Sunday, July 15, 2018

Holland 100

The day started off sluggish. I drug myself out of bed later than intended. I planned on meeting some people for breakfast, but I was already running late. I decided to have oatmeal and was slightly disappointed when the container was empty. I loaded up the Defy in a light sprinkle and headed out. I swung to McDonalds for an oatmeal and I pulled in at 5:55am. The store, that used to be 24 hours, was not open yet. I headed North toward Holland and landed my oatmeal before heading to Herman Miller Greenhouse. I pulled in behind and parked next to my friend Dan T. and headed to grab my packet. I got a location on Jay, Dan T, Matt, Nate, and Lisa then it was time to go.

I was feeling pretty relaxed about the ride. Knowing it was going to be tough, simply because 100 miles and the word "easy" are not in the same category. We started off and started to settle in. Riding on the road in a group is a lot of fun. Especially when the group is working together. Before I knew it, we were at the first aid station 11.5 miles in. Quick stop and we were off again.

We started to find a few climbs on this loop. We passed a guy pulling his disabled son on a trailer. We all told them good job and they returned the gesture. Then it was a solid downhill and Matt took the lead. He was setting a solid pace and I was holding his wheel the best I could. Lisa and Nate were tucked in too...enjoying the work Matt was putting in. It was a fun segment, and I made a comment about how cool it was to find a draft like that.

We made a turn and started a climb. My mind started to wander. I slowed down. I started a second climb, and was spit out of the group. I mentally checked out. I went from confident at 19-20 miles per hour in a pace line to riding alone, shattered. We were about 20 miles in and I was done. The gang waited up...but I was mentally blown. Lisa came back and chatted with me, giving me encouragement to push on. I kept moving.

Next climb, I was for sure done. Groups that we had blown past were catching me like I was sitting still. Mentally there was no way I could continue for another 75 miles. Lisa dropped back again and tried to get me to jump on her wheel, but I wasn't interested. I was done. The gang tried to keep me going. Saying we could ride slow, just keep going. I emotionally didn't have the energy to continue. We got to an intersection and I checked my phone to see where we were. I took a left when the rest of them went straight.

I started the long 11ish mile trip back to the car, miserable and defeated. I have no clue how long it too me to get back, but I was totally checked out. I finally got back to the greenhouse. I rode 37 miles because I had to. I wanted to ride 100 but the day just wasn't meant to be. I missed out on 3 of my friends completing their fist centuries, because my brain quit.

Live to ride another day.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fast.....a highly relative term

"Dude is fast"

"that guy is a strong rider"

"he got so much faster"

These are all things I heard on our ride last night. While the comments were all correct, the word "fast" is still a relative term. I myself can be "fast" or "strong". It depends on what benchmark is being used.

I am not "fast" when compared to Matt Acker. He is a qualified "strong and fast" rider. A pro. I cannot compare myself to him because we are on different levels. My benchmark is much lower. Does that mean I am slow? Well, yes and now. Slow is another relative term that is used when describing a ride or a rider. I use the word slow all of the time, simply because I ride with people that are "faster" than me. 

My ride last night felt slow, but in reality was a full mile per hour faster than my last ride. Sure, not "fast" but for me it was considered "fast". And that is the qualifier. The word "me". As a rider I get "faster" and "stronger" every time I get on the bike. So my benchmark has to be only "me" and where my levels are. Put me up against my old times and I am faster. Put me up against riders in the Sport Clyde class and I am "slow". 

Just know this much....on my ride last night I rode at my pace. I was not with the fast group and I was not with the slow group. I was in between. My ride was fast for me, but not fast enough to keep up with the fast group. To the group behind me it probably seemed like I was riding fast. Again, relative.

So what is my point? What is the takeaway? You simply have to be where you are. doesn't matter. Ride to your abilities. In my daughters therapy they use a very good motto: 

Everyone is doing the best that they can. Everyone can do better.

Right now, my fast is the best it can be. But I can do better and be faster. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Weekend update

With the holiday on Wednesday and a hectic schedule I wasn't able to get out until Friday. I met Nate and Pears for some mileage at Luton.

The weather was gorgeous on Friday. Warm, but not hot. I was feeling pretty good and I decided to attack the first climb. I stood and mashed, taking the first climb in a good clip. We pushed on, and I was feeling better the further we went. I guess there is something to be said for resting for a week between rides. ha.

