So long 2012...

Nice day for a cruise around the area., exploring area dirt roads.
So long 2012.
I have lots of plans and goals for 2013.


Black Friday

This was truly a "Black Friday" ride. One of the most challenging to date. I hated (almost) every minute of it.

This always happens when I bother to spend hours preparing for a destination ride. The weather never seems to be ideal, and once I am out there I begin to regret my decision. All the preparation seemed like a waste of time. This was one of those days.

Of course, Thanksgiving day was in the 60's and perfect for riding, but there was a family gathering and glorious turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy to be consumed. Black Friday was to be half the temperatures with some quite strong winds. I woke to check the forecast. Good, looked like the worst of the winds were to take place later in the afternoon. I began to plan a basic route...from Sturgis, through Burr Oak to just outside Coldwater. All of this heading north to northeast (going with the wind). Then heading north to north west to Union City, then west to a place I've never heard of Sherwood, MI. From there back south to Colon, back through Burr Oak then west to Sturgis. I figured it was 25 miles or so to Coldwater, so I'd be looking at maybe a 60 mile or so day. Not bad, since I was planning on just cruising around.

With a route now planned, I headed out asap to try and beat the worst of the wind. I was dressed in all my standard full-winter gear. I could tell even riding with the wind, the gusts were up to 14-15mph. Was kind of tired, but felt pretty good. Happy to be out on (likely) my last road ride until spring.

Until this Darryl parked just before I snapped this pic, BurrOak was absolutely vacant.

I saw plenty of deer and hunters (while I presume) their wives were out shopping, gathering up deals at Walmart and such. From a distance, I saw an old man walking back to his truck with rifle in both hands. He had not seen me travelling on the adjacent road. He never got in his truck, but was instead hiding on the back side of the truck, where I couldn't tell what he was doing. As I neared, still riding, I could see the last 8" or so of his rifle poking out from behind the truck pointing across the road in my direction. He still can't see me. My heart began to race, adrenalin pumping. Thinking for a split second, "OMG, he's going to shoot me." So I slowed, and as I got up next to the truck, he started clearing the chamber of shells from the chamber. KA-CHA, KA-CHA, KA-CHA!! It scared the crap out of me. All this happening in 10 seconds or less, I thought my joy ride was going to end with me with a hole in my head splayed out on the center line like fresh road kill. It took me nearly 5 minutes to calm back down.

 Hmmm....note to self. Branch County. Bad.

About 10 minutes from reaching Coldwater, I could tell the wind was getting worse. When I previously traveling with the wind at 15mph, now it was pushing me doing 20mph. So the gusts had to be up to 25mph or so now. I turned to go north-northwest and couldn't believe how hard it was to pedal. I had to lean far into the wind left, then when the gusts would disappear, I would end up swerving into the road, still leaning just not against anything now. Not safe.

As I had to gear down due to the wind, I realized that my gears were all messed up, as I only had access to gear number one (granny gear) and anything on the big chain ring. This was frustrating. I either had to pedal at very high rpm's to make it to 10mph fighting the wind, or else pedal very hard in a higher gear to gain any sort of speed. Still, I made the best of it that I could and kept on pushing.

I was starting to feel the effects of dehydration (dizzy spells, confused about simple things, loss of short term memory in forgetting names of roads I was looking for, and mood swings). I stopped once to eat a few ShotBloks and nearly fell over I was so dizzy. The wind was piercing my winter riding clothing to where I was getting very cold fast. It seems every time I "free-style" a route, I have to bail on it because it ends up being too long and ridiculous. Today was no different. If I had finished out the ride as planned, it likely would have been near an 80 mile day. A long day in perfectly nice weather, not good for a 35 degree and blowy, gray day. I thought if I had any chance of getting back alive, I had better turn around now. So, disappointed, I did just that. Bailed.

As I was riding along (talking to myself now), I looked ahead and spotted a State Trooper in his car parked in the middle of nowhere. I stopped to chat, he rolls his window down, suspiciously...

Trooper: "How you doin' today?"
Me: "I'm okay. Just wanted to say, if you're out here looking for speeders, I'm not one of them."
Trooper: (now realizing I'm just there to chat, gets friendlier) "Ha ha, nope, I can get you right here though. (holding up his radar gun)
Me: "So, what are you doing out here?"
Trooper: "We have a young man causing some trouble, so I'm waiting for him to come past."
Me: "Oh, fun."
Trooper: "Where you headed?"
Me: (explaining my route) "...so I decided I would try to go to this place called Sherwood today. I grew up in Sturgis, live about 20 miles from there and never heard of it."
Trooper: (looks back straight ahead out from his car, nodding his head - like Terminator or something) "Yup. Nice little Meth community they got there."
Me: "ha ha! Awesome!"

We exchanged a few other little conversations, then I was back on the road, secretly hoping that I would see him come blasting by me chasing down the "young man" he was looking for.

