Tuesday, December 29, 2009

College Visit and Snowmobiling

It is amazing to me that Jake is old enough to begin 'shopping' colleges. I still see him as a 10 year old and can't believe we will be cutting him loose in a little over a year.

This morning after a quick breakfast and getting Ian off with Mandee's crew to the slopes Deb, Jake, and I made a visit to Black Hills State University in Spearfish. This is on Jake's 'short list' as they have a solid pre-med program and a solid Cross Country team (NAIA) along it being close to g-pa and g-ma Appleby. First was the campus tour, then the Admissions spiel, then Financial Aide (apparently I am not part of the group Obama wants to help, imagine that), then a good visit with the track coach (xc coach was out of town). Jake seemed to like everything, but since this is the first of a handful of visits to various colleges he had nothing with which to compare. Both Deb and I liked what we saw and the folks with whom we interacted. One down...

For lunch we met Jim and Linda at Sanfords to get some of the best burgers (this time I got the 'Pants on Fire' - good choice) I have ever had.

After chow it was back up the hill and on the snowmobiles for Jim, Jake, and I. We had a good time flying all over the hill (even with Jake burying his).

Got home in time to eat on some of Jim's grilled steaks - the best! The rest of the evening is going to be pretty easy going with maybe some cards.

We are heading back southeast tomorrow mid-morning and hoping for better driving conditions then what brought us here. Sad to see this adventure come to a close...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Head for the Mountains

Early AM wakeup came in order to get everyone (Jim, Linda, Chris, Mandee, Tanner, Tucker, Deb, Jake, Ian, and I) to Terry Peak for a full day of skiing. This is our second time skiing here and while it isn't exactly like the Colorado stuff we have done several times before, it is still a great local place to have fun.

Getting the kids enrolled in snowboard school and getting rental equipment proved to be a test in patience as the place was packed (bright and early) and the staff appeared to have an overwhelmed look on their faces for most of the morning. Ian has looked forward to turning pro as a 'boarder' since watching the last winter X-Games. Both Jake and I thought hard about boarding, but since we were only doing it one day we decided to stick (and have fun) with what we know - skiing. *** Below pic is of Ian at the start of lessons and the second is of Ian's uncle Chris and cousin Tucker***

The snow/powder and temps (lack of wind was huge) made for great conditions. The day was was ever changing with various ski partners as I spent time with Ian (after his lesson was over), trying to keep up with Jake (who skies really good), and cruising leisurly with Deb (my personal favorite). The place closed at 4pm and that's when everyone finally shut down.

A quick drive back to Spearfish, showers and clean clothes had us then heading to a great local Mexican joint for way too much food. The night was finished up with what has become a routine poker game. The winner was...

Mandee's crew (with Ian) is heading back to the slopes tomorrow. Jake, Deb, and I have an AM meeting with Black Hills State University Admissions folks for a tour of the campus and hopefully a meeting with the XC coach. Talk has it the snow mobiles might come out of the garage (I sure hope so).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Birthday (#42) in the Books

Woke up this morning to clearing skies and a good outlook on turning 42. I feel good, fit, and healthy, have an amazing wife and boys, and in a good place with what's going on in my life. Thankful for many friends and family in which I share my ride through life.

Day started with breakfast, opening some presents, and watching Super Prestige 'Cross (Nys didn't give me the present I wanted).

Ian, Jake, and I did some playing outside while Jim continued clearing the drive from the overnight additional snowfall. It was beautiful outside as the temps came up to the 20s and the winds were non-existent. Some sledding took place until a huge snowball fight broke out.

Mandee's family showed up mid-morning so everything shifted back indoors to get the kids opening Appleby Christmas gifts. It's fun watching youngsters excited. Everyone made out like bandits.

Later in the afternoon the kids headed outdoors and had a great time tramping all over the place. I, on the other hand, snuck away for a nap (it was awesome). Woke up in time to help getting food ready for the night's big dinner with the Appley clan and the Doten group (Jim A's sister's family). Turns out I am quite the potato peeler... who knew.

The Doten's showed up and a huge feast began for the 17 of us. It was the first time this holiday season that I ate past my limits.

After dinner the Doten's headed out and everyone jumped in for some Wii. As I am typing there is some fierce mini-golf going on.

Skiing all day is on tap for tomorrow at Terry Peak. Ian is hitting the snow board while I'll stick with skiing (with Deb and Jake) since we are only going for one day (would board if we had multiple days).