I know I was feeling better because we were putting a gap on Pears. We would attack a section and then wait for her before going and attacking the next section. On the Black loop I was feeling it and took off riding about as hard as I could. Nate stuck with me (for obvious reasons) but I did give him a peek at what I am actually capable of. I heard him say "keep going man, keep going". I felt fast as hell until I had to slow down and recover. It just felt good that I can actually go fast, even if for a short period of time.

Nate and I headed out for another lap and I felt good again. I was pushing the downhills as much as I could and riding strong on the sections between. Actually set a PR on "all loops" so that means I am getting stronger. I will take it. One thing to show I was moving faster was the descent after the orange loop. You can get some serious speed down that hill and there is a right hand bender at the bottom. I knew I would have to commit so I dove into the corner letting my shoulder brush the branches on the inside of the turn. As soon as I hit the dark gravel I could feel the bike start to break loose. I was prepared for it so it was a controlled slide, but a slide around the corner is something that I don't generally do...simply because I don't have the speed. Felt good. We finished up with dinner at Perrin Brewing Company and then made the long drive home.

Saturday my oldest wanted to ride, so I took out Albert for a spin. The D.U.F.F. has a few broken spokes so the fatty needed to be dusted off. We just did a little tooling around the woods and that was enough, I had a long ride planned for Sunday.

Sunday I loaded up Albert and headed to Kal-Haven. I wanted to do 50-60 miles as a tune-up for the Holland 100 on this coming Saturday. When I reached 20 miles I knew that number would be 50. A 38 pound fat bike under constant pedaling becomes very heavy. Mentally I checked out because I was riding alone and was already getting tired from the previous two days worth of miles. I hit my 25.2 miles and turned right around, knowing that the rest of the ride was going to be tough. I pushed on and eventually made it to Bloomingdale where I stopped to refuel with a banana and some water. Then I rode the last 18 miles back. I didn't have anyone pass me until about 10 to go. They passed me like I was sitting still and made it clear they didn't want any company. I kept them in sight thru Gobles before the turned off to their car. I slowly inched my way back toward Kalamazoo and eventually arrived at the parking lot. 50.5 miles on a tank of a fatty. Awesome way to start a Sunday.

Next up is Holland 100. We are leaving at 7am with a few people that have never done a century before. I can't wait to see how awesome they feel when they accomplish this goal!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sweat Shaker Recap...NO DEER.

I got all my stuff ready the night before. It included lots of extra water and a hydra pack because it was gonna be hot. I was up on time and ready to go out the door. When I opened the door the humidity took a swing right at my face. It was 5:45 am and it was already 80 degrees and high humidity. It was alright though.....I borrowed a 2up bike rack from Dan and was taking my car...that blows stupid cold air. 

Off I went towards Grand Rapids where I stopped and picked up Matt. Originally Nate was going, but work got in the way. So Matt and I loaded up for the 2 hour drive north to Harrison and the site of Mid-Michigan Community college. Thankfully the trip was uneventful. Last time I was here was the trip when Jay, Lisa, and I got attacked by a deer...taking a huge toll on us before we ever arrived. Not going to lie, I had high heart rate as I passed that area three years after the event. Moving on.

We got there plenty early and got our numbers. Then we just kind of stood there and looked at each other because we had over an hour before the start. Eventually we got ready and met up with Easton. He is one of my younger teammates and his grandpa brought him up to race. The three of us headed out to warm up on the course. It was everything that I remembered. Flowy but bumpy singletrack. The warmup was short because we had a racer meeting, but it didn't take much to break a sweat. Thinking about riding was more than enough.

The Sport Clydes and Fat Bikers started in the same wave. Seems ironic doesn't it? lol. Anyway, the start was fast, as expected I got dumped right at the first corner. I was riding with one guy in my class but the rest of the group was gone. We got about a mile in and one of the top guys in our class was stopped with a flat. The guy in front of me stopped to help (they are teammates) and I pressed on. With everyone starting at 10:30 I had a ton of traffic pushing past me. I was giving them plenty of room but I was also making them call their passes. I refuse to just let someone by unless they call it out, or at least say "when you get a chance". I notice some racers tend to just expect me to move. #timetolearnhowtopass

The course if fun. I like it lot because the climbs are not too terrible. The downhills are solid and the flow is pretty good. Granted, the way the course was set up there were some hairpin turns, but that is part of the adventure. Eventually I stettled in and found my rhythm. I was comfortable riding, but if I stopped the heat immediately started to surround me. It felt like climbing into an oven. The open areas with no tree cover felt the same way. I actually passed a few people the further I got in. I was feeling "quick" about 8 miles in and used that the best I could.

