An Open Letter to Elden Nelson

Dear Fatty,

Because you are the team manager of the bike team I ride for I feel I must bring something to your attention.

Last summer you ran a “contest” giving away a chance to race at the 8 Hours of Boggs. Now seeing as how I have been named the TEAM LEADER of your team, I fully expected to win said “contest”. I even donated to the cause (even though THAT cost me more than you are paying me to be the TEAM LEADER) and then waited patiently for the “you win” email.

Now imaging my surprise when I got an email from a good friend of mine name “Jeff” saying he was going to Boggs because he won the contest. I ask you to imagine that.

I don’t mean to go all “Lemond” on your “Hinault”, but seriously? I have to wonder what this means about my status on the team. Boggs is after all a 3 man team and I am after all the TEAM LEADER. I remind you of the contract you signed.

great_contract-1

 

I looked at your team for Boggs.

1. “Jeff”: I really cannot say anything bad about “Jeff”. He’s a stand-up guy and a strong rider. But did you know he races CX? (Shudder. Do want a road bike or a mtb? Pick one!) 

2. Levi: I know what you were doing here. Trying to placing a ringer on the team. Someone who could pick up the slack of the weakest rider on the team and ensure victory. However, I want to remind you that Boggs is a MTB race and well the last time I saw Levi on a MTB, well it wasn’t pretty.

Levi-donought

I appreciate the simplicity of a fully rigid single speed, but please let Levi know if he needs to borrow a more suitable MTB, I am sure we can get one for him with bigger tires. (He does know they first moved to 26″ tires like a century ago and more recently to 29″ tires and even more recently to 27.5″ tires right?)

3. You: I’ll give you the fact that you are pretty fast,  but still I question the choice of putting you on your team since you are not even the fastest person in your house.

And lets talk about this “team” you have put together. How are those “team” dynamics working out for you? I mean remember this?

fatty1

Lets step back from that picture for a second and take a wider view.

fatty2

Yeah, Levi gleefully putting you in a headlock and pounding on you. Looks like you all get along. I feel sorry for “Jeff”.

So I did the only thing that I could given this situation. I looked at the rest of Team Fatty and formed my own coalition within the team to assert my dominance. So here is my Team for Boggs.

1. Me: I AM the fastest biker in my house. Hands down. That makes me a good choice for the team. I also want to point out that I live up north. WAY up north (almost Canada WAY up north). We grow hardy people up here.

iceman-1

People who love nothing more than to come home after a long ride with an ice encrusted bike.

icebike-1

2. Dave Thompson: You know Dave right? He is a World Bicycle Relief Ambassador this year. He bleeds this sport and KNOWS the “Power of Bicycles”.

dave

3. Our special mystery rider: We are keeping our mystery rider’s name a secret. But he has been training, hard, for Boggs.

mystery_rider

Eye of the Tiger.

I like our Team. We are handsome, modest and strong. But one might question why I am so confident about our team. You might be asking how do I KNOW we are faster than your team. You might want data. Well I have it for you and it is summed up in one word: Leadville.

Let’s compare our records at Leadville. Neither “Jeff” nor our mystery rider have ridden at Leadville and so they remain an uncertainty at this point. But I am absolutely sure they would not factor into this determination of which team is faster, so lets move on.

Dave completed Leadville in 9:20 last summer. I did it in 10:30 the summer before. That makes our total time at Leadville 19:30.

Levi was a record holder at the race (though I am still not sure how he even completed it on that bike) and his time was 6:16. That’s “good”, I will grant you. Really you are the problem for your team. Your Leadville time is something on the order of 161:30. I’m not really sure because the number was so big my calculator melted when I tried to figure it out. (BTW, have they taken your buckle back yet? You are well past the “12 hour” mark.)

Now lets see……

My Team: 19:30

Your team: 166:46

Yeah, THAT’S why I am confident.

So here you go. Team World Bicycle Relief will be at Boggs on May 2. Perhaps you want to make this race more interesting?

Sincerely,

Doug (Designated GC Rider Team Fatty)

 

Monday Morning Slider: Tuning up?

