Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Early Season Killer Gravel!

Photo Credit: Julie McGraw Photography

What a month, what a week, what a race! This past Saturday was the 5th running of the Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race in Hastings, MI.  This race is growing and sure to be one of the the biggest events in the region.  Over 3,000 entrants in 2013 with about another 2,000 spectators or more… made for a GREAT day.  Rick Plite and his entire staff at “KissCross Events” have done a hell of a job promoting the snot out of this thing… and it shows!   Beer tent, organized course, wave starts, cycling/health expo, band, cool awards, swag and more!

We had a good showing from our squad (TSB) at this event. This year they offered a team event that we entered with decent success. We placed 16th out of about 40 teams for the 36mile event. - TSB- Jackie, Nathan, John, Sandy, Pat, Brad, Jim, Eric, Aaron, and Kevin.   Results Here

I drove over in the morning with John Osgood and Sandy Laufle in my truck. Met up with the TSB gang along the TEAM ROW and set up shop!  The temps were right at about 25 degrees and the sun wasn’t shining… so, that meant we had to dress for a cold ride. A quick little warm up and to the starting corral’s we went.

The course was in decent shape. Fast rolling frozen dirt roads with some areas of ice, but covered enough with sand to keep your traction. The thing hard to dodge was the vehicle ruts that had frozen solid. They were blind if you tried to tuck into a pace line. I personally raced at about 75% with a nagging injury I’ve been nursing the last few weeks (torn-abs). So, racing was the farthest thing on my mind while pedaling around the back roads in Barry County.  My fitness going into the event is rated at about a 6 out of 10 for me right now. I’m happy with that and I’m looking forward to tackling my “A” events later this summer.

I rolled across the finish line at 2:09 and ended up 63rd out of 144 entrants in my A.G.  … not bad at all knowing I did not pull the ol’ grunt trigger on a lot of the rolling hills.

I’m already looking forward to next years event. Congrats to all that competed!  

Next stop – Pontiac Lake Mtb XC Race!
See ya on the dirt,
- TP

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"No Regrets"

The Superbowl of XC Mtbing has come and gone. This event is always a good time. 1,000’s of people gather to celebrate a fun, fast, 30 mile journey through Northern Michigan’s woods. Steve Brown, Ice Man Promotions, the staff, and 100’s of volunteers along with GREAT sponsors have done a stellar job once again. I don’t believe Ice Mania will slow down in the future either – Look out! The entire weekend is an awesome gathering of mtbing in Michigan and beyond.

This was my eight year racing. The first 2 years I raced A.G. Sport Classes, the next 4 years I raced A.G. Expert Classes and the past couple of years I tightened up the belt and pedaled with the Pro / Cat 1 speed demons (well at least the first few miles). I had some personal goals of racing and glad I chose to race this category.

For many this event becomes a challenge of just crossing the finish line. The crowds are 8-10 deep for the last ½ mile or so of the course and the cheers, the emotions, and the grit are powerful enough to move anyone. Others want to capture that top spot and climb on the podium. But, for most it’s about racing the clock and bettering themselves against previous times they have set or heckling their pack of buddies with a faster time - all in good fun. I have always chosen the later. I have never gone into this event with the mindset of racing to step up on the podium and offer a triumphant fist pump and raise one of those cool ice sculpture trophies.

Renee and I left early Friday AM after we dropped our daughters off at school and made sure Grandma had all she needed to take care of them for the weekend. This trip over the past years has been a good get-a-way for us as well. We stop along the way do some shopping, eat some good food and embrace our relationship with smiles and MTB’s. Renee likes all of the above, except for the MTB’s ;)

We arrived in Traverse City about 2:30pm and went right to the Grand Traverse Resort. The Expo is a great way for many vendors to showcase new and upcoming product, sell a few remaining stocked items, and just interact with the people who all share the same passion. As soon as we walked in I got the ol’ nervous bug in my stomach… I love that feeling!  We made our way around a few booths, said hello to many familiar faces, got my race packet, and Renee bought me a nice Fall/Winter Ice Man pullover. “All these years and you never even bought a souvenir t-shirt she said… so here Happy Birthday I guess.”

Later that night we had plans to get caught up with the gang (Team Sandbag) for our annual Team dinner. The past few years we have met at North Peak Brewery and it seemed to be the hot spot to hang for the night. Cold beers flowed nice and big time bull shit stories started to come out about the race in the morning. It was an early night for us and back to the hotel to rest.

