Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Florida in February

There has been a group of guys that have been heading down to Florida early in the year in one form or another for a very long time. I have made the a few times over the last several years. For the longest time the group headed to Clear Water Beach, but this has recently made a change to Jacksonville Beach. This was the 3rd year to ride in this area. I made the trip the first year, but it didn't work out for me the second. I really didn't think it was going to work out this year either, but somehow it ended up working out for me.

The plan has changed a little over the times that I have gone, but mainly the plan is to ride 100 miles each day. This year there was a group of 10 guys staying at the condo. Several of them had never made this trip before. We left on Tuesday night and drove through the evening to arrive early on Wednesday morning. We got in to town and made a stop for some breakfast. After unloading the trailer it was time to head out for our first ride.

We headed north across the Mayport ferry and toward Fort Clinch. The weather was 80+ degrees and exactly why I wanted to ride in Florida. There are very little hills and not much for elevation to be had, but the temps make up for it. We stopped for a quick bite on the way back and continued south. The trip north is not quite long enough to get the 100 miles in on its own, so when we got back toward the condo the group split up. Some stopped at the house and the rest continued south for what ever mileage was needed. I ended up with just over 100 miles for the day.

The second day we headed south toward St. Augustine. The weather was a little cooler, but still plenty warm. The only negative was that the wind had picked up. We went into a head wind the whole way out and had gusts that would about blow you over. There was a storm that was getting blown in for later that night. The head wind was brutal and little by little, parts of the group would turn back north. Eventually 7 of us made it to our Subway stop near Palm Coast.

This is our 50ish mile turn around point with the option to continue south for even more miles. With all the wind, there were only 2 people crazy enough to keep going south. They rode all the way down to Daytona Beach before turning back. This netted them a 160 mile day and rolled up to the house with it being almost dark. The rest of us turned back toward the house. The tail wind was such a relief that we were cruising between 24-28 mph for the next 30 miles. It was still not an easy ride, but it was so nice to not be riding in to the wind. I ended up with 103 miles for the day. This was also one of the guy's first ever century.

The next day we headed more inland to ride along the river. The wind was still blowing strong, but it seemed like the gusts were less than the day before. It was a little bit of an adventure heading west, but eventually we found our way to the river. We rode south along the river heading toward a trip staple of stopping at Molasses Junction. I am not as big of a fan of some of the roads in this area, but riding next to the river with all the moss hanging from the trees makes it all worth it.

The group was a little bigger on this day for getting the full 100 miler in. The places to turn around are few and far between. I mean, there are places to cut back, but you would have ended up going just about as far so you might as well stick around. I think a couple of the guys were getting a little hangry since our lunch stop was a little farther than the other days. It took about 60 miles to get there. I think everyone also felt a little better once we headed back east and had a little tail wind.

We finally made it and we all got some of the least healthy food on the trip. The store was under new ownership and has had some upgrades, but I'm still not sure the grease in the fryer has been changed. My chicken tenders and fries were fast and easy. I thought they tasted pretty good too. Actually, my fries were very good, but I don't think my stomach liked it very much. I was in pain for the rest of today's route. The road back to Saint Augustine was not too bad, but had some busier sections. There was also a ghost bike leaning next to a sign on this section. That kind of hit me pretty hard and the feeling of security was not as strong from there. I know that getting hit is a reality, but I try not to think about it. I do what I can to be as safe as possible on the road. It really doesn't take much of a distraction to keep me from making it back home.

Once we made it back to the A1A we once again were getting hit by wind. A quick bathroom stop had the group split up. Everyone was hurting and ready to get back home. Once we got rolling again we tried to push the pace and catch the other group. We were exchanging pulls pretty well and as I finished a pull and started backward the group had split. A couple of us kept going and could see the other group. As we rolled up on them I kind of just kept going. I really thought I would blow by them and sit up, but with another rider on my wheel, we just kept going and digging our self deeper and deeper in to the hole. This ride had more riders getting 100 miles than any other day. We had a rider get his second ever century after yesterday's first. We also had another rider get his first century. I ended up with 103 miles again and overall it was a great day on the bike.

