Sunday, October 8, 2017

A gravel ride and a crash

I have been wanting to do a gravel road ride for a while. It has been calling me. Especially since I signed up for the 36 mile Founders Fall Fondo on October 15th. I knew I should probably do at least one long gravel ride. It just so happens that Grand Rapids bicycle company was having a demo with Cannondale. GRBC also does a gravel ride every Thursday. It worked out that I was able to ride. I was also able to demo a Cannondale Slate for the ride. They normally have a 30ish mile loop, but because of the demo they had a shorter 18 mile loop set up as well. I was feeling froggy and was going to do the longer loop until I figured out they were leaving at different times. My plan was to make the decision of route based on how I was feeling. Instead, I opted for the shorter loop for a few reasons. First, I was on a demo bike. I didn't want to figure out it was uncomfortable and be miserable for 30 miles. Second, I haven't ridden that far this year...at all. So not a big deal, I opted for the shorter loop.

It was awesome to be out on gravel....on a gravel specific bike. The ride didn't start fast. Just cruising. It pretty much stayed there. The group was pretty diverse. While I would have been a weaker link in the longer group, I was one of the stronger in the shorter distance group. It was an interesting ride, especially when it got dark. A shockingly large amount of people in the group didn't have lights. At one point I let the group go an was hanging back with a few people. There ended up being 4 of us back. I was the only one with a light. I led them back to the group. It was a solid group ride and I will have another post about the bike. 

Today, I headed to Cannonsburg with Nate and Pears. With all the recent rain I was looking forward to a tacky trail. I was not disappointed. Trail was in great shape, just covered by some wet leaves. I do like this trail, but I am in no shape for climbing....which is why I went there. Not gonna get any faster by avoiding the misery...it is time to embrace it. I had a pretty good ride. We were just cruising. I was always last one up the hills, but it doesn't matter....I was out there. We were just back on the normal loop after riding the connector back from the West loop, and it happened. I let my front wheel drift high on a berm and the side knobs grabbed, pulling the bike out from under me. I was pulled to the ground, landing on my left shoulder and knee. Happened pretty quick. I tried to think back to the last time I crashed, and I cannot put my finger on how long it has been. At least 4 years ago was the last time I was on the ground. At least it wasn't a high speed, high injury type of crash. It was a slower speed slam to the ground. My days of riding without incident just got reset to "zero". 




Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tough Week

It was a weird and tough week for training. Having things to do on Monday and Tuesday meant no riding. Then Wednesday I did manage to get out. Thursday was training at the gym. Then I used excuses to not ride Saturday....or so far today on Sunday. But, lets get to it....

Wednesday I headed to Yankee, because...why not? Yankee is usually quiet and I just needed to clear my head. I headed there alone simply to ride. I was surprised how busy the parking lot was, especially for Yankee. Normally this trail is quiet this time of year. Regardless, I headed out for a long ride. I started on the short warm-up loop. I was feeling pretty good. I forgot that the trail has changed a bit and was really enjoying the flow again. Right away it was quiet, and then there was a huge sand pit. It was expected, but it was awful. I plodded along. I reached the parking lot and headed onto the long trail. One thing I do not like about the new Ardents I am riding is the way they react in the sand. They grab. Not in a good way. I am used to floating thru the sand and now I have to be careful where my weight is because I can get dumped in a hurry. The first section has a good sandy area and it grabbed me. I was leaning right and the bike went right. Thankfully I didn't go down, but I was on my toes already.

I was feeling ok. Right away my brain started wandering to thoughts of making it thru without dabbing a foot or walking any hills. Small accomplishments that I need to keep moving forward. It felt good to be out there, suffering, at Yankee. I was working my way up the ditch climb when I had to dab. Some sand and loose gravel sucked me in. Not a huge deal. Slowly I reached the next climb. At this point, I was still trying to make the climbs. It ended. Because of the loose gravel and sandy conditions at Yankee, I couldn't do it. I have to spin a lower gear (because I am weak right now) and was just spinning out. 

It turned into a trudging. Each mile was harder and harder. I knew it would, but it was still good to be out. Yankee has a way of smacking you around no matter how good you are feeling. I cannot believe I did triples and a quad there in 2015. Yikes.

