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Rampage Frameless top for LJ

New Rampage frameless top rear

The Jeep LJ came with a soft top, and Marty and I did a took the top down as soon as the weather was suitable, to make sure we had the process down pat, and that everything was kosher with the top.  No major issues, but the top had seen a few trips thru the weather cycles of Michigan, and were starting to show it’s age.  A couple of seams were starting to come close to opening, and the zippers had seen better days.

I had been doing research on replacement tops since I had got the jeep in the fall.  Most were replacements for the OEM top, using the same hardware.  There were some other options also, but most didn’t work on the LJ.  Then I heard some rumors that Rampage was going to be releasing a LJ version of their Frameless Top in the spring.  As I saved my pennies for the new top, I kept my eyes open for new information.

Well come May, they released the top.  I had the money soon after, and shopped around for the best price.  Between the two main jeep product vendors, one had better pricing with high shipping, and the other had lower pricing with high shipping.  I was able to get the first vendor, to match the price with the same shipping.

Of course, as soon as I got the top, the temps dropped, and it was too cool to attempt to swap out the top (They recommend putting the top on the first time that it be at least 70 out, so that the top will stretch out nicely)  But, early the next week, the temps went back up, and I swapped out the top after work.

Taking the old top and hardware off, and installing the new top, took me a little over a hour.  The two nice features about the top are that you lose the support hardware of the OEM top, and it’s very easy to remove the back and sides.  The top isn’t designed to completely come off or fold down, but you remove the back and sides and convert it to a Bimini type top.  The top extends from the windshield to the point where the roll bar starts to bend down toward the body in back.  The windshield rail and boor surrounds keep the front in line, and the back straps down to the rear seat belt brackets.  Sides and back zip in under the top, and seal with velcro.  There is a pocket between the inside and outside of the top, and you can stop the sides and back in a pocket when not in use.

We’ve been quite happy with the new top, and can remove/install the back/sides in 10-15 minutes.  I hope that I will continue to be as happy with the top as time goes on.  Rampage seems to have a good rep with their products (at least the TJ versions of the same top) so I hope my experience is the same.

Rampage Top with back and sides off.


Lumberjack 100

I figured it was time I got off my butt and gave my LJ100 report.

For a bit of background, this was my 4th attempt at the LJ.  I gave it a try the first year, with so little training it was criminal.  At the time, the race was 4 25 mile laps, but you came thru the pit area twice on each lap, so it was more like a 8 mile lap followed by a 17 mile lap.  I was on my 2nd 17 mile lap, ~42 miles into the race, when I caught my pedal on a stump near the outer aid station, went over the bars and dislocated my shoulder.  I took a ride out from the aid station.  2nd year, I wasn’t much more prepared, the heat was horrible, and I was on a new bike that wasn’t quite fitting yet.  Bailed before the half way point due to back issues, the heat, and general wimpy-ness.