I woke up early Saturday to whistling wind and snow flying outside. The temps were stuck at about 30 degrees or so and were only suppose to reach a high of 39 later that afternoon. The snow had settled on the grass just enough to give it a white tint of color. The cold sleet and rain is what I was worried about. It did not let up all morning and I knew the trail was going to be a mess at 2:30pm (start time) after 4,500+ riders already ventured through the woods.

We went to breakfast at the local Omelet Shop restaurant enjoyed a warm coffee and another great meal together. We made our plans for the day of the regular Ice Man logistics; including drop off, pick up, parking, gear bags, bike gear, beer, and so on.

Early afternoon we headed to downtown Kalkaska, MI. This is where the starting line is. Per usual I was early… I hate to be rushed especially when the competitive butterflies are already buzzing around. We parked the Jeep and I started to fumble with my gear and MTB a bit. I gave a few Dude nods to those that passed. It didn’t take long for the parking area to fill up. The industry rigs starting pulling in the parking lot. I noticed license plates from across the Country and beyond. Yes, even a few Olympians, National Champions, World Cup Racers and more. Kind of cool to see their pro prep routine prior to a race like this… between you and me they do the same thing we do. Scope the parking lot to see who’s there to battle today, adjust their bikes, piss seven times, shit twice, get dressed in their lycra pajama’s and high five their pals.

The top seeded “Rider Call-Ups” started and I just finished my short warm-up. Off to the back of the pack for me. I lined up, took a quick look around and just smiled. I was a skinny old guy from a small town about to pedal with the World’s Greatest XC MTB Athletes in a grueling 30mile off-road race. I saw Renee standing along the startling line fence she smiled and wished me well. The gun went off and down the road we boogied.

I did the same Pro / Cat 1 start last year so I knew the pace was going to be wicked fast from the get-go. I looked down at my Garmin and was going about 30mph and I was barely pedaling. The draft pulled me to the trail. I rode the first few miles in the back of the pack and it took all I had just to do that. I have a HUGE amount of respect for those athletes who can push themselves at that mad pace for hours on end…AWESOME. 

I settled in a small group of about 6 or so. I’m pretty sure we all knew we were there just to help each other and get in the fastest race time we could muster that day. I teamed up with a guy from Chicago riding a Fat Bike, another XC racer from Janesville, WI and a guy from Grand Rapids, MI. I knew where they were from by looking at their kits. The Janesville racer was a good single track rider. He dropped a chain, the Fat Bike guy just got dropped leaving myself and the guy from Grand Rapids. I knew his team - Free Wheeler Bike Shop, but did not recognize him. We made small race conversation and took turns pulling. We were making decent time and both appeared to be in about the same physical shape. 

A mile prior to Williamsburg Rd (17miles in) he said he lost his water bottle. I had already finished one and gave him a swig of my full bottle, then gave him one of my empties and told him to fill it quickly at the top of Williamsburg Rd. The remaining 12-13 miles are the hardest in my opinion. They consist of rolling two-track hills, Anita’s Hill, The Ice Breaker Hill and the finish line single track. We rolled upon all this very quickly. I found myself just in front of the Freewheeler Racer and a few others climbing up Ice Breaker Hill. I knew going into the climb all my TSB pals had set up a hot spot – to hang out and cheer on the last racers of the day. I figured by now most of them had 5 maybe 8 beers each… it was about to get ugly when they knew it was me climbing. They did not disappoint me or the others around at all. They sprayed beer, laughed, heckled, pushed, and cheered for the entire climb. They are some of the best pals a person could ask for!  After wiping the beer from my face I made a hard push to get into the last single track before the few riders behind me approached. I knew it was going to be a muddy mess with no set ride lines. I usually excel at this type of riding and found myself through it pretty easy and to the open two-track I went. With about a ½ mile to go I pedaled has hard as I could and was relieved to see the large FINISH line banner.

I came across the line in 2:07. Not my fastest time at this event, but a decent time given the course conditions and my physical condition or lack of ;) Many people stated an average 10+ minutes or so slower than last years course. I was happy and felt great. I looked through the crowd and Renee was waiting for me with the biggest smile. We spoke earlier that day and I remember telling her I was not going to have any regrets. I’m confident I left it all on the trail for the day. My results… oh, I finished at the bottom of the barrel placing 88th in the Pro / Cat 1 division and 444th out of 3,881 Male Finishers. Thank you Team Sandbag and all the Team sponsors, Macomb Bike & Fitness, and my wife Renee along with my family for all the support in 2012!

I’ll be back to Celebrate MTBing and give the ol’ 30 mile challenge a whirl in 2013, that you can bet your ass on. – No Regrets!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

50 Good Ones On The Dirt!

Well, well, well… where to begin! The Ol’ Ruby Trail Project lived up to its reputation this past Sunday. It’s a tough technical loop that has no mercy on any rider of any level. 50 grueling miles of this teasing will take its toll and that it did!

