June 19, 2012

Smokin' Hot Lumberjack

Gotta kick this off with how my week leading up to LJ went. The story begins Weds. am. As usual, I am on the phone on my way into work. I'm about 1/2 into the office and I tell the person on the other end of the the line I need to hang up. Not because I may be distracted driving and talking but, because I am feeling so weak, I need both hands to drive the car. I arrive at work and tell myself to "man up" and push through the day. However, 30 minutes in, I realize I am not going to make it. I am incredibly fatigued and generally not feeling well. Soon, I have a head and stomach ache. Sh*t. Exactly as I feared. I got the stomach bug my wife has been battling all week. I do my best to attend a few meetings and then clear my calendar for the rest of my day. I head home barely lucid and fall face first into bed as soon as I reach home. I spent the next 19 hours there with chills, sweating and fighting the urge to empty the contents of my completely empty stomach. Thurs. is spent working remotely from home and feeling about 50% better by the time the day ends. I spent a little time cleaning the chain on my bike and decided that was all I could muster. Friday rolls around and it's decision time. Feeling about 75% at this point. Still a bit fatigued. Still need something to take the edge off of the headache. I quite frankly would have called it at this point but, I felt obligated to head up given I had reserved a hotel with my teammate Lee and planned on splitting gas and etc. I figured worst case, I could head up and work race support. Maybe I'd feel good enough to sip on a beer or two throughout the day. I spent Friday morning driving around to places in a failed attempt to find replacement o rings for my front hub that had mysteriously disintegrated at Mohican or the only chance I had to ride my SS since then the prior weekend at ILRA. Oh well. How dusty and dirty could LJ be, right? Who needs dust seals? At this point my mind was set on finishing LJ being a real accomplishment. After a thankfully uneventful drive up and an entertaining night of conversation with the team and their significant others hanging about the Motel, it was time for bed. For those that know me, not a single drop of alcohol was consumed Friday evening. That's got to be a true indication I wasn't feeling up to snuff.

Fast forward to Sat. am. We rolled out, drove the whole 5 miles to the start from the Manistee Outpost and were at the parking lot by 5:40. I am not sure how it's possible but, we were rushed as h*ll dragging all of our gear to sweet spot former teammates Jim Colflesh and Melissa Mabry staked out for us the day prior. I still wasn't felling 100%. I woke up with a headache and rushing around versus working up some guts didn't feel like a confidence builder but, maybe the distraction of the hustle was better than stewing in the fact I knew I may not be up for what was in store for me. After some tire and fork pressure checks, I found myself a couple of miles down the road lined up in a semi primo spot with my teammates Scott, Bryan and Lee. Jim was clearly ready to hand out *ss kickin's and lined up a few rows (if you could make out rows in the mass chaos) closer to the front. At this point I'ddetermined my strategy. Worried I'll get swallowed up by the masses behind me and using whatever I have in the tank up in the first lap, I'd do my best to roll out near the front, hope I didn't get bull dozed when the group inevitably stacked up at the trail head and pray I wasn't in a conga line for the first 6 miles. Assuming that plays out as planned, I will put the hammer down, do my hardest riding early before it gets hot and hopefully put myself in a position where I am motivated to battle on versus curl up under the pop up inbetween laps and sob that my tummy hurts.

Soon after the siren is sounded and we were off cruising down the stretch of paved road to the trail. I was amazed I was able to maintain 21-23mph drafting and putting bursts of mad spinning. The leaders spread the group out a bit on the turn just prior to the entrance to the parking lot and the group snaked around the conversion van stranded at the entrance when it was consumed by the mass of riders. We looped around the lot and I made it through the stack up riders only rubbing only a few tires and dabbing my foot once or twice.   While I was definitely in a conga line, it was nothing in comparison to what I dealt with at the start of the 2010 race. I had clearly made it in with more experience riders that could clean every hill. Even a the conservative pace we were traveling. In the roll out, I had spotted former teammate Tom Payn who also happened to be riding SS.  Knowing he's got a knack for finding a good position in the start of races, I had keyed off him to determine my own in the roll out. I had lost site of him when the group scattered to avoid the van at the entrance but, I realized he was now only 4-5 riders ahead of me. Still not knowing how serious I was about the day, I used a few climbs to pass up to his wheel in full stealth mode. Still unsure of what my next move was, I was unsure if I was going to shout a derogatory remark and pass or alert him of my presence and team up. Soon came a few fast descents. Tom made a few moves and put some riders in between us. I was feeling pretty good, I was handling the bike well and felt like I was pressing the riders ahead of me. In fact, I was actually really enjoying myself. I decided at that point I was going to keep up the what felt like a bit of a furious pace and see what happened. Probably about 4 miles in on a pretty stout climb by LJ standards, I stood up, swung left and started passing geared riders. Near the top I realized I was catching Tom again and had to decide if I was going to remain in stealth mode and silently stalk him from behind or make a pass and potentially seal my fate for the race. In my indecision, I closed the gap and my momentum carried me right next to him and another SSer in full Specialized kit. For whatever reason seeing the other SSer made me decide to press on and attempt to get ahead. So, I offered up some sarcastic words of encouragement of "climb, climb, climb" and pushed ahead. Not sure if I had just slapped Tom in the face with a gauntlet, I admittingly put the hammer down through the rest of the single track and really laid in down on the two track that followed. Partially because I expected a sarcastic reply of "spin, spin, spin" from Tom on my wheel to appear and also due to the fact I had caught up with a guy on a CX bike and wanted to put him in the rear view before more single track and I somehow ended up with crank bending teammate Scott on my six and he seemed to mean business. Which may mean we could ride together for some time and work through the first lap. Well that didn't last long didn't last long. The dust was ample. I suspect Scott (this being his first 100) may have been using me to judge pace off of but, eventually got his fill of dirt for breakfast and shot off like a rocket, leaving the group of riders I was trading positions with on the 2 track in his dust. Literally. The remainder of the first lap was pretty much the most enjoyable riding I have done all year. I found myself at the rear of a group of riders that could not only ride but, could climb a decent rate as well. Included in this group was a rider from D2 Labs Racing (who I deemed "Snap Crackle Pop" due to amount of creaking coming from his bike). As we snaked through the single track under the pines near the aid station, I debating whether I should stop and refill my bottles as I had planned or blow it and hope the fact it was already getting hot didn't make me regret my decision to only carry two bottles on the first lap. I decided to go with peer pressure and follow the lead of the group right past the aid station. At the time, I felt it was a good decision. The rest of the single track leading up to the fire tower climb flew by. The trail felt smooth and the hills minuscule in comparison to the dramatic changes in elevation at Mohican. I was honestly a little disappointed when I realized how short the run up section was at the top of the fire tower climb. After a couple of white knuckle two wheel drifts on the decent from the tower, I finished out the lap and rolled up to our pop up ringing the bell on my handlebar in full tool mode.

