Sunday, August 10, 2014

Maah Daah Hey 100

For the last couple of years I have wanted to take up the challenge of doing the Maah Daah Hey 100 in a day. Ripping through the North Dakota badlands in the August sun definitely sounds like a challenge. This year I got it on the calendar right after they opened registration. Since the race is in August, I would be rocking the single speed. The gears were taken off the day after the Royal 162 but the carbon niner fork remained. The decision was to ride it rigid but the gearing was still unknown. I got to asking around, did some research on the interwebs, and came up with a plan. Since i rock the 38 in the front, i did some math and decided a 22 in the back should work out well for the climbs and distance. 38x22 was a go and the last thing was tires. To aid in some suspension, i went with a 2.4 in the front. A little extra cushion to absorb some of the pushin' is a great help before too long.

So the bike is in order and we got up to the CCC campground on Thursday evening in time to set up the tent and crack a beer before gazing at the moon. On Friday, we got a taste of the trail. We met up with Chris Skogen and the Rochester posse. The singletrack started right from the campground and we were in it. The first couple miles are flowy and then the climbing begins. A series of switchbacks made for a good climb. Only one of them was a bit of trouble because of erosion but the gear was fine to make the climb. At the top, the trail provided an amazing view of the the badlands. Amazing was all i can say. The trail made for some great recovery and dodging the fresh cow pies made for even more excitement. We got about 5 miles in or so and turned around. A taste was had and the rest of the day was for prepping and relaxing.

Just before 7:00 am I was lined up in the campground with about 100 others who were either in for doing the 100 solo or part of a team. I got to talking with a few other single speeders and there was a 32x18 and a 32x20 represented. Having another with virtually the same gearing, 32x20, gave me some confidence that is was the right choice. When the gun went off, i got off to a leisurely pace. There were many miles to go and i always feel better when starting slow and get into the rhythm. During the first couple miles, i past a few people who were going at a bit slower pace than i wanted and when we got to the switchbacks, i was able to keep up or jump off and briefly jog since the pace was too slow for me to continue momentum in the climb. The guy behind me said i was doing fine so i didn't pull over and stayed with it. The top came quickly and i was feeling good and riding with Ben Oney and Alex Oenes. That was a pleasure. The trail was nice, the air was cool, the legs felt great and a good time was had. I kept in my comfort zone and was having a good ride. I held a few of the cow gates for some people and in turn, they held them for me as we continued to roll. The gates were along the trail at times to make it through the fencing. I was often hopping of my bike to open them to make sure they did not come crashing down on my back wheel. There were a number of climbs and arroyo crossings. Some of those crossings were forced dismounts since the entrance was really unrideable, for many reasons like steep or erosion. The sights were awesome though and the field was thinned out considerably.

I rolled into the first checkpoint at 25 miles and was happy to hear that i was second single speeder through. I was around the 20th person and the first single speed was 3rd...that blew me away and i was wondering how that would hold up as the sun got higher. It was already starting to bring some heat but it really wasn't too bad. I refilled my water, got the mix together for the bottles and changed out some snacks. For hydration i had on a Camelbak for water and two large bottles with drink mix. For food, i was eating on some Honey Stinger waffles and checkpoint banana provisions. I left the checkpoint with Ben and i was feeling good. We rode together for a while but at some point, i rode away. I didn't feel like i was hammering or anything but my pace was matching my enthusiasm. The legs felt good and i did too. More ups and downs and the Little Missouri was crossed. I was warned about little rocks and sand that will get in the shoe so after the river, I made the climb to the second checkpoint at the 50 mile mark where a pair of dry socks awaited.

The sun was getting to be unforgiving like Clint Eastwood so hydration was essential. I found my drop bag and realized that it was the bag i wanted at the 3rd checkpoint. There goes a bit of my food/caffeine/light carrying strategy. I got to mixing up the water bottles, ate some chips, changed socks and took off. After 300 yards, i realized i didn't refill my Camelbak so i turned around and got that water on. I know the second 50 was a bit more manageable than the first but I was already 5.5 hours in the race and this next stretch was full of more sun...there was on little bits of shade from a tree here or there along this trail. The sun is really the hardest element on this trail and the full afternoon was upon me. For the next couple hours, I could feel my core temp rising. Around the 65 mile mark, i started taking it real easy on the climbs and walking some to try to cool down. I would take a couple breaths in the bits of shade that would sparingly come by. My pace was grinding to nearly a halt but I really wanted to stave off heat exhaustion. Around mile 70 or so, a fellow single speeder caught me and we rode a bit together. On a climb, i scampered away which allowed me to arrive in checkpoint 3 first. We were there together and i drank a coke and was looking forward to the final push. I tried to eat a bag of chips but was not able to finish it...that should have been a sign, but i was beginning to feel a bit recovered so i took off.

