Gravel Grovel 2016 – Hindenburg 2.0

This is basically how my Gravel Grovel went.

So, what was lining up as having the most potential to my best Gravel Grovel to date ended up a little less than optimal. It sounded like it should have been awesome, then it caught fire and crashed to the ground. That maybe a little excessive in the description, but that is completely how I feel. Lets go back a few weeks. I was riding as strong as I ever had and the first two scouting rides I was riding strong. I still was trying to figure out how to be faster on race day, but I was putting in some of my quickest Strava segments to date. I was not really going for segments, but it does make me feel better when my times end up being better than previous trips. Little did I know that in a few weeks I would have been happy to just be able to ride like that.

Somewhere after the second scouting ride my legs became weak at climbing. We did a full loop ride and I didn’t do that bad, but did not climb very fast at all. Even with climbing slow, not eating enough, taking it easy in some sections and wearing down badly toward the end, I still did the ride in just over 5 hours and that included the trip to and from the Story Inn. If I could just get my climbing legs to come back a little, I would be set up for a 4.5 hour ride if the weather cooperates. The did cooperate! It always could have been better, but even with the rain that came in the week before it was one of the driest conditions that I have done and ready to be fast. There were only a few deeper water sections and combs was not what I would call muddy.

The cabin was booked full and friends were in the next cabin over. Everyone trickled in Friday night at different times. It was fun hanging out and catching up. This part is what makes racing so much more than just riding a bike. Friday night had a lot of potential to go bad, but didn’t. I really was not hungry most of the night and never ate what I took for dinner. I did have a couple little things, but not a lot. I was not sure why, but I was just not very hungry. I actually got to bed fairly early compared some some years.

I woke up at 3 am with some terrible stomach cramps and cold sweats. Awesome!! I continued this on and off for the rest of the night. I did not want to get up when everyone started moving. Eventually I did start moving around. There was plenty of time before the race started and I hoped I would start to feel better. Either way my legs felt like I just ran a 5k and I was beat up from all the cramping. I made several trips to the bathroom hoping to remidy some of the issues, but no luck. I made an awesome breakfast, but could only get a few bites down, lots of dissapoints to be had. I was doing everything I could to get ready for a good race, but was not succeeding.

Eventually I made my way over to the start line. I didn’t really warm up like I would have wanted too, but the way the morning was going I figured it really didn’t matter. Soon enough we were given some instructions and off we went. I was surrounded by some good company and doing what I could. The first section was going better than I figured and hung out with several people that I wanted to be around. I was trying to just go the best I could with out digging too deep until I got going. The first big climb, the paved road in the middle of nowhere hurt, but I felt like I had climbed it slower in the past.

The next section had some good parts and bad parts. At times my stomach was cramping badly and I could not ride very hard. Other times I felt like I was not too far off the pace. I did still see some of the people I wanted to ride with not too far away, but some were gone already. I felt like I did well on Combs road and climbed the hill. At the top was several people there to offer me a beer hand up. Originally I was not planning on taking this one as it was pretty early. I was not feeling too good and the climb did a number on me. I just rolled over the top and kept going.

The down hill on Combs almost got me once or twice, but I managed to keep it up right. The Blue Creek road section was not that great for me. I was wearing down and still not feeling very good. I climbed the road climb, but I am positive it was not at record pace. Once I got out of that section and hit the gravel road I was really starting to hurt. I remember taking my time and almost stopping to eat something. I wanted to get it in me before I hit Nebo, but I don’t think it was early enough to really matter.

Most of Nebo is a blur. I normally remember a lot about my race, but just can’t picture most of this section. I know I had the only place I needed to walk in this section. It was one of the steep/technical climbs and the guy in front of me didn’t make it and I had no place to go. I also remember the up and over log was not the same on the back side. I thought I going down, but really glad I didn’t. The rest of this section was uneventful or at least nothing big enough for me to remember. I was still not climbing well, but I was riding fast enough to keep people from catching me.

From here on out I was in another world. I was just turning pedals over and trying to keep moving. I was trying to eat and drink as often as I could, but my stomach was still cramping on and off and I was having trouble keeping down everything I ate. I figured I was finally going to actually have my first puke on the bike. I have had several that have been very close, but I am not one for puking so I always manage to keep it down. Today was not so easy.

Before I started up Baldy I saw my riding buddy Brian coming down the other side. He waved and went on. I was really wishing I was over there and not getting ready to climb this hill. I just kept moving and hoping the top was just around the next corner. Eventually it was, but there were a lot more corners than I wanted. I pulled up to the rest stop to top off my water bottle. This was my planned stop for water. I tried to eat a little more while I was there. I did see several people roll up that I know. They wanted me to jump on their train, but I knew I would not be able to hang on. I took off before they did because I knew they would catch me. Shortly after hitting the bottom and making the left they went by and I never saw them again.

That next big hill is just horrible. I don’t know if it is because it is so close after climbing Baldy or if it really would not matter when you do it, I am sure it will always hurt no matter what. Pedals kept turning and miles kept rolling on. I would see some people then I wouldn’t. I was a little shocked that I was holding off a lot of the people I did see. They would come up on me and the next thing I know I was pulling away or they would stop to re-group. This made me feel a little better, but I still knew I was not moving as fast I would like.

More trail and gravel climbs. One after another followed by some screaming descents that I was no way near strong enough mentally to be going as fast as I was, but I just kept going. I had a few sections that I felt a little better and others that really sucked. When I left trail 20 I just blew past the last rest stop. I was very ready to get back home. After the big climb after the last rest stop is normally a good section to put in some better speeds. This year was not the case. I found myself going pretty slow at times and had to ask myself why? I really didn’t know. I was just kind of day dreaming and would almost stop pedaling. As soon as I woke up, I would get back in to turning pedals over.

