Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Heck of the North 2013

So it has been a bit since my last post and the other things in life took precedence. I co-organized the Westside Dirty Benjamin, went to Panama, got bronchitis, thought I beat that until I got diagnosed with pneumonia. Seven weeks later, I'm looking at the changing leaves and riding in the beautiful the Heck of the North, 103 miles of gravel, snowmobile trails and some pave. I chose to ride my rigid 29er with 32 mm Vittoria CX tires single speed set at 38x17. I figured my legs would like that after the extended time off the bike. The last time I did the Heck was 4 years ago and I rode it fixed. That was the first and last gravel century I have done fixed.

The adventure really began a couple weeks before the Heck when I secured a ride and with it, a cabin to stay in with a large group of folks. I was stoked on not driving, hanging with the fellow gravel junkies and meeting new ones. The weather of late has been pleasant and so the forecast for rain on the day of the Heck was received with a bit of trepidation. Will it be a cold rain? Will it turn every road to peanut butter? Will the rain not be so bad until after a few hours of riding in it? How will the snowmobile trails be in the rain? The answer to all those is prepare and come what may!

Waking up for the Heck after a late night of socializing was a bit hazy but it was warm out. My belly was giving me troubles from either pre-race jitters or eating some cheese on the pizza feast the night before...I knew it wasn't the beer because that was still in my head. Everything was gathered, prepped and we made it to the start with about 30 minutes to spare. I checked in and talked with some fellow graveliers including Dana Hendrickson with whom I went to high school many years ago in the prior century.

I lined up at the start with a cranky belly and hoped to ride it off. The start sent us off on rail grade/snowmobile trails and folks were flatting left and right. The trail got to some soft, muddy sections and I saw a few over the bar incidents. I loved the section! Except for the parts where the people in front of me forced me to stop, most of the sections were very ridable and enables those mountain bike skills to shine. I really like it when these long endurance races mix it up and throw some challenging off-road, off-gravel miles at me.

After 18 miles, the trails and gravel lead us to a four mile stretch of pavement. My goal for the ride was to keep an average of 15 mph and not worry about placing. What this means to me is that I would start at my pace, latch onto a group, ease back when the hammering got too long, ride solo until the next group caught up and do it again. I was with a group of 3 or 4 on the gravel and onto the pave. I kept up with them for the next 10 miles and then eased back and kicked at my own pace. Then the trickiest turn of the whole race appeared at mile 32, a right turn onto the North Shore State Trail which looked like a little path. I passed it and went about 100 yards up before I turned around and notices some folks stopping there who were behind me. They seemed hesitant so i jumped in before I could get stuck behind them. This trail started with a number of soft mossy spots that killed all momentum. After that short stretch, the riding got fun and included a number of mud pits. After a little climb, the trail dried out and was a blast.

Up until this point, my belly was not cooperating but I pressed on like a set of fake fingernails. The trail was fun and I didn't want to sour that with the egg beater twisting up my guts. After the trail I was out on the road again like Willie Nelson and got into my own rhythm. This is around the time the rain started....somewhere after mile 40. I was rolling with folks but hanging on wheels led to sand in the teeth and on pave, a complete dousing. I let a few guys go who I was rolling with on the pave to save my legs for later in the race. As I was riding solo, a group of about 10 pace lined by me and I jumped on. I was stoked to see 3 women in the group and everyone was going at a good pace. With that many folks, I decided to stay near the front to eat less sand and drink less spray. Around mile 52 we were passed in the oncoming direction by the leaders of the race. The race course had recycled parts so that was cool to see them rolling and hammering away. We then started on the descent into Duluth. The belly was screaming so a pit stop was made and I put an end to that issue.

The climb up Seven Bridges Road went well and the next stop was the checkpoint at about mile 60. I snacked on some jerky and got on my way. I didn't have a drop bag...I think I did that once on my first gravel century but I like the challenge of carrying all I need so those stops are a quick in and out. I lost my larger group due to the pit stop but i was rolling at a good pace. I ended up latching on with 3 other guys and rolled with them as we passed folks heading to the checkpoint. I was feeling good 70 miles in despite the rain and deteriating gravel conditions. I was getting completely covered with grit on the gravel. At mile 76, a four mile stretch of pave in the rain cleaned me off, relatively, and I was looking forward to mile 80 to give shouts out to the rouge support group. I didn't want to stop because I would have started freezing my ass off in the rain but it was so good to see Alex, Paul and Lucy!