I know I’ve been a bad race reporter and even a worse blogger in 2012. I have had a busy summer full of fun, bbq’s, beer, family, sunshine and more. I even got to race the single track trails of Michigan a bit here and there. I did a few Xterra Off-road Tri’s early in the season with decent success, ran the Great Lakes Relay, meet up with some really cool people and now that leads us up to late August!

Okay, Back to the 50 miler…Going into the weekend my fitness level has been decent and a bit above where it has been the past 3-4 years. Thanks to Jackie Mall of (www.finishintime.com). She helped me in the off season and added some great workouts this Spring/Summer to improve on many of my weak areas.

With a few early announcements from the event organizer Brent Walk of Fun Promotions I found myself at the starting line ready to rock. This race was Stop # 6 of an 8 event series - The Michigan Cup Endurance Series. I didn’t have a single nerve of anxiety or even a slight butterfly at the start. This is really uncommon with me as I usually feel some sort of competition bug stirring. I think it wasn’t there because I had no real expectation of my overall performance or expected finish. I knew I was going to go hard and try to hang on… that was the plan at least. The gun when off and right to the front I jumped for about 1.5 miles. There was a group of 7-9 riders that got broke into 2 groups quickly by mile 4. Rolling into the Single Track I knew I could make up some time. Many of the guys out front were racing blind on the trail. I had a huge advantage here as this is my own turf and where I ride all most every week. I wanted to regain the lead and come through the first lap out front but couldn’t hang on. A group of 4-6 riders took off and I didn’t see them again until we hit the open gravel roads.

Scott Vermullen a team mate of mine raced side by side with me for the first 30+ miles. We had a strategy to try to work on the gravel with short 30 sec. pulls and it worked great. A big thanks to him for keeping me grounded and staying relaxed. A few other team mates I could see on parts of the Single Track in the woods. Alex Gonzales was a few minutes out front and Kevin “Coach” Kahl and Brad Dunkin were knocking on the door… QUICKLY! I wanted all them to have stellar races and keep shouting remarks of support when I could here and there in the woods.

Mile after mile challenged every rider on the course. The gravel/rail trail part VS. the single track was like two totally different races. Coming down a steep campground road 33+mph and turning into single track with average speeds of 10-12mph is a weird sensation on the bike. Closer to the start of the 4th lap I began to take on some serious cramps and my lack of longer weekend rides started to show. I was dropping seconds quickly and my power went out the door. There was a pack of SS’ers including Wayne Cook and Jacob Marshall pushing a good clip and they caught me half way on the 4th loop with about a mile or so to go on the gravel portion. In this pack was my teammate Brad Dunkin who allowed me to grab a wheel and they pulled me back to the woods. I made it there and took off again with the fast paced SS’ers Wayne and Jacob. We jockeyed back and forth in certain areas of the trail and they eventually pulled away leaving me by myself. I knew I was sitting about the 3rd or 4th geared spot back and needed to try to make up as much time as I could in the woods because the gravel roads were killing me. 

When I came out of the woods and hit the gravel on top of the steep campground road I remember making a mental note: “okay, only 5miles of gravel then 5miles of single track” and I was going to cross the finish line. I remained constant and kept a steady pedal cadence and no one else was able to catch my tire and I rode the entire 10 miles solo. I came across the finish line gassed. Again, I thought I was sitting good, but did not realize I was # 1 in my A.G. and 4th geared to finish. The overall winner, Andy Brown raced a solid event in 3:36 and I came home at 3:45. All in all a great event and I’m sure this will grow as the years pass. The venue is perfect for this kind of endurance event. Congrats to all that raced and a big congrats to my teammates of Team Sandbag; Scott V., Brad D., Paul S., Kevin K., Pat T. and Alex G. for racing. Also, thank you to Marc Z., Luke D., John O., Rich O., Drew L. and all the others who came out to cheer and help drink all that beer!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Canada's Spring Cycling Classic!

The alarm was set, but I didn’t need it. Woke up about 4:10am already racing in my head and my wheels were turning. Got on my wrinkly khaki pants I had on from the night before and loaded my bike and gear in my truck. I was traveling with 3 other team mates and we had to cram gear for all unknown weather, nutrition, bikes, helmets, and more. Crazy and kinda silly the amount of things we take to a race… anyways a few stops and we were off to cross the Blue Water Bridge into Ontario, Canada for a quick 2hr 30min drive to the start of the 19th Annual Paris to Ancaster Race. Paris Ancaster Web

I had only seen some pictures and watched a few videos on the terrain so I was going blind into the race. I’ve done this with other races in the past and I wasn’t nervous of the unknown at all. This was a “C-race” for me and I wanted to just take it all in. The atmosphere of this event is like no other. The rain started about an hour before the gun went off and Mother Nature let her spring wrath of cold pouring rain come out today. I think she wanted everyone to know she was alive and doing well!

