Thursday, December 31, 2009

Silver Speak

I have been listening to Blindside since the late 90's. There a band that consistently progresses every album but always keeps whatever it is that makes them Blindside. I was on a long drive a while ago and popped this album in, I forgot how much I enjoyed it. As Swedes they know hardcore. I would say this is their hardest album, not so much this song though. I couldn't find any video for this song, but here are the lyrics. Look for their new album early 2010!

Blindside: Silver Speak
from A Thought Crushed My Mind

They spoke their minds
As I stood there smiling
This brain understood their arguments
So I just stood there
Keep on smiling
Cause it's not on me they're throwing their darts
So why are they heading this way for my heart?

How come I'm the one bleeding
When you're the one being cut
And every stabbing word about you stings

An allergic reaction towards all of this
Have to respond, although without an answer back
And I throw everything back into their face
Hear my own stupid sentences and I have lost track

You have strength beyond words
And you have communication beyond my words

This battle is not mine
I try to forget
Every time they spit your name out on the sidewalk
And I will let the candle shine inside me without any regret
But where's your voice in all my talk

I'm an ant trying to protect my dinosaur friend

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter Riding

Last year I decided that I would take up cross country skiing for some winter fun and to work out. I spent about 2 months trying to track down boots that would fit my feet. Apparently, my feet are already ski-sized according to most cross country ski boot manufacturers. I have since given up on the idea. However, I have not given up on winter fun and working out. Therefore, I am a proponent of winter biking.

This year we hadn't gotten any snow on the East Side until the week of Christmas, so my winter ride of choice had been going out after dark for a couple of hours on Sunday nights. The winter ride after dark makes familiar road routes seem totally new.

Once we got some real snow though, it was time to hit the River trail. The snow on the 24th was very wet and made some parts almost easy while anything uphill was a real challenge. It took me almost an hour longer than usual to do the full loop. The conditions change daily from here on out on the River trail, so it will be entertaining the rest of the winter.

On Saturday night I combined the night ride with the snow ride and followed the lake front south. It was lightly snowing the whole time and there were actually a lot of people on the trails, and I saw 2 other sets of tire tracks. Which means I'm not crazy to be out there. Check out this blurry night picture taken from the beach in South Milwaukee. Normally, downtown would be visible from here but at that time only the port could be seen.

It has taken me a while to figure out what to wear in what conditions, but once I got that figured out winter riding has been a blast. It makes those days on the rollers much more bearable. If anyone cares I can let them know what I do for winter gear. I can ride comfortably for about 3 hours in temps in the low teens.

Monday, December 21, 2009

River Valley Mountain

My first installment of East Side riding/training is the River Valley Mountain. I dubbed it this because it rises from the Milwaukee River up to one of the highest elevations in the area on top of an old reservoir. Now keep in mind that I am not good at estimating elevation and I exaggerate things to make myself seem cooler/tougher/more in shape, but I would have to say that from bottom to top is a 1,200 foot gain in elevation. I may be off by around 700 feet, give or take.
This first shot is from the top looking down about halfway. It was taken with my phone, so it is hard to see but you can see a white soccer goal just past the snow on the left. That is pretty close to where this second photo was taken.
This part is real steep, you can kind of tell by how small the car looks at the bottom.

These were taken today, notice how we have almost no snow on the East Side! We have ice on trails and sidewalks, that is about it. In fact, right now the River Valley Mountain is far too soft to ride up. Even when taking extreme angles switching back and forth up the hill. Which is one of my favorite repeat workouts. It starts the Hills of Doom ride which contributed to my over-training mid to late summer this year. But that is a different workout.

Being too soft to ride. I have been running straight up it and then meandering back down around to the bottom and then up again. It is one of those workouts you don't really feel until a few hours later when you get up from sitting down for a while.

Anyone care to share what their favorite hill is to run/ride? I think one caveat is that it should be reachable running or riding from your front door. River Valley Mountain is real close for me. You can actually see our condo across the river.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Cocoonish Life on the East Side

It's funny how quickly we adapt to things. Our situations change and after a brief time of acclamation we rarely notice the change at all. I bring this up because last year in August we moved back to Milwaukee, but this time to the Lower East Side, not central city. Which in itself was a change for us, but we have quickly adapted.

It wasn't a drastic change at first, in St. Louis we went down to one car and tried to live much more locally. Once we moved to the East Side it got even easier to live such a life style. I had to drive to work everyday but everything else we could walk or ride to. Well, now I work on the East Side too, and we drive maybe three to four times a week. Most of those trips are less than 5 miles.