The next stretch of gravel was soft and took some energy to pedal through. I ended up feeling good enough to ride away from the 3 guys with whom I was riding. I was aiming for the finish and wanted to try to get there within 7 hours. I ended up catching up to Charlie Farrow at this time who was also riding single. I was stoked to see him. We got to talkin about our kids and the high school mountain biking that is kicking up in MN. He is a real class act and we hit the trail section together beginning on mile 93. He was worried since his chain was often falling off and as I got to concentrating on struggling through some muddy pits, I stopped hearing him behind me. I looked back and only saw trail. I hoped all was well but I was beginning to fade fast so I needed to get to the finish. The going was slowing and I knew I was not gonna make the 7 hour mark. I started to get dizzy with about 5 miles to go and 3 miles out, I just kept telling myself that is was only the same distance around Lake Calhoun away. I drooled myself in at the 103 mile mark in a time of 7 hours 10 minutes. I turned around from the check in table and saw the car and started putting my bike on when Jessica and Loretta jumped out and gave a shout. As much as I really enjoyed the ride, that felt real good to see them and knew I was that much closer to the cabin for food and a shower.

The Kona Raijin really feels good as a gravel beast and the Vittoria Cross XG Pro tires felt good as they have all year. I rode them at 40 psi which is a bit lower than usual and I liked it. As usual, I carried too much food. I ended up eating about 6 Gu Chomps, an Enervitine cheer pack, 2 Honey Stinger Waffles, some beef jerkey, two tall water bottles filled with carb/water mix, and my camelback of water. I would have felt better taking a bit more food in or grabbing a Coke at mile 80 but whatever. Big shouts to Alex, Mike, Bjorn, Jessica, Lucy, Murray, Ashley, etc. who all took time to cook or prep at the cabin. Shouts to Garrick and Paul for making fire. Great time with Tam Radish.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Alexander 400

I learned a few things over the course of the weekend. Coming into a 400 mile gravel road race a little green about what to expect is both a blessing and a curse. So my plan was outlined in my previous blog post. I kept my ear to the weather and possible rain on day 1 was expected, next day would be all good, then storms on the third day. OK, roll the dice and roll the hills.

I arrived Thursday night in Spring Valley and ran into Chris Skogen, organizer extraordinaire, Ian, Pat, Phillip, Andy, and a number of other racers. When talking with Chris, I got the feeling that he thought we were all a bit crazy for taking this on...I have to agree with him on that assessment, if that was the case. So waking up later in the night to a pretty steady rain, the "aw, man, this is gonna be rough" statements started rolling through the head. The start was at 5:00 am and it was raining...not a light rain at all. There were 12 of us lined up. The rest decided to wait out the rain. I didn't even consider that, not a bad idea though.

Skogen biked with us until the gravel started and when he broke off, I was in the virtual lead!! This trail blazer was over taken within maybe 20-30 seconds at the most but I really enjoyed my time at the front. My goal was to hit my pace and ride and so i watch two guys go at a higher pace than mine and another yo-yoing off the back of their pace. The first climb was at mile 10 and it is a portent of what to expect. At the top I was surprised to see someone pull up next to me. The last I looked back, i didn't see anyone really close. I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with Lisa Thompson for the next 20-25 miles. It was nice to have her company but at one point, I looked around and she was not there. Poof! Wasn't sure what happened but I hoped that she was all good and that we would meet back up in Preston (40 miles in) which was only a few miles away. I had some hot coffee and got some food on but didn't see her. The rain was finally subsiding but the wind was still steady but not too extreme.

After leaving Preston, it was not far to the first water crossing. All sorts of carnage was going on there and with the rain, it was muddy but fun to wade across. After kickin the mud off the cleats, the miles were ticking away. Shortly before Harmony, 60 miles in or so, WCCO were camped out by an intersection and I took a few minutes to get interviewed...a guy gotta get his 15 minutes whenever he can, right? I hit the Kwik Stop or whatever it was in town and got some warm fishwich and fries into the belly. One thing I learned on this ride was that though these convenience stores have much of the same things to feed on, some are definitely better than others. This one was not one of the better ones...for the record. The roads were now all new to me and they were part of the Royal 162 course. They dipped down into Iowa and they were relatively flat, which means rollers and not a bunch of crazy climbs. There was some extended time on Stateline Road which I ended up hating. It was against the wind and the rain made the gravel extra soft so more work was needed to slog through it...it got old.

