Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding my place

Saturday I set off for Mid-Michigan community college with my bike and a few teammates. This event has been both a HIGH...and a LOW of my Sport Clyde career.

The event: Sweat Shaker

2014 Highlights

It seemed strange to race on a bike I had only ridden one time. Stranger yet, I picked up the bike the night before the race. I hit this even solo. Strategy was to start hard from the gun. I wanted to test my luck in staying with the lead group and holding on as long as I could. Not exactly sure what place I was when we hit the singletrack but I was with the leaders as we started to string out. 5 miles in I was alone again.....but still riding strong. 1st lap was a blur. I remember going through the finish area and thinking...that was quick...I wonder what place I am in?!?

A few miles from the finish line I caught a guy that was in my class. How do I know? Well, I recognized him...and I heard him say "awww shit" as I flew past him. I was still riding super strong and he was stalled on a tough climb. I crossed the line and timers wouldn't tell me where I finished. It was a surprise I guess. So I waited until the awards.

now to sport 3rd place.....Sean Evans. Huh? I actually hit my first sport podium and there were 8 people in my class. Sweet.

2015 Highlights

The week before this race I had just finished Lumberjack 100. Surely the top accomplishment of my cycling career. Heading to Sweat Shaker I was confident. Strong. Relaxed. Ready to take another podium on a course that favors me. 

.......shit shit shit shit....boom.....

The deer incident less than 2 miles from the exit ended my race before I even started. Jay's mirror gone. Doors on the driver side caved in. 3 race bikes mauled. Bike rack destroyed. Lisa's bike had a damaged fork and wheels...but she rocked the race to a solid 2nd place. Jay, wobbly wheel...managed to race without crashing to a 7th place finish. Honestly, still don't know how the hell he did it because the wheel was awful.

Me....well I was forced into a spectator role as my front wheel was demolished and my frame was actually bent. I said goodbye to a bike I had for only a year. A bike that I took my first sport podium on..and that I had just finished 100 miles on the week before. For a short career....the bike saw a lot of action.  
The night before LJ100, 2015

Watching was fun....but I was left to wonder what could have been. All the pieces were in place for me to have a solid outing. Confidence. Endurance. Favorable course. All I was missing was a bike. Darn.

But, we move on. I have a new bike now. But that is where the puzzle falls apart. Endurance is ok...I will be able to finish the race.....but I won't be fast. Confidence is wavering. I won't be able to ride angry or to ride with enough confidence to compete with the top flight of the class. I am simply not in good enough shape. My fault. Life happens. But, that won't stop me from trying. As I write this there are only 4 in my category. If nobody else were to sign up my chances of a podium are good....even with the current circumstances. 

This will be my first race of 2016. I hope to write a positive race recap.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A year ago

A year ago I was lining up for The Lumberjack 100. The preparation was done. The nervousness was still there, because the daunting task of 100 miles stood in my path. A task that many riders stronger than me have failed. The only thing left to do.....was ride.

I have a handful of teammates heading to the Manistee area today to prepare for the race tomorrow. They have done the work. Now they just need to ride. The anniversary of this event got my brain working and thinking about how the hell I even finished such a long race. Blank. My mind was blank, but I was taken back to last year and I remembered some of the details. Here are some of them.

The start
For me, back of the pack. No reason to be a hero here. I was at the race to finish and I know my limitations. Brian and I headed to the last row and a few people trickled in around us. Nervous. It was more nervous back here than it was in the middle of the pack. It seemed more nervous back here than the it was in the front row. Of course, they are professionals....but the nervous conversations between the riders back here was interesting. Not all were confident. Some were over-confident. Most were excited to try to finish.

