Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Busy Memorial Day Weekend

The weekend started off right. I took my wife out to see Pitch Perfect 2 and then we went to dinner. After dinner we headed home and I packed up for Saturday.

Jay, Lisa and I met at the Kal-Haven trail head in Kalamazoo. We were set up for 70ish miles of rail trail going from Kalamazoo to South Haven and back. We were ready to rock...and off we went. It was chilly. Like....in the 40's chilly. I didn't have a base layer and poor Lisa didn't have her regular shoes, just her riding sandals. Needless to say, I was a little chilly for the first part of the ride.

Jay was setting the pace....and it was rough. I knew going in that I wanted to do a tough ride to test endurance and my Infinite custom blend. This was the perfect place.....5 hours of flat hard riding. The worst part of this ride...is knowing that you are going to be pedaling for 71 miles. We were trucking.....Gobles, Bloomingdale....town after town just ticking by. Then you start to notice that the lake is getting close. Lake Michigan for those of you that don't know. We arrived in South Haven 2 hours and 3 minutes after we left Kalamazoo. 34 miles.....17 mph. I barely average that on the road...so thankfully Jay was there to pull Lisa and I along. It was by far the fastest I have ever made it  to South Haven. We rode to North Shore and took the pic above. Refilled the water bottles at the trailhead and off we went back to Kalamazoo.

The return trip is never as fast.....because it is uphill the whole way. I say that jokingly, but it really is. The problem is that you have to pedal the whole way....no recovery. With 30 miles to go....you are still confident. I was holding onto Jay's wheel for all I was worth. Lisa was tucked in right behind me. We were good. 25 miles to go....that was over. I couldn't hold his wheel anymore. Jay would gap and drop back....gap and drop back. We were holding on for dear life and failing. Eventually Lisa started to tire and commanded me to continue on without her. She knew my purpose on this ride, and she didn't want to be the reason I slowed down. It didn't matter. We regrouped in Bloomingdale with about 17 to go. Jay was waiting in Gobles for us and I was just plugging away. Jay eventually caught back up to me again and we ticked away the miles. Finally we reached the final climb to the Kalamazoo trail head and I caught a glimpse of the parking lot. Don't. 71.2 miles with an average speed of 15.3mph overall. My fastest previous ride was 14mph....so a dramatic difference in speed. 

Sunday I helped my lovely wife take pictures all day for the dance studio. Then we headed over to visit with some  friends. Got home late and packed up for Monday. Jay, Dan, Jimmy and I were headed to Owasippe to meet with Bob and some of the Team Troll group.
Awesome trail!

We got to Owasippe just before 9am and the rain was holding off. It was very grey and overcast, but only sprinkles on the way in. We spent a lot of time last year in this area when taking Megan to Blue Lake, but never had a chance to ride last year. Because the trail in in a boy scout camp they close it while the scouts are there. So we took the day we had to get a ride in.

Bob, Scott, and Marc met us at the trailhead and off the 6 of us went. The outer loop is 13 miles. There are some of the toughest and longest climbs I have ever experienced on a bike. Like....long....nasty....grinding...steep....awful....climbs. But the downhills.....damn. Fast. Mostly flow. Awesome.

One of the 2 Bridge Crossings on the Short Loop
We all headed out for the first loop. The group quickly segmented, but I stayed with the leaders. The pace was tough....but I was using this ride as a major training ride too. After all, Lumberjack is only a month away. We got back to the trailhead and a few guys bailed out. Not an easy trail by any means...and I know exactly how they felt. 2 years ago I felt like I was going to die when riding here.

So, the four remaining headed out for another lap. There is a cut-off just over 7 miles in...take the long way and it is 13 miles total....take the short way and it is about 9 miles total. Since we hit the long loop we wanted to see what was on the short loop. 2 bridge crossings...over NASTY water. Stink. Just go...ride straight across like you are riding trail and you have no issues. You look at the water....you ass is walking home because you are not getting into any car I own smelling like that. lol. I thought that...and Jay said that on our last lap. We got back to the trailhead and Jay and I talked over another loop. We played it by ear and said we would decide at the turnoff which way we were taking. After 71 miles on Saturday I opted for the short loop. Jay thankfully agreed and we hung a left onto the shorter loop. Jay was giving me words of encouragement on the climbs. It was like I had my own personal team manager screaming in my ear while riding the tour...ALLEZ ALLEZ, VENTE VENTE VENTE.   We got back to the car and had just over 30 miles of hilly single track. Legs torched.