On the way back, already feeling defeated, at three different points, I got chased by a total of 5 dogs. The first ones I out ran, but they hung with me for quite awhile - nipping at my heels. Of course, they ran out at me on a slight uphill into the wind and used almost all I had left to outrun them. I was still fighting my gears and had to swerve at them as they were trailing me in order to gain time to find a working gear to outrun them in. The next time dogs ran out at me, I was completely out of energy and I could not even attempt to outrun them, so my last resort was to yell in my deepest, angriest voice "GO!" This worked surprisingly well, stopping the dogs dead in their tracks as I rode away.

I was wishing the ride was over now, but had probably 15-20 more miles to go. At 10mph, this was going to take too long and I wasn't sure I could make it. And then it started to sleet. My hands were numb, I could feel my core temp coming down. Shivering when I should have still been warm. I found a wooded area to shelter myself from the wind and took a seat on a guard rail, and had to do the unthinkable. Call for a ride home. My wife met me in Burr Oak, my arrival and hers was timed almost perfectly. I could barely speak when I got in the truck, dizzy and rather confused how I could have gotten in this rough of shape.

 I never saw this skull until I was ready to leave.
It had been resting on this post next to me the entire time.

For some reason, it's always easier to remember the miserable times you have on a bike, rather than the glorious ones. I don't know why that is. Just because you don't want it to happen again? I saw a sign while riding that day that said "You add to your legacy each day. Good or bad." I guess that's all this was, creating a good memory of a bad day.

I ended up with 50.4 miles on the day. Probably about 45 more than I needed.


Iceman Cometh 2012

I did what I could to get amped for this race. It wasn't until two days before that I finally began to get excited. For weeks leading up to this point, I wasn't completely sure I was ready for it. My riding and training has waned since August when things at work began getting crazy and life at home was getting more hectic. Just no time to focus on it.

We awoke Saturday morning to snow flurries in Traverse City. Not just flying through the air, but actually sticking to the ground. Lovely. Actually, I think that is part of the lure of the Iceman Cometh race. You sign up in March for a November race, show up and ride. It's always going to be a surprise.

Matt Longest and I, along with our spectating wives, boarded the 8am shuttle bus at Rasho Road. We actually had to wait around as they scrambled to get our bikes on a second box truck as the first filled up quickly. Had we missed this shuttle, we had better drive directly to Kalkaska ourselves so we didn't miss our starting waves, so things were a little touch and go for awhile. This was not the case last year, barely anyone was on the bus.

Matt checking tire pressure in Rasho Road field.

Waiting for the shuttle bus.

Excited. Nervous. Waiting.

Once in Kalkaska, it was the usual hectic chaos that is Iceman. Bikes and spandex as far as the eye can see. People completely overdressed. And since anyone can pretty much race Iceman, there are plenty of characters to watch as your teeth chatter away waiting in line for an open porta-john.

 Me acting like a retard, jumping around in the parking lot trying to stay
warm and embarrass my wife all at the same time. I succeeded at both.

We finally found Brent and Cindy. Brent was a nut-job...freaking out from the excitement. Cindy said he was literally pacing around in the parking lot back and forth before they left their hotel. We stood around waiting for wave 22 to assemble. Here are some funny things Brent did/said as we waited to start the race:

     -  after putting on a skull cap for warmth, Cindy had to remind him to wear a helmet. He forgot he took it off and was going to set off racing without it.
     -  while queueing for our wave, I got us about 3 riders deep from the front. Brent says: "sir, what are we doing at front of this wave?" Tony: "Its where we need to be."
     -  he then wanted to talk strategy. I told him to go hard at the start, try to stay with the lead pack for as long as possible. It will hurt, but you will settle in soon enough. He said "i think i want to start gradually so i dont burn out too quick." I don't think I even answered his comment.
     -  Tony: "Brent, this is everything you've worked for all summer long right here. Make it happen." His response: "Tony, my butthole is puckering."

HA HA...Dear God, let's get this race going before my friend has a meltdown!!

 Brent and I at the start.

Wave 22 start.

With the sound of a airhorn, wave 22 was off. I hung with the first 15 riders or so for the first mile until things settled down a bit. The pain from the frigid sub 30's temps piercing the vents in my helmet was almost too much to bear. "Just one more mile," I kept telling myself. Only then would I heat up a little and not feel the pain.

The pavement turns to dirt just 1.5 miles or so from the start. I had no idea where Brent was. I was intent on not letting him pass me. He did though, as I took a wrong line and got jammed up in some sand on the first (very) small incline. I hopped back on Blue Bomber, just in time to be only one rider behind Brent. Brent (and our line of racers) got held up by a slower rider in front. Brent was hesitant to pass, so I shouted "Brent! Take him!" He whooshed off into the weeds passing him and rest of us followed suit. I would soon pass Brent never to be seen again until the finish line.

