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 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.