Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gravel Grovel 2017

I can't remember how many years ago that the Gravel Grovel was started, but I sure am happy that I found it. A lot has changed over the years. Where the race starts and finishes, how bad the weather conditions are, what bikes I have used and how bad the pain was. I have had a few years that would make a lot of people not want to come back, but for some reason I find myself lined up on the starting line every year just hoping to do better than some previous years.

This year seemed a little different for me. Last year I was coming off of my fastest year ever and feeling strong. The pre-rides had me really happy with how I was riding, but race weekend had me not feeling very good. Bad enough that I really can't believe that I even started the race. It was a struggle the whole way, but I had put so much work in to the year that I didn't want to not race. Somehow I pushed thru the pain and finished with a respectable 5:20. Most years the goal was to finish in under the 5 hour mark and I only did that a couple times.

2018 I have committed to racing some big races on the SS. So, this year I figured why not race SS again. Before the last couple years, I had done this race a lot more times on one gear than I did with gears. I figured this might not be the fastest option, but more for the training benefits. I plan on doing a lot of stuff with one gear for the next year and no better time to start than now.

Friday we got there a little earlier than I had in past years. Checked in to our cabin and got moved in. The weather was great so we planned on doing a little ride to get the legs moving. We went out like the start does and just finished the ending loop back to the horse camp. This was about a 15 mile loop and was exactly what I wanted.

We then took a little trip in to town for some food and settled down for the night. We had a nice fire and a few of us hung out awhile. I didn't drink too much and went to bed early enough to get a good night sleep. Conditions were going to be great, so no need to mess things up by being hung over or dead tired. I had high hopes that I could put in a good time or at least a lot better than last year.

I woke up a little earlier than I thought I should, but this gave me plenty time to get ready. I got some coffee and oatmeal going and headed over to check in before there was a big line. I finished breakfast and got my bike ready. I made my drinks and gathered what I was packing. I felt like I was done too early. I know it was a lot earlier than other years, but not sure this is bad. I took it easy and just waited til I thought I needed to go. I changed my mind a couple times about what to wear and rode around the area to loosen up the legs.


After saying hi to people I saw and riding a little bit, I had to go back and change a couple things I planned on wearing. I thought I was ready except for a jacket I had on that I didn't plan on racing in. I went back to riding around a little bit, but really more talking to friends. It seemed like it was getting close, so I went and took the jacket off and made a last minute natural break to hopefully keep from having to stop later. Next thing I knew, I heard the pre-race announcements and hurried my way over to the start. I found E2 and made my way up near him. I was not as far up as I wanted to be, but it was going to have to do.

Time started to count down to closer and then it was go time. I have learned to not go too crazy at this point. There is always a bottle neck at the bridge and brakes get locked up. I did good at keeping moving and not getting caught up too bad there. Once on the road, I tried to pick up the pace. I saw E2s wheel and jumped on. He was making his way up the pack and moving good. The pace was pretty fast and I was doing my spin/coast as best than I could. I could see the Team People's jersey leading the pack right before we hit the first gravel section. This is by far the farthest forward I have been at this point. But, the pace was moving faster than my legs were ready to spin and I had to let him pull away.

I found another good wheel, Jeremy, to jump on for a little bit. This let me get to the paved hill in no mans land. I tried to not kill myself on the climb, but keep moving. I seemed to be passing people and I was not breathing that much harder than I already was, so it seemed to be the right pace. From here I just kept on going moving and jumping on wheels when I could. Somewhere along here Jeremy caught back up and let me tuck in behind him. We stayed like this until a little after Maumee bridge. As we got on to Combs I went to the front. I was moving forward and passing some riders. As I got close to the Combs climb I could hear all the heckler's on top. I was going to do everything I could to not walk this section. But it might get tricky since I had 3 people in front of me.

 As I approached the top and saw some good friends, I could not help to smile. I was feeling good and just climbed a tough hill. Lots of people hanging out cheering or what ever. How could not not be happy at this point? It was pretty tempting to grab a beer or even a shot of fireball, but I was riding well and didn't have time to mess around. I bombed down the back side and headed over toward Blue Creek as fast as I could go. Up and over the bridge and on the gas.

I set another PR on the Blue Creek climb. I just kept moving at what ever pace I felt was good. I tried to not get stuck behind someone and stay there. I made some more passes on the down hill and kept hammering. This whole section was a lot dryer than I typically see it and that is a good thing. As I came out on to the road, I could see E2 just taking off. I guess he didn't get too far just yet. I also had Brian pass me on this road section. This is where the singlespeed is limited. I can only go so fast. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Maybe these sections allow me to rest just enough to climb the harder stuff better. 

I didn't take any time at the Nebo parking lot and jumped right in to the climb. It didn't take me too long before I caught up to a rider on a cross bike. I didn't get excited and just kept moving. By the time we hit the left turn there was 3 bikes in front of me. 2 cross bikes and Brian again. There was a spot that Brian was going over a log and his chain came off. He pulled over and the rest of us went around. There was a little hesitation by the one cross bike and the two of us left went by him. A little bit down the trail I made a little more effort to get by and shortly after I was all alone again. 

I felt like I was riding really well on the trail sections and making some good time. Nebo didn't seem to take very long where as previous years it felt like it took forever. As I finished this section up and climbed up to the road, I passed E2. This didn't last long. As I started down the road I was working on eating some food. I looked over my shoulder and there was E2 getting ready to fly by me. I was in no place to try and jump on. I just had to finish eating and go at a pace that felt good. At this point another nice rider came by me and said to jump on. We rolled pretty good thru this next section. This was a huge help as it kept me moving faster than I would have done on my own. 

As we started up Mt. Baldy I pulled away from the friendly cross bike rider. I did see another single speeder just up ahead of me. I paced my way up the hill trying to not go too slow or blow up. As I was rolling up to the rest stop I could see E2 pulling away. I said hey and went to work getting my next helping of CarboRocket 333 out of my pocket and in to my bottle. I tried to do this as quickly as possible. I didn't really take any time to see what was on the table, but I did take some trash out of my pocket so I would not loose it on the road. Right as I was getting on my bike to pull away, Brian came rolling up. I said that he would probably see me in just a little bit, and off I went. 

