an interest in the WCBC during the last couple of years. Group road rides don’t really serve their needs, but could we bring them into the club by offering a TT series? It’s worth a try. Forty kilometers isn’t just the state championship distance, it’s also the Olympic standard for triathlons. Some of the athletes in our area might appreciate an opportunity to practice that distance. But I also want to offer a 20-kilometer option—the standard for “sprint” triathlons—as I suspect most of our multisport athletes will face the shorter distance more often, if not exclusively.

I tried to find a second course on which the 20-kilometer TT could be held. Then I asked myself why I wanted to have separate dates and locations for the two distances. Why not do it all simultaneously? As it turns out, my original location can work for both.

Two laps of the blue course would be 20 km. Three laps of the red course would be 40 km. Obviously, you could do four laps of the blue course to get to 40 km but using both options would have some advantages. The most obvious is fewer laps, as I think most people would rather do three longer ones than four shorter ones … especially since I have decided to move the finish line to the top of a long climb instead of having it at the bottom.

Originally I placed the start/finish line at the intersection of Indian Drive and Deer Road. By moving the start/finish line to the intersection of Aurora Road and Cedar View Drive, a single race official could track all of the racers. Someone doing 20 km would start by going north on Aurora; someone doing 40 km would start by going west on Cedar View. Two riders could start simultaneously, one in each direction, and they would be unlikely to see each other thereafter. That’s good because without officials all along the course there is no way to prevent drafting. There’s also no way to cut the course short: the race official would ensure that the 40 km riders always make the left-hand turn on Cedar View. Getting all participants on course as quickly as possible is a good thing, but it’s critical to create and maintain separation. I cannot imagine anyone trying to cheat—riders will be competing only against the clock, after all—but why not remove the opportunity and also make the race easy to administer?

I can’t stress strongly enough that this TT series would be strictly against the clock. To put racers in direct competition with each other would violate the terms of the club’s insurance. As long as they race only to set and then to improve upon their own times, these TTs would not have to be insured separately as special events. The focus would be on fun, fitness, and preparation for sanctioned events.

I am not prepared to set the dates yet, but I think one TT per month from May through August would be ideal. These would be Saturday mornings on which no club road ride is scheduled. It’s pretty easy to predict when the club road rides will fall in 2014 but there are other factors to consider. I hope to see some of the WCA, Wisport, ABR and multisport calendars before setting the club TT dates.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

And Then It Starts All Over Again

Here is the home gym as seen from my trainer-mounted road bike.
The state cyclocross championships are 10 weeks from today. I have decided to train as if I were going to race for the Cat 4 Masters 45+ title. Today I worked out indoors, “riding” a bike for the first time since breaking my collarbone three weeks ago. (It was my first trainer ride since Apr. 10.) My doctors say indoor trainer workouts are OK. I’m sure they picture me sitting perfectly upright with my left arm in a sling, but I am able to ride on the tops and on the hoods without any trouble.

I will be 13 weeks post-injury on December 7. That’s a lot of healing time. When I thought surgery was inevitable, I thought my cycling season was over. Now I’m not sure, so I will try to rebuild my fitness and keep my options open. I was in good shape when I got hurt and I think I will rediscover my legs. Today’s trainer session was a modest start: an easy 60-minute spin. Over the course of the next two weeks I will increase the intensity. Even if I get discouraging X-rays on Oct. 14 and I lose all hope of riding again this year, I can follow a less ambitious training program and start building my base for 2014.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Great Britain’s Brian Cookson was elected today to lead the UCI, cycling’s international governing body. The controversial reign of Pat McQuaid is over. Nearly a year ago as the cycling world began to digest the “reasoned decision” handed down by USADA in the Lance Armstrong case, I called for McQuaid’s resignation. McQuaid did not resign; I guess he didn’t see my blog post. Oh, well.

Early this month as other federations were announcing their support for the candidates, I took a more direct approach with USA Cycling to let it know where I stood:

On Sep. 18, USA Cycling announced its support for Cookson.

Am I really taking credit for today’s victory? Of course not. But I am taking credit for caring enough to let my national federation know how I wanted it to cast its vote. I expected other Facebook users to do the same, but no one added a comment in agreement or in dissent.

