Monday, August 22, 2016

Glacial Hills XC recap

Early Sunday morning I put the D.U.F.F. on the Suburban and headed towards Grand Rapids. I swung off the highway by Gun Lake Casino and picked up Mark and Jeff. Then we started the nearly 3 hour journey to Bellaire, MI. The further north we got the darker the clouds got. Checking the weather in the week leading up to this race I was curious how it would end. 60's and a 50% plus chance of rain....we took our chances. By Cadillac we were wondering if we made the right choice. As the skies opened for the first time I really started to question my decision to pre-register. Then the sun broke through the clouds. Then it rained again. Then...we arrived in Bellaire.

The sun broke through the clouds when we go to Bellaire.
When we got to the school for registration the skies were partly cloudy. It was actually kind of chilly. But perfect racing weather. From the reports we had about trail conditions we figured the trail would be solid and fast. After double checking tire pressures we headed up the first climb of the course to warm up. Knowing I had 2 laps I wanted to stash my second bottle. The first climb is about .8 miles long and not crazy steep. We just rode a casual pace up the hill and found the parking lot where the trail starts. I dropped my bottle and we watched a few Expert\Elite riders fly thru and then we headed back down to the start area.

I made my last minute preparations and headed to the start area. As we were lining up some people were bombing down the hill towards the finish. It looked fun and I was looking forward to that section. Then it was time to start. There was 9 Clydes galloping up the hill at the start. I jumped on a wheel and planned to hold on as long as I could. That worked out for a I kept the pack in sight for most of the climb....and then they disappeared into the woods. Once on the singletrack, I started to find out what the trail was going to be like. It seemed like the entire trail was bench cut out of the side of the hills. I was able to push myself harder than I have in recent rides. I was feeling pretty good, but wasn't going very fast. I kept catching glances of Ted up ahead of me, and then another guy in our class that was between us. I kept the pressure on my body and did my best to hold on....but eventually I had to ease up.

As I eased up I started to settle into my pace. I was realizing how awesome the terrain was that I was riding on. The hills were crazy steep but the trail wasn't. The trails cut across the hills so it wasn't bad riding. It was cool to be able to see people weaving up the hill and passing me going the opposite direction up above my head. The trail was awesome. I started getting a lot of traffic passing me but it wasn't a big deal. I was enjoying the ride.

I finally saw the parking lot and was happy to see the start of my second lap. I knew traffic would be gone and I could just ride my ride. I stopped and swapped bottles then headed back up the trail. I was really comfortable. Riding at what felt like a solid pace I kept spinning away. The miles ticked by and I was still enjoying the ride. Then I saw the parking lot again. After a short trip jaunt down the hill I made the right hander to head to the finish line. The last section was downhill for 1.5 miles....on pavement. I pushed as hard as I could and was absolutely trucking. I hit 37.4 mph on that descent. Brent was at the corner cheering me on as I flew past. GO GO GO. I quickly got to the last section of road and rolled thru the finish banner. I took 9th....but apparently a guy didn't do both he got a DNF and I moved up to 8th. I will take it....because it was just a fun ride overall.

Mark flatted but still finished with a 13th place. Jeff had a great ride and took 5th place in his class. The trip home was full of laughter. It was a great day with friends and teammates on a trail I had never ridden before. Next up is Maybury TT this coming Sunday. All I will do is ride and see what happens.....and gauge my ride on how I feel and not on where I finish. Should be interesting!

Monday, August 15, 2016

1st Kal-Haven of 2016

7am roll outs can be brutal. Thankfully the trailhead off of 10th St. in Kalamazoo is under 30 minutes from my house. I loaded up the Defy and headed out to meet Jay, Lisa, and Jeff. Temps were in the 60's and it was hazy.

Off we went. The first stretch is always the best...downhill. It is pretty fast do the first stop sign. Faster to the second. Knowing this was going to be a long day on the bike I was still finding it difficult to find a pace that wasn't "hard" or "fast". Eventually we settled in.
Courtesy of Jay B. 
We always start in Kalamazoo and head to the North Shore Pier in South Haven before heading back. The pace was comfortable. In typical fashion it would always feel like right when you hit your rhythm that there is a stop sign. Then you take off again and find your rhythm again, stop sign. It is one of the things that makes this such a difficult ride. In the pic above we were probably holding 19mph or so...and Jay was riding no handed. lol. The trail is an old rail trail so it is pretty wide and straight. The chances of hitting something are slim....but they do exist. There was a tree down across the trail on the way out, but someone cleared it by the time we were heading back.

