Dead. Tired.

Dead as in bike light and shuffle tonight during my ride. Tired as in my legs after this weekend’s race (Barry-Roubaix) and tonight’s training.

The Race

One of the things I hoped to accomplish when I rejuvenated my blogging hobby was to write and share stories about bike racing and outdoor activities in general. I don’t think these activities, even as widely attended as they are, get enough press coverage in the local and general media. Well, I don’t think I could do a better job than kolo t.c.’s coverage, so I’m just going to link it here: Course Preview; Rick Plite Interview; Pre-Race Weather Update; Race Recap & Results; and Lessons from Barry-Roubaix.

My race went as well as I could have hoped for. I had no real idea where I’d end up considering a 2:37 pre-race ride two weeks before and a ton of rain Friday night. My hope was that the team would still be gunning for a 2 hour finish and accomplish its mission. Right out of the gate, though, I got separated from the four other Cross Country Cycle team members that started in wave 3 probably partially due to me being too polite and partially due to the mad nature of starting 350 riders at once (segmented by age, not ability, mind you). This resulted in me making a risky move about a mile into the race by gunning out into the opposing traffic side of the paved road, burning a bit of energy by passing a bunch of riders, and catching back up to my teammates. I think in the end this was a risk that paid off. I ran into relatively manageable traffic climbing the first two-track climb and settled in for the rest of the long, hilly ride.

Once I was past this first climb, I reacquainted myself with the riders around me. I found two of my teammates within about 20 feet of me (in front and behind), but couldn’t find the other two. They must have dropped us on the hill. We were all on 29ers, so I knew we could all ride together if we found each other, which sounded good to me so I picked up the pace to chase.

This was only my second Barry-Roubaix with the first being last year. I was not attempting to be real competitive and didn’t really think about ‘working together’ last year with anyone, so this year I was really looking forward to planning and executing on some drafting strategies. What I found throughout the race was that on several occasions I’d look behind me and find about 10 riders latched on to my wheel but when I’d roll out to let the train by and recover on the rear, the train would fall apart, everyone looking around aimlessly like they were just caught stealing. Fortunately both of my teammates with me were more willing to let me drag on their wheel for some rests. I think we all worked together pretty well, but then again, I’m new to team tactics and strategy so I don’t know if we executed well or not. I was appreciative of the time spent behind Todd and Mark’s wheel and I can only hope they had the opportunity to ride mine as well.

About 14-15 miles into the race, I looked over at Mark and said “man, Jarett and Kevin got a good jump on us, I was hoping we’d catch back up to them” to which Mark responded something like “they’re behind us”. What?! So instead of me chasing them, I was working extra hard to pull away from them. Derrrr. I’m going to need to pay attention better.

Anyway, we ended up riding together until about the last 6 miles where Todd and I pulled away on the last two-track climb. I got stopped by a cycle cross rider that had to dismount because of the sand. I was following too closely to navigate around him so I was off the bike as well. Good thing I’ve been running a little bit here and there. After remounting my trusty steed once the ground firmed up enough, I began chasing Todd down again to ride in to the finish line. I latched on to three cycle cross riders once we were back on the paved road and together we caught up with Todd, but he had been working alone for too long and didn’t have anything left in the tank to latch on to us. I ended up following those riders in to the finish line at 1:56:39, good for 17th in my age group (35-39) with Todd and Mark both coming in under 2 hours as well. Kevin and Jarett weren’t too far behind us after all and came in at 2:02 and some change.

So; Tonight.

Not wanting to get too hung up in recovering from this weekend’s race, I decided to revamp my training route a bit and introduce some recently found training tips. Now, I’ll tell you that eating a big ol’ burrito (rice instead of beans) for lunch and pepperoni pizza for dinner is not exactly what one might describe as ‘training food’. It may not be the worst, but the grease from the pizza alone, well, it’s just not conducive to high energy output for my body.

I left at about 9:15, which is a bit later than I wanted, but I had a bunch of other things going with the kids and wife tonight so getting to my route planning was delayed a bit and pushed my start back. Knowing that I have the Yankee Springs Time Trial coming up in a few weeks, I wanted to get in some more hill climbing and recovery training to mimic the demands of mountain biking on one of the area’s hillier trails.