Another great day in the Black Hills; this trip is going super.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Careful What You Wish For

Deb and I said several times how we would like the kids to have a white Christmas and they did, but what is following in awesome (if you don't need to get on the road)! Since we arrived it has snowed close to 36 inches and it is supposed to keep coming down tonight and tomorrow.

The Appleby Lodge is a great place to be snowed in. Plenty of room inside (family stuff on the main level, Xbox 360 fest in the lower area, and Jake snoozing the day away upstairs), tons of toys (bobcat, ATVs, and snow mobiles) in the garages, and all the snow outside to keep us having fun.

Yesterday afternoon and evening was all about kicking back and taking it 100% easy. We played tons of games, watched some NBA action, and chowed down on some of the best ribs I have ever had. Jim had them in a smoker all day with a homemade rub; I felt sort-of bad for topping them off with some Gates Extra Hot (I do love me some Gates sauce).

Late in the evening Jake and I donned the battle gear and embarked once again in saving the world from tyranny (COD Modern Warfare); around 2am we called it a day (night actually).

I slept in pretty late this morning until Ian woke me wanting to play. Got up to find it had snowed all night and was still coming down tons. After a quick breakfast and espresso (from my new Christmas present from Deb) Jim, Ian, Deb, and I layered up and headed outside to see how much snow actually fell (is falling).

The easy answer to the above inquiry is A TON. Jim said its the most he had ever seen in his years here. Jim fired up the bobcat and started to clear off the drive while Ian, Deb, and I played. The snow fall (not in just drifts) were mid-thigh on me (waist level to Deb and over for Ian). Ian knocked out a couple snow angels before he and I got to helping out with shoveling the entry way. Later on Deb and Ian whipped up a sweet mini-snowman.

Jake slept in until close to 2pm and loved every minute of it.

Deb's sister (and family) are trying to make it to Spearfish today (started yesterday evening from STL), but looks like they won't find open roads until tomorrow sometime. We had a rough trip, but they are in the middle of a WHOPPER!

We are pretty much taking easy the rest of the afternoon and going to keep warm and cozy. Enjoy the photo and clip dump below:

Friday, December 25, 2009

THE DRIVE and Christmas in the Black Hills

How in heck do I describe exactly what we experienced Christmas eve. Probably one of the top three longest and toughest days I have had in my life.

Wednesday after work Deb, Ian, and I headed to SGF for Eball's basketball game. The boys played the toughest game of the year, but came up a little short in the end. End of session #1 and we ended up 6-5 (much better than how we started last year). Everyone is looking forward to session #2, which starts the first week of January.

We got home late and while the boys headed to bed Deb and I loaded up the Durango so in the morning all we had to do is wake up the kids and immediately head out. There were several travel warnings for northern MO, and western NE and SD so we were working with Jim A to create alternate routes (just in case). I think it was a little after midnight when our heads hit the pillow.

4am and the alarm goes off (this is going to be a long day). Deb gets ready while I run to the office and get some daily requirements done quickly. Get home, load the boys, and we are on the road in the rain at 4:45am heading to western South Dakota at the northern point of the Black Hills (Deb's folks home) for a week.

I'll preface the rest of this by saying the usual route to the Appleby Lodge (gorgeous house up on a small mountain side) is to get to KC then take 29 all the way to Sioux Falls, SD then straight across 90 to Rapid City then a quick run up to Spearfish. The whole trip from Bolivar usually takes around 15 hrs.