At this point I was hot and a bit lightheaded. I had run out of water about 30min before the end of the lap and was a little concerned I may have made a bad decision rolling through the aid station on lap one. I guzzled some water,  grabbed 3 bottles for the next lap, a banana and coaxed Scott out of the tent. Mostly, because I was honestly a little tired and he looked completely relaxed eating a PBJ and I suspected he'd been there for 5 minutes or more already. I think he was sitting there with his feet up while his wife massaged his shoulders and Bryan's gf fanned him with a palm branch. Anyway... We left together and I am not sure I saw him for more than the first hill his as he once again rocketed off into the distance. I noticed one of the riders ahead called out his name as he passed. As I caught up, I realized that rider was former teammate and 50+ BAMF on a bike, Ray Fulkerson who informed me he was concerned he was going to have a bad day due to the heat. We concluded that we'd team up and work together. As we rode, the heat picked up, I finally realized unzipping my jersey would provide me some relief from the heat but, it didn't matter, my head felt light and like my brain was boiling in my head. It was probably about 10am and it had to be over 80 degrees in the shade. Regardless, Ray stuck on my wheel and we road what I felt was a respectable pace through the single and double track. It was great having someone to ride with. Especially, someone as cool as Ray. The trail didn't feel nearly as smooth, all of the good lines were destroyed in the two track, tire sucking sand seemed to have appeared everywhere and the hills certainly felt significant on the second lap. But, we pressed on. I am pretty sure we didn't get caught by a single rider and caught a handful. I had to stop at the aid station on this lap. Not only because I wanted to refill the two bottles I had already emptied but, in my haste to shew Scott out of the tent, I forgot to refill my Gu and had nothing to eat. Oops. Ray pressed on and got off my bike and literally staggered to the table and sweet spread of fruit, cookies, gummy bears, you name it that was set out. I must not have been looking so well because I was asked at least twice by the table attendants if I was alright. Which concerned me a little. I made whatever humorous remarks about air conditioning I could think of, ate two orange slices and a cookie and was off with three full bottles of fluid. Just past the aid station, there is some gradual sustained climbing and I caught up to and yelled out to "Snap, Crackle, Pop." Who after hearing my yell that, must think I am a total a**hole and was caught. Soon after I was passed by a very strong rider from Cycle to Fitness that I believe I battled a bit with in 2010 and was ~15min ahead of me at Mohican. I was pretty tired at this point but, I thought to myself that I was making good time and was still mixed in with some good riders. I was holding my own in the single track. Feeling confident I still had enough in me to consider chasing, I eventually caught and passed the both the D2 and CtoF riders in some of the tougher single track with more climbing in the last 5 or so miles of the lap. In the last section of single track, I spotted the unmistakable Mom and Pop Racing jersey Jim was wearing. I called out his name just prior to a fast somewhat technical downhill and didn't see him for what felt like 5 minutes. He appeared again on a sustained climb just before a switch back and the last remaining significant climb prior to the end of the lap. As I closed the gap he asked if I wanted by and told me he was "done." We walked the short ascent and I offered what words I had of encouragement for him to remount and finish the lap with me. Unfortunately, he really was having and bad day and what I found out later was heat stroke. I didn't see him again. I finished out the lap as respectably as I could getting passed by a guy literally coming through the single track as noisy as a tornado and riding wheelies. WTF? That was a real confidence builder. I rolled into the pit area in full tool mode again ringing my handlebar bell. It was hot. Really hot. Lap 3 was going tough. It was about survival not racing now.