I should not be surprised: America is a country where nearly 100 percent of the population complains about politics but an election is considered a success if 50 percent of the voters actually turn out. Most people feel like they cannot influence the process, so they don’t even try. And we see the same dynamic outside of politics. How many of us believe that we “just have to live with” the terms dictated to us by our employers or by the companies on whose goods and services we rely?

Motivated groups or even individuals can exert disproportionate influence simply by expressing their opinions. Decision makers know that most people, no matter how dissatisfied, will sit quietly on the sidelines. So, when somebody does speak up, that voice can seem louder and more powerful than it really is. You can count on me to keep using mine.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Episode IV: A New Hope

Back on September 8 there was no doubt that I had broken my collarbone. I knew it even before I stood up after crashing in the WORS race at Lake Geneva. X-rays at the emergency room provided the official confirmation. A second set of X-rays on September 12 prompted an orthopedic specialist in West Bend to caution me not to expect the injury to heal on its own. A third set of X-rays on September 19 led the same specialist to refer me to a surgeon at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.

Today I met with that surgeon and he was amazed at the ease with which I could move my arm. I have excellent range of motion and very little discomfort. I thought I was going in for a pre-surgery pep talk today but instead I came away with a recommendation to wait a while longer to see how far natural healing takes me. I will be happy to avoid surgery if I can, however I made it clear that my first priority is a full recovery. If surgery is the only way to get back to 100 percent, then surgery is the way to go. New X-rays are planned for October 14. I will be five weeks post-injury and we should see clear indications of progress. On three prior occasions, this shoulder has healed itself. For the next couple of weeks, at least, I can hope that it will again.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Exquisitely Bored

A new season of The Simpsons begins next Sunday.
Since breaking my collarbone two weeks ago, I have been challenged to fill the hours that I would have spent on the bike and in the weight room. In some ways, I have turned the clock back 25 years to a time when I wasn’t an athlete. Autumn 1988 found me in my native Pittsburgh where I enjoyed music, movies, sitcoms and televised sporting events. In the last two weeks, entertaining myself has consisted of this:
  • 22 music albums
  •   7 James Bond movies
  •   4 other feature films
  •   3 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games
  •   2 University of Pittsburgh football games
  •   2 Penn State University football games
  •   2 Pittsburgh Steelers football games
So, I found something like 60 hours of entertainment … or at least distraction, because you wouldn’t describe me as “entertained” when my favorite teams lose. That part of my personality has been consistent throughout my life, but in many other respects I am not the same person I was in 1988. Here in 2013 there really is no substitute for physical activity, especially outdoors. This afternoon I went out for a 1-hour hike but it turned painful after only 30 minutes. My left shoulder started to ache. It needs a little more quiet time. At least my spirits were raised by the fresh air, sunshine and wooded trails.

Also today, I finally got around to inspecting my mountain bike for damage from the crash at Lake Geneva on Sep. 8. I may have bent the rear derailleur hanger, but the bike seems OK otherwise. The bike was shifting badly going into the race, so the hanger will be just one more thing to address. And there’s no rush … just like the Steelers’ offense.

Medically, the next step for me is a consultation with a surgeon at Froedtert Hospital on Tuesday afternoon. I hope to come out of that meeting with a surgery date. Right now I feel like I can’t make any plans and I want a timeline for my recovery.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Season Over

Today a new set of X-rays convinced my doctor that surgery is the only sensible course of action for my broken collarbone. I might know the date of that surgery as soon as tomorrow. For now, it’s enough to know that my 2013 cycling season is over.

I have the doctor’s OK to walk for exercise and even to ride a stationary bike, so I may be able to retain a little fitness. Some hikes on the Ice Age Trail and, eventually, snowshoeing will have to satisfy my desire to be active outdoors until next spring. And I probably should look into some dietary restrictions, as there’s no way I will be able to match my usual calorie burn.

Looks like the final tally for 2013 will be 130 rides for a total of 3,547 miles. Nine races, one century, lots of group rides … it wasn’t a bad year. But I had good fitness to begin the cyclocross season and missing out on the rest of those races is a big disappointment.