I did sign up for the Founders Fall Fondo last night. Not a "race" just a ride on the infamous Barry Roubaix course. I signed up for the 36 miler. I might slide to the 22 miler, but I guess we will see what happens there. I will get out for a long ride, maybe Barry, next weekend. My focus will turn to training here real soon. RIght now, motivation is much needed. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Upper Mac and Luton...a mental battle

Riding has been pretty good lately. However, with more riding comes the mental side of this sport. Last week was one of those times where the mental battles were happening. Lets start at Upper Mac.

I had ridden Upper Mac two days in a row the previous week. Not my favorite trail, but something different for sure. So, Nate wanted test out the fatty, and his choice was Upper Mac. So, I loaded up and went to work. All day I sat there not wanting to ride Upper Mac. No desire. Once we got there we had a handful of issues. First, Mike had a flat. Then Nate was tweaking the brakes on Albert and it took me forever to get them adjusted. Not his fault, they needed to be adjusted. It did however take up a lot of time. It was hot. I didn't want to ride there. The ride finally started and it didn't take long to figure out that I really really wasn't in the mood. We took the first short cut and headed back. WHen we got back Mike had found a tube and was getting ready to head out. I wanted to ride more...for some reason...so I headed out again. I rode past the first shortcut to find Nate waiting. We collectively decided to turn back and take the shortcut, letting Mike continue on his full lap. I was done. We hit the short cut and I limped back to the car.

Mentally, I had defeated myself before I ever got on the bike. I was honest enough with myself to know that this just wasn't a day for me. I let my brain get the best of me. I lost this battle.

My next ride was at Luton with Mike, his wife Jessica, Nate, His girlfriend Perry-Ann, and Matt. We headed out and it was a solid pace. We would separate a bit then regroup. The ladies were doing excellent. At the Black trail we decided to roll ahead and then wait for the ladies. Right away I got dumped. No worries as I was riding my pace and was just enjoying being on the bike. After the first loop Mike, Matt and I headed out again. We were running out of daylight but we pressed on. Yellow, Black and then we skipped the Red. We rolled out of the woods and completed our ride. Nice.

These 2 rides were drastically different. Not by terrain. Simply by mentality. Much more of this sport is mental than what people realize. A few years ago I had pretty good mental toughness. Now, I need to rebuild. Lets get started.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I finally beat someone....


It was rainy on Wednesday nearly a week ago. It has been raining off and on all day and as "ride time" was drawing closer I began to have my doubts. I heard it was downpouring. I heard it rained all day. Then, right before heading out the door I got a post that read "I rode Merrell an hour ago and it was great. I am currently a block from the trail and it hasn't rained much...also not raining now". So, off I went to Rockford. 


Once I got to the trail I was pleased with what I saw. The parking lot was damp, but no puddles...and the skies were parting. Still some dark clouds, but none too concerning. I was joined by a few members of the wolf pack and one other guy. This guy in particular was on the ride at Cannonsburg SGA a while go where I got dropped by everyone a few miles in. I led into the woods. It was Wednesday so the direction is Counter-clockwise which isn't my favorite direction at Merrell. At any rate I was pushing a bit because the conditions merited the harder pace. I wanted to ride fast because it had been a while. I realized I was pressuring this guy. We got to Sawtooth and the 3 guys turned in there. I had no interest so I went ahead to where the trails rejoined and waited for them, see pic above. It was a short breather before they joined back in and off we went to the Wynalda loop. For the record, I dislike this loop on Red day. It feels like it is uphill the whole freaking loop....which it isn't...but still. I pressed on slogging away on the climbs, still putting a bit of pressure on the other guy (not on Mike or Nate, just the other guy). 


As I hit the end of Wynalda I started to ratchet up the pace for the last few sections. I was riding about as hard as I have this year while still being in control. It felt awesome....it felt like I was "back". I was riding fast. I pressed until I got back to the parking lot where Mike and Nate were waiting. They asked where the other guy was. He was a long way back. He was just cruising, but I still got back before him...much like he did to me the last time we rode together. So, crushing a guy that didn't know it was a race.....still a win. lol.

