Riley Trails Mountain Biking

 

Sunday Paige & I went for a mountain bike ride. Paige was really tentative on her new bike earlier this summer, but ever since our trip up to the U.P. where she biked around with some new found friends at the campground, she has gained a ton of confidence.

Riley Trails was the first trail I mountain biked on in Michigan when I started riding. It’s really flat and the trails are wide which actually makes it a fantastic place to bring youngsters who are just learning to ride. There are plenty of roots and trees, however, to make it exciting and challenging to a kid. The trails are more like a spider web than a loop which was also perfect as I was always able to stay relatively close to the car to head back before it was no longer fun for her. As soon as she started asking when we would be done, I could promise her that it was only a few more minutes away.

The landscape at Riley Trails has changed considerably over the last 6 months as the DNR has unfortunately had to enlist loggers to take out diseased and threatened trees. The property has gone through many stages over its life; first logged by early settlers for housing and trade; replanted with pine trees for future harvesting; a portion of the property was used as a dump; and a smaller chunk on the South side at one point was utilized as a gun club (the hunting type). The most recent logging has left some significant damage to the trails due to the heavy equipment trekking throughout the property. Fortunately, those areas are now starting to smooth out with traffic.

None of the serious mountain bikers that I ride with make it a point to end up at Riley Trails, but for us ‘Northsiders’ in Holland, Riley Trails is a fantastic place to just let loose in the woods and introduce the next generation to trail riding.

West Michigan Mountain Biking / Accelerate Labs Update

I’ve been busy building out Accelerate Labs social media with articles and content, riding my mountain bike and posting the proof on my YouTube Channel. I’m working hard to present you with my full effort, but for now, here’s some teaser content from my YouTube Channel. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Fort Custer Stampede 2013

Perfect weather. That about sums it up. My brother-in-law Evan met me at my house just before 7a.m. on Sunday morning so we could make the trek down to Augusta, MI for the 2013 Fort Custer Stampede mountain bike race. The Elite/Expert waves started at 10 so I wanted to be there by about 8:50-9:00am to grab my race packet and warm up without being hurried. It ended up only taking us an hour and a half, including a pit stop just before town.

Augusta Michigan is an 885 person village about halfway between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek (though a smidge north of both)  that is home to the Fort Custer Military Base, and the Fort Custer Recreational Area.  The original village of Augusta established in 1832 sat where the military base now resides, but was razed for the base and relocated to its current location. One of the notable establishments Even & I observed was a bike shop 200 yards away from the entrance to the recreational area. Well played.

I packed clothing for a cool morning, but ended up not needing anything but my shorts and short-sleeve jersey for my warm-up. I could tell already that race weather was going to be ideal. The sun was not hindered by even a single cloud. The day’s temps would top out in the mid 70’s making the later races a bit warm for mid spring and I could tell several of the riders were not hydrating well enough to compensate. It was a fine temperature to grill some burgers and watch the rest of the race, though.

Instead of talking you through every turn of my race, I’ll show you:

The Cross Country Cycle team again performed very well with podium and 4th/5th place finishes (5th and above are recognized and given pint glasses) throughout the race categories. I ended up in 8th which I wasn’t disappointed in until I started watching the video again and realized that there are some areas where I can improve my race strategies and tactics. I’m still learning, I’m o.k. J

My next race is down in Warsaw, IN at the Fat & Skinny Tire Fest which should be a ton of fun. Until then, more training and riding. Outdoor riding, that is. Man alive; am I happy for Spring!

West Michigan Mountain Biking – Cannonsburg Ski Area

The Cannonsburg Ski Area is the second leg in our normal Wednesday Night Ride loop. As you might deduct from the name, the primary function of the privately operated property is a downhill ski resort. The trail has historically been closed during the ski season, however, with the recent introduction and radical growth in popularity of fat tire bikes, the trail was open to biking for the first time this past winter. Up until 2 years ago, the only access point to the trail head was through the lodge parking lot, but because of the considerable amount of traffic originating from the Cannonsburg State Game Area I wrote about the other day, an access trail was put in off Egypt Valley Road, which allows riders to avoid the very busy and fast moving Cannonsburg Road.