The next 2 years, I bought entries but bailed prior to the race.  Last year, I was more prepared, but not quite as much as I should have been.  Between phoning in my nutrition plan (or lack of such a plan) and cramps setting in pretty hard between 50 and 66 miles, I bailed after the 2nd lap.  I walked away swearing I was done, and not going to attempt the race again.  That didn’t last long.
This year, I picked up a 100 mile finisher coaching plan from, and spent more time trying to figure out my nutrition.
Having not finished a 100 mile race yet (hell, having not done a 100 mile ride yet), I started at the back of the pack, planning on concentrating on saving myself and finishing, and not worrying about my time or placing.  I hit the singletrack with Tak and Erik, and we hit the bike train together.   A few miles into the course, we hit a hill with people bobbling a bit and climbing slow, and Erik and Tak were able to get around the group and take off.  I was able to get around most of the group, but got caught behind the lead person when the trail narrowed back down.  (On a side note, this is the exact same place in the race where Erik lose me last year too..)  Rather then kill myself to get around her and catch up with Erik and Tak, and stayed where I was and got around her a bit later.
First lap was pretty uneventful, and I felt like I was on a decent pace, but not blowing out my legs too much early in the game.  My #1 concern was making sure I had something left in the tank for the last lap.
I was in and out of the pits in ~10 minutes, headed out for lap #2.  By the time I hit the aid station, I knew I had plenty of time for the cutoff, and just cruised along, getting it done.  I could feel that I had saved enough for lap 3, especially from 50-66 miles, where I fell apart last year.  I found the 2nd lap to be the hardest, because you are starting to feel the miles, and at some points, I started to not give a shit if I did a 3rd lap.  Knowing that you have to do this again is difficult.  But, I told myself to MTFU, put my skirt back into my camelbak, and got it done.  When I came into the pits again, I had no doubts that I was heading back out and getting it done.
Spent 10-15 minutes eating some food and drinking, and then headed back out for lap #3.  Kristi had offered prior to the race to ride the lap with me, but in the end, it was decided she’d ride the first half with me, then Marty would meet us @ the aid station, and finish the lap with me.  On the first half of the lap, we caught up with Nate Phelps, and we rode to the aid station together.  I was walking a fair number of the hills at this point, and fighting some threats of cramps around both knees.
Marty and I took off the ride the last half of the lap, and ended up hooking up with Nate again.  Honestly, I enjoy the 2nd half of the lap much more then the 1st half, and even having to walk some of the hills, I had a blast.  When we got to the top of the Catamount climb, I considered the worse over.  You have that fast downhill, a little bit of climbing after that, and then it’s looking for the finish line.  I came in at 12:48, wasn’t in last place, and walked away wanting to do it again.  I now know that I can do it, so it’s a matter of seeing how much I can improve my time next year with more training.
I have to thank Erik for suggesting the LWCoaching plan (which he credits to helping his finish the first time), Kristi for going out with me on the last lap (knowing that I had someone to chat with, and not being along, made a huge difference on attitude about the last lap) and of course Marty:  For riding with my on the last chunk, for the support all of this year with my crazy training and losing my mind.  And, of course, for the awesome support during the race.
Im actually thinking SS for next year.
(forgive the formatting.  This was pasted from an email, the paragraph spacing seems to be fucked, and I sort of don’t give that much of a crap about it.  heh)

Recent Workouts


Spring Training

3 months since the last post?  Is anybody surprised?

Didn’t think so.

So, I didn’t ride outside much this winter.  Weather just seemed to be too harsh most of the time, with too much snow and ice to fight.  I’ve spent a good deal of the first part of the year at the gym, getting some running and lifting under my belt.  I didn’t spend as much time on the trainer this winter, but tried to spread my workouts across spinning, some running, cardio and lifting.  Split the spinning time between normal spins and Spinerval videos.

Barry Roubiax was the first race of the year, and I was happy with my results.  I consider BR to early for an all out effort on my part, but a good chance to push sort of hard and see how the body reacts.  Felt very good this year, and took 10 minutes off last years results.  I’ve finally built up the Karate Monkey as a Monster Cross bike, running 1×9 gearing.  I was able to get the MTB BB7 brakes working with drop bar brake levers, and am using an old school bar end shifter for the rear.  Built up with the WTB MTB Drop Bars, it’s a very nice rig.  This was my original intention for the KM frame, and am glad that I finally got it done.  I’ve put a couple of hundred miles on the bike so far, and after getting the little bugs workout it, it’s been a great bike.

At the top of the toughest climb on the course

Coming over the top of The Wall

The race was 12 weeks, to the day, from the Lumberjack 100.  This race has beaten me 3 times, with last year being my first serious effort with some training.  Last year, it made me fast the fact that I will not finish this race without serious training, and making a real effort at developing and following a nutrition plan.  Between the fact that I tend to not take in enough while on the bike, and a fear I have of doing any real eating while racing, I bonked on the second lap.  In my training this year, I have to learn to force myself to get my fuel while on the bike, track how much I’m taking in and make sure I’m meeting my goals, and stick with what works.  Sure, I can do 50-60 miles with a bottle of go-juice and a couple of gels, but I’m not going to be able to finish a 100 miles 8+ hour race with the same technique.  Since I hope to try to compete in the Fun Promotions solo endurance series this year, figuring this out is my key goal for the year.

So, the day after BR, I signed up for a 12 week 100 Mile Race Finisher training plan.  I’m one week into the plan, and I can see how this is going to push my training up a couple of notches, which is what I need.  I cannot ‘wing it’ anymore, and expect results.

