Sunday, March 2, 2014

What is on tap for 2014

It has been a while since I updated my blog so I thought I would give a quick re-cap of 2013 and the plan for 2014.

2013 cut short

2013 was a off year for me with no big races planned during the summer.  I did start the 380 miles gravel road Almanzo Alexander in May.  I cut that ride short to only ride 305 miles of it.  The big event for the year would be my wife Connie competing in Ironman Florida in November.  Connie’s Ironman went great with a finishing time of under 12:30.  She rocked it all day including the ocean swim with huge waves and 3000 people taking off at once.  Check out the video of the start.

We once again did RAGBRAI.  My 25th and Connie’s 22.  For the eight year in a row I rode out with Mike Doyle but this year Connie and a couple of her friends decided they would ride out as well.  We gave the ladies a one day head start and caught them in Oskaloosa.  It was the hottest ride out I have done.  Friday the ride/death march from Osceola to Red Oak was the hardest day riding out to RAGBRAI in those 8 years. 111 miles with 7000 feet of climbing and an average temperature that day of 93 and non-stop head winds.  The ladies picked a tough year to join us.

Ironman After at CondoIronman Bike 6

My season was cut short in August when at the Iowa State road race I crashed and broke my collar bone in 4 places.  Unfortunately the crash was not my fault the rider in front of me went down and I had no place to go.  This was the first road race I had entered in a few years. I had just aged up to the 50+ I wanted to test my fitness against some of the local talent.  The race was going well up to that point.  This kept me off the bike for 10 weeks during my favorite time of the year to ride.  Luckily it was just a collar bone and nothing more serious.  I smashed my helmet up pretty good.

Broken Colar Bone

2014 plans

This year I have scheduled quite a busy year.  Both my boys will be getting married.  One in April and one in August.  Connie and I are crewing for a friend of mine Tim Richardson in June for solo RAAM.  I briefly met Tim when we raced against each other in 2009 RAW.  The next year we both crewed for Paul Carpenter’s RAAM attempt.  Tim is from the UK and is one of the funniest guys I have met.  My oldest Chris was on the same crew as Tim and he will never forget that great experience.  Our team name is Team Brazen.

Somewhere around that schedule my plans include the 330 mile gravel race that is Trans Iowa X in April that stars in Grinnell Iowa.  This will be my fourth start of this epic adventure.  Three weeks later comes another go at the gravel road ride Alexander in the Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin area.  Then a break for RAAM before starting up serious training for the big event in September that is the ADK540.  This is an ultra race in Adirondack nation park in upstate New York.

Connie is planning another Ironman distance race in August.   This race will be in Minnesota in mid August.  She also is planning an off-road ultra run that is part of the Dances with Dirt series.  The run takes place in Hell Michigan in September and we plan to hit that on the way home from the ADK540.

It is going to be a busy year for the Mann family with us travelling around the country and doing what we love to do.  I will try to provide some updates as the year goes on.  Connie does have a Facebook account but I do not.  You can follow our adventures and add comments there.

Even though it has been cold and snowy we have been training pretty hard indoors and out in the cold.  We are both looking forward to getting the outdoor season started as we know the big events will be here before we know it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Adventure

Over the last couple years my wife has enjoyed doing some low key adventure racing.  Just some local 12 hours races not like the insane ones you see on TV.  This weekend will be my first endeavor to that completely different type of endurance racing.

Lucky for me this race only includes disciplines I can handle.  There is no rock climbing, traversing or rappelling from dizzying heights.  Just canoeing, mountain biking (that I can handle) and trekking.  Each area requires you to orienteer using UTM coordinates.  This is something completely new for me.  I am used to navigating with cue sheets or maps but not coordinates and a compass.  Should be interesting on the water and in the woods.  When you have to follow roads on a map I am good to go.

The event we are doing is the Boone Crusher and takes place in Boone Iowa.  The location is handy since our oldest son lives in Boone and we can hang out with him the night before and stay at his house.  Connie and I have been trying to get out on our mountain bikes once a week but have not been able to ride any trails with all the rainy weather we have been having.  Hopefully the trails at Boone will be too muddy as well and they will keep us on the gravel roads.

My wife and I love watching The Amazing Race reality show and this will give us our own little version.  Hopefully we can get along and just enjoy a day of wandering around the country side without getting on each others nerves.  It should be a good time.  I will post some pictures and video next week.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What to wear?

