Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Pavement Pounder

A quick post today… Zack’s son has a birthday party today, so we couldn’t go to the gravel grinder in Columbia (find info about it here).  So we decided to head out earlier this morning for a Pavement Pounder instead.  The course Zack had planned was roughly 22 miles.

Map Check before the pavement pounder

Checking the map before heading out.

The morning was beautiful, but it was really cold – I think it was about 15 degrees when we started.  We headed out from Zack’s house and tried to push the pace to warm ourselves up.

Moon Shot on the bike ride

The moon had not yet gone to bed.

Man, it was cold!  My face was flippin’ frozen, and my toes were ice-cold from the start.  The route Zack had planned was all pavement, but there was very little traffic.  There were lots of hills, and the scenery was great.

Nine Hills Rd.

Nine Hills Rd. is appropriately named if you count one small hill.

Hills on the Pavement Pounder Ride

Just some of the hills we destroyed.

I had heated up just fine by this point… except for my toes.  My toes were hurting pretty damn bad!  I guess I’m going to have to break down and buy some neoprene booties.  I was a wimp, and we decided to cut the ride a little short.

Because we altered the route, we rode along the side of a train hauling coal in the opposite direction.  I’m not sure why, but I thought this was really cool.  Maybe it reminded me of when I was a kid and put pennies on the railroad tracks by my grandparents’ house to see them completely flattened by the trains.

Zack by the train

Luke riding by the train.

We ended up riding 17 miles, and I don’t think the temperature ever got above 20 degrees.  It was a great ride, though.  Anytime you can get outside and ride your bike is a good day.  It’s an even better day when you ride with a friend, and when that friend just happens to be your brother, it is the best of days.

Frozen Train Tracks

The ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Part IV – Stuff We Use and Recommend

It’s been quite a while since our last installment, but here we go again with part IV of our series.  And if you want to check the other three parts out, here they are: Part I, Part II, and Part III.  Now, let’s continue…

P is for Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp

Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp for Adventure Racing

This is my favorite headlamp – hands down.  Yes, it is bigger than the Petzl e+Lite, but it is MUCH brighter.  I take the e+Lite when I’m over 90% sure I’m going to finish an adventure race before dark.  If it is a longer race, or if it’s a race where I know I’ll be in the dark (like a dusk to dawn race), then I always take the Apex.   The 3-watt super-bright LED is perfect for night navigation.  Whenever you get close to a checkpoint in the dark, you just turn on the spot light to the high setting, and start looking for the reflective tape on the marker.  When on high, the spotlight throws a beam of light farther than anything I’ve seen (especially in this price range).  I also use the Apex on my helmet for mountain biking at night in conjunction with the Princeton Tec Corona on the handlebars for a perfect bike-lighting system.  For other tasks that don’t require maximum lighting, the 4 ultra-bright LEDs are perfect.  The super-bright spotlight and the ultra-bright task light both have a high, low, and flash mode.  The Apex is waterproof, and of course it comes with Princeton Tec’s lifetime warranty.  At less than $60, this headlamp is one of my top choices.  Get yours right here.

Q is for Quarter Socks by Smartwool

Smartwool PhD Quarter Socks are the Perfect Choice for Adventure Racing

The Smartwool PhD Quarter Socks are our go-to socks for adventure racing.  They breathe well.  They wick moisture well.  They are warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.  They look good.  They feel good.  They don’t stink, even after a long day of racing.  I just love these socks.  In cold weather, I put a pair of these on over the Injinji Socks mentioned in Part II of this series.  This is a perfect combination.  Be sure to pick up a pair.

R is for the Rush Backpack by Golite

Golite Rush Backpack for Adventure Racing

This is my backpack of choice for almost anything I do outdoors.  It is just the perfect backpack for adventure racing, and I use it on day hikes, orienteering races, mountain bike rides and races, and even trips to the zoo with my kids.  I’ve used it for 12 hour adventure races in the summer as well as the winter.  If you find you need a little bit more room for longer races then you can always go with the Golite VO24 which is about 60% bigger than the Rush Backpack.  Both of these packs can cinch down tight when you don’t have them stuffed completely full.  They both also have hip pockets for food, compass, chap stick, etc.  And when you really need to carry some extra gear, both packs have a big stretchy pocket on the back with some elastic compression straps where you can secure anything from bike shoes to a helmet.  These packs are nearly indestructible, really lightweight, and super functional.  I could go on and on about these packs, but the bottom line is I always recommend them to friends who are just getting into adventure racing.  I can’t recommend them highly enough.

