Thursday, March 8, 2018

Dirty South Roubaix 2018

Last weekend was the second running of the Dirty South Roubaix in Southern Illinois. Last year a last minute decision had me at the starting line and I had a great time. The area has some great views and nice gravel roads. This year there was a couple more classes and with my trend for the year I signed up in the single speed class. Coming off of a great ride at the Gravel Grovel, this didn't seem like that bad of an idea. All I can say is that I'm not really sure if it was a good idea.

We decided to head over on Friday night just to make the morning a little easier. We got there early enough to check in and get a bite to eat. Hanging out with a group of people is part of what makes racing even more fun. Riding the actual race is "fun", but most of the time you are suffering all alone in your head. At times there are others around you, but it can get very lonely in your head.

We got there in plenty of time and started to get ready. There was a lot more racers for this years race than last year. The weather looked like it would be a great day for a bike ride. I went back and fort on a few of the items that I should wear, like I normally do, but I think I made the right choice. Everyone was rolling around warming up and it was getting close to race start. I saw E2 talking to the one bike shop guy. Turns out that his rear derailleur cable broke when he was warming up and they were trying to fix it. I had to run back to the car and take off my jacket before the race started. When I got to the starting line it seems that he had found a loner bike to use. Thanks to Bob Kay for being such an awesome guy!!

I was lined up a little farther back than I wanted. As we took off down the road I found a few spots where the pack was spreading out that let me move farther up. I found myself in the area of riders that I wanted to be, but after the neutral roll out was over the pace kicked up. I was really hating that I decided to ride the SS. I was spinning faster than I wanted to just to try and hand on. Eventually I had to let some riders go and just try to hang on to what ever group I could. I did not remember this section being so long or flat, but then again, I had gears last year.

We finally got to the first big climb. I was trying to not go too fast since my heart rate was still off the charts from all the spinning. Even trying to go slow I was passing a lot of riders. After few corners and pitches there was a real steep section that had really loose rock. After spinning out a couple times and with my heart rate still elevated, I deiced to get off and walk a short section. I was not happy about it, but it really did help a lot and it was not very long. I hopped back on and kept moving, still passing riders.

Once I hit the bottom of the hill and made the left on to the road, I was all alone. This section really sucked with the added head wind. I was going slower than I would have been on a geared bike, but it was all I could do. After a little while a rider came rolling up. I hopped on his wheel and my pace picked up. I passed the first rest stop since I didn't really need it yet and hit the dreaded levee section. I was all alone, but seemed to be moving along better than last year. A little ways down the levee a group came rolling up. I saw E2 and Bob in there and hopped on to the back of the train. I took advantage of this while I could because I didn't feel like I would keep up. Some how I stayed with the group for the rest of the levee section. I was riding near my limit for most of the time, but I was moving way faster than I could on my own.

After this section I was happy they eased up a little before taking off again. I stayed with the group and at one point I even took a pull. I figured my speed at the front would be a lot slower than they would want to go, but after a little bit I looked back and I had a gap. I am not really sure how that happened. Some of the group caught back up to me and we all caught a couple new riders. This new group rode together a little while. I thought there was a gap forming so I jumped on that wheel. Not much later I found myself off the front again.

This is where I rolled up on a new group that seemed too strong for me to catch, but there I was. Tweety was in this group so I felt a lot better about how I was riding. I didn't think it would have been possible to catch up to her. I rode with this new group for several miles. I took a pull and when I was fading back, the next guy upped the pace a lot. I tried to jump on, but I was spinning way to fast to stay there and had to let them pull away. This next section of road hurt since I was out there all alone.

Eventually I did join a rider or so on and off, but we would never seem to stay together. Everyone was just riding there own pace and doing what they needed to do. I rolled in to the new section of the Trail of Tears. There was a guy taking pictures, so I felt the urge to ride a wheelie for him. It was not the greatest, but not bad for 3 hours in to a tough ride. Right past him I saw the road go up hill. The gravel in this section was also very soft. My legs did not think the wheelie was a very good idea, but I just kept turning pedals over. Still seeing riders on and off, but not really sticking with any for very long.

I crossed the road to the other side of the Trail of Tears and as I climbed there was a couple riders walking. One of them jumped on and followed me up the hill. We rode mainly together for the rest of this gravel section with a gap forming here and there, but always getting back together. We rolled in to the last rest stop. I was completely out of water and he apparently wanted a PBR. It was very tempting to have one, but I was still feeling like I needed to go. I took off on my own and rode almost all of the last section alone. I did see a few riders, but never really hooking up. The last paved climb hurt really bad. It seemed to go on for ever!! I knew at the top we would take a right and in to the finish. As I got to the right turn I saw the arrows painted to keep going. What!!! Dammit, I thought we were done. But, good thing it didn't take too long to make it to the next right and roll up to the finish. I felt so happy to be there that I had to ride a wheelie across the finish line.

