Sunday, April 29, 2007

Somebody better post some TI ride reports...

I got the skinny tire bike out for the first time this weekend. Two hours on Saturday and five hours today. Solo yesterday and with Nate and Dan today. Good Times.

Spend Friday in Ann Arbor. My wife graduated from U of M with a MBA. More good times.

Turns out there is an XC race not far from here this weekend. I might swing down there and give it a go. Will be doing the team ride on Tuesday (and skinny tires) and on the ss mtb on Thursday.

Now, somebody please write a report on TI. Please.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Did the team ride on Tuesday. It was out last ride on cyclocross bikes and dirt roads. A large group turned out, including Scott, Nate, Dan, Shawn, Jason, Barry, Rick and me. We did the same route as last week, which includes some decent climbing and rough dirt roads. We also completed a lap at Bass River.

I felt pretty crappy. I didn't spin my legs out after Cohutta, and I have a bit of sore throat/funky mucous in my nose and throat. I think it is more Cohutta dust/allergies than sick/cold. Not that it maters; the effect is about the same: Sub-par performance. I was able to hang in for a few of the breaks, but had to play catch-up for a few as well. And let me tell you, if Nate, Dan and Scott get into a break, Shawn, Barry and I are not gonna catch 'em!

Trans-Iowa is this weekend. I'm sad that I won't be at the start line; I love that race. It looks like the roads will be wet at the start, but maybe they will have some sun during the race. I wish all of the racers the best of luck! I will be following the race on the net all weekend. I'd be there myself except that my wife is graduating from her MBA program this weekend. Family trumps bike, even for me!

I'll ride tonight, maybe on the trainer with the rain that is forecast. I'd like to get some road miles in this weekend as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More than you ever wanted to know about the Cohutta 100...

2007 Cohutta 100 Race Report

I arrived at the Ducktown Copper Inn around 2pm on Friday. Dan Jansen, Mark Hendershot and I discussed strategy, and then Dan and I did a 1.5 hour pre-ride of the first part of the course. This consisted of riding the first single-track loop backwards. Why backwards? Why not? Anyway, it went fine for me, but Dan crashed pretty hard on a downhill. We chalked it up to experience. A couple of plates of pasta and we were ready to call it a night.

Saturday morning dawned bright and chilly. The temps at the start line were downright cold, maybe in the low 40’s. Although there was much heated discussion about arm warmers and such, in the end I chose to start with naked legs and arms.

Lesson #1: GPS might not work in the Mountains. My GPS had no signal for the first hour or so of the ride. That threw off my mileage for the race, which was aggravating but not catastrophic.

The race starts with a fairly long pavement climb. I was able to stay within 100 yards of the leaders as they made the turn into the single track. The traffic jam at the start of the trail allowed me to close that gap.

The first section of trail is very fast and smooth. I got stuck behind a group of three riders; one single speeder and two geared riders. The ss guy was leading. He was smooth, but I could have gone faster. I wasn’t too worried, since I know you don’t win a 100-mile race in the first 20 minutes. But still, I knew there were people ahead of me that were getting away.

I passed the ss rider on a short paved decent that led down to a flat section along the river. This was bumpy but rideable. I noticed that my perpetum/sustained energy mixture was not flowing out of my bottle as freely as I would like. This forced me to squeeze the bottle quite hard to get any fluid. It was also about this time that Danielle Musto passed me. That was the last time I’d see her before the finish.

Lesson #2: Perpetum should not be used as a face and/or body wash…

After the bumpy section, we turned left to cross a suspension bridge. On the bridge, I decided to remove the blockage from my food bottle by squeezing it as hard as I could. Instead of forcing out the clot, this caused the top of the bottle to fly free and the contents of the bottle to splash on my face, eyes, hair, ears, computer, handlebar and gloves! Crap! The thick goo in my eyes caused me to loose control and crash on the bridge. I was shocked and pissed off, but I picked myself up and moved out of the way of traffic.

I though I was about to have some serious difficulty, but the day was saved by Shari Scurr. Shari is a Michigan racer/MMBA supporter who happened to be at this race supporting other riders. She saw my crash and grabbed my now-empty bottle, which she filled up with water. She also promised to have some perpetum for me later in the race if I needed it. With her help and a quick inventory of my bike (mostly fine) and body (sticky but functional) I decided to press on.

Well, during all this excitement several people passed me, including the single speed guy from the first part of the race! Oh, well. I got back on the bike and started riding. My plan was to use my ‘emergency’ gel packets to get to Aid Station #2, where I had a well-supplied drop bag. I would be a bit short of food, but what can you do? So on I rode.