First Lap
The pavement leading to the singletrack seemed a lot longer than it was. The roar of 300+ sets of mountain bike tires on pavement sounded like a parade of monster trucks. The nerves were growing here because reality was setting in that we were riding 100 miles. The first major climb was a conga line, 2 wide....and as long as I could see. The leaders were gone. I didn't see them again until later, when they lapped me. Patience. Gotta have patience. Can't blow myself up on the first lap and risk not finishing. Gotta go fast enough to make the cutoff time. Dang this hill is long. The thoughts are bouncing all over the place. Pace. Pace. Pace. That is what was I was trying to focus on the most. Pace. Ride your race. Don't hurry. Pace. When I reached the aid station at 17 miles in I was happy. But at the same time I was thinking "holy hell...that was only 17 miles??". It seemed like a long time to get there but I was keeping my steady pace. Feeling pretty good. Grab some food. Go. It really starts to thin out for me. Still seeing people around every bend. Riding with a few here and there. But people are settling in and riding their own races now. I see the sign that says 5 miles to go. Whoo! Almost done with the first lap. 4, 3, 2....the miles tick away and I am feeling pretty good. Just keep that pace, don't blow up. Drink. Crud.....I am behind on fluids. Drink, pace, drink, pace...oh...parking lot. Lap 1 done. People cheering like crazy for us as we roll through. Hit the tent. People are helping like I can relax a second. Bike...good. Camelback swap. Bottles. Go get em'. Nothing but encouragement from teammates and friends. Leaving the pit area people are still cheering. 2 to go.

Lap 2
It is quieter now. The trail looks different. Much more defined than a few hours ago. How long until cutoff time? Still have plenty of time because I was on pace for my first lap. That cutoff time is the only thing I am worried about now. Well, the cutoff time and this long climb that doesn't want to end. Where is everyone? Feels like I am alone....wait.....there are a few people. Good. I am on course. Pace. Cutoff time. Pace. Cutoff time. 40 miles in. Not feeling too bad. Drink. Pace. Cutoff. Drink. I wonder how Brian is doing. Hope he got his tire fixed. Drink. Pace. Wow, this flat feels amazing. I am holding a decent pace right now. Drink. Rider....closing in on him fast. It is Todd. He looks like he is struggling....
"whats up Todd?"
"HEY SEAN!!!! Rockin, your looking good! Go Go"
"keep on truckin'
Dang, he is struggling. Hope he can keep going. Must have started too fast. I am feeling pretty good and DRINK. Pace. I gotta get to that aid station before the leaders.....RIDERS BACK.
You have got to be kidding me. I am only 44 miles in...better slide over. Holy shit they are flying. Jordan, Tinker, Tanguy leading and a guy I don't know. Wow. Fuck they are fast. Gone already. lol. Just keep spinning man...they are just want to finish. Cutoff. Pace tells me I am doing alright. Where the hell is that aid station. Ribbons.....finally. Half way home. The aid station is like a party....but everyone already went home. lol. The workers are awesome....tons of encouragement. Half way there Sean, see you next lap. After the aid station it is quiet again. I have to walk more hills because I just can't justify killing myself to try to slowly climb. Plus, the walk gives my body a break from the bike. The bike is working good though. How is my time? Average speed tells me I should make the cutoff. Drink. 5 miles to go on the second I am doing alright but that last lap is gonna suck. Don't think about it. Just get back to the pit. 4, 3, 2.....ah....I hear the pit area. Seriously.....only 1 to go. You got this. Roll into the pit and swap bottles and camel. The worker bees attend to the bike and clean out some leaves. Good. Tom says "Hey, you made the good job. Also, every person we have sent out on the third lap has finished. You have all day now....enjoy it....but get your ass back out there....see you in a few hours". 
There were a lot of people finished. Doesn't matter. Just go. The crowd is already shrinking but it doesn't matter. The ones that are there cheer and wish good luck as I leave the pit area. Then, the solitary confinement begins.....