This final section was predominantly a drop in elevation but there were plenty of little climbs to put some hurt on this guy with a heated core. I made it well for 6 or 7 miles but the going got tough. On what was unknown to me, I pulled up on the last of the longer climbs of the section. I found some shade to sit a spell and get rid of my dizziness and take in some electrolytes.

As i sat there, the fellow singlespeeder from checkpoint 3 passed. In time, a woman on a single passed me too. Then a guy muscling up with a fatbike. At this point, i was probly sitting there for 20-30 minutes. I got on the bike and made my way to a road crossing at mile 90 where i know folks would be. At the crossing, i doused myself with some water and sat a spell again in the shade. My 13 hour finishing goal was fading fast but i was confident i would finish...that was the true goal. After i took off from there, i saw no one until mile 101. It was another single speeded. Apparently the guy who was killing it in the beginning race faded and was trickling in. That invigorated me and the final downhill descent to the pavement and the ride to the finish line was all good. I rolled in with a time just under 13.5 hours and the 3rd single. The top male and female single speeds past me as i sat in the shade. Much respect to them for handling the heat better than sho! When looking at the results of the race, i saw that i was slated in the Open category and was 15th...I'll take it despite registering and riding single.

A lot of people thought i was crazy to ride the trail fully rigid. There were times when the cattle hoof prints made for some bumpy terrain, especially on the descents. My wrists were fine after the race and the next day driving back, they were AOK. Come Monday when i started typing on the computer though, that they got to hurting. Typing is rough on the wrists and i think i am gonna strike it rich by inventing some suspension for keyboard usage. I'll include the quickstarter campaign when i get the prototype up and running. All in all though, the gearing was right on. No hills were too steep to climb, i could set a good pace and stick to it, but the failure was salt intake. Next time i do something like this, i am bringing chicken stock and not messing around anymore. The end was at a campground where the needed shower was so good. The only issue though was the lack of eating choices. They were all a few blocks away in town and missing the shuttle back to the campground did not sound like a pleasant way to spend the evening. I do recommend putting this race on the to do list. It is amazing terrain and very well organized. The volunteers were so friendly and helpful. Kudos to Nick for the event and would consider doing it again...but i hope to have a little better heat management skills by then. Below is the fine stats provided by Garmin

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Royal 162

The Royal 162 is the big brother of the Almanzo 100 gravel road race created and organized by Chris Skogan. The Royal starts and ends in Spring Valley, MN. Along the mostly, and i mean nearly entirely, gravel roads, one can really take in the beauty of spring in southern Minnesota/northern Iowa. The gravel roads take you in and out of the valleys, along creeks and streams, thru Amish communities, and by many-a-barn. A great way to spend the day is about all I can say.

The day started with a welcomed wake up after an in-and-out of sleep night. The sandwich and other snacks previously packed started the morning off right and the sun ensured a good mood for the bike ride to the 7:00 am start. Folks started approaching from all directions and it looked as if there would be more than 100 starters. Shortly after Chris' question, "Are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?" he started the lead out through the town and onto the gravel. The flat start low pace allowed for the legs to stretch and get a bit warmed up. Some How-Do's were made to folks I didn't see at the start and after a few miles, the pace started to gain a bit and some thinning of the herd happened. I was chasing on with the lead pack for at most a mile and decided that was not gonna work out for my grand scheme of finishing. I eased up and rode with a few riders in a very unorganized way for the next 15 miles or so. Along the way, I was amazed that there were folks already out and cheering the cyclists! We passed a family with a number of kids cheering in chairs and ready for the long haul for when the large throng of Almanzo 100 riders makes their way through 2 hours later.

