Friday, April 29, 2016

Fat Bike Birkie, 2016

The year and season finale.
I had set a goal last year to win my age division of the Fat Bike Birkie 47k race.
Missed my goal by a little, but still make the podium. After the race they had me in 2nd but was knocked down to 3rd later. Stayed on, though!
It was a great finish, spent with great friends along with our wives.

Photo credit, friend and fellow racer, Nick Templeton.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sweaty Yeti 2016

Season winding down with the good times at Levis Mounds. A race, yes, but this event is more about just having a good time.
Ever since the first faty race here a few years ago, myself and many meet up to ride, have a few brews and have a good time.
I brought grandson Jason to this race last year and he came again. We "camped" out in the chalet.
We brought his new fat-bike and he rode it around some, but it's just a tab too large for him and I don't think he feels 100% comfortable with it.
Buddy Russ from Appleton teamed up with me so I could hang-out a little with Jason during the race.
We finished 1st in the Open Team Division. Team name was Russ x 2....in honor of me being twice the age of Russ. It started warm and got warmer. Glad I had studs on again. Russ didn't but he still turned in some really fast laps.
Won some nice beer from Sand Creek Brewing, plus they tossed in a keg for general consumption.

Random shots of the day.

Friend Al.

Bra Man.....Jason was looking at him and was a little confused.

Mass start.


Tippy Viking

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Birkie 2016

XC- Sking buddy Doug picked me up in the AM and we flew up once again to ski the Birkie, my 11th. On the way up we flew close to the land I own on the Jump River, so Doug made a swing so I could take a picture.
From the open field south to the point where the river makes a left turn then north to the road is what we own, around 50 acres. I could see the hunting shack, just off the field to the south/left where that small white/open spot shows, is where it's at.
Doug did a great job of landing the plane at the small private Telemark airstrip, where the race starts, on an ice coated tarmac. After the race we got to fly through a few snow squalls, which were a bit unnerving, but again, Doug did a great job navigating up, over, around and through them.

After the race a friend, Leah Gruhn, a fellow endurance racer from Duluth, MN was at the finish line waiting for her husband to finish. She shared a bit of her celebration elixir with me.....


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fatbike Frozen Forty

Next on the docket was the Fatbike Frozen Forty in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. It's one of the older fat bike races with this being it's 5th year. In the past I've headed up to Actif Epica in Canada this weekend or maybe the social race of Book Across the Bay or maybe even escaped to Alaska for the Sustina 100. This year though I committed to the FFF.

It was a bit chilly for the start of the race, around -8 or so, but being on single track and in the woods with the sun coming up and temps forecasted to rise it wasn't much to get too concerned about. Also, being that it was 4 laps/40 miles or so, although plenty of time to frostbite any body part not protected, a lot less time than compared to the Ultra races of Tuscobia and Arrowhead.

The RD had setup a warming tent and with the parking lot close to the start line, keeping warm before the race wasn't an issue so more clothes than necessary worn at the start wasn't a problem.

I did a little pre-ride and was very glad I decided to put on studded tires earlier in the week. We had been getting some thaws now and then lately and with the lack of new snow I felt studs sure wouldn't hurt. Plus, I wanted to try out the Dillinger 5 tires so off with the Ground Controls and on with the studded D5's.
I had bought the D 5's without the factory studs and instead went with Grip Studs, a company in Oregon. These can be inserted and removed plus they are a tougher, tungsten-carbide vs. just carbide and more aggressive than the 45 NRTH factory studs.

Based on the pre-ride, I decided to add some air to the rear.....I opened the valve and then got the floor pump out of the jeep. By the time I started pumping, the rear tire was completely flat....the valve must had been held open by some ice??

At the Start with buddy Mark Seaburg....the Boys in Blue.
Photo Credit Hannah Hoglund Photography.

I'm very glad I had studs on!
The rollout was designed to spread the field out some and it did, but it just seems some people sprint on the road just knowing full well they aren't as fast, comparatively, in the single-track. But, I guess instead of complaining, I should just sprint out as well....but then, I'd be That Guy or Gal, as the case maybe.
Scott Cole and I got behind a string and got further behind when a biker in front of us went off course and we followed, along with a few others, so the few bikes we were able to pass ended up in front of use again. That's what you get for following!!!

