Wednesday, February 7, 2007

You Just can't win

In October, I paid the last payment on my car. I made 52 monthly payments, 8 months ahead of the loan. I was very happy to have finished paying it off and be able to know that the entire car was owned by me-- not by the bank, and that I could really start saving money.

Earlier this week, I was driving around and found that my car wouldn't shift into the highway gear. Today, I found out that I need a new transmission. I was quoted $3,750.00 to replace it. The trade-in value on my car is ~$3600.00. It's worth about $5000 to a private buyer.

I do have some time to decide what to do-- I can actually still drive my car around, it just takes higer engine speeds on the highway--I'm burning gas about twice as fast as I usually do.

Interesting to note that I recently had the transmission serviced. I was pressured by the dealer to have my transmission flushed, since it was at it's recommended mileage. I had it done mid-way through January, just before my trip to Michigan. Today I was shocked to read this about transmission flushes. Turns out, this probably caused the transmission to fail. My car has 115000 miles on it.

I feel like I want to puke.

I called my dad back home. He talked to the dealership who I bought the car from, and they quoted $2600 for the replacement. Turns out the (rebuilt) transmission costs them about $1900.

Hmmmm. I don't need to pay someone $1000 to fuck me in the ass. I'm pretty sure I could find someone to do if for free on Craigslist. The crooks at Village Chevrolet in Wayzata will never get my business again.

I've mulled selling it and buying another *much more reasonably priced* car, but I think I'm going to fix it. Except I'm going to make the rats fight for their fucking cheese. I'm going to fax a "request for quote" to just about every shop in town, and see who wants to compete for my business.

Anyways, this all totally shoots a hole in the trip to Norway that I was planning for June. I was budgeting $3500 for that trip.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


If I hadn't told you, I competed in the Noquemanon last weekend. I drove up to Houghton, MI and stayed with my uncle Bruce before driving to Marquette, MI for the race. I stayed another night with Bruce on the way back.

I was pretty excited for the Noquemanon, and this year's 45km course was to be my first race of any distance since taking up XC skiing last November.

I started in the last wave of the skate group-the last group on the course. I started towards the back of the pack, figuring I could avoid any early battles in the front of the pack. The Noquemanon is known for it's amount of downhill, (over 3000 feet of descent) and there was a pileup of about 5 skiiers on the first downhill. Seeing a crash became fairly common occurrence on downhills for the remainder of the race.

We crossed a frozen over lake, and encountered our first big hill. There was a line to start the climb, so I took a water break while waiting. I was a bit surprised to see single-poling so early in the race, but it was pretty steep. You can't train for hills like these in Minnesota. The longest climb ended up being around a 400' gain in elevation--I think that qualifies as a small mountain.

The climbs continued, and I was able to pass a fair amount of people at the pace I had selected. The first half of the race contained many challenging climbs--especially those that get steeper everytime you look up.

I was very surprised at how technical the descents became. Lots of people were falling, and I managed to get caught in a rut and fall on a long one myself. As it turns out, Jen was right behind me, and when she flew past me at high speed, she hit one of my poles, cleaving it in half. I had a very difficult time on the next climb, as single poling was the only option given the traffic. Fortunately, the next 6 kilometers to the next rest stop didn't include any steep climbs, and I quickly learned to V1 and Open field skate with one short pole, and did plenty of no-pole skating. I was quite surprised that I was still outpacing most despite my new handicap, and I figured that although most people were better skiiers than I am, I was more fit. This thought was encouraging. I got a new pole at the next aid station, and although it had a crappy wriststrap it did the job much better than half a pole.

Let me stop to say that the snow to this point on the flats & climbs was fantastic. We were at about 10F, and I was gliding along very well. As I approched the higher altitude midpoint, the snow began to fall. It became difficult to see well with my sunglasses fogging.

I felt quite satisfied with the pace I'd held as I passed the starting gate of the half marathon distance skiiers, and was quite pleased with my race to that point. I felt well prepared for the heralded "mostly downhill" second half.

The second half of the race had much more incline than I was led to believe. I learned that although the couse had been shortened, there were many new hills added in the reroute to the new finish line. I'm curious how much elevation had been added to the normal 2200' of climbing on the standard 51k. (for comparison, the IDS center downtown is just under 800' tall) The course was getting much busier with the fresh half-distance racers, and the downhills were snowplowed down to the underlying ice and becoming treacherous. Many marathoners were falling down on the technical descents, and I spotted several racers taking off their skis and walking down.

A few long climbs into the second half, I was beginning to feel the cumulative effect of the race. At all the aid stations, I'd been taking down reasonable amounts of HEED, but in all the excitement I hadn't stop to eat any of my gels or energy bars that I'd brought along. I took down some water, but after one more hill, I was completely bonked. I took down a gel, but it was too late. A hard lesson learned.

I had about 12K left, and my glycogen levels were flatlined as I passed yet another "Caution: Big Hill Ahead" sign. I started to get passed by familiar racers from my wave, and was again reminded that I'd not been fueling myself properly. A long false flat had me decomposed down to a weary V1. I don't remember much after that until I saw the 2km mark, and heard noise. I began to feel adrenaline slowly course into my body, and my pace on a long slow incline began to crescendo. My speed built as I saw the finish line, and I finished the race in sprint V2 fashion.

I finished in 3 hours, 49 minutes; placing me 14 of 16 in my age group.

I'm doing the 58km Vasaloppet next weekend.