80 miles in

About 125 miles in I was getting real nervous. My GPS was flashing low battery and I wanted to supply up with water get some food before nightfall. I pulled into Lansing and right away notice a BP. I was stoked! I hit it up and was happy to see a food counter. I asked for something hot and the hot subs were pointed out. I scanned the list and Bam! the hot taco sub hit me upside the head. I was so excited, I ordered a 12 inch. I got the GPS plugged in and washed up a bit, trucker style in the sink. I loitered around for a while but I couldn't finish the sandwich. It was just too much, but it was good.

With my belly full and supplies replenished, it was time to cross from Iowa to Wisconsin. It was getting close to dusk so there were a few swarms of gnats that I rode thru crossing the bridge but it was pretty nonetheless. I was debating on stopping for a little bit to try to catch some zzz's and after some gravel in a state forest, I figured that would be a good place to camp. Now I was sans tent so it was just a light sleep sack and a sleeping pad. I found a spot and got myself set up and got inside the sack but the mosquitos were unforgivable. They were just a dive bombing my ears, not one but both at the same time. I got sick of that real quick and decided that was not the place to be and got back on the bike. The darkness just hit so this was the first time using the Planet Bike lights. I put them on high and except for using caution on the descents, I could see just fine! I have never ridden much outside the city at night so this was somewhat of a new experience. The terrain was a lot of up and down...it was all about climbing to go downhill again, just to get to climbing again. For the record, I think the hardest hill was topped at this time. It was Chellevold Road, mile 144, and I think I heard it laughing when I was grunting up that beast. After a couple plus hours of that, which also included a decent through the Peoples Republic of Turkey Run, I decided to find a place to lay my head in the next town. Mt. Sterling was the town and behind some business next to a stack of palettes was the place. There was a bit of a breeze that kicked up and with the damp clothes, it was cold. I was a shivering like a Chihuahua in the winter. I set up a palette to try and block it but I was as cold as ice like a song from Foreigner. I must have spent about 3 plus hours there trying to sleep. I may have nodded off for an hour or two but it got to the point where I just got up to get on the bike and be warm again.

Back to riding in the dark, which may have been a blessing for some of the hills that were being climbed. After a bit, I started to hear the birds singing so I knew light was coming. When dawn finally broke, the beauty of the Wisconsin countryside was really overwhelming. Riding the farms on the ridges was a site to see, and the unleashed dogs were kind of invigorating and added some get up and go to the morning. The course was brutal though...Ridge Road to Creek Road to Hill Road to River Road...Up, down, up, down...minimal recovery time. After 40 tiring miles, I rolled into Prairie du Chein feeling mighty low. I had one thing on my mind and that was French Toast. I stopped at the joint named Huckleberry's and enjoyed the apple cinnamon French toast on special...it was my destiny. Had another needed GPS charge there so a bit of loitering was done. After a sufficient charge, I restocked on supplies and crossed the river into Iowa.

At this point I was considering on getting a room in Decorah, which was 70 miles away, for the night and making the final push on Sunday. I was also wondering if that was a good idea considering the possibility of a storm on Sunday. What to do? Well, as I was in the town of McGregor when I entered Iowa, I notice a couple bikers in front of me. I was thinking they were on the same adventure as I was and ended catching them at the top of the climb out of there. I was happy to see that they were Philip Carlton and Andy Tetmeyer. It was nice to have a conversation with fellow bikers after riding a day solo. These guys also ride fast and efficiently so it was good to get into the rhythm of the rollers...down the hill, get to hammering and make it up the next with momentum. My bike is set up with a 1x10. There is a 32 tooth chainring in the front so my top speed was not as top as theirs so I was forced to do some chasing at times. I was really enjoying what Skogen was throwing our way at this point. There was a Minimum Maintenance Road (MMR) and it was much fun bombing down and climbing up. I was just wondering how he finds these roads...he is like the Route Wizard or something. If there is a steep hill next to another steep hill or MMR, he will find it.

After a getting dropped a few times after some long descents, I told Andy and Philip that I was getting worked and that they didn't have to wait for me. I was starting to get the nods and I was in dire need of changing my chamois so after watching them ride away a third time, I pulled over, changed and lied down for a cat nap. After about 15 minutes, I got back going and made my way the final 25 miles or so to Decorah. I was feeling pretty shelled once I got there. I stopped at some place and got a burger and zucchini. Time was needed to charge the GPS so the usual loitering was going on. Talked to a few people and enjoyed the food. I took off with the decision made to nap in a park and then hit the road for a final push. There were 130 miles to go and I wanted to get there before any storming. I was at the store getting supplied up when Andy and Philip rolled up. They just finished getting their food on and doing some bike repair. They said they were hitting the road so I was happy to join them.