Random race photos by Hannah Hoglund.



Each lap was 11 miles plus and it was in really good shape if not icy in a number of areas. Mostly the corners, of course, where all of the snow gets pushed off. Yes, there was some ice at times, ok, quite a bit of times, but hey! it's winter riding.
Scott was in front of me without studs and he was feeling the need to unclip a lot and keep a leg out on many corners while I just pedaled on through. I thought if he had to do that for 40 miles it was going to be a long day for him.
One guy spun out on an uphill and he and his bike got spread across the trail. Scott went around him and I followed, never spinning or sliding a bit.
As we came through the start/finish to head out for the 2nd lap Scott took off. He's a much stronger biker than me!

About half way through the 2nd lap I had passed a couple riders but couldn't pull away from them. It seemed I was slowing down based on the effort. The back tire was starting to drift just a little in the corners as well. I figured it might be low on air so I pulled over to confirm. It was low so I pulled out my pump and started filling it. The 2 riders passed me and I gave the pump another 30-45 seconds and jumped back on.
It felt better and I repassed the 2 riders.
When I got to the start/finish line I rolled over to my jeep and got out the floor pump and gave it a good fill. I also pulled out a Red Bull I had in my frame bag and drank the 1/2 that wasn't frozen, stuffed the can back in the bag and took off.

With the full tire, some Red Bull in and a short rest, I felt good and fast on the trail. The 3rd lap went great but the tire was still losing some air. As I came through the transition area for the 4th lap I asked if there was a floor pump available to avoid going to my jeep and there was. So I filled up some and took off in time to catch a rider that passed me while pumping before we hit the single track.

I maybe lost 5 minutes total airing and maybe some actual race time while pedaling but it's all part of the race.
The issue was that before the race I decided to put in some air and the valve would not seat. Somewhat a rookie mistake....don't mess with things right before the start.
The tire hasn't lost air since it was able to warm up on the ride home and dry out the valve (I travel with the bike inside my jeep.)

Another race with age divisions, so was able to still win the DD (Dinosaur Division) 60 plus category.

Photo credit Hannah Hoglund.




Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Iola Snow Bully Race

Got back from Denver the night before the start of the Iola Snow Bully race. This is held at a local xc-ski and snow jumping site, Iola Winter Sports Complex. It's held under the lights on the xc-ski trail and served as a fund raiser for the Organization. They also host a WORS (WI Off Road Series) race once a year as well.
Local Scott Cole (Hostel Shoppe) started this race last season and it's become one of the best venues for fatties around. He's done a great job working with the Club and getting a number of Sponsors on board.

As we all know, there has been a huge jump in Fat Bike activity the past couple of years. Groups are jumping on board to take advantage of the buzz. The Iola Winter Sports Complex has a natural venue with a winter background complete with a lodge to keep everyone warm. Volunteers had soups, hot dogs and brats available.

Back to the race. There had been a dump of snow a few days before and conditions were very soft and it wasn't cold enough to setup the snow.
RD Scott decided to remove a short loop that had the steepest climb and conversely the steepest downhill. A smart move.

I got there a bit early to help setup some and get a pre-ride in. When asked what I thought after the ride, the only word that came to mind was "interesting". Just about anything could happen.

There was some walking the first lap with bikes dodging about everywhere. Luckily I was towards the front and things compressed pretty quickly after the first 100 or so uphill yards to a somewhat ride able groove, at least most of the time.
From there on it was all about tire pressure, single-track skills to stay in the groove, keeping weight back and being smooth while climbing and hanging on swooshing down the backsides.

The second lap was really tore up from all of the walkers.

Photo credit, XTRphoto, Gary Smits.

I'm not sure if anyone got away without some sort of crash. I had a really nice OTB on my 3rd lap.

The rule was that if you crossed the finish line before the 1 or 2 hours times, one had to head back out or get a DNF. I came in at 1:58 for the 2 hr. race, my 3rd lap, and after a 15 second stop decided to head back out.