Eventually I did making it down the long down hill section and could see where the bridge was to the right. I could not have been happier to be this close. I crossed the bridge as smooth as I could. I kept looking back hoping I didn’t see anyone gaining on me. I knew that I had nothing to hold them off and really didn’t want to get passed this late in the race. When I hit the last creek crossing I was caught a little off guard on how deep the creek was. I guess I should have checked that out in the morning. I had to dismount and work my way around the left side a little to find a good place to get back on. I rode the rest of the way across and up the hill to the finish line.

Even though I was very happy to be finally finished, this was a little different than a lot of big races. Normally the emotions rush in and I am on a race high or sometimes at the verge of breaking down in tears. This was completely uneventful. I rolled across the finish line, not even sure if someone took note. I rolled back toward the cabin completely shelled and in another world. I tried to gather myself well enough to changed and head over to eat. I was late enough that by the time I got over there just about everyone else that I figured I would eat with were already done and some gone. The awards were over and the place was pretty empty. I ate my plate of food and headed back toward the cabin.

There were people hanging out there and I started to feel a little better by then. I at least knew what I was doing. Had a couple beers and hung out for the rest of the night. We had a fire and lot of laughs. It would have only been better if the occasional cramping would have stopped and I could have had a few more beers. Maybe even ate a little more because I know I didn’t have near enough for the day’s activity.

All things considering I really should not be too upset with myself. I finished in a time of 5:20 and I ended up 136th overall out of over 200 riders and 47th in the MTB class. The impressive thing I did, even with all of my issues, I only stopped for 6 minutes during the whole race. Those numbers are really not that bad as to all the other years that I have done this. The biggest disappointment is that I am coming off of a great finish time last year in some really tough conditions. I have worked really hard this year to be in even better condition and it ended up not really making a difference. I was basically an hour longer than my goal time. So, when you look at that number, it does not sound very good.

When the legs fell apart the weeks leading up to the race I figured the 4:30 time would be hard to get, but I figured 5 hours should not be an issue. The ride I did Friday to loosen up the legs felt good and I had a little hope that the legs were going to show up and treat me well. That really didn’t happen. I know I said earlier that barring any major issues I should be able to do 5 hours and I guess I did have a major issue. I had several people tell me they would not have even raced. I guess I still had hope that I would come around. In hindsight if I would have stopped for that beer on the top of Combs I probably would have been happier. I am sure I would have just decided to call it quits and ride with the heckle crew, but I am not one that likes to DNF. I had too many of them in the past when I shouldn’t have and now I go above and beyond to not quit. The one thing that I do know for sure is that when times are hard I seem to be able to ride in complete misery for way longer than I should be able to. I guess I have that going for me if that really makes a difference at the end of the day.

I want to thank everyone who helped me get to the point that I thought I was going to have a great race. All the guys who put in miles and miles on the bike even when I was holding them up. To Brian and his staff at DINO for keeping this race going. All the volunteers that helped out. I may not have used much of the sag stops, but it was really good that you were there for those that needed it. I need to especially thank Brian, Eric, Jeff and Jason. With out them I would have been no better off than any other year. I just really hate to have wasted it on having bad stomach issues. At least the time hanging out together and riding together are not lost. Those are the reasons I have the urge to get on the bike to begin with. With out all of you I would talk myself out of doing so many rides. I can only hope that I will show up even stronger next year. Maybe I will do it SS again….

Click here to see my Strava info

Posted in Bikes, DINO, Dino Series, Gravel, gravel, Gravel Grovel, hills, mtb, Racing, racing, Team Adventures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fall is here

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Fall is finally here and that can only mean one thing, the Gravel Grovel is right around the corner. The Gravel Grovel is the race I look the most forward to every year. Yes, the weather is not always that great. It can be cold, muddy or even raining or snow, but that is just part of what makes me enjoy this race. I have always been intrigued by the events that put me in a place that you just can’t get to with out a lot of effort. Anyone who has done longer events know what I am taking about. I have yet to have a year that I was not a shell of a person by the time I made it to the finish line. I have left it all out there on the race course if I wanted to or not. I am sure that when that finish line comes along this year, I will once again be just a shell riding a bike and somehow not just falling over.

The last couple of years as my fitness improves every year I have had a goal of finishing in a sub 5 hour time. Out of all the years this event has been put on, I have only done that twice. I have no idea how I did it the first time, but last year I put in a lot of work to make that happen. The weather was so bad that for most of the race I pretty much figured that it was not going to happen. Somehow when it came down to the last 10 miles I was still in the hunt and when I figured that out it was just enough for the legs to feel a little better and hammer down the road to the finish. I was very happy that I could finish in under 5 hours. With the bad weather conditions I think I could have done a lot better and maybe even hit the 4.5 hour mark. It is really hard to tell since I have found that for some reason I tend to do better when conditions are less favorable. Maybe that shell of a rider can actually ride pretty good.

Just like last year I have made a few trips up to that area to get some pre-gravel training rides in. These are always a blast and I am not sure why I don’t do these kinds of rides more often. I guess any kind of riding with this group of people would be just as fun. I am very glad to have made some good friends riding my bike that are also such fun to be around on and off the bike. It is just too bad that not everyone lives closer together. Good times and a lot of good miles. I have done my share of riding alone and that is not always a bad thing, but riding with the right group of riders can sure make getting out the door a lot easier. There are times that I thought I was not going to ride and with 15 minutes time and a message about riding all my plans can change. I have found myself driving hours just to ride with some people when I thought I was not going to ride at all that day.