The first leg always goes fast. Everyone has good legs and it is downhill the whole way to South least it feels that way for a relatively flat trail. We rolled into the trail head with an average speed of roughly 15.6 mph. My goal for the entire ride was 15 so we were right on target. We headed to the beach and I was surprised by how many people were out enjoying the Southwest Michigan sunshine, especially considering it was only about 9:30am.

We piled up the bikes and took the obligatory "we are here" pic of the light house. After a quick break we were headed back to Kalamazoo. Mentally I was doing alright...not really dreading the 34 miles back. Legs...well....not the best....but doing alright considering the lack of miles I have this year. 

Jay was stamping out a solid pace and I was doing what I could to hold on, but then we hit just a little riser and I could feel my heart rate creeping up. The speed was solid and I was holding his wheel but my heart felt like it was gong to explode. This is where my brain started to get the best of me. I let up...and fell back. I had no brain wouldn't force my body to go hard anymore. I eased up and watched the group ride away for a bit. I just had to settle into my own pace. Knowing I still had 25 miles to go.....that was my only choice. 25 miles....TO GO. ugh. 

I had one bottle of Infinite with me and started to sip off it. Eventually my legs came back some. But then my feet started to hurt. Stupid shoes. I switched brands last year and have never been comfortable in the new shoes. I have wide feet and the constant pedaling was making my toes hurt. I plugged along and eventually rejoined the group. Reaching Bloomingdale they stopped for a minute. I slowly pedaled on. Wondering how much more my feet could take. I was listening for tires behind me because Jay was on his fatty but I never heard them...until he was right on my wheel. Strange how those tires can be so quiet when all you are hearing is your heartbeat in your ears. 

Courtesy of Jay B.

I had recovered pretty good but my feet were still killing me. We cruised past Gobles and I knew we were 12ish miles from the end. Just keep going. By this this point I was visiting every emotion a person can deal with. 
doubt....can I finish
anger....dumb shoes it is gorgeous out here
tiredness....legs don't fail me now
confidence....I can do this
fear....what if I screw up my fee
excitement....only 11 to go...10...
frustration.....why can't i keep up
elation....I see them feet...

I couldn't do it anymore. I had to stop. I stopped and basically shook my foot like people shake their hands when they go numb. Instantly it felt better. So I stopped for all of 15 seconds....but when the group is going 17-18 mph it doesn't take long for them to be out of sight. We were close enough to the end that I didn't expect anyone to wait. I know my way back and they know I will be there eventually. I got back on and found some resemblance of rhythm. I could see Jeff up ahead and I slowly closed the gap on him. He asked if were towards the end. We were, the worst part of the entire ride in my opinion. The trail tilts upwards away from the Kalamazoo River and after 70 miles of flat the small inclines hurt. 

I just kept plugging away and eventually saw Lisa and Jay heading back down the trail. Go Go Go! They offered encouragement as I smashed the pedals up the last climb. Finally the parking lot and 73 miles of riding. Longest ride of the year by double. Happy to be done we all went about the rest of our days. Might not have been the fastest ride we have done out there, but we did it. Thanks to my friends and teammates for hanging out!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Day by day

Upper Mac was like riding on pavement

The best thing for me to do is just focus on each day as it comes. Not saying that I will completely disregard the future....but I cannot stress about the future. I need to focus on what is going on each day and crush each thing as I arrive at it. If that means crushing a run....crushing a ride....crushing a project at work....or crushing dinner then so be it. One day at a time is my best bet.

I have been taking my oldest to work every day because his car is broken. This week he started at 5:30 am. I am up and on the road before 5 am to drop him off....then another 30 minutes to South Haven. So starting work at 6am I can be out super early. The problem is....I have to pick him up too. No point in driving home 30 minutes and finding something to do for an hour and then driving back up to Zeeland to get him at 5pm. I did however find a solution.....leave work at to Zeeland and ride Upper Mac until he get out of work.