I let our fabulous pit crew know that Jim was coming in soon and not feeling hot. I offered some sarcastic and serious words of advice to pass on hoping they could encourage him to press on. Scott was once again chilling in under the pop up. I think this time he was kicked back and his wife was feeding him grapes. He didn't even look tired. In my disgust, I think I told him he looked like a raccoon due amount of dirt adhered to his face and around his eyes. I slammed a couple of bottles of water and sports drink, stuffed what I could of a banana down my throat, held back the vomit, remembered Gu this time, told Scott that I needed a head start on this lap and headed out. I had looked at elapsed time on my computer on the first lap and saw about 2:30. It now read something just over 5 hours. After my first lap, I was seriously thinking a 7:30 may be in the cards. At that point, I determined anything under 8 hours would be pretty respectable. Just prior to the first climb I passed my favorite riding companion Ray fiddling with his camelback. We met back up when I was forced to dismount the climb due to rear wheel slippage and set out for what we agreed would be a lap in "survival mode". The trail was pretty tore up by this point but, I did what I could the maintain a good pace through the single track and the sand pits that had formed. Ray rode patiently behind me as I could tell I was holding him up a little by over breaking. Not surprisingly, soon after, Scott caught us up and we rode the remainder of the single track prior to the two track as a group. Once we hit the double track, Scott left us once again in his dusty wake as he disappeared into the horizon. I am not sure if it was Ray and my conversation that bored him or he was once again was tired of eating dust but, he was off in a decisive manor. Ray and I continued on together at a much more conservative pace than before. The trail was rough. The ruts seemed bigger, the hills longer, the sand deeper and quite frankly I was riding like crap. We pressed on until we neared the decent just after the last long climb prior to the aid station. I had been riding so poorly, nearly losing it and unclipping in the sand pits. I finally went down in the sand and nearly rolled/slid down the side of the hill. Ray asked if I was alright as he passed, I acknowledged, gave chase and worked to close the gap in the single track leading up to the aid station. I was able to finally close the gap just as Ray pulled off at the aid station prompting me to do the same. I asked to a refill of my water bottle and let Ray know I was pressing on. I am not sure if it was just general concern or if I looked again like crap because he asked if I was alright. I lied and told him I needed to press on because I didn't know if I could finish if I stopped for too long due to the hot spots that had developed on my feet. Which really did feel like my toes were going to pop off my feet and were limiting my ability to mash up hills. However, the real reason I decided to keep moving was because I felt like the whole earth continued to move under my feet when I got off my bike to refill my bottle and I was a little afraid I was going to fall over while standing. Soon after my departure, Ray caught up in the single track and followed me and my what had to be embarrassing to watch navigation through the trail on the way to the fire tower climb and decent. Mashing up the climb put a little space between Ray and I. Somewhere in the vicinity I caught or was caught by the CtoF rider I had made an effort to pass the lap prior. I knew he was a strong rider and from that point on focused all of my effort to stay with him with hopes that once we reached the last 5 miles or so of tougher single track, the outcome would be the same as the lap prior. I was able to pass him on a climb at some point and made a conscious effort to spin on the descents where I previously was coasting in order to put as much of a gap between us before we reached the section of road before the last single track section and he inevitably reeled me in. I was excited to realize I was racing again. While I didn't feel strong, I making and effort to ride fast. The strategy worked. He reached my rear wheel just as we entered the single track and I went back to my strategy of spinning whenever my legs told me to rest. My mind worked fast on a strategy to hold him off to the finish. I remembered 2 tough climbs, one long gradual climb, two fast decents and some single track at the end where I had previously had trouble maintaining good momentum. Knowing I was not the better rider, I decided I was going to have to out climb him if I was going to finish in front of him. When we reached the first section of tough climbs, I saw the familiar site of the team jersey. It was Scott walking the only climb I hadn't cleaned on the first lap. I dismounted and called out to him as he cleared the crest of the hill and peddled away. The CtoF rider passed me as he was able to pedal most of the hill. I gave chase on the next climb and passed him back near the crest. I remembered the upcoming climb was as steep but, about 1/2 as short as the one I had just  walked. As I rounded the top of the hill prior, I saw Scott walking and decided, that this was my opportunity not only put away the CtoF rider but, possibly pass Scott. So, I screamed out that I was coming, put the hammer down and cleaned the next hill with a purpose. An effort to which I quickly feared I would regret as my legs screamed in agony on every climb that followed. Both Scott and the CtoF rider caught back up at the same climb I had caught Jim on the second lap. At that point, I figured I was finished for sure. Assuming they'd both ride the next two climbs which I was certain to walk and I'd never see them again after the fast and open descent that followed. Much to my surprise, I reached the descent first and passed a rider on the way down who I hoped would to slow in their pursuit of the riders on my tail. I rode the last bit of single track in a bit of a frenzy hoping I wouldn't hear flywheels buzzing and chains shifting into larger gears closing the gap I had managed to build on the descent. A bit amazed, the buzzing and shifting never materialized. Soon I could see the see of glass from the windshields in the parking lot and reached the short road leading into the finish. I was surprised to see Lee camped out in a chair in the clearing just prior to the finish area. Clearly, he didn't have a good day either. Which was a bit of a downer. We shared some insults referring to each other as parts of the female anatomy and I crossed the finish line catching a glimpse of the finish clock at 7:54 and change to collect my finishers patch.

As I waited to congratulate the CtoF rider (I should probably figure out what his name is), Scott and Ray on a great effort, I felt both relieved and proud I was able to pull off a sub 8 finish in that kind of heat and ~72 hours after being bed ridden with stomach flu. When I arrived at the tent, I discovered it also wasn't Bryan's day and the heat had forced him to call it a day after lap two as well. More proof the weather was no joke.

I ended up cracking into the top 10 in 7:54 and was the second MI SSer to cross the line. Same overall position and about 3 minutes faster than two years prior when I felt I literally rode outside myself to do so. While is wasn't as significant of an improvement as Mohican, it's definitely an effort I am damn pleased with.

