Sunday, July 23, 2017

Finally an OK week

This was one of my best riding weeks of the year, and I will take it.

Monday I dusted off the road bike and headed out for a familiar loop. My so called "Little John Loop" where I ride from home and make a circle to Chicora before heading back home. My ride was hot and a bit twitchy. Having pulled the road bike off the shelf for the first time in 2017 and going from 2.3's to 22mm tires, well...there is your difference. My ride was not fast, but it was mileage that I desperately needed.

Tuesday was the group ride turned solo ride at Cannonsburg State Game area. Solid two laps. Look at the previous post HERE for more info on this ride. 

Wednesday I took the day off. My legs were out of gas. I went and had a nice dinner with my oldest daughter instead.....you know...recovery ;).  I took Thursday off as well. It was one of those days were I probably should have gone to ride, but instead of taking care of the odds and ends of daily life.

Friday, I had to do some electrical work for my sister-n-law. I was also expecting my wife home from her trip so I voted against riding. Instead, after finding out the wife was going to be late, I geared up and headed out on the road again. I was actually noticing some zip in my pedal force. I was holding a pretty solid average. Then I caught a guy that was on a similar route. We rode together for a mile or so and chatted. Then I turned back towards home and he went on the rest of his journey. The rest of my ride was pretty good. Held a constant speed and just enjoyed being on the bike.

After taking Saturday off, it was time to go again today. I loaded up and stopped at the gas station, still not 100% sure where I wanted to go. A quick look at the weather map gave me my direction. There was a bit of rain to the south so I headed up to Luton Park. To my surprise it has rained there some time that morning. Still, I was there and figured if it was muddy I would just ride the interior loop. It wasn't. There was 4-5 small puddles and the rest of the trail was in great shape. 

First lap it did take me a bit to settle in because the rocks and roots were a bit slick. Because I am still heavy I am just riding to be riding....not setting any records. My main notice, it was humid out. I was dripping sweat into my glasses in the first 10 minutes. As it always seems at Luton, I felt like I had the trail to myself. First lap in, I stopped at the parking lot. Refilled my bottle and headed out for another lap. It was only about 11 o'clock but I was pouring sweat still. Not hot, humid. 

On this lap I decided to work more on handling and cornering. Trying to avoid the brakes....because...that is how you get faster right? It went pretty good as I was taking corners a bit faster that I did on the first lap. Overall it was a good ride.

My average speed on the road was nearly .5 mph faster on my second ride.
My average speed at Luton was almost a full mph faster that the previous time I rode it a few weeks ago. So, progress is happening.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Keep on slippin'

Time...as it were.....keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'

Wow time is going fast. The last week of July is rapidly approaching and while I have some goals for the 2018 season that seem very far away, the weeks are dropping off like panties in the white house when B.C. was in charge. HA!

So, what has been going on? How is everyone? I am sure you guys are putting in more miles than me, but that is ok. I am alive and doing pretty good all things considered.

This past Monday I actually got the Defy out of the garage and did a nice 18 mile ride. First time that bike has been on pavement in 2017. Let me tell you this much, it was a very twitchy first mile or so before I got settled in. The ride went pretty good, albeit slow. That is ok too. I was out there and I was just enjoying being on the bike. The weather was beautiful. Looking at my average speed was not very surprising because I am just a heavy human right now.

The next night, Tuesday, I joined a few guys from work and headed to Cannonsburg State Game Area. The first mile was ok, but then one of the guys (a newbie) shot off the front and we decimated the group. I was holding on for the most part....but I was concerned about the rest of the group, so I backed off....only to be dropped about 1.5 miles later. lol. How was it that I waited for people.....and ended up last...by a long time? I don't remember CSGA having so many roots, but the trail was in amazing shape. I was close to losing it on a rooty section. My rear tire went left, front tire went right. Then, front tire and rear tire went right together. Thankfully I stayed upright and rode in solo. The last section from 3 mile to 4 mile is surely my favorite. Flat and fast as hell. I was reminded of a few years ago when I was pushing Jeff to the point of him puking. I wasn't very fast, but it felt fast compared to the rest of the trail. Once I got back the other four guys were loading up and heading home. I took that opporutnity to head out again for "another" solo lap. This lap was less than 6 minutes slower than the first. That is a huge win for me for a few reasons. First, as a sport level rider I strive for consistent lap times. They might not be the fastest, but they will start getting faster the more I ride. The second reason....I was the only one out of 5 of us that did two laps. Why do 1 when you can do 2 right?

