Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas card

Only Christmas card to have me laughing out loud in the store... come on. It is pretty funny.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Author Unknown - a clue into the workings of the mind of a avid cyclist

(Editor’s note: I have always said the only bigger liars than fishermen are cyclists…this is great indicator.)
Cyclists are the biggest sandbaggers and secret trainers around. They'll say anything to soften you up for the kill. Don't let this Cyclist-Speak Decoder happen to you. Study this handy rider's phrasebook to find out what they really mean when they say:
"I'm out of shape"......
Translation: I ride 400 miles a week and haven't missed a day since the Ford administration. I replace my 11-tooth cog more often than you wash your shorts. My body fat percentage is lower than your mortgage rate.
"I'm not into competition. I'm just riding to stay in shape"......
Translation: I will attack until you collapse in the gutter, babbling and whimpering. I will win the line sprint if I have to force you into oncoming traffic. I will crest this hill first if I have to grab your seat post, and spray energy drink in your eyes.
"I'm on my beater bike".....
Translation: I had this baby custom-made in Tuscany using titanium blessed by the Pope. I took it to a wind tunnel and it disappeared. It weighs less than a fart and costs more than a divorce.
"It's not that hilly"....
Translation: This climb lasts longer than a presidential campaign. Be careful on the steep sections or you'll fall over -- backward. You have a 39x23 low gear? Here's the name of my knee surgeon.
"You're doing great, honey"....
Translation: Yo, fattie, I'd like to get home before midnight. This is what you get for spending the winter decorating and eating chocolate. I shoulda married that cute Cat 1 racer when I had the chance.
"This is a no-drop ride" .....
Translation: I'll need an article of your clothing for the search-and-rescue dogs.
"It's not that far" .....
Translation: Bring your passport

My many thanks goes out to Pat Earing for passing this mid winter cycling encouragement along..... my wife particularly liked the "You're doing great, honey".....May your winter training be going as well as mine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Coming back with a story… BayCross Day 2

Yesterday I should have been in Hales Corners, WI racing the Wisconsin State Cyclocross Championship. A 3am stomach flu Sunday morning changed those plans. One tends to forget how tortureous a flu can be – kinda like a ‘cross race. Leaves you heavin’ or at least wanting to.

Hence, let me share about one those races this year. Eight cross races in total this fall, this one may have been the nail bitting toughest. BayCross Day 2 – coming off what felt like one of my best races ever the day previously, I was cautious as how Day 2 was going to feel & how I would respond. Maybe for some guys, racing year round through a road &/or mtb season and into cyclocross ain’t too bad. I tend to put it all out there each week in training throughout the year and by historical measures at the time ‘cross season rolls around, the bullets for the revolver can take a while to reload. Would this year be different when it came to back to back ‘cross races?

A 3 minute win the prior day, should have provided the confidence but as the old saying goes it’s all on paper. And never saw piece of paper make a difference on race day. The plan wasn’t to jump out front like the previous day, sit in the first lap, and see how everyone else was riding.

Shawn Gort took to the lead & I road a few places back. Not an easy pace by any stretch of the imagination. However once I got in a rhythm back there I felt comfortable going to the front, for the most part the early couple laps things stayed together with Shawn, Bill Custer, Nikoli Anikin & myself. Everyone within a bike length or two of each other.

It was either a great day or terrible day for making breaks. You’ll know what I mean if I ever get the video of the race posted on Youtube. A sunny day but real strong wind blowing off Lake Superior. In your face going west, at your back going east – the primary two directions for the 1+mile course.

On lap 4 or 5 of what ended up being a 12 laps race – something must have gone right for me or wrong for Nikoli. And despite holding in strong Shawn & Bill had already dropped back & were doing battle between themselves. I don’t remember going any harder but when I finally turned around I’d broken away and established a healthy 17 second gap in a single lap.

Things are looking my way at this point. I’m happy, however there’s still more than half a race to go. How can things possibly go awry? Well, I must have gotten tired or backed off because lap by lap Nikoli picked off time on me. Within four more laps he was nearly back within striking distance. Then on a short uphill section that was bobbled by lapped rider Mason Basco caused an inadvertent crash with me, and put Nikoli was back on my wheel. Ugh…

Well, in the ensuing laps a lot was going on in my head – do I attack again? How’s Nikoli sounding? Could he react? I figured it wasn’t necessarily easy for him to have reeled me in, so at the very least I decided to keep up the pace and not provide any reasonable recovery time for him. I pushed it harder in the wind swept sections to make for an equal amount of work on both of us. Nikoli, let’s say, is an advantageous racer. Give him too many benefits and you’re going to regret it later.

So the crowd at BayCross is loving this – they’ve got awesome viewing of the race course. It’s subject to some debate but a spectator can probably see 75% of the race standing in just one spot! Nikoli & I are trading the proverbial punches lap after lap.

A bad cornering job by me on the switchbacks of the course as we were coming up on Mike Weispfenning -- and Nikoli was into the lead on the 3rd to last lap. Again more decision making time, when do I take the lead again? Do I take the lead again? I won yesterday, have nothing else to prove, probably have the overall on the weekend wrapped up – Nikoli has put in a great effort, he deserves it… All this self talk going on & on & on… A lot of riders are super competitive in racing, but I’ve got a soft spot. I almost feel guilty if I start doing too well. I’d prefer to share the spotlight on others too. Probably strange, but true. Doesn’t mean I back off or quit but the thoughts are there.

For a couple sections in that lap, I thought he might be able to drop me as he appeared to be riding well and making time where it was most advantageous. However with two laps to go, I managed to stay with him & went go back to the front. I figure Nikoli is going to sit on for the remainder of the race and perhaps try & jump me near the end. I kept the pace up, driving it hard into the wind and hoping it doesn’t cash me out entirely before the bell lap. The whole time Nikoli is with me – making it worse than trying to kick a bad habit.

In the start/finish area of the final lap, Nikoli comes around me and just starts to absolutely nail it – the crowd is pumped & yelling – it’s game on!! We’re flying through with this strong tail wind. He grabbed a bike length on me through the first set of barriers and made his biggest attack of the on a long tail wind assisted section that followed. Now, not normally a section one would consider a key place to attack but talking with Nik after the race, he said it was where all race long he’d gain 2 seconds or so on me. Naturally he was riding a cross bike, & I was on the Gary Fisher Superfly MTB. I gutted it out and hung onto him however --- so the best laid plans for him didn’t pan out there. And he didn’t exactly look excited at the prospect of me still close by as we turned the corner & headed west bound back into the wind.