After finding an article from a Facebook Friend with some training exercises, I decided to incorporate 3 of them into my ride tonight…never mind the fact that they were all meant to be done independently on separate nights. By the time I got through the first two exercises and 55 minutes into my ride, I was ready to bag it. After convincing myself that I at least needed to attempt the third exercise, the first, and brighter, and newer, of my two lights I use for biking turned off due to a dead battery. No big deal, I had another capable light attached to my helmet (on already). Then my iPod shuffle died on me. Again, not a big deal, it was just rather humorous, if not a bit appropriate, that all my equipment was running out of juice. So was I.

I did half of the third exercise (it’s really just a bunch of intervals) and booked it home before I lost my helmet light. All in, I had another 27 mile training ride and an 1:36 in the saddle for a Monday night. Not bad. Oh, and I love where I live. The stars and moon were out tonight when I started which were glistening off Lake Michigan as I rode up Lakeshore. It was such a peaceful night, it reminded me why I like to be outside, even when I’m dead tired.


Packing It All In

So I talked my brother-in-law Evan to ride with me right after church this morning because there was a threat of rain coming up out of the South. For as much work as we have put into training for the Barry-Roubaix next Saturday, it’s our wives who are the real hero’s for letting us out of the house to go have fun on our bikes (yes, even grueling base training is fun) while they care for our young kids. Biking truly is a team sport.

Knowing that today was going to be the last day of hard training before we tapered leading up to Saturday’s race, we really pushed it. Here’s the map of my loop:   Evan’s is slightly different because we both bike to essentially the Ottawa Beach overflow campground as a warm up and then start the pain from there. I took 8 minutes off the route even after adding a 10th of a mile from earlier this week. That also included a full 15 minute recovery from minutes 51-66. Then we blasted our legs for 4.5 miles into the wind by absolutely tearing as fast as we could, taking turns pulling until the last ½ mile of that section where we both took the wind head-on at 23-25 mph.

When I got home my mother-in-law was picking up the girls for a nature walk at Hemlock Crossings and Courtney was packing up to head to the mall for a couple of hours which meant I was going to be able to rest my weary legs for a while. The last thing I had on my mind for the afternoon was hopping back on a bike and heading to Captain Sundae for ice cream with the family. However, sure enough, at 4pm after the girls had all returned back from their adventures, that bell was rung and I mounted up the Burley to my road bike and we departed on the 2 mile trek to the ice cream wonderland. It’s one of the few times that I’ve been thankful that our oldest is still on her beginner bike that has the gearing of a come-along. She can spin her little heart out and not break 5mph (I don’t actually run my speedometer when we ride together, so I don’t have any idea how slow we go, but it’s slow).

What was meant to be a nice leisurely ride to the ice cream shop nearly ended up being a scary catastrophe when a car (with what appeared to be a late-teen, early 20 something driver) blew through a red light at the intersection we were crossing near our house (the only major street crossing and the intersection I chose because it has a traffic light). There was confusion about who I was yelling at to stop (I typically have a fairly keen sense for my surroundings and had recognized the speeding car 100 yards before the intersection as going too fast to be slowing for the light), which ended up saving Paige from being in front of this car. I’m not even really sure who I was talking to. The speed limit on this road is 45 and he had to have still been going 30 after hitting the brakes late when he realized he was blowing a red light. Needless to say our nerves were a bit on edge by the time we got around that intersection.

Our ice cream was delicious as we expected and the return trip non-eventful, thankfully. I threw some chicken legs on the grill from our new found favorite local chicken farmer and had a tasty bbq chicken dinner (that included some moments itself), and finished the day off for the girls with a quick game of Cranium Junior before packing them into bed.

Every ounce of this day was enjoyed and, though my legs are tired, I feel refreshed. If this is what summer is going to be like this year, I’m going to enjoy it.

Spring Forward

So, yeah, you can tell it’s much warmer out now; I’ve been spending more time riding and less time writing. Last week was wild. I started with a snow ride on Sunday, rode in a short sleeve shirt on Wednesday, and was back in my full winter garb on Saturday morning. I’m just under 2 weeks out from my first 2012 race, The Barry-Roubaix, and I’ve been in full training mode over the last few weeks preparing. I’ll push hard this week, and then have fun and taper a bit next week before the 24th.

Saturday morning I pre-rode the course with a group of friends which was good to get a feel for what 3,400 feet of climbing over 36 miles feels like again. I raced it last year, but there were a couple of slight changes this year and I really forget a lot after a year (some things your brain just chooses to block out). It was also good to think through strategy of where to push and where to recover. I have no delusions of winning the race, but I want to really push myself and destroy my time from last year (and win the race).