After maybe another 10 miles of mostly fun singletrack, we got into the gravel road riding. This course has one major and three minor climbs. At the base of the first climb is Aid Station #1. I hoped they would have Hammer Gel packets, and they did! I grabbed a handful and the volunteer at the station tore the top off one for me as well. I clipped back in and turned the corner with all this gel in my hand, only to be faced with one of the first high-speed downhills of the day! I ended up dropping or squeezing several of the gel packets, getting thick goo all over my glove and handlebar. Awesome, more sticky shit. Just what I need. At least I got one or two gel packets out of the deal.

Now starts the climbing. Mile 25 to Mile 35 is pretty much all climbing, some of it quite steep. On paper, Mile 35 to Mile 55 look less challenging and I had heard the terrain described as “rolling”. After a long, fast decent from Mile 55 to Mile 75, there are three smaller climbs each about 3 miles long or so.

My plan was to hammer the first climb, since it was the longest and the earliest so I might still have fresh legs. Then I planned to coast through the “rollers” and survive the three smaller climbs.

As it turned out, the “rollers” were anything but! They were steep ups and downs with no place to recover. I was pissed because I had put some serious energy into the first climb and really needed a rest. I went back and forth with a group of three other riders. I would catch them as they spun up the climbs in an easy gear, and they would catch me on the downhills as they hammered the 44x12. There wasn’t much talking; I was suffering too much on the climbs and they were moving too fast on the descents.

Anyway, I made it to the top of the first climb and got my drop bag. It had some more hammer gel, and overall my energy level was about right. I put some Heed in the empty bottle I brought along for ‘emergencies’ and hoped it would be enough to get me to Aid Station #3 where I had another bottle of Perpetum.

The climbs on this course were brutal for a Michigan boy. I’m not much of a climber to begin with, and we don’t have anything like these hills where I train. The hills would just keep getting steeper and longer around each corner. Over the years, I have ridden outside of Michigan and have learned to look for the warning signs that the hill might be longer than it looks. For example, if it looks like the hill will be cresting “just around the corner” but you are still kind of down in a valley, then most likely you still have some climbing to do that is hiding around that corner. For some reason, I never got demoralized by the climbing in this race. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard. But I went in to the race knowing that I would spend a lot of time suffering so I just put my head down and kept pushing along.

The downhills were tricky as well. I put a nice, light carbon fork on the bike for this race. It was welcome on the climbs, but it made the 35+ MPH downhill sections a handful. The roads had loose gravel and stutter bumps, so my hands were often numb by the time I got to the bottom. Traction was an issue as well. In the end, I kept the rubber side down.

Lesson #3: Girrrrrrl Power!

The rest of the race was fairly anti-climactic. One final story: I have a problem staying in ‘race mode’ during these long point-to-point events. People get pretty strung out, and it is possible to go hours without seeing another rider. Around Mile 55 or so, I started to slip into ‘ride mode’: not pushing hard and starting to look around and enjoy the scenery. I pulled off to the side of the course to take a ‘nature break’. As I was finishing up, a rider on a bright orange Niner ss with full Niner team kit flew buy me. I’m thinking “What in the heck is Dejay Birtch doing behind me?!?” I figured he must have had a crash or some health problems or somesuch. Anyway, I hopped back on the bike and hammered to catch him. Well, I was able to catch up pretty quickly but it wasn’t Dejay. It was his teammate Leslie Williams! Yes, a female ss rider caught and passed me. Well, I am pretty used to getting beat by women in these races since I ride with Danielle Musto quite a bit, but not buy a woman on a singlespeed. That got me back to race mode pretty quick. We rode near each other for a bit. She had an easier gear which helped her on the hills. I had a harder gear so I worked hard on the flats and less-steep climbing pitches and was able to get away and stay away. I still only beat her by about 5 minutes.

Other Michigan riders did well: Mark was 7th (!), Dan Jansen got 13th on a 1x9, Teammate Paula rode her singlespeed to a sub-11 hour finish, Super Bon Bon was Top-5 in the 35 miler.

At the finish, I assumed that I was pretty far off the pace. I was very surprised when I found out I was in 5th Place for Singlespeed. I’m pleased with the result, and I learned some things that will help me in future 100 mile races. The course was good, the race was well-managed. I will plan to do this race in the future.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Quick Cohutta Report

The important stuff:

Finished. 5th Place SS (not 4th as reported elsewhere!) with a time of 8:47.

The whole trip went very well. The race was challenging and fun. I feel like I gave it my best effort.

Other Michigan folks had outstanding rides as well: Mark Hendershot, Danielle Musto, Super Bon-Bon, and Dan Jansen all had outstanding rides.

More tomorrow, must sleep now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cohutta Madness

The bike is ready. A carbon fork from White Brothers. A different crank. Some new tires. Oh, yeah.

We'll be on the road tomorrow. Report to follow.