The luge season can sometimes be a strange thing calendar wise. We start in the fall with leaves on the trees during biking weather. We end in the spring with snow on the ground. Like I say it feels strange sometimes.

Last weekend was the final weekend for the ADK Luge Club 2014-15 season. We still have over 2 feet of snow on the ground. It doesn’t feel like time to put the sled away. On the last weekend of the season we traditionally have the club race and annual meeting. I was re-elected President (yeah, I am President, but I prefer to be addressed as “Your Grace” and you may kiss my spikes when you see me). With that out of the way it was time for the club race.

The BESTEST time of the luge season is in two weeks: The US National Masters Championships. The club race was my last tune up before THE event of the year.

My sled was just (like I picked it up a couple of hours before the race) tuned up by a luge god and my Jedi Master. He promised a gain of 0.5 seconds from what he did, so my hopes were high.

It was warm, and humid, which if you have been following this blog, means frosty slowness on the track. Not record breaking kind of ice. When we got to the track we saw the start ramp. Urgh. There were chunks of ice on the track. It looked like someone took ice cubes and sprinkled them on the track. Bobsleds. Grrr!. It was in such bad shape that I (half) joked about ruining the new edges my jedi master put on my steels and having to give it right back to him to fix after the race. One of the kids asked what the start ramp meant. I swallowed my disappointment and said “Nothing, we are all racing on the same track.”

Its been a long couple of weeks and I hadn’t realized how REALLY distracted I was until I got on my sled and pulled off. When I experienced my brain being just about half a second behind my sled, then, THEN I realized. It’s exciting to be mentally behind your sled on the track. It was a terrible run that I fought the entire way down. I somehow managed to be 3rd out of 6 after the first run. I should have been much much closer to my friend who was 2nd.

I decided to get my head in the game and let go on the second run. It was much much better. Not where I need it to be in 2 weeks, but closer. My time improved by a second. Not enough to catch my friend in 2nd so I ended up in 3rd.

Adult_Men_Les_Mayers_Memorial_Classic_Lug_Race_2015

 

Time to get ready to take on the Olympians. (My steels survived just fine.)

Picture of the Day

snowshoe_ADK_2015-1

“ADK Winter”

(I went snowshoeing between the club meeting and the club race. I love our mountains!)

Four Seasons

Up in the North Country we have Four Seasons: Summer (no jokes please, especially my CA “friends”), Fall, Winter, and…. Mud.

Now the Mud Season has two different names, some call it the Mud Season, some call it the Brown Season. Both are the same. No one calls it “Spring”.

This week winter broke, which means we are entering Mud Season. Temps on Monday were near 40F, Tuesday mid 40’s. Our coldest day on the 10 day forecast is for a high of 32. Even that feels like shorts weather.

Since I am away from home in the middle of the week I decided to ride on Monday and take advantage of the warm temps and sunny (what IS that giant glowing thing up there?) skies. This year I am ready for the weather to warm up and the snow to melt. I could use a little change.

So I grabbed the bike and headed out. My house is on a dirt road. Only right now its not dirt. The frost line is about 7 ft deep. In Mud Season you get a layer of thick wheel sucking mud on top of the permafrost. Monday it was about 2″ deep. 2″ of wheel sucking, energy draining mud. Its the kind of mud you read about or hear about destroying people’s chances in big cross country races like Tour Divide.

I stopped looking at my speed about 3 minutes into the ride. I knew it was going to be more single track like than gravel grinder like. My normal 2 laps, which I can do in 50 minutes to 1:15.

But, well yeah, the weather broke!

I declare Winter over and Mud Season on.

Now if the 2 feet of snow we have would melt, we could get some single track dried out. Should be ready in July or so.

Picture of the Day

tough_mudder

“Tough Mudders”

Monday Morning Slider: It total does and does not matter (all at the same time)

I didn’t get to write last week. It was an incredibly difficult week with more bad family health news. I spent the week processing and going about trying to find some normalcy. Writing took a back seat. This sabbatical year has been difficult from that perspective. While its not my sabbaticals “fault” it certainly isn’t making this year be what it was supposed to be.