I was feeling pretty rough the next morning. The number of riders willing to go for the 100 mile ride was dwindling. We headed north again and across the ferry. It was painful on the trip out and as I looked at the other bike paths and nature areas I was fully contempt to turn back early and make it a shorter day. The one rider already said he was not going all the way and I kind of assumed he would turn around at the subway. Well, that didn't happen. With him continuing north, how could I turn back. I'm here for training, so it was time to htfu and keep going. All the previous days riding and wind had me pretty tanked. We made it to the end of the line and headed back south. Most of us were really hurting and as we got closer to the condo I really thought we would stop. We actually made a quick stop at the house for a bathroom break and to get more water then headed farther south to get our miles in. I had moments where I felt better than others, but after we turned around I was in complete survival mode heading toward the barn.

Eventually we made it back to the house and completed our fourth 100 mile day in a row with just over 101 miles. I was sure glad that I kept going, but even more glad that it was over. We kicked back and cut a little loose that night. I think everyone was having a good time or at least most of us. It all ended up a little blurry with only 2 of us left awake. Not really sure what time I finally crashed, but it was after 1:00. 6:30 that next morning came around very quickly. Sleeping on the couch did not condone sleeping in once other people started waking up and hanging out in the kitchen. I was exhausted, but eventually started moving.

I had to get ready and head out the door. The weather said it was 47 degrees, but it felt a lot warmer than that. It didn't take long before I was really sweating and was feeling way over dressed. I am sure it was a combination of the temps and the alcohol, but either way I was way too warm. I was not alone in this feeling, so I'm sure it felt warmer than 47. We headed south for an hour and turned around. I was hurting, but still moving well enough. That was until we turned around and I figured out that we had a little tail wind. So, our casual pace had help, great! The trip back north might have hurt more than the end of the ride the day before. We could not get back soon enough for me. I ended up with just over 27 miles and that was a wrap for the trip. Time to pack up everything and get back in a car for 12+ hours home.

There are a lot of good things and bad things with this trip. It is not always roses, but overall the warmer weather and long days on the bike are why all of us are there. Not ideal training, but also not terrible. There is not much climbing to be had, but hours upon hours of turning the pedals over with very little coasting has to count for something. I just hope to find some climbing legs in the next couple weeks before my first race of the season. I don't normally go in to this race expecting to be in top shape, but does feel good if I ride strong. I will have to see just how it goes. Lots of plans this year that I really hope to have some legs for. Just got to keep moving forward.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

What year is it?

It's hard to believe it is January already. Have kept myself pretty busy and the weather makes it hard to know what month it is. But, I do know next season should have started already in some form or another. I can't say I am happy that the year is over, but it was not quite the year I had hoped. It was not a terrible year, but I felt slower than the previous year. But I did have some pretty crazy rides. Here is a little year in review for 2019.

The year started out good enough at the Dirty South Roubaix. Legs were not fully ready yet, but did good enough. Weather was a little colder than preferred. The next weekend was the Death March. I had some high hopes that my legs would be feeling pretty good for this race. I teamed up with Bushong again and we were going for all the check points. The weather was not very nice to us. It rained most of the day, I think there was some hail and we were frozen solid. We ended up taking the shortest way back to the car and taking the dnf. The worst part was when we made that decision, we were still 10 miles out. It took me 2 months to feel part of my one finger.

After that race I headed to Pisgah with the People's group and had some great rides. I was really hoping this would be a big boost to the legs. The rides really hurt, but the company and views were all worth it. A few weeks later I ended up heading down the Land Between the Lakes and doing the April Fools Gravel Camp. It was a pretty new race, but they did a good job and had a good party set up after wards. Overall I had a good ride, but the legs faded in the second half. It was a fun time and I will probably be going back this year.

Next up was a race that I was really bummed I could not attend the year before. The 45 is part of a pretty new promoter's races. I can not reccomend the Boondoggle races enough. It still has a grass roots feel. Not very expensive, but is ran like a pro. Just because it is new doesn't mean it is easy. The starting list is filled with who's who from the NUE series. There were a couple other races I didn't make, but the new 3 race series is on my must do list this year. I can't way to get back to Cave Run.