The pace back off only slightly but neither of us was giving an inch. The excitement was rising with each section of the last lap being completed. When we finally got to the west side of the course with the multiple switch backs (hands off by the way to Paul Belknap & crew for designing an excellent course) this was where things were probably going to happen. Nikoli is swinging each corner carefully & with precision, I’m likewise doing the same….. then we come to the last switchback. It crests across a modest “mound” allowing a rider to go high or low into the corner. For the life of me I don’t know why but Nik, probably in an attempt to cut the corner close, went low. In a split second, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. When he went low, I knew he’d swing the corner wide. So I immediately went high into the corner and took the inside track with nothing but daylight in front of me.

I heard an audible “agh” from Nikoli as I threw down an attack of my own, getting a gap. Now I only had to hope I could hold him off the final 300 yards – and 300 yards never felt so long in my life! I shot up to the rock railroad grade & onto the paved straight away – it was long enough that if he had the energy left his bike was much more capable than mine to retake the lead into the final hairpin turn. Fortunately I hit that before Nik could catch me and was able to cruise in and enjoy the final yards for the win. A far cry from the runaway race of the day before.

Exciting race, hard windy conditions, and excellent competition. Could have easily gone either way. The rest of the results can be seen at As I spoke of it in my previous posts, BayCross is a niche set of races worth checking out with something for everyone. From the person who’s never so much as tried a ‘cross race to the diehard ‘crosser.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

UPCross - Thank you!

A big thanks goes out to everyone that was a part of UPCross 2010! You put on a great series this year and I'm grateful to have been able to participate. I got to know more & more of you as the series went on and thank you for making a guy not from the U.P. feel so welcome. From the sponsors like, SISU cycles - Matt (&Angie) great conversations with you. Your knowledge of bike design & function is absolutely fascinating I could talk to you forever about it. Very cool.

To the sponsoring bike shops - thanks for getting the participants on their rides for each week -- Caleb at The Bike Shop as well as Down Wind Sports, Quick Stop Bike Shop & Lakeshore Bike.

Chris Schmidt - running an awesome website, keeping the results up & a fun running dialogue each week with the blow by blow of the races & what was upcoming. More than a few races director/organizers could benefit from taking note about building interest & marketing their events like you've done with UPCross. Along with that I definitely should mention again Matt Palomaki who took some great pictures that got posted, and worked Jesse Bell & Michelle on race footage that was made into some awesome youtube music videos.

Race directors -- thank you, thank you -- organizing volunteers, designing & taping off courses. Work that you should never feel goes under appreciated. Myself & alot of others I think I speak for in saying I'm very very grateful for your efforts.

Racers -- Oh, boy -- where can I possibly start. Whether you did the C, B or A races and I got to meet you it was really my pleasure. People riding & racing bikes is a thing of passion and to see such a great community & culture you have leaves me with a positive sort of envy. You've got a great thing going on over there -- fun but competitive and just a great mix of talent. Of the new guys I met Tim K. mixing it up week after week, Dave G. coming on strong at the end of the season, Joey Graci excellent job of hanging in their so long in the Championship round, never thought we'd get rid of you. Ryan T. too a great 3rd place showing at the Championship, not dropping early & playing it tough to the end with T&I. Evan & Mik, Chris Schmidt & Chris Lynch, Tom (& Boonen), Wes when you weren't directing a race -- that's just to name a few of the great racers I met or got to know better this year, sorry if I missed some others you know who you are. That along with the old standbys you'd hear about week in & week out.

Hope give a story of my harrowing adventures of this past weekends UPCross Championship (& that's just the drive to get there) and at long last get up some of the video coverage of races #5 & #7. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BayCross Day 1.... racing like an animal... or being chased by one?

Sorry for the delay on the recaps, life seems to get in the way. Still working on finding time to get the video up too. UPCross has a write up on the Baycross weekend as well -- (thanks for sharing your space guys!)

With the le-monds start at Day 1 of Baycross, I figured to put my bike as far out from the start line as reasonably possible. My days of sprinting around the bases & playing outfield this summer would come in handy. The plan was simple -- get to the bike first, drive it hard and see who would be coming along for the ride. Nikoli & Shawn were the logical assumptions of who would be going out strong riding cross bikes while I was on my hardtail Gary Fisher Superfly. But it could have been anybody as Big Mike Weisphenning showed us a couple years back leading us with his big splash into the infamous "mud hole". (I know someone must have a pic of that.)

My plans nearly went to crap off the start as I could not clip in for the life of me, 1,2,3,4,5 times until I finally got the pedal to clip. I quickly looked over my left shoulder & saw Big Mike coming up, so I put my head down & just went. Based on how well Nikoli had road the WORS MTB series finale the previous weekend & the unknown element of how well Shawn could be riding I'd told Kate before the race I may not be feeling 100% but today I'm going to probably go out really hard and make someone work equally hard to catch me. The plan was not to towing anyone around today if
possible and revise the game plan if I was caught.

In years past the first stretch over a 200-300 meter open field has a cross/head wind which I've used to push hard & get gaps.... this year it was a cross/tail wind and with a bunch of cross bikes hunting down my poor little MTB. Crap! Guess that meant I had to go even harder. I entered the field with 20 yard gap maybe. And just went for it. After the race, Russ Trip asked me "Just what did you have in your water bottle, are we going to need you to pee in a cup?" I told him it must have been the tainted beef I got from my buddy 'Berto. :) It was just one of those days where you have "it" -- I just hammered on that section and it even surprised me because I felt like I was just able to keep pouring it on.

Whatever gap I could muster I was working on holding or increasing. The next section of the course was a flat gravel railroad grade before entering the rough & rocky trail & the mud hole affectionately named "the Pit of Despaire". I looked over my shoulder again & saw racer after racer rolling up on the railroad grade... again thinking "crap" they're going to hammer this on those 'cross bikes. So I put in another big effort......must get to Pit of Despaire, must get to Pit of Despaire, must get to Pit of Despaire, sort of a mantra playing in my head. I slid into the corner that turned onto mud hole trail and didn't look back. With the exception of a few racers I likely had the advantage riding this section. I blasted down the rocky decline, kept a loose by reasonable grip on the handle bars and prayed I took the right line as I spray mud, dirt & water for yards in all directions. My front wheel went in well, held the line & I got through -- soaked but smiling. Downshifted a bit for the incline out the Pit and went back to full speed.

At this point I realized I'm "in". I'd committed myself to an hour effort by myself, I just prayed they'd estimate the lap count on target & I wouldn't "Bell-isized" like I was last year in our hour 22 minute marathon 'cross race. (Bell-isized is a term of getting the short end of the stick by two is the final lap bell, the other was Jesse Bell the rider that overtook me in the marathon that was last years day 1 BayCross race).

Though I'd look back occasionally, after that point I mainly just wanted to get into the flow and ride steady from that point onward. At the first lap switchbacks I guesstimated perhaps a 20 second gap. I'm thinking, wow this is a pretty good day so far -- it'll be nice if I can keep it up.