I went sliding on Sunday. It was strange to be at the start line. What a silly little way to spend my time. Riding a sled down a hill. Given the recent news and all that happened this last fall with my family, sliding is unimportant. It doesn’t change any of that reality. It really doesn’t matter.

And yet it really does. It’s a diversion. It gives me a chance to just be for a little while. To put things aside. It’s a chance to spend time with friends and laugh and tease. And so it really does matter, a lot.

I slid well. Four solid runs. A couple where I really felt good on my sled. My times were not stellar, but be warned of luge friends, my runs were better than my times showed. And my sled is with the best sled guy in the country being tuned up. The 5th run? Well I should have listened to the little voice that said you have had enough. Eh, that’s neither here nor there. I left the track smiling, and that, as always, is my metric for a good day.

 Picture of the Day

Well today’s picture is really a story. It is being told by a very talented story teller, and well sometimes that makes for the best picture. Being close to Canada we are exposed to some things (most of them good). There is a CBC radio show called the Vinyl Cafe. On that show Stuart McClain tells stories. Some are real, and some of fiction. The fictional ones are about a family in Canada. The best part of those stories is how Stuart can weave essential truths into the narrative. This story is in one of the books he has written and I first read it there. Yesterday I heard Stuart tell it for the first time. This story is about people and relationships and living. It is one of my favorite stories, and is about 20 minutes long. You may need kleenex. I did when I first read it and then again when I heard it.

 

Embracing Winter

Authors note: I highly recommend you play the video below and listen to the music while reading today’s post……. 

 

We are in the midst of another cold and snowy winter in the North Country. While my friends in California tease me with pictures of mountain biking in what is pretty close to our North Country summer weather, we are stuck with almost 3 ft of snow on the ground and sub zero temps.

There really isn’t anything you can do by embrace winter and get out to experience it.

Last weekend we “heated up” into the 20’s for daytime highs and so I pulled my mountain bike out for a spin. I decided I was going to ride over to the place I went cross country skiing last weekend to see if the trails were packed down enough that I could get my non-fat tired mountain bike onto them.

I purposely waited till later in the day because I knew it was going to snow and it somehow seamed the proper thing for this expedition. In the 20’s its relatively easy to dress to ride. A base layer, long sleeve jersey and my cold weather coat. A knit hat under my helmet and bootie covers on my shoes.

For gloves. Well I went with my summer weight long fingered gloves. Insane you say. No I reply. I have had lots of trouble with my hands in moderate to cold temps. They get hot, sweat, and then freeze. BUT I had a secret weapon. These:

Let me say this….. Bar Mitts are THE solution. They are like little neoprene igloos for your hands. The neoprene keeps the wind and moisture away from your fingers. Your body heat builds a little warm zone inside. They have openings so it doesn’t get too warm. I am in total love with these.

And so I headed out. The roads were snow covered, but not too bad. And as I rode down the road I had one of my favorite songs from Ride the Divide playing in my head (click on that link on top if you haven’t already!)….

…….and lost myself in my ride. That song is what pops into my mind when I am “journeying” on my bike. It just fits.

I got to the trails and realized that one of the things I like about them is that not a lot of people use them. The bad part of that good thing was that my not-so-fat tired mountain bike wasn’t going to work on those trails due on the deep loose snow.

postwood-1

And so I rewound The Stable Song and headed back home. I went round about. At one point I was so just into my ride that I rode past my road without even noticing. Totally in the moment.

My reward for that missed turn was getting to see some deer and turkeys hanging out on another road. The snow picked up in intensity making for a fantastic winter day.

frenchroad-1

The ride was one long meditation. One long “in the moment”, but without the pain of a serious training ride or a race.