I felt "normal" as any other race for the first 8 miles. "Normal" meaning, out of breath, deep, agonizing pain in my legs and lungs. Usually wondering what the hell I was doing out there. That is followed by the next few miles peeling off quickly and my attitude changing to the realization that this was my last race of the season. "Push, dammit, push!"

I was feeling good and confident, passing a lot more riders than I had last year. I felt really fast on the two track which was nice and dry for most of the race, and felt "average" on the single track.

Near mile 11 I started getting cramps in my hips. I have never had that before. Weird. They quickly dissipated as I stood and stretched a bit.

Last year, I only made it to Williamsburg Road (17 miles) before my bike suffered a few race-ending fails: rear shifter busted, snapped chain, complete with broken chain tool. Done.

I don't remember the hill where all this occured, I must have been more able to scale up it this year, but I definately saw the stump where my race ended and I layed the bike down in disgust. As I rode past the stump, all I could do was give it a dirty look. "Not today Mr. Stump. Enjoy your life in solitude, I'm racing today." I crested Williamsburg Road without ever flinching and never looked back. At this point I tried downing a cup of Heed while blasting past the aid station, but I dumped half of it all over the front of me, then choked on the rest that went in my mouth. Wow, that was definitely worth it.

As we neared Timber Ridge, maybe 8 miles or so out, snow started showing in the trees and on the ground. The trails were getting slick like grease, and gumming up drivetrains. I had never seen so many broken chains as I had that day. Every time I opened up my headshock I felt like I was losing so much speed, so I left it locked out for probably 75% of the race. It makes it terribly hard to see where you are navigating with no front shock, but it was the only way to keep up my confidence and speed. One tip: while bombing down rutted, gored out single track...just hold on for dear life and hopefully the bike gods will look out for you and guide you to safety. Today they were on my side. Rubber side down all day.

Mile 22: more prevalent cramps start in and I'm losing power. Left calf. Stretch. Then right hamstring. Stretch. Left tricep. Now the arms? What the hell is going on? Then my left quad and hamstring. Everytime I stood up to stretch or power away at the pedals, other muscles would revolt to the action. I really began to think "what am I going to do if I have to wad myself up into a ball in the woods as others ride by? I'm not going to DNF again."

I had to do the unthinkable in order to survive. Start walking hills. I had to walk at least 4 of them. The last two I dismounted at the base without even trying. Cramps were getting worse. It was so painful. My goal time of 2:45 had come and gone when I saw the 1K to go banner. The cheers from the crowd began getting louder. I could see colors through the woods. By now all I could see was the trail and the rear tire of the guy in front of me, everything else was a blur. I heard a "Go Wheelmen!" at one point, not sure who that was. I rounded the final turn and sprinted for the finish, challenging the guy to my right who was ahead by 1 full bike length, barely beating him to the timing ramps. I wasnt actually sure I had finished, for I never looked up to see the finish banner. There was just a guy waving his arms down, saying "slow, slow". I guess that was it. Likaboom, I was done.

Official results:
Time: 2:55:22
Place: 2512 out of 3906 racers
Place in age division: 60 out of 86

I peeled off to the left of where all the riders were collecting and found a split rail fence to prop myself up against. Cramps were terrible, I could barely stand. Just then I look up...Brent! He finished only 1 minute behind me. Freaking awesome!

The change of clothes felt fantastic. It snowed some more. What more appropriate Bells brew to have than a Winter White, while hanging out with great friends!

I had given it my all, for what training I was able to fit in these last few crazy months. I was happy to finish. Not the time I was hoping for, but I put everything out there that day, and I guess that is all I could ask for. I've learned a lot in my first full racing season, I hope to build off my experiences this last year and continue to improve my skills.

Cranking away around the last turn towards the finish.



Me and Matt chilling (literally) post-race with beers.


Lowell 50 - Fall Edition

Turned out to be a great morning for a race. Cold at the start (39 degrees), but the sun was full-on and glorious. Warmed you up nicely. I was dressed just right, so I'm all dialed in at least with that.

I found out quickly that the bike gremlins somehow got into my garage at some point this week. Maybe I should keep my bike up on the hooks more often. When it's on the ground, I imagine it is easier for those critters to gain access to it.

My gears were completely messed up. All I did was wash it last week. (maybe I shouldn't wash it any more either?) Instead of warming up I spent some time before the race (maybe 10 minutes or so) trying to make tweaks to the rear derailleur in order to get it back in line with things, but it just wasn't happening. So I had to ride w/o my lowest 3 gears. Which, technically, I thought should be fine on a faster gravel road race. If it were trails, I would have been screwed.

Race went well despite my gear issues. And I learned that if held the gear open slightly, I could get access to number 3 w/o it jumping. It just made me push harder and not be such a puss on the climbs.

I really didn't know how this race would go. I haven't been able to do ANY training for it or for Iceman next week, so I was going to treat this one as a feeler for how Iceman was play out. I felt okay, not much power in my legs, but the rest of me was in decent shape. So I guess I can be less nervous about Iceman now. It will still be painful, but I should be more than capable of finishing it out at least.