It was late afternoon and our goal was to make it to the bar that was 60 miles from the finish and have a beer. At this point, 60 miles did not sound very far at all. We had 130 miles till the finish, a slight wind at our back and the sun was out. We were all working good together. I think that burger was just what I needed because I was able to keep up with them at this point. The terrain was the flattest yet, just rollers so we made good time. We did make it to the bar by 11:00 pm and gladly had a beer which was partnered with another beer. I needed time to charge the GPS. I decided on a Busch Light. All along the course, that was the beer of choice for the road trippers. That beer made up 95% of the cans sitting in the ditches beside the road. I had to see what all the fuss was about...I assume folks were just trying it and throwing the full cans out the window. The beer did not take me to Flavor Country. Anyway, we hit the road and Philip's knee was giving him troubles and it finally rebelled with somewhere around 45 miles to go in the race. He wrapped himself up in a ditch for some shut eye and Andy and I pressed on. About 15 miles later, Andy decided to take a quick break and I couldn't. I was afraid that if I stopped, I would have a hellofa time starting up again.

We were back on the Almanzo route so it was familiar again. I then made my way down and up and up and up Maple road in the dark. Not long after that I arrived at the water crossing. I heard over the social interwebs that the crossing was treacherous and that a rope was set up to help. When I got down there in the dark, I saw no rope and saw a lot of water. I have crossed that water in waist deep once before for the Gentlemen's ride but that was with people, in the day and without a loaded bike. I was fretting until I saw a sign with a statement about the re-route. I was a bit crushed that I had to climb out of there when I just wanted to bike forward but safety first. At every subsequent intersection, I stopped and looked for the guiding tape and eventually found my way. It was then a get to Oriole hill and climb and then one more final climb until the home stretch. It was starting to get light and with that, I noticed some real dark clouds coming along with flashes of lightning. I put down the hammer as best as I could to get to the finish line before the rain. When I arrived, nobody was there until the awesome Eddie K pops out of his car. Then a few other folks appeared from out of nowhere and the Poof! Skogen appeared. The dude is a magician. He shook my hand and let me know I got third place. I was really surprised. It was a good thing to hear at 6:00 am, 49 hours after the start! I was not sure how it all worked out but 155 miles the first day, and 230 the second. I have no clue where that was buried but I was sure happy it showed up. Here is the final tally:



For everything that I brought, the Enervitine and the Honey Stinger waffles always packed a boost. I didn't eat any of the bars. The boiled eggs I brought were delicious and the tortilla wrapped bacon hit the spot each day (recommended)! I didn't dip into the flask so that was not needed but everything else was used or fortunately not needed. A warmer sleeping bag would have been nice that first night but so would have making it to Prairie du Chien instead. I was glad for the weight savings. I cleared every hill which I was not sure whether that was going to happen but having gears really made that possible...that doesn't mean that I am not excited to switch the bike back into a single for the Chequamegon 100!

There are a few of my favorite things that I gotta give a shout out to which I looked at for much of the race. My Banjo Brothers cue sheet holder and bento box. They keep me on track and give me easy access to snacks. I have logged so many miles with these for many years and I look forward to more. The two Blaze Micros that I was rocking from Planet Bike gave me the sasquatch vision I needed to make it through the night miles. That was a style of riding that was new to me. My Garmin was essential but raised my blood pressure when the low battery sign showed...somehow it would show for hours though. Whew. Most of all, shouts out to Skogen, for creating a masterpiece and Lisa, Andy and Philip for being great riding partners!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alexander 400 Preparation

Riding into new territory here. The Alexander 400 is a 380 mile gravel road race that starts in southeastern Minnesota then loops up and down the roads less travelled through Wisconsin and Iowa. It starts tomorrow, May 17 at 5:00 am and after casting lines out and about, I came up with a plan.