I turned on to the paved section, downed another Honey Stinger gel and tucked and went as fast as I could roll. I didn't get up to 50 like I thought I might, but I was still going in the upper 40's. I took it a little easy on the tricky left hand corner as I watched another rider not make the turn. I knew this section was not going to be easy. This next climb always seems to take it out of me. Some how I kept moving fairly good and was at the top before I knew it. I cruised down the other side and let gravity do what I could for me. After I made the next couple corners here came the friendly cross rider again. He was nice enough to tell be to come on again and mumbled something about one FG with a little bit of bewildered tone as he shook his head. 

Together we went along fairly well for a little while. I am not sure when he lost me or even if I lost him, but after Cornett Cemetery, I found myself alone again. But, along came Brian. We rode together right up until the climb before the next single track section. I pulled away just a little before I went in to the woods. I rode this section well and popped out the other side fairly quickly. I took the left and settled in for the climb that I knew was coming. As I neared the top the loose gravel got the best of me and I had to walk the last little bit. As I got to the top I figured I should take this time to take another much needed break. As I was there Brian caught up to me and passed me.

 Somewhere in this loop I caught back up with Brian and we rode together for a while. As we took the right hand turn I let him know about the loose down hill that can be sketchy. We went along for some time. I really do not know when I got away from him. I was in my zone and just moving the bike at what ever pace it wanted to go. I flew past the intersection where the single track comes out and headed toward the next trail. At some point on this road I caught up to the single speed rider that I saw on Baldy. This time I didn't get caught up in his pace and tried to pull away from him. He was right behind me as I hit the trail. There was a cross bike in front of me and he messed up on one of the first little dips. I made my way around him and took off. I heard him ask if the other guy wanted around, but I didn't stay there long enough to hear his answer. A little bit down the trail when it turns back on itself a little, I didn't see anyone behind me.

I came out of the woods as E2 was getting a bottle topped off. I said hey and proceeded to get one of mine filled up. I kind of glanced for a coke, but it didn't sound like he had one. I quickly took off and tried to catch up to E2. We did get back together somewhere along this section. We rode together for a lot of this section. Some of the time he was behind me and some times he was next to me. I was in a little panic worried that SS rider would catch back up. I was wearing out at this point, but not cramping. This section really seemed to run on. I kept wishing the church was just around the next corner. Then I saw a corner and thought we were home free!! That was until it was the turn to the Maumee Boy Scout camp. Dammit!! We didn't even make it to that point yet. So, back to turning the pedals over as smooth as I could. When we finally made the turn at the Hickory Grove church and the grade pointed down, E2 pulled to the front and his pace picked up. I jumped on his wheel and away we went. 

We made good time all the way down to the turn toward the bridge. We made are way over the bridge and kept moving. I really wanted to stop and pee again, but there was no time now. We were too close to the finish. So, we kept moving forward. I am sure we were both just happy to be almost done. As we hit the creek crossing I made sure and back off a little. I let E2 take the lead in to the water. After the huge pull I took off of him down the road, this was no time to try and race it out. If it would have been almost anyone else it would have been a different story. Thru the creek and up to the finish. I could not have been any happier with myself at that point. I rolled across the line at 4:14:23, just 2 seconds behind E2. This put me in 5th place for the SS class and 63rd place overall. I want to give a shout out to all the other SS racers. The top guys are just crazy fast!!

This was by far my best Gravel Grovel!! I beat my best finishing time by almost 45 min. and last years time by 1hr and 6 min. It was really unbelievable. I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the evening. It was great hanging out around the fire with everyone that stuck around. Even after they left we stayed up until the wood and beer was basically gone, well most of us :-). No matter how I ride or finish, the test that this race can put you thru and all the good friends that I get to see and hang out with make this the best race of the year! Finally having a finishing time that makes me feel more like I competed and not just attended makes it even better. I can only hope to continue riding this well, no matter what bike I am on or how many gears I have.

This race was the second endurance race this year where I felt like I was on the gas the whole race. Fools Gold was the other one. I did both on a SS and for some reason I just perform better when I don't have to think about shifting. But, I do not think that the bike what the only thing that played a part in that. The major difference that I changed late in the season that I feel has made a huge improvement is switching to CarboRocket. The Half Evil 333 has been my go to drink for the longer races. I have used just the hydration mix some of the time depending on race lengths, but the added calories I get from the Half Evil just makes the difference for me. I always have a hard time eating enough and when I dig too big of a hole it is hard to come back. The other change is also taking in some Rocket Lytes. I have been on the gas and have not had an issue with cramping yet. I can not thank Brad @ CarboRocket enough for helping me out!! Give them a try!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pedals helping people - Cancer Sucks!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being able to attend a race that is for a worthy cause. This is the second year that this race has been put on. I was unable to attend last year, so when the day opened up for me I knew I needed to go. This race is put on to help fund a worthy cause of Shirley's Way and all proceeds were put in to that organization. I am sure there is no one out there who has not been effected by cancer and some all too frequently.

It ended up being a fairly cool morning, but the weather was going to be awesome. This years race was located at Otter Creek park. It has been a long time since I had rode there and by a long time I mean it was still in the 90's. This was a go to place for us back then and there was even a full race series put on at this venue. I know a lot of people used to do a lot of riding here. At some point they started charging to get in the gate and also an extra fee to ride the trails. With a lot of other trails popping up that you could ride for free, the attendance went away. I know this is the point where I had stepped away from riding for several years. When I came back there were a lot of changes to where you could ride. With the lower attendance here and the lack of volunteers to help keep the trails clear, I guess I just never thought about going back.

I am always a little on the unsure side of my riding and how well I will do each day. I was not feeling like I was going to have an awesome day, so as I normally do I tried to set back a little at the start. I know that I do not need to go full bore right out of the gate only to blow myself up too soon. I tend to need a more gradual warm up to have a good day. It didn't take me too long in to the woods that I didn't like the pace that we were riding and wanted to get around a couple riders and had to pick and choose to make some passes.

photo credit to James Peck

Not too far down the trail I saw the rider leading the SS class. After a couple more passes I was right behind him. I was thinking about just riding his wheel and saving myself for later in the race because I knew there would be some good climbs out there. This lasted a little bit, but like I have mentioned before, a SS bike has a pace that it just likes to go. I was currently riding a little slower than that. If I stay at that pace then it is possible for me to wear myself out even more by going slower. So, I made the pass and kept moving on.