Next up was PMBAR! What a race. This race is one of the hardest things I have ever done (every time). Every year is completely different and you never know what could happen. This year was a monsoon. It was another crazy day on the bike. It rained even more than Death March, but was not as cold. There was crazy lightning and thunder, hail and it rained so much that we were riding down a creek. It was a day to remember for sure.

Next up on my list was the Mohican 100k. I came in to this race with weaker legs than I should have. I was not recovering from the effort at PMBAR very well and life was busy and kept me from riding as much as I should have. Even with not feeling the strongest, I did have a better ride than I expected so there are no complaints there and the after party was pretty solid from what I remember.

Then I headed up to Michigan to attend my first ever Lumberjack 100. This is a race that I have been interested in a while. I have heard nothing but good things about this race and the only complaint I have is that I don't live closer. After last years Mohican 100 I was not sure if I would ever do another 100 miler. After the the Lumberjack I immediately said I would come back and do it again. Legs were still not where I hoped, but with everything considered, they treated me pretty well and I really enjoyed the race. I will be going back, just not this year.

I had some time before the next race on the schedule. I had some vacation time, did a beer ride and the local road ride. It was good to be on vacation some and was still getting some good rides in. There was a new race that popped up on the calendar. It was a 6 hour race in Ky. How could I pass this up. It sounded like a great time. The KY 6 hour was a super fun race. There is something about the 6 hour race that is a lot of fun. I'm not a huge fan of a lot of traffic, but everything else makes up for it. I have not seen anything about another race this year, but if there happens to be one, I sure hope I can attend.

I then made the trip back to Fools Gold. This was my 3rd time there. This is a hard loop that is still a lot of fun. My legs still felt heavy, but they once again did a great job for me. I really like this race and would not be disappointed if I go back again this year. My full plan for this has not been decided just yet. This race is back in the NUE schedule so that might made this years race a little different.

In between this time and my next race was the HMBA Epic. This is always a good time. The music is good, the beer is good and the trails are awesome. Several good people to hang out with for the weekend. I hate to think of all the years I didn't attend. It is not the cheapest event to attend, but it sure is one of the best times.

My next race was a race that I have wanted to do for a very long time. The BT Epic has always seemed interesting to me, but seemed too far away. I am not sure why I thought that since I have gone farther for races. The other thing is that it sells out very quickly. There is not waiting if you want in this one. This race was pretty cool. They have a nice big area set up at a camp ground for the start/finish. There is also vendors and beer tents set up. The race alone is a good one and when you add the party, it is one heck of a good time. I hope to get in for this years race again. 

I also attended the Obannon Woods Adventure ride weekend. It has been a while since I have been back there and they have been doing a lot of work . There are a lot of good trails that have been built. We also spent several hours on the AHT. It didn't take long to remember how hard that trail is. I need to make more trips back there. In fact, I went back the next weekend to get even more.

The last big thing of the year is always Gravel Grovel. I did the least amount of GG specific riding leading up to the race. Heck, I didn't even know what bike I was going to ride a couple weeks before the race. A last minute decision had be signed up again in the SS class. The weather was not going to be good. It was once again going to rain on me all day on the bike. It seemed like the trend of the year and might as well go out in a bang. Well, the weather didn't hold back and it was a very wet ride. Very deep creek crossings and it was much colder than I would have liked, but still warmer than Death March or at least it seemed like it. Maybe I was dressed better this time? I didn't have a fast time, but was just happy to have finished. Most of the racers either didn't show up or dropped out.

My overall miles for the year were down a lot from last year. My legs seemed weaker, but they always seem weak. After last year, I had high hopes that I could improve on what I built and be even stronger this season. That didn't happen like planned. I am really the only one to blame for this. All I can do is hope that I actually do a better job at putting in the work. I have several races I am already signed up for and a couple that I hope I am quick enough to get in before they sell out. Here's to a strong 2020 season or at least another great year full of uncontrollable laughs and plenty of good rides. Hope to see you there.