You would not believe how short my To Do list just became.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Early Look At 2014

My cycling plans for the rest of 2013 remain on hold due to a broken collarbone, but early this afternoon some of my plans for next year came into sharper focus. Here is the just-released 2014 WORS schedule:

05/04    Iola Bump & Jump @ Iola
05/18    Crystal Lake Classic @ Rhinelander
06/01    Battle of CamRock @ Rockdale
06/15    Red Eye Rendezvous @ Wausau
06/29    Red Flint Firecracker @ Eau Claire
07/12—13 Subaru Cup @ Portage
07/27    Sunburst Showdown @ Kewaskum
08/17    WORS Cup @ Mt. Morris
08/24    Reforestation Ramble @ Suamico
09/07    Treadfest @ Lake Geneva
09/28    Collectivo Coffee Bean Classic @ Franklin
10/12    Wigwam MTB Challenge @ Sheboygan

Those are the same venues from this year’s schedule, but for 2014 the Subaru Cup moves from Mt. Morris to the new trail system at Cascade Mountain in Portage. That probably won’t matter to me. Unless I change my mind over the winter, I won’t be competing for WORS series points next year. I would like to race at Wausau, Kewaskum and Suamico, but the rest of the schedule doesn’t fit my plans. Mix in a couple of WEMS races and I will have enough of a mountain biking schedule even without a full complement of WORS dates.

Cyclocross is probably going to be my No. 1 priority in 2014, especially if this collarbone fracture wipes out the rest of my 2013 season. I also intend to do more time trials. Mountain biking is not the whole enchilada, but today’s announcement from WORS is significant. Knowing that the WORS season will begin on May 4 gives me the likely date of the 2014 Cheesehead Roubaix: Sunday, April 27. That’s not final—mark your calendar with a  pencil, not with a pen—but it is my prefered date. Staying one weekend ahead of the first WORS race allows me to promote Cheesehead Roubaix as a good fitness test for the off-road racer crowd.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Waiting For Good News

“Waiting Room” by Stefano Fornara (2009)
After a new round of X-rays, I am still clinging to a little bit of hope that I won’t need surgery on my broken collarbone. Today I met with an orthopedic surgeon whose evaluation included not just the X-rays of my most recent injury, but also the X-rays of my first collarbone break. This is the fourth time I have suffered a significant shoulder injury, all on the left side:
  • 8/20/2008—Crashed on a group road ride in New Jersey. Recovered for 16 days before I could ride outside again. Collarbone was fractured but not displaced, and no surgical intervention was required.
  • 8/06/2010—Crashed on the Wild Goose State Trail. Recovered for 10 days before I could ride outside again. Suspected only soft tissue trauma and not a fracture. Did not seek medical attention.
  • 7/26/2012—Fell while running the bases in a softball game. Again suspected only soft tissue trauma and did not seek medical attention. Was able to continue riding without interruption.
  • 9/08/2013—Crashed in the WORS race at Lake Geneva.
Today the surgeon suggested that my previous injuries might have done some nerve damage, which could explain the almost complete absence of pain this time. On Sunday and Monday nights, I took an over-the-counter painkiller at bedtime just as a precaution against waking up in discomfort. And that’s it; I received no pain medication from the EMTs at the race or from nurses in the ER. Being a one-armed man has sucked, but it hasn’t hurt and I have a far greater range of motion than I did in the first few days after my earlier injuries. The surgeon has warned me not to take advantage of that fact. I must wear a sling and keep my left arm as quiet as possible. Next Thursday I will return to the surgeon for more X-rays. At that point I will be 11 days post-injury … maybe still too soon to make a decision on surgery.

The longer that decision takes, the more cycling events disappear from my calendar. If surgery is the way to go, then I have ridden my last miles until next spring. If natural healing progresses in a best-case scenario, then I might be able to return to the cyclocross series in October.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013 Treadfest

I broke my left collarbone today at Treadfest in Lake Geneva. Whether this injury will heal on its own is something I expect to find out after more medical consultations later this week. Surgery may be necessary. What is certain is that I'm in for at least a few weeks of pain and limited mobility. My 2013 mountain bike season is over, and my cyclocross season is in serious jeopardy. What a difference 24 hours makes! Yesterday I was fired up for 'cross, and now I'd be happy just to be able to tie my shoes.

You are NOT excused from 'cross practice on Tuesday! Jeff Wren now has the barriers, cones and flags, so he will run the practice in my absence.

