What Rain?

After spending the last two days in Traverse City for work, without my running shoes or bike, I was determined to get a ride in tonight. I rode Sunday and enjoyed a skating party with my oldest daughter on Monday night, but with Barry-Roubaix 3 ½ weeks away, I wanted to get a 2-2.5 hour ride in tonight. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans.

The last time I rode in the rain it ended up being a disaster. And although the temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than ‘that ride’, I knew I didn’t want to ride wet for 2 hours. So, I decided to do the next best thing: run. Outside. I just don’t mind running in the rain as long as I can keep my feet relatively dry.

I’ve been ramping up my training over the past month, but took it easy last week. I had a conversation with someone who scared me a bit into thinking I might be training too hard too early. Some mountain bikers who are carefully building towards their year this year will not touch running and instead focus all their time on detailed aspects of their riding. They are going to compete at a very high level this year and I have no doubt that their plan will work (and that it could work for me). However, after reading up on some beginner training techniques for building a fitness base; what some symptoms of over-reaching and over-training are; and how to use my Heart Rate Monitor better; I determined that I was probably o.k. to continue on with my plan. What I have currently determined for me is that I am still in a general fitness building and weight loss stage and that the benefits of running still outweigh any detriment it can cause to my mountain biking.

So, I threw on my shoes and went for a run. Here’s my run, although I don’t normally run that slow (and didn’t tonight, either), my time includes a 5 minute warm-up walk/skip: http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/98327776

Tomorrow looks dry so I’m going to do my 2+ hour ride tomorrow night and hopefully be able to get a trail ride in on Saturday or Sunday to take out my new bike. Registration for the Iceman Cometh Challenge opens tomorrow, so I’m sure I’ll be all jacked on my ride tomorrow night, excited for another crack at a personal best performance in November…back in Traverse City.

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2011 in Review: World Cup Dalby Forest

A great video from my new sponsor, Specialized (at least until I wake up). The fact that we’re 2 days from March, I have a new bike in hand, and videos of new MTB races are pumping me up and producing a wicked itch for this year’s riding. Happy Monday!

kolo t.c.

After a weekend of skinny tires, Monday requires some great mountain biking action from Dalby Forest. One of the earlier races of the year, and one of the best courses, Dalby served as an opening platform for Specialized’s Jaroslav Kulhavy to make history.

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Ultimate Cycle Challenge: the Afterblog

I’m going to try something here that, admittedly, I’m not sure whether or not it’s socially acceptable. I hope, though, that in the spirit of trying to share exciting news about an awesome event, I might be forgiven. I’m going to post pictures that I’ve found and downloaded from Facebook that were taken at the Ultimate Cycle Challenge (UCC) this past weekend. I’m also linking to the UCC Facebook page which has an additional 360 pictures from the event. One of the things I’m trying to accomplish with this blog is to capture stories and perspectives about biking events, compile it into a more complete story, and then get that story out to as many different people as possible.

For starters, though, let me fill you in on some of the details of the fundraiser. The challenge started at 8pm Friday night and finished at 8pm Saturday night. Over 550 riders participated in this year’s event at Ridgepoint Community Church. When I got there at 9am, the room was packed and buzzing with conversation and energy and there seemed to be just as many people standing, supporting riders as there were riders. Bikes were placed about every 3 feet and were lined up in rows facing the stage where the many various forms of entertainment took place. A Zoomba team was just finishing up when I arrived and about 20 minutes later a musician playing acoustic guitar started his set. Team names and team lists, cancer facts, and motivational quotes were projected on big screens in the front of the auditorium next to the stage for everyone to read while they were riding.

Riders were mounted on a wide variety of spinning equipment. Many people had brought in their own bikes and mounted them to bike trainers. You could find everything from road bikes, tri bikes, and mountain bikes, to cruiser bikes, tandem bikes, and recumbent bikes out on the floor. A couple of hand powered bikes were also present up near my station for a group of paraplegic riders. That is always inspiring for me to see. Stationary bikes were also scattered throughout the room.

In the back of the room Holland’s famous ‘Bike-n-Bar’ was serving up frosty mugs of root beer for participants to enjoy either before or after their shift. Volunteers roamed the room visiting each rider asking if they needed anything and offering up fresh cut banana halves, trail mix, and other snacks. Messages were available to work out tense muscles (provided by Everyday Message & Wellness) and a quiet room was available for those who needed a bit of time to reflect or have time to themselves. Most people know someone who has or has had cancer. With the purpose of the event to raise funds and raise spirits, there can be emotions tied to participation.

