Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Limits of Traction

Headed out to Wilderness Park after work today. I was hoping to make it all the way through the park and back, but the low spots south of Old Cheney were as marshy as ever. So I ended up turning around and just riding laps on the drier track on the north end. On the way back I rode some on the hiker trail; my first time on those trails. It was really fun, and there was no wetness anywhere on that side. You just have to be more careful about using your trail bell, and I always gave any hikers a wide berth and a friendly hello, since technically I shouldn't have been riding over there.

The goal was to remember how to ride my bike on tight, twisty trail before the race this weekend. It seems to me, based on what I have heard and on the trail map, that Swanson is a race that will be won and lost based on speed through the turns. Is that a wrong assumption? Anyway, I was really pushing the corners tonight, and managed to cross over the line from traction to washout on a tight right hand turn. Its alright though, no harm done, and I needed to experience that so I know what my current skill level and tire selection can handle.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Anyone want to hit some singletrack after work on Wednesday or Thursday? I am up for just about anything. Leave a comment if you do.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Update

Saturday, I went for a roundabout trip to pick up some nutrition from Cycleworks. I have been experimenting with some Hammer products to use during some of the longer races I plan to do this year and Cycleworks was the only place in Lincoln that had any in stock. The ride was good, but I will definitely want to get a bag if I am going to run errands on my bike.

So far this year I haven't ridden with a cyclometer. Its still on my old bike, and I've just not really wanted to put anything else on my handlebars. I have definitely missed knowing how far I've been riding. I've done some experimenting with MapMyRide. Seems like a pretty good tool to track routes and it has a training log that you can use to keep track of cumulative miles. It still has some issues, but I like it. Here is Saturday's ride.

Today, I headed out again. Wind was a pain. I guess when you don't have altitude or climbing, you should take any extra training stress you can get.

Hope to hit some singletrack this week to remind myself how to ride before the race this weekend. Weather report for the weekend is not looking good so far. Bummer.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I have a big decision to make soon about a certain race in Wyoming. Only 56 spots left. Robb is already signed up, and I know he'll kill it. There is no chance I could finish this race right now, but with 90 days to train, I am pretty sure I can be ready. I am going to need to really push and do some long rides on the weekends. Part of me wants to just sign up, thereby forcing myself to prepare. We'll see.

I'm healing up pretty well and am itching to get out and ride. I took my bike to MWC this week and Nate got everything running smooth again. I plan on riding both Saturday and Sunday and would like to hook up with any Lincoln-folk who will also be riding. I'm flexible on time and willing to drive/ride/meet anywhere. Suggestions? Leave a comment.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hard Lessons Learned

Headed out again today for a gravel ride east of Lincoln. The idea was to ride hard for 2 hours. The wind was really blowing today making any riding in the south or eastern directions pretty difficult. North and west were obviously wind-aided, but there was still a very significant cross wind when riding west.

On my way back toward Lincoln I made a critical error, that coupled with another error made for a difficult and painful ride home. Let me break it down for you. Over the past few weeks I have gotten very comfortable on my new El Mariachi. The stability that the 29 inch wheel format delivers has proven to be very confidence building, allowing me to ride hands free easily to adjust clothing, drink, eat, stretch, etc. As I was riding west on Fletcher Ave., near 148th street, I pulled my hands off the handlebars to stretch out a little bit.

Here I will pause to detail my second error. Riding in the city and on gravel roads this spring had made me forget the importance of wearing gloves while cycling. In the summer I like to wear them because my hands tend to sweat alot and they give me better control of the bicycle. This had not been an issue yet this year, and while I still wore them on all my trail rides, I had taken to just bringing them along in a jersey pocket for my gravel rides.

Back to the narrative; I pulled my hands off the handlebars to stretch, and within 5 seconds or so was hit with a gust of wind across my front tire. I overcompensated by shifting my weight into the wind and immediately hit the road at close to 15 mph. Felt some pain in my arm and stood up to take stock of the situation. First of all, the bike escaped without major damage, although I messed up the grip that dug into the road and seemed to have either tweaked the front wheel or bent my disc rotor. I guess I'll be taking it back to MWC earlier than anticipated. As for me, my palms are both pretty tore up (no embedded gravel, thankfully), I'm missing a pretty big chunk of skin out of my left forearm (quite a bit of blood), and accumulated some other bumps and bruises (strawberries on thigh and ribcage, sore knee).

As my bike was still rideable and I didn't seem to be bleeding to death, I decided to ride the final 7 miles home instead of calling the wife. I think I scared several people walking their dogs on the Dietrich Trail. At home, Laura played nurse and applied hydrogen peroxide, iodine, and any other torturous chemicals we could find to ensure that I wouldn't get an infection. Anyway it looks like I will be taking some involuntary time off the bike, for my sake and so I can get it checked out at the shop.

