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 ( 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!

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