It came to an end. I thanked my bike (and Bar Mitts).

bike_barmitts-1

Then I chipped myself out of my ice cocoon.

iceman-1

Picture of the Day

icebike-1

“Frozen Salsa”

 

Knowing you have a problem is half the battle

When we luge our runs are timed. At the end of the session you get a “time sheet” that has split times and finish times (and your speed :) ). I admit that as a science type person I love data. And so I have a spreadsheet of every run I have ever taken on a sled recorded. Data……yummm………

Despite warnings from the club guru I do look at my times. I mean in the words of Vince Lombardi (the Saint of Wisconsin):

“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?”

AND if you ride a bike you know an essential truth to the way the world works….. If two people are doing an activity together…. its a competition.

So yeah, I look at my times, and compare my finish times to myself and others. And on those rare occasions when my run is faster than one of the fast sliders, because they crashed into the walls, well…..

What I have never done is look at the split times compared to other people. I looked at the results from the Empire State Games and something popped out at me. Here is the time sheet. The names have been blacked out to protect the innocent. Well except for mine which is highlighted.

2-8Luge MASTERS RACE

You will notice I highlighted two runs. One is mine and the other one from the guy who eventually finished third in the race. I got onto this line of thinking when I noticed that our start times were just about the same. This was unusual since my start times stink. Then I started looking at the split times. They were just about identical. Yeah I picked up the start difference and became a little bit faster and he very slowly ate into that lead. Then we get to the split time at about 30 seconds. Pretty much dead even. Then we jump to the final split time before the finish and…….

Holy Crow…. I am 0.8 seconds behind. That was my clean run. No walls no skids.

Clearly something went south (Besides the fact that you stink Meat? Hi Yeti, now GO away!)

Yeah something happened.

This is where the reality of what has been happening this season and my blissful/purposeful ignoring of the situation came crashing together. This is where I acknowledge that while I have come a long way with my sliding, I knew even before I saw these splits why I have not gotten the much chased 45 second run.

Right after the 30 second split is the chicanes. They are kind of a strange section of the track. The look straight but hide two little curves. The track goes uphill just a little bit before cresting and going into the bottom section of the track. Its not a really hard section, but its an easy section to loose time on, if….

If you are not relaxed and quiet on your sled. I know that I get tense in that section and that I anticipate bad things happening before they happen. I just never realized how badly unrelaxed I was and how much that affected my finish times.

For full disclosure, I am sure that the lower section of the track that comes after the chicanes are also places that I am loosing time, but still.

My goal for this year is to become fast enough that if I throw down a really good run, and if one of the good sliders throws down a real stinker I can be in the mix. We have about a month of sliding left before the US National Masters Race in March.

Its time to be mindful and relaxed.

Authors note: If you look at the splits for my second run they were a cc of my first until the same spot. That’s good. It means I am consistent on top. The second run I steered myself in the chicanes into more significant trouble. Hence the additional 0.4 seconds on my second time. If you take off the 2 seconds (accumulated over the two runs) then I am right where I want to be.

Monday Morning Slider: Empire State Games Part 2 “The Race”

The Empire State Games are a sanctioned luge race. That means that there are officials there to make sure we don’t cheat. Put the heated steels away. Get all that extra weight out of the sled. It’s time to slide for real.

My Saturday in Lake Placid started by stripping down to my underwear, in a refrigerated room, in front of my competitors and race officials to weigh in. It’s a good opportunity to size up your opponents and see what they are made of. (I saw what they are made of and the images are burned in my mind. What is seen cannot be unseen.)

A legal sled weighs between 21 and 25 kg, with 23 being the weight used to determine your total allowed weight. You are also allotted 4 kg for clothing and equipment. Finally if you are under 90 kg you are allowed to wear ballast weight to get you up to 90 kg. While I am not at my mtb racing weight right now, I am not up to that magic 90 kg level and so I am allowed ballast. All told my legal racing weight is 117 kg. However, I am close enough to my mtb racing weight that even with my full weight vest I am still over 4 kg light. Oh, well. Based on the way I had been sliding the extra 10 lbs wouldn’t matter.