I was feeling pretty good and the bike was rolling well. The trail was a little slick in spots that made it hard for me to keep traction on some of the climbing sections. The slick roots did not help either. I did pass a couple more people, but overall I had some clear trail ahead to do what ever pace felt right. Several sections looked familiar as I rode them. Soon enough I found myself all alone. I was hoping I didn't go too hard that it would come back to bite me for the second lap.

 There were some good technical sections. There was a rock stair step like down hill section that was a lot of fun and a super tight and steep switch back that was tricky. The dirt was a little wet and made it harder to make the turn with it being so steep and tight. There were also some creek crossings that were filled with rocks. I was thinking that a full suspension would have been really nice for those spots as I bounced all around the place. Then I came up on the big climb of the day. I rode parts of it, but there were sections that I figured I would be a lot better off just walking. With the trail a little moist and the rocks and roots being slick, I tried to pick and choose what matches I wanted to burn.

photo credit to James Peck

Second lap was pretty uneventful over all. There were a couple sections where my rear tire hit either rocks or roots and made a loud pop, but thankfully never flatted. It had been a little while since I had seen anyone and began to wonder if I had passed all of the other cat 2 riders. I did pass several and I didn't think there were that many up ahead at the start. The lap times and overall results have not been posted so I really don't know if anyone was still up there.

Late in the second half of the lap I kept looking over my shoulder just expecting someone to catch me. There was one section where I could see a little farther back and sure enough there was a rider. Thankfully it was my teammate E2. I fully expected him to be in front of me anyway and if anyone was going to catch me, no better person than him. I kept moving forward and pushing toward the finish. There were times I could not see him back there anymore and others that I could. After the big climb I knew I was in the home stretch and tried to dig a little deeper to see if I could hold him off.

After one of the road crossings I was starting to really feel it. I was thinking that was the last one and just hold on to the end. Then I came up to another road crossing. Crap! I have farther to go. Thankfully this section was a little flatter and I recovered a little and could finish strong. I even had the energy to pull up a nice long wheelie at the finish line. It felt great to put in another good ride and end up on the podium. This is my 3rd podium of the year and still a little shocking for me.

Yes I know. I need some better podium shorts

This switch back to riding a SS has treated me pretty well so far. I still have a lot of doubts on what I can do, but the bike has proven to pull out the best of me. I can only hope that this continues as I have already committed to some big things in 2018 on the one gear wonder machine.

I have to put out a huge shout out and thank you to this guy Ralph Reinacker! He is the reason this race is happening. He has put in a ton of hours and effort to help take one passion and allow it to help something so personal to so many people. He has done a great job with this race in only its second year. He brought back a venue that has been missed by several and never even heard of by others. The band, the chili, the beer and the huge swag table! I can not say it enough, THANK YOU! Seriously, if you were not at this race, you missed out! Everyone needs to clear their calendar and attend next year.

I also need to thank some people that help me out. Phil @ Adventure's Recreation and Gear always goes above and beyond for me. ESI grips for keeping my hands happy. Honey Stinger for helping keep me fueled. Carbo Rocket for giving me the go go juice to keep the hammer down.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

2017 Fools Gold 60 ish

I have wanted to do this race for several years. When the idea was brought up, I was really hoping it could work out. My original thinking was to camp at the start/finish area and hang out and have a good time. But, that plan was not followed and we went the hotel route. I was fine with that. I am sure I would sleep better there. It would have only been better if it was a little closer. 

The week before the race I was not even sure if this was going to happen. With the hurricane moving its path right to where the race was going to be, it was all up in the air. Thankfully there was not as much rain as it first looked and although there was a lot of damage to the trails there was some workers that put in a lot of effort to get the trail ready for the race. When I was out there I could not believe how many trees were cut and debris was moved off of the trail. It was obvious that there was a lot of work put in to make the trails ready for us. They could not get all of the trail cleared and the race was shortened to 47 miles. That is why I said it was the 60 ish. I was a little disappointed, but after seeing how much work they put in, I am just thankful that the trails were as awesome as they were. 

After the drive down there, we checked in and went for a little spin around the hotel. There was a pretty cool little sub division that was on a hill side or well it was supposed to be a sub division. All the roads were paved and ready, but not a single house was there and the grass was grown pretty tall. We then grabbed a bite to eat and got things ready for the next day. I was a little nervous as I thought it was a good idea to change to the singlespeed class. I had also changed bikes the week before from what I had been riding with one gear. After the previous weekends ride I started to change the set up for the race gearing and stuff. I had some issues with noises and things not working as well as it should. I started to stress, but some how it all worked out last minute. This night I still had some concerns that not everything was as good as it should be.


We got up early to make the trip to the starting area. Some how we got the worker to get most of the breakfast stuff out way before it was supposed to be. This was good since it kept us from stopping some where and eating things that I really didn't need to eat. The morning trip over was not too bad and we were at the starting area before I knew it. We were welcomed in to the parking lot with the awesome view below. We signed in and started to get the rest of our stuff ready.

Of course I was stressing out. Trying to decide if I wanted to put anything in the drop bag or not all while waiting in the long line for the facilities. With the race being a little shorter it seemed to be the consensus to not use a drop bag or well it seemed like it. I just put everything in my pocket that I thought I would need and could get any extras from the rest stops. I was just hoping that I would not forget anything like I normally do.

Soon enough I was finding a spot to line up. I didn't want to get too close to the front, but I didn't want to be at the back either. I knew there was some road stuff early and my gearing choice would be slower than the geared riders. I picked a place in the upper middle hoping to be in an area where I could steal some drafting when the road went past my bike speed. I was feeling a little out of place as I looked around. I was just hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Soon enough there was a sound and then people were off. I looked around and said I guess that was the start LOL.