Thanks for the well wishes, those of you who wish me well. I will have an update on my condition in a day or two.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Sheboygan Bicycle Co. Cyclocross Classic

The Wisconsin Cycling Association cyclocross season kicked off in Sheboygan today and I overcame a couple of off-course obstacles to take a strong 4th place out of 16 in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ field.

Last night I just couldn’t fall asleep. My legs were twitchy and my stomach was telling me to eat but my brain really didn’t want to. At about 2:30 a.m. I ate a thick peanut butter and jelly sandwich and about 15 minutes later I was finally asleep. Less than 4 hours after that, I was up again to down a bowl of cereal and make my way to Sheboygan. Despite the lack of sleep, I didn’t feel bad but I availed myself of a small bottle of Coke as soon as I got to the race venue. At registration I received Unwelcome Surprise #2: a set of numbers to wear on my jersey sleeves. (In past seasons we wore numbers only on our backs.) I understand that the numbers are "totally Euro" and will benefit the race officials, but for racers this new requirement just adds to the pre-race preparations. For the rest of the season I will be able to pin on the numbers the night before the race; today the process ate into precious warmup time. I did some sprints at the end of my warmup to compensate a little for its brevity.

I was confident on the starting line and I got off to a good start. But it didn’t take long for eventual winner Jeff Abitz to pass me and ride away virtually unchallenged. I think I was so defeated by Abitz’s acceleration that I literally forgot about him and settled into the race for second place. I knew I was going well: Jon Antonneau and John Lichtenberg took turns passing me and each other but everyone else was falling off the pace. I have never beaten Antonneau but I have beaten Lichtenberg and with everyone else losing ground I was happy just to cooperate with them until the fourth and final lap. We weren’t trading pulls on the front as a breakaway group might do in a road race, but our wheel-to-wheel racing brought out the best in us. Antonneau increased the pace midway through the final lap and I pursued closely. Then we hit The Equalizer, Sheboygan’s infamous dirt hill. Racers in the higher categories may have ridden to the top of this beast but it was a run-up for everyone in my race. I couldn’t close on Antonneau, and Lichtenberg used the final ascent to sprint past me. Remounting at the top, Lichtenberg worked his way up to Antonneau’s wheel but ran out of racecourse. So did I. After losing time on the run-up, I was really charging over the last 500 meters. With another 500 meters to race, second place might have been mine. Like I said, I literally forgot about Abitz and I thought I was racing for the win. (Abitz also won the open Cat 4 race later in the day.)

Fourth place is my best finish ever in a cyclocross race. I felt strong despite inadequate sleep and inadequate warmup time. I thought about taking an afternoon nap but instead I found a little more gas in the tank and went out for a fairly brisk 25-mile road ride. My 2012 cyclocross season came unglued as the days got shorter and colder. My training mileage plummeted because I wouldn’t ride after a Saturday or Sunday race. This year I plan to ride in the afternoons to hold on to that deep endurance I get from high mileage.

More Good News!

You might recall that after replacing my home’s water heater and my lawnmower I was scrambling for a way to afford the new cyclocross season. Well, problem solved! My wife and I completed the mortgage refinance process yesterday and confirmed that the first payment on our new loan won’t occur until November. With no payment due in October, I can replenish the household emergency fund and still have enough money to cover my race registrations and travel costs. If I don’t make it all the way through the ’cross season, then I’ll probably blame the weather and not my finances!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Back To The Future?

My road racing interests always seem to be in a state of flux.
Keenly aware that the new cyclocross season is less than a week away, on Sunday I took a preseason fitness test by time trialing on my ’cross bike to Campbellsport and back via the Eisenbahn State Trail. It’s a test I perform a handful of times each year, always shooting for less than 1 hour in each direction and a faster split on the return. I reached Campbellsport in 55:06—a good time, but not a personal best—and then raced back home in just 50:47, a personal record that beat the 51:19 I posted on July 8. That’s an 18.4 mph average on the return, covering 15.6 mostly-gravel miles with 700x32 knobby tires at 75 psi.

Obviously, I’m satisfied with any new personal best. But I also know that a long time trial is not the same kind of effort as a 30-minute cyclocross race. I proved—not for the first time—that I can sustain a hard effort once I get the motor going. My success in cyclocross will depend on good, long warmups; without them I will falter during the first chaotic moments and fall hopelessly far behind before I find my legs. I enjoy cyclocross, but I am not ideally suited to it. The shock of the start is hard for me to overcome. Building to a crescendo over a much longer effort is more my style.