As I mentioned earlier (probably several times) last year I finished under that elusive 5 hour mark. It was not easy and I sure did my homework as compared to previous years, but I could not stop thinking about the trail sections. Mainly Nebo ridge over all the other sections. That section of trail was not very easy to ride on my cross bike even with the 40c tires. I have also rode that bike on a lot of other rides and just don’t feel as comfortable when it get more technical. I know for sure that I can’t go over near as big of log on that bike as I can on the MTB. Granted there are not that many logs to go over, but currently Nebo has 3 or 4 and some of those would be over my limit on the CX bike, but no problem at all on the MTB. I got to thinking that I could make some changes to a MTB that would get me riding about as fast as I would on my CX bike. Then I consider that there is a MTB class and also look at some of the top finishers over the last few years and what bikes they are on.

So, I kind of figured out what type of bike I was going to race this year. Now I needed to figure out what bike I was going to race. I had a couple options to think about. I have my Niner that has a 2×9 set up and I have my Spot that is a 1×10. I also had a Niner rigid fork to put on what ever bike I picked. Then as a surprise to me my new carbon Scale came in. The first trip to Story I could not help myself but to ride the new bike. It is super light, but I would not be able to put a rigid fork on it and if the weather was bad at all I would not want to take it. It took me long enough to clean and fix my CX bike from last years race. I didn’t by the Scale for this kind of race and I sure don’t want the first race on it to be a mess.

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The Scale rode great, but I could not help the feeling that the gearing would hold me back for the race. We didn’t go race pace, but I found myself running out of gearing on the road sections. The bike came with a 32t on front, but I really didn’t feel like trying to get a 34t or bigger just for this race. Next trip I put a rigid fork on the Niner and tried that out. This bike did a lot better and even with being heavier than the Scale I figured it would be my go to bike for the race. The 24t and 36t in the front gave me plenty of gearing options. Then I got to thinking. Thinking is not always a good thing. I wondered out much difference the steel Niner fork weighed compared to my carbon Pace fork on my SS. After I did some initial digging it looked like the Pace  would be about a pound lighter. Humm….lighter is always good. I started to weigh everything. It turned out that the Niner weighed 25 lbs and that didn’t seem light enough. I went to swap out the rigid fork, but the race for the head set would not work for the aluminum steer tube.

So, after a lot of work, I ended up putting the steel fork back on the Niner, but in the process I did figure out that the Pace was exactly 1 lb lighter than the Niner. The other interesting thing I figured out was my Spot with out a back wheel weighed pretty dang light. Not what I expected for a steel frame, but I knew it was not heavy. This made me wonder just how much it weighed with a back wheel and so I took the Niner fork off of the Niner and put it on the Spot. I then moved the wheels over. With the heavy fork the Spot weighs in at 23 lbs. That is much better. Now I just needed to work out the lack of gearing that was on the 1×10. I put a 34t front chain ring on it and I was ready to go. I took this bike on the next trip to Story. It did an awesome job. Now this is the bike I am going to race. Yea, I know I could put the Pace fork on there and get it another pound lighter, but I really like that fork on my SS and if this is going to be my long term gravel bike, I kind of like everything being steel.

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So, my bike is not determined and the days are running out. I can only hope that I put in enough work and planning to allow myself to have a good ride. I think I will be the most prepared to date so that is leaning toward making good things happen. Weather looks like it should be better than last year so I am keeping my fingers crossed. I will know soon enough how it all turns out. The only thing I am sure of is that I will be hanging out with some good friends and putting in a good bike ride. Hope everyone also has a good time and maybe I will see you out there.

 

Posted in Bikes, DINO, Gravel, gravel, Gravel Grovel, hills, Racing, Team Adventures, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boograss Dash

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Last weekend I participated in the inaugural Boo Grass Dash. I was teamed up with McLovin’s to form the team Eric squared. This event was modeled off of a former Sub 9 and now Dino series event the Death March. This is a back road/gravel race where you have to make it to check points that are cemetery’s. You were given map containing a list of stops before the race. It was up to you on how to would get to each one (or the ones you were going to make). At sign up you drew a card that had a letter on it. Your special challenge was to find a tombstone with a last name that starts with that letter. Sometimes this was a lot harder than you would think.

The weather was a little cooler than it had been, but it was a beautiful day once the sun was out in full force. I knew there would be mostly paved road and some gravel road sections so I rode the cross bike. I was still a little beefier than I needed with the 40’s on there, but they were already on there and I didn’t really have anything else to change to that I liked. I had planned on a 50 mile day with a couple other guys, a lot more vibe of a group ride than an actual race. Even though we were not “racing” the four of us didn’t go that slow and other than a couple cemetery’s that we struggled to find our names, we were moving at a fair pace.

Overall it was just a fun day on the bike. You could not ask for much more. Good times with some good people and great weather, just what anyone would want. Roads were pretty good to ride. There was not too many cars and most of them did a very good job of passing. I was not familiar with this area, but know that a lot of people ride the Bluegrass area. Maybe that is why the drivers did a better job as they are used to seeing bikers. That is better than a bunch of angry drivers because they see a bunch of bikers.