S is for Suunto M3 Compass

Suunto M3 Compass - Great Choice for Adventure Racing

There may be fancier compasses out there, but this is my compass of choice for adventure racing.  It has never let me down.  It’s simple design makes it easy to use.  You can easily adjust the declination, the bezel and needle glow in the dark, and there is a magnifying glass built-in to help see small features on the map.  The scale at the end of the compass corresponds to a 1:24000 map scale (one of the most commonly used scales in adventure racing).  This thing is indestructible.  The  lanyard is great for keeping the compass around your neck, which is where I wear mine.  When heading out to the great outdoors, I don’t leave home without this baby.  If you want an affordable, reliable, and durable compass that’s easy to use, then get one of these.

 

T is for the TRX Suspension Trainer

TRX Suspenstion Trainer - Perfect for Adventure Racers

One thing I’ve noticed is that many beginning adventure racers (and some experienced racers for that matter) lack upper body strength and endurance. Sure, they can run and ride all day long, but once they get to the fixed ropes or get in a canoe, they fall apart.  Well, the TRX can whip you into shape. If you are on the fence about adding some resistance training to your program for adventure racing, then you need to hop off of that fence and try the TRX.  You can get an amazing, total body training session with the TRX from the comfort of your own home.  It can also be taken outside and attached to a tree, a pole, or a secure railing. You wouldn’t believe how many different exercises you can do on this piece of equipment.  It is the perfect thing to start a home gym, because it is all you need to get started.  Later, you can always add dumbbells and some free weights.  If you already have a home gym, then this can add some much needed variety into your training.

Check out this video of me doing one round of a brutal workout on the TRX in my basement.  It might look easy, but if you watch it to the end, you’ll see that it nearly killed me – and I loved it!

The TRX also offers a door anchor to take with you wherever you go (no more “I can’t get a good workout in at the hotel” excuses), a ceiling/wall mount to install in your home, and now they even offer the Talon Trainer which focuses on finger, wrist, and grip strength (perfect for climbers).  This is truly a remarkable piece of equipment that anyone who is serious about their training should own.  Get your own TRX, and take your racing to the next level.  I simply love mine and use it at least twice a week.

So that’s it for today.  When you’re done reading this, be sure to check out the last piece in this series – Part V.

 

Wintry Tomfoolery – Ice, Airtime, Wipe-outs, and a Turk?

Since there hasn’t been very much going on around here lately, I thought I’d take this chance to post some pics from a ride I took over Christmas vacation with my nephew – Austin, my brother – Casey, and my brother from Turkey – Bora.  Bora was our foreign exchange student we were kids, and we hadn’t seen each other in 18 years.  It was really great to see him again.

Well, we decided to ride at the Lions Club trail in Rolla on December 28th, and it was pretty damn cold with some ice and a little bit of snow.  We hadn’t even left my parents’ house before someone had the first wreck.

Austin wiped-out before we left the house

Battle Scars

Austin was just tooling around in the driveway and went down hard on a sheet of ice covered with a dusting of snow. He ripped his brand new jersey and got a few nice scrapes. I thought he was done riding for the day, but to his credit he manned-up and wanted to ride some more. So we hit the trail.

Bora Mountain Biking

Bora on the trail

Some idiots had ridden the trail when it was muddy creating really big ruts that had frozen solid. The trail in Rolla is not that great to begin with, so this made it even less fun to ride.  When we came up to a dirt bank we decided to make our own fun.  As Napoleon Dynamite has said, “Ever take your bike off any sweet jumps?”  Well, that’s what we decided to do for the next hour or so, and it was a blast.  Below we see Austin’s attempt at getting some sick air:

Austin just before the wreck

You really need to click on this image to get a good look at that face.

I’m not sure what happened, but Austin wiped out… Again.  He went down pretty hard, and I thought he had hurt himself.

The aftermath of Austin's wipeout

The aftermath of Austin's wipe-out.