Lap 2 the gap was yet bigger & on Lap 3 I couldn't see anyone behind me on the switchbacks of the start/finish area. Sense of relief? Nope! Having the experience last year of losing a 1minute + lead and knowing Gort & Anikin both have shown strong second half race efforts in the past. I just felt the need to the keep the gas on, so if I had to I had room to spare if necessary at the end.

It was a pretty solitary race after that point, with the exception of this stealthy creature that was stalking me......

Ok, ok.... maybe he looked alittle bit more like this.....

But it's no lie, Nikoli admitted to seeing it as well after the race. Now how can you miss a 'cross race where there are Bobcats, huh? Only BayCross!

Just over half way through the 9 laps (right on target for the hour finish this year -- thank you gentlemen!!!) I asked Kate for the time gap, she said 1:30min. I'm feeling good backed off just slightly knowing alot can still happen. So the next time through she said 1min... Aghh! I'm thinking, not good. Back to hammering, I can't lose this thing again like last year. Come to find out after the race (don't you hate finding out some things after the race?) that she was passing along what she heard from the start/finish person and misunderstood the 1 minute gap was between 2nd place Nikoli & 3rd place Shawn. She's a beyond awesome water bottle hand off person but gotta work on those timing skills.. :).

Finally the last lap, regardless of the time back provided I didn't flat or crash in "The P.O.D." I was still feeling strong & fairly confident I'd finally take home my first BayCross win. As it was I crossed the line in just over 58minutes and Nikolia rolled in at just over 1:01 for 2nd, Shawn at 1:02 for 3rd. Getting 3 & 4 minutes into guys like that I was grateful to be that "on" for the day. (Wondered if I'd have anything left for Day 2 however..).

The rest of the race was pretty good according to Kate & other fans/racers -- alot of back & forth contests. Tom Gaier & Scott Nesvold traded laps back & forth a good share of the race with Tom taking 4th, Scottie in 5th. Mike Weisphenning was having a real good day until his back started fighting him forcing him to drop back. Nick & Curt had a close 6 second difference in the finish. While Tom Meyer for his efforts on the day had a one screwy sounding hub for his single speed when it was over and Adam Tripp wrapped up the day on P.B's new 'cross bike giving the Kona Jake the Snake a thumbs up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

BayCross 2010.....

....Was not a weekend of racing to miss. The annual Ashland area cyclo-cross race held the 3rd weekend in October was a perfect combination of racers, fans, weather & fun atmosphere. My many regards & thanks go out to the organizers of Paul Belknap & Sara Hudson, as well as the volunteers who made it possible to put on such a great event year after year.

My hearty suggestion is make it part of your bike racing schedule in the future and give it a try, one day or both. You won't be disappointed by either of the venues, the set up or the good times you have. (Disclosure: I have no vested interest in promoting it other than it's a truly good event to check out).

So how did the racing go anyways, right?

Well here's a start....

Saturday morning I'm about relaxed as it comes. My attention had recently been on the UPCross series so BayCross hadn't amped on my racing radar. Though as the morning went on, I could feel myself getting more & more into race mode. I'm not sure what's that's like for other people but as the years have rolled by, I'm certainly not the jittery, anxious nervous competitor I used to be. Doesn't really matter what race either -- the butterflies are mostly dead. I figure I've done everything I can leading up to any race & what I haven't done I can't change. For the most part it's full on effort from the word "Go" so all you can do as the saying goes is "run what ya brung" and let the cards fall where they may.

Paul Belknap & some others had worked on putting the word out this year on the race so it's always interesting to see who's going to show. With $500 in prize money having a inkling of what the competition is like sets a tone to what the race might be like.

Some good suspects showed up, Shawn Gort who's never, ever let me have easy time on day 1 of Baycross. Curt Cline, Big Mike Weisphenning & Scott "I don't race nearly as fast as I'm capable" Nesvold from Washburn. The "T n T" show from Seeley/Hayward Tom Gaier & Tom Meyer, as well as Adam Tripp and Mr. former kick butt Time Trialer Nick Robertson to name a few. Even my long time racing adversary I struggle against time & again -the skiing stud Nikoli Anikin.

More of the recap to come including a video of the "le-mond" start... but I just checked the time I gotta scoot for now.... later.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel, support & sick... racin' yet again

This past weekend of racing became a toss up when the choice hadn’t been up to awhile ago. I’d just gotten back from 20 plus hours of driving this week back & forth to Indianapolis and another 12 hours in the car to Sheboygan & back for the WORS finale wasn’t looking too appealing to me, let alone Kate & the kids. Kate, God bless her, she is super supportive and a big reason why I’ve been able to race to the degree I have – however I think better of testing the limits of that support. So if she said, “There’s a race in Marquette instead and it's 4 less hours in the car than Sheboygan…..” that’s not a bad direction to head then.

The second part of that is on Friday I came down with what I thought was a headcold in the late afternoon and had been feeling pretty crummy since – and I’ve never had much for luck racing when I’m under the weather. The shorter cross race, even if it was more intense, made more sense than a 2hr mtb race.

Hence on a beautiful October Sunday morning we took the 3hr excursion over to Marquette to take in UPCross #3. Curious as to what the 3rd installment of the UPCross series would bring. I’ve come to expect – to not have any expectations on who’s going to be there or not be there. You go, you race hard and let the chips fall where they may.

Held at a park with baseball fields, wooded trails & a bmx race track it was the perfect site for a cross race. For those of you familiar with the Ore to Shore MTB races, this cross race shares some of the single track at the very tail end of that race. (I don’t know if I should say the memories it brought back were good or bad…)

The “A” race appeared again to be 20 deep in racers, faces I was now starting to get more familiar with and more easily having conversations with. At the start, a hairpin turn put Jesse Bell in the front with Joe Graci & two others with whom I’m currently unfortunately drawing a blank, but I think Dave Grant was another. I got in line in 5th position, further back than I would have liked but not too far back where any break away would hopefully be out of reach. Sitting in, I liked the pace and was content there. I did jump up to 3rd before entering the woods & some singletrack just to make sure if any mishaps happened I would minimize my odds of getting stuck behind it. Jesse pulled real good through the first lap & soon it was just he & I mid way through the 2nd lap. At that point I went to the front not intended to go any faster but to just hold a steady sustainable pace. Jesse held with me but on the third lap some gaps started to happen, not sure if he had a mishap or what. But Jesse hasn't exactly been riding much & not up to the potential he's capable of.