Participants received a cool t-shirt and Jersey’s and other swag were available for purchase to help raise funds. So far over $62,000 has been raised for Livestrong, which exceeds last year’s total of around $61,000. A big part of getting to that number is the support of corporate sponsors who donated both money and in-kind items needed for the event.  This year’s financial sponsors included Herman Miller Foundation, Global Parts Source, Inc., Ryder, Lakeshore Family Chiropractic, Osborn Abstracting Services, Inc., Infiterra Sports, LLC, Lakeshore Area Radiation Oncology Center, Cross Country Cycle, Comprehensive Physical Therapy Center, and Lake Michigan Wellness. Entertainment sponsors were Last Call Band, Staff Infection, Joe Johnson and the Bluebacks, Sanger Brothers Band, Andrew Martin, 12th Street Harmony, and Thunder Mountain Music DJ/Karaoke Service. The in-kind sponsors were Two Men and a Truck, Endurance Fitness Centers, Besco Water Treatment, Inc. Evergreen Commons, West Michigan Uniform, The Gilmore Collection, Gentex Corporation, and Center for Good Health (Holland Hospital).

So now that we’ve covered that, the really cool stuff that you just can’t capture in words is the energy and thrill of participating in this type of fund raiser. As with the paraplegic riders I noted earlier, the power of the human spirit is always evident at events like this. The determination to fight against a common enemy and overcome hardship creates a bond that just is hard for me to put into words. For that, pictures tell the story:

New Bike !!!!!!!

Finally, after months of analyzing, talking, looking, more analyzing, more talking, and more looking and talking, I took home my new Specialized Epic Comp 29er last night. I’m excited. Let me rephrase that: I’m REALLLLYYYY excited.

Brian Harris at Cross Country Cycle did a phenomenal job of dialing the bike in for me and fitting the bike to my body and riding style. We both had some good laughs, too. I realized that maybe, just maybe, if you need orthopedic lifts in your work shoes you need to have them in your bike shoes, too.  Not that it would correct your spinning inefficiencies or prevent injury (insert heavy sarcastic facial expression here). Needless to say, not only do I feel really good about the new bike I’ll be riding this year, but I’m really excited that I might actually be riding a bike in an appropriate position with healthy posture.

This bike is the most expensive toy I think I’ve ever owned. I’ve never owned a watercraft, motorcycle, or other expensive piece of hobby equipment. It’s not the nicest one you can buy, but I certainly feel fortunate to be able to ride this and I look forward to winning some races with it this year. And, I’m glad it’s a bike to explore the great outdoors under my own power.

Watch the Weather

Last night I had scheduled myself for one of my 2 hour gravel shoulder rides along Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. I call it my ‘Big Lakeshore Shoulder Ride’ in my tracking sheet (I keep track of all my riding and running in excel – more on that some other time). It’s just less than 29 miles and is fairly flat with a couple of hills thrown in for practice. With Courtney launching into yet another night of one of her winter painting projects after we put the kids to bed, I dressed and thought I’d get an early start.

Normally I leave the house around 9. Yes, I’m a night owl. I’ve invested in adequate lighting, reflective gear, and warm clothes to be able to do this through the winter. It’s part of my own personal compromise in an effort to get as much riding in as possible without it affecting too much family time. Unfortunately it leaves me with less sleep, but I’m working on a plan to shift that a bit.

After a hard week of running and riding last week I thought I would take Monday and Tuesday off this week (I had a meeting Monday night anyway). So when I stepped outside at 8:15 and noticed the pavement was slightly wet, I was a bit irritated. I remembered reading in the 5 day forecast (on Sunday) that there was a 30% chance of rain/snow, but it wasn’t supposed to start until ‘late’. I guess I should have researched The Weather Channel’s definition of late. An hour into my ride (and the furthest point from my house) the weather turned nasty.

Up until that point I was having a good ride; 15 minutes of easy warm-up, 4 solid hill climbs in my favorite Lake Michigan shoreline dune neighborhoods, and 7 miles of gritty gravel shoulder. The precipitation was very sparse. Just before I got to my Pigeon Lake switchback, though, the shoulder became over saturated with water and began pooling into puddles. I could no longer keep the sand and water out of my face and mouth. Shortly after I hopped over to the bike path to avoid the mess, the sky opened up and dropped a heavy mixture of snow and rain.