After the race they had chili and cookies for the racers that was very good. It was a very fun and chill event. Tiffany and Kayla did a great job on their first event and I hope they continue to host some races. I’m sure the turn out was not as good as they had hoped, but they are planning on tweaking a few things for next year to try and bring a few more people out. I know there were several people that I thought would be there that didn’t make it. I knew people are busy, but for the amount of riders in the Evansville area I personally was a little disappointed that the crowd was not bigger. I guess maybe the rock scared some of them off. Their loss.

I was pleasantly surprised with my first podium appearance of the year. With the way this year has gone maybe I can not be such a stranger to podiums next year. I want to thank Tiffany and Kayla for taking the initiative to put something like this on. I am sure with a few tweaks more people with show up next year. I know it is not easy to try and work all of this stuff out and worry about trying to make everyone happy, but you did a fantastic job. I also want to thank Scheller’s for helping with the prizes and hosing a sag stop. See you at next years race!

 

Posted in Bikes, Gravel, gravel, Racing, racing, Team Adventures, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

DINO SWW race

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I had not done any XC races this year. There were a few that was interested in doing and something else conflicted on the calendar or I just couldn’t get myself to make the drive. This race was the last one in the DINO series and there was going to be a few teammates there. I also had someone to share the ride with me so that always makes it easier to go. Before this race I had not been on my mtb since the Mohican. I figured I might be a little rusty, but it didn’t really matter as I was not worried about winning it or anything. But, I have put in some good miles and figured I would not be too bad.

The weekend didn’t start off too well for making a good showing at the bike race. There was a soccer game on Saturday in the middle of the afternoon. I sat in the sun baking for two games. This was not a good way to stay hydrated. After the games we went to the next town’s festival to see a few people and get a bite to eat. I figured what could a beer or two hurt. Well, several beers and hours later we got home a lot later than I wanted. Good thing I had most of my stuff ready.

Sunday morning came around real early. It was a cool morning and the fog was pretty thick. I had the top down on the jeep so it was a little on the cool side in some sections. But, it was still a nice drive and had some good company to help it go by pretty fast. The sun came out right before we got there and really warmed things up. I set the canopy up and started to get ready for the race, signed up and went for a little warm up ride. It was pretty warm by then and I could feel the effects of the sun and beer that I experienced the day before.

Before I knew it I was running late to the starting line. Well, maybe not that late, but it was getting close. I was probably there before Bob rolled in to the parking lot. LOL Just kidding Bob, well kind of. The groups in front started taking off. I didn’t want on the first row and figured I would do what felt good and try to not worry about everyone else. Sometimes that is easier said than done. We took off across the field going faster than I was ready to do. I didn’t want to completely red line it already and tried to ride at a pace that worked for me. I backed it off a little and tried to keep in contact to the group in front of me. I was doing a pretty good job for a little while. There started to be a gap in front of the guy right in front of me. I asked and tried to get around, but they didn’t really let that happen.

I was not riding how I should have and then when we hit the berm section I was a little more shaky than I normally would be. The time off of the bike and not really having trail like that around here to ride made me not trust the front wheel as much as I should have. I was still rolling pretty well, but the guy in front of me pulled away. I rode really well in the second half of the lap. The tighter stuff and the section that was muddy was more in my wheel house. I also cruised down the levee at a really good pace. I am sure all of the road miles helped.

I maintained a pretty steady pace for the next two laps. I passed some people and was passed by a couple. It was really hard to figure out what age group all the people around you were in so I was not sure where I was, but felt pretty good about it. I was riding really strong considering everything. The only thing that I was a little slow on was the bigger climbs. SWW has a couple hills that are fairly good sized. I didn’t have any issue climbing them, I just didn’t climb as fast as I needed too. I am sure the previous day’s activities were part of that, but I am just not where I want to be with my climbing. I really need to improve that.

I ended up finishing 30th overall and 11th in the 40-49 class. I am pretty happy with that. I always would like to finish farther up, but I really can’t expect to with out putting more effort in. Even with all the things I did to keep from being fast, I was less than 8 min. off from being on the podium for age group. Maybe next year I will be able to get a little closer. My main focus is not XC racing, but if I do better at the races that I would like to do well in, then it would have to move me up the finisher list for XC races too. Maybe next time.

Posted in Bikes, DINO, Dino Series, Mountain Biking, Racing, Team Adventures | 1 Comment

2016 Mohican 100k

Sorry a little late to the party here. It has been busy and then didn’t have a good time to sit down at put this together. Part of this has been sitting in draft mode for quite a while. The Mohican was the second race in my dumb decision I made to my race schedule. I was feeling a little better about this than the Cohutta, but still not where I wanted to be. The three weeks leading up to the race I was only able to get out for one ride a week. I did do a few other things that were off the bike, but probably not the best plan of tapering. But, I should be well rested. As usual I was running a little late on getting everything ready to go and the bike cleaned and tuned up.

Img_0141Friday morning I was up way earlier than I wanted to be after not getting to bed very early because I was doing a bunch of last minute things. I had thought about leaving Thursday night and camping part of the way, but I just didn’t have the motivation to do that and staying home allowed me to spend more time with my family before heading out. The day didn’t start out very good at all. The ATM machine that I stopped at was not working. Then the gas station was out of bags of ice. The second ATM machine I stopped at was no longer a bank, so that didn’t work either. I guess I hadn’t noticed that they closed. I figured I should just get moving down the road and it would all work out. Then as I was leaving town I ran in to this dense fog that made my travels even more interesting. Off to a good start!!

Eventually things started rolling better and I met up with some of the People’s Brewing team in Columbus and the train rolled in to town the rest of the way. Our home for the weekend was awesome!! I was very happy with the cabin arrangements, although we joked about who was going to get hurt first on the spiral staircase. Our location was just across the street from the finish line, so not far from anything.