With that happening I figured if I’d be riding out solo for most of the day it was best to build a cushion, so I pushed it up a slight knotch and more of a gap started to occur. About half way through the race it was close to a minute and I felt for lack of a better term “safe”. Jesse had faded back even more & Paul Belknap & Tim Kostner had taken his place. Even though I like to charge hard throughout an entire race giving it my all, I must admit it was nice this time around given the fact I was feeling alittle sick and didn’t want to press my luck & risk getting more sick. If I could back off and still hold on I was more than happy with that.

Fortunately, Tim & Paul didn’t coordinate riding efforts and I was able to ride conservatively after the midway point of the race. A place with intersecting barriers I could clearly do a time check each lap and the gap held or slightly grew. My wife later told me she would have liked a more exciting, closer race however this was one time I was in total disagreement. It felt good to not have to knock myself out the entire race. I came in about minute & half over Tim & Paul wasn’t that far behind him. Paul usually puts on some good speed in the later laps but said it just didn’t quite come around for him that day.

Again got to meet some more of the UPCross regulars, thanks again guys for being so welcoming and nice. Keep up the great stuff you have going on. It’s been a lot fun last few weekends.

Not sure what will transpire for the remainder of the season. I’m just about “traveled out”, and plenty of fall projects waiting around the house & trails here to attend to. Many thanks to all the competitors, race directors & volunteers who put untold hours of work and/or training into the great sport that cycling. If time & circumstances allow you check out these races in the future. I certainly enjoyed them this year....

-Rhinelander Rasta Rally
-Cable Off Road Classic
-Chequamegon 100
-Afton Alps
-Miners Revenge
-Ashland Mudrutters
-Washburn Brownstone Days
-Firehouse 50 events
-Ore to Shore… oh, wait I would have if I’d not been half dead with the flu
-Calumet Great Deer Chase
-Seeley Pre-Fat
-Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival
-Chequamegon 40 (Fat Tire Festival)
More…… we’ll see

Sunday, October 10, 2010

UPCross #2...

Had a such good time at UPCross #1, when the time, great weather & opportunity came up the following week how could I pass at taking up the 2nd venue those distinguished racers of the Upper Pennisula where putting together.

Was not at all disappointed.

UPCross #2 held in Old Town Negaunee -- really cool ghost town like feel. Without hatcheting the history too poorly -- it's basically part of Negaunee that long ago was abandoned and torn down due to the mining that took place underneath a great deal of that town. However their are remenants of house foundations, slidewalks and staircases abound that gives the weirdest vibe in what is otherwise a relatively mature forest of trees and wildlife. Gotta see it to believe it -- considering taking in the race sometime in the future.

The course itself was a mixtures of widesingle track, "mystery" sidewalks in the woods, some open roads and plenty of good sections to climb.

In the race I made some tactical errors at the start that I wish I could have changed. Tyler Gauthier having a stellar year hit the start really hard and instead of jumping to get on his wheel I backed off & let Tyler Jemma go in the 2nd spot. He was going fine but TG was already getting a gapped established. In an anxious effort to rush my first dismount & attempt to not let TG's gap get too big, I dropped my bike's chain on the first stair climb. Resulted in TG getting almost entirely out of sight &Tyler Jemma getting a 70 or 80 yard gap & watching 3 other guys go cruising by me as I massaged back on my chain.

Feeling pretty good that day I wasn't about to let my normal fast go-juice at the start of a race go to waste, so I set out to close things down to Jemma & hopefully work with him to reel in TG. As best as I recall by the end of the 2nd lap I caught & passed Jemma, saying it's time to go to work & get TG. Only bummer part was, (and I didn't get to confirm this with Jemma after the race as to why), but I would be the only one leading the chase the next 7 laps.

So round & round we went through our laps, a few times I'd put a dig in & push alittle harder otherwise I just keep as steady hard effort throughout and each time I'd put a bike length or more between us TJ would come back. He did an excellent job running on the barrier sections closing the distance I'd had each time. I just had absolutely no rhythm getting through those damn things at that race. (Fortunately I've been practicing since & I think I've got it down finally).

It was a great race and a day of alot of hard efforts. Much better than the previous week of just trying to keep up the pace & demand of a 'cross race. TG won in fine fashion. Some jostling on the final barriers left me to roll in 3rd after being 2nd place for 80% of the race. Jesse Bell took 4th.

Great group of guys (& gals) that get together for this UPCross series. I've got two of them in & really like the atmosphere & setup. Considering the relative remoteness of the series & population it has to draw from it's great to see the numbers they have attending the races.

One other note about UPCross #2, great MTB cross course. Not that alot of die hard cross bike guys want to hear that but it was nice... of course I'm biased in that regard.

Monday, October 4, 2010

UPCross #1... recap alittle late

With racing not out of my system after the Chequamegon 40, the closest fix I could find was the UPCross series in Ispheming, MI the last weekend in Sept. Kate, I & the kids packed up made the 3hr trek.
Got there with a half hour to sign in & warmup. Wasn't sure what to expect for competition in the "A" race, I recognized several of the guys but knew only Jesse Bell. (Hadn't quite forgotten the come from behind shlacking he gave me at Baycross last year). Fortunately the UP guys know the correct length/time for a cross race so I liked my odds better this time around.

We lined up under the Pavilion at the Al Quaal Park (that name .... I gotta shake the terrorist image it conjures up) -- anyways, front row next to me is this bulking muscle of humanity. I introduce myself & he in turn introduces himself as "Eric". Great part of coming to race where you don't know everyone is there's no preconceived of how the race is going to turn out.

At "Go" Jesse lead to the front & for the first several turns had the lead, I took over when an opening presented itself. When it seemed like a gap happened I was set on committing myself for a long day at the front. Little did I know "Eric" would be zooming up along side & past me, to stay with him I went from alittle pain to abit more pain. The dude was rolling it hard and being my first taste of cross racing for the year the pace was getting a bit irritating -- no breaks just go, go, go. He pulled a small gap of a couple bike lengths thru the first lap and for the next two laps it held pretty steady at 10-12 seconds... that was until my chain popped off when re-mounting on the first set of barriers. A second mishap in approaching the 2nd barriers too hot & getting tangled up opened things up quite a bit more. Kate gave me a split of 50 seconds back shortly thereafter. It remained that way through most of the remainder of the 9 lap race. I kept pushing to close things but my body was resisting the effort that 'cross racing requires. I don't know how to explain it any better than that. It's a hard, all out effort, for the entire race.

I could see some trailing racers on the switch backs but no one was pushing me, Jesse I found out later had some tire issues & swapped out bikes a couple times and had a rough day.

The fans were great, cheering everybody on. I think I surprised some folks riding a mountain bike (I think I only saw two of them in the "A" race) and keeping relatively close to who I later found out was their hometown hero "Eric Marcotte". A road & criterium racer now living in AZ who was home for a visit. Try a google of him, he's not exactly a slouch -- having bettered some of the fastest sprinters in the country, even former National Champ Rashaan Bahati, at national races... so can't feel so bad placing under a minute back at 'cross race to a guy of that caliber.