I am to the point now where I weigh in a 15 minute drive to the decision to do something or not. Especially if we are visiting our family that week, I mean that is like a 40 minute drive one way right there! That eats up about all I can stand to be in the car these days. Don't get me wrong though, I am not militant about cars, I still drive places to ride my bike. One can't be a militant non-car person and drive places to ride a bike. I just actively do not enjoy driving.

Although, with a little imagination, I am finding ways to ride (and run these days) around where I live that keep me driving even less. I think I may share some of those in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Chili Challenge

Last Saturday we had another installment of our cook-off potlucks, "The Chili Challenge." Lauren forgot her camera so we don't have any pictures, so let me describe it to you. Sixteen people showed up supplying ten kinds of chili, all different. There was a white chicken cheesy chili, a bbq bacon beefy chili, a chocolate cha cha chili, chorizo four bean six pepper chili, Frito topped chili, beer and hot sauce chili, and everything in between!

Now, as we have been doing more of these cook-offs we are learning what is the best portion size to sample. In the past, specifically the meatball and pizza events, people were sitting around after the meal ripe for being picked off the pack by jackals. And jackals ain't fast. So this time, especially with the high chili bean content and closed space, we went with dixie cups for sampling, and then bowls once some choices had been made. It worked out well, except for the ultra manly types who felt the cups were too dainty. Of course, the same manly types were the only ones "checking" the balcony after the meal on a regular basis. Coincidence? I think not.

After eating, the whole group played Ultimate Werewolf. I know, what? About six months ago the game guru at the Board Game Barrister suggested it to me for large groups. This was the first time we actually played it. I know it has a weird name, but the game was a lot of fun. Many people couldn't get enough of it.

All in all, it was another fun night. Next up is soup. It will be in late January. If anybody reading this likes soup, beer, fancy soda, and games, (or at least one of the four) and will be in the Milwaukee area let me know.

marc.engelhardt@gmail dot com

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hales Corners--State Championships

The weather in Milwaukee has been great in November. Warm, like 50's warm. But we are getting enough rain that nothing dries out. Sucks for trail biking but rocks for cx. The course for the state championship was a singlespeeders nightmare. I loved it! There was techy twists and turns, a peanut butter extended ride up, oh, and don't forget the 3/4 mile worth of wide open flats. How does one gear for that? Well, run what you brung. Thankfully I brung a White Industries Dos 17/19. So after seeing the course in fives minutes I was back on the 19.

It had cooled off quite a bit as I surveyed the competition at the 30 + start. We had the largest field I had seen yet. There were 26 30+ open and I think 17 PRO, 1, 2's. No call ups today, just 2 lines of 13 wide. The hole shot was maybe 200 yards out. I took off fast and got into a good spot for the turn, when 3 guys came into me from both sides. After bumping shoulders a while I backed off. It would be stupid to crash at this point I thought.

This put me about 7th at the sand pit and into the first techy up and down turns. It quickly became clear that the few guys who shoved their way in front of me were now slowing me down as we rubbed tires in the corners and the top 3 gapped us.

At the first set of barriers I got in front of them, and held it until the downhill straightaway. Where one of them hopped in front of me again. Plus a guy from My Wife Inc. He kept going, while the other guy was happy to sit in front of me until the techy stuff. And here I have to apologize for being a jerk. I was audibly frustrated with his technical skills as it was killing me that the My Wife Inc rider was pulling away. Eventually, the guy just let me pass.Then it gets interesting. The past two weeks I haven't felt right the day of the races. My legs and eyes have been tired. While I have been able to ride through it, my mental game has not been on, so my barrier work has STUNK. It crept up bad on the second lap of the race in the 4 barrier section.I dropped my front wheel into the 4th barrier, losing my bike as I continued on. So, I had to go back and get my bike. Letting the guy I was racing with pull away. And it made me all discombobulated, so I turned 10ft too soon for the next turn. Forcing me to back up and start again, up hill. Ugh! That's were Patrick caught up to me.He and I worked together for a lap and a half or so as I gained my composure. I ended up losing him in the twisty trees and ride up. That is where I sat the rest of the race. Pulling in lapped riders and 1,2's, while holding off Patrick.