Lumberjack is a month away. I am feeling better all the time on the bike. The longer rides are working and as nervous as I am about 100 miles in the dirt....I am confident as well. It won't be easy, but I will do my best...and hope for the best. Today the legs felt pretty good, for the most part. I would expect nothing less with the hard rides we did this weekend. 100+ miles in 2 rides. Solid training. Thanks to everyone for the company and the nudge when I needed it.

We have Zacks graduation party this weekend on Saturday. Hope to get out for a long ride Sunday and just keep piling up the miles. I am nearly to my mileage total from last year. I expect to surpass it in June....probably on the Lumberjack ride. Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fort Custer Stampede

It was a beautiful day at the Fort Custer recreation area. Zack, Zoe, Chelle and I got there about 8:30 and helped Jay set up the tent. It was still pretty quiet but it didn't take long for the activity to start. While we were waiting of the race to start we went over and checked out the Kids race course. Zoe wanted to see what it was like. She walked a few of the hills....but was excited. 

We cheered for our friends racing Expert and Elite, then we headed over for the kids race. A pretty good group of kids were there so they broke it up into a few groups. Zoe was in the first group and they had to do 3 laps. I was following, but a little guy crashed and I was helping him out. I stayed with him to make sure he was good. When we got to the home stretch on the first lap there was another boy walking....pouting a bit. He had dropped his chain. I jumped off and got his chain back on and sent him on his way. Went back to following the little guy again. It was funny because as I went by all the parents and they CHEERED for me just as loud as the kids. lol. Zoe was the second finisher and she had a blast!

So, my start time was approaching. I went and did a warm up ride and then headed to the start area. I was chatting with Ross and Brian. We were trying to figure out who was in our class and who was in the other class that they combined with us. Not sure.....it was time to go. 3, 2, 1....

And we were off. There were 24 Sport Clydes.....and the start didn't seem blistering....but we were stretching out pretty quick. I got in front of Brian and tried to settle into a pace. It was fast....probably too fast. I was just trying to hold onto the wheels in front of me. There was lots of passing and jockeying for position. We turned into Crazy Beaver and there was still a long line of riders. It was very cool to see because it was just a long snake.....no...a train.....that was meandering through the woods. Normally we don't see many people...so 30ish people all riding together was a cool thing to see. We made it up the first little climb and headed towards the trenches at the end of the red course. I knew there were riders behind me, and I heard "on your left" as a 15-18 year old tried to pass. I say tried because when he WENT...there was no ground...he went right off one of the trenches. About a mile later 2 more passed on the right...it was clear...but they about caused a huge crash with the guy in front of me. Don't get me wrong...they were surely faster...but they were picking terrible places to pass....where there was zero room....and they very easily cold have gotten hurt....or hurt someone else.

I was a bit ahead of Brian...and then he caught me again. We pretty much rode together for the rest of the first lap. I was pushing as hard as I could....fearing that I would POP at any minute. At the end of the first lap I grabbed a bottle from Zack and took a gel. Brian gapped me and a few other guys got between us. Eventually I lost him. I had to slow down and just tried to settle into a pace. There were still a lot of people to ride with...so I tried to just hang on if I could. It finally thinned out. I would catch a rider now and then...and another would catch me. In the Amusement park I saw a few guys stopped and realized that one was Brian. There was a log sticking out over the trail and it had smashed him right in the face. I asked if he was ok and he responded "I will be"....and I figured he was shaken...but ok....so I pressed on. I was slowing down...but I wasn't giving up. I was just going as hard as I could. 

4 miles to go.....keep going. Legs are fried. Is that Fred? Nope. Keep going. Surprisingly I was passing a few more people. They were running out of steam because we were nearing the end of the race. Knowing Brian was chasing I pressed on. I was worried about Ross blasting me right at the end too....but he had a mechanical and was forced to drop out. 3 miles to go....closer. I caught a Cross Country guy and drafted off of him for a while until the turn onto the pavement. I let it rip to get past him and shot back into the final stretch of single track. I saw Fred. Knowing for sure he is my class I tried to catch him.....but just didn't have the legs left to close the gap. I closed within 6 seconds...but he still got me.

My final time was 1:52. Good enough for 13th out of 24 in the Sport Clyde class. Zack did a fantastic job and finished 5th in Beginner Men 15-18. Lisa took 1st in her class and David W. took 3rd in the Sport Clyde class. The leaders were fast. lol. Brian wasn't far behind me....but thanks to a freak stick to the face I beat him by a small margin.

Next race for me is Lumberjack 100. Got lots of riding to do before then....