Everything is going well until we get a little north of St. Joe, MO; that's when the rain started freezing on the road and after a quick unplanned drift I back it down to 30mph (the flow of what traffic was on the road - very little). Less than a mile from that point we came upon a 'fresh' 5 car (one tractor trailer) wreck. Emergency vehicles were just on scene so we kept creeping. After a quick discussion with Jim A (monitoring weather/highway conditions all day for us) it was decided to shoot off through Lincoln, NE and get west before heading north again. After 3hrs of crawling along and just a little west of Lincoln one lane on 80 Hwy opened some so the pace quickened. The issue turned then from slick roads to white-out conditions and intense high winds. It was a fight to keep the rig driving straight. Another briefing with Jim had us jump off of 80 and take a smaller hwy (NE 2) heading west and a little north. At first this road was snow and ice packed, but after a little bit it cleared nicely. At Broken Bow, NE (about 9 hrs in) Deb took over driving for a spell to give me a break.
The boys have always been super travelers and they know the rule - we stop, I gas, they pee, then back on the road. We pack food before we leave and very rarely do we stop for food. We have got it down pretty solid and we can make great time. In the below clip Ian was still wearing his coat for a quick stop; it was so freaking cold outside he refused to take it off for most of the trip - funny.
So outside of Broken Bow as fast as things turned bad earlier the roads and skies cleared up (a relative term now) and it was fairly speedy travel across middle NE and the Sand Hills. At Alliance (west side of the state) I jumped back in the driver's seat (Deb's two hours break was AWESOME) recharged and ready for the push straight north. The roads quickly became patchy with snow and ice again and the sun was dropping fast. Hwy 385 is a good road that cruises straight into Black Hills foothills of NE and SD (would be scenic if it hadn't required 100% concentration). but we averaged probably 45-50mph for 2 1/2 hrs until we hit Hwy 79 outside of Hot Springs, SD. Open and clean roads were a nice change all the way to Spearfish and a lock into 4-wheel drive got us up the 'hill' to Jim and Linda's casa (a sweet sight!) around 8:15 mountain time (9:15 CST). 16 1/2 hrs was way faster actually then what we originally estimated considering the conditions and I credit that to the 'pit stop' like stops for gas and self-relief. Deb was great at keeping the conversation going, XM 80's and 90's station rocked, but the best time killer was the unexpected text picture of Ira in his undies that Deb intercepted on my Crackberry (CLASSIC moment) to say the least; all of us were dying with laughter.
Many hugs were passed around, food was consumed, cookies were made and left for Santa, and not too long later the boys (and I for a short period) were deep in dreamland. Deb woke me and project SANTA went into full effect. All the presents were brought out, Santa's cookies and milk and reindeer carrots were eaten, and then it was time for the rest of us to hit the hay. It was a little past midnight and it felt like it had been a couple days since last relaxing with sleep.

Christmas morning '09 and I am up at 6am and can't go back to sleep. I get around, check Twitter, hit some core strength, then wait for the boys to come to life. Outside was absolutely beautiful as the snow was falling and the wind was whipping the white stuff around. Around 7:30 Deb and I finally give Ian a nudge, remind him what day it was, and he quickly springs to life. It was fun watching him try to figure where he was and how to get to the Christmas tree (since he was half asleep and in a different house)... Ian woke Jake and we all gathered by the tree for the reading of scripture. After the true Christmas story it was time to rip into the paper.
Above is pictures looking out their deck and usually the outside view is a mountain in the distance, but this morning it was nowhere to be seen.
Several items seemed to be a hit and for Ian it was the Texas Longhorns Colt McCoy jersey and Rock Band (with all the instruments). Deb snagged me Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 so say goodbye to sleep for Jake and I. We have nothing planned for the rest of the day, but to hang out, play some games, and chow on Jim's ribs this evening. I imagine more of the below will take place...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Best Christmas Song of All Time

Later they updated it to the below

If you need a little more recent/updated version check out the below

Monday, December 21, 2009

Twas The Weekend Before Christmas...

For one reason or another this year's build up to Christmas has been flat and I don't care for that much. Could be our kids are older and this is probably Ian's last year of believing in Santa (although I'm pretty sure he is on the fence but doesn't want to admit he's not real just in case he is), Deb and I have been busier with other things than in the past, a combination of the two, or who knows. One thing for certain is there seems to be so many 'activities' on a regular basis these days unlike when I was a kid when those were far and few between that Christmas was a huge production/celebration. It seemed Dec 25th would never get here and that pop's scripture readings lasted half of the day (they didn't, but it sure felt like it was it was all that stood between you and wrapped packages); now it's just another drive here or time spent there like any other 'activity' we do on a regular basis. Somewhere out there the Grinch is smiling... and I'm finding it harder and harder to wear one of my own.

***When looking for a good blog picture I debated between traditional Grinch or Jimmy C Grinch as I am a fan of both, but since I reflected on my youth I went 'old school' Grinch***

Deb has been under the weather since Thursday (but is back to full-Deb mode now) so it was a relatively quite and easy weekend. The boys knock everything back a step or two when mom is not at her best (which hardly happens) and it's great to see how much they pamper and take care of her.

Friday I snuck in a solid run a little over an hour at noon; about the same time the kids got out of school for Christmas break. I took Jake and Ian to SGF for the afternoon/evening, which started off with a Courts basketball game for Ian (sometimes the best medicine is peace and quiet so I gave Deb a big dose). The boys played their best game of the year so far and easily won 17 to 10(6-4 right now with one to go). Last game is Wednesday night so we are guaranteed a winning session. After b-ball we grabbed some food with my mom and dad and then we did some shopping for mom. Both Jake and Ian were in good spirits which made for a fun evening with a lot of laughs. Interestingly the boys each had specific items they wanted to get their mom so it made for easy and quick stops.