I came away with 6th. Saturday night I was hoping for a money spot, Sunday morning before the race I was hoping to finish. So, I'm happy with it. I am stoked for next year now that I have a better understanding of the WI off-road scene. Now it's off to the super secret single speed labs (read: my rollers and snow biking) this winter to remove my ever famous excuse of "Well, I was on a ss you see, so...."
"Eric Smash barrier"

*More photos from my wife.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wine Tasting

Saturday night, after the day's races, Reconcile hosted our first wine tasting event. It was at Trocadaro and the staff there was pretty awesome. We had the whole second floor to ourselves.
We didn't do a great job advertising this one, but word of mouth worked well. That, and the fact that it was a mere 10 dollar cover to try all the wine one wanted and eat one's fill. The food was great and we had more than enough.The best part was the fact that we got the chance to meet lots of new people and get to know others better. Afterward we headed over to Angelo's lounge which is only two blocks away. Good times. Dan did a great job arranging everything. I think we should do the whole thing again.
It was especially fun for me to hang out with people on Saturday night and then see them the next morning for worship at Mike ad Katie's place. God is good.

Polska cx

The weather has been super for cx in WI. We have had enough rain to keep the courses greasy but on race day it has been in the low 50's and mostly dry. This past Saturday was more of the same.

If you race bikes, there are certain races that when you get done you think to yourself "I can't wait for that again next year". Polska cx was one of those for me. The course is sweet and definitely mountain biker friendly.

It was the regional race so in the call-ups I got a front row spot because I have a few points in the series and there are only like 15 of us anyway. I still didn't clip in fast and get a fast start, but I was better than I have been and I was in about 7th at the first turn. And this time I wasn't letting go of the front guys, except for Will who is on a different plain of riding than I am.The little bit of running I have been doing paid off and I made some ground up on the Polska Puker. I was sitting in 3rd for a lap or 2 when I noticed that I was tracking better than Ronsta, so when I had a chance I went around him. I believe it was on the Puker again.I held 3 and 4 off for about 2 laps when a Baraboo rider politely passed me on the fast straightaway after all the hills. I looked back and Ronsta was about 30 feet back. However, he closed the gap and showed me how it is done. He flew past me, geared an inch less than me, and kept 100 meters on me for the rest of the race. I liked riding with him because he seems like a guy kind of like me who just loved the fact we were out there riding bikes real fast.While the running was good, my barrier work was toilet. I found myself scrubbing speed coming into them and my remounts were smooth like sandpaper. A good sign for me was the fact that the PROS didn't catch me on a course that blew apart the field. Also, props to Matt, who catted up from a 4 to start the season, to a 2 this week and held his own on his high-pressure ss machine, coming in 11th with the big boys. And of course Brandon with a win in the 4's, but he can tell you his story here.

The weather and the courses are bringing back fond memories of high school cross country in WI. But I haven't finished a cx race and dry heaved yet. I must not be pushing myself enough. Well, state is next week, I'll see what I can do.

As always more photos.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Estabrook cx is s'pozed to be flat and straight

That is what I was told at least. Gear big because Estabrook is a hi-speed race. Well, the organizers of the race switched it up this year apparently. It was a twisty, loopdy-loo course with a total of 5 20 inch barriers with long straights in between the techy-ness. Now, don't get me wrong, I was happily surprised with how much fun the course was.

And it was still pretty hi-speed covering 16 miles in about 55 minutes. Which also meant 11 laps. So don't expect a lap by lap retelling of the race.

I was determined to go for it at the start, but not determined enough. I did better than I have in the past races but still found myself at the end of a 10 person train. The lead group first gaped us a 1/4 mile in and I had my work cut for me. It became clear quickly to me that I was going to make up ground on the group I was in during the techy stuff and the barriers. At the same time, I got caught behind some fellows in the long twisty trees, allowing a larger gap to form from the leaders and the other chasers.

The first lap I made up 3 spots on the second set of barriers by just running past guys all the way through their mounts.Over the next 5 or 6 laps I slowly caught guys, rode with them, and moved on. Some guys were riding this hill. Kudos to them because of the 12 inch log at the bottom. I was running it.I was able to keep the hammer down most of the race and I could see 2nd and 3rd in front of me at the same place every time. That is until I got caught up on my saddle during a mount and lost another 2 or 3 seconds.

The park was busy which made it neat, but also dangerous. Going over 20mph I came up on this little girl just as she got off the path. It was a blindish corner and she was oblivious to me until I said something.
All in all, it was a lot of fun and a great day. Reconcile was giving away drinks and doughnuts almost the whole day. It was the first cx experience for most of them and I think they enjoyed it.