When venturing out for a ride, this time of year, the decision should be whether to wear long sleeves, short sleeves or sleeveless.  Instead this month it has been whether to wear insulated winter riding boots, shoes with covers or just shoes.  There is something wrong with this picture.

The Tuesday night 6:00 PM group ride was a classic Iowa spring ride.  I got off work at 3:00 and it was 77 degrees with the forecasted temperatures to be in the mid 60's by the time I got done riding at 8:00.  Winds were to be SSW at 10.  Great night for a long pre-ride before the group ride.

I headed out in shorts and short sleeves only to notice the wind was NE.  Strange, but no problem I will just head towards Wilton and then back to the shop by 6:00.  I had only gone a mile when the chill was not going away.  I flicked my bike computer to the temperature and noticed it said 69 degrees.  Thinking to myself it would not get any warmer I turned back home and grabbed a pair of sleeves.  That took the chill off and away I went.

Once to Wilton I noticed the wind was more North and my computer was showing 63 degrees.  At that point I decided to swing by home and pick up a pair of riding gloves since my hands were a little chilly.  No need for full finger gloves just a little something to take the edge off.

At home grabbed the gloves and my wife asked if I needed a hat or some long finger gloves.  I decided to carry the gloves just in case.  After all she said "they are free to take".  Out I went, with a tail wind, to meet the group.

I arrived to find eight riders at the shop all wondering what the heck happened to the 70 degree temperatures.  Most of us with long sleeves and shorts.  A few smarter ones with knickers or knee warmers and only two with any type of jacket.  The teenager was bare arms and legs.  Ah youth.

As we left town the cold northerly cross wind was blowing strong enough that keeping the group together was almost impossible.  We finally settled in and made our way through the wind to Moscow.  Tail wind time.

The anticipated tail wind had enough cross wind in it that drafting was very tough.  As we returned to town my computer said 52 degrees.  Heading back to the shop Greg complained about it being 52.  I replied "hey, it's 52 degrees.  Last week this would have been a great day."  The problem was not the 52 degrees but the fact we were dressed for 70. I was really glad I had my long finger gloves for the 50 degree ride home. 

It will be interesting to see what next Tuesday brings.  50,60,70 maybe 80.  All I know is I will have my long finger gloves in my pocket just in case.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rookie Mistakes

With the unseasonably cooler temperatures this spring the bar for good outside riding weather has been substantially lowered. If the wind is not howling over 20 mph, it is not raining or snowing and especially if the sun is shining it is a good day to ride. It is now spring and I have only ridden outside three time without my winter boots. One of them was in January. History tells us it will warm up as some point.

A few weeks ago, on a Thursday. there was a good day to ride outside. Sunny, 32 degrees, with light NNW winds. It had been cold enough the last couple days that the gravel was hard/frozen. There was a road that goes north of town, through a very small town of Moscow and then continued across interstate 80 and points beyond. My mission was to explore the points beyond and see where I would end up. Connie was going for supper with her sister and to a movie so I had all kinds of free time.

As I headed out I felt pretty good and was rolling along nicely. The gravel was sweet and I was in the zone. I was hoping to get a nice 50 mile ride in before the sun set. I had lights so even the sun set was not going to stop me.

The week before I had scouted this same area and got a flat tire. I could not find the cause of the flat at the time and just changed the tube. Mistake number one. One week later as I am rolling along I noticed the back tire getting soft. What a way to kill your Mojo. No problem I pulled over to change the tube. This time I found the nasty thorn that was the culprit of the last untimely puncture.

My cross bike tires are very hard to install and I don't have the strength to remove the stubborn tires by hand. So I whip out my handy new tire lever and proceed to remove the tire and install the new tube. As I start pumping I notice that the tire is not taking any air. So I remove the new tube and notice I pinched the tube with the tire lever. Mistake number 2.

Now what do I do? The first flat was a slow leak so I figure I will put that tube back in and keep airing it up and limp my way the 15 miles back home. At this point it that is my only choice since I do not have a patch kit with me. Mistake number 3. I make it about 50 yard before the tire is completely flat again. It is time for the come get me call.

Fortunately I had my cell phone with me and did not make mistake 4. I carry my phone about 50 percent of my rides so I caught a break this time. 2 miles of walking and riding on the flat tire to the pavement where my rescuer picked me up and took me home.