Saturday morning temp was 22* and the wind chill had it below 10* so Ira and I called off the AM trail run. The entire Jones crew was full of laziness the entire day, except for my 1:10hr run on the dreadmill in the afternoon. We skipped our Sunday School's Christmas party as Deb was still not 100% and it turned out nice and restful. Deb and I caught some movies on TV while I worked on repacking wheel bearings (two sets down and one to go). SNL topped off the evening before system shutdown.

Sunday I wanted Deb to continue to recover so Jake and I went to church while she and Ian (now battling a cough) stayed home. After lunch I hopped out to the city park and got in 1:15hrs of running mostly the trails on the outer perimeter. That was my third hour+ run in as many days and although I am getting my 'running legs' back they were starting to feel the new type of workouts/loads (Monday is off). Returned in time to grab Ian and Deb to see Avatar (Jake was already going with a couple friends). Interestingly good flick, but maybe not as hyped as I hoped. I do want to see it in the 3D version though and imagine it would take it to the level I was expecting. Ian loved it. Got back home for a ton of Bananagram games with Deb before kicking back for a little Sunday Night Football.

Take a look at the below picture and you'll see the 'designer' print our cat made on one of Deb's sugar cookies...

The boys are hanging out together this week and Jake always does a good job of humoring his bro (when it is required). Jake pulled out a huge container of Legos the other day and Ian is having a great time playing with them. I mention this because historically Ian would set up toys for display and simply look at them, but this time he is creating various 'ships' and 'rockets' and playing. Along with this is the 20 hrs (per day) of SportsCenter for E. It's pretty nice for me as I don't have to watch and he gives me most stats and updates at request.

So they are killing tome together until we leave for South Dakota Wednesday night (that's right I said 'night'). Ian's last session game is at 8pm so we'll finish up around 9pm, grab some food for the road, drive by Bolivar on our way to 'however long I can make it before getting too tired'; hopefully somewhere near Omaha, NE. This will be the first Christmas for Deb's folks to host the holiday in their home in years. Everyone is looking forward to family time, snow mobiling, and skiing (and hopefully some of Jim's smoked ribs). I hope to get Jake and myself on some XC skis once or twice. During the visit Jake (along with Deb and I) is visiting Black Hills State University (one of two places for whom he is looking to run and study). The school is lining up a XC coach for him on the visit.

Ran across some info on an mid-Sept '10 event in Branson that has got me thinking... wouldn't mind going sub-5hrs again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mid-Week Report

Quick catch on the week so far...

Woke up Monday morning and my crud was still in full effect. Was hoping to get a solid start on the 'run training' so at noon I went to the gym and jumped up on the dread mill. I was looking for an hour, but after fighting the hack, cough, and snorting I exited with 40 minutes. Legs felt great, but need to give my body a couple more days of easy activity before loading it up. Monday after work Ian and I shot some hoops at SBU before coming home to dinner. Did a little bike prep work on the Blue and mtb, but nothing too major.

Jake is working some odd jobs with a retired pastor and a friend for the next handful of days and tonight was his first 'clock in'. Tonight they are working outside hanging some tin on a barn and then some insulation installation. I made sure he was dressed warm as the evening temps are in the 20's. He returned later looking forward to helping out later this week as he really liked the 'boss' and has never minded hard work when required.

Tuesday had me feeling a little better, but not great. Ran 30 min prior to an hour of basketball. After work Ian and I had basketball practice while Deb and Marla exercised at SBU. Got home to some homemade Chicken N Noodle soup and the rest of the evening was kicked back relaxation.

Wednesday I took the boys to a local breakfast eatery before school and there Ian started complaining of stomach pains. By the time we left he was in tears so I kept him home from school. Little knucklehead was sick for most of the morning then started feeling better around lunch. Deb and I swapped off staying with him at home, but I snuck him out to the gym at lunch for 1 1/2 hrs of basketball (I played he watched).

Let me interject something here in reference to my basketball. These sessions are not a bunch of locals slugging up and down the court at turtle's pace, this is the equivalent of an intensive interval session with most in attendance past (very recent) collegiate players. There is little chit chat as we get up and down the floor at breakneck speeds and games are physical and competitive as no one wants to lose.

After work it was another great restful evening as E and I watched the Thunder play Dallas and Deb grabbed a book and a tub. Jake had a handful of 'social' events and I don't expect to see him until later.

Right now I am splitting my time between typing this in and watching Ian playing some NBA Live on the xbox360. He's got 10 minutes before his hiney needs to be in bed. He is back to full strength so he'll be back at school tomorrow.