And it has now been a week since I rode. ugh. Life ya know. It happens. Might try to sneak out tomorrow. We shall see.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2nd Ride on the Ardents

After a busy couple of days full of garage sales and roofing I loaded up the D.U.F.F. and headed to Custer. I was planning on Yankee with some of the Wolf Pack, but thankfully they were not able to make it and I headed to the flat land instead.

As I hit Augusta the roads were steaming after a surprising rain. It was partly cloudy but it appeared it had rained quite a bit just before I hit town. That was very helpful on the trails. Everything in southwest Michigan has been crazy dry. 

I was stocked when I saw a just barely wet trail. The rocks were already drying and the trail was perfect. I wasn't pushing hard. I was just riding. I was making sure that I was getting traction before I decided to push a bit. Still not the fastest, but I was feeling pretty comfortable. 

I am really starting to like the new tires. Granted, it is only 2 rides but I had a lot more trust on these tires. So much so that I actually power slid a corner and kept control. It was on the Green at Custer. I have been trying to learn how to corner faster by leaning forward vs. leaning back. Might sound strange but have you ever heard the saying "drive the bike into the corner"? I alway have heard that, but I have always been a "float into the corner" kind of rider. Meaning, I tend to sit back on the bike and let the front wheel float around the corners. Floating is much slower than driving. By simply keeping my weight forward on the bike I have learned to corner faster. This comes with some semblance of trust to the traction of the tires. I was trying to learn on my last set of tires and was gaining speed. Then I switched tires. lol.

Anyway, because these new tires are 2.35 I am even more confident in the traction I get. I was pushing pretty hard and found myself leaning forward on a downhill corner. It has a sharp turn at the bottom and as I went thru the corner I had the urge to kick the bike to the left. When I did, the rear tire slid and then connected, rocketing me out of the corner. It was a whole new thing for me. I was fairly surprised with myself.

Overall, a solid 15 miles on tacky and still dry trails at Fort Custer. Had a solid gym session tonight and I am feeling pretty good. Gotta keep it rolling. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Back at it

I am feeling quite a bit better. And since I was feeling better I wanted to burn off some stress. There is no better way to do that than to ride my bike. I finally got picked up my wheels and actually loaded my bike up on Friday morning. After a productive morning I headed to lunch with my manager. Once we got back the department was told we could leave after 8 hours. That meant I was able to bail out of work at 2:30. Since it was so early Mike was able to ride with me. 

Photo credit: stolen from internet.

Mike and I made the trek to Luton Park. I was shocked at the amount of traffic on the streets at 2:30 in the afternoon. Because we were riding Luton we took the East Beltline all the way to Rockford. Why not the highway? Well, there were 3 accidents between 28th street and the s-curve. We chose the lesser of 2 evils. Knowing that Nate and Karl were heading up we planned to ride a loop and then meet up with them for a second loop.

Mike and I headed out to find a very dry and dusty Luton. We need rain. We hit the yellow and the orange and the black before I got a text that the other guys were getting close. We skipped the red and then took the short green back to the lot. I was feeling ok, but lacking any semblance of power. The climbs were sluggish and I was simply trying to survive them. Yes, survive the climbs at Luton....did I mention I am heavy. lol.

We picked up the other guys and headed out again. To my surprise they took off like bats out of hell on the first section. Riding new tires I was trying to get comfortable on them. Add the new tires to the lack of shape and I was dumped pretty quick. They would ride ahead and wait for me then ride ahead and wait for me. That is fine, I was riding.  We did all the loops and it was a solid ride. Not super fast, but any type of mileage is good mileage right now.


Now, about the new tires. Rocket Rons have been my tire choice for nearly for years. I like them, but I wondered if there was a better option. I poked around and looked at some other brands like Kenda, Maxxis, Specialized, and ended up looking at 45Nrth tires for my fatbike (got sidetracked). What I found was the Maxxis Ardent Race tires. These tires, much like other brands, offer a thicker more durable sidewall. Schwable has the snake skin, Maxxis calls their version EXO.


As you can see from the pic above the tread pattern is interesting. Having ridden Specialized fast tracks before making the Schwable switch I immediately loved the tread pattern. This was the first ride on them so I was interested to see how they worked. They sounded different. As odd as that sounds these tires sound different than the Rocket Rons did in the corners. Here are my initial thoughts on these tires:

Straights
I didn't notice any difference. 