Needless to say the next time I was at the bike shop I bought a glue less patch kit. As I tell my boys; "It is only a mistake if you don't learn from it".

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Back to posting

Over the last 10 months I have not post anything.  That does not mean I have not been riding just have not had the desire to post.

Some of 2012 cycling highlights:

Many centuries with my wife.  She had her personal best for centuries ridden in one year plus she rode 150 miles at Metamora.

Tied for third place with friend Bill Ford at Balltown Classic in May.

Crew Chief for Paul Carpenter for RAAM in June.  Had to withdraw after 900 miles due to Paul's illness.  Connie and Bill were also part of the team.

6th place at Metamora 4X50 ride.  Just under 10 hours total time.  Cramped really bad the last lap and had to spend a lot of time off the bike.

First finisher of RAID (Ride Across Iowa in a Day) in September. 15:50 for 315 miles. 6 minutes off the bike due to a great support staff of Connie and Bill Ford.

Basically slacked off the rest of the year.
All for now

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Balltown Classic

May 19th I completed in the Balltown Classic 200 mile race.  This is the 5th time I have entered this race and it is one of my favorites.  I really enjoy the fast starts that a 200 mile or 12 hour race offers.  That fast-paced riding in a tight group takes me back to my USCF (now USA) cycling days.  I feed off the riders around me and can dig a little deeper.  The rush of chasing someone down or bridging a gap is quite exhilarating.  It seems a little strange to be chasing with 195 miles to go but I love it and can't help but get caught up in the action.

The field this year was stacked.  There were two 2012 solo RAAM racers, Paul Carpenter and Kurt Searvogel, one four person RAAM racers, Larry Ide and a past RAAM finisher, Dave Meredith.  Previous Balltown winners Jay Yost and Bill Ford were also at the start line.  Bill Ford is a teammate of mine and he and I have been preparing for this race for a few months.  Bill came to the race with more centuries this year, 10 weekends in a row of 100+ mile rides, then he has ever had for the entire year.

During an ultra race there comes a time when your brain admits that you are going too fast and cannot sustain the current high pace any longer so you let the group go and conservatively settle in to your own "sane' pace. Our plan was to stay with the lead group and help with the pace in an attempt to break the race record of 10:05 or 20.13 mph average.  We were not going to save anything but push and hang on until we could hang on no more. We knew who the big guns would be and we did not want them to get away.

The weather forecast was for warm and breezy with the winds picking up out of the south at 15-20 mph and gusty.  This was going to make for a quick ride up and a long ride back.  I tried to keep the thought of fighting the wind for the last 100 miles out of my head as we rapidly pushed our way north.  The front group quickly whittled down to 10 in the first several miles.  The group was riding strong as we rolled through Lost Nation and closed in our our rendezvous with the first of the big climbs south of Baldwin.  Once over these climbs our group was reduced to seven with the first sag stop quickly approaching.  We reached the sag in 2:08 with an average speed of around 24 mph.  Kurt had on-course support and did not have to stop and Keith Wells was carrying enough food and water that he did not stop.  When the rest of us stopped for 30 seconds they got a gap on us that "forced" us to chase.  There we go again 150 miles to go and chasing.  Sometimes the testosterone gets the best of the common sense.  Five of us grouped up and started working to close the gap.  Larry was on his recumbent and did some monster pulls on the long gradual downhills to help out and we eventually caught back on.  I don't think they were really running from us but us still took 15 miles to catch them.

Chasing took quite a bit out of us and our little group was reduced to 5.  Kurt, Bill, Martin, Collin and myself.  Bill and I seemed like the weakest links as we rolled up and down the hills.  We tried to take the downhills nice and easy but everybody else was hammering them.  With the wind aided northern journey we hit the 100 mile mark in 4:16 and made the turn at Balltown, 104 miles, in 4:30.  Now the fun would begin.

The race, and the hills, really begin in earnest shortly after Balltown on Horseshoe road.  The climb into town is long and gradual and you hardly know you are trending upward until you are on the ridge and can see for miles.  The route leaving town is a completely different story.  In the first 20 miles after Balltown you hit three climbs that are over 10% with the length being over a mile.  This year they changed the course and were avoiding those three climbs.  I was glad because that is the point where I usually get dumped and finish the last 80 miles on my own. 