Final lap...33 miles to go
This cliff bar tastes like shit. I throw it out into the woods because I just can't eat anymore. I am full. Legs are tired. Body is tired. But I only have 33 miles to go. I can do that. Trail looks like a highway now. Holy hell this climb is long. A rider? hmm. Just keep spinning...just keep spinning. It is beautiful out here. What a cool place to ride. The event has been cool. I just want to finish and get that patch. Plaid. lol. I wonder where Rick got that idea. At this point my mind is all over the place. But I keep plugging away. The miles slowly fade away and I am thinking about the aid station. Hey, there are a few riders. Not surprising....everyone is fading now. I am doing plan to pace has worked well for me and I feel like I can finish. The people that started too hard are who I am catching now. The conversations are short. Hey. Hey. that is about it. A woman asks me how I am doing and we ride together for a while. I stated that I just want a finisher patch and she was excited to learn of this award. I accidentally gave her a reason to continue by talking about the patch. It was nice to have a conversation with someone who was suffering just as much as I was. Someone that was experiencing the same emotions....totally in the moment. We catch another guy and the three of us are talking about how we are feeling, drinking, and just enjoying the situation. Eventually I have to leave them because I had to ride the pace I was comfortable with. Wow, I left them. I am feeling good. Aid station? Hmm. Seemed longer last lap, must have been the conversation. Now the aid station looks like the aftermath of woodstock. desolate. just the workers. These people are amazing, coke, snacks...anything else? Gotta go, 17 miles to go. I am going to finish this damn race. Cathy says "see you at the finish Sean, good luck". Off I go into solitary again. The climbs seem longer. Legs are blown. A rider? Yeah, this dick is gaining on me like I am sitting still. "Hey man, you need anything...I am support....have water, gels....anything?". No, I am good but thanks. Hey is there anyone behind me...or am I last? "dude, there are a handful of people back are surely not last....keep plugging away". Cool. Not last. Would it matter? Nope. Finishing dead last in a 100 mile race is better than not finishing. Where is that 5 miles to go sign. I am ready to be done. Ugh, I need to drink more. Holy shit, I don't remember this climb. Am I getting delusional? Nah, I'm good. I am doing this. I see it....5 miles to go.....oh man. Maybe I can quicken my pace....hahahahaha....yeah right. Just keep spinning. 4. As the 3 miles to go sing passes I catch the glimmer of a rider ahead of me. Sweet, maybe I can catch him. This keeps my mind occupied for the next mile as I finally catch Fred. Took me 98 miles to catch you but here we are. We continue on towards the finish and I just keep pace with was nice to have someone to talk to. Suddenly, the parking lot. Oh dude....we did it.....

I did it...100 fucking miles on my mountain bike. I wanna take a shower. My family? Wow, that is cool. All these people congratulating me. Dang. Maybe this is bigger than I realize.
"well done man"
"love you honey, proud of you"
"awesome job"
"1st try!!! awesome"

It was finally over. I was done. I had my finishers patch. I wasn't last. I had a plan of attack for this race and I followed it. It worked. I paced. I drank enough. I didn't blow myself up trying to be a hero. I just had a very long ride in the woods.

Good luck to my friends racing Lumberjack 100 tomorrow. Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. You guys are awesome and I wish you nothing but success.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A road less traveled......


That is how I relate a car versus a cyclist. It isn't fair. A car operated by a single person can endanger the lives of countless cyclists...who have no chance at protection when a car comes from behind.

A group of people I know was mowed down like bowling pins last week. 5 innocent people were killed. 4 more lives nearly taken. All this by a single person in a truck. Last night a large group of cyclists finished the ride these 9 people started a week ago.

Last night....Chelle sends me a text asking it she was out of line with a post in response to someone calling out "asshole cyclists". The original post was ignorant. The person posting stated "these cyclists need to go to school to learn the rules of the road". This person also lumped all cyclists in to the "asshole" category. First a driver of a car....I know the rules of the road....and I know that cyclists....bicycles....have the same rights on the roads as other and motorcycles. How stupid is a person to think that because someone is on a bike that they don't know the rules of the road. Well, apparently stupid enough to not understand the rules of the road themselves.

Don't get me wrong....."people" make mistakes. Whether these people are on a bike or in a car. A friend made a mistake last year on his bicycle....he is now gone. His fault. The 9 people on their bicycles last week did nothing wrong....and 5 of them are gone. Not their fault.

So where does the blame lie. I guess it depends on whether you are a cyclist or a driver. But keep this in mind...most cyclists are drivers....but not all drivers are cyclists. The blame will be passed to the other category every time a tragedy happens. This saddens me. The cycling community gets a huge target on their backs any time someone effects the life of a driver. How? Well....lets think about it.....