We had a practice session Saturday night. The night before a race usually has a good vibe. People are excited, we like to talk some smack (just because), and well you are after all on a hill with a sled (a really cool hill with a really cool sled). The talk that night went something like this. The reigning club champ and benchmark commented that he wished he could take one run and then leave. This is hard to do because we take trucks to and from the access points on the track and walking back with a 23 kg sled isn’t easy. I mentioned to him that if he crashed in turn 18 (the low spot on the track) he was most of the way back to the shed.  The coach (who was also to be a competitor the next day) told me I looked “jerky” on my sled. Yeah pre-race night.

My sliding? The first run was a carbon copy of what was happening last week. Trouble started on the start ramp with me careening into walls. I did manage to do a little better once I got on the track (well except for being “jerky” on one run and having the coach tell a younger slider who was watching with him that one turn I did was “interesting”). My second run, a carbon copy of the first. Deep breath. OK. Time to just put the sled on the track and don’t worry about starting hard. Somehow I pulled it together and had a clean run. The track was slow but I was a second better than my first two. My fourth run was a carbon copy of my third. Time to call it a night.

Race morning has a different vibe than pre-race day. It’s more serious. Oh we still talk smack, but it’s in a more “respectful” way. There were 30 sleds racing (a couple of youth divisions along with the Masters) and so there was a lot of energy in the air. My pre race prep was good. I was focused and relaxed.

The order of the first start is determined by random draw. For some reason fate seams to put me first in the start order just about all the time. (That’s not literally true, it just seams like I get the first spot frequently). ESG was no exception. The first slot is tough because no one has been down the track and so you don’t really have any idea what to expect a good time is. You also do not have any metric on how fast you need to be.

My first run was pretty good. A nice clean start. No walls. 46.8 sec. Best run in several weeks. When the first runs were finished I was in 5th place out of 12 sleds. The sleds in front of me all belonged to people who should be faster than me. All the sleds behind me were people I either should, or could be faster than. I had a nice little gap to the 6th place slider. The club guru was in a surprising 4th spot after having had a rough start in his first run. The club champ, well, we all got some work to do to catch up with him.

The start order for the second run is determined by reverse order of finish in the first run. Slowest to fastest. I’ve had experience being the first person of the second run, but today I was in the top half. One of the sliders behind me threw down a really fast run and moved up several places. But his first run was so slow I wasn’t really concerned about him. The 6th place slider was my friend Jenny. Jenny is better than me on the track. She is quiet and relaxed (were I am “jerky”). But I outweigh her. But Jenny hadn’t slid this winter yet. You get the idea. We tend to be pretty close time wise when we are sliding. She put down a second run that was virtually the same as her first. She was close enough that I needed to slide well to hold my position.

My second run started out really well. I nailed to top section of the track and set up for the lower portion of the track. In the chicanes my sled headed towards the left wall. I counter steered and glanced off of it. Historically this would have been a much much harder impact. So progress. Still it hurts the run time. That momentum brought me over to the right wall (too much steer) but I countered and only glanced off of it there. I realized it was going to be close at the finished. I tried to be relaxed through the last 3 curves and crossed the finish line.

When you complete your second run in a race you want to look up at the clock with your time and see a 1. That means you were currently in first place. As I slid up to the finish ramp I realized that the clock was not working. I listened for the track announcer. Nothing, not a peep. I looked at the officials. They hadn’t heard anything either. I went into the finish house none of the kids were listening to the race (par for the course, their races were finished and their minds were onto other things). I saw Jenny who told me she “thought” I was in first place, but wasn’t 100% sure.

I knew in my mind it wouldn’t matter. There were 4 really good sliders in front of me and it would have required a complete meltdown by 2 of them to move me into a medal. Not going to happen.

Jim the club guru smoked his second run. He has this strange ability to bounce back from a poor first run with a complete kick ass second run. His second run was in fact the fast run of the day by a pretty good margin. Jim ended up in 3rd place. The club champ? Well we all got some work to do to make his life more interesting. He is entirely too comfortable right now.

In the end, my second run was much slower than my first. The wall touches cost me about 0.4 seconds on my total run time. But it was enough to hold my position and I finished 5th out of 12 sliders.

Now its time to set the sights on the US Luge Masters National Championships. March 29. Bring on the Olympians!