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After getting unloaded and settled in, we met up with a couple other riders and went for a little warm up/pre-ride. It was good to spend some time on the bike and also try to loosen up the legs after the drive. I started off a little sketchy, but eventually started riding a little smoother. The problem I was having is not feeling very strong. The legs were hurting and I was getting winded way too easy. If the little warm up spin was going to wear me out then I was in for a very long day. I managed to finish the ride and make it back to the cabin with out getting hurt. Made some last minute adjustments to the bike, changed and went out for dinner. The rest of the evening was full of smiles and laughter to help me relax about what is in store for the next day.

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Here we are before the start of the madness. There are a lot of racers at the start line. This year we went off all at the same time. The last time I did this race the 100 milers started a few minutes before the 100k. I made sure to not line up too close to the start line, but not all the way back. The start heads down the road for a little ways. I tried to not go too crazy, but still keep some speed moving. We rolled past the turn that I thought we were going to make and kept going. I was getting passed by a lot of riders and at one point I could see way up the road to where the leaders were. It looked like I must have been in last place, but when I turned around I was happy to see at least a few people behind me. No idea how many as I could not see everyone. Eventually we made it in to some trail sections. The traffic was still pretty bad and there were even a couple spots that everyone had to stop because we were all bunched up. I was not too stressed out and just rode my pace when I was allowed.

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After a little while I started to ride a little better. Not as good as I would have liked, but much better than the day before. Most of the race is all blurred together. I know I made a lot better effort to eat and drink than I did the last time. The first rest stop came up pretty fast and I didn’t stick around long. There were several people standing around at this one. There were different sections that looked familiar and some that felt like we rode the other way last time. I know one of the rest stops that came early I would have sworn was the last stop the previous time I raced. I felt like I was not riding too bad, but I was hurting more than I wished I was with way too long to go yet.

The section before rest stop 3 was where I blew up last time. I didn’t blow up, but this section felt like it took forever. When I came around the corner where I could see where the previous rest stop was, I figured I was getting close or at least fairly close. This section had a lot of wet spots, rocks, roots and trees. It was very technical riding, but I was riding a lot more stuff than most of the people around me. This helped me keep motivated and actually passed several people. I was really feeling it when I finally rolled in to the rest stop. I filled my pockets with stuff from my drop bag and ate as much as I could. The watermelon was really good! I knew my tank was running low and I still had a long way to go. I wanted to eat as much as I could with out making myself sick at the same time.

When I finally was ready to roll out of the stop, I was very thankful that I was making the left turn for the 100k and not the right turn for the 100 mile. Maybe some day I will turn right, but not for now. Just down the road from this stop, the 100 milers rejoin. I was crazy to see how fast some of those guys were still climbing at that point in the race. Tomas was cruising up the road. That gave me a little bit of info on how I need to be riding, before I can even think about finishing well. The last time I did this race I remember this section being completely horrible. This time it was still hard, but at least I was riding.

From here to the end was a big blur. I just kept pedaling as hard as I could with out cramping up or something. I kept trying to drink and eat frequently, but I really have no idea. Time seemed to stand still for this section. I was pretty tired and wore out, but kept moving. In 2011 when I hit this last section I was feeling pretty bad and had been for a while. I was riding the SS and had to walk just about every hill because both legs were cramping up any time I used them. This time it was a lot better. I still ended up walking a few hills, but at least my legs were not cramping. Eventually I came down the road to the last rest stop. I made a quick stop to try and find some energy to push threw the last section with. As I hit the trail I was really starting to hurt. It felt like I was going to have a full leg cramp at any moment, but I kept pushing on just trying to keep moving. There were some other people around me that I was trying to hold off and even a couple that I passed.

After I hit what seemed like the upper part of the trail I was starting to roll a lot better. It was more flowy and less climbs. There was a deer just off the trail having a snack. I almost stopped to hang out with him a minute, but then remembered that there was a couple guys behind me that might be in my class and I didn’t want them to catch me. I had no idea how much more I had to go. I came flying down the hill in to the first camp ground section and almost missed a left turn. Shortly after that, I was in the section of trail that was freshly cut the last time I was there. It was in a lot better shape and I knew at this point I was really close. Cruised through the next camp ground section and made the right on to the road.

The night before we were discussing what time we wanted to make. With this race being more trail and more technical than the Big Frog, I was hoping to break the 8 hour mark. Even in the last wooded section I was not sure if I was going to make it. On this road section I looked up and saw some of the other guys hanging out in our driveway, I was ecstatic that I was going to make my goal and probably even more so that I was finished. I was very ready to get off the bike at that point.

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After crossing the finish line and getting my finishers glass, I headed up the hill to the cabin. I grabbed a beer and took a quick shower. Then I drug my chair down to the end of the drive to watch the remaining finishers come down the road while re-hydrating. Overall I am pretty happy with this race. Of course I wish I would have done better, but I have a lot of work to put in before I should expect any better. In 2011 I did the 100k on my SS and finished in a time of 9:22. This year I finished in 7:33 and only 11 minutes off of my Big Frog time. This makes me think that I could do better than a 7:22 for the Big Frog with a little more work. Actually, I am positive I could decrease both times with the right amount of work. Doing that work is the hard part.

Img_0160Once again this was a great weekend overall. It was a long drive and a brutal race, but the company makes it all worth it. No matter how bad the drive was or how bad I raced, nothing compares to having good times with some good friends. These weekends don’t seem to last near long enough. It is not often enough I can hang out and have such a good time that I am almost brought to tears from laughing so much. I can hardly wait till the next time.