I was trying hard to go as fast as I could with out going too hard and blowing myself up. Normally I do a lot better when I can warm up slow. This was a faster pace than I prefer, but thankfully it was on the road and had enough down hills to keep the wheels moving. I found myself in the company of another SS rider. It seemed like we were going a similar pace so I just hung out there for a while. We caught another SS rider and we all rode together for a while. I heard the one guy talking to the other about gearing and he was running the same gear that I was. I figured he would be a good one to hang with since our pacing should be similar. When we hit the first climb I found myself pulling away from the duo and wanted to slow down, but I was feeling like it was the right pace and kept moving forward.

A little bit farther up the hill I could see E2. It took me a little bit to reel him in but once I was there I created a gap. I was hoping we could keep together as I really enjoy riding with Eric. Once I was down the hill and it started to have a little more flat areas he caught back up. I hopped on his wheel and did the SS spin coast shuffle way better than I have ever done and stayed on his wheel. Then we started to climb again and my pace was not the same as his and I pulled away again. This was short lived as he caught me again once it leveled out. I did the shuffle again and could stay with him. Some where around this point while we were riding together I could see Bushong up ahead. He was not feeling good the night before and I might have played a part in talking him in to riding. I am sure he would have wondered what could have happened if he didn't race.

I was hoping that he would jump on and the three of us would ride together for a while, but that didn't happen. I made a quick stop at the first rest stop to top off my one bottle. I was not sure how far we were going or how much liquid I would need. E2 got by me here but once again when we started going up I caught and passed him. I was starting to get concerned that I was going too hard. I didn't think I should be dropping him on the climbs. He is a very good climber, but I was just doing what the bike felt like it wanted to do. A SS has some set paces that the set gearing just goes better. I was doing everything I could to keep in those ranges and not have to dig too deep. I could not believe how well I was climbing, but still wondered if I could sustain it.

I found myself behind a female rider that was holding a good pace for me. It was a little slower on some of the climbs, but not slow enough that I thought I was not going hard. She was ripping the down hills and helped me be more confident on what was coming up since I could see someone ride it before me. Somewhere along the Bull Mountain loop we hit a steep single track section. I am pretty sure it was the 3rd steep section. It was not as bad as the first two, but next thing I knew I heard a pop and then my chain was on the ground. I said I broke my chain as I was pushing up the hill and told her to keep up the good work. 

I had just put a new chain on a couple days before. The new gear ratio needed another link and I was not very happy with how the chain was working with the added link. That and I had some other issues with the drive train that I thought a new chain would do the trick. I ended up with a Shimano chain that I have not used for a while.  They normally come with new chain pins that break off and not a quick link. I did pick up an extra quick link to have just in case. I guess I should not have used the pin to put the chain together and stuck with the quick links that I have had good luck with. This is where my chain came apart. I took what was left of the link off and then went to put the quick link on. I found part of the pin still stuck on the other side of the chain and had to get my chain took back out and take it out. Then when I tried to use the new quick link I could not get it to lock in. I don't know if that part of the chain was messed up some since the pin pulled out or what, but I could not get it to work. The last time I tried it flew apart and half of the quick link went flying. Dammit! I will never find that. 

I dug in to my little tool pouch and found a back up 9 speed quick link that I have had in there for a long time and never needed. I was so glad that I still had that in there. Once I got that out, the chain went together really easy. I took a minute to eat a gel and take a quick natural break that I needed since shortly after the start. While I was sitting there trying to fix the chain E2 and a lot of other riders went by me. I had put in a lot of work to pass these guys and here they just go by. Once I was back up and running, I hopped on the bike and took off. I had a little extra adrenaline to push me for several miles. 

I started picking off riders left and right. I stopped at the last rest stop to fill up my bottle again and have a little coke to help keep me going. I have to admit that when I was climbing the chunky road again I was moving pretty good. There were several riders that I went flying by. I really didn't know what to think. I am not normally that strong of a climber. I can normally climb about everything, just not that fast. At this point I knew we were getting close enough to the end that I had to keep pushing my pace. I was also a little worried that when we hit the last hard climb that was discussed, I hoped I had the legs left to do it. Then at some point I was bombing down the other side and it clicked. That WAS the hard climb! My spirits lifted again and I had the motivation to push the pace to the end.

I was moving the best that I could on the road sections. Several high rpm cadence spins with a tuck to try and keep the pace going. For some reason I got paranoid and kept looking over my shoulder that I was going to get caught by another single speeder. I also kept trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of E2 up ahead. I was hoping that my pace up the climb helped me bridge the gap. I started to get excited once I turned on to the road in to the retreat. I passed a couple riders and kept the hammer down. That is until I made that turn on to the grass. I forgot all about being told about that earlier in the morning. That section just about killed me. It was a freshly mowed field that was not very smooth and also the sun was out and just baking you. I just kept turning the pedals over and could not wait to make it to the finish line. I pulled a pretty weak wheelie, but the ride deserved one.  

I ended up in 11th place in the single speed class and 114th overall. I had a finishing time of 4:33. I would have also finished 31st in the 40-49 age group if I would have stayed in the original class that I signed up in. E2 finished just 3 minutes ahead of me. Considering that I was stopped for 10 minutes to fix my chain, I guess I did get pretty close to catching him. Those 3 minutes would have moved me up 13 spots in the overall. I am super happy about how well I rode. That was the best that I have ever felt for a longer endurance race. I still feel like I would have been able to finish pretty strong if the race was not shortened, but it is really hard to say. 

I really enjoy doing these races. Going places that I normally would not go and then having to dig deep to be able to complete the distances. Maybe some day I will be to the point that I will want to push it to the 100 milers. That might be a little while yet. I would like to get a little more competitive in the distance that I am already doing. The other thing that makes these trips even better is when I do them with great people. Bushong and E2 have been a huge reason that I want to do more of these events. It is always a great time with a lot of laughs hanging out. I even enjoyed having Kruger around. Maybe I was just a little less stressed out than the last trip :-). 

Good times with good people. What more can you ask for? 