I came in 4th after working my way up all day. That was my second goal (top 5 in the 30+ open) for the cx season. So now I need a new one for the last two races: stay with the lead group from the start.

*Thank my wife for more photos here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is that thing real?

"Is that thing real?" That's what a I heard from more than a few folks at the costume cx race. My Bronson-stache was kicking with some 'Just for Men: Real Black' and it entranced many a person, except for my wife. She was none too happy with it. I thought it looked good, don't you think so? "No dice"
On to the races. This is the first time I have doubled up in a long time. But I wanted to race with the other guys from the team. That, and I thought it might give me some points to cat up. All I do is race open events so when I want to do a category race, it's always the entry level. I by no means thought I would destroy the 4's. You never know who will show up, and there are a lot of guys like me out there.

In the 4 race after a 10 minute warm-up I found myself at least 20 or 30 back at the start. It was hard to tell in the 90 man mass. Then a guy went down on the first downhill--part of the excitement of the entry level race. That's where I lost Brandon, Eric, and Ian. After that I spent half a lap passing people. Which meant I was in the leaves, off the beaten path a lot. I even found a few wheel-sized potholes!

After a lap and a half I found myself in 5th. Lonely and isolated. I could see Brandon and a guy working to catch me. And I could see the front 4. Working together like cool kids who didn't want me to sit at their table. I had to decide whether to work really hard to catch them, and maybe skip my second race. Or just hold on to where I was. I chose the later. Which meant 2 laps by myself in the wind, which also meant still rethinking the second race. But my friends all harassed me into it. I'm glad they did.

The 30+ masters open is almost twice as long as the 4 race and it rides with the PRO,1,2's. So I thought I'll just see what I have left and if I get lapped so be it. I took my customary place at the start--last.

With my lazy start I still beat one guy off the line. He was just out for some cx fun. It took me a little longer to catch the next couple of fellows as they went out fast. I was also fighting a quitter knee warmer for 1 and a half laps. On a flat I just pulled it off. But I was feeling good and the chase fueled me. After two laps I slowly came up on two more. I caught, passed, and left them on the run-up. After 2 more laps I slowly came up on two more guys racing each other. They were far off, but I could see the pain setting in by their body language. I had a goal and pressed forward attacking everything. I was even starting to look like a mountain biker and actually jumping the coffin barrier. I felt really good and there was a lot of support for me (at one point Travis popped out of the bushes and chased me with a 15 foot tree!).

With 3 laps left I caught one of them and left him in the wind on the uphill to the straightaway start/finish. With 1 lap left I could see the PRO,1,2 winner catching me. But I could also see more guys in my race ahead of me. On the last run-up I caught and passed my last goal racer. I laid it down. I couldn't let him be close enough to draft in the final straightaway. I held him off for one of the most fun 8th places I have ever had!

I learned that I need to break my 6hr mtb race mentality at the start of cx races. I actually need to go for the hole shot because I can't make it up over hours of riding. I am working too hard by myself. Easier said than done.

One 2009 cx goal accomplished: don't get lapped. Now for number two: top 5 in the 30 masters+ open.

*for a ton more race photos,

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mustache

I've been a bit behind on posts lately so let's do a quick catch-up. After the Blast! I rode a lot to try to heal up the bruised rib from the B! and the lingering shoulder pain from the cx race the week before. It is gone for the most part except when I really mash the pedals. I've also been able to go on more group rides than I have in a long time. Which is great, but doesn't leave much room for the rest needed for training.
Mini-bowling at Koz's was super-fun and we had a lot of folks show up. If you couldn't make it for some reason, don't fret we will definitely be doing that again!
Which brings us to today. The weather has been great for setting up some good cx racing tomorrow. Although apparently in WI cx races get canceled when the weather is primo?!? If I had the time I definitely would have been out to the Recoil to support the cause. Anywho, I am looking forward to racing at Washington Park tomorrow as 1970's Charles Bronson. Right now the plan is to ride the 4's and the master 30+ open. Should be interesting, I have doubled up in a long time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What a Blast!