That being said, today was supposed to be 2 hours of hill work, but since the weather is most crappy with a 50% of total shit, I’m going to force myself to 2 hours of simulated hills on the trainer.  How fun.

not a news years resolution

Just because someone posts about exercise around New Years doesn’t mean it has anything to do with a New Years resolution.  It just ends up that as a cyclist in Michigan, New Years is about when you crawl off the couch, having crashed there a some point after Iceman, but in the middle of the crazy CX season.  Weather turns cold, outside riding becomes rare, the holidays start to take over life, and you cannot bear to put your bike on a trainer and start the indoor training season…not just yet.

But, then the holidays pass on by.  As your sitting on the couch, recovering from all of the running around and craziness that the holidays are, you start to think about the upcoming cycling season, the races, and all of the food that you’ve been eating.  So, it ends up that right around the of the year is when you finally start to jump back into the fitness routine.

Marty and I were considering trying out the P90X routine this winter, but after checking into it a bit, it’s just not want we want or need at this point.  Too structured to work with the cycling and running training that we both want/need for upcoming events we’re focusing on.  Marty is shooting for a half marathon in April, so she needs to star to focus on running, and I have another attempt at Lumberjack  in June, and am going to be focusing on training that is centered around cycling and that event.  So, basically, a 6 day a week structured  fitness program doesn’t fit our more focused needs.

One thing we have done is join the local YMCA.  We’ve both been wanting to get back into some basic lifting for core strength and the other obvious benefits, plus Marty had been wanting to get access to some treadmills for her running training.  She did a small group fitness program there last summer training for her 10K with her friend Jamie (who works at the Y as a trainer) but when she wanted to join another class, she was told that unless you are a Y member, you can only participate in a single program a year.  So, we decided to get a Y membership and make use of their facilities too.  I haven’t had a membership to a good and convient gym since we had a Lifetime Fitness membership when we lived in Sterling Heights.

Much of the Cybex weight equipment is now linked to the FitLinxx system, which monitors and guides you through your workouts.  It keeps track of your machine settings (equipment position settings and weights) and also tells you what how many reps and sets.  It also tracks the reps during the workout, making sure you use full range of motion and don’t rush your reps.  So, in a nutshell, it tells you how to setup the machine, what you did in your last workout, and tracks what you do.  So, all of the important tracking while you lift is done for you.  That’s so important, because it keeps you from just banging away on the machines with no history or tracking of your workout, and it also allows you to keep track of all of that without having to write it all down during your workout.  It’s helped get back into the lifting routine again, and makes doing it right much easier.

So, the ‘non New Years Resolution’ plan is to spend 3 days a week lifting at the gym, and try to mix the other 4 days between running and cycling workouts.  As time goes by, I’m expecting that I’ll have to sacrifice some running for cycling, as I get into my Lumberjack training routine.  I have access to a cyclist winter training plan that I will start to use as a guild for the next couple of months, with end of March/beginning of April seeing a transition into a 100 mile race finisher program, ending @ Lumberjack.

My goals for the year are focused around finishing Lumberjack finally, and probably solo endurance racing.  The two are compatible, and I’m hoping to avoid the issues of trying to do the endurance series with another person, which always turns into issues with conflicting schedules and the distractions of another persons life.  Other races during the season, whatever looks fun and I can fit into my schedule.  I’m hoping to have a more firm schedule soon, so I can plan around them and train for them.

This all being said, I’m going to track all of my training activities online, and I’ll share the link so that everyone can help keep me on task honest.  2011 training spreadsheet is located here.

too much email

Recently, I’ve just been growing frustrated with the amount of email I get, and the amount I end up just ignoring.  The amount of ‘newsletter’ emails I get from a services I signed up for here, or a deal I signed up for there, was getting to be too damn much.

..on top of a tons of spam too..