Race Results

Scott and I filthy happy post race:

Needless to say, the after race festivities were pretty mellow that night as everyone focused on feeling better versus destroying as many brain cells as possible. We hit the rack at a reasonable hour and made the trip back to reality early in the am.

While I wish it would have went as well for Jim, Bryan and Lee, I think the weekend was still a success. Gotta give anybody some serious credit for even an attempt at a 100 in those kind of conditions. My bike handled and rode flawlessly. Even after some last minute hasty prep. The weekend was also a reminder of how thankful I am to have a great group of teammates and cycling friends with supportive significant others. Not to mention the privilege of sponsorships that make racing and results like this possible.

Next up is the single greatest weekend of the year GLR

June 05, 2012

Lucky 13 - Mohican 100

Always a struggle to put the experience of a 100 mile race into written words. Not only is it a long day but, there is typically so much action throughout. Not to mention there is typically so much preparation beforehand and aftermath post race.

Well here we go. Teammate Bryan Deal and I headed down to Loudonville Friday a bit earlier than last year to avoid feeling as rushed as we did the year prior. I spent most of the car ride down consuming as much liquid as I could stomach to attempt to compensate for the lack of hydration in my typical work week and fought back the urge to speak out loud the fact I was actually a little concerned I was feeling under the weather. We arrived at Mohican Adventures Campground just after lunch time and spent the afternoon stocking up on supplies for the weekend, prepping the bikes and our drop bags, grilling a great pre-race meal and consuming some fine micro brews. Then called it a night relatively early.

Chicken Dinner:

Hydration Sensation:

Cozy Cabin #8:

View from the Cabin:

Our Cozy Cabin accomidations were stellar and I had a decent night's sleep but, still beat my 5:30am alarm up with anticipation to inhale the staple pre-race breakfast of a Chocolate Fudge pop tarts and forced down some more liquid and various other nutritional supplements. We rolled out the path to downtown soon after, avoided a near pile up after someone bit it on the asphalt path along the way and jumped in a decent spot in the first 1/3 of the pack. The weather was rather cool but, I am sure everyone was thankful the rain held off for the most part the night prior and the forecast looked rather clear for the day. Reports were the trail was in decent shape with some pockets of mud and puddles but, nothing serious. So things were off to a positive start. This year the 100 mile and 100k racers started together and the field looked massive. When we lined up I was thinking we may have lined up a little closer to the front than we were worthy of doing but, looking at the size of the field I was not only glad we did but, was staring at the climb just past town with a grin hoping I could use it to gain a good position for the start of the single track. I was a bit distracted when the horn or gun or whatever was sounded went off looking at all the bike bling and mean muggin' riders surrounding us and fighting back the urge to tell the riders behind us to STFU and I'd show them how to climb as they made comments concerning my obviously smaller in diameter rear cog and the fact Bryan was running a 1x9. Then we were off. We hit the first climb and I followed a few other SS riders in a serpentine through the mass of riders spinning away in their granny gears and ended up in a good position as we crested the hill. Along the way to the first bit of single track, I could tell I was over dressed. I pulled my arm warmers off and shoved them in my back pocket just in time to enter the trail. Then took my first spill after about 50 feet on some slick roots other riders were dismounting to pass. I sprung back up and attempted to catch the group of SS riders that gapped me. This year was entirely different from last. I remembered struggling to clean every rock pile, rock garden, log pile and switchback while my legs felt like they may explode or snap my chain pushing my 36/18 gearing. Partially due to the slower climbing geared riders and partially to the fact I was pushing a ton of gear. I was feeling rather confident the 32/17 gearing choice versus the 32/18 I considered was a wise decision. I really enjoyed the first 20 miles of mostly single track. Even the hike a bike sections. I was riding pretty confidently and was passing some riders but, trying not to ride too aggressively and find myself swallowing a mouthful of teeth or burning myself up too early in the race. Unfortunately, that put me out of touch with the group of SS riders I had entered the single track with. They were clearly taking every opportunity to take as much time off the clock before the monotony of the roads tested their will to spin. But, that was alright, I was pushing a decent gear, I'd make it on the roads, right?

I rolled through the first aid station putting aside the fact I had barely had a chance to drink anything the first 20 miles. Partially do to the amount of single track and the remainder due the fact my glasses were fogging in the slow climbs and I must have ridden 8 miles with them in my teeth without a chance to put them in my pocket. Just past the 20 mile I was caught by a group of about 5-6 riders lead by a michigan local Adam Naish. All of which but, one were sporting full suspension geared bikes. They came up in a hurry and in my melancholy state of mind, I moved to the side and let them through and quickly jumped on the wheel of the rider in the rear. I had no issues hanging with the group in the climbs and flatter sections of the trail but, quickly realized why they had closed the gap on my so quickly. They were killing it and me on the downhills. I made a comment to one of the riders in the group after catching them back up after a few sections and his response was "Six inches of travel, baby!" and then they began pulled away from me on the next downhill. I rode the rest of the single track somewhat alone but, dodged a few riders from the full suspension group when they wrecked at break neck speeds on some of the more technical downhill. I let another small group past just before we busted out into the section of serious climbing prior to the aid 2nd aid station. I really enjoyd this climbing. I reeled in droves of geared riders and one SS rider that seemed to be able to make up any distance I put on him on the downhills. At some point I hit 42.8 mph. It was an entertaining battle.

