22 August, 2011

Ore to Shore

This year was my first Ore to Shore.  I have heard a bit about it, and I wanted to experience it for myself.

I signed up for the race many months ago.  At that point there was no question, if I am driving north for 7 hours, I am going to do the Hard Rock, 48 miles of pure singlespeed bliss.  Fast forward to the week of the race, and I was having second thoughts on riding the singlespeed.  I wasn't sure what the race would entail, and I was thinking my "newly" acquired Superfly 100 would be a better choice.  I went back and forth for a couple of days, and as time was running short, I went with the 100, based on having a bailout gear, and frankly it is the more reliable bike right now.

We arrived in Marquette the Thursday before the race, and got to the Country Inn and Suites, a race sponsor.  The weather Friday was not great, cool and rainy.  Instead of doing any riding, we decided to continue further north to Houghton, to show my wife the places I went instead of going to class.  After a quick tour of the area, complete with a stop at the "Library" we headed back to Marquette for race check in.

The Lakeview Arena was busy, but not packed.  As we were walking in, I mentioned to my wife to keep an eye out for people I know (so she can tell me their names!).   I was walking in the entrance, I passed a couple of guys that looked kinda familiar, but I wasn't sure.  As we passed, I kind of slowed and looked back, and saw them turn around as well.  It turned out to be a couple fellows I went to college with ~16 years ago.  They were up from the race as well.  I hadn't had any contact with them since my premature (immature?) departure from Michigan Tech.

Moving on to the check in process, it was smooth.  The hard part was remembering if I ordered a shirt of socks.  We did a quick loop of the expo, and headed out for dinner, Casa Calabria.  It was a bit of a wait, but we wandered over to Quick Stop Bike shop, which was busy with last minute repairs. The place was nice, and open until 10 pm for all those last minute repairs!

Dinner was over, and I was stuffed with garlic bread. [Side Story: We wanted to order garlic bread as an appetizer, and the waitress asked if we wanted one piece or two.  Obviously we wanted to pieces of bread.  She then brought out a hunk of bread the size of my shoe for each of us.  That is a lot of bread.  Then she brought out the salads, and another piece of bread.  Then the main course, and a third piece of bread.  It was tasty, but a LOT of garlic shoes.]

Back to the hotel, 15 minutes in the hot tub to relax, and off to bed.  Gotta race in the morning.  Several hours later and I was downstairs eating waffles in the breakfast area and studying the map one last time.  An interesting observation, there must have been some eager racers, because at 7 am there were people dressed in full kits eating their Frosted Flakes.

Getting to the start wasn't as bad as I had imagined.  There was actually some parking, which I wasn't expecting based on my trip to the Iceman last year.  I get prepped to race, and tried to warm up a bit before hand.  Some spinning and climbed some road hill in the area.  About 40 minutes before the start time, I head to the queue and see a ton of bike already lined up.  I was torn about warming up, or lining up.  I decided the latter was better, and the closest to the front I could get was in the 3:50 zone, a bit higher than the 3:00 I was shooting for.  I gently laid my bike in the street, then moved over for some stretching.

Anticipation was building as the rest of the riders came in, picking their places, packing in like sardines to get a front spot.  As time was winding down, we all straddled our bikes.  There was a surge forward as people filled around the preferred starters, and another a bit later.  The color guard raised their flags, and the national anthem began.  3 notes into the song, something popped and there was no music.  Instead of standing around, the mass of riders began singing the anthem, A Capella.  About 2/3rds through, the music came back, but we kept singing.  It was pretty awesome to have 550+ of your "friends" singing the Star Spangled Banner.

No time to reflect, soon after the gun went off and we were moving.  Well, the front was moving, we were waiting for our surge.  As I took off down the pavement, my plan was to ride smart, and avoid accidents.  I stayed near the edge, and took the turns on the outside, as not to get pinched.  I made up a few places, but taking the forum information to heart, I knew I would catch many of these people soon.