The trail is about 6 miles long and would be characterized (by me) as a fairly technical course with good elevation gain for West Michigan. We simply don’t have the elevation changes that other areas of the state have, but this trail has you climbing about 750 feet per lap, or 97 feet per trail mile. Considering the ski area boasts 250 feet of elevation, that’s climbing the ski hill 3 times per lap.

The trail has been host to the annual Meijer State Games of Michigan mountain bike race in June, the 2013 Farmer’s Fat Tire race, Kiss Cross Cyclo Cross, 8 hours of Cannonsburg, the inaugural Battle at the Burg, and I believe a late summer weekly Thursday night race series.  The trail is well loved, but for all that traffic, the single track has remained tight. The other day I mentioned my brother & I were able to get out and ride. Here’s the video from that ride:

 

 

West Michigan Mountain Bike Trails – Cannonsburg State Game Area

Cannonsburg State Game Area

 

One of the very first mountain bike trails I experienced once I purchased my own mountain bike was Cannonsburg State Game Area in Grand Rapids, MI. Many also refer to the trail as CSGA or Egypt Valley, which I’m not sure if that name originated because of the nearby Egypt Valley Golf Course or the nearest cross roads, Egypt Valley Road. Either way, it’s 7.5 miles of some fun, fast flowing single track that’s not too challenging, but not too easy, either. The CSGA crosses 3 gravel roads (one might actually be considered a well used 2 track). The re-entry points are very well marked, but the trail gets enough traffic during the week that all you’d need to do is follow the bike tracks.

As is typical with many of the mountain bike trails in West Michigan, the trails are open for cross country skiing in the winter and jogging/hiking all year round. That being said, you don’t see too many joggers during the summer, and those you do greet you with smiles as they run opposite of the riders. There is also a period of time in the fall that the trails are closed for hunting on the approximately 1347 acre game area.

During the summer months, the Wednesday night ride group that I ride with often start from this trail head as the Cannonsburg Ski Area trail, Luton Park trail, and now Merrell Trail are all within biking distance (though Merrell is ‘borderline’, especially if you’re not riding Luton Park in between). From this trail head we will often start a ride we affectionately call the ‘trifecta’ which requires about a 1.5 mile ride into the trail, popping out onto 5 Mile Road which takes you over to the Cannonsburg Ski Area for a lap, then heading up to Luton Park for a complete lap (there are multiple loops that can be completed in series to make up one contiguous loop), and then back down to CSGA where we popped out and continue on completing the rest of the loop. It’s about 40 miles in all.

This past Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to get out for a ride after work with my brother. Because of all of the rain we’ve received over the last few weeks there were some muddy spots that are not typical of this trail. I’m not proud of riding through the first one or two, but am happy that we decided to begin dismounting and walking around the couple of other spots so as to avoid damaging the trail. It should dry out completely over the next couple of days and be perfect, again. I took a video of the entire loop for my trail library and uploaded it to YouTube. Enjoy:

Planning for Another 100

This 100th post was much harder to write than I originally thought. I wanted to get it just right. This is why it has taken this long to complete.

About a month ago, I was sitting on the trainer thinking to myself (as I often do) about how my training regimen would translate into race performance. I had been working particularly hard compared to years past and was hopeful that the strategy would pay off. After my ride I hopped on the scale, as I do about once a week, and discouragingly reviewed my equivalent of the magic eight ball’s response. 240. ERRGGGHH! If only I had the discipline to manage my food intake I’d be able to drop weight with the amount of riding I was doing.

And then, as if I were the Wiley Coyotte screeching to a halt over the middle of a gulley, I stopped and said “Wait. What?!” “If only I had the DISCIPLINE!?” That was humbling. I realized right then and there that something owned me. It explained the shame after eating my box of Triscuits and half block of sharp cheddar cheese. But it wasn’t a comfortable realization.