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2016 Big Frog 65

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One evening over the winter I made the commitment to race the Big Frog 65 and the Mohican 100k. Either of those would have been a big deal in it’s self, but to make both of those decisions in a matter of 20 minutes was pretty crazy. But I have been known to agree to some pretty crazy things when it comes to riding. I was coming off of a pretty good fall with a strong ride at the Great Pumpkin and my strongest ride in the Gravel Grovel. I didn’t feel like I did too bad over the winter and did more riding than in previous years. I also made the trip to Florida, Pisgah and raced the Death March. I was feeling like I was preparing myself pretty good, but as the even drew closer I didn’t seem to have the snap in my legs that had been there earlier. I tried to be smart and do the right things, but in the end my legs still did not feel as good as I was hoping. Maybe not as bad as I think they are, but definitely not what I had hoped them to be.

Early in the trip I knew it would be an interesting one no matter how I rode. Not 1.5 hours from home and a half hour after picking up Kruger, we found ourselves waiting for a bathroom at a gas station. It seemed to be taking a lot longer than it should. I was starting to wonder just how bad it would smell in there when they finally would come out. Then he finally came out, but the door closed behind him. Hummm… it seems that he was not alone. Yea, time to use the women’s room. I guess everyone needs to make some money some how, but I didn’t need to be anywhere near that.

We drove down on Thursday and got there a little later than planned. We made a stop in Cleveland to eat before getting to camp. This town was happening. There were people everywhere and a few bands playing. This would have been a great place to hang for the night. We already had plans to camp with someone else that was waiting on us, so we didn’t hang out there long and headed toward camp. We missed a turn that we needed to take and went a little out of the way but not too far. Soon enough we were at camp and had everything set up for the night. Camp was on of the coolest sites that I have been at. There was a nice stream right there with running water. It not only looked nice, but the sound was nice too. We had a great evening winding down around the fire before calling it a night.

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Friday we needed to go check in and get our packets. We were not in too much of a hurry since they didn’t start till around lunch. After getting out packets we headed out for a little ride to see the single track section. The race was going to start with a 3 mile climb. It was not too bad, but still a long hill. I do not get much of that around here and really need to make a better effort to do more long climbs like that. The single track was a blast! It was nice and flowy and a lot of run. We did’t go too hard, but I was worried I was going harder than I thought since it was so fun. It was about a 13 mile ride before it looped back toward thee car. We were going to go farther, but decided it was better to just head back. It was a good warm up to shake the legs out.

We had another fun evening around camp and tried to get things ready for the race. We were headed north after the race to stay in a hotel so we would have to have camp packet up before we headed to the race. The 100 milers headed out at 7 and we were about 30 minutes from the start. It was nice having almost everything ready in the morning. It made getting ready and packing up as easy as it could be and we made it to the start area with plenty of time. I started to get ready thinking that I started at 7:30, but after the first race started I could tell we were not starting then. I figured it would be more like 8. So I had a little time to kill and wonder around trying to not get nervous.

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What seemed like a long time going by and then all of a sudden I found myself at the start line getting ready to start. I lined up around some other Jasper people and stayed with them up the climb. After we dropped in to the trail, I found myself behind some people that were going slower than I wanted to go. I made a few passes before hopping on a train that was going a good enough pace to stick with. There were times it was too slow, but not too bad. I knew it was easy to go too hard with it being so fun. Somewhere along the way I guess the other Jasper riders didn’t make all the same passes I did and were no longer right behind me. I figured they were not too far back and would probably catch me on the gravel, but I never saw them again.

After the trail section there was a rest stop. I made a quick stop to top off my bottle and grab something to eat. I tried to not stay there very long because I had a long day to go yet. The first section of gravel was not too bad, but I could tell we had some climbs to do. There was one section where we were flying down a hill for a little while and came around the corner to see the road drop out of sight. I did’t think it could have gotten any more down hill before that, but it sure did. I was flying down that section. A short time later as it transitioned in to some rollers it hit my. Crap!!! This is part of the out and back. That means we will have to go UP that hill. Super!!

I rode past the second rest stop and continued toward the third one. At some point along this section my stomach started to hurt and cramp. I was not feeling very good, but kept moving and tried to ride it out. I tried to keep drinking and eating often so I would not tank it by the end. I stopped at the third rest stop and looked for my drop bag. I could not find it, but never asked for help looking either. I just figured I messed up and put it in the wrong place and it would be at the first and last rest stop. Oh well, I grabbed some more water and food and headed out on the next section all alone.

This section really hurt. My stomach was still cramping and it didn’t seem to flow very well for me. I was running out of gas and there was no one around to keep me company. Toward the end of this section I finally grabbed on to a few other guys and tried to draft as much as I could. I was worried since I still had a long way to go for how bad I was feeling. Also at this point I had a couple spots in my legs that started to feel like cramps were coming on. I continued to eat/drink as much as I could at take all precautions to keep from cramping. It work working for the most part, but pains would still come an go.