Heading out on the new route my glad feelings were quickly erased as we came face to face with three very steep, 12%, climbs back to back to back.  These climbs were not as long but were steeper and not spaced out like the old routes hills.  At the end of the ride most of us agreed that the old route would have been easier.

Collin put the hurts to all of us on this section.  He had commented that he likes the hills and was bummed there was not more.  He was followed by Kurt, Martin, Bill then me bringing up the rear as the road finally leveled.  This section decided the race and Bill and I did not have what it took to hang with the leaders.  Bill commented that he has never wanted to get off and walk his bike up a hill before today.  It is a good thing I loaned him my 12-23T cassette to go with his 39T little ring replacing his 12-21T.  I was glad to have a 12-25T with a 36 in the front.

After the climbs all we had left was 85 miles of screaming head wind.  Bill and I worked together not chasing just surviving at this point. We had Martin just in front of us and Kurt and Collin out of sight.  We caught Martin just as my first cramp hit both legs forcing me to briefly stop and stretch until they went away.  My legs were rebelling from the last 5 hours of pushing.  The cramping would continue off and on for the next four hours.  Bill got a little gap that allowed him to stop in Farley for water and me to catch back up to him.  We again reeled in a suffering Martin but he was off the back quickly to leave Bill and I to push on to the finish.

Over the next 75 miles we climbed,  fought the wind, enjoyed some much needed cross-wind sections and rolled along in survival mode wondering why we do this to ourselves.  We commented that Mike and Jean were smart to stay home for this ride.  I reminded Bill that we were solidly in third and fourth place and that everyone was suffering.  This kind of talk was used to motivate him but also helpful in keeping my spirits up as I battled cramp after cramp.

We added a few quick unscheduled stops for water and the scheduled stop at the 150 mile mark to pick up some supplies at the sag before making the final push.  With 23 miles to go we turned east for 16 miles of crosswind that rejuvenated us.  With a quick stop in Welton for more cold water and wipe the salt off our faces we rolled on for the last 10 miles celebrating our accomplishment.  Our finishing time was 11:15, 4:30 to Balltown and 6:45 back.  We were 31 minutes behind Kurt and 27 minutes behind Collin.  Martin would finish 27 minutes after us giving us 3rd and 4th place.

It was a very tough ride with the wind on the way back making every hill seem like a mountain.  I have never seen Bill use such a low gear as often as he did that day.  We pushed each other for the first 110 miles.  He helped me through the cramps from the 75 mile mark to 30 mile mark and I helped him through the last 30 miles of no energy.  It was a true team accomplishment by two guys who love to ride together.  We have ridden thousands of miles together but this was the first rides that we really needed each other to make it to the finish.  We were the only riders that finished together of the 15 official finisher.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trans Iowa Nerves

I really hate the last week leading up to this race as well as any unsupported overnight ride. I will lose all kinds of sleep wondering what to wear and pack and if my equipment choice is right. 100 oz camelback or 70? Tights or leg warmers? Rain jacket or just a wind vest? How am I going to keep my feet warm all night? Can't wear shoe covers because they don't do well in mud, maybe wear the winter riding boots that are warm but heavier. Should I pack a lot of food or travel light and hope there are ample places to re-fuel? The list goes on and on.

I usually travel pretty heavy to ensure I have enough food and warm dry clothes. After this ride and my 600K's I always think I was stupid to bring that much stuff that I never used. That was just extra pounds to lug up the endless hills and through the peanut-butter mud. At least for the 600K brevets you know where your next meal will come from. There are somethings I always have like extra socks if rain is forecasted. Short finger gloves with windproof gloves to go over them plus another thin pair for overnight. For food it is always nice to have a Salted Nut Roll and some Fig Newtons stashed for those stops in the middle of nowhere. I will be packing lots of salt tablets, Aleeve and Chamois butter plus a few gels including one with caffeine for that late night jolt. Speaking of Jolt I also carry some caffeinated gum. Jolt was the first brand I found that made the gum but now you can get several brands. Last year I gave some away in the middle of the night to keep fellow riders awake.

Sunday morning/afternoon as I am finishing up I will again have a list of items that I carried for 330 miles that I never used. Just having them packed and ready to go hopefully will make me sleep better.

Food that I carried on the bike for last years Trans Iowa
Last year at the Hotel trying to figure out what to pack.