Unofficial results: 20 out of 25 in my age group...finished under 2 hours, which both were an improvement over the Spring race. Although, this was a different course....2,250' of climbing, whereas Spring was 1,350'. So I guess I am further ahead of where I was previously, I didn't really think that was the case.


Feel the Pain

I'm already preparing to feel the pain. I haven't had any time to do ANY riding. Lowell 50 race this weekend, then don't have any plans to ride more before Iceman.

Feel the Pain.

Bring it.


Luton Triple

Took the day off last Thursday to get some vigorous riding in with Brent. We met up at Luton Park around 1pm. Susanne from the RW club met us there. It was a slightly overcast day with spots of sun. Lots of wind, but that didn't bother us too much while in the woods.

I was amazed at the amount of leaves covering the trail. The trail itself was very hard to see with all the fresh coverage. We pulled one lap all together, making sure no one got lost. After lap one Susanne had to leave, Brent and I did two more laps. One more probably would have done us in pretty good, so we smartly called it good after 3 laps.

Went into Rockford to get a frosty beverage and some grub. It was a fun day.

Oh, on a sad note, Brent fell once and ripped a giant hole on his quad in his fancy new bibs. Anyone know of an asian with tiny fingers that can patch spandex?


Tour of the White Pine Trail

This was my third TWPT. It all started quite eventfully.

Both of us (my wife and I) were up all the proceeding night tending to our little guy, Nick. He was coming down with a cold and was up quite a bit throughout the night, coughing and whining. At 5am I could no longer sleep, so I got up, watched some TV, and gathered the very few couple of items I needed to have ready for departure in 1.5 hours.

Bored, I grabbed a blanket and fell asleep on the couch watching ESPN. At 6:30 my wife rushes in. "TONY! It's 6:30!!" (I had told her the previous night I wanted to leave the house about 6:40 in order to get there around 7am for check-in.)

I hazily awoke and calmly said "Oh. Okay." (still not really comprehending what time it really was and what it meant to me.) Then I whipped open the blanket to display to my wife that I was dressed in full kit ready to go. I threw the gathered items in the truck, smoked a piece of bread with peanut butter, mounted the rack with bike and we were out in about 15 minutes. We laughed about the whole scenario, how I was dressed and ready, on the way there.

I hadn't missed much getting there a little late. In fact, the few people I knew would be there hadn't left yet. I rolled out with Dennis Hamel, his daughter Katie, a friend of Dennis', Robin, and newcomer Dave. There were about 50 participants in all.

Day One is always the worst regardless of weather because of the constant slight increase in elevation, but also usually a headwind. The weather this year wouldn't exactly be doing us any favors either. It was a brisk 40 degrees or so at start time and we battled a headwind probably within a few hours from the start. Most of Day One is all incline. Long, steady ones...for miles on end. It's only maybe 1.5-3% grade at times, but it is painful. It rained (misted/sprinkled) on and off all day - about every hour. Not really seeing the sun much. At one point, reaching Reed City, we heard the tornado sirens going off. They went for a long time, but must have just been a test, because this wasn't tornado weather.

All in all, not a bad day. I rode almost the entire way with new guy Dave. Turns out he's in a related field to mine, so we had some good things to talk about. He was riding a 1986 (I think he said) Trek 1000 road bike. One of only a very few to brave the paved/unpaved rail trail on a road bike. It was nice company to have around and he rode really well on that thing.

We stayed in Cadillac at Maguires Resort. Not much of a "resort" really. After a brief dinner with some other riders, Dave, Dennis' and his family, my daughter and I found the pool/hot tub, relaxed a bit, then went back to the room. We were all in bed by 9:30.

 The colors were brilliant this year. The best I've ever seen. In some sections, leaves covered the entire trail, making it hard to tell if you were acutually on the trail or off the shoulder.

 Dennis changing a flat.

 Dennis snapped this pic of me near Cadillac.

Two in my cycling fan club.

Day Two: the return trip.

At 1am I wake up. Legs throbbing, aching. The tendons behind my knees feel brittle and ready to snap. I'm wide awake, ready to ride. I know it's going to be painful, but lets get the show on the road. I'm going through my mental checklist of things to bring/pack for our return trip. I knew it would be colder than Saturday am (it's always at least 10 degrees colder), but I didn't really think it would be SNOWING, which is what I saw when I walked outside around 6:30 am to get some breakfast and mount up. Damp. Cold. No breeze, but wet and lightly snowing. Friggin' snow for crying out loud!

When we departed the hotel, it didn't seem all that cold - I was expecting worse actually. The thing that wasn't going to be nice though, was the fact that we were getting absolutely soaked by the wet roads/trail that by the time we reached our first stop in LeRoy, we were freezing.