Won a bontrager 29er ACX tire for my efforts, not a bad consolation for 2nd place & the $10 entry fee. Also was nice to chat with the riders & organizers afterwards. Got a chance to meet Sisu cycles founder/owner Matt Palomaki and also main sponsor of UPCROSS this season. I've got a fascination with bikes, their designs and what makes them handle they way they do so it was a really a great conversation and some very interesting insights I came away with. Thanks Matt!

What's up next? Well, it's what happened yesterday (I said the recaps were running late)... The fortune of having some travel in my work schedule afforded me to stop by round #2 of UPCROSS. A sweet 'cross course in Negaunee, MI....Good organizers & sponsors & some guys named Tyler made for a good day... more on that later.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

'Cross season...

Feels like the 2010 Cheq 40 was already ages ago when it's only been two weeks. As the racing season wound into the late summer months more & more of my focus was on that race & not beyond. Fortunately, for once, things panned out well in that race with a top 50 finish & didn't feel the compulsion to get back to racing.... however sorta leaves a person with that limbo feeling of what do I do next?

Coming into the season my focus had been to improve on the races with predominant amounts of singletrack, but to really perform well at the biggies (Ore to Shore & Cheq 40) and then tune into a really strong cyclocross season. The cyclo-cross however became less & less of a focus over the season as travel & training commitments began to take their toll. So I took a well deserved week off after the Chequamegon 40 to unwind and let the motivation fall where it would. By Saturday, I was back to mulling back & forth about what to do about racing again.... ugh, so much for the mental break.

In the fall of '09 I noticed a cyclo-cross series going on in the upper pennisula of Michigan, UPCROSS that really caught my attention. The Wisconsin series takes place way to far south for travel purposes to regularly participate in & I'd already done the MN/Twin Cities 'cross races in past years with so-so interest & enjoyment. The UPCROSS series seemed to have decent participation, some good competitive racers & a nice format. I got a terrible itch for doing it but timing & circumstance never panned out hence it started out as one of my 2010 goals.

When Saturday rolled around I really wondered if I should bother with it. I should be happy & content with the Cheq 40 results, rest up & focus on other things this fall....however when you've got as competitive streak as I do running through the veins saying no to any race is difficult.

So with without a 'cross bike & only my Gary Fisher Superfly with some semi-skinnies -- off to race #1 of UPCross I headed last Sunday..... race report to come shortly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cheq 40 - getting better...

One of the biggest events each year, the Granddaddy of Off-Road cycling, the Chequamegon Fat tire 40 came & went this past Saturday. One of the best parts is the collections of friends & acquaintences you've picked up from all over you get to see in once place. Sometimes you ride the race with them and share the stories after, other times it's only a brief moment to wish them good luck as you're rushing in opposite directions warming up before the race. What's nice too is the additional list of racers you get to meet & know alittle better & exchange interaction with. Mountain biking is one of the most friendly competition sports I've ever been a part of. Each person suffers much the same leaving little room for adversity outside of challenging oneself.

Saturday morning I arrived in Hayward a bit on the later side around 9:30am, just enough time to pop the bike out & take a quick warmup spin. Saw Sara KJ right away -- the last race or two it seemed like she'd really coming back to her racing self of old so I was hoping she'd have a great day. She was hoping to get some help with water bottle handoffs instead of having to carrying all three. However Kate & the kids had already headed to the OO spectator crossing. Shortly afterwards, the McFaddens, Todd & Di. I pegged them both for having a great race, but for Todd... as long as he didn't make it like the 5th time this year finishing one place in front of me I'd be ok with however he finished. Pre-Fat winner Chad Sova & Matt Muraski I caught up with both before & at the starting line, fast guys that could have some seriously good results. Also chatted with Barry Tungseth trying on the 'ole single speed again this year.

Probably at 9:45 I got into the starting chute in a good enough position about midway in the top 200 perferred start area. The other Bay area guys of Matt Hudson, Kelly Mcknight & Paul Belknap I could see a short ways off to my left & slightly behind. It was going to be interesting to see how they faired given the amount of hours & riding they'd put in this year.

When the racing actually started it was on the monstrously fast Hwy 77, it will always amuse me how fast that many off road bikes can go. The pack would surge at times but generally the pace was just plain fast whether you were drafting or out on the front or side pulling. I took to the right hand side following Chad Sova & into Rosie's field.

I tend to think I've got reasonable top end speed so I figure I can get into a good position upon cresting the first hill in Rosie's field but it's an eye opener to see how many other people are giving it for all they are worth & I'm still 50 racers from the front. It's also here the casualties will pile up -- just ask Kelly Mcknight what someone's front wheel/spokes will do to a rear derailleur, as Saturday was not his most fun day out for a ride.

Fortunately it seems a good share of people are spent or backing off alittle by the time they exit Rosies Field & hit the Birkie trail. I had enough to keep the gas on passing people until I could see a group of 20 or 30 riders strong forming. I got into the mix, not knowing exactly what places it consisted of but probably in the top 20 to 40. Later I found that out to be the case. It was much like last year it was the 3rd or 4th main group of riders, only this time around I wasn't just happy to be part of it, I was expecting of myself to be there. Once I worked myself towards the front I sat in & took a look around for familiar faces... there weren't all that many. Adam Swank was there, Matt Muyres & Scott Cole. Speaking of which if there was an aggressive rider award -- Scott would get my vote unconditionally. (That guy who always claims to be too old for racing was punching it at the front repeatedly, impressive work in my book and not only that he was able to keep it up the entire way & finish strong as well getting a top 25 finish.)

I kept having to remind myself to reign in any temptations to push things overly hard at the front, I took my turns when they came up particularly the closer we got to the OO crossing. At that point in the race there were primarily 3 groups each about a minute apart. The first 12 guys, separated by 7 guys and then our group of about 15.

I continued to feel pretty strong, got my water bottle handoff from Kate & things were going well. Occasionally I chat up alittle with the other guys but no one had an overabundance of energy for conversation. At one point, Swank just replied "I tired!" (Which I can't figure out, because he went on to have a fantastic race ending up in 15th overall.)