We made the right-hander onto the trail and the first thing I saw was a giant plume of red dust.  I guess the previous days rain did little to this section of course.  I pedaled along, and as the group began to slow (already!) I started moving up along the outside.  There was a brief climb early on, and I tried to pass, but the mass of humanity made that difficult.  A couple miles in, I saw the lady I started next to walking back out, a face full of dirt.  She appeared OK.  I know nothing more of her, other than she had a pretty nice pink Trek.

I continued a good pace along the trails to Ishpeming, passing when I could, maybe getting passed a bit, but not working too hard.  I knew it was a long race, some tough sections ahead, and many miles to go.  I was still pretty focused, as looking at some pictures there was a giant mining dump truck right next to the trail, and I didn't even recall seeing it.  Heck, we could have ridden under it, and I wouldn't have noticed.

The climbs thus far were not torturous, just unfamiliarity and traffic infcreasing the difficulty.  I tried to drink at the aid stations when I went by, as I had 2 small bottles with me. [As an aside, to those volunteering at the aid stations, I greatly appreciate your effort.  One thing I do ask is if you are holding out a cup and yelling "Water" please have water in your cup, not sports drink, orange juice, milk, whatever.   Thanks again].

There were some mud holes in the trail too, but nothing concerning.  Soon (eventually) I made it to the power line section just past halfway.  The entire section went uphill, so a mile away was "Misery Hill" and you could see riders snaking across the open field.  As I got to Misey Hill, I instantly realized I was not riding up, even if I wanted to.  It was loose, with baby head rocks, and about 20 people walking up.  I just took my spot in line and hiked up.

More field riding and onto CR510, a steady climb on pavement.  I caught up to Trevor from No Boundaries,
who was riding singlespeed.  I jumped in front and offered to pull him up the climb.  He politely declined, then passed me, then dropped my on the steady climb.  Just after the new bridge there was a bunch of kids with squirt guns, so as I rode by I spread my arms inviting the spray.  First, I was surprised by the force of the three water jets hitting me simultaneously, secondly, the water was pretty flippin' cold.

I remember finishing the pavement, then some dirt road, and all I was thinking was "Only 10 miles left" and thinking it was all downhill now.  I think this section had the sand pit, with a couple riders taking a dive into the beach ahead of me, but I made it through (although I am not exactly sure where this was).  There was also half a km of singletrack.  It was rooty, but a nice change of pace to stop hammering for a bit.  Continuning on, I was now in a group of 3 or 4 guys that kept swapping places.

We got to 1 mile to go and I tried turning it up on the grassy straightaway heading towards the arena.  As we hit the pavement, I thought I was home.  I stood to hammer, and my quads threatened to seize up.  This wasn't good, I normally don't have cramping issues.  A turn, more pavement, another attempt to stand, and the same results.  At this point I conceded to my legs, and just worked on finishing.

I got to the line, which was a bit further away than I had anticipated.  I rolled across, and immediately looked for some shade.  There I collapsed and waited for Danielle to find me.  After several minutes, she arrived, snapped a couple pictures, and then helped me get up.  I went to the free chocolate milk, then to the water station to rehydrate.  Since I was at the area entrance not, I jumped in the shower as well.  I washed off the caked on dirt as good as I could.

After my shower, I went in to get the results.  I finished in 3:00:45.9.  So, I was ~46 seconds off my goal.  I guess after 46 miles, 1 second a mile behind pace wasn't terrible, but I was (am) a bit frustrated.  That was good enough for 206/675 overall, 182/556 of men, and 29/73 in my category. After that, I loaded up, changed and left to get some food.

We stayed "Up North" for the next two days, relaxing, vacationing, and recovering.

It took 3 showers, a swim and a soak in the hot tub to get the red dirt off me.  2 runs through the washer for my kit, and my bike is still rust colored in areas. 

In conclusion, Ore to Shore is a great race.  I am not sure I will do it every year, but I will be back.  It was a well organized event, and a great group of people out enjoying the area.  I wish I was able to take in the spectacular views that were supposed to be there, but I guess I was focused on racing.  The course wasn't overly hard, but I think it was the distance that got me.  Looks like I know where to focus this winter.

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