We kept our stops to a bare minimum in order to keep warm, even though we were soaked and sweaty. There was basically no wind, which was nice and the sun seemed to want to come through the clouds. By afternoon we had quite a nice day of riding under our belts. The last rest stop on Day Two, Howard City, always seems to be the worst. You are at the point where want the trip to be over quick, but you have another 15 miles or so of gravel to work through before you hit glorious pavement again. As we were leaving, we noticed the dark cloud rolling in. Figuring it was no worse than the rain we survived on Day One, we took to the trail. It soon began to SLEET. Tiny ice balls were shooting right through my helmet vents and were hitting my skull. We spent the next 5-10 minutes riding with our heads tilted to the side trying to protect our faces. My arms were covered with ice when it finally all ended. So all over again, we were wet and cold, but we continued on.

We had given the last of what we had making the climb up over the pedestrian bridge at West River Drive - Dave and I racing to the top. We were exhausted. So exhausted that I thought I would be Mr Funny Guy and do a power slide on my way in parking lot at the finish, which was successful, but then I failed to clip out upon stopping and fell right over in front of about a dozen people. I just laughed and lay there in the dirt - pinned under my bike. A few helped me up. I was so tired. Patti sat in the truck and watched the whole incident go down and didn't do a thing. Maybe hoping I would not see her and get a ride home with someone else. HA

Dave and I rode together for all of Day Two as well. I hope to ride with him again, he seemed interested in our club, so maybe he'll become a new member.

Not a bad trip. I don't understand how most of the return trip is "downhill", but I only manage to pick up a few minutes from Day One. Maybe fatigue has something to do with it? My legs are in a lot of pain right now, and my cold is coming back. Had to leave work early today in order to try and get some more rest. Hope I can clear my system of these pains, I have more training to do for Iceman, which I'm predicting will be a cold one this year.

But hey, how much worse can it get than October snow and sleet!?

Again, the colors were outstanding! This is just before Big Rapids on our return trip.

(Almost) a broken chain 15 miles from the finish.
Replaced quickly with a QuickLink and we were back on the road.

Dave's Trek road bike collected a lot of trail debris. Pretty impressive.

 Speeding along.


Fort Custer

Fort Custer. I believe there to be no better place to ride recreationally in Michigan. Fast. Technical. Steep drops. Twisty turns. Climbs. Scenic. Not overcrowded. Roots, sand, rocks, packed dirt. Granny's Garden. The Trenches. Crazy Beaver. Amusement Park. It has everything.

Nothing significant to report. Originally this was supposed to be a 5-man biking event and it was pared down to 2. Myself and Matt Longest.

This will go down as only the second time in the last six outings to Fort Custer that I haven't crashed or bloodied myself. So it was quite a significant trip for me. Oh yeah, and they FINALLY paved the entrance about 1.5 miles into the park. I was about to send in my own donations for them to fix that d@mn road. It used to be so riddled with patchwork that 5mph was too bumpy. Now...smooth as butta.

Matt and I rode 20 miles and it surely didn't feel like it. The weather was spot-on perfect and we were riding good. Happy, smiles on our faces. Not too fast, not too slow. Glorious.

There is no missing out on The Barking Frog after a long ride at Custer.
We had the privledge of witnessing a table of Harley riders go from calm and quiet
to rowdy, speaking in drawn-out words. Drunken locals. Augusta, MI. Gotta love it.


25th Annual Pando Classic

Pando Ski Area is only open a few times a year for mountain biking, and I had never been out there to ride, let alone race. So Marty and I took the opportunity to pre-ride the race route on Saturday afternoon so I could get in a few laps and understand what the course was going to be like for Sunday. I felt really good on the pre-ride, we got in a few laps before it started to rain.

Race day was no different. The 25th Annual Pando Classic. They tout it as the longest running MTB race in the U.S. I felt pretty good. Excited to be in another race (been since July). Weather was perfect for mountain biking...chilly, breezy, but sunny.

The short 4.3 mile course starts at the bottom of one of the ski hills. You have to ride up the hill, then back down the side to some wide single track and cross-country ski paths. Mix in some fast, long decents and more technical riding and more inclines and there you have it. Sport class was 4 laps, which meant 4 times up the hill, plus a bonus fifth time....because the finish was at the top of the hill. Brutal.

When the 30-39 division took off, I felt good and kept pace about half-way in the pack up the hill. I had enough power at that point to be standing and pounding the pedals all the way up. Let me say, I'm a terrible starter and for me to make any headway during the race by passing people later just doesn't happen. So unfortunately, my races seem to be determined by how well I start. And since I'm not a good starter...well, let's just say I need to work on that. Rocketing your heart-rate from resting to 173bpm can be a troubling thing for your body to deal with. I was out of breath for almost the entire first lap which I'm sure put me near 3/4 the way back in my division. I just couldn't calm myself down. I got passed by all the other Rapid Wheelmen that lap (who started 2-5 minutes behind me). My goal was to not let that happen again.