Jake's finals are this week, but he seems to have a solid hold on prep (at least he hopes so).

Tomorrow is supposed to be super nice weather (in the 50's), but I have a full agenda on my plate so will push next run to Friday (back to cold and snow/rain).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekend of Sniffles

Head cold jumped on me pretty hard Friday afternoon and zapped any motivation and energy to run this past weekend. Usually it would drive me nuts to skip some training and I would end up doing it anyways and making me more sick. But you know what, it's December and my racing season is done and I simply smiled (along with sneezed, coughed, and snorted) all weekend as it was the perfect time to get sick. Outside of a couple 'fun' trail running races in January and February I don't have anything of focus until March or April when I'll race a handful of mtb events; and of those I use them to build fitness so I am enjoying some down time.

Friday after work Jake, Ian, and I knocked out some local Master Wongs. That's right, we love the whole-in-the-wall experience which has the cheapest Cashew Chicken that tastes the BEST. After that Ian and I headed over to watch BHS basketball games while Jake met up with some friends to do what teenagers in Bolivar do - nothing. Deb met us later on at the game, which turned out to be a close win for the home team. Afterwards we returned home to a house of around 15-18 high school kids hanging out and watching movies. Ian, Deb, and I retreated to our bedroom and watched some NBA until late into the night; Eball ended up crashing in our bed until morning.

Saturday morning Ira, Jake, and I were supposed to hit some trail running, but none of us felt well so we skipped it. Not a whole lot was accomplished during the day as the main focus was centered around goofing off and staying warm. Mid-afternoon a bunch of folks got together at Tom and Sarah (pictured right) Jones' flat to watch the Bolivar Christmas parade. Sad parade in my opinion as several of the vehicles were sole advertisements with no theme or extras. The kids all made a crazy haul on candy. The Brown crew (all 98 of them - just kidding only 6) made the scene and Ira always adds some life to any gathering.

The rest of the afternoon found Ian and I at the gym shooting baskets (most him while I watched). He has to be close to getting his 10,000 hrs (that will make sense if you read Outliers). Saturday evening was spent at SBU watching the men's basketball team extend the NCAA's longest home winning streak to 37. No late bedtime for us afterwards as we were all spent.

Sunday was just another laid-back and relaxing day as the head cold was still there (no AM run for me). Cleaned out the garage before heading off to Church in the morning, ate some Mexican chow with some friends at lunch, played some Halo3 and then basketball with Ian, vac'ed and cleaned Deb's Camry, tore down the Blue, played some poker with the boys, got home to find Deb made some chocolate chip/mint cookies (YUM!), watched the end of Giants/Eagles, and then called it a day. Great weekend of nothingness and relaxation.

My brother has a unique way to finding unusual food products and it is generally focused around the MASS QUANTITY of a particular item. Barrel of cheese puffs and pork rinds, gallons of whole pickles, and the list goes on and on. This past week he added the below item which to me has topped the list; its the Yard-O-Beef summer sausage 'club' that is slowly being snacked on. The picture actually does not do it justice.

As mentioned before, the Blue is in pieces and slowly being cleaned, lubed, and brought back to life (finalized around Jan 1). I do this every year to keep me focused on unfocusing on riding. By the time January rolls in I am dying to ride and feel rejuvenated and fresh; ready for another 11 months of riding and racing. Time of mental recovery is important as in the past I continued to ride year round (easy to do when in South Texas) and by May or so I am fried and ready to sell all cycling products like THIS guy. This doesn't work for everyone as a handful of buddies are already burning up the trainers/rollers in preparation for 2010, but I know what works for me and December time off is it. I still run four to five days a week (a minimum 1 hr per) and hit the strength/core work several days, but just not on the rig. That being said I do keep my mtb in the ready in case someone wants to knock out an 'epic' (sorry Scotty, had to do it to you) to Syllamo or Berryman...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Night in the Museum... Not Exactly

So Jake is at that point in his youth that a profession direction is starting to take shape. For years and years he has expressed interests in a (non-specific) medical field. He has shaped his high school class toward this and his high marks in the sciences and mathematics has reflected likewise. He is in the process of narrowing down colleges with strong medical related undergrad programs. On a side note: Jake got picked by school personnel as a finalist to attend Missouri Boy's State this summer. Not quite clear of the rest of the process, but hopefully he will be selected to go as it's a fun week and great on a college selection resume (I went the summer of my senior year).