It did not occur to me until Sunday that my 31.2-mile TT course is unusually long. Converting to metric, the distance is a little more than 50 kilometers. That’s longer than the last six UCI World Championship TT courses for top-level pros like Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara. For amateurs like me, a sanctioned TT would generally be no longer than 40 kilometers. (That’s also the standard for the bike portion of an Olympic-distance triathlon.) This chart from Sunday shows how I achieved a negative split after the turnaround in Campbellsport (the big decelerations correspond to intersections where I had to slow down or stop for motor vehicles):
It’s too bad I can’t run my Eisenbahn TT on a closed course!
I have done just a handful of TTs on the road and I didn’t get close to winning any of them (unless you count this one). Competing on a stock road bike, I entered those races for fun and fitness and never had any expectation of a good placing. My fastest TT came on Labor Day 2012: a 21.35 mph average over 19.3 rolling miles (31 km) just outside of West Bend. With the right equipment and training—and on the right course—I might be pretty good.

If I decide to throw myself at time trialing in a more serious way next year, the biggest problem might be finding events that don’t conflict with my other racing ambitions. With that in mind, I am revisiting the prospect of a Washington County Bicycle Club TT series. The first attempt was a failure, but the composition of the club has changed over the last few years. A revamped series, properly promoted, might appeal to the multisport community. There are a lot of triathlon/duathlon folks in the area and their training objectives are not really served by the club's Saturday rides. Neither are mine, so maybe my future with the WCBC will be to coordinate the century and the TT series.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Why should American football players have all the fun, practicing themselves into states of exhaustion not once, but twice on hot summer days like this one? Today I waited for the temperature to hit 90, then went out on a solo road ride. An hour and a half later ... well, OK: I wasn’t exhausted, but I could tell I had made an effort. True exhaustion never actually came, but I got fairly close to it late this afternoon at cyclocross practice. With temperatures still in the 90s, seven riders tackled the Royal Oaks Park course. We reduced our race simulation from the normal 6 laps down to 4 as a concession to the heat, and that was enough. I rode at the same pace as last week and I could have hung in there for 2 more laps, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

And the rest of the week looks properly hot: real summer weather. I will be out there to take advantage of it. I may even double-up again, perhaps pairing a morning road ride with an evening mountain bike ride on Thursday or Friday. But it looks like there’s a big cooldown coming just in time for Labor Day. Next week’s cyclocross practice might take place in 60-degree weather, which would more closely approximate the conditions we can expect in the early races of the upcoming season.

Next week’s practice will be the last of the four to which I originally committed, but I’m pretty sure we will extend the series for at least one week and perhaps as many as four. There’s still fitness to gain and technique to refine. To that last point, we will reconfigure the course next week to force a dismount and run-up situation at the bottom of the big hill. Without any stairs at our disposal, it’s the best we can do. Time to remove those water bottle cages, everyone, but they sure came in handy today!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 Reforestation Ramble

Mark Schindel leads me around the final right-hand turn. Time to make a late move …     (Julie Phelps photo)
This time last year I was celebrating a victory in my age group at the Reforestation Ramble in Suamico. With several successful Cat 3 (Citizens) races under my belt, I went there with high expectations. Racing today in Cat 2 (Sport), I had lower expectations but came away with my first Top 10 finish in my new category. Last Sunday at Franklin, I felt like I had Top 10 legs and today’s result is the best confirmation so far that I can be highly competitive at this level.

Some people refer to Suamico as a “roadie” course. Certainly, it’s one of the least technical courses in the series but it still has its challenges. As someone who rides frequently on the road, maybe I had a little advantage over some of the guys on the hills and on the open ski trails. And perhaps that little advantage explains my success against some riders who usually beat me. Today I finished ahead of six age-group rivals who began the day in the Top 10 on series points.