The second lap was just a cruise. Working on flow rather than being choppy in and out of the corners. With a very high center of gravity the handling of a bike is way different. 30 pounds up and different speeds means a whole new way of riding. The plan is to get faster, thinner, and improve my handling skills all at the same time. The hope is to come out in the spring a lean mean cycling machine.


But, back to the Newbie. I get it. I get that you have a desire to "win" every time you do anything. But it is a dick move to invite 4 other people and simply leave them behind to fend for themselves. Sure you "won". But you got to the trailhead 8 minutes before I did. You could have been well on your way home by the time I hit the parking lot. What if someone crashed at mile 3. There is certainly a learning curve there and some etiquette to be taught. Simply stated, this is why I ride alone. I ended up riding alone anyway. 

So, I am probably going back to riding solo for now. I have my reasons and I don't expect everyone to understand. Just know that I don't like being the weakest link. So, I will do what Rocky did: go off the grid and come back ready to stomp some ass.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An old friend, and a new friend

Been nice to be back on the bike. I was at Luton on Friday and back on the bike Monday.

The old friend:

I was wanting to ride on Monday. I gave Matt a shout and we headed to Upper Mac. For a short trail, it really is an asshole. This trail has never been one of my favorites but it is a track that is something to ride where you don't have to worry about getting mowed down by a distracted driver. And it is singletrack....which is the entire point of this blog in the first place.

I only did one full loop because frankly my legs just were giving me the finger. Meaning, zero power. Because of the zero power I nearly tumbled backwards down a steep valley wall because I just didn't quiet have enough to reach the top (for the first time ever). I grabbed at a tree and slowly felt my fingers sliding across the bark....and then feeling air. Thankfully I kept my balance and didn't each shit. Because I would have rolled down the damn hill and probably ended up in a huge pile at the bottom of the hill....without a gopro running. lol. Matt and I went our seperate ways and I headed home having ridden 5ish miles.



Not sure if I have mentioned it or not, but a few guys at work have decided to do a weekly ride. This week was supposed to be the first ride. Nobody else was able to make it so I headed to Ken-o-Sha Park which is less than 2 miles from where I work. I knew it would be short, but I wanted to check it out.


Into the woods and across the bridge is where the Northern trails are located. The bridge is needed because there is a pretty solid creek running thru this area. 


The trail is marked pretty good with some 4x4 posts and arrows. As you come across the bridge there are numerous trails converging. I went straight thru to the second post and headed to the right. Here was a quick little loop that has a few twists and turns to go along with a little kicker before dumping back out by the bridge.


Back down the trail and this time to the left. The trail leads out into the woods on a small incline. If you know the area you might surprised to know that there is indeed a hill back in the park. Much like Upper Mac, there is a single hill that you ride up and down. The entire area around both parks are flat, so I was pleased to find some small climbs in here.


I was also happy with the trail surface. It is what I classify as "normal". lol. The trail has a pretty good flow to it and I was just cruising around enjoying nature with a city piled all around me. You can see from the picture below that it is city and then some random woods. 28th St is on the North side and Kalamazoo is on the East side of the park. The main entrance is off Kalamazoo. You end up parking by the Ken-O-Sha elementary school

So there are three loops on the north side of the paved trail. A short one to the right at the first tee. If you go left at the first T you arrive at an unmarked split. The trail appears to flow to the right, but is very clear to the left as well. The right is the longest of the 3 sections and actually brings you back to the second tee where I decided on left. This medium length loops brings you by the creek and eventually back to the paved bridge. 