Here’s the Garmin for the race as provided by the folks at The Killer Gravel Road Race/Barry-Roubaix: Map/Elevation

My training this week includes a ‘recovery ride’ yesterday, rest today, 2 ½ hour ride tomorrow with by brother-in-law, Evan, whatever I can fit in on Wednesday (maybe a run), hill repeats with my brother on Thursday if it’s not raining, Friday off,  and another whatever-I-can-fit-in on Saturday. I’m making a choice not to join the Wednesday night trail night with the boys for until after the Barry-Roubaix for simple life balance reasons. I can’t wait until that starts back up again, though.

It looks like the weather is supposed to stay in the 40’s-60’s and only rain will put a damper on my plans through next week Saturday, or so I think 🙂

Adventure Ride

Today was a much needed outdoor fun ride that didn’t involve humpin’ it alongside a 45 MPH road in the dark dodging cars. Ok, my training rides aren’t that dangerous/exciting, but you get what I mean. I need to get the 2 hour base miles in and I do enjoy riding even if its training, but I ride those training miles so that I can enjoy days like today.

My brother-in-law met me at my house at 1:30 so we could cruise down to Hamilton to meet up with a group coordinated by Velo City Cycles out of Holland for what they so eloquently call the ‘Crazy Bastard West Ride’. There were 15 of us today including 3 single speeders (8 mountain bikers total), 6 Fat Tire Bikers, and one courageous cycle cross rider. This was the first time I participated on this ride so I had no idea what to expect. I’ll be honest, rolling into the parking lot and seeing the cycle cross bike first thing made me seriously second guess my choice to bring my single speed over my new ride. As soon as we set off, I reacquired my confidence that the pace would be within my range, though.

Today was not a day for races or keeping your heart rate in a certain range. It was an adventure ride. I’ve learned over the few years that I’ve been biking that there are several different styles of rides. You’ve got your training rides, which are what they are, but are riding all the same. Then there are mountain bike trail rides where you’re riding established MTB specific trails. And finally there are adventure rides. Rides that you can go on for hours on end, just turning here and there to find where that path takes you. Though our route today may have been well known to some, chatter along the way revolved around what happens when we go this way or that way and where that takes you and how next week we can go there. I love these rides.

The Allegan State Game Area (ASGA) is a 50,000 acre public parcel (or parcels) of property acquired over the years with the proceeds of hunting license revenues and other state funds. The ASGA is riddled with old impassible two-track roads, utilized two-track roads, gravel roads, and even some abandoned railroad beds. We got a taste of it all, including some areas that were so wet and mucky that even the Fat Tire Bikers had to dismount and hike. And that cycle cross rider? He was a champ and made it through pretty much everything that the mountain bikers did.

There are currently no mountain bike trails in the northern section of the ASGA so we stuck to mapped roads. This still allows for some rough terrain as much of the two-track is not well maintained and used for mud bogging by the locals, and other sections of two-track have been blocked off to motorized use and have effectively become single track. The Kalamazoo River flows through the heart of the ASGA as well as several lakes and ponds that create some great scenery. I think it would be cool to find a way to open up some of this land to biking trails as a secondary use (hunting is its primary use and reservation).

The woods were beautifully covered in a fresh light layer of snow that, in most spots, quickly gave way to the earth beneath as we rode over it. Some spots had some accumulation and old hold-out snow that hadn’t melted in the last few weeks. These were the more challenging areas, but still a lot of fun. Near the end of our ride the snow started falling lightly again in large flakes. I pulled back into the parking lot with exactly 2 hours and 20 miles on my computer. We wrapped up with a chocolate chip peanut butter brownie that one of the guys graciously brought with him. Mmmmmm. Perfect ride.

Not Riding

When I’m not riding, writing, working, or being a dad and husband (I know, what else could a man possibly have time for) I like to look for and listen to music. I’ve always kept this a bit private except from my brother and brother-in-law as we have similar musical taste. This might not sound surprising except the stuff I enjoy finding is never anything you’d find at Best Buy or on the ‘new release’ section of iTunes. Much of it you can’t even find on iTunes, period. I listen to a lot of indie music, club DJ mixes, and electronica. I follow several music blogs that post new artist material in either remixed format or donations by the artist in their marketing efforts. The business model for music has changed dramatically towards online distribution and fan base building. I frequently visit Beatport and Soundcloud to keep up with the bleeding edge of new sounds and artists. It works well because much of the electronic music I listen to makes great riding mixes for my training/solo rides.