I spent a decent amount of time at the 2nd aid station hydrating and taking off the base layer I was wearing under my jersey and headed out. In my king of the hills battle just prior to the aid station, I had been getting some "strange" feeling in my left quad and I was starting to get an equally perplexing feeling in my head. As the hills wore on in the next section, the feeling materialized into a binding sensation and ultimately pain in my leg quad and head. Sh*t, my quad was cramping and my head was starting to ache from what I can only guess was dehydration. I feared the worst and drank my fluids and forced gel down my throat as much as possible hoping to stave off the onset of a complete meltdown. I rode as many hills as possible seated as it seemed to provide some relief to my quad but, many were impossible to make without some mashing. The remainder of the ride to the 3rd aid station is a bit of a blur. I battled a bit with some geared riders on the road, passed some folks but, mostly concentrated on keeping my body off the rev limiter and hoped to recover and rally post aid station 3. I felt I held my own on the roads in between the 2nd & 3rd aid stations. I did have a low point where I threatened to kill a geared rider for his gears if there were no witnesses on a large climb I had to walk. Unfortunately, I had exhausted my already limited ability in the single track. My lines were terrible. I was tired and my mind was on just finishing at that point. I still amazingly held off most on comers that attempted to catch me but, endo'd over one of the errosion breaks, landing on uphill side of the trail in a downhill section (this may have actually occurred post aid station 3, I was a bit delirious at this point), marking my second and thankfully last full on crash of the race. Memories of feeling exhausted post aid station 3 last year haunted my mind but, I attempted to remain positive and told myself that if I could climb the grass hill post aid station 3 on the bike, I was in better shape than last year and maybe a death march/ride was not imminent. Maybe I could recover on some of the upcoming road sections.

Prior to the start of the race, I had debating even dropping a bag at the 3rd aid station. However, when I rolled up to it, I had exhausted all of my fluid and gels in my attempt to become whole again. My headache seemed better and my cramp in my quad had moved to my hamstring and IT band. Which for some reason I felt was advantagious. I quickly reloaded and was on my way. Contrary to my fear, I made the grassy climb into the single track. Though I had to walk a good deal of the rest of the climb through the rock gardens and such. While feeling a bit drained, I seemed to remember much of the remainder of the course leading up to the next aid station being road or kinder single track. Soon after the leaving the single track, I was caught by a group in a pace line led by Brenda Simril. I thought to myself that I must be doing better than last year. Last year, Brenda caught me somewhere around 30 or 40 miles and proceeded to school me in single track riding before she disappeared into the forest. This year I was able to jump on the wheel of the group, hang and take turns pulling with the group at a solid 17mph. This went on for awhile. The group would fall apart at a hill, I'd rocket out to the front and they would reel me back soon after and I'd hop back on the pace. That was probably the most positive point in the race for me. Here I was killing it with one of the fastest ladies out there. At some point, Brenda and her riding partner and soul crusher Lee broke the entire group as I followed and picked off all of the stragglers. When we made it to the rail to trail section, I could still see a glimpse of them and as I had hoped, the road sections saved me as they had the year before. I was not feeling fantastic but, I was feeling better. Well enough to hold hope I would actually gain some ground. I did what I could to hold 16-17 through the trail. My formerly cramping leg was now just very sore and the cramps were now in my calf. Which didn't seem to bother me much. I ended up linking up with a geared rider and he started to draft me. Which was even more of a confidence builder. I thought to myself, I feel alright, people are drafting me, I am going to be ok. At somepoint another rider passed us and the rider on my six chased. I was then alone. I glanced at my computer and this time paid some attention to my time and began to panic more and more as the time passed. It was near six hours and I was concerned aid station 4 was miles and miles ahead. Time ticked on and I remember nearing 6:30 or more. My normally and at this point very confused mind began to do simple math. Before the race I had hoped to better my 9:09 from the year prior. The next aid station was at 72 miles. Which meant I had 28ish to go from there and I remembered walking a whole bunch between 4 & 5 last year. I feared I was going to need to average some unrealistic speed to even come close to the 9 hour mark. This was a bit demoralizing but, I pressed on and worked to keep my cadence up. After passing a regular back country, hillbilly wedding by the one lane bridge, I rode through the small town just prior and eventually made it to the aid station. I rolled up, switched out water bottles (of which I barely drank any) and refilled my gel store. Just as I was eating a secong banana and getting ready to go, I realized another SSer was just leaving the aid station and one was right on my tail when I rolled up. I am no bike snob but, I was a bit bummed that the SS rider that followed me in not only must have reeled me in on rail to trail where I was working hard to motor but, was mounted on probably the lowest dollar steed I had seen all day. Possibly meaning, my hopes of improving my time and overall position in the race from last year may had completely evaporated.