Once again, I thought he was done for the day.  To my surpise, he hopped up and was ready to go.  We were all proud of him.

All of us tried getting some righteous airtime, but we pretty much suck at jumping our bikes.  But it was just so much fun!

Casey jumping his Kona King Kahuna 29er

Casey looking good

I know the saying is: “Like Father, Like Son.”  In this case, though, I think it should be: “Like Son, Like Father.”  Casey somehow managed to butcher the landing and wiped out.

The aftermath of Casey's wipeout

The aftermath of Casey's wipe-out.

Somehow, Casey managed to land with his throat on the only stump in the vicinity of the landing area.  He had to have had both hands and both feet completely behind his back when he landed, because the stump was only 5 inches high.  Unbelievable.

Luke trying to jump his bike.

Luke trying to jump his bike.

Although I didn’t crash, there was a fairly large patch of thorns where we had to land our bikes.  If you didn’t get on the brakes in time, then you ended up in the thorns.  Well, I went deep into the thorns once and came out looking like this:

Luke with a bloody nose

Ouch.

Not to be outdone by his “little” brothers, Bora got in on the action, too.  He was riding my 500 pound Rockhopper, though, so it was very difficult to get any air.

Bora jumping his bike

Bora jumping his bike.

Like, I said… We aren’t the greatest at jumping our bikes, but it was  really a lot of fun trying.  We didn’t get a killer training ride in, but sometimes it’s just nice to screw around on your bike and have some fun.

After an hour and a half of trying to get more air, we decided to head back to my parents’ house.  We showered and ate dinner.  When I went into the bathroom a few hours later, I was looking at the scab on my nose created by my run-in with the thorns.  I realized something was wrong, and I picked at the scab with my fingernail.  This is what I discovered:

Thorn from Luke's nose

Yeah, that was in my nose for several hours.

So, there you have it.  It was great riding with my brother and nephew from NY that I only get to see a couple of times each year, and it was also great to ride with my brother from Turkey that I only see once every two decades.  So even if we didn’t go very far, and even if we are terrible at getting sweet air, we had fun riding our bikes together.  And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Goin’ Camping – To Adventure Race Camp That Is

High Profile Adventure Camp - For Adventure Racing

If you haven’t heard about this adventure racing camp, then you need to go check it out right now.  The 3-day camp will cover topics such as orienteering, canoe and kayak paddling, and fixed ropes (rappelling, zip lines, ascending, traversing). There will also be the longest and highest tyrolean traverse in the Midwest at this camp – over 500 feet long – holy donkey turds!

Tyrolean Traverse during an Adventure Race

Tyrolean Traverse

The paddling portion is taught by Jeremy Rodgers, an elite adventure racer, professional paddler, and a member of the US Canoe and Kayak Team.  So I guess he has enough credentials to possibly show me a thing or two.  On the other hand, maybe I’ll be able to give him some advice – “Don’t push the water, pull the canoe.” Well, maybe not.

I’m a little nervous about the ropes stuff since I’m not a huge fan of heights. However, if I ever want to do longer races, I’m going to have to learn this stuff sooner or later.  It also looks so flippin’ fun… I can’t wait.  Check out a couple of pics from last year’s camp:

High Profile Adventure Racing Camp Zip Line

What did we get ourselves into?

High Profile Adventure Racing Camp Zip Line

Uh... That looks really damn high.

To see all of the photos from last year’s camp go here and also go here.

The camp concludes with a 6 hour adventure race including orienteering, mt. biking, paddling, fixed ropes, and caving. The race, called Lightning Strikes, also happens to be a qualifying race for Nationals.  You have to place in the top 3 or 4 as a 3-person coed team, though, which means we won’t be qualifying for Nationals.  The Lightning Strikes race is also part of the Checkpoint Tracker Series, which is pretty cool.

All instruction, the 6 hour race, lodging, and some of the meals are all included for a measly 175 bucks.  Since most adventure races cost $100 or more anyway, we thought this was a pretty good deal.  The camp takes place the last weekend of March in Mount Carroll, Illinois.  I can’t wait to go, and we’ll take lots of pictures to post.  So… Who else wants to go?

Burley Joe Dirt Ride – Gravel at its Finest!