Well other than my new shirt :-D

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tri-State 6 hour - England Idlewild

I had a blast at the first 6 hour race that I did. I could not attend the second of the season because of some other obligations. It seemed like everyone was backing out of going to this race and I really didn't feel like making the trip all by myself. So, thinking that I was not going to race I was easily talked in to a long ride the weekend before. We rode down to Tell City to ride the Schweitzer fest ride and then ride home. It was a 125 mile ride with over 7000' of elevation gain. It sounded horrible so of course I was easily talked in to it. Shortly after the ride started I was informed that E2 was probably going to attend the 6 hour race. Crap, here I am out doing a really silly race the weekend before a 6 hour race. Oh well I guess we will see how it all goes.

So, going along with making a lot of "bad" decisions, while I was still at work and only a couple hours from leaving town, there was some silly talk about me racing the SS class and my mind started to think it was a good idea. This made me rush home and see if my SS was even rolling good enough. I think I had only been on it one or two other times this year. I have been really missing it, but it was just not getting any love. After thinking that I didn't make the second race so the overall was not really in play, why not try the SS. I am getting a lot of peer pressure to race the SS class for the Fools Gold race and what better way to either talk me in to it or convince me it really is as bad of an idea as it probably is.

We loaded up and headed east. With the race being Saturday we really could not get there early enough to do any pre-riding. This is not all bad, but it would have been nice to see a little of the trail. But, I had 6 hours to try and figure it out. While getting my stuff ready I figured out that somehow none of the water bottles I brought would fit in the seat tube bottle cage. Humm... I know just the other week I had a bottle in there. I guess it was not any of the ones I brought. Oh well, the lap was not that big so I should be able to stop and change bottles as often as I needed. Normally if I was really worried about "racing" I would not want to stop as often, but I would have to make due.

We started off down the road a little bit for a neutral roll out. The SS does not do so well on flat roads but I did what I could to not fall back too far and also not kill myself. There is plenty of time for that later. I am not exactly sure where I was when we went in to the woods, but there was a long line of riders in front of me. There were a couple sections were some had issues and it would hold everyone up, but I just stayed relaxed and moving forward when it worked. I was rolling behind two Dan's comp riders Frank and Bob for part of the first lap until Bob had a little mishap on a section. I followed Frank around for the rest of the first lap. Since I have not been riding this bike much I guess I error on the safe side on how much air to put in the tires. The wheels were bouncing off of everything so as I came around the first lap I stopped to let some air out of both tires. Frank was gone.

Stopping was kind of nice. This became my standard for every lap. It let me swap bottles out when I needed, grab or eat food, take some swigs of Coke or anything else that I needed to help keep me going. This was also a nice little break from riding with out stopping too long and having a lot of time go by. I'm just glad I never thought about opening a beer or my number of laps would have gone way down.

After the first lap the traffic was a lot more spread out. I would have people come up on me or I would catch them from here on out, but the passes were very friendly. I was having a great time out there. The trail was a lot of fun to ride and a lot of different views to keep me interested. The roots and rocks were more than the last time I had been there. The lack of riding a rigid fork was really adding up. I was also in a bigger gear than what I used to run. But, I was happy with how I was riding.

I rode everything for the first 5 laps before having to walk a hill or two in the 6th lap. Before I got there, I really thought riding 6 laps should be where I finished but was not sure I would have the legs. I was thinking 6 for most of the time I was out there. Then somewhere on the 6th lap I was looking at the time and thought that I would need to go out for another lap. When I came by the pits I was hoping to see some people sitting around and then I would not feel bad about not going out for another lap. But unfortunately no one was there. So, after another quick stop I headed out for lap number 7.

I was pretty wore out but some how it felt like I rode lap 7 better than I rode lap 6. Probably because I thought I was done after 6. I was still in survival mode, but riding much better than I thought I would be. The rigid fork was really adding up on my hands, arms and shoulders. It had been too long since I had really spent any time on the rigid fork and I was paying for it. I was really regretting not changing it over to a suspension fork after the last ride I did. I will not make that mistake again.

This lap was really odd. At times I felt like I was the only one out there. I kept moving the best that I could but kept looking over my shoulder for some reason. I really had no idea where I was in the standings, but didn't want to get passed after being out there this long. I had passed a SSer on the 5th lap and hoped he was not hunting me down. I ended up walking the really steep hill again this lap. At the top I took a second to get a drink and eat another gel to try and finish strong. I guess I was staying hydrated enough since I was stopped I figured I might as well get rid of some pressure that I had since the first lap. LOL

I could tell I was all in when I could not remember where I was on the trail or how far I had to go. You would think by now I would know the lap a little better. Actually, I did know it better earlier in the day but now it was all burring together. When I hit the last section of switch backs I knew I was finally getting close to the end. The last climb up to the field where the cross country race was, hurt like hell and made my legs start to cramp but I was not going to walk it on my last lap. When I rolled around the corner toward the finish line I had to pull as hard as I could to get the weak wheelie in the picture above. Not my best work, but I felt I rode well enough that it deserved a wheelie. I'm glad that Kent was quick enough to catch it.

After a little bit of time I could get back to functioning and socializing. I didn't really have the energy to go check out the live results to see how I did, but as some of the other people were talking about their results it was said that I was 4th. WHAT?!? really?? That made the day even better. As the awards started and the podiums were going it kind of hit me. I may be on the podium. They were announcing finishers deeper than the top 3. Sweet!! This would be my second podium for the year. That is like 2 more than I have had in, well......since some time in the 90's before I took my break from riding.

So I ended up 4th over all in SS and 27th overall including the duo teams. 9th overall with just the solo riders. I am very happy with that. All my laps were with in the 40 minute mark other than the last one that took 53 minutes. The negative side of me had to come up with something so in the back of my head I was thinking I only finished that well because my class was smaller or something. After the finalized results came out it turns out that I would have been in 4th in open too!! So much for that thought. I guess I have nothing to be negative about. This race also helped get my arm twisted the rest of the way to sign up for the Fools Gold 60 in the SS class. I know I am far from being fast enough to compete against the top of the class, but there is just something about my SS that just gets me. It is a love/hate relationship that we have. I love it, but I swear it hates me. Somehow it tends to bring out the best in me more times than not. I guess I just like the abuse. Yea, I'm not very bright and I have mental issues....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 Big Frog 65

I had some time to write this after I returned home from the race, but I was trying to not get in too much of a hurry. I was really not sure what I wanted to write and I wanted to give myself some time to let everything sink in and what it really means to me. I'm still not clear on how or what I feel about this years race. I know, I know. I keep getting told this or that and that I'm too hard on myself. Who else can be my worst critic but me?