I paniced a little a shot off in pursuit of the SSer who had just left. While there is certainly single track in the remainder of the course leading up to Aid station 5, there is a good deal of road. I figured this would be a great equalizer and I'd use my gearing to my advantage. This strategy worked magnificently as the SS rider ahead materialized and I reeled him in on hills. However, clearly I was not the billy goat of the day as the SS rider on my heels at aid station 4 caught and passed me on a road climb I had dismounted to walk. We entered a section of trail none of us could ride and walked together. I felt like a 10 year old little brother scurrying behind his older brother and friends struggling to keep up. Once back on the road, a vicious cycle of me chasing on the flats and downhills and the two SS riders pulling away as they pedaled as I walked up the onslaught of what felt like monster climbs leading up to the final aid station. I'd like to think I gave it my all stay with them but, fact is I was a bit complacent at that point in the race. Mostly because I was convinced I didn't have much of a chance at a big improvement over last year and each time I would rally and attempt some self motivation to put up a more significant chase, parts of my body would act up and I would start to question whether I was risking not making it the full distance. I decided I would use my typical strategy from my running days and ride my own race and if they came back great, if not, I would still be giving it an honest effort. I finally lost site of both riders after a series of 30 mph downhill dirt road sections. I can only imagine because I was braking a little in the turns and they were running WFO. After a brutal double climb on asphalt, I caught a glimpse of one of the SS riders and mustered what I could of a chase. Then he literally vanished. I put my head down to press on harder and rode right past the switch back turn to cross under the highway to the last aid station. Luckily, I only over shot it by a few hundred feet. As I rolled into the last aid station, I took an inventory of my remaining fuel and general sense of well being in comparison to last year. While, I certainly didn't feel like a million bucks, I didn't feel like pure death as I did the year prior. I had plenty of fluid left in my bottles and the SSer in front of me had just stopped at the aid station. I remembered the last bit of single track being rather tough and I figured I may have a chance to pick up a spot in the SS rankings if I could get a lead so, I decided to roll past the aid station. As I passed, one of volunteers yelled "You got about 5 miles to go!" My response was "You better not be lying to me or I'll be back." Excited as hell I didn't have 8 to go as I thought. Here I had been building myself up for 8 miles of hard single track and I only had 5. Better yet, I felt like I had the legs left to actually ride most of the climbs in the remaining trail.

I pointed my bike at the single track and pedaled hard to the entrance. I remembered doing the same last year and being immediately demoralized by the first climb. Hell bent that wouldn't happen this year, I hit the entrance with speed, pedaled hard to clear the first group of rocks and POW, was brought to a complete stop by a pedal strike on the larger than expect rock at the beginning of the trail. Even more embarrassing the SS rider I had attempted to put some time on by skipping the aid station was clearly paying attention. He was once again on my wheel and about ran me over as I flailed around in the middle in the trail trying to escape my gummed up pedal to remount. As I gathered my pride, I allowed him to pass and scurried up the climb on foot in pursuit. The remainder of the trail was strewn with 100k riders pedalling along a the warp speed of a snail providing the rider ahead a chance to gain some space as he found some more efficient methods and spots for of passing. He eventually disappeared and I focused on staying on my bike as much as possible in the climbs and maintaining smooth lines in the turns. Given how horrible I felt in the same section the year prior, I was pretty happy with how I was making progress through the trail and starting to feel confident the was no giant Kodiak bear of legs cramps and exhaustion waiting to pounce on me at the next turn. Sooner than expected, I reached some fast downhills in what I suspected was the campground near Mohican Adventures and ultimately the FINISH. I blazed down them until two guys in cycling gear pounced from their campsite waving there arms and yelling as I reached an intersection with no markings. Their reason for such excitement? I blew an easily missed turn near the top of the refreshing decent I just bombed down. Surprisingly, not phased by the news, I course corrected and navigated to the finish.

I am sure it was there but, for whatever reason, I didn't see the finish clock when I crossed the line. Assuming I wasn't going to be that excited about it anyway, I did what any respectable mountain biker that just finished a 100 miler would and headed directly to the beer trailer and filled up a cup with a refreshing Great Lakes Doppelrock. After finishing my first and working on my second beer and not seeing any familiar faces to shoot the bull with, I decided that I would brave a look at the time on my computer. It read a suprising 8hours 20min. So now the big question, how much time did I spend at the aid stations and was I even moving fast enough to cause my computer to register time when hiking my bike up the many climbs on which I was unable to stay clipped in? At that point, I no longer cared. I finished. I didn't feel like death. I fought through leg cramps and some level of dehydration. At times I held my own and even put it down on other riders. I managed not to wreck so badly I broke my bike or worse myself. I certainly had plenty low points in the race but, there were plenty of times I was down right happy as a little kid on his big wheel riding my bike. More importantly, I was in a campground full of people whole loved mountain biking, overlooking some beautiful scenery, in perfect weather, with a trailer full or free beer and it was time to kick back and tell war stories of the race. I limped down to the cabin in search of Bryan and a shower. Separately, not simultaneously. Shortly after Bryan and I made our way up to the festivities and camped out in our folding chairs in a prime spot. Directly in front of the awards stand and within arms length of the beer trailer. We spent the remainder of the time between the awards chatting it up with fellow bikers, riding out the feeling of accomplishment and generally having a good time. I can say with certainty riding the race is only 50% of the reason I show up and clip in, the rest is what happens after the race.

It wasn't until Sunday I found out my official time. Seems I made it in one second under 8:31. 8:30:59.  Which coincidentally was exactly the time I had secretly set to deem the race a significant improvement over last year. While I had hopes of a top 10 finish, I managed 13th. Which is for some is considered bad luck but, I feel pretty damn lucky.


Yours Truly Post Race:

After cleaning it up Sunday, I got a chance to assess the damage the race took on my bike last night. When cleaning it, I noticed the cassette ring appeared completely loose and ready to spill my cog and spacers the moment I pulled the rear wheel from the bike. Turns out, the lockring is too small in diameter and slipped inside the outer spacer.  My chain had a ridiculous amount of slack at the end of the race. I suspected chain stretch. However, the mud clearly added to the abrasiveness of the lack of lube in the chain and wore the chainring to the point of the need to replace it. Either my lack of bravery using the brakes on the downhills or the mud had a similar effect on the brake pads. Both front and rear are toast. Which explains why my levers were nearly hitting the bars when braking by the end of the race.