Google email is great about handling spam email, which is nice, because I get a shit ton of spam, mostly from the number of email address I get mail from.  The spam is handled quite nicely, and I never see 99% of it, as it is filtered directly into the spam folder.  But, the number of sale flyers, update notices for software I own, new version announcements, updates from organizations I’ve supported, or other random email list crap I’ve been getting has been building.  I’ve found more and more of my emails are doing directly into the trash.  Do not read, do not scan, just toss. daily, Weather Underground updates 3-4 times a day (come on, the weather doesn’t need to be updated THAT often)  Updates on upcoming concerts (OK, I haven’t unsubscribed to that one), upcoming movies, etc etc.  I finally got the point that the amount of email I’ve deleted unread is growing, it’s like having to deal with spam again, but it’s spam I’ve agreed to get.

So, I’ve started to unsubscribe to more and more of them.  I need to reduce the amount of drift wood that arrives into my inbox, so I can better respond to real emails.  I feel like 80% of the time I see a new email pop into my inbox, it’s something that I end up tossing away more then dealing with, and that’s another distraction that keeps me from focusing on what I was doing before that new email arrived.  Yes, I know that responding to each and every email that arrives as soon as it arrives is another problem altogether, but I figure that reducing the amount of distractions is a good first step, then I can focus on not being distracted in the first place.

Also, as I see these emails come in, I’m also doing a search on those emails and finding the previous ones I’ve never deleted.  As ‘on top’ of deleting Weather Underground emails as I am, I found well over 100 old ones the other day.  Seriously?  Over 100 outdated weather updates?  How many of those did I even open?  I need to recheck my Weather Underground settings, to see if there is a way to control the frequency of the email updates.  1 or 2 a day is fine, anything more is information overload.

Hopefully, a few weeks of  reconsidering what emails I want to automatically help reduce the amount of noise appearing in my inbox.  And possibly help my response time on emails I do have to react too.

Apple Magic Trackpad

I’ve been a devoted fan of the Microsoft Trackball Explorer for many years, and use them both at work and at home.  But, most of mine are starting to wear out (the roller bearings that the ball rides on stop rolling as nicely after a while) and I can’t justify buying a new one.  They well for >$200 used/rebuilt, and if you can find a NIB one, they are selling for close to $500.  (Who knew that keeping one intact in the box would be worth something someday)

I’ve been eyeing the new Apple Magic Trackpads since they were released.  My friend Steve bought one recently, with the agreement that I’d buy it from him if he didn’t like it.  But, he did, and liked it a lot.  This weekend, Steve called me from MicroCenter, and said they had one in the return/clearance bin for $56, and asked if I wanted it.  I did, so he bought it for me, and I picked it up from him on Sunday.

Apple Magic Trackpad and Apple Bluetooth Keyboard

I installed it right away, and also installed the MiddleClick software that Steve had found, that gives you the 3 finger click/open link in new tab function in Chrome, which is very nice.  There is a learning curve, getting your mind to grok the different touches and gestures that give you so many functions and features.  It sits nicely along side my Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

Quite happy, and I think Marty is starting to want one now too.

2005 Wrangler Unlimited

Just over a month since I’ve last posted.  Maybe not a drastic improvement on adding fresh content to the blog, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Last Thursday, I picked up something I’ve been wanting for a VERY long time.  A Jeep.  A 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, to be exact.

Nick's 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

The New Jeep

I have a 1967 CJ5 that I recently bought (after buying and selling it about 7 years ago), but that’s not up for being a daily driver, and really needs a restore to be a fully capable jeep again.  But, I’ve dreamed for years of having a Jeep CJ/Wrangler for a daily driver.  Our currently daily drivers are getting quite long in the tooth (Marty is sporting 232,000+ miles, and I’m currently ~200K myself)  Marty’s has had a lot more work and money put into it, but that also means she is likely to have far less problems in the future.  Myself, I’m still on the orignal clutch, tranny, and engine.  It probably has a lot of miles left, but we wanted to get something newer for one of us.

I started nosing around ~6 months ago, getting and idea of what I could get and for how much.  I really wanted a JK unlimited, preferably with  a manual, but they only made those from 2003 – 2006, so I wasn’t holding my breath to get an unlimited of any type.  So, I was quite surprised to see one of these specimens show up on a local lot last week.  Come to find out, I saw it they day they got it on the lot.

Took it out for a drive, did some talking and chatting with them, and last week, we decided to make the move.  Got the financing straightened out, and drove her off the lot last Thursday, exactly a week after I first saw it.