Wednesday I loaded up the bike and made the stops. Worked my day. My day always ALWAYS goes better when I know I am riding afterwards. I swung to the gas station to procure some fluids and landed at Upper Mac around 3:40. Plenty of time to ride. Parking lot was empty other than a girl doing her workout. So I geared up and headed to the trail. 

To say "hot" would be accurate. It was low 90's and sunny. I was dripping sweat before I ever got on the bike. I headed up the connector and the open areas were crazy hot. Where the sun beats on the open sandy areas is like riding thru an oven. The shade was comfortable. I don't mind riding in the heat as long as I have water with me. 

The trail was in pretty good shape. Kudos to the volunteers that keep it clean. This trail is so different though. Lots of off camber. Hard clay base. A little bit of everything. Not my favorite trail, but a trail to ride when I have some free time. Not easy either. I wouldn't take my littles here until they get more experience. The rolls can sneak up on you sometimes and attempt to buck you off the bike. Thankfully no crashes.

My ride wasn't fast. But that doesn't matter. I was riding. I was content. I was letting things go and actually focusing on riding. I was noticing more things about the trail that I have never really noticed. The woods are desolate at times. Meaing, just trees. No brush to speak of. But then it changes and there is more brush and only smaller trees. You can generally always see a long way thru the woods. You can see the trail snake down the sides of the valleys. This is a bi-directional trail. And it is way different each direction you ride it. 

As 5pm rolled past my phone got a text notification. Riding thoughts started to fade and life thoughts started to creep back in. I reached the parking lot to find it bustling with people gearing up for their rides. It was a good day....and I will take it. Mentally I was reset.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I don't know...

I don't know what it is....but I do know that I don't like it.

Maybe its depression...

...maybe its gluten...

....maybe its maybelline...

Whatever it is....I don't like how I have been feeling since Thursday. I have found myself sliding into the downward spiral since Thursday. This was the day I went to a visitation for the wife of my friend. She passed away last Monday at the young age of 41. One of the hardest visitations I have ever been to....simply because I started to imagine myself in this position. Either as the person who left this earth....or as the hollow shell of a man I saw standing there holding back tears as he greeted all of the people that were there.I don't want to be in either position. Unimaginable. I told my friend that I didn't know what to say because there are really no words when someone passes. It brought back memories of Tim. Memories of Chuck. Memories of all of these people that we loved so much that were taken too early.

But since that day I have been sliding. I rode Luton Park after the wake to clear my head. There were a lot of familiar faces sitting around chatting and I just put the suburban in reverse and slowly left the parking lot. This was the first sign I was sliding. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to go home.....give Michelle and the kids a hug and go to bed. Saturday I had an empty house. So I got up and sat on my ass watching the olympics instead of riding. "free time" isn't a major luxury for us when we have 4 kids. Generally there is something going on. I had time to go ride 50 miles but I chose to sit and eat. Ironically enough I was watching Road Cycling. Just didn't feel like riding and instead of talking myself into it....I talked myself out of it.

Sunday Michelle was taking pictures for a wedding and I went to assist. Feeling miserable I headed to bed earlier than normal. Monday was better, but worry about the future started to creep in. There is some major stress at work and a lot of things are up in the air. The downward spiral continues.

But.....I know I don't like this feeling. I don't want to feel miserable. I want to celebrate life and have fun. I will ride this dip like a skateboarder blasting across the bottom of an empty pool...and I will launch out the other side....stronger....more focused...happier.

I am planning on Glacial hills on the 21st. Less than 2 weeks and I head to another course that has "hill" in the title. But, I will go ride my race....have what I can....and be content...because being miserable isn't good for anyone.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Big M XC

Brian and myself before the start
Things always start out with good intention. I was up on time to make the trek up to Big M in Manistee. 2.5 hours with a 12:30 start time. Not bad. I left the house just after 8am. 

When I arrived there was a DNR officer waiting with envelopes for the parking fee. I filled it out and chatted with Jimmy before heading to registration. Last time I was at Big M was last year. I was there for LJ100. A successful ride of 100 miles. Today, I was planning on about 18 miles and a fun day on the bike. I wandered to registration where I ran into Brian. We chatted for a few minutes and I headed back to the Suburban to get ready. 

Brian and I did a short warm up and headed to the start area. With temps in the low 70's it was a gorgeous day to ride. Little did I know what was coming.