Climbing
The traction seemed more reliable on the Ardents than I had with the Rons. I noticed when standing and mashing that I didn't have as much chatter on the loose areas. Not as much slipping. Pretty good and constant grip over rocks, roots, sand and gravel (all the Luton surfaces)

Cornering
Here is where I cannot give an opinion yet. My thoughts are that they will be just as good, if not better, than the Rons. My issue is that I didn't trust them and was fairly tentative in pushing the corners hard. Once I get a few rides on them I will elaborate a bit more.

Overall
The tires roll pretty good. The traction is solid climbing and in the corners. They are easy to get up to speed. I had a few times where I pushed pretty hard and the tires were the least of my concerns. They responded how I thought they would. So far, I like them.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

You done messed up A A ron....

So once again it is my weekly update. 

My last ride was at Fort Custer a week ago. Then I found excuses for the rest of the week. Little did I know that my fake excuses would then lead to a legitimate excuse. On Wednesday I had a very stressful day with one of my teenagers. No details, but lets just say that this child should be thankful murder is illegal. Add that on top of my already high stress level and will little surprise...I believe my ulcer is back.

So what does that mean exactly? It means nothing good. Essentially I took a half day on Friday and went home...climbed directly in bed...and slept until the evening. I was up for 2 hours and slept until noon the next day. So sleep, along with some rather uncomfortable intestinal distress. That leads to not being able to ride...but only since Thursday. But, like I said....excuses precluded the ulcer symptoms.

So, I am hoping that by Wednesday or Thursday I will be ok physically and will be able to ride again. That is ok considering the way the weather looks the next few days. In the mean time I have been thinking about 2018 and what my plans will be. While I don't think LJ100 will be realistic I do plan on racing again. 

Not that 2017 is even over yet, as there are still plenty of events left that people will be racing. These events will be anywhere from mountain bike races to cross races to winter fat bike races. While I do plan on riding in the winter I won't be ready for any semblance of racing this winter.  So, my plan for 2018 is....

The Lowell 50
I have been signed up for this race twice and never done it. One time I was stupid sick and the other I was simply a pussy and didn't want to ride in the rain. Since there are 2 episodes of this race every year, I would really like to attempt it.

Barry Roubaix
Again. I have done Barry and I love the course, love the atmosphere, and the event as a whole. It has been a few years since I have been able to race due to my oldest daughter and her awesome dancing competitions on that same weekend. She is graduated now. There might be a chance she will be dancing again, but with BR being early this year....I should be good.

That is a good place to start. I know I have 32 weeks to get ready. I have 32 weeks, but it starts now. Put the list of excuses down along with the unhealthy food. I stopped drinking pop, so that is a start. Been nearly a week now. Now I need to get my nutrition under control. Those 30ish weeks will be gone before we know it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weekly update

The weeks keep ticking by, and the days are getting shorter. Seems like less than a week ago it was 9:30, now it is dark closer to 9. Pretty soon I will be driving to work in the dark (which I already do) and driving home in the dark. ugh.

Not a real good week for riding. I did a road ride Tuesday night, and that was about it. I was in the gym on Monday and then headed there Friday since nobody was home. I did ride on Saturday too, so let me recap the 2 rides I did.

Road ride.
The funny thing about the road bike is how twitchy it is...until I get used to it. Once I get settled in I really do like the bike. It rides smooth. I do a short sub 18 mile loop around my town here. It is low traffic and the road surfaces are decent, especially for Michigan. My legs felt like concrete though. I had zero power at all. My sustained efforts were slow, and hard. (thats what she said ;) 

Anyway, my ride was pretty good all things considered. The interesting thing about this ride? My time was exactly 1 second different than the last time I rode this route. 1 second over 18 miles. I have never had 2 times that close in all of the journeys over this route. As awful as my legs felt, I figured it would be a slow ride, but it was "consistent". 