I came in at 4:13 which was good enough for 3rd in SS and 38th overall. I also beat last years time by 4 min. It would have been interesting to see what gears would have done for me, but I will never know. I might have even been slower. I felt like I had lost a lot of time at the start when I was spun out. I also felt like I was slower on most of the road sections. Any time I could hook up with other riders, my pace would go up. This helped me out a lot and I owe all of those guys a huge thank you!! I just wish I knew who they all were. For most of the race I hated myself for riding the SS. After looking at all the numbers it doesn't seem to hurt as bad. I had a lot of PR's from last year and I am happy with my time. If I would decide to race the SS again next year I would probably run a little bigger gear to help with the flat stuff.

Thanks to all the volunteers and the promoters for all the work to put this event on. It was a blast both years and I plan on coming back next year if I can. If you didn't make it either year, then you missed out on some good riding and great views. Make sure and put it on your calendar next year!! 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sand, Sun and Lots of miles


There is a yearly trip to Florida every February. I have made the trip a couple of times, but not too many. I didn't really plan on going this year, but a few things ended up happening and my winter training was lacking so I decided to join in on the trip. Previous years they had been going to Clear Water Beach area. It was a nice place that had bike lanes all the way out to Fort Desoto and back. Two years ago I was there and we had a lot of flats. The lanes had a lot of debris and the traffic was increased from previous years. That bike lane also has a lot of start and stops along the way.

This year they decided to try a new place. Jacksonville Beach was chosen and that helped talk me in to going. I always like checking out new places. This could be really good or really bad, but it would be an adventure no matter what and with the people going it was bound to be a good time. The typical plan is to ride 100 miles every day. The previous years I had only done that one or two times out of the trip. Other days I ended up cutting it a little short. Still good rides, but not the 100 miles.


I was a little concerned about this year since some of the routes didn't seem to have a good bail out point. In Clear Water we could ride out to Fort Desoto and back and would have around 80 miles. This was an easy place to stop, maybe too easy. I was there for long miles, so not having a bail out point might be good. This year the 3 main route ideas were all over 100 miles with the longest being 111. Most of our riding was going to be along the A1A or a couple other roads in certain parts. The A1A had some really nice bike lanes in some areas and others were still not that bad.

We left Tuesday night at 8:00 pm. We drove all night and pulled in to town around 8:00 am. With in 30 min. of parking at the condo we were geared up and on the bikes. We headed north and had to ride the ferry to cross the St. John's river. Then we continued north through Amelia Island and in to Main Beach Park. Then we headed back south with a small detour down another road and back. We had to ride the ferry again then headed back to Jax Beach. We did not have the 100 miles in yet, so we decided to ride south of town a few miles and back. I ended up with 101 miles on day one.

Day two's plan was to head south. We went down Ponte Verda Blvd to get south of town then back on the A1A. We followed an amazing bike lane down the A1A with the beach just to the left for the whole ride. This was a newly paved road that had no stops and a very wide bike lane. You could not as for a better road. We continued south to St. Augustine and then continued on to the Hammok Beach area. We ate lunch and then headed back to the condo. This day we ended up with 106 miles.

The next day we went south to St. Augustine, but this time we headed west. West of St. Augustine was by far our worst section of road all week. I am not sure if there was a better way or not, but it worked. We went toward Hastings but not all the way there. At one point we ended up on a bike path that was much better than the road we were on. We then went north on 13 for a little while. This is where some were getting really hungry. We were pretty deep in to the ride and no idea where lunch would be. We then rolled up to a very interested place to eat at Molasses Junction. Not exactly the healthiest place to eat, but we were starving. After taking in all that grease, we went back west toward 13 and rode along the edge of the St. John's river. This was a very scenic road to ride. We followed 13 all the way up to 152 and then headed east.

Going north from here is where this route got interesting. We might have gotten a little lost. We were definitely on some roads that were way too busy for my liking and no bike lane. It is possible that we saw the same guy cross the rode twice at two different intersections. We may have rode through the grass and in between some bushes to get to another sidewalk. We might have had one rider ready to kill over and needed to be picked up. We might have not exactly known where we were when we passed the 111 mile mark on this 111 mile ride. But, we did make it back to the condo! I had 117 miles for the 111 mile ride. That is not too bad at all considering we felt pretty lost a couple times.

The next day we went north again and over the river by ferry. This time we figured out what turn we needed to make to take a tour of Ft. Clinch State Park. After checking out where the pier used to be, we headed back south toward Jax Beach. Once again we were just a little short on the 100 miles so we continued past the condo for a little while and back to make sure we rolled over the 100 mile mark.

