02 August, 2013

Tree. Farm. Really?


Brighton. Wrecked.

I just came to the realization that I never posted a report for the Brighton race. It feels like it was a lifetime ago.  I guess I will keep it brief, since at my age, my memory ain't what it used to be.

I had been riding Brighton a bit more frequently, as it is somewhat of a local trail for me now.  I did not have aspirations of riding away, but I knew it was my last chance to keep B-Rad from walking away with a near sweep of the USAC series.

I arrived a bit before the race, and parked next to T-Payn, mostly because his sobbing calms my nerves.  I checked out the start loop, and was somewhat relieved to see the grassy knoll was not included in the loop.

During my warm-up, I overheard that a technical rooty section was bypassed, making the lap a mile shorter, and pretty much an all out sprint for 4 laps.

Time to line up, and the mood was pretty jovial.  Some of the usual folks were there, and others didn't make the trip.

Once the start approached, it was all business.  When the gun went off, Brad took off like the finish line was 200 meters away.  He practically blew through the first turn, which was the only reason I was able to catch back on.  Not even onto the trail, and I was redlined.

It was easy to see Lako had 2 goals in mind.  First was to wrap off this series with a tremendous showing off riding off the front for the entirety of the race.  Second was to tear the legs off anybody that wanted to try to hang on.

After the first lap it remained Lako, Fedewa and myself in the lead group.

About a mile into the second lap, and Andy the Rhino washed out in a sandy corner, and I moved up to second directly behind Brad.  I could tell he sensed my back there, and kept turning the screws.  I thought my hart was going to explode, but I hung on.

Lap 3 and Brad was pulling away.  Unfortunately, I washed out on the same corner the Andy went down in a lap before.  At the point Brad was gone, and I never saw him again until the finish.

I tried to keep the onus, to hang on to second.  But a bit later the Hooligan Neidlinger came by and I could not match his pace.

Lap 4 and I was struggling to keep third.  I don't know how far Fedewa was behind me, but I wanted to hang on to one of the steps.

I faded badly and when the end came, I did manage third, around 1 minute ahead of the charging Rhino.  But 3 minutes behind Brad and the winner Neidlinger.

So, with another 3rd place, I remained a solid second in the series.  Brad was able to clinch his victor.  Another dominating performance with 4 victories and this second place.  My only hope is that I was able to make it a bit of a challenge for him, so it wasn't as easy as he made it seem.

06 July, 2013


I was going to make this another Facebook rant, but as I thought about it, the more I felt it would make a better blog post.  This should make T-Payn happy as it will contain no self-deprecating race analysis.

As several of you know, I put in a little bike ride after work on wednesday, and in the course of pedaling, a "bee" (bee, wasp, hornet, etc.) flew into my helmet vent and stung me above the left temple.

This wasn't the first time I was stung while riding, but the third time in the cranial area (the other was my ear during the first lap of the Boyne Marathon), and the first time in 2 years.

So today was the day when I had recovered enough emotionally and physically to try riding again.  The swelling had gone down enough that my helmet fit, and the sobbing was only occasional.

I headed back out on a merry jaunt on my bicycle, although I was a bit gun shy.  I had a couple insects enter into a helmet vent, but I was able to shack them out.  About halfway through my last lap, I was just cruising along when I felt something enter a vent again.

For the second time in 2 rides, I again had some suicidal flying fuck penetrate my head and ejaculate venom into my skull.  So I did what any normal person would do... I grabbed a handful of front brake and went flying over the handle bars.  I figured the impact would dislodge whatever cranial rapist was taking advantage of my scalp.

After dusting myself off, I sprayed off my head with some cold water (which did nothing), and went to finish my ride.  At this point there is a fine line of what kind of pace to maintain.  Too fast and the poison circulates through my entire system, and I fall over and die.  Too slow and I collapse and die right there.

So, as I ride out at a moderate pace, my mind is left to analyze the situation.  Am I breathing harder than normal?  Is my tongue swelling?  What does fluid in your lungs feel like?  Is my nose running, or is that a brain hemorrhage?

I made it back to my car, and safely home.  I tried to disinfect the area with some Pert Plus (wash and go!), but my head still hurts. Fortunately it is the opposite side from last time.

My plan is to lock myself inside for the next 48 hours.  I do not want to end up going to work on Monday looking any more like Rocky Dennis.

I will take the time to reassess my riding practices.
1) No more rosewater dabbed behind my ears.  Although smelling nice is important, I think it may be doing more harm than good.

2) Retire my highly vented helmet for something less cool (in more ways than one).