We made it to the whitewater center fairly early Friday. Took care of getting checked in and dropping off our drop bags. Some of the group we were expecting showed up and next thing I knew several people were ready to ride. I thought we were waiting on the rest, but the ants in the pants could not sit still long enough. We did the same ride that we did last year. Head up the road and do the first part of the race to the bridge. It was long enough to get a fair ride in and get the legs moving.
We then headed to our home for the weekend. We stayed in a really nice cabin that was not much more than 10 minutes from the start. We cleaned our bikes up and got them ready. Then we headed out to meet up with some others for dinner. We had a lot of laughs and the food was good enough. I way trying to minimize the amount of beers I drank and to make sure and drink plenty of water. I feel like I did fairly well on the water, but hard telling if I really did good enough.

After getting back to the cabin, most of us were busy getting things ready for the next morning and hanging out a little before going to bed early. We had to leave earlier than everyone else since we had a 100 miler in the group. As usual morning came pretty quick and I set to getting ready. I ate what I had planned and was ready to go in time and we headed to the start. I went and watched the 100 milers take off before getting the rest of the way ready to go. Before I knew it time came come to get up to the start line. I was really hoping I remembered to pack everything I had planned

After a few words and a prayer, the race was off. Up the long road to warm up. I tried to not go too hard and to really keep an eye on my heart rate. I figured I could easily blow myself up in the first 3 miles. I felt like I was going too easy, but convinced myself to not go too much harder. The top of the hill came up and we turned in to the woods. I felt like I did a good job with my pacing. I made a few passes on some riders that seemed to be going slower than I wanted. I was then stuck behind a few riders that had moments we were going too slow. There was starting to be a few people behind me and I heard some grumbling. I found a good place to pass and moved up to find the next group.
I kept looking at my heart rate and it was staying in the range that I wanted it to be. I was feeling pretty good and pretty happy about my game plan so far. As I rolled in to the first aid station I had to pee. Took care of business and topped off my one water bottle. I knew it was going to be a hot day and didn't want to run out of water. I saw Lovins come in to the rest stop and keep going. I took off right after and soon enough I made my way up to him. Shortly after joining him we both joined Cooper. The three of us rolled together to the 3/4 aid station skipping the 2nd stop.

At this point I tried to eat, drink and take care of myself. I was feeling pretty good at this point. I was ready to take off, but not everyone was done so I waited a little bit so we could all start together. As we did this loop section I started to feel my legs some on the first climb. It was 3+ hours in to the ride, so it was not a complete shock. I backed off a little and tried to find a pace that worked for me. Cooper was riding really strong and was pulling off the front. Lovins was not dropping too far behind him, but the both of them were leaving me pretty easily. In hind sight, I could have done either of these two things. I could have left when I was ready and they would have caught me or I really should have taken more stuff in at that point so I would not have faded as much. It is really hard to say what would have been better.

The second climb in this section was very tough for me. It is a pretty good climb and it seemed like the trees were not blocking any of the sun. I felt like I was in a convection oven. I was really feeling cooked. I tried to keep eating and drinking, but I am pretty sure it was too late. I already let too much of a gap in the cycle somewhere and now I was going to pay for it. I kept moving, but at a slower pace than I wanted. This section really seems to drag on and even worse when you start feeling bad. I was very hot and could not cool down.

Eventually I rolled back in to the 3/4 aid station. Feeling more tired than I wanted to and starting to feel like my legs wanted to cramp. I saw Cooper here, but he was getting ready to take off. He said I would catch him, but I knew better. I took a little more time here and tried to take in stuff that would help me snap back. My brain was not doing too good at this point. I was already feeling defeated as I knew I was going slower than I wanted. I was already disappointed that I was not going to make the finishing time I had hoped.

I really don't know what was wrong with my brain, but I sure didn't do several things that I should have done. Example, I didn't even get in my drop bag. I had several things in there that might have made a difference, but decided against it. I didn't really look at what was on the table to eat either. I had already put failure in to motion and I was doing everything I could to make sure it was going to happen.

The climb back out of 3/4 is always tough. I had moments where I could jump on a wheel and pick the pace up. I felt pretty good at those points, but I could never hang on long enough. Eventually I would get dropped on one of the inclines. This section drug on for a long time. It is hard to tell what was before or after the rest stop at the bottom since I have never stopped there. You are rolling along too good to worry about stopping. I eventually saw a few landmarks that were familiar and knew I was going to be at the last aid station soon.


I rolled in to there and topped off my bottle. I looked around at what I could take in. I really don't remember if I ate much or not. I had already lost my crap pills out of my pocket and should have picked something up that would have helped. At this point I had no idea where my brain was. I know what I needed to do, but I just kind of looked around and stuff and didn't eat what I needed to. I was just ready to get done and thought this was the home stretch. I didn't want to stand around too long so I took off. There was a lady who was rolling pretty good that went in to the woods a little before me. Not too far down the trail she was coming back. She thought she was going the wrong way. I assured her that this was the correct way and yes we were on this part before. She turned back around and followed me a little bit. I was hurting so I eventually let her pass. There was a couple other riders around me that I felt like needed around but at times they wanted behind me. A little farther down the trail I saw that same lady sitting on the side of the trail looking at a map. I guess she didn't believe me or all the other people that were riding by her.

This section went on forever!! I was doing pretty good when the trail was flat or doing down hill, but the inclines were hurting. There were times I could put enough power down to flow through the rollers and other times I was just creeping along. I made a friend in this section, but not sure he knew it. We never really spoke much. He was a singlespeeder and we had different points that we were fast at. I knew what boat he was in and let him by when I thought it would help him. He returned the favor when I was going faster. It was really nice to run in to a familiar face so often. I have no idea who he is, but he made this section a little better. Every time I thought we were far enough apart that we would not see each other, they we were. Eventually the rubber band broke and I pulled away for the last time.

