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.


Tour de Crap

Well, I had big plans to punish myself with giant hills Sunday around my parents house in Sturgis, but I didn't get to leave the house until after 11am...which made it for a very hot/humid ride.

On the plus side, I got to see the ending of the Tour de France on TV, which was cool - I've had to DVR every single stage thus far, so it was nice to see some Live footage for once. For the first 2 miles of my ride I was inspired by the footage, but once the burning sensations filled my body I came back to reality and realized I'm just a regular weekend warrior schlub.

I was feeling the effects of the heat at my turning point near Klinger Lake (9-10 mile mark of the 30 I was planning on), and I couldn't take any more hills, so I improvised and did some more flat riding just to get some miles in. Weak. Lame. Whatever. I always lose my motivation and focus when I'm riding by myself.

So instead, I rode some cobbles. Just like the frenchies.
Except, if you ride faster than 10mph on these you'll get bucked off the bike
It's hard to see, but there are wild dips in this stretch of road. In a car you shouldn't
do more than 25mph unless you're equipped with skid plates.

Then I did some commuting in the bike lane. I did a nice sprint along this stretch
trying to catch a State Trooper. I was doing a decent 28-30mph for nearly a mile, but then
I realized I probably shouldn't be going that fast because I
left my china-man hat at home (see pic).

Big block of crappy, boring riding.

Speed was all over the place depending on the terrain. I did reach a respectible
38.9mph down the last hill of the day, pedaling and in the drops. You can see my first
7 miles were riddled with hills (mountains-stage). Cadence was nice and even.
Temp was 93 by the time I got home and my head was killing me.


Big M Joy Ride

I really enjoyed my first trip to Big M just outside Wellston Thursday morning. Brent, Heath, Cindy and Jeremy joined in the fun. Our plan was to ride almost the entire outside loop, then one of the interior more technical trails. Estimated 25-27 miles.

Brent, Cindy, Jeremy and I just arriving to camp (the now infamous Tent City) the previous night - myself post-darkness, felt that serious alcohol-fueled drinking was probably not the best idea - although tempting. Heath didn't get the memo. He had been solidly drinking since 2pm that day and had no intentions of letting up.

Tent City Base Camp. Glorious Morning!

Heath testing out the validity of his "tear-free" skin spray.
After spraying DIRECTLY into his eyes, he immediately regrets his decision
and discovers its not all that "tear-free" at that intensity.

Specialized Epic 26 full suspension complete with Pink Basket, horn
and snacks/water bottles attached using electrical tape.
I don't know how or why Jeremy rode this bike like this, but he did.

Heath struggled for the first few miles that morning. Of course, he was a champ and knew he had to power through it. He said he wanted to puke, but couldn't do it - just had to hold it all inside. We got lost after just the first few miles - struggling to comprehend the number markers along the trail, even though every intersection had numbers and picture maps. So we added a few road miles looking for a two-track back into the forest. I guess only retards like us could get lost. Although, I told Cindy at one point, I guess that was part of the fun.

Heath wishing he was dead on the side of the road as we tried to figure out where we got lost.

We eventually found our way. Heath taking the lead. I was right behind him - from chasing 6 feet back I could smell the alcohol burning off his skin. Just then he sped up, shouting "ANIMALS" and gave chase for about 1.5 seconds. I sped up with him, then he slammed on his brakes. He and his bike coming to a complete stop in the middle of the trail. I looked forward to see the "animals"....a black bear and her three baby cubs! Heath immediately got off his bike and came rushing back to where I was. The cubs scattered into the woods, up trail. The momma bear ran about 10 yards, then stood up in defense mode (about as tall as a 6' man) and looked for us. We stood motionless with our bikes until she finally got back down on all fours and ran off as well. My only regret was not having my camera accessible and ready.

Heath and I must have only been a minute ahead of everyone else. Once they came up, we told them what we saw, and they didn't believe us. Until we asked if one of them wanted to lead the charge, because we were too scared to. Of course, Brent eagerly obliged - he didn't even wait for us. He was just gone. Presumably now bear bait. Of course, we were not on the weekend news, so no one got eaten. It was quite amazing to see such awesome animals in the wild like that.

Heath after a crash. His tire hit a stump after I asked him what all the spray-painted
blue dots were on the trees. Your eyes should never leave the trail under speed.

All day I was having some trouble with my left pedal - it got worse as time went on. I had hit a rock (big time) weeks ago, but all of a sudden it was not accepting my cleat. Upon inspection one of the tines (Crank Brother's) had been bent and if I didn't clip in one of the other 3 access points, the tine would get hung up inside the pedal body. I found myself stopping several times to squeeze it out with my hands. Once I was in, I didn't want to clip out, it was a pain in the ass.