Monday, December 2, 2019

2019 Gravel Grovel Swim


If you have read my previous post about Gravel Grovel you would probably be wondering how much gears had helped me for this year. Well, you will have to check back next year and see if you have any more luck knowing that answer than I do. As much as I would really like to give this race a good run with a geared bike, this was not the year. First of all to give it really a good run I would have to be riding stronger than I was this year. I didn't get the training done leading up to the race like I would have liked and was not as strong as I should have been. Also as the race was getting closer and I was keeping my eye on the weather, it was looking like a very high chance of bad weather. I figured I needed to just take the bike that can handle the worst weather out of all the bikes and changed to the SS class.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Is it that time already

It is getting the time of year that I normally start doing a lot more gravel rides. I usually get some Gravel Grovel recon rides in and start wondering what kind of finishing time I can get. This may be the first year in a very long time that I have not rode any of those areas recently. This year is full of a lot of unusual things. Before I get in to all of that, I need to start a few weeks farther back.

After the BT Epic I was pretty run down and had some aches from the hard effort. I didn't have the motivation to get out as much I needed. I also ended up doing something I didn't think I would do, I bought a full suspension geared bike. I was not expecting to do that at all, but this year after PMBAR I could not help from wondering how that kind of bike would be a lot more enjoyable for that area. Some things ended up happening so that all the stars aligned and there I was, an owner of another new bike.

The new toy

I ended up taking ownership a few days before the O'bannon Woods Adventure Ride. I figured if we were going to ride the AHT, then why not take my new ride and see what it was all about. I did get a couple minutes on it in the yard to get some things adjusted, but didn't really spend much time on it. I have never been to this event, but I have been to the area a little and heard that the event was a good time. I got there a little late on Friday and could only check out a little section of trail. Saturday the event ride was around the park and stuff. The group I was with wanted to check out the AHT. It didn't take me very long to remember how rocky this trail could be and how many hike a bike sections there were. The new bike was riding pretty good, but I was having an issue with my back brake and basically ended up riding most of the day with only a front break. It sure made some of the sections pretty interesting.

It turns out that the brake pads were completely worn out. I tried to put new pads in, but I could not get the pressure to build and make the brakes work. So much for a nice new bike. Someone was nice enough to loan me his bike for Sunday's ride. Saturday's ride kicked all of our butts, but it seemed like everyone wanted to go back and give the AHT another go, but this time add a little more of the sections we didn't' ride. My loaner bike was a hard tail SS. Not anything I wouldn't have been on anyway if I didn't buy the FS bike. I was still worn out and the trail was even harder than the day before, but I didn't do too bad on the SS. I didn't climb a couple hills that I would have with my eagle and I was missing the FS on some of the rocky downhills, but it was still a great day.

Thanks Blake!!

So, after the event I went back home and tried to get the brakes to work. I tried a lot of different things, but never could get them to work very well. The next weekend I had planned on heading up to the Story area to get a good gravel ride in, but with the weather being good enough for trail riding and not getting much interest in joining me, I figured I would head back to O'Bannon and get another good trail ride in while it was good. I ended up stealing a caliper from my Spot to get it back up and rolling. I went to do some of the AHT again, but I skipped some of the harder sections. I will say that with both brakes working, this bike was a lot of fun. Eagle also was pretty crazy at what I could climb. It was another big, fun day.

Now this leaves me sitting in the another strange position for the year. I no longer had a working gravel SS that I normally ride for Gravel Grovel. This had me thinking about all the times I would ride my Speedster gravel bike and wonder what kind of time I could get at GG on it. But, I just didn't feel right not riding the SS. I had been contemplating this for the last month or so, but always ended up telling myself to just ride the SS. With this bike now only having 1 working brake, I figured I might as well see what the whole geared thing is all about and if I can get a good time on it. I know there are several gravel road sections that are not really the greatest on a SS and a couple of the climbs really hurt too. Now I am signed up in a different class than normal, riding a different kind of bike than normal and not even staying in the cabins like I usually do. I am not sure what I think of all that. I can only hope that no matter what bike I actually end up riding, it is a good day and I can have a fun time. I am sure that no matter how I ride, there will be at least some good times had. Guess we will see soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

2019 BT Epic

I have wanted to check out the BT Epic for a few years, but it just never seemed to work out for me. It was brought up for this year and I found a taker that was interested in going. So, I made sure and was ready to sign up when the event opened since it normally sells out pretty quickly. This is a 50 mile race that uses the Berryman Trail and the Ozark Trail for the route and starts and finishes out of the Bass River Resort. The race is open for 650 racers and did sell out very quickly.