Overall I rode for just over an hour. Lots of looking around and trying to sort things out. Exploring if you will. I guess I missed an entire loop on the south side of the pavement. I think that section must be about half a mile more or so. Knowing that I have a trail that close to work is awesome though. I will head there work on handling at speed and cornering. Not much climbing. Just a fun little trail that I can ride all the time.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Nice Luton Park Ride


For the first time this year I headed to Rockford to one of my favorite trail systems. While I love being in the woods in general, Luton has a little bit of everything. Each loop is just different enough to mix it up. 


My buddy Matt joined me for a loop. It was reaching "hot" levels when we rolled into the woods. In the shade it was comfortable, but the open areas felt hot even when rolling. What felt like a blistering pace was really just...slow. I know I am just getting back into the swing of things....but it is funny how it felt on Friday. 

The actual ride felt fast. My average speed would disagree. But, I don't know if it is from not riding, or just my mass....but the feeling of speed was there. And I will tell you this much...at my current weight....I have some serious inertia. My center of gravity has always been high, but with the extra weight it is even higher, making the handling of the bike totally different. Making how I ride totally different.


Since I was there I decided to head out for another lap. I was about 5 minutes in before I started to wonder if it was such a good idea. My legs just quit. Knowing that I could just ride the inner loop I just kept plugging away. By the time I got thru Yellow I was feeling better. During Orange I was comfortable and then I hit the red. While I was slowing down (due to lack of conditioning) I was still feeling pretty good. I got to the parking lot and I was really happy with my ride.

Progress.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I saw your bike in the woods....

I finally threw my leg over The D.U.F.F. at Fort Custer on Saturday. First time in a month, gotta make sure I don't over do it!

I was already in Kalamazoo helping Lisa out so I decided to put the bike on the back of the truck. We got done with our duties and headed to lunch. After lunch we headed over with Kevin for a slow red loop. 

Things started off well enough. Flashback: last time Kevin and I rode together he ended up in the hospital with a broken collar bone and some broken ribs. He is much stronger and faster now. 

We took off down the red at a blistering pace. By blistering I mean I was at 90% heart rate in about 10 seconds. Doesn't take long when you haven't been riding much.  The odd thing was, I was feeling comfortable. I felt good on the bike. Not fast, but that really isn't the point with the lack of saddle time. After the switchback climb we rode up on a couple of kids that were trying to find the campground. We decided it was best to get them to a good launching point and we rode back toward the trailhead. Once close we sent them on their way down the Yellow towards the campground.

That was when the elder child speaks "are you guys professional mountain bikers?"

LOL, all I could do is laugh. But realizing that Lisa and Kevin were in full team kits that really isn't a bad question from someone not familiar with the sport. I am roughly 100 pounds from my goal weight....I really don't look like a professional. ha.

Anyway, we got them on the right path and shot back down the red trail again. We did Dan's loop and continued on into the amusement park. Right before the rock wall I took the shortcut because I didn't want to climb the next short climb. Wasn't long before Kevin and Lisa caught me. 

We continued into the Crazy Beaver and then I finally saw the parking lot. It was high 80's hot. Overall it was a solid ride for me. I can only do what I can at the weight that I am. I rode. that was the important thing.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Almost 10 years ago....

Nearly 10 years ago we loaded up a car with bikes, camping gear, and three thirty year old men. 

The Mighty Mac from the Upper Peninsula
We started the trip to Marquette full of hopes and dreams. Hopes of a solid race. Dreams of a podium finish. In the end, we all finished.

Mackinaw Bridge is always cool to see
The race? The 2007 edition of the Ore to Shore. Travel time was around 7 hours. I do remember that we stopped in Mackinaw for fuel and lunch. After that, the last few hours over to Marquette before finally landing at the campground in Negaunee.

Our humble abode for the weekend
Once we got settled in.....we simply had to rest before getting up and racing the next morning. As you can see from the campsite above, it is beautiful country and the skies were sunny and clear.