Didn't do anything but order tires the other days. Those will be here next week, more to come on those. Saturday I loaded up Albert and headed to Fort Custer. Because I was at the gym the night before I wasn't sure how my legs would respond. The first mile wasn't bad. lol. I rode into Custer and took a shortcut to the green loop. I finished up the Green loop and headed to the Red loop. I was actually getting comfortable on Albert until I remembered the brakes are weak and nearly blew a corner. After that caught my attention I was able to settle in and get comfortable again. Not a fast ride, but the bike sticks to the ground because the tires are so freaking big. I don't care for the tread on my current tires, but those will be getting replaced in the winter anyway. 

So that is about it....other than I need to buckle down and eat healthier. 


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Updating again

Every time I remember to post it has been weeks since my last post. For those that read, my apologies. Life has been hectic still and I am doing my best to survive day to day.  Alas, onto the last few weeks.


I have been getting out. Rode Merrell a few weeks ago. Made it about 4 miles before I chirped a rock and gashed a sidewall. So, I took a nice hike in the woods before finding my way out. 


Having to wait a while to get a new tire I remembered that I actually have a fat bike. So I loaded that up and rode to the Allegan trail here in town. I wanted to see what progress had been made...and it wasn't much. I just tooled around checking things out before heading home. The main takeaway...the fatty is a way different bike than the DUFF.


Wanting to really test out the fatty (Albert) I headed to the Maple Hill trail at Markin Glen in Kalamazoo. This is a new trail that hasn't even had it grand opening yet. This will be an interesting trail for sure when it is done. It was fairly short yet, but there was a screaming fast downhill line that has table tops. Stupid fast. being on a 40 pound bike I wasn't about to fly...not that I like to fly anyway. I was just riding and checking out the terrain. Hilly. The fist section is uphill to an opening where you can choose the "downhill only" line or the other section of trail. I missed the other section the first time thru. I just went to the downhill run and really enjoyed it. After that run there is a section of trail that is fairly flat and winds around the south side of the park. This is where the trail construction is continuing so you take the road back to the lot and go uphill again. This time I took the trail towards the right. it wraps around and ends up back at the trailhead. Overall, a fun trail and a nice change of pace when compared to the other trails in the area.



I headed to Hammond Hill the next week with Albert (fatbike) to see how the new trail system is doing. It is interesting for sure. This is another new trail system that is about 6 miles long. The kicker here....it is bi-directional all the time...meaning you can find someone head-on....while bombing down a hill....or they could be...so it was farily nerve racking riding here. Other than that, it is a pretty cool trail system. There are connectors all over and you can just sorta keep riding and turning left or right and generally end up back at the car. 



Once I got the tire fixed on the Anthem (D.U.F.F.) I had to go try out Merrell again. This time I rode with Nate and we did 2 full laps and got all the spurs. The major thing I noticed....after riding Albert for a few rides I was super twitchy on the D.U.F.F., super twitchy. It took me at least a mile before I was getting comfortable again. Because Merrell is such a blast (in the yellow direction) it didn't feel like we rode as far as we did. Solid ride, slow....but solid.


Today I headed to Fort Custer. I turned in a solid lap on the red loop. The dirt was "hero". the trail was in amazing shape all around and I was just pushing everywhere I could. I felt "good" for the first time in a long time. I have been feeling ok, but not good. Today was good. I headed out on the green loop to complete my ride and it was cut short by another torn sidewall. This tire had about 25 miles on it. I didnt hear a big twinge or anything, but I must have hit a rock just right to cut the wall.  Oh well, just need to get it replaced again...for the second time in less than a month. Going to look into the snake skin version next time.

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.




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nobodys' excuse


Finally. I was finally able to get out to Yankee Springs and ride this so-called "hero dirt" that I had been hearing about for weeks....even with all of the recent rainfall.

Honestly, everyone was right. The trail was in amazing shape. Me...well....more on that topic later...but more about the trail.

When someone says "hero dirt" it can be as relative a term as "fast". Because "fast" for one person is clearly not "fast" for other people. In this case the trail dirt was simply a perfect mixture of everything Yankee has to offer. Some newly scattered rocks from the multi-direction use, the usual sand pits, the pine areas, the loose rocky climbs and all of the roots...all packed into tightly woven dirt trails. I will not say "hero dirt"....but I will say PRIME. I have not often seen Yankee in better shape.