Last night some dumb kid on a bike swerved in front of a car....nearly causing an accident. 10 minutes later an adult on a bike caused another incident with the same driver. Immediately in the eyes of this driver all people on bicycles are "asshole cyclists". So this driver.....maybe having a bad day a few weeks later.....sees me on my bike.....lumps me into that asshole category....and decides to take action.....drives super close and pushes me off the road and into the ditch.....or worse. The driver posts about asshole cyclists. The guy on the bike posts about asshole drivers. The wheels....go round and round.

I don't want to be a headline caused by the mistakes of other cyclists. I also don't want to be the reason someone posts about some "asshole on a bike" that wasn't following the rules. But, I do think the rules need to be cars....and bikes. The people I ride with know the rules...and follow these rules because we understand that a tangle with a motor vehicle isn't something we want to attempt. My question motor vehicle operators know the rules of the road? Do they know that bikes have every right to ride 2 abreast in the road?

If you cannot slow down for a group of people....and you complain that they are making you late...maybe you should leave earlier. What if there was a tractor blocking your way? Would you plow through the tractor.....or would you complain about how they take up the whole road?

Bottom line....cyclists are people. Co-workers, moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, doctors, probation officers, janitors, tax payers.....politicians.....

To drivers: Next time you see a cyclist....slow down....give room.....picture this person as your your your significant other.....

To cyclists: obey the rules. Don't give drivers a reason to lump us all into the "asshole" category. Ride safe. Ride smart. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Shadow Games (a short story)

I have been pondering this for a while now as I was reminded of the story unfolding a few years ago. I am going to try to write a told from the perspective of the bike...

It was a very sunny and warm day in June. He walked to the garage as he chatted with his buddy about where they were riding today. Time seems to be a constraint, so they decided on the Little John Loop. I like this loop. A fast eighteen miles of decent paved roads with a few hills thrown in for testing your legs. After some quick checks he throws his leg over the top tube and off we go.

I see his buddy has a new friend, I try to check her out and realize that she is isn't in my league. At least twice my age with a thicker midsection and crusty shoes. Still, she was new and I wanted to be nice....for now. We headed out of town toward the lake and the speed started to ramp up a bit. I was realizing that new old-girl was not something I should have dismissed so quickly. Still, my carbon body was ready to be pushed to the limit.

Over the first hill we dominated....but not as much as we have in the past. The thin shoes she wears makes her faster, and her rider faster than his fat assed mountaineer. It is getting interesting as we hit the first decent and clip 35 miles per hour, with them right on my heels. Clearly they have to draft to keep up, or this fight is over before it starts. We start up the next roller and they take the lead, now I can relax for a few and let this guy take some tension off his legs. As we turn toward the long straight away we ride next to each other. I just look down the road while the guys talk about upcoming events or how fast the pace should be. We roll on....

Finally we turn to the section with the most hills. Time to show that old-girl how it is done. Her rider must be feeling fresh because they blow past us on the second hill. To which we respond with a small surge to keep up. Now I am staring at her rear end again....not a place I prefer to be....but I get it....they got faster and it won't be as easy to drop them as before. Still, we just roll up the hill right behind them and the pace starts to quicken. We are cruising down the backside of the hill through all the shadows of the trees. Like riding through natures strobe light, the faster we go the faster they flicker. 

Last climb, we are still together. He isn't pushing like I though he would, just sitting back and letting them drag us up the hill. As we hit the top I feel a shift, but no surge. The decent starts and I am geared to tear them surge. Then I see what he is doing. The rider in front of us is watching the shadows. As the pace goes higher I can see him watching our spacing as the shadows dive in and out of the sun. Another must be time.....but nothing. What is he waiting for? Lets GO. Still nothing as we approach 25 miles per hour on this small descent. The rider in front still watching the shadows, doesn't realize we are ready to pounce....then.....a long shadow.....