Brian and his wave went....big group....16 people. Awesome to see more people racing. There was another class and then time for the Clydes. One thing I noticed was that there were 8 of us. Another thing I noticed was a guy that didn't appear to be anywhere near 200 pounds. Yet another is that I was by far the heaviest person in this class. Anyway.....8 people....not bad.

3, 2, 1 GO. Three people shot off the front. I dropped in behind 2 other guys in 6th. The pace wasn't bad and I was doing alright. Then the trail ticked upwards. Not a big hill. Just a little one. 7th and 8th passed me like I was sitting still and that newly formed group disappeared. My legs were like "ha're funny" when I tried to power up the hill. As I crested the hill  saw the group wasn't too far so I tried to close the gap. Never happened. Trail kicked upwards again on a super long, not steep, climb. Blown. My legs were blown up 2 miles into the race. I just didn't have anything. No power to put on the pedals. All the groups that started behind me were streaming past me like I had a flat tire. 

How would this be?
2 miles in...and I am done?

3 miles in and mentally I was already checked out. To say I went into survival mode is an understatement. A group of beginners caught me and I rode with them for a while. Then an awful crash. The guy at the front stalled and created a chain reaction behind him. #4 put a foot down....but there was nothing for his he stepped on the downhill side of the bike. He went down and took a woman down with him. Poor lady went tumbling down the hill like a sack of potatoes. I stopped and made sure they were okay, which they were, and then pressed on.

Before too long I was alone and struggling on even the tiny hills. Ugh....I could puke. Maybe I should. I wondered out loud if it would make me feel better. As the miles slowly rolled past I talked myself into being done. Cramps on the front line...ready to attack. Crazy headache. Stomach ready to erupt. I figured it was smarter to mail it in than it would be to continue and risk injury or some other illness.

I was reminded of Boyne a few years ago. I was miserable on my last lap when a guy caught me on a hill. He looked at me and said "sometimes you're the nail". It has stuck with me....and this ride reminded me that everyone can have a bad day on the bike. Setback? Not at all. Illness? Possibly. I was pretty miserable the rest of the night. I am feeling about 75% as I type this. During the race yesterday I was roughly a low 21%. 

So reality check. I am surely not a climber. I know this is not a secret. But I was hoping for a better result than a DNF at a trail where I had my biggest cycling success ( finishing LJ100). All I know for sure is that I will continue and hope for the best. The bad next race has "hills" in the title. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

TK Lawless XC Recap

We were gone in Nashville for a week leading into this past weekend. I was scheduled to run a 5k down there, but I bailed. The main reasons were that I didn't want to get up at 5am to run...and it was crazy hot down there...even at 6am. Not sure what this has to do with anything......history I guess.

I was on the fence still about racing at TK on Sunday. I love the course. I was indecisive because it was raining Saturday. Heavy. And I told myself I wouldn't race if it was nasty. When I got up Sunday the rain had subsided and the forecast appeared to be clear of rain. I loaded up and headed down to Vandalia to test my luck.
Lucky #7....twice
 When I got to Lawless the lot was filling up. I saw a handful of team members and found a place to park. I wandered over to registration to get signed up. The parking lot was soft....mushy. I had the thought right then to just bail and not race. Then I thought to just drove down here....race. I asked about a Sport Clyde class to which I got the response that they just don't have that class in this series because nobody races in it. I was holding my money.....again wavering about my decision to race today...knowing that I would get waxed in the Sport 40-49 class where my speedy teammate Jay was already signed up. The people collecting the entries suggested that I give Sport Open a shot. "there are only 2 signed up, so your chances are better". Hmm.....almost afraid to ask I blurted out "what is sport open?". It is exactly what you would think it would be.....a class for Expert riders that are not fast enough to be Expert riders....but too fast to be considered Sport riders. 
Photo courtesy of Brandon Krutsch

With a smile I said "why not" and threw down the cash to join the Sport open category. Podium guaranteed. I lined up in the first wave of Sport...where I clearly didn't belong. I chatted with a guy and then it was time to go. 3, 2, 1..GO. One guy blasted off the front and I slid into second before hitting the first turn. I kept the leader in sight for a minute....watching as he blew a sharp corner before I was thru the corner too....straight into the woods. Whoops. We both got back onto the trail and he accelerated up a hill and I never saw him again. Making a right turn there was big mud pit. I blasted thru it and was hoping that the rest of the course wasn't going to be like this. This section wasn't part of the normal singletrack so I wasn't too concerned.....but I was also being realistic that it was going to be a slog thru the mud today. As I broke out into the picnic area my parents waved and yelled "good luck". It was good to see them while I was racing, even if just for a minute.