With about 2 to go I reigned in a guy on a fat bike. I passed him, but he caught me on a climb and I decided to just settle in behind him. I wasn't seeing anyone from my class coming so I figured I was safe. On one section he must have bolted because he was just gone. I started riding harder to figure out where he went. It was pretty odd to me that he got that much of a gap, but he must have pushed a section that I didn't. Then I spotted him and I was starting to recognize that we were near the finish. I pushed the last climb and watched him turn left towards the school. Last descent out of the woods. I hit the opening and pushed to the final stretch. 

I could see him and it appeared he wasn't 100% sure where the finish was, so I pounced. I jumped on the pedals and buried myself in a sprint to the finish. I passed him with maybe 30 yards to go. It felt good to hear the R2R guys all cheering for me. Especially because they kick my ass so much. lol. After I finished I dumped the rest of my hydra pack over myself. It felt amazing. Then I headed to the car and continued to pour more cold water just to tell my body to slow down. 

I ended up in 8th place out of 9. Not last. I guess that is a small victory. The big victory was not needing a trip to the hospital for dehydration or heat stroke. 

On a side note....there were 4 guys racing that were over the age of 70. The eldest statesmen was none other than Neil Scharphorn Sr. at the spry age of 76. Their times....all faster than mine. Well done to you gents.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A continual work in progress

The weather kept things interesting this past week. Add in all my normal scheduling constraints and that landed me on the trail Friday evening. Nate and I headed up to Merrell for some trail riding.

The parking lot was fairly typical with about 10-15 cars and no riders in sight. We headed out to start our loop. After getting thru the first section we started the Mix Master section to the picnic table. The dirt....was amazing. I was getting all kinds of grip in the corners which was making me want to push some. Mind you, push the corners....not push the ride. We continued on to Wynalda and more of the same conditions...HERO dirt. After a solid first lap Nate headed home. I threw my leg back over the bar for another lap.

I found my rhythm and was just enjoying the ride. I took Phazer again when I saw another rider take Siren. I beat him to the intersection. lol. I was crusing pretty good and he must have been surprised by the section. Anyway, he passed me right away and I made my way back to Wynalda. Not my favorite loop, but the entire trail was just great. When I came off Wynalda I made my way back to the shortcut up to the picnic table where Phaser and Siren merge with Mix Master. I was chatting with a few guys about riding and they were interested in Siren. I led, and crushed them on the descent. Downhill is my friend. lol. I finished up my ride and was feeling pretty good.

Sunday I headed up to Cannonsburg Ski area to meet Nate and Pears. I don't know why I let him talk me into riding much climbing. I guess the only way for me to climb faster is to climb...and get faster. The first climb gassed me, and I was ready to just bomb back down the hill, load up my bike, and go home. lol. I didn't, but that thought crossed my mind. I recovered and pressed on. Again, the dirt was fantastic. SO much grip made me want to ride hard...until the next climb. lol. 
We chugged away and eventually reached the downhill to the finish. I wanted to ride more, but the legs were not in the mood. We all headed home to start the rest of our days.

Overall it was a good couple days of riding. Nutrition....that took a slight hit this week as I struggled to eat healthy all week. I would eat one healthy meal, and then pile in a few cookies or some chips. This is ok, as long as I don't go back to old habits. I started off today back on track and plan to continue thru the week. So while I did gain this week, it was only 2 lbs. That could simply be water gain, or the junk that I ate. The good part is that I lost for the previous 5 weeks so I am still ahead of the game and my mind is right. I just didn't have a good week, that doesn't mean I am totally derailed. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hanson Hills Challenge Recap

As I was awaking from my slumber I could hear the rain pouring on the roof. The sound was so intense that I could hear it over my window air conditioner. I thought right then....just stay in bed. Instead I got up and checked the weather while waiting to hear back from Nate and Matt. Knowing Matt was pre-registered I figured he would go regardless. The weather looked like it would clear, so I loaded up in the rain. I put The D.U.F.F. inside the suburban and started the journey north. 

It was raining the whole way to Grand Rapids. I pulled off the highway and we loaded 2 more bikes in the suburban before continuing the long jaunt to Grayling. The rain let up as we got north of Grand Rapids and we traveled along the edge of the dry line the whole way to Kalkaska. The trip up was uneventful, which is always good. We rolled into Hanson Hills just after 9am and started to get the lay of the land. 