Couple of minor things to take care of soon, starting to build a priority list of things to fix/upgrade/replace, but it’s a very nice vehicle.  It already has some upgrade.  What looks to be an unknown brande 2′ lift, and a 1′ body lift.  It’s running 33×12.5 tires on aftermarket wheels.  Has the full audio package with sound bar, also has A/C and cruise.  Just under 100K, so it’s still a pretty fresh baby.  I plan on having this vehicle for a very long time.

The first upgrades/changes will probably be work to get it ready for a fair amount of topless driving next year.  Lockable storage area, bikini top, relocate the mirror so I can run doorless, and possibly some vinyl half doors.

Iceman 2010


Can’t say I was all that happy when I first found out my time, but I was totally surprised either. I had my gamin with my during the race, so I had a general idea what my time was going to be. But to be a couple of minutes slower this year then last wasn’t what I was expecting.

I have lost a bit of weight since this time last year, and I had expected it to pay off more. I wasn’t expecting a huge jump in my results, but something a bit more substantial.

Then, I started to hear the times of some other people, and started to realize that I had beaten some people that beat me last year, and also had finished closer to others who had beat me again,

The course had started off fast this year, and started to head downhill about a third of the way in. It wasn’t horrible, but I guess I didn’t realize how much it had slowed the course down verses previous years. My effort and results had improved, but it wasn’t obvious just comparing year to year times. That’s the tricky thing with Iceman, the course varies so much from year to year that time are hard to compare.

But results are results. 28th out of 105 in 40+ Clydes. I’m happy with that.

new toys and stuff

Walked into the Apple Store on Saturday to check out the new track pad thingy,  and ended up with a new iPhone 4.  I had been planning to upgrade, but wasn’t going to order and wait for the phone, and wasn’t planning on getting onto a waiting list to come back 1-2 days later to get the phone.  But, since I was there, I asked.  They had them in stock, and upgrade I did.  The biggest reason for the upgrade was the camera.  The new camera is light years ahead of any of the previous iPhone cameras, and it really good enough to actually use day to day.  The HDR capabilities being added next week in the new code upgrade should make for a truely wonderful camera to always have in your pocket.

Another new toy we recently got was the upgrade to Plex for our Mac Mini media center.  Plex is our main application we use, for watching downloaded movies and TV shows.  About the only other things we is Safari for watching NetFlix movies.  Well, Plex upgraded to their new release v.9, and it’s a ground up rewrite of the software.  Originally forked from the XMBC software, it’s come a long was since then.  One of the big things was splitting the main application away from the Media Manager, so now new files are able to be scanned, and metadata downloaded without the application being open and running.   The part of the software that monitors and scans for new content stays running all of the time, and has a status icon in the menu bar.  There were some issues at first getting TV show data from TVDB, because they were being hammered by people upgrading to v.9 of Plex, but they’ve addressed that.

Also very cool with Plex is a new iPad/iPod application they’ve released ($4.99 for this app, which is fine, because the main app is free).  This allows you obviously control Plex, but also will allow you to stream content from the Plex box back the the iDevice.  So, you can watch something on your TV, then stop in the middle and pick up where you left off watching on your iDevices in bed, or elsewhere.  Very nice.

The new Plex also supports h.264 decoding using the GPU on newer hardware, so I may consider upgrading the Media Center to a newer Mac Mini in the near future, to allow better performance and lower CPU utilization.

Between the Plex iDevice app, and another iDevice/Media Center software combo we have installed called Mobile Air Mouse Pro, we are starting to eliminate the usage of our USB/wireless keyboard altogether.  The keyboard we have is nice, and has served very well, but it’s not perfect.  It seems to lose connection once in a while, and needs to be reset to resync with the media center.  It also is just on the edge of usable range, and thus sometimes won’t work when you’re setting back on the couch.  Combined with the tendency to burn thru batteries like a single girl with a boyfriend, and it just wasn’t being the final solution we were seeking.  Now, with both of our phones and the iPad having the mouse software installed, there’s always something around to control the media center.  If having a device with us at all times ends up being a problem, I may look into grabbing a cheap iPhone Touch for a dedicated living room remote.

Oh, the iPad just finished it’s software update, so I think I’m going to get a coffee refill and watch some podcasts.