I was happy to roll in to the third (fourth) rest stop for the second time. I topped off the bottles again and grabbed some food. I also looked for a Coke, but they were out. I had to settle for a Dr. Pepper. I figured it was better than nothing and I actually like that better than a Coke. It took me a little bit to get it down, but I wanted to make sure and drink it all. While I was resting and drinking, I was kind of looking at the drop bags. I was sure I put mine in the correct box and not sure what happened. Then I saw a bag that looked a lot like the stuff that I put in mine. It had 377 on the out side. I figured I just messed up and put a 377 on the bag instead of the 577 that it should have been. So, I grabbed some more Honey Stinger stuff. I filled my pockets and figured it was time to go. As I grabbed my bike I happened to look at my number plate and saw that it was actually 377. I guess I didn’t label it wrong, but my brain was too messed up to remember what my number actually was. Doh! I sure wish I could have grabbed some stuff out of there before that last section. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now.

Something to note at this point. I am sure I was not eating or drinking near enough. Part of it was because my stomach was hurting and some of it was just me. The thing that made me wonder just how bad of job I was doing was the fact that I had to pee at this stop. I would think if I was not doing a good job of hydrating, I should not have to pee. Maybe I was not as bad off as I thought. But, I was still getting the feeling that my legs were going to cramp. After that rest stop I tried to just keep moving the best that I could. What I didn’t want to happen, did happen all too soon. I started to cramp. There were times that it was not too bad and other times that I had to get off and walk because I thought I was going to fall over since I could not turn the pedals. It typically didn’t take too much walking before I could get back on and ride, but this happened on and off way too much for this gravel section.

I rolled past the next rest stop again not feeling like stopping. I took my salt tablets and tried to keep drinking fluid. I was really wishing that I had packed some mustard. I have no idea why that was not part of the plan. I guess I figured that the salt tablets have never let me down, but I have not done enough testing for this many hours and miles. There were a few people that I kept getting passed by and then a little later I would pass them. I was also getting passed by some of the faster 100 milers. It was a little disheartening to see how strong those riders were going and they had another 35 miles in than me. I have a long way to go to get to that point.

The gravel and hills continued to drag on. One of the most relentless hills that I have ever climbed just had to show up in this section. Remember that down hill I mentioned earlier? Yea, going up it really sucked. It would have been bad if I was fresh, but in the state I was in it was just horrible.  I guess it is a good thing that I am not too bad at suffering because I sure was at this point. Eventually I rolled up to the first/last rest stop. I grabbed a hand full of pretzels and took off. I didn’t really see anything else that looked good. I have had some luck with the salt on pretzels in the past. Off in to the woods I went and shoved a handful in to my mouth. Yea, they were not the pretzels that I was thinking they were. They got real mushy and I almost gagged. It was really hard to breathe and try to get them down. Eventually it worked out with out having to spit them out or puke.

The last section of trail was over all pretty good. Some of this is what I had rode before, just in the other direction. I was starting to feel better at times and was moving pretty good. I did have a few climbs that the legs locked up on and I had to get off and stretch, but the flowy stuff was way more fun then the last few hours. There were a couple people that I had been trading positions with on the gravel. I would pass them on the flowy sections and down hills, but anytime it pointed up they would be right there again. I really had no idea if they were in my class or not, but at this point I was racing them if they knew it or not. LOL

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I dug deep to try and get in front of as many riders as I could and keep them there. Toward the end of the trail section I seemed to drop them all and didn’t see them behind me anymore. I rolled out of the trail and on to the bridge toward the road. I felt so relieved to hit this point and did what I could to keep a good pace going. Then this section took way longer than I was thinking it would. After what seemed like forever, I finally pulled off the side of the road and in to the parking lot that we started at in the morning. Now I am surely done…. well the parking lot was a LOT longer than I remembered. My legs were not really cramping at this point, but they were just shot for all the miles, climbs and cramping. I just put my head down and kept moving forward. I saw the final bridge to cross to the finish line. I started to feel pretty good about being so close to the finish. Then out of no where Kruger came flying by me. Apparently my bright socks gave me away and he saw me from way back there and kicked it in to catch me. If I would have looked back I would have had to put in a hard effort to try and hold him off. I think it is a good thing I didn’t look back. I hurt enough and there was really no point it hurting myself anymore.

I rolled across the finish line in a time of 7:22. Not a bad time, but no where near the top. I never expected to be at the top, but it hurts to see just how much time I have to take off to make the top 10. I would have to cut my time in half!! Not just take an hour or so off, but actually cut it in half. I am not sure I can get to that point. I will just have to keep working at it and see just how strong I can get and maybe I can get part of the way there. After crossing the line and finally letting it set in that I was done, it is unreal the amount of emotions that my body goes through. Goose bumps and all kinds of stuff. I felt like I was going to just start bawling my eyes out for no reason. It is crazy how much tests and trials your mind and body go through for longer endurance events. It is one crazy emotional roller coaster that you never know what is going to happen next. But, I just love it. I may not be as competitive in the race as I would like, but that does not mean it is not a competition for the entire ride. Competing with my mind, body and bike with no guarantee that I will win.

I want to thank everyone that helped me fight this fight as good as I did. Phil at Adventures Recreation is always there to help be it motivation to ride stronger or helping get my bike and gear performing flawlessly. Honey Stinger for giving me energy products that I still enjoy eating after nothing sounds good anymore. Tailwind Nutrition for helping me get in some much needed nutrients when I forget to eat enough food. To Kruger for talking me in to doing this race that I have wanted to do for several years. I am just glad the weather was as good as it was. To the Bushong’s for being great company and friends. It sure makes events like this a lot easier with good people like you around. It also helps to draw on some of the power of the beard by just being in close proximity. To my wife for allowing me to spend all this time away from home racing or riding. With out your support I would still be sitting at home. I know you have to do a lot more work when I am out riding or away at a race. Last but not least I have to thank Tuell for consistently motivating me to go for rides when I feel thee least motivated to do anything. There is no way I would be in the condition I am in with out him. It is always hard to juggle riding in around work and soccer. Many times I am tired and could just stay sitting on the couch and do nothing. You make me want to get out there and keep improving.