I pride myself in knowing about artists months and even years before they hit the mainstream as they begin to develop their presence one blog at a time. Once in a while, though, I am blind sided by something that totally passed right by me. I caught a video on VH1 this morning (I don’t even usually watch VH1) of Gotye and his hit song “Somebody That I Used to Know” and I was immediately hooked. So having some time tonight I went searching for more of his music on YouTube, Beatport, and Soundcloud. I seriously have listened to the song at least 25 times tonight in various forms. And then I found this mix on Soundcloud:

I’m bummed that I missed the download (some artists allow their mixes to be downloaded but only authorize so many). But, at least I can come back to listen any time I like. So, for a change of pace in my blog theme, I share with you a current favorite for your listening pleasure.

I’m IN!!!!! ……..I Think

Iceman Cometh registration was today. Another round of frustration. Despite their efforts to put the last two year’s registration debacles behind them, we all found out today that USA Cycling’s registration system was not capable of handling the traffic surge (check out their Facebook page for a few examples). Because the race sells out on the first day every year, web traffic on opening day is extremely high. There were a ton of stories on Facebook, MMBA forums, and twitter from frustrated mountain bikers who experienced several hour wait times, duplicate charges on their credit cards, and no confirmation of their successful registration. However, I am happy to report that I am in for the 3rd year in a row….I think. No, really; I’m in.

The Iceman Cometh Challenge is the largest mountain biking event in Michigan and one of the larger races in the U.S. With 4,500 riders plus professionals, only Ore to Shore comes close as a Michigan event. Riders come from all over the country (the highest concentration originating from the Midwest) to compete for a ton of cash prizes, swag, bragging rights, and a sense of accomplishment. At about 30 miles, the point-to-point race (Kalkaska to Traverse City, MI) is long enough to be considered a real challenge for beginner to novice riders, a long time trial for enthusiast competitors, and a sprint race to the professionals (sprint meaning short). Starting in waves of 80 on average, riders race through two track and single track and are timed via race chip.

The race has also gained its notoriety for the unpredictable weather. Because it’s held on the first Saturday in November, participants can expect nothing when they sign up, particularly because sign up is on March 1. While today’s weather (mid thirties in lower West Michigan where I’m at) may be similar to temperatures found on race day, it is also not uncommon to find a foot of snow on the ground. Last year’s race was considered ‘niceman’ with temps in the mid 40’s and bright sunshine but the year before there was a couple of inches of snow in the woods with early start temperatures in the low 20’s, warming up to the high 30’s which made for a muddy mess to the late starters.

Outside of the race itself, there’s plenty to do during Iceman weekend. Traverse City in general is a phenomenal escape destination with a fun downtown, beautiful scenery (its only about a 30 minute drive from Sleeping Bear Dunes – voted Most Beautiful Place in America on ABC’s Good Morning America), and plenty of winery’s and brewery’s to relax in. At the end of the race riders are welcomed by thousands of cheerleaders, warm food, and beer. Unlike other races I’ve attended, everyone hangs out for several hours as all of the waves of riders come in. At 2:00 the awards ceremonies begin for all of the race categories and at 2:30 the pro’s start from downtown Kalkaska. The pro’s arrive sometime around 4:00-4:15 followed by the pro awards ceremony which completes the race day.

Even though the event is currently sold out, there are typically plenty of opportunities during the summer to buy an entry off someone who’s plans have changed. Just visit the MMBA’s forums for entries that are for sale. I’m convinced that if you’ve ever thought about racing in a mountain bike race, you would not be disappointed by starting with this one. I did and have been hooked ever since.

Tornado Touches Down in Harrisburg

This is one of the blogs I follow. I first learned of the tornadoes through this blog and was immediately shocked. These pictures are a simple reminder of the immense and destructive power of nature.

Barn Door Cycling

This morning around 5 AM I was woke up by sirens, but It didn’t look like there was that much going on out the window so I went back to bed.  I got back up at 5:30 for my morning walk, the internet and phone were out.   I knew something was up because cars were everywhere and sirens were all around.  Still I saw no damage around the uptown area where I walk so I assumed there must have been some major storm damage South of town.  I could see that there didn’t seem to be power on that side of town. 

I was ready to leave for work when my Dad drove up to see if we were OK and he informed me of a tornado touching down near Wal-Mart, possible deaths and people trapped.  Shauna and I got on our bikes and rode around town taking pictures.  People were…

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