I was pushing pretty hard knowing that I had one guy in my class behind me...but also knowing that the entire Sport race would be closing in on me before too long. I made it a few miles before riders started streaming past. I was maxed. The trail was fairly stable, but some of the corners were soft and slick. It was hard to judge them as some would be perfect while the bike would drift on others. Thankfully I stayed up right. After a barrage of people passing I was riding alone. Around mile 5 I started to settle into my pace. The first lap wasn't great, but I was still sitting in 2nd place. I crossed the finish line and stopped at the picnic area to swap bottles. Then back into the woods for lap 2. 

 I finally was feeling like I could ride faster. Conditions were drying out and I was settled into my comfort zone. I started to hear someone behind me with about 8 miles to I pressed a bit. At Lawless it is hard to tell where people are in relation to where you are. The trail passes close to itself numerous times so you can pass someone that is close....or someone that is way behind.....or possibly way ahead. I kept catching glimpses of the guy behind me but I couldn't tell if he was closing. The miles ticked by and I got to the last 4 mile section...still holding him off. I saw that he wasn't in my class, but I still was pressing. He didn't catch me and I crossed the finish line confident I had taken 2nd place. When they called the podiums it was confirmed....2nd place! My highest Sport finish ever. Too bad this race doesn't count in the MMBA series.

Still, it was a fun day on the bike and I was happy that I actually beat someone this time. Next up is Big M on Sunday and at this moment there are only 3 in my class, but I know this will change. I will ride my race and see what happens. I will see if I can make it 3 podiums in a row.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

No point to deny it....

This week has been good. Not gonna lie. Here are some highlights

1. I have been eating less.
2. I ran 2 miles without stopping.
3. I am having a solid positive emotional week
4. I feel excited about training again

The first step to over-coming an addiction is to admit you have a problem. I do believe I have some type of food addiction. Laugh if you want, but the garbage that I tend to put into my body has an extremely adverse effect on my chemistry. ohhhh...he is gonna use science?!?! Yes, look at any nutrition plan and you will see the underlying effects for reasons people gain weight. Not the only reason, but a definitive example of how a McDonald's chicken nugget can tear up your system more than say.....a piece of lettuce. 

My point is this....I am finally willing to admit that I have problem with food. I could launch a barrage of excuses, but these excuses have landed me where I am now. Heavy. The actual number is not important. Just know, that for 3 months I put my body under more stress than I ever though imaginable....just with food. No exercise to speak of. The pounds were sticking to me like blacktop to the highway. Glued.

Mentally I was blown. I had numerous "what's the point" moments which I have thankfully surpassed. Don't get me wrong....mentally I am still touch and go.....I could very easily slide back into a deep depression and let the scale show me high numbers again. But right am doing very good. I am not "on a diet" so to speak. I have just cut back what I am eating. Mentally making myself stop can be a difficult thing to do...especially because I love food so much. I will have setbacks....that is a normal occurrence. But I cannot let a setback completely derail the accomplishments. I have to accept the setback and put a stake in the ground...then continue.

I stepped on the scale at work last Friday. As of today I am down 6 pounds. Yes, it might seem like a lot in a week but I put over 20 pounds on in just a few I will be able to drop a healthy 15 to 20 very quickly to get me back to where I was this winter. Today, I am 21 pounds heavier than when I did Lumberjack 100  in 2016. I was strong, albeit still heavy....even for a Clyde. But feeling better is going to be more important than a number on the scale. Yes, that number is important....but I am not going to be defined by it.

Maybe a different approach is what I have needed. Maybe hitting rock bottom is what I needed. Maybe I will go right back into my addictive so many addicts do. But maybe this time will be the time that I do it right...that I open up about things...that I am more honest....that I learn...that I succeed.

Crank Casey from the movie Robots had a good line "never try never fail". I have used that many times over the year. I believe Yoda had better wisdom with his "Do or do not....there is no try". I am here now.....doing. I need to continue to DO...and stop "trying". 

Success is earned...not given.