Notes to self
Do not under any circumstances remove your hands from handlebars when there is a 30 mph cross wind
Wear your safety gear.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Crazy Week, Beautiful Saturday

Man, I am sure glad this week is over. The proposal we have been working on is finally coming together, so no more late nights at work. Got some good news to share; I found out on Friday that I was promoted to a Senior Design Engineer position. Best kind of promotion too, no new responsibilities.

Today was a great day. Laura and I rode our bikes to campus and enjoyed the spring game with some friends. We rode home and I headed into work to review a section of the proposal. Back home and out for a gravelly 1.5 hour ride. I felt really great on the hills and the El Mar was perfection. Gotta love a freshly tuned bike.

Tomorrow afternoon I hope to get at least 2 hours in on the bike. I'm doubtful that Wilderness is going to be anywhere near rideable for a few more days so I will probably head out east of town again. Anyone want to come? I'd also be open to suggestions.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Busy, Busy

Wow, this past week has just flown by. Work is really busy, we are submitting a proposal this week which is always hectic. Last Sunday I was able to get out for about 20 miles in the wind and hills east of Lincoln. When I got home I noticed that I had a flat tire and a loose bottom bracket and crankarm. Not exactly the ideal finish to a ride. On Tuesday, I took the El Mar in for its first tuneup and Nate and Eric made everything better. If only the rain would stop, I could get out and ride some trails; otherwise it will be another weekend of gravel for me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Change of Plans

One of the races I am planning to do this year is the 12 Hour Mountain Bike Relay at Branched Oak State Park. I did this race last year on a two person team with my buddy Sam and had a good time even though we were not competitive in the least.

This year, the plan is to attack the course with a three person team minimum. In the past this race has been run at Area 1 and has been an overnight race, from 6 pm to 6 am, which is a really fun and interesting time to be riding bikes. Apparently, the promoters thought the race needed a shakeup because this year the race is being held from 10 am to 10 pm at Area 7. To me, this has both advantages and disadvantages.

  • No need to procure expensive light systems to race all night. We will only be racing the final hour or two in the dusk/dark.
  • Won't throw off sleep schedules and generally consume two days of the three day Memorial Day weekend.
  • Easier for friends and family to come out and enjoy the race.
  • Since the race is during the daytime, some of the shenanigans that happen when you put a bunch of wacky mountain bikers together in the middle of the night won't be happening during the cruel light of day.
  • Since the race is during the daytime, some of the shenanigans that happen when you put a bunch of wacky mountain bikers together in the middle of the night won't be happening during the cruel light of day. This one cuts both ways.
  • I am not nearly as big a fan of the Area 7 trails as I am of Area 1. Area 1 is a much more established (i.e. smoother) trail that I am super familiar with. Area 7 is relatively new and therefore bumpy.
  • Part of the fun of doing this race was the crazy looks people gave when told that not only was I doing a 12 hour mountain bike race, but that the chosen 12 hours encompassed the entire night.
  • Not really a con, but now that I won't be "required" to buy an expensive light system, I will have to find another way to stimulate the economy with my tax rebate.
Anyway should be a good time for all involved. This race has been happening every year for the past 10 years, so they must know what they are doing.

Tom posted his pictures from Saturday. He does a great job of documenting the race. Here are some of his shots.

Early in the first lap before I lost contact with the leaders.
I don't think he was impressed.
oooooh, that stings!

Robb looking fast.
Race number one in the rearview, time to look forward to whats ahead. I can't wait to get back out there.

Pic inspired by MG.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Psycowpath #1 - Maskenthine XC Classic

The first race of the year and my first XC mountain bike race ever was on Saturday at the Lake Maskenthine Recreation Area near Stanton, NE. I knew going in that I was unprepared and under trained. This condition was due to several factors, including; travel, colds, and laziness. That being said, I kept telling myself that the reason I was doing this was to get my first race jitters out of my system and learn some things that I would be able to apply to later races.

I left Lincoln at 7AM and arrived about an hour and twenty minutes before the gun. I quickly got myself and my bike ready for action. Met up with Harp, Rob, and Ryan and set off to get registered. The thinking was that by doing this now we would be saving ourselves time standing in line later. However, the whole process took much longer than expected. Afterwards we headed onto the course for a warm up lap. We completed what we thought was very near a full lap before it was time to head back to get ready for the start.

I was surprised to find my nerves to be at a manageable level while awaiting the start. The initial pace was slower than I had expected. The course begins with a climb up a gravel road before diving into the singletrack and I was in fourth at that point. From there you head downhill and into some trees where there are several log crossings of various sizes and a stone creek crossing. This part of the course was a little muddy, but I was still bummed to find that the guys in front of me were jumping off their bikes and running this section. I wanted to ride! The course then climbs out and switchbacks back and forth on an exposed hill. About halfway through this section Ryan came up behind me and shortly afterward on a tight hairpin turn I went down. I was never close to him again and he finished a strong third place in beginner open.