The last day we had a short ride planed before the long drive home. We headed south for 45 min and then turned around. We ended up with 30 miles for our last venture in Florida for the year. We packed up and headed north for the 12 ish hour drive home. Wore out from all the hours on the bike. Sore from all the hours sitting on the seat and sun burned, but still had a great trip. Weather was awesome and the roads were just as good. We all had good time, ate some good food and some of us had some Really Good Beer. I think Jax Beach will be the new ride destination for the February trips. I ended up with 454 miles and a little over 25 hours on the bike for the 4.5 day trip. Not too bad.

Friday, January 5, 2018

2017 - Another year gone by

It is crazy how fast the year can fly by. It just seems to keep getting faster and faster every year. I sure it has to do with how busy I always seem to be. If it is not one thing, it is another. 2017 turned out to be a pretty good year for me. I ended 2016 feeling pretty bummed about my performance at the Gravel Grovel after feeling like I was having a good year. I know that I didn't feel good and that played a big part in my ride, but that did not really make me feel better. This year I came out swinging pretty good and had one of my most successful years that I can remember.

It started out with the early season trip to Georgia for the Snake Creek Gap The first event was an adventure with all the snow and all classes changed to the 17 mile, but was still a lot of fun. I didn't really race it since the time was not a factor, but I still felt like I rode most of it pretty good until near the end. The second race had a lot better weather and I rode pretty well for what I wanted, but came up a little short from my goal. Either way this race is always interesting.

Next up on the schedule was the inaugural Dirty South Roubaix gravel race. It was somewhat of a last minute decision to attend and I really was not sure what to expect. The route had a lot of nice places to ride and also a very painful levee. I ended up riding better than I thought I would, even with feeling like I was dying on the levee and also nursing a leaking tire near the end. I was very happy with myself with I figured out that I finished 5th in my class and just off of the podium.

I went back to Big Frog to try and improve on the last years time. Well, I failed pretty bad at that finishing even slower than the previous year and a lot of cramping to go with it. I came out of this race felling pretty low on myself and how I was riding. I will have to go back and see if I can figure out where I go wrong out there on the gravel loop. 

I then attended my only DINO XC race of the year at Griffin Park I have not been doing many XC races, but things just worked out for me to attend and this race turned in to my biggest surprise of the year. I didn't have any expectations and was pleasantly surprised when I figured out where I was running and was able to improve upon that to finish 2nd and my first podium in a long time.

I finally didn't have any conflicts and was able to attend my first Tri-State 6hr race at East Fork I didn't feel like I rode too bad, but faded pretty good late in the race. Not horrible, but not the performance that I would have liked. I did figure out that I really do like these events and the atmosphere and want to attend more.

I'm not sure what all happened between these two 6 hour races, but somewhere in the middle of me not being happy with how I am riding and how I seem to do better on a SS bike and then Bushong trying to talk me in to racing Fools gold on a SS. I came in to this second Tri-State 6hr race at England Idlewild making an unexpected change. I had not been on my SS in a long time and here I found myself lined up to race it for 6 hours. Needless to say I was not prepared for this at all, but it turns out that maybe there is some connection between me and my one gear friend. I raced this with a bigger gear than I used to run and rode awesome! I pushed myself to hang in there and ended up finishing in 4th place and my second podium of the season.

Needless to say after that performance it was easy to talk me in to doing Fools Gold in the SS class. I still had doubts, but no turning back now. I had another great day on the bike. I was riding better than I think I have all year and even with a mechanical that ate up some time I was still happy with finishing 11th in a stacked SS class.

I was happy when my conflicts ended up working out for me to attend the Pedals Helping People mtb race. This is a great event put on to help people affected by cancer. This was an awesome day to ride in the woods and for an even better cause. The icing on the cake was getting myself another podium appearance.

This had me closing in on the end of the season with my favorite race of the year, Gravel GrovelSo, continuing the trend of riding one gear, I did this race SS again. I have done it SS several times in the past and always thought I needed gears to get faster times and finish where I wanted to. That makes sense and all, but I have found that I do not make sense most of the time. I ended up having another great ride and destroying my fastest finish to date by 45 min and finished over an hour faster than last year. What more can one ask for to end the season. Yea another podium would have been nice, but maybe next year. My finishing time would have been 3rd last year, so I guess I'm not completely out of reach.

I also ended up my year with the most miles that I have ever put in for a single year. I rolled just over 5300 miles for 2017! I am very happy with that. I just hope to continue to move forward and give myself as much chance for another good season in 2018. Hope to see you from behind bars. 

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