3) Continue with my mega-dose of beer, taken internally.

4) Cancel my botox appointment before I end up looking like the cat lady.

They say that all the bees are dying, I say, not fast enough....

01 July, 2013

Bloomer. Park. Wilted.

I don't know how long this will be, so bear with me.

Bloomer Park isn't one of my favorite race courses.  It isn't that I don't like the race, or the trail, just that the terrain doesn't work well with my hack style of riding.  So the week leading in, I wasn't feeling terribly confident or excited.

Of course, the constant onslaught of rain all week did not bode well for my training leading in, add to that my lack of motivation to ride the sit-and-spin, and  is a recipe for flat legs.  The only ride I was able to squeeze in was a short 3 hours the day before.  Was this the smartest idea? Probably not.  But with my history of this race in mind, I went with it.

I arrived at the park as the gates were opened.  I was anxious to to a preview of some of the course to determine how the reroutes affected the course.  It seemed it was a mile shorter than usual, with some climbing removed.  I was able to notice the branch left as the trail crosses the road near the finish.  I think several riders did not.

Time to line up for the start, and like usual, nobody wanted to stand next to Lako, so I stood there so it looked like he had friends.  Soon things filled up with Pongo, Osgood and Anthony.  The standard collection.

When the race started, we all took off up the short grassy climb, It was a bit of a match sprint.  Nobody wanted to jump on the front, and it was becoming a slow speed stalemate.  I eventually took the lead as I figured I wouldn't be surprised by any of the trail features, and my slow speed wouldn't allow me to get dropped.

I don't know how hard I was going.  I just tried to get through the early sections a cleanly as possible.   During the ups ans downs I noticed we were a bit spread out, but reasonably close, with Brad and Anthony on my wheel.  Through the switchbacks relatively cleanly, and onto the first flats.  I stayed right hoping somebody would pull through, but no joy.  180 degrees on the next flat and still no relief.  I rode up on another ride just as we turned back onto the trail, and splashed straight through a puddle.

Unfortunately, we were supposed to turn right, as I quickly realized.  I yelled out "We missed the turn" and jumped off the bike, ran through the creek and up the hill.  Back on the course I could not put in an effort to put in any time on the others as I could not get clipped back in.  Fortunately for me, nobody wanted to come around still, and I was back on the front.  I pulled through until the cricket field, where I pulled up and Brad and Anthony came around.

I stuck to their wheels for the rest of the lap, and most of the second lap.  They put in some space on the field again, and a bit more in the last section of singletrack before the start finish.

Lap three they continued to pull away.  My lap times showed some consistency through this lap, but I was unable to close in on the two leaders.

Lap 4 and I think the previous days efforts were starting to show.  Early on I still felt like I was working hard, but not getting anyplace fast.  I had essentially resigned myself to trying to remain in 3rd place.  Along one of the straights, I heard 2 riders coming up quickly, so I move to the right (off the good line) to let them by.  As I did, one rider yelled "Right, right" as he was already passing.  So I moved left to give some room when the other guy yelled "Left, left!"

My mind quickly formed the response of "Oh, I am so sorry gentlemen, I did not realize that there was an ongoing bicycle race and you two were the only participants.  Please allow me to to clear the way to ease you in your travels" but unfortunately, all that came out was "Call your passes fuckers!"  Not quite as eloquent, but it must have had an impact as the both turned around.

Finishing up the race, I heard the sprint finish of Lako and Anthony as I was turning in alongside the road to the final dirt before the finish.  I rolled across solo.  I continued back out back towards the cricket field to cheer on Brain and Aryn as the come in to finish.

Once we were all in, it was time to swap stories (2 missed turns at the water, and one missed left at the road), and have a beer.

Then it was the time for the awards.  Brad was top step yet again, Anthony second, I had third, and it was good to have Johnny up front as well.  Aryn moved up a bit in his result, and Brian put in a solid effort as well.

All in all it was a good day.  A third place at a race I normally don't do well in, and course I didn't feel suited for.  My only regret was not bringing more beer.

Thanks to Gail Osgood for taking some nice pictures in the absence of our team archivist.

18 June, 2013

Lumberjack 100. Shay.

A while ago I decided to add Lumberjack 100 to my race list for the season.  I haven't done the race before, but I like to add one endurance race to my schedule each year just to test  myself.

Brian from the Motor club and I went up Friday before the race, and were settled into the cabin by early afternoon.  A quick hour on the bike to wake up the legs, then dinner before turning in for the night, as it would be an early morning.