He goes. Boom, Right gear. Huge effort right as we sweep into the shadow. We tick 30 mph before they realize we have even gone. When the sun flares back onto the road we have a gap. He is hammering now and the gap is steady.....20 feet....30 feet.....we are pulling away and leaving them behind on this roller. But alas, the last stop sign before we turn to head home allows them to catch back up and I hear my rider say that he is going to push the 9 miles back to home....and I am ready.

He smashes again and takes off up the last hill. Roads are better now, smooth with no cracking or small holes. We rip up the hill and while the drafter is still there....the look on his face is not one of comfort. He is breaking and we are going to show them what we are made of. Top of the hill is an instant surge and we gap them again....this time pulling away for good. Pace is high and steady and I am enjoying the higher speeds I have craved since I was taken off the show room floor. We make the last sweeping turn before a quick uphill and we bomb down the other side past the lake. Touching 35 miles per hour I just keep asking to go faster. 

They are still within sight, but we had a very good ride today. Even with the new friend my rider decided to exert his dominance and prove he is....we....are faster. It was a quick 18 miles, but it was a lot of fun and a trip I won't soon forget. Hopefully we can ride again....and continue our shadow games.....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The swing of things

If you have never seen Big Hero 6 the pic above might not make sense to you. But, it still gives the premise of where I am. After a few months off the bike I have lost my endurance. Gone. Hence, I am not fast.

So how did I get here? Like I said before, life. But that is just the umbrella excuse that I am throwing out there today. The table of contents under "Life" is very deep and has many different sections that have told my story thus far. Bottom line, I am where I am because I allowed myself to head down this path. Now, I have the long journey back.

This time last year I was geared up and approaching being ready for the hardest race I have ever done, Lumberjack 100. I knew I could ride the 100 miles, but my longest "trail" or "singletrack" or "off-road" ride was under 50 miles. I have a few centuries under my seatbag along with numerous Kal-Haven trips of 70+ miles. The dirt was different. I was able to finish, but I trained for it. I was strong. I was quick. I was mentally sound. The weekend after (remember the deer incident?) was where it all started to fall apart.

I had glimmers of my pre-lumberjack 100 self when I did a few solid rides. These glimmers didn't last long as winter approached and "life" started to happen at a greater rate than I imagined. I did manage to have a solid first quarter on the trainer. Had some solid sessions and was doing alright, but nowhere near the level of 2015, and it was wearing on me as "life" was happening even more.

I pulled back. Reset. Now, I am doing alright and I am actually getting back on the bike. I rode Upper Mac for the first time this year and was reminded just how out of shape and heavy I am. It was okay though, because I was out in the woods and spending quality time with my Anthem SX. The itch to go fast is coming back. Wanting to ride is a more common feeling. Watching what I am eating is getting easier. TV watching includes the Tour of California and UCI World cup mountain bike races. I am actually interested in bikes again, which is a good feeling for me. I even bounced over to the MMBA site and looked at the remaining race schedule. 

That browsing led me to reminisce about the 2014 Sweat Shaker race. It was the first ride I did on my Trance. I took a solid 3rd in Sport Clyde. My first Sport podium.....and the last. I was in great form and planning another trip to the steps in 2015 when disaster struck about a mile from Exit 168 on US-127 near Mid-Michigan Community College. My season ended that day. I allowed myself to fall. But, I was super confident before the deer event. I was ready. Mentally I was strong before the accident. I wanted another medal, instead I got a new bike.

I am signed up to race Sweat Shaker again this year on June 25th. I have about a month to get physically ready for a fun course. I have that same time to build my mental toughness back to where it was nearly a year ago. I have to get back into the swing of things....

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hit the reset button

This pretty much sums it up. I know it has been months since I have posted. Life, as it were, has been harder than I would have preferred it to be. Stress has been very high. Riding has been non-existent. So, reset.....YES.

A few weeks ago I managed to load the SX onto the Suburban and drive to work. I haven't wanted to see anyone. Haven't wanted to ride. Just haven't wanted to do anything, to be honest. So, I found a trail where my chances of running into someone I knew were slim....and none.

I headed down to the Trails@Andrews University. I rolled in and slowly took the bike off the truck. Check the pressure. Looked at the bike with the thought of "this is going to hurt" in my mind. I had not been on a bike in 5-6 weeks. No physical activity to speak of....just a bump on a log.