Glad I did as it was maybe my most enjoyable lap. Less riders walking and the groove was better intact. Loads of fun!

Race report from the 2 hr. winner, Cole House.

A fun time...and.....what, age groups!
I won the DD (Dinosaur Division) 60+.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Newest Grandchild (son) MASON!

Nick and Traci (and Mason) super surprised us and our whole extended family when they drove from Denver to WI and showed up unannounced at our doorstep for our Nikolay Family Christmas in WI.

Lynn with Mason.

Mason with his cousins, Alyssa and Jason.

Right after Arrowhead Lynn and I flew out to Denver to visit son #2 Nick, his wife Traci and their new son, Mason....as in Mason Crosby, Green Bay placekicker.




With Dad.





With 2 brew pubs in walking distance the craft beer was readily available...as was plenty or restaurants. When Chris and Helen stopped in on their drive home from MN to OR, we weren't shy about the food and drink....and my waistline showed it!


Uncle Chris got some Mason time as well.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Arrowhead 2016

Arrowhead 2016 started months and weeks before the race as a decision between skiing and biking began to take place. I wanted to ski it one more time...even after completing it twice on skis.

After Tuscobia, it wasn't much of a decision anymore. Not being able to train for skiing for the past 18 months turned it into a bike choice....unless conditions were so favoring skiing there wasn't a choice. They weren't. That said, I might have been better off skiing it, but biking is just easier in general for me than skiing, so I went the easy way out.

This is most probably going to be my last Arrowhead as a participant. I've lost some of "the burn" and adrenaline rush, similar to The Birkie ski race. I still enjoy them, but not so much as a race. Time out on the trail and surrounded by the ultra Community is still very enjoyable but maybe it's time I moved over and opened a spot for another person that wants the challenge.

I envision doing more things with our grandkids.....and who knows what else might be out there before I get too old?

I could tell it's time as I just didn't have the same excitement the days before the race. Getting into the equipment preparations just wasn't a priority to me. It wasn't really needed either, as all I really needed to do was in general scoop up what was already set out from Tuscobia. As the weather was going to be mild and consistent for the Arrowhead (as compared to the opposite at Tuscobia when the mercury plummeted from 30 above to -15/20) there wasn't a lot to think about.
The main thing was going to be tire pressure due to the predicted soft snow.

The week leading up the Arrowhead I came down with some flu conditions but by Thursday I was pretty much back to normal. I knew I was going to be less than 100% based on my less than normal training in Dec. from a broken thumb and my 200 mile ski/bike biathlon at Tuscobia two weeks earlier. I was pretty well spent after Tuscobia and coupled with a touch of the flu leading into Arrowhead I felt I might have some challenges as to my energy/strength.

If conditions were like 2015 I felt I could hold up better, but if it got tough out there, I'd probably suffer.....and I did.

The Start.
Photo credit, Gear Junkie

The first hour of riding made it clear that tire pressure, fitness (both upper and lower body) and single track skills would rule the day. Unlike last year, the leaders took off and never looked back, so the pace was what one wanted to make of it along the rode in singletrack.

I stopped to let out air at a road crossing from my 8psi down to around 5 but even that was too high and eventually I went down to 3. I was a bit concerned to go much lower than that due to a rough trail from low snow. There were plenty of opportunities over the next 135 miles to burp a tire by banging hard into a frozen tussock or rolling a tire off the bead on a fast descent on the fabled hills 3/4 of the way down the trail.

As I rolled through the first checkpoint I was felling a bit off, but nothing too serious. More energy was required as compared to last year, but that was to be expected. Endurance would be the name of the game.

Yours truly.
Photo credit, Burgess Eberhardt.

As we started encountering the gentle hills about half way between the 1st and 2nd checkpoints things were looking good and the rear tire was hooking up, but my bike started to encounter shifting issues, similar to Tucobia a couple of weeks earlier.
After Tuscobia I had gone into my LBS and they checked it over (I had them replace a worn shifter cable a few days before Tuscobia) but we couldn't find anything wrong. We felt that maybe some moisture inside the cable housing had started to freeze up which caused my being reduced to a single speed to finish Tuscobia.
After I broke my right thumb I had moved the shifter (1x11) to my left side for Tuscobia. I felt I could go back to the right side for Arrowhead and had hoped I would be able to keep shifting to a minimum to avoid issues with my healing thumb....well, it was a good idea at the time, but I was having to shift pretty much constantly.