I thought I could make it back without getting too wet if I cut my route short by taking Butternut (a relatively straight shot back at my neighborhood). Immediately after I made the turn at Pigeon Lake, however, I started to feel my butt get wet and knew it wasn’t going to be pretty getting home. I picked up the pace (which makes me look like a clown on my single speed) knowing that if I got wet and didn’t generate enough heat I was going to be as cold as a piece of raw beef in a meat locker before I got into the house.

From Pigeon Lake it’s about a 25-30 minute ride to get back on my single speed (35-18 gearing). Sure enough, by the time I pulled up my driveway I was soaked to the bone. Fortunately, I had worked hard enough that I wasn’t shivering. Not quite the workout I was planning, but a good work out all the same. I peeled off all my gear and hung it up in the basement to dry (shoes are still soaked today) and then hit up a hot shower. Next time I’ll watch the weather a little closer.

Foetoes Pheeturing Phleeting Phlekks and Phlaiks

I just love the photo’s that this gentleman took. They remind me of the winter we missed here in Holland, MI.

Get Out In Guysborough County

One of the most difficult things I phaced, oops, faced last Saturday when I spent the afternoon out driving around was being content with where I was. The theory of being present and the practice of it can have some serious divergences.

As you can see in most of the shots it was a cloudy day and what often happens on days like this in winter is the clouds eventually grow heavier and heavier until they blot the sky out completely. Early on in the afternoon I wasn’t especially pleased with the scenes I was finding. Internal pressure mounted quickly as the little voice in my head insistently criticized me. It reminded me over and over that the quality of the sky and light would soon disappear. Versions of the grass being greener (whiter) elsewhere played like a jukebox.

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Ultimate Cycling Challenge

I will be participating in my first bike event of 2012 this Saturday, February 25 at the Ultimate Cycling Challenge(UCC). This will also be the first event that I will be riding as a member of the Cross Country Cycle mountain bike team. I’m excited for both reasons. I don’t have a trainer like many other cyclists because I prefer to ride outside through the winter, so this will also be a something out of the norm for me.

The UCC is an indoor cycling fund raiser that benefits Livestrong, the widely recognized cancer awareness and resource not-for-profit that Lance Armstrong started several years ago. Teams sign up for either the 12 or 24 hour challenge, committing to collectively ride for the entire duration, relay style. The ride starts at 8pm Friday night and ends at 8pm on Saturday night. I’m signed up for the 9-10a.m shift Saturday morning. Individuals can sign up as well and are able to schedule themselves into available reserved individual slots. This year’s ride is being held at Ridge Point Community Church (The Center at Ridge Point) in Holland, MI.

In addition to the entry fee each rider pays, participants are encouraged to raise funds through solicitation of friends, family, co-workers, etc. Donations can be given to teams or individuals directly through the UCC website. On top of that, one of this year’s participants is offering to contribute $10 for every song dedication submitted. No donation is required by submitting a song.  It’s an awesome and substantial gift. The anonymous donor will take the songs dedicated, have someone read the dedication over top of the song, and create a playlist to be listened to throughout the year on various rides. Those that have been following my blog for some time know that I was involved in the Relay for Life fundraiser last year through The Bank of Holland, where I work. Because I’ve been impacted by family and friends who have battled cancer, participating in these events holds a very dear place in my heart. I think of these people all the time while I’m riding and running so I can relate to this individual’s quest.

One really cool aspect of this challenge is that you don’t need to own a bike in order to participate. Teams are provided a location and can choose to bring in their own bike trainers and bikes, or they can coordinate having a stationary bike placed in their spot. And, because each team is responsible for filling their time slots, you can choose to ride for however long you feel comfortable with that works for your team. Finally, everyone can participate, obviously, by supporting a team or rider financially.

There are approximately 55 teams signed up this year in total, which means you’re essentially riding in one big peloton. The only difference is that there are no dropped riders, no one is held back from riding faster, and the terrain is what you envision it to be. The downside is that there’s no drafting. Plenty of entertainment and activities are scheduled throughout the event for riders, volunteers, and supporting visitors alike. This will be the first time I’ve participated in the event so I don’t really know what to expect, but I’ve heard that it is a really energetic atmosphere.

I’ll post more about how it went with some pictures afterwards, so keep posted. In the meantime, check out the website and consider donating to the battle.