A group that had been trailing us caught on & some other riders dropped back once we were on Janet road. Now, this section I should have road a smarter race. I felt comfortable riding just wherever in the group when I should have stayed to the front. On the turnoff to some snowmobile trail, it lead into the mudfest of the race. A section that broke up the group quite a bit from what I could witness. The guys at the front speed through & the congestion that followed served to stack the rest of us back. Once we got to some sections (in & past Martell's pothole) with a good long line of sight I couldn't even see Swank & the other guys at the front.... the "oh shit" feeling set in and I realized I'd needed to get back on that and soon! Not sure how many folks I passed but slowly the front guys came back into sight & it was now down to a group of about 6 or 8. With Swank, the tandem of the Eppens coming along & also U-23 national MTB team rider Jack Hinkens. I turned to Jack at one point & said.... "Don't suppose you'd prefer a World Cup race to this, eh?" To which replied affirmatively -- what's that tell you about how hard the Chequamegon 40 can be?

After that it was about the most chilled out part of the race. Brian Eppen asked & sorta laughed at the same time "So you wanna work & rotate through or just wait for the tandem to get on the front?" We probably should have worked it harder there & kept up the gap, but it was likely many of the guys knew what was still to come (Fire Tower climb & the Birkie rollers) & the reprieve on a road was break we were taking.

I don't remember a whole lot for the next few miles other than despite taking in fluids & drinking I realized I was reaching my limits to keep things up. An all out bonk may not be happening but too many more inclines & I'd be in trouble. Hence about a mile or so before the Fire Tower climb after some singletrack riding I cracked. Not all the much farther than I had in last years race.

It was cruise control from that point forward, going at a sustainable pace & not one bit harder. It's always amusing to see how long it takes for the first person to finally pass you when you're that far out front in the lead groups. I was riding alone for what seemed like forever until finally at the Firetower climb the first of 4 guys pass me. The last being Steve Tilford at the crest of the hill (he'd flatted way back in the beginning). I went downhill with Steve for awhile but he clearly had a mission and soon was out of sight.

The remainder of the race I just tried to enjoy it like I was having a Sunday afternoon ride. I couldn't do anything about going any faster. I just had to hang on & let the cards fall where they may. The birkie roller section was kinder to me than previous years -- when you think you're done with them another one is there to put your climbing legs to the test. Another half dozen riders passed me there (Thanks for the push Jack H!) what's was nice is that everyone was appreciative and encouraging that was coming along. I was surprised more people weren't passing but my "bonk pace" was slightly better than last year -- plus having road in the group I did we were probably up by 7 minutes or more by the fire tower. Lot's of cushion time to the finish I figured.

I was hoping to lose less than 10 places but it ended up being just over 20 by the finish. As I cruised in solo for 45th overall. A top 50 finish at last!! Happy with that despite a top 25 finishing goal. At least I was on pace for a good share of it. Certainly left it all out there and for that I'm happy not to have any regrets. I held with a great group of racers and managed to hold off alot of other really good ones as well.

Time will tell what the rest of the season will bring with further MTB or cyclo-cross races......

Right now however, if I wanna be doing any future racing.... I'd better concentrate on the fact it's my 7th wedding anniversary today!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Racin' 2010.... Part I

Busy as life get's (and soon to be even busier -- more on that later). My goal is to always get in at least one blog entry each month, ideally after each race with good blow by blow recap of the action. Didn't exactly happen this summer, so perhaps on some of the cold winter nights to come I'll find myself reminising, perhaps with all stories & tales that get enhanced with the passage of time.

However more recently to bring things up to speed -- it's been a pretty good racing MTB season. Started with the Rhinelander Rasta Rally & Cable Off Road Classic in May. June, I gave the MN MTB Series a go at Afton Alps,MN. It'd been a couple years since I'd been there, approached that race as just some good hard practice as I'd been in the middle of some difficult training intervals that week. Nice to go to a race without any expectation of performance.... considering I was still piling through the COMP racers lineup after the gun went off for the Elite race it was a good thing. Making for one of my more fond memories of the year -- all these people at the start line cheering & yelling as this lone Elite racer is just plowing through the crowd & finally gets to the start line after everyone else is 150yards up the trail. Funny stuff.

The other races in June - Keewanaw Chain Drive & the WORS Suburu Cup had mixed results. With my regular full suspension bike out of commission, I raced the Gary Fisher Superfly hardtail 29er. Nice in some ways but it reminds me of why full suspension bike are nice for certain races. First time I did the Chain Drive and it was everything I could of asked for in a race. I'll definitely recap it later at some point. I finished a respectable 8th overall in the Expert Race after having to coax a partially flat front tire. The first race of what soon would become a repeated theme of coming in 2nd place to that Todd McFadden fella from Duluth.... more on that later.

WORS Suburu Cup - ProXCT National race was nice to see and everything but nothing that rocked my socks. The course had been muddy leading up to the race and despite taking a recovery week leading up to it, I did not have a good race day. Not even remotely close by my standards. The first lap went relatively well from a back row start position I moved up 30 racers or so, but the next several laps (4 or 5) it was a struggle to just get through them. Not sure if it was me or just a bad day on a more technical course. I finished in the mid 40's out of 100ish racers when a top 20 would have been a reasonable expectation.

So next comes July....
I start off the month with Power Testing and much to my delight we find that even 6 years into structured cycling training and at the tender age of 37, I'm still making gains, getting stronger & faster. Age is a fact of life but never sell yourself short of what can be done or accomplished no matter what. My favorite hero's of life are the Jerry Rice's, Hershcual Walkers, Steve Tilfords, Ned Overends, Doug Fluties -- guys that have done or are doing things quite impressively after the "prime" of life.
I maybe started the month off with the roughest race of my life -- Miner's Revenge - that race is something else. Done in the U.P. of Michigan, it has some of the most non-standard singletrack for a race course I've ever been on. I know you either love it or hate it when it comes to race... by the way did I mention you pass through a 1/4 mile of underground mine shaft -- requiring a headlamp? Sounds intriguing and if you must give it a try, not sure it's my cup of tea in the future however. After being 3rd overall for a good share of the race, I lost out in the final lap to some strong riding from Bart Rodberg & Paul Belknap for a 5th place finish.

As much as I like to erase that race from my memory, the weeks that followed made up for it. Despite doing some of the most intense training intervals of the season I got in some, for lack of a better term "sprint races" on the weekends. What was nice is they were all close to home! I don't know how many racers really appreciate driving 3 & 4hrs one way to get to a race.

Gotta wrap things up for now... but hope to bring the season recap up to speed before the Chequamegon 40. Still to come winning ways, getting sick.. really sick and sick again & finally seeing a turn around..... perhaps in time for the Big Show.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seen "Chasing Legends"? Check the full credits...

Ah, finally getting somewhat recovered from my 9 days of fevers & flu. Missing the Ore to Shore altogether -- laying on my couch that Saturday feeling so miserable I couldn't stand to even watch TV or surf the internet, my head was pounding, body aching & eye's hurt to even keep them open.

