Tuesday, March 19, 2013


On Saturday March 9 at 8:02 am I took off down the 45 K long course of the Fat Bike Birkie.  The race kicked my ass to say the least.  After I finished and got home I spent the rest of the day in bed - except for when I took a shower...and then when I was tired of standing but loved the warm water and laid down in the tub and it became a bath.

[why 8:02 when the official start was at 8:00?  About 30 seconds before the gun went off I realized that I hadn't attached my number to the front of my bike as I was supposed to.  I rode back to the car, threw it on, headed back to the start line, and started late.]

I'm thinkin' that the guy in the Mapei jersey was wearing it ironically

It was beautiful in a soggy, dreary way

At least I wasn't the only one struggling with the constant hills
OK, let me back up a bit so all this makes sense.

I have barely ridden since Arrowhead.  I'm guessing that I've been on a handful of ~5 mile rides all at an easy pace.  So I was out of shape - but thought that I'd have enough residual fitness to see me through the race with a decent showing and without falling to pieces.  So I started the race at a fairly decent pace - the trails were in almost ideal shape and I think that I was averaging roughly 10 mph.  Not too good, but not too bad.  It seems like no matter how much I train, whenever a race comes around that's how I do anyway.  By mile 8 or 10 it became clear that I was going to be having problems if I didn't back off.  So I did and by the halfway point my average speed was 8.5 mph.  And then the bottom really dropped out.  My legs were cramping up, and had no oomph to them at all.  I felt empty.  It was lightly raining throughout the race - and barring an unplanned stop (to fix a flat, or a broken chain, etc) it's fine to be wet because you're putting off enough body heat to make up for what's being sapped by the wetness.  I had so little energy that I couldn't work hard enough to build up enough body heat to be really comfortably warm.  I mean, I was fine but usually in those conditions I'd be easily working up a sweat - and as much of the dampness in my clothing would come from perspiration as rainfall.

It took me over 4 hours to finish a silly 45k race (just over 28 miles).  It took the winner under 2 hours.

It all got me to thinking: that even though the atmosphere of the race was fun, and, as far as I could tell, it was all well-organized (in fact I can't really think of how they could improve it much) maybe racing is just not my thing anymore.  It used to be.  Back in high school and college bike racing was kinda my thing.  I trained - and trained for speed.  I was OK but I guess I feel like I never really got the results I thought I "deserved" for training so long and hard.  Then I had some health issues that kept me off a bike for almost 3 years (though I did get myself a recumbent trike and rode that). 

When I finally relearned to ride a bike again I guess I didn't really have the drive it takes to suffer enough (in training or during a race) to be truly fast anymore.  Oh, I rode lots and was decently fast.  But when push came to shove others would just ride away from me.  And I let them.  I used to drive me nuts to be the slow one - now I just didn't care (I still don't like being the absolute last one in a group ride so it's not as if I don't care at all).  I was just happy to be riding again.  I suppose I'd make some effort to keep up - but when it called for sustained or intense suffering I would quietly fall off their pace and, more or less happily, ride my own pace.

More and more bike racing seems, to me, like racing a canoe.  When you're riding a bike (or in a canoe) it seems to me that you should be looking around and enjoying the beautiful landscape you're in - not trying to blast through it as fast as you can. 

Of course this assumes that you're riding through a beautiful landscape - we have lots of that in northern Wisconsin.

Friday, March 8, 2013


A few days back I loaded my snowshoes onto my fatbike and took off down the trail.  Early catch and release trout season will be here in a couple of weeks (it's already here in other parts of the state), I wanna get out, and snow is still covering the ground about a foot and a half deep.  Not so much that I couldn't walk without snowshoes but it was easier with them on...and I just like using them anyway.

 The place that I was scouting was really less than 2 miles away and so after a short ride I was locking my bike up (which was undoubtedly unnecessary because even though I was on public land it was at the end of a dead end road and there were no fresh tracks around) and strapping on my snowshoes. 


"Smug" is definitely not the word for it.  Maybe something more like "satisfied" - yeah, that's it - I feel satisfied when I use my bike to get around (especially when I'm doing something like hauling a load of stuff along, like stuff to donate to the thrift store, or chicken feed, or snowshoes...when most people would use a car.  Not only use a car but think it's insane to do it any other way).  Don't get me wrong: I do use a car most days - and it's not that I feel bad about that...there are somethings you just plain can't do on a bike - or at least it'd be extremely inconvenient to try some things - it's just that doing something that's easy to do on a bike (such as haul snowshoes) when most people would use a fossil fuel powered machine to do the same thing makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

So anyway, I had parked my bike and strapped on the snowshoes and took off hiking.  Maybe 20 minutes later I was standing next to the creek I was heading out to look at.  

 Last year on the opening day of trout season I rode my bike down to the a spot where the road crosses the creek.  There's a small parking lot there so it's fairly obvious and well-known.  When I pulled up on my bike there were nine vehicles there.  I can't remember which four letter word I used but I'm sure that I used one when I saw the other cars.  I didn't even string up.  This creek was only open down from the bridge so I left my rod, got on my waders and hiked up.

Last winter was freakishly warm for northern Wisconsin and we had had little snow, days were warm so what little snow we had had long since melted and run off previously and now the water was running clear.  It was nice to get out even though I didn't have the rod with me.

Actually it was kinda nice to have any pressure to catch fish totally off my back.  And although I love feeling a fish tugging at the end of my line I really was just happy to get out.

After I got a chance to look over the stretch of stream I had set out to scout I was happy I'd come.  I pretty much knew what I'd find - I fish often a little ways upstream and have fished downstream too - but even though it was no surprise it was nice to see the deep holes, clear water and lots of woody stuff for fish to hide in (although I'm sure I'll lose some flies to the wood and bitch at them when I'm actually out fishing...but for now it's nice to see).  I helped out volunteering last summer for an electroshocking survey in a stretch of this stream up from here and there was a good population of trout up there - including some big fish that were over 25".  So I know that they're in there.  I kinda suck and don't catch 'em though.  But I'm working on it.

I had been going for bike rides and stopping to gaze at the little feeder creeks that I hope to catch a few fish out of this summer.  They're small but they're close-to-home, spring-fed and hopefully will give up a few small brook trout this summer. 

I haven't caught a brook trout in years.  Actually it was when I was first learning and I caught them pretty much by accident.  Well, maybe I shouldn't say "accident" because I was trying to catch them - it's just that I knew next to nothing about what flies to use and how to fish them and how to cast and etc.  That I caught anything at all can be more attributed to beginners luck (although there were plenty of times I got skunked...actually come to think of it there still are) than much of any competency.

One of the small creeks that I hope will hold brook trout.