To prepare for this race, I worked on the mental state first. I figure the centuries logged the last few years, in all sorts of weather on gravel and in mountain bike, has prepped me for those dark times that will surely come and come again over the course. The fitness part has been a bit more difficult. A long winter left snow until two weeks ago did not lend itself to numerous training opportunities but getting out there in the cold builds character, right? So since the beginning of March, I have tried to get out there and log at least a 50 mile ride on the weekend. Some were 60, a couple were 80 and even logged 107 for the Ragnarok in April. Some good procession but 380 miles...in as steady of a pace as I can...not sure about that.

My angle initially was to bring a tent and take the ride in with some down time but talking to folks and considering my own sleep issues, I decided to ditch the tent and just bring a thin sleep sack and pad. If it is not raining, I can pull over for a few hours of sleep at night and when my body wakes, it is time to ride on. The longer the stop is, I figure the harder it will be to get back on the bike. With that consideration, I hope to make it at least 200 miles the first day. That would put me on the border of Iowa where there are hotels. This is where the decision will be depending on the weather. The next motel opportunity is 70 miles away so it will be late and if it is raining, a stop may be warranted. If not, the goal is to get as far out into the Iowa countryside as possible. Some downtime in some woods would be good then and onward from there. With that angle, I anticipate finishing late Saturday night. TBD...

So here is a list of what I am bringing...likely too much but I am a rookie at this so the post-race write up will contain the analysis:
Revelate Seat Bag
Revalate Frame Bag
Sleep Pad
Sleep Sack
2x Inner Tubes
Patch Kit
DZ Nuts
Knog Rear Light
2x Planet Bike Blaze 2W Micro head lights
Planet Bike Superflash Turbo
Garmin 705 with charger
Kershaw Knife
5x Honey Stinger Vanilla Waffles
2x Packs of Beef Jerky
2x Water Bottles
Some Heed for those bottles
Camelbak with tire irons, Planet Bike Air Smith mini-pump, spoke wrench, allen wrenches, chain bits
3x Packs of Gu Chomps
2x Enervitine
2x Honey Stinger Energy Bars
Coco Hydro electrolyte powder
BB phone and charger
Headlamp
Banjo Bros cue sheet holder
Banjo Brothers Bento Box
Rain Jacket and Pants
Headband
Hat
Extra pair of shorts
Extra pair of socks
Fleece long sleeve jersey
Behind Bars/LGR kit
Extra batteries (AA and AAA)

I loaded the GPS file to my Garmin and downloaded the cue sheets. I got all hoopty and busted out the packing tape to laminate the cue sheets. An ounce of prevention...
I will be riding my Kona Raijin set up with CX tires. Here is the whip all decked out:



and a shot of the cockpit:



Monday, April 15, 2013

Ragnarök 105 and Ramblings

Since November I've done a few CX races, alley cat races and gravel road races. I haven't had much desire to take the time to write out thoughts and impressions of how the day/night went until now. I want to preface the following rant with what has been going on in the membrane. After all the racing last year, I lost a lot of drive to compete and with that, the feeling of "I want to beat that person." Not meaning someone specific but the person who is in leading the way. Maybe it is age, maybe it is stage but my goals are evolving. I have goals for each event that I try to stick to and if I succeed in reaching them, the sense of accomplishment at the end of the races is all the more better. One of my goals is to enjoy the ride and specifically, enjoy the other riders. Taking time to work with someone makes all who are cooperating, that much better. That is true at the front of the race and at the back. Riding the race to win is not the goal for all. Trying to exceed one's perceived ability is a goal for many but overall, the achievement is why most may be pushing themselves to the limit. That is some World According to Martin shit.

Ok, go that out. I decided on thinnig out the bike arsonal and one bike that is going is the CX bike which was also used for gravel racing. I decided to put CX tires on the XC bike and roll with that. The comfort on the XC and my confidence in the disc brakes trump the speed and lightweight of the Raleigh. My gravel riding season started with the Lakeville-Milltown-Lakeville at the end of March. It was a cold morning and I was in the chase group riding over frozen, gravel roads that nearly tacoed my new rear wheel. The spokes came loose and wobbley about 5 miles before the midpoint at Milltown Cycles. I busted out the spoke wrench on the side of the road and got to tightening. I got it so the disc brake was not rubbing and limped into Milltown where i put it on the truing stand and properly gave it a wrenching. After leaving the checkpoint, the roads softened up and at points were downright soupy...mud soup that is. There were some trying times around the 60 mile mark but the 80 miles in the early season passed and the race was a great time over great roads with great people. Thanks Larry!