Shift to one of my main guys Ira Brown for a moment. Religion studies in college (many moons ago), built up a quality house framing business at the same time having 4 children with a phenomenally patience and smok'in hot wife (his words not mine, but I agree... about the patience part and I am not allowed to comment on the second part), and last winter they decided to wipe part of their slate clean and he went back to college to nab some undergrad stuff before entering into SBU's Physical Therapy Doctoral (3 year) program. His entire demeanor since this change is crazy as now he has a passion and desire like I had not seen in the years prior. This guy has more things juggling in the air in his life, but is absolutely beaming about it all. Not only is he in the PT program, but sets the grade curve for his class. I get a kick out of hearing the latest he studied on our rides.

With all the above said, yesterday evening was a super big treat for Jake (and I) as Ira got us in the SBU PT cadaver lab. It was awesome and absolutely enlightening and I practically had to drag Jake out of there as he and Ira were having a good time together. I have been around dead (recently dead) bodies before, but this didn't have that type of feel at all and was purely scientific. Jake really looks up to Ira in many ways and this was just another level of pedestal he is on now. One thing I always have liked is the way Ira doesn't treat/talk to Jake like a kid, but more along the peer lines; Jake loves that. Thanks tons, my friend as that experience was AWESOME.

Earlier Thursday evening Ian and I spent some quality time... that's right, shooting baskets at SBU. He is really working hard on his left hand shooting (already solid with the dribbling). The college team just finished practice so several were around to give him a hard time while shooting - he just beams with the attention.

Got home, ate, hit SBU Dead Zone, and came back in time for Jim A and I to continue our Spades winning streak against Deb and her mom. Afterwards I walked through and saw Jake playing some Halo 3 (we hadn't played that in ages) so when he slipped off to bed I jumped on - BIG MISTAKE! Sometime around 2am I come staggering into bed. I guess that's the price one has to pay to be declared Defender of the Earth (hating life this morning).

Deb took today with my mom and sister-in-law to finalize some Christmas shopping in SGF (changed it from SPR). I am pounding caffeine trying to keep the lids from shutdown. We are heading to BHS boys basketball games tonight.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So What Now... Forest Gump'in It

With 'cross 09 in the rear view mirror I am turning my attention to a some light running (bigger miles, just low effort). As mentioned before Jake and I are running the SwampStomper (16miler) in Memphis mid-January and I am toying around the idea of adding the Sylamore 50k or taking the boy to KC for the PsychoWyco 20miler both in mid/early February (that is if I find my running legs before then). I have ran a couple days a week during 'cross season with the longest a 45 minute effort, but I suspect as usual it will take a week or two and I will be cruising a couple hours at a time.

Prior to '09 I had used early winter to get in easy base running miles for upcoming adventure races, but now that I am staying clear of that nonsense I am tossing the bike aside for a month (or more) and lacing up the runners simply because I love running in winter; especially trail running. A couple years back I logged a ton of miles (no speed work just a lot of miles) in prep for my first road marathon and 50k trail race and they both turned out pretty good. Last year when 'cross finished I donned the sneaks and took Jake to his initiation into trail running so I held off the longer races and he and I did a 1/2 marathon and the SwampStomper 25k. ***Picture top right is Jake and I at the Run for the Ranch 1/2. Picture below and right: Jake had no idea of the rewards of trail running (SwampStomper '08) when Cynthia laid a big one on his cheek. Careful this year Cynch as he just might turn to you at the last second***

This year Jake asked if he could knock out a marathon over winter break and although his mileage has been solid (and I'm sure he could do it easily) I just refuse to have his 16yr old body pound the asphalt that distance. I see nothing good coming of that. So we will stick to the 16miler in January and then have him turn his focus to the shorter stuff on the track for spring.

So the plan was to finish state 'cross on Sunday, take a couple days off and lay low, and then dig out the running legs for the back of the closet and see how they fit. It's now Thursday, freezing cold outside (and nutty windy) and I am trying to find the courage to face the early morning jaunts. Looks like I will move to the dreadmills at SBU until the temps get above 30*. This Saturday morning Jake and I are meeting a group and trail running at Busiek.

Monday was a home SBU b-ball game (another win). Sat with Wes and Marla and enjoyed the evening.

Tuesday I played some basketball at noon. After work Ian and I had basketball practice (while Deb paced it out with Marla at SBU) then came home to some home-cook'in chili (good stuff). I hopped out to the shop and started breaking down bikes and doing a little rescue services on Coach Bandy's Cannondale (or what's left after running it over with his truck). A buddy of his donated an old Barracuda rig and I am swapping over some parts from the C'dale to the 'cuda.

Yesterday after work I went with a buddy to Joplin for an SBU/MSSU basketball game. Had good conversation and the game went SBU's way so overall a solid night. Sounds like Ian and Deb caught some Christmas shows on the tube while Jake did his Focus thing.