On Sunday, January 17th, I headed down to St. James, MO for the Burley Joe Dirt Ride.  Bob Jenkins and his girlfriend, Cara, along with 7 or 8 other Team Redwheelers also headed down there in a foggy convoy.

Foggy Convoy

It was a cold and wet fog, the kind of fog that you can feel clinging to your body as you walk through it.  There was even a little bit of ice on the ground here and there (just ask Cara who unfortunately slipped on the ice in Bob’s driveway).  I was kind of hoping for a nice day since the forecast called for 45 degree weather and sun.

When we got to the parking lot, it was nearly full.  There were probably 40 or 50 people there.  I guess there was some important info given right before we rolled out that I missed.  There was apparently a long ride (the Burley Joe Dirt Ride = 27 miles) and a shorter ride (the Joe Dirt Ride = 20 miles).  We were told, although I missed it, that the orange arrows were for the long course, and the pink arrows were for the short course.  I didn’t even know there were any arrows at all until about halfway through the ride.

So, after starting at the back of the pack, I passed a handful of people.  Then I realized my left crank was loose (man, there are so many jokes I could come up with here…).  I had to stop twice to tighten it down.  A few people passed me during the maintenance stops, and I found myself completely alone for most of the ride.

Gravel Road Ride - Burley Joe Dirt

Self-portrait near the top of a long, hard climb

At first I thought it sucked to be riding by myself.  Then as I settled into a groove and the sun came out, I loved it.  It was so peaceful, and the weather was simply perfect.  I think I only saw two cars, and the scenery was unbelievable. The hills were painfully long and steep, but the views were worth the effort (although I had to get off and walk a couple of times).

Joe Dirt Gravel Road Ride View with Bike

typical scenery on this gravel road ride

Well, I had apparently missed the orange arrows that pointed the way to the longer ride, and I ended up doing the shorter ride.  After passing a couple of people at the end, I rolled back into the parking lot in around 2 hours, and my bike computer said 16.25 miles.  I was a little disappointed, so I just turned around and started to ride the short course backwards.  I figured I’d ride 5 miles out and then turn around to get my total mileage around the 27 miles that I had planned on doing.

It was actually very cool to see the really fast guys coming the other way as they finished the long course.  I soon ran into Nick and Corey finishing the long course.  Corey decided to ride with me for a little bit in the opposite direction to see if he could find his girlfriend, Noelle.

Scardick on Joe Dirt Ride

Corey "Scardick" Case

We soon ran into Noelle and her riding partners, Dana and Pam.  They had a couple of bike issues, but they were all rockin’ the short course.

Noelle on the Joe Dirt Ride

Noelle

Pam and Dana Joe Dirt

Pam and Dana

We thought about waiting for Bob and Cara, but the ladies hadn’t seen them in quite awhile.  We thought they may have turned back, so we figured we’d go ahead and turn back.

I had ridden 6 miles in the opposite direction, so it was 6 miles back to the parking lot.  Apparently, my computer wasn’t working right at the beginning of the day, because everyone else clocked the short course at right around 20 miles.  So, I ended up doing around 32 miles altogether in a little over 3 hours.  Not bad for me.

We got back to the lot, and Bob and Cara weren’t there.  We talked about the ride for a little bit, and while I was standing there holding my bike upright by the saddle, we heard an eardrum-shattering explosion.  The ladies jumped back about 10 feet, and I may have wet myself – just a little bit.  My front tire just exploded – literally.

exploded bike tire

Shreded Tire after the Explosion

The bead of the tire was completely shredded and the tube had a 6 inch gash in it where it blew out.  I’m not sure what in the hell caused it, but I was very thankful that it didn’t happen while I hit over 30 mph on some of the bomber downhills!

After saying goodbye to Corey and his gang, I hopped in my Explorer and headed back out to make sure Bob and Cara were okay.  I only got about a mile and a half when I saw them.  Cara looked pretty cooked, but she was still smiling.  She thought about hopping in the car with me, but I assured her that she was very close and most what was left was downhill.  So she finished the ride.  Pretty damn impressive.

Bob and Cara at the Joe Dirt Ride

Bob and Cara

So, all in all it was a great day.  Perfect weather, fantastic scenery, huge hills, no traffic, and great friends.  What more could a guy ask for?

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