Now the Ragnarök - On Saturday, I took part in my fourth Ragnarök. In each of the previous three, I have ridden a single speed and was the top single each time. In fact, I wrote a race report about the one a couple years back. Last year, I found the perfect gearing for the numerous, soul crushing, long ascents in and out of the river valleys for 105 miles around Red Wing. I cleared them all then so what do I do this year? I ride with gears, which I am not so good at and trying to learn. I had to be shown how to use the thumb shifters when I got them set up a few months back. I plan on riding the Alexander 400 and I don't want to ride that single...no explaination needed I assume.

Much trepidation about the Rok was had the last couple weeks. Minnesota has been stuck in the latest ice age and it was apparent with snowfall at the 7:00 am start. Frickin April frickin snow...I took off the CX tires and put on the 2.0 XC tires because of snow, rain and sleet the week leading to the race. I knew the time on the bike would be longer but I also felt that safety is number one. Seeing folks showing up for the start was the best warm up. Got to give shouts to Megan, Eddie, and a couple Rockit couriers! In prepping for the supposed sunny day ahead, I opted for the snow boots for warmth along with Endura pants and jacket to keep me dry. I had a couple layers on top and just shorts under the pants. I had long fingered cx gloves thinking that the sun and miles would keep the fingers warm.

At go time, we were all off and after a mile or so, the first climb began. Those going for the king of the mountain and those that like to be in the lead group were off. I found myself watching them ride away which was fine. I was on thick tires and practicing not embarassing myself with an attempt to pedal my ass off for a few miles before watching them ride away from me anyway. Energy saved is energy earned, right? So you could say I was rolling at my own pace and got in with a group of five folks. There was some shit talking going on between Eddie and I and I got questions as to whether I was Martin Rudnick. Who dat? Born and raised, I tell ya. It happens that this kid who's asking is friends with my wife's cousins and lives near the in-laws in Wisco so Bam! I got a line on a riding partner when I am not fishing while visiting. Shout out to Robert, the Blue Hills Biker! We all rode together for a bit but my pace was not up to some and they road away from me eventually and from others, I rode away.

At the 25 mile mark, I was on a pace to finish in 8 hours which surprised me. I thought that things were going pretty good. I could have put some more air in the rear tire but I just figured on using it as resistance training...code word for lethargy, stupidity or both. The first minimum maintenance road (MMR) we tackled was not passable by any means except hike-a-bike up an unfriendly, slushy, snowy, muddy hill. No problem, I like the element of having to hop off the bike and dragging/carrying it like in those old school cross country biking videos. The first checkpoint was 40 miles in and I was feeling the legs but doing pretty good. After snacking and grabbing the new cue sheets, I set off solo and made it up the next MMR. There were bike tracks to follow from those who went before me and the XC made it through the snow real good. The subsequent miles of hills were being beat but they were taking their toll. Though the sun never came out, we were treated with a rising wind speed and a few snow flurries. At the 50 mile mark, I was still on an 8 hour finishing pace. Word! The sweating done while climbing was not working for me at all since I got stupid and didn't put on a wool base layer...big dummy. Between mile 60 and 80, there was a lot of time spent battling the wind and I was hurting. There were times where I was nodding off. Just dribbling down the road, the eyes starting to close, the snap of head to clear the cobwebs, the look at the cue sheets to determine where the turn will be to get a break from the cold ass headwind. No good.

At about mile 75, I came across a couple of bikers trying to repair a flat. I got asked if I had a pump so I stopped. They had gone through two pump failures on the the tundra but mine worked for them. I fed a bit while that was going on and figured that would get me to the next checkpoint at about the 80 mile marker. It was a struggle but I made it to the checkpoint and knew there was Kwik Stop there so I decided that was the place I needed to spend some time in to get my core warm again. I was fearing a loss to the passout game on the road so that was the light and I was going to it. As soon as I walked into that place, the world had color again. It was a weird feeling of warmth that washed over me in there. Never had that feeling at a Kwik Stop before. I strolled around looking for the soup but missed it and bought some hot and nasty tacos. Something warm in the belly was so good. As I was warming, Megan and Parker rolled in and we conspired to finish the rest of the race together so after a decaf, we hit the road again.

The next MMR was Heath's Hill and it is the longest, a 20+ minute hike up, up and up. Thing is, once that is done, there are only a couple more really tough hills and then it is downhill into the finish. The final hill is the Lehrbach and I wanted a bit of extra energy to make it up there so I grabbed a couple shot blocks. Not a good idea. Them viscous little beasts pulled off one of my crowns. My old teef suck. Well, I stuck that in the pocket for later and proceeded on climbing up and over. The final downhill into the finish is so good. Seeing other finishers and riders, having beer flavored recover drinks, good times and great oldies.