We were on the road before dawn, spotting several deer on the way to the trailhead.  We arrived at 5:20, and began to set up camp.  We were pretty well situated, although there were plenty more well-versed groups there with nice camp set-ups.

There was no reason (or motivation) to warm up, so a bit before 7 we hit the road to the starting point, about 1.5 miles away.  As we left the camp area, it got cold!  It felt like an Iceman start and I was rethinking that warm-up.

By the time we got to the starting line, a huge mass of people had formed.  I took the first clear spot I could find, maybe halfway back.  At 7 am, we were supposed to go.  It seemed we were late getting going, but at 7:04 the surge in front of us began.  Maybe it did start on time!

I was immediately separated from Brain worked my way through the crowd as much as possible without burning a match.  It felt like I passed 100 people and made it to the end of a large group that was covering the whole road.  So I settled in and prepared to turn into the dirt.

There was a bit of a bottleneck, but I didn't come to a complete stop.  Onto the trail it was slow going.  Conga lines as far as the eye could see.  The trail had a lot of dead fall.  A LOT of deadfall.  I was working my way forward when I could, which usually meant the climbs.  At mile 2 I got a nice large stick wrapped into my chain and rear derailleur.  It was big enough I immediately pulled off, I didn't want my race to be done before 7:30.

With the stick removed, I had to try and get back on course.  I lost every spot I had already gained, and then some.  The long lines did give me the opportunity to practice riding my brakes on every downhill.  This is a skill I have not worked on much.  On the first two track section I laid down a decent effort to get by as many people as possible, and met up with Trevor for the first time.   He is one badass singlespeeder and I knew if I hung with him I would have a great race.

Eventually we made t to the area I can only recall as "The pine trees with the blue dots" where I had to shift into the small ring just to keep the cranks turning.  It was like 4 MPH and softpedalling for 20 minutes.  We reached the aid station, and I pushed past to make up some positions.

Soon it was time for the first Firetower climb.  Already riders were doing a death march trudge up the hill, so I threw my bike on my shoulder and ran up in my best CX effort.  Making up ~10 more spots, I then blasted down the gravel road on the backside.  It was nice for some speed, but the gravel was sketchy.

At the 2 right after, I met with Trev again.  This time we hung together as traffic was clearing a bit (except on the climbs).  It was around here that I saw Lako for the first time.

We were now through lap 1 of the race.  I pulled into the pit for some food, and fresh bottles.  I wasn't feeling bad, but knew it was a long way to go.

A few minutes later I head out for lap 2, and Erin, Trev's wife yells that he is 4 minutes up on me.  I figured I could work a bit harder on this lap, and possible close the gap a bit.  About 16 minutes in I saw Trev coming the other way.  That would be the last time I saw hime racing that day.

A bit later I called a pass on a rider and he waved me through just as we were crossing one of the perpendicular road sections.  My front got crossed up in the sand, and I flew off the bars into sand with a soft thud.  The riders asked if I was Ok, and I told him "Yes, I'm fine.  Just go on and I will pass again in a few minutes."  I also took this time to make my one and only pee brake until later that evening.

I skipped the aid station again because I was once again caught behind a slower rider, and wanted to make up positions.  Up the tower climb again (no running), back down and towards the finish.  I think this is where I saw Brad again, and he was just moving his own pace.

Lap 2 was done, and I stopped for more food and a coke.  Damn, I forgot to drink one on the first lap.
Heading back out Erin yelled  "He is only 10 minutes ahead, you can catch him!" to which I could only laugh.  Time for some math, I had to ride 9 more miles before 6 hours elapsed.  9 miles later and I was a couple minutes behind.  Next was mid-point before 1:20 into the lap.  I worked the best I could, but my body was starting to revolt.

My shoulder and wrists were sore (possible from the crash).  I had taken my gloves off on lap 2 as they felt small that day.  I pounded my first bottle 20 minutes in, and knew I needed a refill this lap.

I hit the aid station at 1:20, and knew if I could hang on, I could make it, but it would be close.  More coke, a banana, and a bottle of water and I was on my way.  The water bottle wash was a bonus, and I wished I just buried my face in the fritos bowl.

Things were starting to go downhill, and I was soon unable to drop into the small ring.  This was gonna suck.
There were a few climbs left and I wasn't looking forward to the grunt.  There was one climb I had to walk (middle of 3 successive I think, pretty steep).  All of the other ones were spent shouting "Why won't you fucking shift you piece of shit.  Just shift!  Are you too good to shift?  Do it!"  It was no help.

The last sections before the final downhill, and I caught another rider.  He wasn't willing to let my by, and the trail was tight.  I just sat on his wheel and casually pedaled across the line.  7:57 and change.