Discipline, I realized, was more than convincing myself at every test not to give in to an option counter to my goal. Discipline wasn’t trying to push myself into the positive action castle, but that I was defending the castle from an intruder. It’s my house. But…seconds tick, minutes slip away, hours pass, days go by and the disappointment of that realization fades. I concede small battle areas. “Avery won’t eat an entire ¼ pounder; I’ll just add that little bit to my burger.” Before you can blink, I’m numb to the frustration I initially felt.

But this is more than just about food. And at the same time it’s not really about anything important at all, either. It’s just the minor battles I encounter while trying to accomplish my competitive goals. They’re not life or death issues so I need to keep that in perspective. But it did point out that there’s more that I can do in my training.

This past Sunday was the Yankee Springs Time Trial; the first true mountain bike race of my season. I took the entire week off two weeks ago, the week I was supposed to really hit it pretty good before a taper week last week. But I just needed the mental reset. I did fine on Sunday. Not as well as I maybe could have if I hadn’t skipped that week, but just fine.

I’m hoping that these are fairly common struggles of weekend warrior athletes. This week is a good hard week and then next week is another taper week leading up to the Fort Custer Stampede. I’m looking forward to the physical and mental challenges of this season. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time training physically over the winter. I’m planning on a few ‘mental taper’ weeks to help out with the mental strengthening . I’m planning them now so that I can hopefully avoid taking them out of necessity in inopportune times. My new plan is to research and add some mental, sport specific, training. I’m thinking this could lead to some new and different posts over my next 100.

Michigan Mountain Biking Race Season!!!!!

This weekend has been wild for me as I think through my final preparation for my first race of 2013 next Saturday. While it sure doesn’t feel like race season outside, I’m getting a firm boost of excitement with the Absa Cape Epic kicking off this morning and next week’s Barry-Roubaix (technically a cyclocross race, but mountain bikers are welcome). I celebrated with hot lap to Dunton Park with my daughter (7.1 mph average) for some playground fun in the warm sun. I wasn’t planning on riding hard today, but she kept pushing me to go faster 🙂

Epic Ride

 

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a pre-ride in of the new Barry-Roubaix course this year. It travels about 95% of the same roads as last year, but the race start/finish has been moved to Hastings, MI rather than the Yankee Springs State Game Area campground. It actually changes the course quite dramatically because Hastings is essentially on the opposite side of the race loop from the historical start/finish. The major concern this year has been course conditions as the killer gravel road race utilizes several seasonal roads that either don’t get plowed, don’t get plowed often, and/or are in the shade limiting the sun’s ability to melt snow off the road. I’ve been scavenging and devouring up every pre-ride report I can find. If you, too, are looking for some idea of what you’re in for, here’s a link to a Flicker page from today, and here’s some YouTube footage (6 part series) from last weekend.

The long range forecast for next Saturday is currently sunny with a high in the low 40’s and a low of 30. Considering we’ll be starting at or shortly after 10a.m., I’m guessing its going to be on the lower end of that range. However, with the sun and warming temperatures, it could cause whatever snow is on the road to soften and create some major road suck as well as make them squirrelly. Top that off with snow forecasted for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week, and this has all the makings for one painful race for the record books. Someone I was talking to said this could be one of those races that everyone talks about for decades and those who participated will be able to boast “I rode THAT year”.

As far as the Absa Cape Epic goes, today marks the beginning of the 7 day event with the prologue. There are a few teams riding in honor of Burry Stander, the South African professional mountain biker who had won the last couple of Absa Cape Epic’s but was tragically killed by a taxi this winter while training. His teammate, Christoph Sauser, is partnering with last year’s Olympic Gold Medalist, Jaroslav Kulhavy for this year’s event under the team name Burry Stander SONGO. They proceeded to hammer the field this morning, opening a gap of 1:06 in just 55 minutes. As a comparison, Burry and Christoph took the prologue by just 13 seconds last year, but went on to win by 27 minutes. I have to believe that there were some emotions driving today’s action as Kulhavy pulled Sauser from line to line. Here’s an intro to the Cape Epic and this year’s race course.

Although MY first true mountain bike race won’t happen until the Yankee Springs Time Trial in late April, I’m beginning to ramp up the adrenaline and excitement.