Much respect to all those who took up the challenge of putting in themselves out there for the whipping that those Red Wing SPC'ers like to dish out every spring. the Rok is a crap shoot when it comes to the weather. My real pleasure comes from testing my limits and riding with like minded MFs. Kudos who logged some miles! I ended up finishing the race in just over 10 hours...2.5 hours longer than last year. Despite going through some really trying times, the body feels much better than when I started the race. Oddly enough, that is the usual case for these endurance races.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Track or Treat

The 6th annual Track or Treat alleycat went on over the weekend and it always feels good to get back to my street racing roots! Plus, I had to defend my win last year!


This race is put on by Jeff Frane and up until this year, was only for fixed gear bikes. He decided to up the ante and allow gears this year with a time penalty. There was also a penalty for lack of costumes. Each was 30 sec but seeing that the 50 racers looked dressed up and most fixed, I assume that everyone took off at the same time. Rules are grey when it comes to alleycats and there is nothing wrong with that. Like the Circle Jerks preach, Question Authority



The race started and ended at Peacock Groove, the birthing room for Eric Noren's amazing creations. At go time, I got pointed in the right direction and hit it with a mass of youngsters.I was rolling three deep until the first stop at a bar called Merlin's Rest. I got out of the place a bit slow and was about a block behind five speed demons. I got to chasing through some neighborhoods and onto the bike path into downtown. I was pulling some dude and I got to the point where I asked the little brother to take a turn. We traded a bit and made it to the next stop. I walked into Hubert's as the first were walking out. I asked them to stay and wait to see if any suckers were among the crew but they took off. I got out and I was a block and a half back. I hit my own route and made it to Elsie's Northeast. I rolled in and out and continued on my solo ride to the 19 Bar and then off to Bryant Lake Bowl. Each stop I always like to play it a bit calm and cool to the volunteers. No need to stress them out, plus i like to flash them a smile and thanks for taking the time. After BLB, it was a dash down the bike path back to Peacock Groove. Not a long race but it was a sprint. The winning route, which was on a fixie, is here which is similar but he hit the BLB second and rode the rest of the race opposite of me...for the most part. I think the dude I was initially pulling made it in third and I was somewhere around 8-10. Good times, great oldies.

Some photos are on the All City site including a shot of me skidding in my lame RuPaul Bunyan outfit...just couldn't find the right wig but channeled Babe the Blue Ox with the blue weave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Acres CX

For the last few weeks, I have been struggling with getting amped for racing the bike. Me thinks me be burned out a bit. One of my favorite CX races, Theo Wirth, was the other week and when I woke up the morning of it, I was all moody and decided to bag it. I just didn't feel like racing and was fine with it despite knowing I would have snapped out of it once I got down there. I think I needed a weekend off and that set me up for racing with a new attitude for Saturday's CX race at Green Acres.

I woke up the morning of my birthday with muted excitement for racing. I was waffling and thought about not going but told myself to fuck off and got on the ball. My mom-in-law was in town and she needed to spectate her first bike race. I also wanted to race in the elite cat 1 and 2 studs for, outside of Tues Night Cross, the first time. I was not fearing the 60 minutes of racing but the climb was looming in my mind. The course is at a tubing hill and at one point you come around a turn and get to climbing. I did the race a couple years ago on a 42x16 fixed gear and ran up the beast each time. This time, my legs are a bit stronger and I was rolling on my standard 42x18, the fixie is retired from organized CX since they are not legal. There were a couple more additions that included a sandy run-up and a set of steps that some rode but I ran up each time. The latest and greatest was the addition of Minnesota's first flyover. What looked like a janky hack job on the first pictures online, turned out to be solid and a shit-ton-o-fun.