Rest of the week is pretty low-key and looking forward to several non-travel weekends hanging out with the crew.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2009 Cyclocross a Wrap

It comes and goes so fast and seems it takes forever for it to come around again. No, I'm not talking about Christmas or the holiday season, I'm talking about the freaking best cycling discipline ever created - 'Cross, baby!

Friday after work we (Deb, Jake, Ian, and I) met the Appleby's at our local Mexican joint and wolfed down some dinner. After that Ian and I scooted over to Buffalo to watch Bolivar High play in a basketball tourney. After the game we met Deb and her folks motor home and played some Spades (Jim and I kicked some booty - again!). Jake was having some friends (so it was many more than SOME) over so we snuck in, got Ian in bed, and we crashed without many kids even knowing we were there.

Saturday came early and the crew headed to SPR for Ian's basketball game (at 8:20am). We were short a couple kids, but the boys there played great and we nabbed a 22-19 win. Afterwards Deb met up with a friend and they Christmas shopped the rest of the day while Ian, Jake, and I grabbed some breakfast with Jim A and Linda. The boys and I did some lite shopping of our own and made our way back to Bolivar a little after noon. I spent a little afternoon time helping a couple friends work on the Pose Method of running (as I have used this technique for the past 6 yrs or so and it's always good for beginners to see it in action). Later on Ian and hit the gym to shoot (at his begging request) around and play some 1-on-1. Ian is the team's best ball handler and passer so he doesn't get very many looks at the basket (shots in layman's terms) during his games so it is not uncommon for us to go shoot after a game. The rest of the afternoon was pretty laid back with Jake hanging out and Ian and I watching some basketball on TV. Later in the evening Deb returned and she and Ian went to an SBU basketball game, Jake had some friends over, and Ira and I headed out to stay the night with a buddy of his in Jeff City (2 1/2 hr drive out of the way instead of driving in the morning). Big thanks to Nick, owner of Red Wheel bike shop and fearless leader of Team Red Wheel, for letting us crash for the night. Will return the favor if you get to the SPR area.

It was great not having to pack up and leave Bolivar at 5am as we got up around 7am and took our time heading east to Hermann. Ira's biggest concern of the day was whether or not they were going to serve the same BBQ from the Herman Under the Lights race (he wasn't joking either - serious stuff). We got on site pretty early and it gave us some time to preview and walk the course... OK, I am lying, we stayed the heck in the car with the heater on until we HAD to get out. It was below 30 for the early parts of the morning and it climbed to the mid-30*s after noon. We did go to registration, picked up our numbers (I dropped the Cat 3 race as I figured I didn't have a back to back in me), took a look at some of the course, and headed back to warmth. The parts of the course we did look at had a light freeze on the top, but quickly found a slush of mud underneath as riders broke the top layer. By the time my race at noon came I anticipated a slippy day (and I wasn't wrong).

Via Twitter got the bad news that Crusty wasn't going to make it to the race. He has had a rough 'cross season with sickness and for as much crap as I give it absolutely sucks for him and us that we only got to race a couple events together. Take some time, shake yourself, and get back in the game for '10. On a similar note: Frustrating year for ScottyD to some point as his job schedule played havoc with his racing and he was really coming on with his latest races. Turned out we shared a handful of rides to and from events, but not nearly as many as I initially planned.

Back to the event... So Ira's Cat 4 race started at 11am so around 10 or so he was out pre-riding and upon his return it was obvious the mud (sticky type) had already reared it ugly head. He had gone down a couple time (in warm up) and commented on how all corners were loosening up and slick as snot. He also commented on it being on the cold side (he was wearing a couple layers) so I broke out the Big Shark THERMAL suit. I love my MWI gear, but thermal was the obvious choice of the day and will put a MWI one on top of my list for '10.

Prior to Ira's race I got out on the course and took two preview laps; each one with less and less tire pressure. The layout was wide open for the most part, but the introduction of the crazy slick turns (just about every one of them) and mud bogs was what I needed to keep this from being a grass crit. I took ScottyD's words from the St. Mary's race a couple weeks earlier to heart and decided to find my rhythm and ride it without trying to push past my capabilities and it seemed to work OK during warm ups.

THE COURSE: Long (and I mean long) opening paved straight start dropping onto the grass for a couple 180s to a low barrier section (see pics below). There was a choice to be made as they were ridable, but at what cost if you goofed on one of them so I ran them each time during the race and neither gained nor lost ground on those hopping them (if they cleared all)...