Next up is Lumberjack. In the immortal words of Kirsten Dunst, "Bring It On!"

March 25, 2012

A Boy Scout Always Comes Prepared

Decided to scout out a potential route to commute to work today. Unfortunately, some of the route is just too rough to ride on the new section of the West Bloomfield trail. Much of the trail is hard packed and would be a perfect  route. So, I'm still on a the look out to find a place to park to work in as much as I can. Until then, looks like a primarily sidewalk route from my old office complex is the only option at the moment.

Here's a quick shot I snapped while on the trail. Formerly a rail bed. The scenery is pretty sweet along the trail.

I made it to the office in 1hour & 10min with plenty of stops to cross intersections at lights in Pontiac. I don't have a computer on the SS road bike yet but, most routes equate to 18miles from my friends place. I figured I'd take a pic of my bike in the rack since, given my training routine over the last 6 months, it may never make it there again. Plus, it doubled as a decent work stand to correct the seat height given I am still having problems with the seat post slipping on the SS road bike.

The ride out was pretty uneventful. I was pretty impressed the 700x28's held up as well as they did in some pretty rocky sections of the trail. On my way back I took the Clinton River Trail. Another rail bed converted to a path. With confidence my tires would hold up, I rode to the end of the trail's pavement and attempted to venture into an unpaved/rocky section. About 1/2 mile in, I decided the trail wasn't heading the direction I wanted to go and hopped off my bike to head back. And of course noticed the sound of the air escaping my front tire. No problem, I brought a tube and CO2's. I'll just pop the front wheel of and.... Sh*t! The el-cheapo SS road bike doesn't have quick release hubs and I didn't bring a wrench.

After and abundant amount of cursing, a call for help and a ~3mile jog in mtb shoes blistering my feet, my wife saved the day and picked me up. ~30 miles from my house. Thanks Babe...

Too bad I am not a Boy Scout. Next time I'll be prepared.

Barry Rou-Fabulous....

Geez. I wrote the below on my android this morning. It took me about 30min. Clearly, I've mastered typing on the device. Now if the d*mn thing would keep my email in sync. Anyway, on to the good stuff.

Man. What a h*ll of a way to start the season. It's no secret the weather in Michigan has been magnificent the last couple weeks. After another not so surprising 18min 5k showing at Corktown, I actually put in my first 2 4-5 day training weeks since Xmas. Xmas being the only weekend I did so since breaking my collar bone last June. Jeez. It's a wonder I am not over 200lbs. Anyway, back on topic. After nearly backing oout due to the fear of a 2 hour mudfest, I decided the risk of missing out on the potentially soon to be too big for its britches, Barry Roubaix was worth 5 hours of driving and a full overhaul on the cx bike. I made the right call. The weather was near prefect and while the rain left the parking area fields like soup, reports were the course was relatively dry and ready to roll.
After chit chatting with boys like 40 year old women on a scrapbook retreat I found myself lined up in a sea of people waiting for my (the 3rd) wave to go off. Knowing what kind of shape I am in, I had no illusions of a podium all, I attempted to line up about the middle of the wave. After seeing it was taking the waves in front of me nearly a full minute to clear the starting line, the number of people attempting to get closer to the front by standing at the sides of the waves and the fact the guy next to me was riding a rigid circa 1990 rigid 26" trek, I quickly feared I was at the back of my wave. Oops. At that point, I knew I wasn't getting anywhere near the front and I told the guy next to me that my only goal was to clear the roll out without getting tangled up in a massive pile of bikes and people. And we were off.  The roll out did next to nothing to stretch the group out. It was a pretty awesome sight. Actually more like organized chaos. Roadies calling out potholes, throwing hand signals and darting wildly around tandems. Mountain bikers riding dazed through the insanity and tapping their brakes causing panic attacks. 1/2 the people content with their position and the others taking lives and others in the own hands to improve their own. I clearly was getting no enjoyment out of this experience and was hanging on the outside hoping I wouldn't get pushed out into the ditch or clip a stop sign or mailbox. About a mile or so my fears nearly came true when the massive serpent of cyclists almost imploded as it slowed to snake through a S curve followed by a hill. The sound of the brakes on the rims was like nails on chalk boards, followed by screams of "Slowing!" and then literally the smell of burning brakes in the air. Once we cleared the s curves I could see a decent climb ahead and the butt pucker from the near pile up wore off.  I decided I'd rather cross the double yellow and being disqualified over risk my life in the train wreck waiting to happen and started making moves.
After two or so more turns were off the pavement and into a sandy sandy two track. Yeah that's two sandys. Now this scene was truly chaos. Just before entering the seasonal road I could hear a strange horn like sound coming closer and closer. It wasn't until I turned the corner onto the "sand" road and the full view of the chaos hit me. At that point I realized the sound was the lead motorcycle from the wave behind me. It is going to be tough to describe the site but, at this point wave 3 had overlapped 2 and 4 was starting to overlap 3, people were walking bikes, running bikes, going over their bars and laying spread out in the trail. Others had bikes over their shoulders and were clipping others and knocking them off their bikes. All the while I and trading places riding through this mess with the motorcycle and leaders of the 4th wave. The motorcycle was honking its horn non stop and the 4th wave leaders were yelling for everyone stay on their bikes as if either effort was going to change the fact the trail was too narrow to handle the number of riders and many of them weren't capable of riding the section.  This scene was comical to say the least. I was able to stay with the leaders of the 4th wave and on my bike until near the end of the climb when I was bumped off my bike and had to run to the next spot I could remount. I didn't discover until the next morning that apparently, I was bumped off my bike by someone's large chain ring.