At staging I lined up in the back since I was just interested in rolling the legs out and not blowing my wad in the first few laps. On go, I was off with 30+ others and we went straight up the hill. The climb was a bit obstructed but nobody jumped off their bike so I was able to pace up it just fine. We then looped around a field and down a number of off-camber switch backs on the hill. A set of double barriers later and there were some twists and turns at the base of the hill and off to the sandy run up. Then on to some bumpy field turns, over the flyover, field, trail around a pond, up the stairs, through the swamp and up the hill again. Looking at the lap times, my fourth lap was my slowest. It was at that time that I started in on the beer hand-ups from the crowd at the sandy run up. The sandy run up became the highlight of the course. There was much yelling and ample brewhaha. Each time there after I had a tasty beverage. That made the rest of the race go and I was actually riding at an even pace. The legs felt good and I was listening for the bell lap to put in the final push. Halfway through my ninth lap, I heard the announcement of the race winners coming in. What?! No bell lap! I made some haste, had a Makers Mark shot on the run up and pedalled in wanting one more lap.

It was nice ending my first elite CX race with gas in the tank and the crowd at the run up were great. Yet another confirmation that beer trumps Heed and goo packets for a pick me up during a race. After succombing to the peer pressure on the run up, my lap times were fairly steady and improving! My ninth lap was 2 seconds slower than my third lap!! The course was awesome, the hill was cleared each time, I was able to race with teammates Matt and Spencer, the mom-in-law had a great time, the wife and kids enjoyed it, and I got renewed enthusiasm to do one more weekend of CX racing. In the end, I think a longer CX race is more my style since endurance racing is where I am most comfortable with setting a pace.

Friday, October 12, 2012

WEMS Championship at Levis-Trow

My fourth and the final race of the WEMS Series was the WEMS Championship held on October 6 at Levis-Trow. This race completes my goal of competing in the singlespeed category for the long races...long being 100 mile or 10 hours depending on the venue. I came into the race as the points leader and was stoked to ride the final race of the series.

I began the series with a race at Levis in June and from my race report, I had a rough time with the heat. This would definitely not be the case this time around since forecasted highs would be in the upper 40's. I made the early morning drive and showed up with enough time to register and get everything ready. The race was toned down and it would only be 6 laps with a distance of 11.5 miles per lap. Nice. Even better was the removal of a climb from the race held in June. The trails around the base of the mounds were basically the same but the climb up was one of the descents of the June race and then there was trail riding at the top for a bit.

At the sound of the shotgun, the race was off, about 6 heads got to hammering and I got to a moderate pace going in the chase group. I got to the front of it pretty quick since the singletrack approached fast. It was nice to keep my own rhythm when we got to the singletrack and I rode away from that group and ended up catching a couple of stragglers off the back of the front group after a few miles. There has been little rain this summer and it was apparent in the height of the roots all over the place. While some hid under a leafy blanket, many looked you in the eye each time you went through a particularly dense section and just laughed at ya. The worst were around miles 2 thru 5...or so. After about 5.5 miles, the climbing began. The incline was manageable on the 32x20 until a particularly sandy part at the top. Everytime, my rear wheel spun like the tasmanian devil...heck my toungue was probly out and I was gruntin and snortin too.


Made it through the first lap feeling fine and hit the second with gusto. A few miles in, I came across a couple orange clad hunters carrying large rifles. Here I am in my black and purple kit, just getting the fear of dodging bullets from a trigger happy hunter. Good thing I left the antler attachment for my helmet at home. I got to thinking that the quicker I get the race done, the better. I didn't stop at the end of the lap and at the sandy part of the climb of the next lap, I was caught by Charlie Farrow! He got into his books on tape driving to the race and over shot the exit. He got a late start and was on his second lap, while I was on my third. We rode together for a number of miles until the final climb up to the Northface. He was strong and rode away from me. I was feeling a bit of the fade and decided to just pace it out. I didn't stop and took on the fourth lap. The laps were getting a bit more difficult as seems to always be the case for me around the 50 mile mark. After the lap, I hit the car and took about 10 minutes to eat and get a bit of recovery time.

I waited for the two lap race to take off and then I followed after a couple minutes. When I started again, the legs were a bit tight and it took a bit for them to loosen up. I was dragging and was getting worried that Charlie would catch and pass me. At the end of the lap, I was stoked for the final lap. I don't know if it was the sound of gun fire about two miles in or that my second wind kicked in but I had a real good lap. I was thinking that I have ridden my bike through sketchy areas of Chicago and NYC, but I was not afraid of getting shot like I was riding thru the woods of Wisco. I ended up finishing up the 70+ miles in 7:37. That was good enough for fourth finisher overall, top singlespeed of the day and series winner for single speed.

The day ended with awards, and a raffle of a bunch of stuff. As stated before, if you like riding singletrack and race in a low key environment, give a go at one of the WEMS races. Good times, great oldies.