That week & half really puts a dent in person's body to get back to into full racing ability. The Calumet "Great Deer Chase" on Aug 21st was a good example of that - had no problems leading out and being part of the lead group of 5 for the first hour of the race and then it began to crumple like a wet tissue paper. Maybe in a few weeks I'll get the stamina back, oh well.

"Chasing Legends" -- the movie of the '09 Tour de France centered on the HTC/Team Columbia racing team. Done by Gripped Films, makers of the very good MTB films "24 Solo" & "Off Road to Athens". The film was finally released on DVD the other week -- if you take the opportunity to view it (and it is an excellent film), be sure to take time to watch through ALL the credits at the end..... you might just see some names of people you happen to know personally :) ........ if any of you can guess or know who -- I'll give you the story behind it. It's pretty cool!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sick? Doc. How can that be? I've got the Ore to Shore tomorrow!!

Ridiculous... how can on the eve of great race like Ore to Shore, can one not shake a stubborn fever & flu?
Last weekend, I started feeling out of sorts -- should have been able to tell by the symptoms (& the fact my kids had been sick earlier last week) that I had something coming on. Well, like normal flu's, one gets a pounding headache, body aches, fatigure and fever... just glad I wasn't tossing cookies. I start to feel better early this week convinced I'm going to shake it in time for the race, only to relapse Weds to right back where I started. Crazy thing is it's worse at night when I go to sleep. A fever comes on, my head starts to pound and it's several sleepless hours until I try & OD on Tylenol PM.

Friday's here & it much the same story, the chances of a miracle recovery in the next 12-16hrs.... let's not take on Vegas with these odds.

Plan is still to head over to Marquette, stand on the starting line and watch everyone else go by. Maybe a timely early mechanical will happen and I can play water boy the rest of the race. More likely I'll press on and dig myself into a hole so big I won't get out for the rest of the season.....

Cyclists... what a bunch a crazies.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Heck ya! Just alittle too busy training, racing and building a few miles of singletrack in the back '40 this summer to get around to blogging.
Ore to Shore this Saturday!! Speaking of which the weirdest thing happened a couple months back. Question... ever have a dream that your biking racing in? Well, me neither. That was until this past April or May. I have this dream I'm racing in the Ore to Shore...NO LIE! Except like all dreams it's not exactly the same Ore to Shore but nonetheless. Anyways all the normal cast of characters one would expect are at the race. Previous winners, high placing racers, etc. The race is getting down to the end and there are five or so of us at the front. The whole time in the dream I'm wondering "what the hell am I doing here?" Well, when in doubt don't question it. Just go with it. So I did in this dream. And coming into the winding paved roads to the finish Brian Matter and myself are drilling it, going toe to toe. In the dream I think to myself at first.... "Man, this is Brian Matter, I really should let him win. He's pretty darn good." Only as we get in the final hundred yards or so I figure "screw it, I going to give it a go" ... and sure enough I squeak by and cross the line by a wheel length ahead of him.

.......So as they say.... only in your dreams, perhaps that's the case, but whether it was a premonition or a dream you'd better watch out Matter -- I'm coming for you this Saturday! That party is going to rock!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Not too many things I hate worse than....

A freakin' stuck seatpost!
However it's probably one of the best upper body & core workouts you'll ever, ever come across. Memorial Day I spent cleaning & tuning up all the bikes. I finally got an offset seatpost for the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 (Ebay is pretty good for stuff like that -- first time I ever bought something on a single bid and there was no other bidders and $40 for a $200 item is a pretty good feeling).

Anyways, how stuck can a seatpost of a 6 week old bike be might you ask? It rivaled just about any post I've ever come across with the exception of the one situation that ended up destroying my old Trek Fuel 100 bike. It took two hours of complete brute force with all the tricks of the "seatpost removal" trade.

Funny part should be the fact that I used Carbon seatpost compound when I installed it which is supposed to minimize problems with seatpost removal. Don't always assume it will, but also I may have applied more than the situation called for and that perhaps could have caused the problem.

Fortunately it's done, removed and the new one installed. Now if I can get this fixed...

-- a cracked carbon wheel, how nice!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cheq-out: 100 miles

Haven't gotten around to recaping last weekends Cable Off Road Classic MTB race but I suppose if I'd not signed myself up for the Chequamegon 100, I'd of had some spare time on my hands.....

Not exactly known as an ultra endurance junkie rather more as a cross country racer -- riding this weekend's 100 mile MTB race, the Chequamegon 100 was done more of on a whim than with a lot of seriousness & preparation. Life lesson learned -- one shouldn't take such whim's lightly.

First off, sure I bike alot like any over-indulgent cyclist. Getting in double digit hours each week on the bike isn't anything new.... getting in double digit hours in a single day? Yeah, that's definitely new.

The day began with a 7am start out of Seeley. Arriving about 6:40am, greeted with a chorus of hello's from familiar friends & faces. And the regular comment of, "gee, Aaron you're alittle early don't you think".

Great to see Charlie Farrow, for whom I can't remember the last time I saw at a race, probably the last time he did a regular cross country MTB race & not some ultra endurance thing. Grinning from ear to ear he confidently said "You try this once and you'll be hooked!!" I don't think Charlie was smoking anything to make that comment but the thought may have crossed my mind. I like my 20-30mile races, the speedy 2hrs & done kinda races so this 100 mile thing was way out of my norm. As he headed off for the start line I figured that'd be the last time I'd see him on the day... little did I know what was to to come.

There was Todd & Di McFadden, also Mike & Michelle Flanagan-Hagg parked right next to me looking all ready for the day. Saw most of the guys from the Chequamegon bay area, Curt Cline, Kelly Mcknight, Matt Hudson, Paul Belknap, Scott Nesvold. Big Mike Weisphenning came over to assure me the clunking culprit with my bike wasn't so much the headset but likely some flexing in the fork.

By the time I strapped on the 70oz Camel back, loaded up with cliff bars & endurance "robot" food it was about 7 & time to head to the start line. So how does one "race" 100 miles? Most normal endurance athletic endeavors are designed to be a couple hours long, 2 or 3hrs perhaps. Generally speaking a well practice, trained person can put out a pretty high effort if it's only going to take that long. But 100 miles...on a mt bike... on lot's of undulating singletrack trails? It's pretty damn hard to figure -- it could take more than 8 hours at the most optimistic projection. Think about that. 8+ hours racing straight through. For those who have done events/efforts like it before I'm sure one doesn't flinch but if you've never done anything like it before it's tough to wrap your mind around.

The start wasn't necessarily fast however at some point a group of a dozen or more(?) picked up the pace and got away. Apparently Tim Wilkie, Charlie Farrow, Todd McFadden, Matt Hudson were all part of that group among others. Myself I was content to go at whatever pace felt right. Soon I joined Kelly McKnight and we cruised along eventually catching up with Curt Cline.