The rest of the course alternated between being exposed to the wind and climbing/descending in the trees. Some of these climbs were just soft enough that it really sapped your power. I was also dismayed to discover that what we thought was a nearly full lap when we were warming up was really only about half a lap. I dealt with some cramping in my calves throughout the race, but luckily not in both at the same time. The second lap went a little better than the first as my body finally realized what was going on, but at this point it was too late to make much difference.

Overall it was a good time on a great racecourse. Given another season to mature, the bumps will be smoothed out and it will be even more fun to ride. The race was well run and I have nothing but good things to say about the promoters or the race vibe.

I ended up 6th of 12 in the beginner open class. My buddy Robb raced in the beginner masters 35+ class and ended up winning the race by a couple minutes, beating all the open class racers on a singlespeed! Great job man. Hopefully some of his speed will rub off on me.

Robb and I post-race with our El Mariachis

The El Mar was rock solid during the race and responded well to my tired and ill-timed shifts on the hills. I received a lot of compliments on the bike.

Anyway, its time to start training for real. I'll post some more pictures in the coming days.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Day at the Office

Just a couple more details about the trip to Los Angeles. I had heard of this place, Father's Office, in Santa Monica, that was supposed to be home to one of the best burgers in the nation. It is a very small, unassuming looking place that is known to have a line of people waiting to get in to eat. I headed over one evening after class around 6 pm and was able to get a seat pretty quickly. This is great because Father's Office only has open seating, i.e. first come first served, and as such there are lots of people standing inside waiting for a table even after they waited to get inside. Anyway, I went for the Office Burger and some sweet potato fries. I am known from time to time to speak hyperbolically, but I really mean it, these were the best burger and fries I have ever tasted. The burger was a revelation, juicier than a burger has a right to be, featuring perfectly complimentary flavors of arugula, bacon, blue cheese, and what I imagine is several different cuts of beef. The fries were great too, the right combination of crunch and potatoey goodness served with a blue cheese aioli. If you've never had sweet potato fries before you've got to give them a try. Again, I was too self-conscious to bust out my camera in the middle of a hip restaurant, but just like with Pizzeria Mozza, there are some really great pictures and videos here.

On the last day of my trip our class got done early so I spent some time driving around in the mountains on Mulholland Drive. It was really beautiful, LA is unique in that it is one of the only cities in the world bisected by mountains. Anyway here are a couple of the better pictures I took from Runyon Canyon Park.

The last night I checked into a hotel closer to LAX so I hit a couple of places that I had heard about (yes, I ate two dinners). First was Santouka Ramen (click for pics, not mine), located in a Japanese supermarket food court in Venice. I had always wanted to try the real food that those cheap, MSG-laden noodle soups that I ate as a college student were based on. I wasn't disappointed, I got the shio ramen with chashu, basically salt ramen with pork. The broth, made from pork bones, would be enough to bring me back, but the beautiful slices of fatty pork were the real star of the show. My second dinner was Tito's Tacos, a LA landmark and very popular place to stand in line for cheap tacos. The food was good, but I'll remember it more for being my last meal in LA and for the friendly Angelenos I talked to that night.

Ok, back to regular scheduled programming. I promise.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bon Appetito

So the trip to Los Angeles was really good. My class, although more general than technical, provided some good information that should help my company be better positioned to capture future business. But enough about that boring stuff. The UCLA campus was absolutely beautiful. The hotel that I stayed at was really nice. And best of all, I was able to eat some really delicious food.

I only had a little less than an hour for lunch everyday, so I was pretty much relegated to eating in Westwood Village. This is far from a bad thing as there was a huge array of options. For lunch I ate burgers, thai, jewish delicatessen fare, and asian fusion. All of it was pretty good if somewhat unremarkable.

Dinner on the other hand, I had been planning for weeks. Ever since reading Heat I have had a huge amount of respect for Mario Batali and I knew that if had an opportunity to go to one of his restaurants I would jump at it. Turns out Mario and some partners opened a pair of restaurants in Los Angeles last year, Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza. Osteria Mozza I knew would be out of my price range, even on an expense account, so I focused on Pizzeria Mozza. But everything I had read indicated that even a spot at the bar would be a tough get. However, I discovered that traveling alone does have some advantages. I showed up on Monday night and was seated at the bar within five minutes while others waited for hours. Everything on the menu looked great, so I allowed my waitress to offer some advice. I ended up getting the roasted olives and the salame, mozzarella, tomato & fresno chiles pizza. Absolutely the best pizza I have ever had. The crust was perfection, and the chiles added just the right amount of kick. I was too self-conscious to bring my camera into the restaurant, but some pictures (and video!) can be found here.

That's enough for one post. I leave you with the view of Westwood Village from my hotel room balcony.