My outward goal was 9 hours or less.  My private goal was 8 hours.  Could I have been faster, perhaps.  I enjoyed my brief stops, got to see my wife, and never felt like I was going to break.

The Diesel Motor came through at 8:22.  An excellent performance, considering he finished 200 km at Michigan Mountain Mayhem a week before.

After cleaning up a bit, it was time for a burrito, a couple IPAs, and some sitting.  We packed up camp as the 11-ish hour riders were coming in, headed back to camp for a shower and more beer (and more food!).

Early in the race I recall thinking "This is great, I should do this every year!"  Lap 2 was "I should possibly consider doing this again next year" and lap 3 became "Let's just wait and see".

Excellent event put on by great folks.  I expected nothing less.Now I have to figure out just how many days I can sit on the couch before "recovery" just becomes laziness....

11 June, 2013

Addison Oaks. Splintered.

Sometimes you are the hammer, sometimes you are the nail.  Or is it bug and windshield.  Whatever it is, last Saturday I wasn't.

I don't ever consider myself the Hammer, especially compared to how some folks are riding this season.  The week coming in wasn't monumental, so I expected to be rested at least.

I got to the park fashionably late, per my usual.  Motor Club was already set up, and I just grabbed a spot to prep.  I went out for my warm up, and it didn't seem like my legs were responding.  I didn't feel bad, but I wasn't firing on all cylinders.

A crowd was gathering at the start line, so I meandered my way to the front row.  The course had a tour de grass for a bit in the beginning.  I know there were some crashes in this area last year, so at the gun I didn't push to the front, but played conservative and safe through here.

As the course straightened out and headed towards the woods, I moved up to third wheel, with Lako leading and Andy the Rhino second, and Anthony, A-Gon and Osgood behind me.  I didn't feel like the pace early was exceptionally fast, but man I felt like I was working hard.

Coming in through the first lap, Lako got caught up in the tape in a turn, so he fell behind.  Heading out into the woods for lap two, Anthony jumped to the front, then the Rhino, me, and Alex.  The first little climb at the begining of the trail Anthony put in a dig, and I jumped to second wheel.  We put some space on the riders behind us, and I worked to hang on.

Halfway (two-thirds, 11/16ths?) through the lap Lako was back on my wheel, and brought Andy with him.  Hitting the pavement at the end of the lap, Brad told me to hurry up and close, but I told him to go around.  I also urged him to hit the tape barrier even harder this time.  Andy went by on the grass loop and heading out for lap 3 I was now in fourth and trying to hang on.

I kept the trio in sight for most of the third lap, but I could not latch back on.  Coming through the start finish they were on the way back out, probably 30 seconds up.  The last lap I was mostly alone, not giving up, but certainly losing speed.  Towards the end of the lap I saw the Rhino through the trees, and quietly hoped I could close in.

At the end, it turned out Lako but in a tremendous effort and split the group up, and crossed the line solo.  I eventually crossed the finish, an maintained fourth place.

While I am not upset about reaching the (almost) podium again, I was left wondering what happened.  I think I had my nutrition in place, didn't lose any bottles, but my RPE was high and my output was low.

Something like 3 weeks to figure it out.  I will spend some time searching the bottom of a bottle, then maybe get on the bike and try to figure out how to not crack and splinter along the trail at Bloomer.

Congrats to Brad on commanding win, Agon, Anthony and Andy for nabbing the podium.  Block and Soze of Motor Club getting 3rd and 4th in their races,  Max for racing strong, and Brain for completing 200 km of Michigan Mountain Mayhem the week before his first LJ100.

Oh, and another sweet finish by fan favorite M. Ghirardelli!

27 May, 2013

Stony Creek. Marathon. Struggle.

I was told that I had to writing this post without as much whining as usual.  I will do my best.

Yesterday was the Stony Creek Marathon.  5 laps, ~50 miles of single and double track.  This race is typically held in July, or at least it has been the last couple/few years when I have participated.  This year it was moved to May, so the temperature wouldn't be 90+ degrees.  I haven't done well at this event in the past, with my only DNF occurring here.

This race has been marked on my calendar for a while.  Typically it was worth bonus points, but this year that was not the case.  4 hours and 50 miles is worth exactly the same as 80 minutes.  Even so, I have never done well here, and wanted to put on my best effort.

We arrived shortly before 9 am, and the Motor Club was already set up.  All I had to do was check-in, prep the bike, and change. So it was time to warm up, and I wanted to make sure the legs were spun out a bit, but not too much as I knew there was a long race ahead.