We headed west on Friday morning. Made a quick stop at our weekend house and then headed toward Bass River to get our packets and go for a ride. The house was pretty nice for a 20's themed place, but hope you don't want use a tv or a microwave. The trip over to the start area was not too long. We decided to ride the loop at the end of the race since it was about the right distance. After the long road climb and gravel road section, we hit the trails. It was a pretty fun loop with plenty of rocks and switch backs to keep you on your toes. After we finished the loop, we headed up the start hill to where it drops in to the trail section. I was definitely second guessing my 32x19 gearing choice, but I was going to stick with it.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 Fools Gold 60

This weekend was this years Fools Gold race. There was some changes from last year. They added some trail to the race and made it a 60 mile race and not a 55 mile race. I am all for more trail and less gravel if possible and 5 more miles didn't sound like a big deal. I ended up heading down with a few other guys. We were sharing a house any way or should I say garage. A little more on that in a minute. The E squared group headed to Evansville Friday morning to join the other two riders. Some were running a little later than planned (including me), but it was really didn't make a huge difference. After doing some bike jenga on the rack, we finally got 4 bikes and all of our gear loaded up. Then the train that included Butch, Bob, E2 and myself rolled on out of town.

The trip down was long and included some standard traffic issues at Nashville and Chattanooga, but overall was not too bad. We did have some mapping conflicts that routed us down some back roads, but it did lead us to the house even if it looked like we might not be heard from again. When we finally found the house/garage, it was behind another house and looked pretty sketchy. We found our way in and it actually turned out to be not too bad inside. Guess that's why they say don't judge a book by its cover. After getting unloaded we headed toward the course to get a little ride in.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

2019 Kentucky Six

I was really disappointed when the Tri-State 6 hour series was dropped down to only one race and then even more sad when that race was cancelled. I tried making the trip up to the John Bryan 6 hour to fill the gap, but as soon as we checked in to the hotel the race was cancelled for weather. When I saw this race show up on the schedule and I didn't really have any conflicts, I knew I had to attend this race. I was just hoping the weather would cooperate. I don't think they expected the number of people interested in racing to be as good as it was and they had to put a cap on the number of entries. Good to see other people still want this type of race to happen too.

The only real thing I didn't care for was the fact that the race was on Sunday. This was not a deal breaker since the race was fairly close to home, but it does make me drive home after the race. I headed over Saturday afternoon and got there in time to get a good spot for the pit tent. The other racers in the group showed up and we went for a lap to check the trail out. It had been a couple years since I have been here. The course was different then the last race. It was a pretty fun loop with a plenty of variety. After the ride we headed to The 857 Taproom and Grill to eat and re-hydrate. It was a real nice place and good service.

Hanging out for the rest of the evening was fun and I even got a pretty good night sleep. I came in to this race with very low expectations. I am not riding as well as I was last year and had really slowed down a lot since Lumberjack. I have been trying to get back in to the groove and get stronger, but my legs have just not been responding. I also knew there were some really fast guys signed up for the SS class, so even if I was riding well, it would take a great day or a mechanical on their part to beat them. I was really just here to support the ride and get some good training in for Fools Gold and BT Epic.
Photo credit: @lauralou644

The morning moved along pretty quickly. I made my coffee, ate breakfast and did the last minute things to my bike to get ready. As normal on race mornings it seems like you have a ton of time only to be running around last minute to get to the line. Since I was running a little late to the racer meeting, this unknowingly put me in a great place to get a good starting position. I didn't want to be in the front row, but I did want to be fairly close to it. I know my bike of choice can be an issue on the wide open prelude lap, but I also wanted to be right behind the fast guys when we hit the trail so I can minimize the conga line.