Honestly, out of all the laps, the first was the toughest. Because I couldn't catch my breath almost the entire way, I had a terrible pain in my side that didn't subside until half-way through lap two. By then I had caught my breath and was feeling better. I wasn't flying by any means, but felt good.

At one point, almost done with lap two, I got passed by about 4 "elite/expert" single-speeders - absolutely flying. Dear Lord! Amazing. I also stopped at one point on lap 2 to help out a Founder's rider, I could tell he was older and not in my division. (Besides, how could I not stop to help a Founder's guy? "Maybe he had extra beers", I thought.) He had busted his chain and as I passed I asked if he needed a chain tool. He said no, he already tried and was just going to walk to the finish. I said "I got quick links". He said "sure!" So I stopped for 30 seconds to dig one out, handed it off and away I went. I hope it worked for him and was able to get in a few more laps.

The course is weird that it has ski hills, long, winding cross-country ski paths mixed in with some pretty technical twisty up and down single track sections riddled with roots. Oh, and the downhills...ahh, the freaking downhills. Long, steady, FAST. I could use more of those. The more confident I was getting in those areas, the less I was using my brakes and letting it flow. There were a few spots where riders would get hung up climbing sharp inclines, I made it up all of those without faltering, except for one on the last lap. "Riding the Ridge" I think was a new section this year and there was this, I'll say, hole in the ground, you had to ride through. It was probably about 8-10' deep by just as long. You had to ride down into it and hope you had enough momentum to get up the other side. The bottom of this pit-thing was just long enough to suck your front wheel in. It was the sharpest down-up I've ever decended into. There were a lot of spectators there, I suppose because it was a site of lots of carnage throughout the day. Lap 1, I fell off the side of it - out of momentum. I caught myself without falling completely over, but racking my thigh on my handlebar. (nice bruise today) Lap 2 - I made it through by holding on to a tree on the left. By lap 3 I was nearly by myself and walked down it for the last two times. That was easier and I knew I was losing my "piloting" skills by then, so this was also the safer alternative. At least I wasn't weak enough like some other riders, hiking through the woods to avoid that section all together.

Lap 4 was about survival for me. "Just keep turning the pedals" I kept saying. Within about a half mile (I think. Mr Garmin hasn't been recording correct mileage for me lately.) after walking down that pit-hole-rim-crusher-thing my left quad started to lock up. Cramps. Great. So I continued to pedal. It was painful, but I was near the end and couldn't give up now. My last time up the ski hill was slow, but I kept cranking away aiming for the finish line. Once at the top, I dismounted, but could not stand up. the cramps were too bad. I had to lay down immediately, Patti rubbed out the worst (left quad) and it eventually subsided.

All I wanted was less than a 2 hour finish time, and that's what I got: 1:58:25. Fifteenth out of twenty-one. Good practice for Iceman, I guess - I have more riding and endurance to put myself through in order to feel good about that race. I have 2 events left to do in the coming month leading up to that, plus some special training rides, so I should be good to go by then.

I never race to win - at least against anyone else. At this point, riding once or twice a week is not going to earn me any real "wins", so I race for "fun" even though most people don't understand the "fun" in climbing a ski hill 5 times so you can get cramps, not be able to stand up afterward, "earn" bruises and sweat until your face is salty and you're delirious.



Thanks to Marty and my family for coming out to cheer me on. (Thanks for the pics too Marty!) I had a blast and were glad they did too! Oh, and to the Rapid Wheelmen waiting for me on the last hill climb (Scofield, Daigle, Kowalczyk), thanks for waiting for me. I'm usually the last to finish all these events and miss all the who-haa at the finish, although someday I hope to be as good of riders as you. I may have flipped you off when you were trying to fake me out by saying someone was challenging me to the finish, but you weren't fooling me...you bastards. HA

Game face on at the start. In fact, I didn't even know Marty was standing right there.

This is the downhill after climbing the ski hill.
Coming down fast, you can see I'm already aiming for the turn.
It was rough and getting sandy there from the Expert race just before.

This is my favorite. It makes me look like I'm going super fast.

A sharp incline where there was a frequent jam-up of riders. In pain.


Quick Update...

Been racking up both some road and mountain bike mileage. Just more than one month till Iceman, so I have lots to do. Planning on racing this weekend at the Pando Classic, then riding at Fort Custer next weekend. From there is the Tour of the White Pine Trail. After that I'm planning on finding a weekday I can take off from work to pull 4 laps at race pace at Luton to gauge my fitness level for Iceman. Then one more race before Iceman, the Lowell 50. Add in family birthdays, weekend soccer games for my daughter (for which I'm the coach) and it makes for a busy fall.


Cannon Cruise

I needed some big time miles, and I finally had the time to put in so I headed out early to the weekly Saturday morning Cannon Cruise.