This kid before the start

Because it was 10 years ago the details are fuzzy at best. I remember bits and pieces of the course. It was sandy, with lots of red dirt. Mainly 2 tracks and I honestly don't remember if there was any single track. Oh, and hills. Yes. Lots of hills.

L to R: Chris J., Me, and Chris H.
The running joke was this is was a downhill race because the elevation at the finish was lower than at the start. That may be the case, but it is far from downhill. Thinking back, this might have been my first race back after taking a long break when the kids were born.

Typical mass start race
What I do remember is the roll out. Lots of pavement thru town and then a long climb before dumping into the woods on a sandy two-track. The plan was for Chris H. and I to ride together for the first part of the race, but I got caught up in the moment and lost him in the crowd. The next time I saw him was when he rolled across the finish line.



The dust was nasty. As you can see from the pic above I was pretty dirty. Even my bright yellow jersey (which I question wearing) is dirty. While at the finish line waiting for the others to finish I eventually started seeing the Hard Rock finishers rolling in. One guy passed and I honestly could not tell you if he was white or black. He must have been riding on a wheel the whole race because the dust on his face was far worse than mine.



You might wonder why I am revisiting this race from 2007. Well, it was the first and last time I ever did the event. I liked it enough that I have threatened to do it again one day. I plan to make a vacation out of it. Take the people still living with me on a few day trip and kayak around pictured rocks, race, and take our time enjoying what the Upper peninsula of this great state has to offer.

So, after 10+ years you just might find me on toeing the line of the 2018 Ore to Shore. Might even be the Hard Rock, but I guess we will see how it goes.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Here is what happened....

I am sitting here on Memorial day pondering the 2018 race season.

Yes...2018.

Why?

Well....because I allowed 2017 to get away before the season ever started.

Yes....I am responsible. I would have missed Barry Roubaix and the Yankee TT regardless. The reason being my oldest daughter was tearing up dance competitions on those weekends. But even without the competitions my race season was over before it got here. 

My fault.


Instead of eating healthy....I ate like crap.

Instead of losing weight....I gained. 

Instead of putting in the work over the winter I gave up. 

I gave up. 

I dont want to say that I quit, but after looking back, I suppose I did. I skipped the first handful of races in 2016 because of dance and soccer and other family requirements. But then, I had a handful of solid events. I took 6th at Sweat Shaker in my first event. I followed that up with a hurtful 3rd place at the TreeTops XC. Sure it was last place, but it was a podium none the less. I was feeling pretty good and getting stronger. I landed on the podium in the Sport Open category at the TK Lawless XC. My confidence was growing. 

The next week.....Big M put an ass whooping on me. A single lap and I was done. Legs refused to work. Lungs wouldn't cooperate. Brain checked out. I was out of the race and headed home before the leaders finished the race. A few weeks later I made the trip to Bellaire for the Glacial Hills XC. While I loved the course, I got crushed on the first lap. I didn't feel strong, or competitive and took last place again. The next week was the Maybury Time Trial. I finished a full 20 minutes behind the leader...in a time trail. My confidence.....was gone.

Still, I attempted one more race. The Addison Oaks XC. This race was 3 laps, and each one put me further behind. Dead Last yet again. I had been getting slower every race. I was also getting heavier and losing confidence every day. It was after this race.....that I quit.

I did....I quit. I quit on myself.

I allowed myself to fall off the bike....and pulled up a chair at the nearest pity party. This allowed me to do more harm than good in the following months. I got to the heaviest I have ever been. My stress level went sky high. Add in the stress of normal life, normal job on top of eating like crap was that my riding stopped. Like...zero.

Lets add that up real quick.

No riding+more food+high stress= unhealthy and out of shape

About sums it up. 

So now that 2017 is nearing the halfway point and I have yet to start.....clearly this year is spent. But, it allows me to get a head start on 2018. The Lowell 50 is less than 45 weeks away. My plan is to be there....lighter....stronger....faster....ready. 

2018 will have no excuses.