Steep drop behind the bike @Andrews

So, I finally mustered the courage to head out and give this trail a try. The trail was marked pretty good so off I went. 10 miles was the goal. By mile 2....I was ready to die. Allergy season is never easy....and trying to ride in blooming woods while being way out of shape was not the combination I needed. I struggled...mightily. It wasn't a competition. I took every punch that was thrown with zero protection. After 5 miles I decided to head back to the car. This was where things went from bad to worse....mentally. I was already defeated, but knowing that I had brought this fate onto myself I knew if I could get to the car that I would be alright. Unfortunately, I got lost and had to sludge through the woods to find a way out. The trail seemed cool....but honestly....I can't tell you either way. I was blown up from 15 minutes into my ride and the rest was a blur until I finally stopped back at the parking lot.

So, a few more weeks passed. I started running to burn off some stress and things have started to calm down. This past weekend arrived and I planned a solo ride. Trying to determine my best course of action I considered a handful of trails. Custer, I know it well and it is flat. Yankee, again I know it well but I am in no shape to climb. Luton, always a blast and not much climbing. TK Lawless, an entirely different type of trail. After pondering each place I decided on TK, with the thoughts of running into anyone I know would be less likely.

I was up around 8am and out the door to Monkey Run. It is over an hour drive down there but the trail is so much fun that it is always worth the trip. When I pulled in there was 2 cars in the lot. Perfect. I pulled the bike from the truck with a bit more excitement this time. I headed out and just rode a steady pace. Slow, but steady. I had some shoe issues I stopped to deal with and a few guys passed me. I got back on and followed the second guy for a while before we stalled on a hill. I pressed on and was able to stay ahead of him for the remaining miles. I felt good. Comfortable with who I am and how I was riding. I hit the parking lot and refilled my bottle, then headed out for another lap. Again, just an easy glad to be in the woods kind of pace. The miles ticked by and eventually I saw the sign for the last cutoff. 

Tempted to take the left and head out for the final 4 miles I stopped at the sign. Brain said "do it" but I knew that if I did that I had the potential to turn a solid ride into a bad ride. So, I took the cutoff and rolled back into the parking lot.....relaxed. It was a solid 16 mile ride on a trail that I normally ride so much faster and harder. It was a ride. Period. It was the kind of ride I needed to hit the reset button.

Are you sure?


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Race season quickly approaching

I had the silly idea to ride Barry Roubaix this morning. I wanted to ride early because I feared that the roads would turn to peanut butter. It was warmer than freezing yesterday and I worried the warmth would have negative effects on the roads. To my was a cool 19 degrees this morning. I drug myself out of bed and wandered downstairs to make breakfast.

I was really not ready. I easily could have just gotten back in bed and slept. I had made plans with a new teammate to I just loaded up. I was happy when I pulled out of the drive way with plenty of time to get to Yankee. Roads were quiet as I left town...with visions of Barry Roubaix on my mind.

I pulled into the Yankee trailhead to see new teammates Kevin C. and David G. gearing up for our ride. I got dressed, pumped up the tires and proceeded to fight with my dual layer gloves for 5 minutes before I could ride. Darn things. They are warm, but sometimes the 2 piece design can be a pain in the ass. Anyway, off we went.

Roads were pretty good. Here I was worried about mud and we actually had to worry more about the icy conditions. It was strange, the warmer it got the more icy the roads got. The warmth was melting the top layer of snow but it was turning solid on the frozen road underneath. The climbs would show this condition...when I was spinning under torque. Every once in a while the rear tire would spin. I didn't have too much of an issue though.

Overall, a good ride with a couple of my new teammates. It is going to be a fun year. I have my first race in less than a month. The Lowell 50 is where I will start my 2016 campaign. I will be competing in the 34 mile version just to get a "test race" to start the season. My real season will start at Yankee Springs a few weeks later. 

Gotta keep moving forward.

Oh yeah, new team. new teammates. Custer Cyclery has partnered with a brewery in Battle Creek. More on that later.