And then it began. Hills, hills and more hills, one after another, it seemed like we were either climbing or decending on a dirt road. Mile after mile. The course was awesome. Just enough rain had fallen the night before to keep the dust and sand down. The roads was smooth and well compacted. With exception of the sandy section, some 700x25 road tires would have been perfect. I road to the 1/2 point primarily on my own. I traded positions with a few riders along the way but, none seemed to have any intentions of getting a group together so we took turns playing king of the climb. Which I enjoyed. Not because I am a great climber but, for whatever reason I enjoy grabbing a couple of gears and mashing up the hills. 
Just before the 1/2 way point and I was thinking I had burned up my climbing legs for the day, my former teammate Ray greeted and passed me in a group which gave me the inspiration and first opportunity to get in a pace line. I tested my legs struggling to stay with Ray's group which consisted of two other 50+ year old marvels of physiology and one of the riders I had battled with the 1st 1/2 of the race. I thankfully was able to stay with the group until it broke up when we hit the last sandy, sandy, sandy (Yes three sandies) section of two track. It was great having a group to ride with. I really owe it to Ray for keeping me from an inevitable fizzling out. Not to mention for pulling me out of my chair so, I could complete my first Lumberjack.
The triple sandy section was a similar level of chaos as the first sandy section but, thankfully less riders. The uphill section of this one was not possible to ride. The downhill and semi flat section following was filled with pond sized puddles. Most of which were most avoidable. A MTB had a real advantage at this point and some were doing very little to avoid the puddles resulting in a head to toe mud bath for this individual. 
I cleared the last offroad section and I was some how still riding with Ray. He informed me we had about 3 miles to go and I sarcastically told him I hoped it was all hills. I gave it my all to stick with him until we hit the pavement. At that point he mentioned it was going to be my turn to take the lead because there was a downhill coming up and he was cramping. Then he proceeded to drop my like a bad habit and disappear over the horizon. He bridge up to a group ahead and then  soon dropped them as well. I pedaled and watched in awe as I did what I could to put on an attack to the finish. I had seen single speeders throughout the race and was amazed to just be catching many of them late in the race. They only started 2 minutes ahead of my wave. Even more suprisingly, I caught a group of single speeders near the finish and was able to pick one off before finishing. I thought for sure the one I didn't catch must have been the leader but, seeing the results the sandy sections and climbing clearly suited the SS MTB. I clearly should have put a more valiant effort in prepping my SS for the race.

In the end I am pretty happy with my race. The course was fabulous, I certainly don't think I could have put much if any more effort in, I passed what seemed like 1000 riders and I reaffirmed that my bike handling skills are at least average as I didn't go over the bars or crash at any point in the race. Something many can't say after Saturday. 

I didn't hang around long after the race. Probably a good idea given there was plenty of highly potent beer around and I had a 2.5 hour drive home. Looking back I should have snapped a few picks of the grandiose event and the fact that apparently the Grizzly Adam's beard is in full style this year. I think I spotted 30 people sporting one. My worn out a** on the way home.

Full Results

January 30, 2012

Bells, Whistles and Fires

All parts for the 2012 race rig officially ordered or in the process of being ordered. Bike is looking like it's going to be somewhat blinged out. White Brother's Fork, X.0 brakes, etc. Nearly all the bells and maybe a whistle. Also ordered up fenders and some safety accessories for the single speed road rig. Fenders, bell, spoke lights, etc. It's going to be an old man's hipster cruiser when I am done.

In the meantime, I am trying to stay on somewhat of a regular training routine. Though neither the quantity or quality have been that tremendous. I am hoping when 2/1/2012 rolls around, I'll come to grips that Corktown and Barry Roubaix are the following calendar month and that'll light a fire under my a**.  I simply seem to find too many excuses to couch surf lately. Right now my excuse is fighting off being sick. I know. Not a very good one but, I once again feel like I am just at the edge of falling rather sick again.

Also, tentatively on the agenda is a snowshoe race and roller racing the night before Corktown. Both events are something I would like to participate in considering they are being organized by former teammates, one is in my home town and the other is to raise money to sponsor one of them for a bicycle tour benefiting the Red Cross.

January 27, 2012


2011 brings threads of GLR and subsequently, inspiration. Unfortunately, sometimes these bursts of enthusiasm come late at night when your wife is away and you are in charge of supervising the rug rats so, they don't choke on small objects or attempt to kill one another. Bored of the push up and weight routine I have been attempting and often failing to religiously stick to, I decided to bring back from old school. Result. I am not coordinated to add the jump and holy moly, I am either entirely out of shape or these burpees are far harder than I remember.

Besides the obvious visual appeal of this video, I find it comforting someone clearly in better shape than I struggles as much as I do.

Get some.

January 11, 2012

Happy BDay to Me

My BDay present arrived in the mail today. Did some rough measurements and comparison side by side with my Motobecane frame and I am now very fearful that it's too small. Won't know until it's built up. Based on the On One specs, it should be right on the money. Hopeful, that will turn out be the case.

Also going to give a new style flat bar a shot.

Next big purchase plans are a White Brothers Loop Fork.