From there it weaved thru some turns leading to the MUD BOG (see below), which wasn't super long, but strength and speed zapping. Pick a line and try to ride as straight as possible and go with whatever happens...

Next was an off-camber pretty steep climb that was ridable for a few, but I opted the safe and steady run up every trip. After a quick flat it was straight down the other side to a flat section that was a little slick...

To a series of wide turns that was a Slip-n-Slide for everyone as numerous folks bit it here. During the race cash was sprouting out of the ground (I passed on the easy money)...

After a little pavement and a couple turns you ended up at a stair run up (same one he always uses)...

Then some twists and turns leading to a barrier section and then a sand pit...

Finally some more easy turns looping back to the start/finish area (50 meters on asphalt). Good layout and like I said before it would have been a super fast one if it was dry.

Went over to catch the start of Ira's race. He ended up with a 3rd row start and looked pretty good at the onset. He bit it a couple times, struggled with the mud some, but looked strong in the dry and dismount areas, and finished 16th.

I spent most of Ira's race on the trainer and then headed over to my start (Masters 40+). I kept telling myself to ride at my ability and don't get outside of what I can ride even others are riding away - steady. Jeff Yielding, promoter, did a nice job of stagger starting the age groups. Funny thing is it was supposed to be 30 seconds between, but it ended up being more like 10-15 seconds. I got a decent start and was in the top 4 going to the first set of barriers. Quickly a Big Shark guy and a 360 guy (Jenks) slipped off the front; I initially went after them, but found a couple bobbles in the mud had me remembering my strategy - steady. I backed off, got in my effort level, and never saw them again. From the 1/2 way of the first lap to the last 1/2 of the last lap I was on my own holding off a couple chasers by 15-20seconds. T. Flemming (360 guy in the Masters 45+) was 5-10 seconds behind me for 90% of the race and a couple times I sat up a little hoping to get some help on the long straight aways but the chasers weren't far off him so I would pick it back up. Flemming caught me on the last lap as the two chasers had faded and after a quick audible acknowledgement of different age categories I rode his wheel for a while. It became obvious that although no one was close to him he was trying to drop me so I bidded my time, he got out of the saddle in the closing meters, so I punched it and finished a little ahead (show in above picture); it was fun so no big deal.

Long and short of it - I ScottyD'ed it (steady and smooth) and finished 3rd (in the money) and since Jenks was a Kansas guy I got 2nd place for the state title. I'll be honest, since Winkler didn't show I was hoping to win, but whoever the Big Shark guy was he earned it as he rode away from all of us quickly. Brought home some cash, bottle of wine, and a silver state medal. ...and by the way, the thermal suit was the best spot-on clothing choice and Greyhound Juice (HOT) did exactly what is was made for.

Ira and I stayed around and watched part of the 3 race and tried to knock off some of the mud before turning the Camry southwest.

***All above pictures compliments of Ira Brown photography skills***

Here is a great clip of a run through of the course during the Masters race (I pass by on the first barrier section). The guy filming was in the 35+ age group I believe.

Got home in time for a gathering of friends at the casa to watch the season finally of Amazing Race, did some scrubbing and laundry, watched a little Sunday Night NFL, then off to bed.

JY does a great job with his races and truly has a passion for putting on quality events. He has moved to Rock Star Race Promoter status in my book as he paid out cash to each of the master categories at state. His events are well worth the long drives from SWMO and will be a staple on my calendar for 2010. Jeff, sorry I won't make your upcoming races as it's time to hang up the cycling shoes and slip on the trail runners.

Using this week to break down the Blue and prep it for some road work come after the New Year. This has been a great 'cross season and I'm so glad to be fully back in the mix. Got to meet and know some great folks and race some new venues. Extremely excited about 2010 cycling as I plan to do a close repeat of what I did this year: spring mtb'ing, summer crits, and fall is 'CROSS. Running miles (more than I already do) starts tomorrow morning with trail running on the weekends as I prep for Jake and I's Memphis race in January.

OK, to a whole different topic: For most of my life I have tried desperately to avoid growing up and for the biggest part I have succeeded, but today Deb and I bought our first piece of commercial real estate and for why I don't know I have mixed feeling about it as it is making me feel more 'responsible and grown up'. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of everyday 'big boy' responsibilities, but for some reason this one is making me feel 'older' (let the comments start now Crusty...). Whining I am not, just trying to figure out why I am wrestling with this; maybe it's because another cycling season has come and gone and I am feeling the affects... or maybe it's because I am ACTUALLY getting OLDER. For whatever reason it is THIS STINKS!