It was a small group at the start, 8 of us in the 30-39.  The 3 usual suspects, Anthony, with special appearances from Cerget and Pongopantz.  It appeared that a top 10 finish was in store, assuming that I finished.

Most of us lined up across the front row, and when it was time to go we lined up rather smoothly.  We hit the first climb and when we made the left into the woods for the first time, I was 4th wheel behind Lako (obviously), Cerget, and Osgood.  We stayed in this order through the first section of flats.  On one of the early 2-track climbs I went around Osgood and was next to Cerget, but the bottom of the hill was a loose right-hander and I couldn't complete the pass on Cerget.

I just tried to keep up through the singletrack with the leaders, and close up when I could.  Near the end of the lap we were mobbed by about 6 others from various groups, and things were kind of a mess going into the final climb, Three Gear Hill.  At the top it was Lako, Myself and Anthony.  [What happened over 5 laps is hard to recall, this may have been lap 2, I dunno.]

Lap 2 was more of the same.  I think we were still mixed in with some other riders.  At the top of a climb I went to the front due to the urging of Lako and put in a small effort leading into the singletrack.  It must not have been fast enough, as Brad soon went around me and as I took a look around, it was just him, Anthony and I. [This could have been lap 3].

Assuming that the previous events were in lap 2, then lap 3 was non-monumental.  I recall this is the lap that things started to break down for me.  I could feel the fatigue creeping into my legs, and see the elastic begin to stretch out more.

Lap 4 and Lako relegated the lead to Anthony for a while.  Those two began to pull away from me, and I began to do some damage control to retain my 3rd place standing.  I caught Kenny at this point, shortly after the switchback climb.  He said he wasn't feeling good, and was starting to cramp.
On the 2-track speed section heading to the finish, I came across Brad who was in the process of slowly dismounting his bike.  I asked if he was OK, but received no response.  I assumed it was cramps, like other riders I have seen pulled off.  I have was experiencing some slight twinges in my hamstrings, but figured I only needed one more lap.

Coming through the Start/Finish area, I say Anthony ahead of me going across the line as I was coming off the loop.  10 miles to go, I was trying to close now.  I finally made contact at the Rock Garden.  We rode together again through the rest of the section.  On the climb on the back side I went around and put in an effort on the downhill, but he hung on.  I was starting to see how this was going to come down at the end.

Roger Anthony coming out of the woods.

I stayed ahead, then during a climb with a sandy switchback, I lost traction and had to dab.  As soon as my toe toughed the ground my calf seized up and i couldn't clip back in.  Anthony went back around, and once again I had to claw my way back on.

It was just the two of us coming out of the last singletrack, headed to the finish.  He was in the lead, but losing steam.  I didn't want to go in front, but I didn't want to play games and let the others catch up.  So I went to the front, and he stayed right on my wheel.  Based on my previous experience, I didn't want this to come down to a sprint.  On the steepest part of the 3-gear climb I put in my last effort and accelerated up the hill, weaving around walkers and granny-gear spinners.

I had no idea where he was at this point, I was just trying to make it through the finish.  Down the hill I hammered out into the open, looped around the pavement, hit the grassy 180 and was working to the finish chute.  I didn't see Anthony around.  I made it.

Powering through the finish.

As I crossed the Finish line, I was actually unsure if I was done.  My lap counter had flipped to 5, but in my delirium, I wasn't sure if that was indicating the start or conclusion of the 5th lap.  I soft-pedaled up the trail, waiting to see if anybody else was coming through.  I then checked my mileage, and with 51 miles I concluded that I was done.  I cooled down and pedaled back to camp.

Done, right?  Thank Todd!

Brain and Ken were already back there relaxing.  As soon as I got off the bike my calf cramped again, then my hamstring.  It felt like my muscles were giving birth.  A short while later Aryn came across the line.

A-Rod looking good!
Nom nom nom...
Brain coming through.

I turned out to be a decent day, my first win in Expert.  I finished the race a full 40 minutes faster than last year;s time as well.  Quite an improvement. Ken got to step on the podium with a 3rd place.  Brian dropped due to a medical issue, but Aryn made it through unscathed and brought his family..

Top step, and no bunny ears!

Nice work Kenny!

Congrats to T-Payne for killing it in the SS division, Johnny Osgood for getting on the steps, Lako for rebounding and making podium, and Marc Ghirardelli for his Sport SS medal.

Everybody love Marc...

And I am also thankful for those men and women who gave all to protect our country, and provide me the opportunity to sit on the couch all day today and recover.

Stay Metal!