First indicator, the area looked like Cannonsburg Ski area, just a bit longer and taller. The temps were in the mid 50's and the sky was super grey, but no rain was falling. Matt took off at 10, so Nate and I wandered around a bit while we waited for him to finish. 

Final descent to the finish area

Then it was our turn. I lined up with 6 other guys to start my 2 laps. I was feeling pretty relaxed and my plan was to jump on JC's wheel and see what happened. It was time to go and the group started toward the first climb. Pace was as expected, quick. I am not a fast starter so I just found my place toward the back and counted as we hit the single track. I was in 5th. So far so good....but a long way to go. 

The first climb is not as bad as I thought it would be...until it was. I stalled on the last steep section and had to walk the rest. JC rolled past putting me into 6th place. I jumped in behind him and figured I would hold on as long as I could. He was having a rough go today. Some adverse effects from some cold medicine. That helped me hold on! I rode on his wheel the whole first lap. I could feel that I was stronger on the climbs but I wanted to make sure I was actually feeling stronger, and not blow up only to get dumped on the second lap.

Photo by Jack Kunnen

JC and I passed the line together at the end of the first lap. He moved over and I took the lead. Once we hit the first climb I started to open a gap. I got to that same little kicker and had to get off. When I looked back I could see him coming, but I had no interest in waiting. I forged ahead with all I had. I kept looking over my shoulder, fully expecting to see JC coming, but nobody ever did. I rode alone for all but about a mile of that second lap. Climbing hills with what little power I had left. Then the wind started to pick up. I was trying to see the sky but it didn't look dark. The wind got gustier and then the rain started. A sprinkle at first. So I put down what power I had left to get to the finish. I saw the last climb and I was slowly making my way to the top when the skies opened. I bombed down a descent and then over the last rise before breaking out to the finish area. Head down, mashing the pedals and the rain just pouring. Not a warm rain, cold. I rounded the last corner and could hear the awesome troop of girl scouts cheering me on, so I stood and mashed to the finish line.

Not really caring where I finished at this point I rode right to the truck and we got the bikes inside. I changed and headed to check my finish. 5th place on a very tough course and a rival defeated (even if by medicine) made for a very good day on the bike for me. The ride home was long, but the day was well worth the trip. Nate finished 1st in his class, Matt took a solid 2nd in his class, and I cracked the top 5 for the first time in a long time. 

I did move into top 5 in CPS points as well. I know that will change, but if I can keep up the top finishes I might just be ok!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Memorial day ride

I planned on riding with Nate and Pears on Sunday....but my body had other plans and decided to complete a full purge. Enough about that...onto Memorial day.

I wanted to ride and any type would have been good for me. So I put out some feelers and my teammate DW said he was doing a Kal-Haven from Kalamazoo to Bloomingdale and back. That would be about 36 mile flattish ride on the old peat gravel rail trail. We picked up another rider in Brian. He has LJ100 in a few weeks, and needed some miles. Company is always better on a ride. 

We started at 7am, because forecast was saying mid 90's for a high. I was on The D.U.F.F., Brian on his FS Salsa, and DW on his FS salsa with Plus tires. We figured it would just be a cruise. In fact, we all stated "we are on mountain bikes so we are not riding fast".

We started off and I just found a comfortable pace to ride. DW dropped in behind me and Brian followed. I was comfortable with the pace...that was between 15 and 16mph. I want to say that is what we averaged the whole way to Bloomingdale. It was a solid pace the whole way there.

Then we headed back. Strangely enough I found a rhytm again and just pedaled until I heard DW say "hey, I hate to break your cadence but we need a bathroom break". To be honest, at this point I wasnt sure if they were with me or if I was riding alone. All flat and gravel means you just kind of cruise and hit your own pace, with the potential to leave people behind. I know I am not strong enough to do that, but I was holding a steady pace.

After the short break we were back at it and making the final climb up to Kalmazoo. I could feel my heart rate climbing, but I just kept chugging away. We rolled into the 10th street lot with an average of 14.3 mph for 36 miles. Solid. They both thanked me for leading the way and we went about our days.

Sunday a few of us are headed to Hanson Hills where I will do my best to imitate a fast rider. There is a lot of climbing so it doesn't suit me well, but turnout seems to be low so my chances of a higher finish are better.  Keep riding!