It wasn't cold enough to freeze up the cable today I thought, as the shifting got worse and worse. I admit, even though I do a lot of repairs on my motorcycle, cars and actually worked for a decade as a service tech on automated/robotic equipment, I've never really picked up what I need to know about bikes and shifting. As the shifting rather reduced me to the lowest gear when climbing and something that would kinda work on the flats and downhills I started to loose ground and more importantly, I started to loose energy, as well.
Maybe my attention and dicking around shifting caused me to loose focus on eating or maybe I just got a bit agitated but it just seemed, although eating and drinking very frequently while walking up some hills, I didn't have the normal energy level and couldn't increase it, either, even after downing a few gus, chocolate and whatever else I could put down.

It just seemed like my stomach wasn't processing what I was stuffing down it. I didn't think I was bonking or dehydrated as I wasn't cold and I was still sweating...

Friend Joe and I had been yo-yoing back and forth since the start but now he was pulling away, for good it seemed.

Joe, #134.
Photo credit, Burgess Eberhardt.

Soon, friend Christopher came up behind me. Normally I can stay in front of Chris and he might have been as surprised as me as he asked how things were going when he caught me. I told him about my lack of energy and he offered me a Red Bull. On occasion shooting one of them has given me a good jolt but I also didn't want to take anything from Chris that would slow him down, so I offered to share it with him to which he replied "great" as it was a large can.
Chris's blog.
Chris analyses the race in-depth if interested in that kinda thing.

Christopher Tassava
Photo credit, Burgess Eberhardt


I watched Chris pull the hill in front of me and as I was walking it I felt kinda discouraged.....but, it's a long race and I felt fortunate that I was even able to start a race like the Arrowhead. When I start to have a pity party I always try to remember how lucky all of us are to be out there, no matter what we're facing at the moment.

Soon Marcus came up from behind me as well. It was his first Arrowhead and he hung back with me and talked, offering me some food as well but I knew it wasn't from lack of eating I was suffering. With my bike still shifting like crap and my energy not really increasing even after the Red Bull and gus I hoped he'd keep going and maybe even mentioned to Marcus not to feel obligated to hang back. Soon he was gone as well.

A number of other riders passed me during this stretch as well....I just had to truck on.

I think I came up on Joe again....or maybe it was a different rider, but in any case I soon came to the 5 mile sign to Melgeorges, after the mystery rider and I had yo-yoed back and forth some.
My pace was starting to increase, in direct proportion to lack of hills (missed shifting) it seemed. I hit the lake and there was a blinking red light maybe 150-200 yards in front of me. It was soft on the lake but I found a gear that seemed to work and took off after the rabbit.
It was Joe and we rolled into the checkpoint together.

Melgeorges check-point cabin.
Photo credit, Gear Junkie


My original goal was to spend the same amount of time here as last year, 18 minutes. I knew that was not going to happen. I had decided on the trail to eat but more importantly, rest and try to get some sleep if that would happen. I knew I had to re-group to be able to finish the much tougher 2nd half.

After eating a couple bowls of wild rice soup and a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches washed down with a few cokes and hot chocolate, I decided to search out a rider that had dropped to see about looking at my shifting issue.

Joe and I at Melgeorges. Nice butt, Todd!
Photo credit Tina Stiller.

No outside help is allowed, but riders can help riders as well as race officials can help. When I asked the head Check Point person about it, she offered that an Official Mechanic was available to all riders. With that, he came out to my bike and after I removed the pogie he discovered that all that was wrong with it was that the cable had stretched. With a little barrel connector tweeking it was set and ready to go....dah, wish I'd have discovered that, but I was too nervous about doing any adjusting out on the trail in fear that I'd make it worse and as I had crashed once on my right side, I thought I could have bent the hanger.