Team Ride


Me, Nate, Dan, Shawn, JoeFro and Jason put the cyclocross bikes to work yesterday. The computer showed 41+ miles. It was arm and knee warmer weather, but just barely. We even caught a bit of sun.

In the middle of the ride we did a lap at Bass River. Shawn and JoeFro had to pick a bit of bark out of their skin after getting up close and personal with trees, but all wheels made it out of the loop mostly true and ridable.

Nice and easy for the rest of the week, right up until Saturday.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

1st Centrury of the Year

It's hard to believe, but today was my first century of the year. I did so many long rides over the winter getting ready for TI the last two years that I had a half-dozen 100-milers under my belt by this time. By no TI and no DK for me this year, so I had more time to ramp up.

And you know what? I've never been stronger. Go figure.

I rode the DD-X with fancy new Small Block 8 tires, like so:

So, you've heard the rumors; those tires are fast! And I have to say, I have not spent enough time talking about my DDX. That bike is awesome! It is super-light, has a very plush ride and just plain makes me feel fast. I'm gonna go ahead and add them to the "Stuff I'd buy again" link. I think I'd talk more about it if I didn't suck so bad at cross racing.
So the weirdest thing happened on my ride today. Just before the 50-mile mark, I rode past a field that had a bunch of cows in it. One cow in particular was right up next to the fence. I saw that cow and though "Man, that is one *fat* cow..." and kept riding. After I hit 50 and turned around, I came upon that same cow, only now she wasn't quite as fat and she had a little baby cow underneath her! That cow dropped a calf in the 20 minutes I had been gone. And I mean just dropped; there was still all kind of the stuff that comes along when a baby cow is born hanging out the momma cow. Yeah, circle of life and all that, but it was nasty! Anyway, you see some crazy stuff out on a bike.
Here is the route, for those of you playing along at home:

Friday, April 13, 2007

All Smallblock 8, All the Time

I mounted Kenda Small Block 8 tires on my cross bike yesterday. I plan to ride them Saturday and Tuesday. I also put the larger Small Block 8 on the rear of the Quiring. I'll get some miles on that on Sunday.

Ride Report to follow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Big box o' tires!

Ah, the Kenda tire order came in today. Small Block 8, Karma, Nevegal, etc. Pictures to follow. I got a box of tire that is so large I had trouble getting it in the car.

Team ride tonight; kind of a big crowd. Dan, Nate, Scott, Shawn, Jason, Barry, and me. I took off my super-fast Michellin tires and put on some tires I won at a race. Big mistake. I suffered for the first part of the ride as I got used to the new rubber. I was fine by the end; I think we got in about 2:15 with some hard efforts. Then it was time for an IPA taste-test at Nate's. A report will follow.

Riding hard all week. Trainer tomorrow, MTB on Thursday. Some day it will be warm again. Cohutta on the horizon. Good times...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

April + Trainer = :(

Three hours on the trainer today. I was thinking about a long ride, but I just couldn't get into it. I should have followed Danny J. down to Yankee; he left around noon and I think he is still riding seven hours later.
So, what else is up? The poison ivy just keeps getting worse. Here's a couple pics:

Nice and crusty! Also, check out the awesome arm hair...

And the wrist:

Looking at more time on the trainer tomorrow. Cross bikes for the team ride on Tuesday, and maybe some full-on road or trail riding on Thursday. Ten it's the weekend, with a few hard rides and then rest up for Cohutta and race redemption.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What is love?

Rode cross bikes on Tuesday. Three of us; Nate, Shawn (or is it Shaun? or Sean?) and I did around two hours. The weather had been bad all day, but it stayed warm and dry for the ride. Drove home in the rain, but didn't ride in it. Good times.

Rode on the trainer tonight, since we have February weather here right now. I've got sunburn from Arkansas, so you know I'm not going back out in the cold.

I picked up some fairly nasty poison ivy in Arkansas. It's on my right wrist and forearm, right where my hand would like to rest while typing. Sucks.

Swapped out Arkansas tires for Tennessee tires. Looking forward to the next race, and no mental mistakes. It would be nice if the new frame, fork and wheels were here for Cohutta. But the bike I have got the job done in Arkansas so I can't really complain.

Speaking of Arkansas, calculations from the GPS indicate that I would have done just fine without the "long cut". Did I mention no more mental mistakes?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ouachita Race Report

Ouachita Challenge 2007 Race Report

Day One: The Drive

Dan Jansen and I left Michigan early Friday morning for the 900ish mile drive to Arkansas. Most of the drive went well; no bad weather and no car issues. We made it to Little Rock in time for dinner with the rest of the crew who were traveling in another vehicle: Danielle, Scott, Bonnie and Barry. The food was good, and we were back on the road at a reasonable hour.