So after twenty miles into it, i started to get into the rhythm. The climbing was finding it's pace and the day was feeling good. I ended up rolling solo through the Preston turn around mile 40. Flashing back on a number of the previous times I had made this turn, I was liking how I was feeling. I was thinking the 60 degrees and sun was what a guy needed to hammer out these miles. The wind at this time was picking up a little bit but it was not too bad...that always brings out the fear that it has been at the back the whole time. About this time, the Royal left the familiar roads of the Almanzo and embarked on its turn to Iowa. I was looking at the cue cards trying to pinpoint it based on memory but first of all, my memory has more holes than a prairie dog town. Second of all, I remembered some of the sights from doing the Alexander last year.

There was some amazing scenery and things were rolling real well until about mile 70 when I flatted.

It was a real nice place to get to tube to a nice stream and shady. About 6 or 7 people by rode mostly in groups of two while i was working and each one asked if i needed help. Some quality camaraderie, am I wrong?? I got everything all wrapped up and caught up to 4 of them and we rode into Iowa and that was where the wind was hiding. Bam! That wind was an instant factor. There were a few initial breaks where the cues turned us out of the wind only to turn us right back against with the quickness. There was then a 7 mile slog against the wind. I was riding with 4 where only one other was willing to take Q-Bert says, "!#@%#$!" I was getting faded from all that running against the wind like Bob Seger. There was then some quicker turns in and out of the wind which was like a false flat because a 5+ mile headwind stretch hit like Mike Tyson. Each of these stretches allowed for riders to be caught and also allowed for riders to drop. A few got away but a few did not. I finished that stretch well worked and riding solo. At the turn north, i fumbled with my cue cards to switch pages, and i came to a full stop on the gravel. My front wheel must have hit some funky spot or i just got funky and the Iowa countryside wasn't having none of it. I was fortunate though to have my arm warmers still on so my elbow got all scratched up but protected from the gravel bits. The hip to the brunt of the fall and it felt like it. Oof! The only thing to do when that happens is get up, gather the cue cards before they blow all over the place, and get to moving before everything tightens up like the Black Keys!

This was the 90 mile point and the bottom of this cue card held the statement that at mile 104, the merge back to the Almanzo course would happen and that meant more folk to come across. Having company is a nice carrot so I pressed on like the full court. Entering the course was invigorating. That didn't last too long though, the wind was going on and each stretch was no joke but the goal was to get to Forestville at mile 120 and refill the water. I was hoping to see a few people and step off the bike briefly. I wasn't disappointed! There was a grip of folks out BBQing and having a good old time. I rolled up to the Tam Radish tent and it was going on. I got to say, "Hey!" and shake some hands. Lots of positive vibes going on there so that was a boost. I took a minute to fill up on some water and was there long enough to get offered a Hamm's and hot dogs. That Hamm's lived up to its name of the beer refreshing and the salty, meat bits broke the sugary energy blasts that had been downed for the last 120 miles.

Good times but the urge to finish was strong so i got back on the whip and embarked on the climb up Maple Road...ugh. I always remember that one.

After that, I whipped into the river crossing. It is amazing how refreshing that water is. I gotta say though, it was harder to navigate all the people taking their shoes off than it was to make it through the stream without tripping on rocks. With a refreshing feeling in the legs and much water in the shoes, the 10 miles to the wall of Oriole Road went by quickly. At the turn onto Oriole at the base of the hill, a quick assessment was necessary. There were people scattered all over the place and it looked as if parts of the hill were eroded and other parts were storing inches of gravel to be used to repair the damaged bits. Not much for a good line to be seen so i gots to climbing. Pedaling slowly passed folks walking there was a lot of look up ahead, look down on the line chosen, look up ahead as someone waking in the line, pass, look down at the line, look up ahead at a criss-crosser making his way to my line, look down and say on the left and pass. I made it to the top and took on the longest 10 miles of the whole ride and the final hill. Much wind was fought and all i was thinking was last climb...last climb. That came and had many more lines to choose from so making my way through the walkers was easier. With the last hill crushed, the wind tried to break me but none of it was had. The approach to Chris' outstretched hand was welcomed after 11 hours and 20 minutes. Looking at the Garmin details, I was on less than an 11 hour pace when moving, but then I would not have enjoyed that beer as much.