Fellow racers son Chris and DIL Helen, who do it on foot, rent a cabin to rest up some, so I took advantage of that and tried to get some sleep. I set the alarm for 90 minutes and laid down. After 15-20 minutes sleep wasn't coming so got up, got dressed, tried to eat more and took off, 3 hours after I had arrived. It was 9:45PM.
I pretty much knew the "race within the race" for the "fastest old guy" was pretty much over. Although I was told that Dave was suffering as well, with beating me easily into Melgeorges and a 3 plus hour head-start on me out of the check-point, unless something crazy happened, he'd beat me easily.

Dave, "fastest old guy".
Photo credit, Kevin Boneske


Fellow racer Sveta took a picture of me as she pulled into Melgeorges and I was heading out.
She has a great story.....she stopped along the trail to nurse her baby, check it out.


There is a long rather gentle uphill out of Melgeorges and to my surprise I was able to ride the whole thing. I took it somewhat easy, but with the bike shifting well and feeling good, I started looking forward to the 2nd half of the race.

Soon it started to snow. It was light and fluffy and covered all the tracks although it didn't seem to hamper biking. I had dropped the air pressure further at Melgeorges, in anticipation to more, steeper hills and was at 2f-3r psi.

Hour after hour I rode, all by myself. It was fun. I felt good, the bike was shifting fine and as the temps dropped a few degrees, the snow was setting up some and making it possible to ride further up the hills and over many that a number of riders in front of me had walked up.
It kept snowing but I could look up and see the moon through the flurries to my left.


Eventually, one set of tracks began to get more defined and I knew I was coming up on a rider. After awhile I saw a head light shining ahead of me as a rider either was making a tight left turn or his/her bike slide off to the side. It was a turn....and soon I came up on Justin. We stopped and talked for a minute and I complemented him on climbing pretty much everything up to that point, which he had.
Then I took off.

After a bit I again noticed a couple of sets of tracks getting clearer and clearer. As the snow had stopped, it was difficult to determine how far ahead of me they were.

I found it interesting that I was embracing the hills. For the first time out of the 4 Arrowheads I've done, it didn't seem to matter how many there were or how steep they were. Maybe because it might be the last time I'd scale then bomb them or maybe, although I was still "racing", I had resigned myself to the fact that it wouldn't be one of my fastest races. That said, I still was trying to finish as fast as I could but trying to also notice and enjoy the small things along the trail and not run "race" things through my mind as much.

It wasn't that long, almost 9 hours after I left Melgeorges, I came up to the Ski-Pulk aid station. Ken, the RD was there, although I didn't recognize him in the darkness and shadows as he handed me a hot chocolate I had asked for to wash down my sub-sandwich.
I was impressed that he was there, helping out.

RD Ken.
Photo credit Gear Junkie

Ken invited me into the tent and inside were Chuck and Paul. Paul recognized me as he had biked the Tuscobia this year. We talked for a few minutes and soon Chuck and Paul took off. 2 minutes later, I followed them out into the darkness.

Skipulk checkpoint.
Photo credits, Gear Junkie.



Paul and Chuck stopped after awhile to eat and I rode up to them. We rode together from that point on, chatting and getting to know each other.
At the finish, we lined up and crossed together, all tied for 20th place out of the 58 riders that finished.

After a short stay in the race reception room we all joined a friend spectator of mine in the bar and had a refreshing brew before he took us up to I'Falls to get our vehicles.

Experienced foot racer, John S. gave me some idea when Chris and Helen would be crossing a major hwy past Melgeorges. Helen came by 2 minutes after that time and Chris 16 minutes later.
I went to our cabin and slept.....then the next day I was there when Chris and Helen crossed the finish together.

Being a skier, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the skiers. Oldish guy Mike Brumbaugh was flying.  He had passed me before the first checkpoint with a broken pole. He passed me for the final time after he had concocted a repair at the first checkpoint on his was to a new course record!
For a second or two, I thought that skiing would have been better than biking for me....but then realizing that skiing takes more out of me than biking, I didn't think about it anymore.

Mike
Photo credit Burgess Eberhardt.

The other skier was friend Jason that completed his a'Trois award, finishing all 3 disciplines, as well as did buddy Mike collect his a'Trois.