I still can’t beat Chris Harold (Activator), but neither can anyone else. Harold has won the 45-49 age group in all six WORS races he has contested this year, finishing today in 1:37:32.9. Scott Nickoli (J&B Cycle) was next at 1:38:41.4, followed by Larry Hipps (Team Pedal Moraine) in 1:39:50.7, Jeff Hatton (Titletown Flyers) in 1:41:18.5, Bob Zimmermann (Team Pedal Moraine) in 1:41:56.3, Robert Sleger (unattached) in 1:43:47.9, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) in 1:44:20.2, and Todd Lindow (Ozaukee Bicycle Club) in 1:44:29.6. I took 9th in the 21-man field with a time of 1:44:51.7. Overall I placed 61st out of 151. Appleton’s Paul Schommer, 21, was first overall in 1:31:07.8.

Tactically, I had a very strong race. I started well and—now that I have some feel for where I belong in the pecking order—took care to dispatch a few guys who I knew would slow me down as we approached the first section of singletrack. I hit the hills hard and was good on the ski trails except on sandy corners, where some combination of tire tread, tire pressure, and bad lines always seemed to delay me and then to require a big acceleration on the exit. For much of Lap 1, I rode with Jody Arlen (Lucky Brake), a close rival whose wheel I was happy to follow through the singletrack. But I clearly had the advantage on the climbs and when I thought I saw a pair of teammates up ahead, I left Jody behind. Expecting to ride across to Mike Laufenberg and Bob Zimmermann, I found only Mike and a rider from another team. I followed Mike through the next section of singletrack, nearly having an over-the-bars moment when I took a bad line and was surprised by a big root, then left him behind when the trail opened up again. As the first lap ended I was feeling strong and confident. I knew that I was moving up through the field.

But Lap 2 began inauspiciously. I have been fighting some issues with my shifting, front and rear, and just as the new lap began I dropped my chain onto the bottom bracket and had to dismount to get it back on the chainring. Just a couple of minutes later the chain overshot the big ring and landed between the crank arm and my foot, but with equal measures of finesse and luck I was able to get it back on the big ring without stopping. These two incidents were worrying and probably contributed to the hatchet job I did on a transitional piece of singletrack that I didn’t get to see on Lap 1 and neglected to check out during Saturday’s pre-ride. Once on the other side of that, however, I was strong again. Back on familiar trails I continued to pick off riders. About halfway through the lap, I passed fellow West Bend racer Troy Sable (unattached) for the first time this season. Moments later I passed Jeff Wren. But Jeff got me back and took Lindow with him, and I couldn’t respond.

Late in the lap I was ragged but still thinking. With no age group rivals in sight, I resolved to preserve or improve my overall finish. Emerging from the last section of singletrack, I found myself with Mark Schindel (Big Ring Flyers), a big strong man on a fat bike. He provided excellent shelter from the headwind as we raced toward the final right-hand turn, and in those moments I saved enough energy to swing around him before the finish line. Schindel, 31, was the top Clydesdale finisher in the under-40 age group. At registration on Saturday I hopped on the scale just out of curiosity: 202 pounds. Technically, I could be racing as a Clydesdale but I keep telling myself I’m going to drop back under 200 pounds in the very near future.

So, a fun and modestly successful weekend of mountain biking now leads into a week of vacation. With no responsibilities to my employer until Sep. 3 and no races next weekend, I’m looking forward to a week of Vuelta webcasts, cyclocross and mountain bike practice sessions, and lots of miles on the road. But tomorrow may be a rest day to set up the remainder of the week, and the mountain bike has another date with the mechanic to fix not just the shifting issues but also the rear spoke that popped late in today’s race.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Like A Bull In A China Shop

At the trailhead ...
Curious about how the new mountain bike trails in Ozaukee County are evolving, today I returned to Pleasant Valley Park for the first time since July 7. On that initial visit I checked out the Beginners loop, and today I got to see how it and the recently-completed Intermediate loop fit together. For me, the ride was slow! These trails will definitely reward smooth riders who keep a steady tempo. That’s not me, at least not on a mountain bike.

During an hour-long exploration of the park I completed three laps of Beginner/Intermediate, getting a little faster from the experience:
But I don’t know if I ever will regard Pleasant Valley Park as a place to go fast. Maybe I shouldn’t try to; maybe I should remain an infrequent visitor even when the entire system is complete. (I hear there are some really cool features planned for the Advanced loop.) New Fane is my principal training area and a race venue where familiarity is rewarded. Maybe I should use these new trails like I already use Glacial Blue Hills: a change-of-pace venue that forces me to use skills I might otherwise neglect, and a place where I haven’t memorized every rock and root.