I kept thinking I could hear the road and it should be right around the corner, but then the sounds would disappear and more trail was to be had. I did not remember much of this section because last year I was in the same situation and just going along in survival mode. My legs were really cramping at this point. I was drinking often, but it didn't seem to help. The only good thing was that most of the time when they were cramping, I could still turn the pedals over and keep moving. I have not had that happen as much to be before. I have done it for a short time, but there was a lot of time in this section that my legs were locking up, but kept moving. Eventually I heard the road again and came out on to the gravel section. I knew this was finally the section that I wanted. I crossed the bridge and headed down the high way toward the finish line. I was getting there, but I was still going pretty slow and felt like I could have fell over at any point.

I finished with a time of 7:35 and in 72nd place in open male. 114th place over all out of all Big Frog racers. After picking up my mug I rolled back to the van. I tried to sit down to take my shoes off, but as soon as I did that, both legs completely locked up tighter than I could ever remember. I jumped up and tried to find a position that was less painful. It was not easy and took me a little bit before I could move again. Of course I could hear all the peanut gallery making fun of me, but I was not in a joking mood right then. I have to say that at that moment, that was the most painful cramps that I could ever remember. It was not just one part of my leg, but both legs were full on. I had lots of funny shapes sticking out of different parts of my legs and they were moving.

It took me a long time before I could get most of my gear off and actually be able to sit there. I still kept having cramps just about any time I tried to move. I took a drink of water and really thought I was going to throw up. I eventually could make my way over to the creek and put my legs in the water. I remember that water always being so cold. This time I felt nothing. It felt like it was just warm water. I really don't know if the water was warm or it was that my core was so hot and my legs were in so much pain I just could not tell. I then slowly made it back to the van. Everyone else was ready to go since they had all been done a while. We went back to the cabin, took a shower and headed out to eat. I was the entertainment for the evening with all the moans and groans and me jumping up with out warning trying to work out a cramp. This went on for the rest of the night. I had a hard time eating a lot even though I was hungry. My body was just not wanting anything to do with anything.

So, now for me to be Eore and my negative thinking. No matter what anyone has said to me, I can not walk away from this race with out thinking it was a complete failure. Yes I finished. Yes my body gave everything it had, but it is still a failure. I have thought a lot about this and tried to look at different angles to try and make myself think differently. Out of everything I can only find a couple things that are on the positive side. First of all I finished and did not end up in the hospital like another person in the cabin did. My finishing places of 72nd/114th is a lot better than last years 111th in class and 182nd overall. Other than that I failed at everything else. Yes that may be a bit harsh, but I feel it is the truth.

I trained a lot harder this year than last year. I am currently in the best shape that I can ever remember being in. I went in to this racing thinking that a finishing time of 6 hours should be doable. Even with the winning time being a half hour slower that would only put me at 6:30 and not 7:35. The kicker for me is that not only did I not make the time that I had hoped for, but I actually finished slower than last year and just to say I finished, is not good enough to me. I have proved several times before that cramping or exhausted I somehow keep moving and will finish if at all possible.

So as I said before, I completely failed on this one. I failed at being hydrated enough before the race. I failed at eating and drinking enough early in the race. I failed at doing things that should have helped me even after I already made several mistakes. I have done enough races wrong that by now I should not be making some of these same mistakes. Even not being as fast as a lot of other people, I know a lot of things that I need to do to make me as fast as I can. I am not doing enough of those things. I am doing a lot of things better than I did in the past, but that is really just a waste if I don't do the rest of it. I have proven to myself that I can currently ride fairly good for 3.5-4 hours no matter how much I try to sabotage myself. I need to quit letting myself down in those 3.5 hours so I can help myself get through the rest of the race stronger.

So, yes I can be pretty hard on myself, but I feel like I should be. It is all my fault that I do as bad as I do. I have no one else to blame but myself. I have a really good support crew that tries hard to help put me in the position to do well. I feel like not only do I let myself down, but I also let them down too. It is bad enough to be self destructive, but it hurts even more when I let everyone else down.

I want to thank all the volunteers that spent all day out there helping all the racers. There are lots of thankless hours that go in to making a race like this happen. I want to thank everyone that is part of my cycling world. There are a lot of people that I share the road or trail with that play a big part of me pushing myself to be stronger and faster. I want to thank my core group of friends that share all these adventures with me and help me laugh all the time. You make all of this worth it. I have to thank Phil @ Adventure's for everything you do for me. You go way above and beyond anything I could have ever expected. Last but not least I have to thank Becky my lovely wife. With out your support I would not be able to ride as much as I do and travel to these races. Thank you all!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Griffin Park XC

I am foraging new areas with this race report and not really sure what to think about it. Let me start with the week leading up to this race. I was being asked if I was going to attend this race or not. I really didn't have anything on the calendar that I could not miss that should keep me from racing this race. I typically am not really in to XC racing that much, so I did not have a huge desire to attend. I was leaning toward just staying home and putting in a long ride here. The week leading up to the race I was starting my 3rd week in a row of feeling sick. I was still riding, but coughing and over all just feeling run down.

My arm continued to get twisted about attending. It turns out that several team members were going to be able to make it to this race. We have not really had that many people be able to make it to the same place very often over the last couple years, so I agreed to go along. I didn't expect to do very well and I was really good with that. It was going to be more about hanging out with friends and riding my bike. This mentality had me doing some things that I normally would not have done before a race. There was supposed to be a soccer tournament the two days before. There was a lot of rain that came in and they had to post pone the tournament to the next week. This allowed me to join a couple other friends on a ride Saturday morning.

This ride was not typically what I think I should do the day before a race. We did a 43 mile gravel ride that had a fair amount of climbing. I knew it was going to be a pretty big ride, but like I said above I was not overly concerned about finishing well at the race. We had a great ride! I tried to not go too hard on the climbs just so I didn't completely destroy myself. After the ride I tried to do a few things to make sure and recover and re-hydrate, but did allow myself to have a couple beers too. Later that night my legs were hurting and borderline cramping while I was sitting on the couch. It was not looking very promising that I would have much for Sunday.

Sunday morning came much earlier than I wanted it to. I got ready and headed over to the meeting place and we loaded up the team trailer. Down the road we went to Griffin Bike Park. We made it there with plenty of time left before the race. It was not as early as we wanted, but it was just fine. We all signed up and got ready to go warm up. I had never been there before. I figured that the one person who did know the trail would lead us in the right direction of a sample of the trail to warm up on.