 Now, a bit about my actual ride. First off, it was just nice to be out in the woods with temps hovering in the 60's. I was shocked, but shouldn't have been, when I pulled into find a packed parking lot. With the Time Trial coming in a week that is generally the norm.

I geared up and headed out. I hit the warm up look and wasn't feeling bad. Not bad at all. But the trail here is fairly flat and I was just getting warmed up. I just found a comfortable pace knowing that I was going to feel dead by the end of the ride.

The lack of riding started to rear is ugly head before I got back to the trail head. That's right....2 miles and I was gassed. Oh how far I have fallen. But, I trudged ahead and just kept pedaling. The trail was in such good shape that I was just focusing on how amazing it felt to be out there. The pain of the ride only really showed up when there was a hill.......which if you have ever ridden at Yankee is often.

I just kept plugging away and Jay ended up catching me. We chatted for a second and he was off to the races again. It felt good to be riding, slow or not. I will chalk it up as a solid ride for a heavy out of shape guy that has some major work to do. Still, I was riding.

But being out there and knowing how I was struggling was allowing my mind to wander. My landed firmly on the concept of riding alone. How I really enjoy riding alone because I can just ride my pace and I don't have to wait for anyone and, in my current health, nobody has to wait for me. I just ride. I can stop. Tinker. Look at the woods. Walk up climbs if needed. Nobody there to witness the misery I was in. I understand that Misery loves company, and there is always a time and a place for company....but right now just isn't that time. Why? Because I don't want to be the excuse for someone.


Excuse? Yes. Each of us has said "well the ride was good but we kept having to wait for (insert name here)". We all have....especially because we are all each on our own journey with these 2 wheeled machines. I am very guilty of blaming people for "ruining" a ride because I wanted to go fast and they simply couldn't keep up. I have also been on the receiving end of that where it was totally my fault that the ride went long. When you ride with groups you are bound to be both sides of that coin as some point in your life.

Right now, because I haven't been riding, the best bet for me is to just simply ride solo. I know my limitations and don't like to hold up the group.....or have the feeling that I might die trying to keep up. I wasn't really joking when I said I basically had to start over because of what I have done to myself. It is only fair that I suffer alone, for now, until I get some of that speed back and can keep the gaps smaller. It won't take long, I have that beast inside me just waiting to be quicker....faster....stronger.....back to who I was when I know I had speed and endurance. Riding alone is just one of the first steps in this journey. 

The time for me to get shit out the back of the group will come soon enough. But mentally, I am just not ready for that scenario.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Waving the white flag



I do. I surrender. At this point in 2017 life is still pure chaos and I have not made riding a priority. Two gravel races have passed and the first mountain bike race is in less than 2 weeks. By my calculation......I would be DFL......by a lot.

Add in that I cannot attend the first MTB race regardless, because of other family responsibilites, and I am standing here with the white flag in my hands.....ready to wave it frantically.....but maybe there is still hope......

The second mtb race of the season is only a few weeks later.....but.....it was 70 degrees last weekend and I never touched a bike.....I did look at one....but only because it was in the vicinity of the toolbox I was raiding looking for sockets.
Finding the balance hasn't been a priority for me this year. We have a lot going on from top to bottom. Stressors from every aspect of life....much like all of you have I am sure. So I am not here to bore you with the details of my life....and I cannot post about riding...because....I simply haven't been riding.

The quote from Albert Einstein is a good one. You have to keep moving to find balance. I haven't. I plopped down on the couch and said "fuck it". Motivation went on vacation. But this past weekend I was actually ready to ride. It was warm and everyone was out posting pictures of their rides and talking about hero dirt....ugh.


So while the white flag is waving....it is only waving for racing. I am just way to out of shape to even bother to try. And I will be missing the first two local races due to family things anyway. So, the towel is thrown in.

But, that doesn't mean I won't be riding. I am getting things straightened out and plan to make getting on the bike a priority.....because I am worth it. My family is worth it as well. So, right now....I am the token out of shape fat kid that never rides. But keep an eye open for me. Give me a word of encouragement like "GO FATTY" or "put that donut down". Those kinds of things will go a lot further if I hear them from friends and family versus complete strangers that are working at Old Country Buffet. 

