Sunday, March 1, 2015

Away we go

CIRREM ... it was fun until it wasn't.

Actually, even the part that wasn't fun was still not all that bad. It was good to get out and race and remember what that feels like. So here's the deal:

It was cold when I left Omaha early on Saturday morning. Like, "I've made a huge mistake" cold. As a rule here, I do not ride when wind chills are in single digits. It was 6 when I left and was up to 10 when I got to Cumming, just south of Des Moines.

The forecast was for light winds from the SE, but 10 is still 10. That's cold. But I had a secret weapon ... which was actually untested ... and I debuted it when there was no margin for error. Whoops. Anyway, it worked. Here's what I wore:

Castelli SS baselayer
Thermal armwarmers
Capo Roubaix bib tights with pad
Specialized '74 wool socks - with foot warmers under my toes

Castelli Mortirolo jacket
Super-old Pearl Izumi bib tights

Gloves (secret weapon)
Super-old Adidas wind-blocker gloves (my normal 40-degree gloves) with a foot warmer stuck to the palm
Heavy Pearl Izumi outer gloves.

On my head I had a thin balaclava under an old Hind thermal running cap. The balaclava mostly served to keep air off my neck. And I wore my Specialized Defroster boots.

I decided to go with the gloves that way because at 20 degrees, my usual setup of thin baselayer glove and thick outer glove is fine. But 10 degrees (and way less if you're doing 20 mph) would chew that apart. So why not block it to begin with and then have a warmer on the palm. It was perfect. Not even the slightest hint of a cold fingertip. That setup would actually cause me to reconsider my "no riding with windchill under 10" rule.

Anyway, the race. My goals were to get a good, long ride in and become reacquainted with race pace. I got the second part within the first couple of miles. After the neutral rollout, we hit the gravel flying. I was just settling in and finding a good line when I noted that I was a bit too far back. So I found Rafal and moved up beside him. From there I recognized all of the fast Des Moines guys and made it a point to stay put.

On the first few big hills, the group thinned a little more, and then a little more, and then a little more still. I was able to roll with the bunch and stayed with the lead group, which by then had 20 or so guys. I felt like I could stay there for a good while.

About 15 miles in, there was a nasty little kicker hill that I could feel ripping the group apart, and I started a little too far back. So I jumped out and across to the lead guys, then quickly settled in. But the gapped group came back on and then we rounded a corner and saw a really big, awful incline. And that's when the real split happened. In hindsight I should have saved it on the first kicker and come back up with the group, but even so I'm not sure I could have stayed on board up that drag.

After that carnage, we regrouped in a solid bunch of seven or eight guys. There was no real rotation, it just kind of settled in. We each took a few pulls. Along the way to the checkpoint, we saw a few guys here and there who bailed and were on the phone or were messing with tires.

It was like that for the next 30 miles or so. We caught a few guys, lost a few guys, but mostly kept rolling. The cold (well, mostly the gloves) made it hard to eat and drink a lot. And that's a regret — I should have thought about how I was going to get food while wearing heavy gloves and going fast on gravel in a group. Next time, maybe.

This is the part where I mention the hills. Yes, it was hilly — just over 5,000 feet climbing in 62 miles. None of the hills were awful, there were just a lot of them. And I felt really really good on them. I felt like I was floating during the first half and merely gliding in the second half (until it got not good). And if we're doing some hindsight coaching, maybe I could have relaxed a little on those hills.

There was one in particular that was built for me. A kick at the start and then a long grind up to the top. Maybe 3/4 of a mile in total and at about mile 40. I punched it and had a good gap on the group. But they clawed back and I moved to the back and hid again. I didn't need to use that match, because I needed it later.

Mile 55 (or so). There was a point where, due to not having any idea where we were, other than somewhere south of Des Moines, where I wanted to just yell, "Where the hell are we and are we almost done?" It was getting a little tedious. Everybody was tired and my legs were hurting. There was one more big-ass hill, and I knew I'd been able to handle these guys the rest of the day. But then ... that was it. Out of gas. And the group splintered and that was all for me and my legs.

I recovered somewhat and got across the finish line. The last few miles sucked. I got caught by a guy from South Dakota, who I've raced on the road. And Rafal was getting close by the end. But I rode 62 miles in 3:45, which is pretty quick on gravel and hills. I remember what race pace is like and got some good work in. I feel strong, considering it's March and I haven't really even started to do workouts yet.

That's CIRREM. We got lucky that the gravel was frozen and not a horrible, muddy mess like last year. I'll take it, even with the implosion at the end.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What else is there?

Are there things better than live 9-ball championships? Maybe. I don't know. But I have access to that right now. There's other stuff, too, (probably), but I'm happy with this for now. Technology is great.

We dumped cable a few years ago, opting to not spent $100 per month on channels that mostly go unwatched. Instead we do Netflix and Hulu and get the package for the baseball season. It's pretty great, but the only missing spot has been no ESPN. Though that only means a few missed big-time events per year (football, college basketball, mostly), it's still nice to have.

There's a new thing out called Sling, which is a lot like those other services in that it streams content and is awesome. This one, however, is $20 per month and gives you live ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, TNT ... and some other stuff that's probably entertainingish.

We're here for the ESPN, basically. UNI is on ESPN on Saturday. That's pretty cool. The Cubs are on ESPN on Opening Day, which would be uncool until now. And for $5 more (ah, the add-ons!), you can add more sports. NBC University Sports has the Tour de France. That's cool. Oh and there's no contract, so you can dump or add it as you see fit.