After a few miles I realized that me and Kade were all alone. Neither one of us had any idea where we were or where to take any short cuts to head back. The trail was not that long and I knew we should have enough time to finish the lap, but that was not my plan at all. When we finished the lap we rolled up to the car with about 12 min before the start of the race. I grabbed what I wanted for the race and tried to eat and drink a little then headed to the start.

 I really am in there somewhere

I didn't really plan it, but when we rolled up to the line from the dashed line, I found myself in the second row. I was not too worried about it as I was not really sure how the legs would be. There was also a long road section before we turned in to the woods. We took off fairly fast. At first it was not bad, but then the road was getting longer than I wanted it to be. I backed off my pace a little so I didn't completely blow myself up before we even hit the woods. I noticed that there seemed to be a little gap behind me so it was all good.

I went in to the woods somewhere a little above the top 10 I think. It was hard to tell and I didn't want to slide out on the 180 degree turn in to the woods. I was a little worried about this first section since it had some tight corners and some short up and downs. I figured if the group was all bunched up and everyone slowed a little at the top of the hills, it could turn in to a bad pile up on the face of the hill. That would not be good at all. Luckily it was not too bad and I tried to keep enough room in front of me where I thought the issue would be worse.

I made a few passes here and there where it worked out. I could also make some moves on the open gravel section that went by the finish line. Somewhere in this lap I came up on Tristin and followed him for a while. At some point he dropped me. I kept going as best that I could. I was happy with how the legs were working. Somewhere late in the first lap I found myself behind JJ. I figured that I probably was not doing too bad as I had noticed him toward the top of the finishers lists on some of the other Dino races. I was content being where I was and just stayed with that group. At some point it ended up just being the two of us as we started the second lap.

I felt like we were not rolling along too bad. I expected to be working harder than I was, but was happy with where I was and stayed there. Next thing I knew Barry came up on us pretty quick and on one of the more technical little climbs he went flying by us on the other side of the trail. We both followed him for a little while. This is the point that my day changed a little. Barry had asked if he was holding us up and if we wanted by. JJ declined and said we were good. It was then when Barry asked where we were sitting. When the reply was 2nd and 3rd I just about crapped myself. I knew I had passed a few people, but I never expected to be that far up. It gets a little confusing on where you are after the different age groups get mixed up. It had been a very long time since I had been in this situation. It was back in the 90's when I frequently found myself near the front of the Sport class. Every since getting back in to racing I had just been pack filler.

At this point I could not have been any happier. My legs were feeling a lot better than I could have ever expected after what I did the day before and with my warm up ride. I figured all I needed to do was try to hang on and maybe be able to make a run for the position at the finish. I was not sure if Barry was in our class or not, but he dropped us anyway. Now I was potentially going to have to sprint it out for a 3rd place finish. I was hoping that he was in the 50+ class, but I was not sure. I just wanted to keep an eye out behind me to make sure no one was catching us and possibly loose another position. Somewhere in there we caught back up with Tristin and rode with him.
We had moments where we were really moving out. Overall the legs were feeling pretty good, but had moments where it felt like they might be working on cramping soon. I downed a Honey Stinger gel and took in some big drinks. In no time those feelings went away. I am not sure where it happened, but JJ was taking a turn at the front and I ended up passing Tristin. Not sure where he fell off, but it was back to just the two of us.

Somewhere in the third lap another rider came up on us before I knew it. He asked to pass, but right then there was not really a good place. In just a little bit I knew we would be hitting one of the double track sections and there was no need to move over in a dangerous spot. I knew as soon as we hit the double track he would be making his move. I didn't want to risk loosing any more positions so when he went, I jumped on his wheel. We flew down that section and back in to the woods. I kept on his wheel the best that I could. There were not too many spots that I really felt like he was going too slow.

We crossed the parking lot section where the start turned in and where we were parked. I was wearing down and getting worried I would run out of gas. So, I finally asked the question, what class are you in? He said 50+, how about you? I said 40 and he replied, oh thank god. That means we won't have to sprint it out at the line. LOL we were both hoping that. I am not sure if it was the release of the stress or what, but right after that I started to feel a little stronger. He had just asked if I needed by and I didn't think I wanted to at that point. A corner later I was kind of thinking I should have passed, but at that point it was all good. I just didn't want JJ to catch back up to us and kept looking back as the trails crisscrossed. We went hard when we hit the gravel, but I didn't have enough to pass him and I was ok with that.

Well it turned out that I ended up in 2nd and was able to stand on the podium. It felt awesome to be able to have such a great ride and then have the best MTB result that I have had in probably 20 years or more. It is great to finally feel like all the work I had been putting actually making a difference. I know I have not done everything that I need to or even had planned, but I have been doing more than previous years and it may just be starting to add up. Now I just hope to keep moving forward.
Now for the what if's that I just can't keep out of my head. It is really hard to talk myself in to some things when I really didn't expect to be somewhere to begin with. There are a lot of things leading up to this race that had me thinking I would not do very well, even for my normal finishes. I had been sick for 3 weeks and just barely getting over it. I had rode some in that time, but had some days that I really struggled and was really run down and wore out. Then I look at the ride I did the day before. This was not what I would call a good idea the day before a race. Not enough sleep the two nights leading up to the race and then that much longer warm up ride than I had planned. Any and all of those things should have kept me from having a good race. So, how did it go so right?
The other side of the second guessing myself is what would have happened if I would have pushed forward and made a couple passes that I didn't make? The guy who won the race was only 1 minute ahead of me. Could I have made up that time? Would I have blown up and fell apart? I will never know. Part of me thinks I did so well because I didn't make a couple passes. When I was on someones wheel and I was able to rest a little, it could be the whole reason I was as strong. After being stick and everything else, I am not going to beat myself up much wondering about the what if's. I am just very happy to finally have a good result. I just need to keep doing what I have been doing and working on improving. Maybe someday I will feel good enough about myself to go back to Cat 1 or even race Sport Open. My real goal is to be able to do better at the longer races. I feel like I am getting closer, so maybe one day I'll be "there".