 

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2016 Team People’s Brewing Pisgah Trip

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When I was first asked about going to Pisgah with some People’s brewing riders I was not really sure what to say. I really wanted to go back as it has been way too long, but I know what kind of talent these riders have and didn’t know if I would be too slow. Even though I should be in the best shape that I have ever been when I was there. I was assured that it would be a more casual pace and I would be fine. I still knew that I would more than likely be making everyone wait, but I really enjoy riding with some of these guys and figured it would be worth it. Worse case I know my way around pretty good and could just take a shorter route if needed.

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We were all heading down in one of the best vans I have ever been in. It was obvious right away that it was going to be a great trip no matter how well I rode. I am used to going all the way down in one day, but with everyone else coming from farther north, we made a pit stop part of the way to break up the trip in to two segments. It was really nice doing it this way. I was not as tired when we got there and we still put in a good ride after checking in to the hotel. We did the normal Maxwell>Black mtn>sycamore cove loop. This was not a huge ride, but it was a great start to the weekend and ended with a ride to Oskar Blues Brewery. This place is just awesome and a great addition to the area. This was just the beginning, but I soon found out that there was a lot bigger ride planned for the next day.

Three of the guys are signed up for the Pisgah 111k. The one had not done it before and the plan was to see a lot of that loop for a training ride and to make sure the intersections were more familiar. To do this meant we were going to ride a LOT of trails. We did Clawhammer,  Buckhorn gap, Squirrel, 5015, Laurel, Pilot rock and a few other trails that I can seem to remember at the moment. A lot of the intersections were familiar, but I was very rusty on my navigation of the area. I could really tell that it had been a while.

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The day went pretty much as the day before and as I figured. I was pulling up the rear for most of the day. Some times not as far off as others, but any time the trail headed up I was by far the slowest of the group. I rode a lot of stuff and climbed fairly well compared to previous trips down there, but I just didn’t have the power when climbing. I was having this issue before I went down there and had hoped that the legs would come back better than they did, but no such luck. I had a pretty scary moment on Squirrel as I went over the bars on a tight section and ended up landing over the side of the hill. I landed a lot lower than the trail that my tires were just on. I saw the bike flip end over end about 3 times before stopping. The side of the hill was pretty steep and I was not sure how I was going to retrieve my bike. Somehow I managed to make it down to it and back up to the trail. I was not hurt, but I sure was a little more timid for the rest of this trail. With the wreck they were really waiting on me and was starting to wonder if I was ok LOL.

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The climb up 5015 and Laurel was hard, but seemed to be going better. By the time we made it to the top I was feeling better about my riding again, but still getting tired. I had a little mess up right at the top of Pilot and should have known that my game was a little off. I walked down the first two switch back drop offs and started to ride as much as I could. I was doing pretty well for a few sections, but not too far down the trail I went over the bars again. This time was just as scary as squirrel, but the landing was not near as soft. I had nothing but a section of rocks to land on. I ended up jabbing the end of my bars in to my lower gut and ending up sprawled out on the rocks. My head was lower than my feet and I was having a little hard time getting back up. I was a little worried that I really hurt my self where the bars hit me. My hand was hurting and partly numb. I was having a hard time feeling my brake or holding the bars. The mount to my computer was broke so I put it in my pocket. I then walked a little bit of the trail after that. I was not sure if I could hold the bars or squeeze the brakes.

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I last time I came down Pilot I rode more of the trail then I had ever done before. This time I walked more than I had ever done before. Quite a difference between rides. But, I was really mentally messed up and not confident in my riding. Eventually I started riding some sections, but still had issues using the back brake. Sometimes I could squeeze it and it worked and other times I could not feel the lever. I really thought my finger or hand was broke. With all of the issues they were waiting at the bottom for a very long time. One even started to ride back up the hill looking for me, but I was already near the bottom by then. I was hurting pretty bad and not really sure of my condition. They must have discussed it already as they decided that we would take the road around back to the bottom. It was going to be a little longer, but it was going to be an easier ride. There were no arguments from me. I was just hoping to make it back to the hotel at that point. This ride was one of my longest rides in Pisgah to date. The only other time I did a longer ride was the only time I actually finished PMBAR and was out there for over 13.5 hours.

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The beer was sure good that night as I tried to kill the pain and discomfort. Still thinking my finger was broke, I now had a softball sized blood bruise on my gut and assumed that I didn’t do any major damage inside or I would have known by then. I was not sure what was planned for the next days ride, but it was not looking good for me to be there. The next morning I decided that I was going to just go do my own ride on some gravel. I figured I could turn pedals but the bars/brakes were another story. I called my wife to give her an update on how I was doing and said I was not riding. After that it seems that the peer pressure kicked in and before I knew it i was loaded up in the van heading toward Dupont. It was sold to me that it was smooth there and if I could ride gravel, I could ride Dupont. That was not completely true, but not too far from it. I still had some issues using the brakes at times, but I managed to ride good enough.

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I can not express how grateful that I was invited along for this trip. It was so much fun on and off the bike. I might have been riding slow, but considering who I was riding with I would say that I didn’t do too bad. Maybe some day I can get up to that level or at least a little closer. I can not thank Jeff and Jason enough for everything. This was the best trip I have been on in years. Florida is not bad, but not even close to how much fun this one was. I think my face hurt from laughing so much.

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