I do have a lot to learn still....and learning the balance will be the key to success for me. I know I post all the time about rebooting and starting over and yada yada. So....I am not starting over. I am simply going to do my best....and if that is riding 1 day a week....well......that is better than riding the couch.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Not good....not good at all

I am not sure if you noticed or not....but this guy hasn't been on a bike for weeks. And the last time I did actually ride....I was heavy...slow...and out of shape.

I have my reasons....(eh hem....excuses) for why I haven't been riding but I am not going to bore you with them...it is pointless.

I will tell you that my stress level has sky rocketed again and I have been seeing symptoms from the ulcer I had. That is awesome. Somewhat self inflicted but not entirely. I cannot control the outside forces that cause the stress...but I can control how I deal with it. How I have been dealing with it.....poorly. 

I have been shoveling in the food in a futile attempt to make myself feel better. And in typical fashion I do feel better while eating, then feel like dirt after stepping on the scale. Circle of life...yada yada.

So I am on the brink of throwing in the towel on the first few races again. I just simply don't have the motivation to get on the bike, let alone get on the bike and race. I am starting to add up the cause of all of this and working on changing it. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Dear Body :an open letter to the rest of the body.....from the legs....

Look....we need to talk. Like....put that donut down because this is serious kind of talk.

Okay, do I have your attention.....no....no...NO....stop touching that.

FOCUS.

Finally....thank you for your undivided attention. The reason I am calling you all together today is to discuss our current situation. Due to piss poor decisions by the brain and stomach in recent months I have been forced to drag your lazy ass around on the bike. Arms and hands....you really think this has nothing to do with you? You are just as much to blame because you are the shuttle that puts that garbage in the mouth.....then the mouth just aimlessly chews whatever is there.

You guys....the only one of you on my side in the last ride we had.....was the lungs. Well, the lungs and the heart. Because if the heart gives up hope then the rest of us are just screwed. And don't think I don't hear the stomach and intestines joking about the "events" we have been having since November. You think that is funny....why don't you ask the colon how it feels. Yeah, piss the colon off once and see just how bad the rest of us feels. It isn't funny to send acid rockets to the colon and expect it to still be our friend. Thankfully I could get us to a restroom fast enough....ugh.

Anyway, we are in rough shape gang. The brain...hey....you have held it together during major life changing stress moments when the rest of us didn't want to continue. Kudos. The heart, dog....you just keep beating to your own rhythm. Well done on keeping the blood pressure down and not causing other issues as we fall apart. The lungs. Where do I start? You have always struggled. Been held down by an abdominal cavity so full you feel like you cannot inflate to your potential. Still, you do what you can in the space provided. Well done.

Now.....the bad news kids. As well as the brain did to hold this shit together....the coping mechanisms were not the right ones. Not by a long shot. You teamed up with the arms and stomach to make a long string of terrible nutritional decisions. In turn, the rest of us suffer. Honestly, we all suffer. Don't you see what it is doing. The core muscles cannot hold us ups straight....or postures is awful....think Quasimodo from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Granted we are not that far yet, but we are approaching it. 

I, the legs, had this realization on the third sister of the Barry-Roubaix last Sunday. The lungs and heart couldn't get me the oxygen I needed to haul your dumb asses up that hill. Well, because we have been laying on the couch eating chips and cookies I don't have the freaking strength to do it....so then....we walk. Guess what friends....this makes all of us look bad. You know people point. They stare. Little kids cry out in horror "why is that huge sausage walking with a bicycle". Admit it....we need to fire this thing up and work together...because I can't do it alone.

So, I simply ask this of the brain. Overpower the stomach. Don't let the stomach decide to dump thousands of empty calories in. If the left arm brings a brownie up to the mouth....either don't the mouth open or make the right hand knock that brownie down to the floor so I can stomp on it. I get it, I really do.....they are delicious. But if we don't get nutrition sorted out and learn discipline we are going to be in the same boat year after year.....and it is sinking. 

I loved the feeling of all of us working together to get this guy across the finish line at Lumberjack 100 in 2015. But then we went thru some tough times. I didn't speak up because I thought it was just a phase. Clearly I was wrong. I showed us what we are capable of on the training session the other night. Felt good right? Lets take control of this dude and get him into race shape. Lets get him competitive this year. Lets get him some confidence. Because lets face it.....the better this guy we are attached to is...the better we all are. 