We had a great time riding. It was truly a joy ride. Jeremy hadn't ridden a bike in 6 or so years and was riding in board shorts (swim trunks), but he did have clipless shoes/pedals - Brent and Cindy are relatively new to the sport, but getting to be good riders. Heath is all around a fit guy (sans hangover)....then there was me. I felt great and was super-charged to be riding a brand new trail to me, on a day off from work, in my opinion one of the most beautiful settings imaginable in Michigan forests. There was lots of sand from it being so dry, but riding at times by myself took me back to my young days - first experiencing the wilderness while mountain biking. I hadn't felt that much happiness riding in a long time. It felt natural to me - not so man-made and constrained by a relatively small area of land.

Heath later snapped out of his funk and the others were doing a great job hanging with us. We didn't mind stopping for breaks, talking, laughing, eating snacks, being scared about bears. Funny. And fun.

The pace wasn't very fast, it was nice to not be on a time constraint for anything. At times I couldn't help myself but to blast away from the group pushing my limits. At one point, I was pedaling (downhill of course) and got up to 25 mph. Loved it!

Happy to be riding a new trail with friends.

We never did make it to any of the internal trails, just the outer. It was getting hot, Jeremy was toast and the rest of us were getting hot and tired. What fun though. Big M is on my list of "real" mountain bike trails in near proximity of me that I must visit on a multiple-time basis each year.

Multiple times while riding I was trying to comprehend riding the Lumberjack 2013 race out there. Three laps of pain, excitement, sweat and tears. Hmmmm.......enticing.

The crew: Brent, Cindy, Heath, me and Jeremy after our ride.


2012 Sweat Shaker

Learned a few things at this race...

1) Why it is called SweatShaker - it's a very bumpy trail. It will shake parts off your bike if you're not careful.

2) Don't ever try using only a water bottle at a race you've never been in. I figured it was a short enough race that I shouldn't need my camelback - it would only irritate me and make me more hot. If there was ever a venue to demand a camelback, this would have been it. And a full-suspension bike.

3) Tall water bottles will not stay in your standard bottle cage. Lost my only source of hydration on a hot/humid day before hitting mile ONE. Shook it right out...gone. Thankfully a guy behind me yelled that I lost it so I stopped and walked around for maybe 20 seconds to look for it. Couldn't spend any more time - all the rest of my age group was now gone. I knew today I wanted to dig deep, but I didn't know I would have to go this far - no water.

So onward I rode, the next 13 miles w/o any hydration. This is not good, I don't function well w/o water.

Mile 3: Dry mouth. Dust from the dry trail coated me inside and out. Could not swallow my own spit. How am I going to do this? Scofield already passes me, he started minutes behind me - I can barely say 5 words. Too dry.
Mile 8: I start to get the cold sweats and a headache. Already sweating a ton, I knew things were going to get bad quick if I didn't do something. I slow my pace, I'm losing my ability to concentrate on the trail.
Mile 10: Body being punished by the trail. Upperbody tired, struggling to hold my line. Back spasming - can't get up out of the saddle long enough to stretch, too bumpy. Legs failing. Utilizing the granny gear on steeper climbs. I think to myself, has it really come to this? I decide to choke down a Gu Gel, sans water. It's got extra caffeine, so hopefully that will keep me alert. Sticky hands, mouth, lips. Terrible to choke down. Plus the fact, I was expecting Pineapple, but it was Vanilla. Bleck.
Mile 13: Reaching the point where you ride through the first 2.5 miles from the beginning of the race again. I slow my roll to scan the forest for my bottle, need it desperately. I find it nestled next to a log, in the shade, presumably taking a nice quiet nap as I'm out on the trail without him. Pick it up, immediately take a large sip (still COLD, YES!) and tuck it in my jersey pocket for safe keeping.

From this point on, I don't remember any of the last 2.5 miles of the race. I remember going VERY slow into turns, barely able to navigate. Now relying strictly on instincts.

I finish the race, just about completely wiped out. Borderline confused, dizzy, things zooming in and out - seeing stars. I'm aware enough to know where the sounds of other Rapid Wheelmen were standing to I come to a stop there, lay the bike down, immediately strip off my helmet, gloves, open my jersey. My back is a wreck from all the jarring. I could not get comfortable. I stand with my hands on my knees, then sit with knees up, then stretched out on the ground. Figure I had better stand up and get my bearings. Water never tasted so good.

In the end, it was a good time, with good friends in a new place. Trail is decent, it's twisty with some quick dips and climbs. Technical because of that. For a smoother ride, it requires a lot of standing. This would be a good place to train - not much fun if you want to go fast for all out speed.

Races are fun, but I never seem to perform up to my own expectations, which usually leaves me to be disappointed in myself. I don't know if that makes me non-competitive, or just always looking within for something better. Always destined to "fail"? Is that good or bad? I don't know. Just keep sticking with it until something golden happens I guess.

In the 4 hours post-race, I would consume 92 oz of fluid. Water, energy drink, Recoverite...plus then a 12 oz beer. So, 104 oz of total fluid. And I peed once around 5pm - only maybe 10-14 oz worth. Dehydration confirmed.

I survived. Hope I can do it again.

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