It's been cool so far. Technology is great. Man, technology.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You've been doing it wrong

I have a desk calendar near my computer at work. It sits beside pictures of Chris and the kids and and my coffee mug(s). Since Jan. 1, it's been a daily source of tips from Bicycling Magazine. You know, things like, "Be sure to drink before you're thirsty to avoid dehydration," and "Try not to put too much weight forward when sprinting."

You know, normal stuff that gets repeated twice a year and just flies off the magazine rack.

I didn't think too much of it until this week. This week, Bicycling Magazine has gone off the reservation.

Did Munson send this in? What kind of group ride is this? And why are these people assuming the ride will go through the woods? And AND: Why would I want to stop for meats and cheeses and beer in the middle of my ride?

It was followed up today with another solid effort:
This is basically gibberish. Walking your bike is a thing you love about cycling? That's like me saying the parts of cyclocross I like best are the parts where I can run.

Wait, I said that once.

And that laterally stiff bit. What does that even mean?

Anyway, what the hell, Bicycling? These are not tips. These are the musings of a crazy person. Stop a ride for meats and cheeses? In the forest? Yeah, sure. Why not?

Next you're going to tell me that I can GET FAST/FIT/LEAN NOW with these 12 easy steps.

Damn you, Bicycling. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

One week to go

I've been riding five days per week for the bulk of the year so far. That's not too bad. It checks of that consistency box, if nothing else. The only real issue is that I'm super lazy and I seem to take both of the "off days" back to back, forcing my hand the rest of the week.

There are worse things, probably.

Cirrem is a week from tomorrow, which should be interesting. The current 10-day forecast says 33 degrees, though this far out that's little more than a guess made by wetting a finger and holding it aloft. But still, that would be a great temperature, because the roads probably wouldn't be too bad. I really, really don't want to end up in the middle of a slop-fest. I'll race regardless, but I'm allowed to have a preference. And it's not that.

Overall, I feel OK. I should be in good enough shape to have a fun ride, and then start training to go really fast and possibly have slightly less fun.

That's that. It's almost the weekend, and that means one last long ride. I'm going to try for four hours of mostly gravel. That should be an adventure, but I haven't gone long in a while. It'll be nice to get out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cue the anxiety attack

I got added to a Facebook group last week: AHS 20-year reunion. Wait, what?

True story. My 20-year class reunion is this summer. It's good that we're having one. We didn't have a five-year reunion, mostly because we didn't like each other that much in high school. Five years didn't seem like long enough to forget that.

We went to the 10-year reunion, though. And that was OK, if sparsely attended. This was mostly prior to a ton of Facebook contact, so I hadn't actually seen most of those people in 10 years.

But now, with technology as our savior (?), I've been able to see what most everybody is up to. Well, except for the guy in jail. Conversely, it's reasonably easy for people to keep tabs on me, too. Lucky them.

I've been batting this reunion back and forth with a couple of my oldest friends — two of the small handful I talk to on a regular basis. It seems like we're approaching all of this with a distant curiosity. Basically, we're not quite sure we need to go revisit things. We all still love the place, but not necessarily all of the events from the place.

Examples? Do I need to see the guy who bullied me throughout middle school? Probably not, though I recognize his schtick was the result of a pretty messed up life at home. Or do I need to make small talk with folks who didn't want to do so 20 years ago? Probably not.

But I do want to talk to some of my oldest friends. Like, known them since kindergarten old. I'm curious to see how life has gone for them. Because while I'm happy and doing OK, it's different than what I thought it would be. I can't be the only one.

In our small little chat, we came to the agreement that it's probably a good idea to go. It will be worth it. And if it's not, at least we can find each other, shake our heads and laugh.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Once upon a time ...

Needle drop ... down beat ... jangly guitar/organ/piano ... wait ... what's that sound?

I got a copy of the mono remaster of Highway 61 Revisted on eBay for $15. It's the whole deal — 180-gram vinyl, faithful reproduction of the original jacket, etc. I've owned it on CD for almost 20 years at this point, but it's the stereo version. And if you haven't already noticed, stereo versions of mid-1960s albums were mixed mostly to show off that they were in stereo. There was a lot of left-channel/right-channel messing around. (Famously, the Beatles usually left the studio when the mono mixing was complete. They didn't care about the stereo version.)

So that's why the first 15 seconds of "Like a Rolling Stone" were so startling. There's a bass line — a strong one — in the mono version that I hadn't noticed before. I've listened to that song a few hundred times by now, and it hadn't ever jumped out like that. Wow.

There were other little bits and pieces throughout the album that placed more emphasis on certain parts (or less emphasis on others) that came through as well. It was an interesting listen for sure.

And that was the weekend. Just Bob Dylan on a loop and a bunch of coffee.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Let's get on with it

About three weeks ago, Jack stayed home sick from school. Nothing serious, just a nasty cold. He was actually fine by late afternoon.

Maddy was sick last week, and I had to stay home with her because of a cold that led to an ear infection. She's better now, too.

Chris, meanwhile, has had a cold twice — once with Jack the first time around and now again right now.

Somehow I've managed to get through all of this perfectly fine ... mostly. My ears have felt funny the last few days, and I've had random headaches off and on. There's been a strange tickle in my throat for a while, too.

But real illness? Nope. Just an annoying feeling. And you can fight that with sugar and coffee. NO PROBLEM.

It would be nice, however, to get this thing moving. Either get sick and be done or get healthy and ... also ... be done. Because I have things to do, like figure out exactly what you're supposed to take with you on a 62-mile gravel race. And figure out exactly what time and where all of this stuff is. I'll admit I've put almost zero thought into it, other than "go ride as much as you can."

Seems OK for now.