Now....lets go....

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March is here already

Is it just me...or has this year been sneaking past already.....it is already the second week of March?!?!


Riding....well....a bit. Nowhere near the level of riding I need to be putting in right now. I have had a few trainer sessions and that has been about it. 

I headed out to Barry Roubaix 2 weekends ago for a jaunt on the short course. My thought process was "it is shorter, it has less climbing"....which it does....but the hills are still tough. It was a solid 21 mile ride in awesome weather.

This past Sunday I headed up there again. With only 1 short trainer session in my legs I was sure it was going to be awful again....and it was. I am well overweight and was dragging a 38 pound fat bike around those hills....just a dumb thing to do....or is it?

Secretly it has to be fairly genius. Think "weight training". I drag that beast around for 20ish miles and then when I get on The D.U.F.F. or the Defy at half the weight and I am instantly faster, not to mention the added strength I use by hauling that tank around.

Anyway, Matt (new teammate this year) and I headed out and did the short Barry Roubaix course again. The wind was cold, with a windchill in the mid teens. But I never really got cold....once I got warmed up. By the third sister my legs were begging me to turn around. I will have a post about that coming up because i found it pretty funny in my head. 

Struggling up the last part of "The Wall" photo courtesy of Matt F.


Matt was kind enough to hang with me while I trudged up the hills I could made and the couple that I did have to walk. No shame. I am heavy. The bike is heavy. The hills are no joke. It was a great day to be out though....the sun was shining and the gravel roads were like concrete. We finished our ride and headed home to continue our Sundays!

The races are coming....quick. I won't be doing any that I planned the first month of the season simply because I am not ready. I have some work to do but will be racing at Yankee and Fort Custer for sure. By then, I will have shed some weight and gotten a wee bit stronger!

Keep moving forward.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Believe.....



A few years ago I used my anger to fuel my training. With every pedal stroke I pictured the face of my enemy. Then there was multiple people on the list. It might sound funny....but proving someone wrong can be a huge motivator. It just happened.


Sure I skip rides....2 already this week. No excuses other than I just have to figure out how to train with the way my body and digestive tract decides to work. Some days will be better than others...and I just need to swap days from a training day to a rest day when the body disagrees. This....is a basic fundamental of training. Some days you just don't have it.


But back to the "prove them wrong" list. I did it in 2015. I proved a person so wrong....that they talked to me for the first time in 3 years....by congratulating me after I finished the LJ100. I am reminded of Marvin from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when I think of this particular person.....because he would give advice and repeat the advice...and I would never listen.

It was only after he stopped giving it and walked away from me with "you will never get there" attitude that I gained some perspective.....which turned into a spiteful focus. I had the following thoughts:

First was "how dare he be truthful about my actions"

Which led to "I don't fucking need your help asshole"

Turning into "fuck, maybe he was right....I do need to change"

Finally arriving at "I will be successful....just to prove to you that I can do it"


But in turn, this led to me believing more in myself than anyone else ever could have. Confidence. I gained so much over that time period...but then it all shattered. I allowed myself to fall back into where I was before....just slogging thru with no goals or belief in myself.



The pic above is from my very first Barry Roubaix ride. I wasn't ready....but I had people around me that believed I was ready and pushed me try...pushed me to believe....pushed me to succeed. Those people are still around, but my negativity has pushed them to a point where I don't know if they believe in me any more than I believe in myself.

Today, a few minutes ago, I just got pissed off enough to do what it takes again. Diet. Training. Life. Time to get ahold of the reigns and guide this horse. A guy that it big into Cross-fit was chatting with another guy at lunch about working out. They were talking about plans and when they squeeze workouts into their schedule. I smiled and said "mine is a mess, but I am getting back on track" to which the one guy responds "I have known you for a long time and you are all talk". Snap. Called me right out....right in front of witnesses and everything. 

I won't do what I am going to do for him....or to prove him wrong. I will do this for myself first. Proving him wrong will be the icing on the cake (which I won't be eating because I am tired of being fat)