Photo Courtesy of MTB girl Brittany
I wasn't planning on racing mtb's this past weekend as I am in full cx training mode, but when I got the skinny on the Blaster I couldn't pass up the opportunity. The location of the race worked out great and I was only a half hour from my nephew's birthday party happening later that day. So I was able to make it work.
I didn't bring the Big Unit out because I didn't want to get it all muddy again, that and it is still geared 36x16 and I didn't feel like messin' with it. So I rode the Kula 2-9 rigid. I haven't race rigid for over a year and it showed on this sweet techy course.
Sans and I were in the 3 lap race and about a mile in Sans jam-jobbed me at the top of a climb. I couldn't get my right foot out in time and I fell backwards and I wrapped my back around a tree. I wasn't quite the same after that, but hey I wasn't really "racing" as much as riding fast in a group anyhow. I could also feel the week's training and thought it better to take it easy. The course was too much fun to not enjoy.
And enjoy it I did. I found a little group to ride with and I was settling in nicely when a I got a puncture. Now, I brought a tube and a charger, but no CO2. Game over after 1 1/2 laps. I walked out of the course thinking "Well, this gives me more time to hang out before I have to get going." So I ate and enjoyed the fine selection of beers.
Once back at the car I found the culprit for the puncture. It was a thorn the size of my pinky. I tried to save it but I dropped it in some very long grass. I haven't fixed the tire yet, I hope I don't need to boot it, the thing is practically unused.
This is going on the calendar as a must ride next year. Great trails and an even better community atmosphere.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pizza cook-off party

I am slowly catching up on the big happenings in the past week. On Saturday night after my cx race Lauren and I hosted a pizza cook-off at our place. We have been doing cook-offs for about a year now, bringing the tradition back to WI from our friends in STL. The basic premise is a theme dish to pass. Kind of like Iron Chef meets the church basement pot luck.The pizza cook-off was ridiculous. The pictures barely do it justice. It isn't actually a competition and no one wins unless your Mike, but I have to vote for the pineapple-mandarin orange-onion-black olive-ahi tuna with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Well, basically because I made it. Hopefully if you were invited and didn't show the pictures force you to come to the next one. Which I believe is chili!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pumpkin CX

Well, after fighting off illness for much of last week, I felt up to racing on Saturday. Eric was doing his first race and I was doing this race as a way to wake up my cx legs. So even if I had to drop out it wouldn't ruin my day.
As I was waiting for my race it actually began to snow and get a little sloppy during the 3 race, it was shaping up to be a good day for cx. But by the time we lined up for our start the sun came out and it was just cold and super windy.
I had no expectations for this race so when the whistle blew I let everyone fight for the hole shot and I took up my place in last. However, it was clear that my handling skills were better then some other guys and after the first off-camber chicane I picked up a few spots. I was geared high I guess because a: I wasn't really getting dropped on the long paved straightaway *32mph max speed for the day* and b: there was no way I was riding up the big hill, even though some other ss'rs were.I was being a bit conservative so I didn't really race as much as just ride my own ride. By the third lap the lead group and chase group had about 100 meters on me. At the same time, nobody was catching me either.
I suppose I should say that my handling was good for a while. Lap 3 I didn't get my left foot out in time and tripped over the first barrier, and hopped sideways over the second one, holding my bike by the steer tube as it flipped up onto my back. At least there was a large crowd to see it. And the let me hear about it.
And then, with 2 laps left I ask the official if that was 2 laps total. He says yes. Then I ride around the corner coming back towards him and he yells something, so I look at him. Which was stupid, because the corner was not one where speed needed to be scrubbed, that is, only if you are paying attention. And I wasn't. So as I saw the tree coming I put my shoulder and head between the tree and the Major Jake. I hit pretty hard. The official was a bit concerned but I hopped right back on and did a body and bike inventory as I rode the pavement.
For a second I thought maybe I did mess up my collar bone--but thank God I didn't.About lap six I started running down a ss pro,1,2 rider. He was riding the hill, I was running it, and in 3 laps I dropped him. Halfway through my last lap, (10 or 11?) the lead two pro,1,2's caught me and I got out of their way.
So I ended up a lap down, but not out. I took 9th. I think my goal this season will be to move up the master 30 + to top 5 and not get lapped by the pro,1,2's. We'll see, I really need to get my intensity up.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


This is my first post on my personal blog and it is kind of a downer. Illnesses abound around me and I fear I am coming down with something. Just in time for a big weekend too. This Saturday I was going to knock the dust off my legs and do my first cx race in WI. Then Saturday we are having a pizza cook-off at our place. And Sunday I head off to St. Louis for a three day conference. So instead of doing some intervals outside on this gorgeous day, I am going to take a nap. Maybe I can nip this thing in the bud.