It was super dark at departure, 6am. My plan was to take the rail trail to 12 mile, then cut across. It's more hilly on 12 mile, but I would have less traffic. Almost to 12 mile I spotted the glowing eyes of what I thought was a nice fluffy cat. Once I can make out its shape and color, I say to myself "oh great, a nice fluffy BLACK cat crossing my path, today ought to be a good day." Once I got up on it to buzz by to scare it, I see it's actually a skunk with it's tail raised and ready for spraying. OH SHIT, I swerve last minute to the other side of the trail in case I need to squeeze past its stink stream. I don't know if it ever sprayed, I was safe, that was all that mattered. Close call.

The ride was going good, I was good up till about the half way mark where we took a rather long break. From that point forward, I was always at the back of the pack, struggling to keep up. After another 20 or so miles, I wasn't having such a fun time any more. I was being dropped like no body's business and I was "that guy" they were waiting for at each stop sign. I hadn't gotten hardly any miles in August...two 25 milers on the flat rail trail and a 30 mile mountain bike ride. That was about it. So I was lacking some muscle mass and fitness.

Bill snapped a rear derailleur cable at one point before our long half-way point break. Once we stopped I jumped right in getting all dirty in order to try and fix the situation. We managed to get just enough cable back to the bolt so he could at least have a few gears to select from. I love being "that guy" who can work on a bike roadside and send someone merrily on their way.

Within 10 or so miles from our original starting point, I had been dropped by probably a half mile (it seemed anyways) so I was riding completely alone, I turned right and felt the back tire get a little loose. It seemed that I had a low tire. So I stopped to throw some air in it to see what it would do. It seemed better for about 3 minutes, then was going soft again. Slow leaker. I limp up to where I see the rest of the group and tell them to go ahead and move on. I planned on taking a short-cut home rather than ride back with all of them anyways.

Luckily I always carry a spare on long rides and plenty of tools. So I took my time replacing my tube in order to rest, put the bike back together, take a gel and headed out. On my way was a local bike shop (Speed Merchants) and I planned on getting a refill on water and some more air in the rear tire because it still seemed kinda soft. I figured since I need to buy some nutrition stuff anyways, they'd allow me in their shop with my Fuji bike (they are a Trek/Scott dealer) for those few free items.

I topped off my tire to 100 lbs and I was out. (I only managed 70lbs with my short-throw hand pump according to the gauge on the floor pump. My arms were burning with anger so that's all I could muster.)

I got home, very exhausted. I relaxed my burning lower back by laying flat on the floor, hands over my eyes putting pressure on them as a nice dehyration-headache was setting in. Apparently I fell asleep for 15 minutes and was snoring. I woke up completely rejuvinated. Weird.

Glad I got some miles on. Gotta keep it up now. Iceman countdown....2 months. Time to get back in it.

Roadside Maintenance Tip #38:
When racking your bike upside down, remember to close or remove your water bottles,
or else they will leak and lose their holding capacity due to the extreme natural powers of
mother earth, also known as "gravity". After flipping the bike back over, and getting
leaked on, I was like...DOH! Sun uva...


Big M, part 2

I needed one more piece of Big M before autumn arrives and I become pre-occupied with other things. So we arranged to get a few Rapid Wheelmen up on a Monday to do some riding. In attendance was myself, Jeff Scofield, John Kowalczyk and Carolyn and Greg Blake.

I was pretty excited because I hadn't been able to get on a bike, any bike, for over two weeks. Life and work has been getting in the way of all the personal fun stuff. I don't often take a day off from work just to ride. So I was going to make this day count. And a beautiful day it was. Full sun, barely 60 degrees at ride start.

I arrived at the parking lot 8 minutes late. Having text Jeff that I was on the way, I was assured they'd be there waiting for me. When I arrived...no one. Two cars, no riders. I thought...sweet. I guess I'll ride by myself and hopefully catch them at lunch. However, two things told me they'd be back shortly. One, the stranger that I stopped to talk to was getting ready to suit up and ride alone. He obviously belonged to one car. So I knew one vehicle in our party was not yet there. Two, a fresh banana and cup of coffee sitting on the bike rack of the other vehicle with "Kowalczyk" sharpied on the cooler in the back. Someone is coming back for that banana and coffee. I'm guessing either a Kowalczyk or Scofield.

Sure enough, they came back, just as I was putting all my stuff together. They had gone out for a quick pre-ride warm up. Soon after, Carolyn and Greg arrived and we were off. Our "Lumberjack 100 Tour Guide" Scofield leading the way.

We rode some of the inner loops to begin with, then headed out towards the outer loop. Lots of brutal climbs up and down and up and down for the first 8 miles on the inner. Jeff counting down how many we had left. Five more. Four more. One big one, then two quick steep ones. Only two more. (I think I heard that three times, but I didn't argue.) The countdown never seemed to stop. We eventually made it out onto the outer loop. Everyone was excited to see a black bear (like I saw one month prior) - like it would just be sitting there in the same spot waiting for us. I was able to recognize the area I had seen the momma and her 3 cubs, but alas no sightings of bear all day long.