I started farther back in Wave 1 and stayed there for about the first 10-12 miles into the race loop. The pace was fast and furious and the course is interesting to say the least. Gravel Roads, Paved Roads, Single Track, Rail Trail, Double Track, Farmers Fields, Ditches, Hills, Run Ups, Pastures, Private Driveways and Front Yards! The Police, Volunteers and Community really come out for this event. They stood at every turn in the rain and cheered everyone on… thank you!

photo credit: Shaun Welch

After about mile 20-21ish, I started to feel the legs get a little squishy. The sticky deep mud zapped the energy at an alarming rate making the hills to follow tough for me to climb. I noticed my average pace dropped 2-3 miles per hour on the flats and I had to chew on the grit in my mouth to maintain. Up until this I was with a solid group of riders at about the same fitness level as me this early in the year. The group of 15 dropped to about 8 or so and I continued to lead this group through all the single track and they pulled on the gravel. A few miles in we dropped to about 5 guys and rode the best we could. One rider in the pack said with a gasping breath “Keep up the good work in the single track, you’re gonna kill the mud shoots”. Again not knowing the course I didn’t fully know what the mud shoots were. Well, a few miles down the road I found out… WOWZERS. The mud shoots are some of the wildest down hills I have ever ridden and the rain and previous race traffic had taken its toll on them. It took everything I had to keep the bike upright and ride them. I saw many; many riders get on foot and trot down. I took the opportunity to ride out slow and controlled and see if I could gain a few on them on the exits. It worked to my advantage! After a few more twisty gravel turns, and some double track I found myself at the bottom of Mineral Springs Road looking up to what appeared to be a MOUNTAIN in my eyes. Considering I had just raced 37 miles and only had a half mile to go I was spent! People line the hill, music is playing and you can hear the finish line roars. I wanted to stay on the bike so bad at this point because I knew the finish was at the top. I started in a decent gear and my legs had a different plan… NO. I had to get off the bike and walk/run for about 100ft and get the knots out of my huge quads ;) People kept chanting ride, ride, ride… and back on the bike I went to dig deeper than I have in a long time and ride it out to the top. A slow 4-6mph climb and what felt like my eyes bleeding was probably a few tears of sweat and joy as I saw the finish line. I let a few last heavy cadence spins rip and called it a day.

All in all I was excited to do the event and ended up sitting 106th out of almost 400 racers in my A.G. My unofficial time was 2:35ish and change.

Very happy to have a few teammates travel with me and I congratulate them on the day. John Osgood, Pat Tomlinson and Jason Schneider…Nice work fellas! Also, a big shout out to all the Michiganders who made the voyage. Some stellar finishes to them!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Makes You Tic?

Is it that first event of the season, those early morning swims, how about those long Sunday runs in the cold snow during February?

For me it’s just the simple act of looking forward to attempting an event and doing my best. I get excited thinking about lining up next to my pals and ripping through the woods on the single track. The camaraderie, the challenge, and the finish! Oh, a cold beer and a few laughs really enhance this as well!

Over the years I have come to realize that being an active person with a goal of finishing a weekend event has been a bit of a life saver for me. I’m sure this resonates with others as well. The day to day stress of society and the pressures we put on ourselves is ridiculous. Taking all things into consideration at the end of the day, I have realized that I will never be a pro athlete, nor do I want to for that matter. Things happen in everyone’s life for a reason. I’ve been blessed with a great wife and two healthy children. My day to day career is challenging and my overall look at life… I’m a happy regular Joe, Living The Dream!

SCHEDULE - Boom, Bam, Blazin’ for Twenty Twelve:
March 24th Barry Roubaix Gravel
April 15th Paris to Ancaster
April 29th Pontiac Lake Time Trial
May 12th Community Mental Health 5k
May 20th Last Standing Xterra Tri
June 17th Brighton Torn Shirt Xterra Tri
July 7th Stony MTB Marathon
July 13-15 Great Lakes Relay Running
July 21 Versilles Indiana Xterra Tri
Aug. 5 Ruby XC
Aug. 19th Ruby 50miler
Aug 26th Stony XC
Sept. 8th Ithaca CX Race
Sept. 22nd Xterra Tri National Championships-Utah
Nov 3rd Ice Man