The last stretch of this trip was a bit more interesting. To get to the cabin where we would spend the weekend, we had to traverse several tiny, twisting dirt roads. Not fun at midnight. We eventually found the main cabin for the campground where we were staying, but the Deliverance rejects that were running the place sent us driving all over the backwoods of Arkansas looking for our cabin. Also, we were concerned because the rest of our group who were right behind us as we left the restaurant were no where to be found. Just when things looked like they might get ugly, the rest of the crew showed up and we found our actual cabin. Of course, but this point it was about 1 AM but at least we had a place to crash.

Day Two: Foreshadowing

The Plan was to get up a bit early, have breakfast, and get in a massive preride of four to six hours. Most of us had decided that pushing for a good result in this race was not a good idea, since we had all been [sick/up too late/stick up butt/skirt too tight/not enough beer] too really make our best effort. Therefore, why not enjoy the trails by doing a huge pre-ride on Saturday and riding for fun on Sunday?

What actually happened is that we slept in till about noon on Saturday, messed around getting breakfast and packing and didn’t get to Oden to start out preride until around 2 PM. Everybody but Barry and I started to pre-ride, while he and I drove back to the cabin to get a. my bike shoes and b. his front wheel. Hey, what the heck. Just gotta role with it. In the end, I got in about two hours and 30 miles of riding.

Day Three: Endurance can mean so many things…

Everybody was up at 5AM to pack and eat. We got to the start without any drama.

I was feeling pretty good on the first climb. I didn’t start too hard, so I was able to pick people off on the way up. I got to look at some nice bikes and say hello to some cool industry folks. I got to the top and got into the singletrack.

The Ouchita Trail singletrack was mostly fun to ride. At least, where it was possible to ride I enjoyed it! I was very glad that I ran 29” wheels and a suspension fork. The Reba worked very well; I didn’t notice the weight on the climbs (!) and I know it let me make mistakes that would have resulted in a crash with a rigid fork. Parts of the course were still not worth the risk to ride, mostly steepish uphill sections with lots of rock piles. Overall, I was still fresh in this section and in good spirits.

Next up was a long dirt and paved road section. This was not great for me, as I had a pretty easy gear and was forced to spin like a crazed hamster. Several geared bikes passed me, and one singlespeeder got by me here as well. Overall, I was still feeling pretty good. It was getting warm, and I was stopping to take some electrolyte pills about every hour or so. My back was a bit sore, so I took some advil as well. But in general, I was feeling pretty good.

As I got within sight of the Womble Trail, I saw Danielle pulling out of the aid station. Here is where I made my first mistake: I skipped the aid station to try and catch her. It felt like I had enough Gu2O in my pack to make it to the next aid station. As soon as I got on the Womble Trail I knew I should have stopped. It was very hot and stuffy back there. My Gu2O was very warm and no longer refreshing. I started to think that I wouldn’t have enough fluid to make it to the checkpoint. Although I tried to tell myself to keep pushing and drink as much as I wanted, I know I slowed down and tried to conserve fluid. I ended up crawling through this section.

At last I made it to the last water stop. I drank several glasses of water and filled my half-filled my camelback. I was pretty messed up at that point. I noticed that riders seemed to be coming from two directions; from the trail that I had just completed and from the dirt road. I asked the volunteer what was going on, and he told me that the course looped back around to this spot on the way to the finish. They also told me that I had about 15 miles to go.

Here is where I made my second and most critical mistake: After getting my water, I took off down the road instead of following the rest of the Womble Trail. I was busy drinking water and enjoying the breeze. I was passed by a few geared riders on the road, so I knew I was on course. I was wondering when the course would loop back to the checkpoint when I saw a sign that said “Finish” and a volunteer told me that I was almost done! I was pissed, because I only had 50 miles on my computer. I talked to the volunteer for a few minutes, and it dawned on me that I should have crossed the road back at the last water stop. I was pissed because I knew that my chance for a respectable result was gone, but I knew I didn’t want to DNF. So I turned around and rode back to the checkpoint and got back on course.

The rest of the race was anticlimactic. I did the last little section of the Womble and the dirt road. I felt pretty good, but I didn’t push it because I knew there was no point. I finished in just over 7 hours. My goal was 6 hours, and I was on track for about 6:20 or so before my error.

Even though I didn’t have a great result, the race was still a success. I finished under adverse conditions. The bike worked extremely well. My fitness was pretty good, considering that I had been sick for a week. I got in a great day of riding on some very challenging trail.

So, with the race over I was free to enjoy a beer and kick back. Oh, wait a minute; I still have to drive 900 miles back to Michigan today! I shower and Dan and I load up the car and get on the road at about 6PM. We drive straight through the night, arriving in GR at 7:45 AM on Monday. I shower, change my clothes and head to work. I eventually get to bed at 10PM Monday evening. That means I was up for most of 40 hours, 7 of which were hammering on a bike! Ah, the things we do to race our bikes...