It was a rather unenventful balance of the ride on the outer loop. Which, for me, was perfect. It was a nice day to clear my mind of all my stresses and just casually ride with no end goal in mind. On our way down the long and (very) fast decent headed towards the parking lot, there was a giant tree blocking the trail. Kind of a buzz kill keeping our fast flow from continuing on. We had to route around it. John and I continued on but of course, Scofield found something to be curious about. John and I waited for a long time for him, Carolyn and Greg...only to find out that Jeff had decided to take a look at a giant pile of poop. Figures. How did I miss that!? I guess around where the downed tree was, there was a giant pile of the stuff. There may have been pictures taken. Jeff's wife, upon reviewing said pictures, thinks it was a former porcupine home. Turns out they like the stuff, so they use it as furniture. Or something like that....

Anyways, it was a good ride, we took our time and chatted, stopped often to rest, rehydrate and snack. I had some loose handlebars I had to stop and tighten down once. Greg crashed on his face/chest once, I think Carolyn took a spill also. No other casualties for the day. After doing around 22 miles or so, we were back at the parking lot. Time for lunch. We were all pretty hungry.

After lunch, Greg and Carolyn decided they had enough and the three of us remaining gathered our gear and rode some more. Hitting some more of the inner loops, then cutting through to the last few miles of the outer loop again. At one point, bringing up the rear, I looked down and saw a rather large snake coiled up right in the trail. It hissed at me as I rode by, barely missing it with my tires. I shout up ahead, "did you guys see that snake!?". Immeditaly Scofield was on the brakes and riding back towards me. "where was it?!" He loves those things and was out to catch it. We never did find it. I did some research and with the help of the snake-master Scofield, I'm pretty sure it was a Blue Racer.

Not the actual snake in the trail, but pretty darn close.
It seemed more green than blue to me.

After that, we went up the wrong way (the "right" way for Lumberjack) to the Fire Tower...what kind of sick bullsh!t is that!? I swear it never ended. I never swore, then pouted like a baby, then swore so much again the entire day. I'd look up, hoping to see the crest....nothing. Just more hill. WTF is this - some kind of joke!? I finally made it to where Jeff and John had presumably been relaxing drinking mai-tais, when Jeff asks if I want to do the "hike a bike" up to the tower then back down the road. I just nodded my head and said "sure, whatever". Lead me and I will follow. I'm done thinking. Just turn the pedals.

In all, my legs had turned to mush after about mile 26 or so. I spent a lot of time in the granny gear, barely getting up some of the climbs. Had to walk 3 of them in total.

I'm glad Jeff and John showed me the way of the Lumberjack 100. It gives me a better perspective on how the course is set up. It is brutal, I can confirm. But, as I currently stand with deciding whether or not to sign up for the 2013 race, I might just be crazy enough to commit.

John spotted this monkey wearing RW kit swinging from a vine.

We rode through lots of these signs like they weren't even there.

John and Greg checking out the map.

Me walking up the Wall.
Both John and Jeff (for the first time ever) made it up w/o walking.


Grand Cycling Classic

The Grand Cycling Classic Challenge ride, challenges cyclists to do as many laps of the 6.25K course as possible in 2.5 hours. There are medals for finishing a certain amount of laps. Bronze for 4 laps, Silver for 8 laps and Gold for 12 laps. Twelve laps is 75K total (about 45 miles).

Matt Longest and I were out to get gold medals dang it. That meant we'd have to average 18.6 mph over the entire 2.5 hour stretch.

We did just a quick out and back for a few blocks to "warm up" and quickly found ourselves helping about 15 other riders and spectators scouring the pavement in front of VanAndel Arena for tacks. Someone had tossed a few handfuls out onto the course (a la Stage 15 of this year's Tour de France). Too bad for them, they were retarded and spread them out too early for us to find. Their plot to spoil the race, denied.

The day was cool, finally a perfect morning for a ride. I got a little warm later, but what a fantastic morning for the event. There were a lot of riders, maybe 14 or so Rapid Wheelmen. We were eager to get under way and before we knew it we were finding ourselves comfortably in the 20-21mph range.

By starting off strong, we knew we'd start to slow later, so we kept up our pace as long as sustainable. There were a few rollers through the city, one larger cobblestone hill - left up a hill, then up to the right. Laps 1-8 up the hill went smooth as butter. Felt really strong. For the first few laps up that hill, I found myself standing on the pedals pounding away, passing 5-9 people each time. The final laps there were tougher, I only granny geared it on the very last lap.

Overall, the course was awesome. It was fun to rip through downtown Grand Rapids without having to worry about traffic or pedestrians.

Oh....and HELL YES we got Gold medals!!!

 The scene from about half way up the pack.

The downtown route.

Lap stats. After lap 10 we knew we had the last 2 in the bag,
so we dialed our effort back a little.

Looking good in gold.