I'm not exactly good at referencing parts of the trails but I can get the gist out. By the time we reached the single track, Kelly must have smelt blood because he start running the trails like a hound. If I could have caught up to him I'd of punched him. In hundred mile race one generally does not push the upper limits of their effort so they near reach their maximum heart rate. Kelly's going so hard I'm at 170beats per minute and yo-yo-ing to stay on. Again I wanted to punch him soooo bad! Well, if his intent was to catch the group in front of us his persistance paid off. In seemingly no time we were back on a group that include Matt Hudson, Craig Kalscheur & company.

Finally we arrive at the first water stop at Hatchery Creek trailhead... some racers continued on without stopping others watered up. That had to be the most interesting part of this type of event to me.... a race where people stop, chat, chow down some food while standing still. My mindset of a race is maximum effort and efficiency, stop & get water if you need it, make it quick if you have to stop -- but keep moving forward even if it is slowly. The resting & not biking for 5-10 minutes just didn't register with me. Perspective is everything I guess. Soon it was off towards Hwy OO where Curt Cline took the lead and put down an impressive pace that managed to drop some folks... but again it would all come together at the next "sit & chat" at the OO crossing. It was relatively warranted at this time because Kelly broke a spoke I came to find out later.

I had the itch to keep moving forward with the expectation that most of the guys I'd ride with would soon catch up. The other cavet to this whole adventure? I wasn't ever planning on being in a position where I'd need the cue sheet or need to read directions. When the guys didn't catch back up as I'd expected I busted out the map & proceeded to play navigator & pilot. A couple of other guys who's name I didn't catch caught on so the three of us proceeded to make most of the 10 miles over to the Rock Lake/Namekagon trails. They stopped for a food break and I proceeded on coming across Scott Chapin who waiting on the road & would be joining the rest of the Chequamegon bay guys. Shortly afterwards I caught up with Mark Parman whom I'd caught just as we got to the Rock lake trails. Mark followed me to the "point of confusion" -- all of sudden at this mapped trail sign there's this cluster of racer... Like 5 or 6 others, including Tom Meyer and yes of all people the infamous Charlie Farrow. All perceived to be lost of at least uncertain of direction. If the cue sheet had said "hard" right turn most folk would know what to do, but with two trails on the right side it was a toss up which to use. Fortunately, after some dialogue with Tom Meyer and some GPS comments by a guy named Mark. The 8 or 9 of us (some reluctantly) took the "hard" right double track and headed towards the Namekogen trails.

Fortunately we were now entering the one part of CAMBA land that I'm most familiar with and I tried to reassure the guys I knew what I was talking about. Most of 'em took the bait :).... Anyways, I knew the trail too well. My experience out there told me the cue card (as well as a posted CAMBA marker) for this one particular section was wrong. (A later discussion Sunday with Matt Hudson confirmed my suspicion). It said take a right.... I knew it was a left if it wanted us to get where we were going. I fly though the intersection going left dragging some guys along when someone in the back yells, you're going the wrong way we're supposed to take a right. Here's where social dynamics & a piece of paper screw up reality & a gut feel.

We took the right turn on (N12) and instead of getting to the Namekagon trail we end up on some crazy nearly unused trail & come out confused on Rock Lake Rd. DAMN!!! Here again 7 or 8 guys trying to make up there mind on which direction is nuts. Myself & maybe Tom Meyer understand we're on Rock Lake road but the North/South direction of the road isn't clear. So I take a look at the noon time sky, as anothe guy looks at his GPS. Then the craziest thing comes out of his mouth... he points away from the direction of the Sun & says it's Southwest! I'm like what the hell is this guy talking about? The sun (as best as I could see it in the mostly cloudy sky) is never in the northern side of the sky. But of course.... we all know GPS's never lie! I tell everyone we need to head North to get back on the trail or at least to Cty M. So we start heading in the "wrong North" direction and soon the guy's GPS registers correctly and he stops us & says... "oh, no North is actually that way.... pointing back in the opposite direction."

The whole time the misdirections are happening, I'm not really bothered it's just part of the this race's uniqueness & adventure. On Rock Lake road heading North we eventually get to the Rock lake single track. I offer everyone the option to take it to get over to the Namekagen Town Hall checkpoint or to continue North to Cty M & take that over to the Town Hall. Mark Parman & Tom Meyer & perhaps someone else opts for going to Cty M. Charlie, a guy named Adam & another named Mark opt to ride the Rock Lake trail backwards (obviously the longer of the two routes to take but still in good faith & intent of the ride.)

We stay together until the Lost Lake Road where Charlie & Mark opt to go North on that to Cty M & over to the town hall while Adam & myself opt for the longest of the routes & stick with the single track until reaching the town hall. At least this way we'd be crossing paths with the leaders of the race & see who'd already made it to the mid point & was heading back to Seeley. A couple guys in Gary Fisher jerseys were riding well but Todd McFadden wasn't far behind.

Upon arriving at the Namekagon Town Hall it looked sorta like a M.A.S.H. unit, not because anyone was hurt but just looked like a sizeable group of people who'd already trucked quite a few miles & were looking for respite. I grabbed my drop bag & shoved some food in my mouth & was ready to go again however it was "sit & chat" time again. Kelly, Matt, Curt, Paul, etc had tagged along some guys from that came over from the U.P. & one had a tire change so it was reasonable to wait up. Once that was taken care of a whole hoard of us took off & headed back with Paul Belknap at the front leading the charge. I was at the back with Curt Cline. It stayed that way until we'd reached Rock Lake trailhead parking area... where again there was a break & re-group.

We got going again only for a big bummer to happen Paul Belknap who'd be riding so well fell victim to an angry stick that did battle with is derailluer & rear wheel spokes.... the stick definitely won. It gave me an opportunity to pump up my rear tire which was getting really low & could have been a good place to jump out of this craziness. I was spent, tired, had had enough and my rear was getting seriously chaffed by this point. Offered to head back out with Paul Belknap but he wouldn't have it so I had to chase back to Matt, Kelly, Curt & company.

At this point in the race 70+ miles in I'd had pretty much enough, my water supply was dreadfully low (which is another crazy part about this event.... 2 water stops in the first 30-40 miles & nothing in the remaing 60-70.... just didn't make sense to be in the course design & safety. It's one thing to say it's a self sufficiency event but common sense would make water options towards the later part the smarter way to go. Just a humble opinon mind you). Well, back to the race, I'm in a survival mode of sorts trudging along & forgetting parts of what transpired next. Eventually when I got back on Rock Lake road by myself, Matt Dale of Cable came by & apparently knew the remainder of the course by heart (couldn't have made it the rest of the way without you Matt!! Thanks a million!!) Myself, & two others (one was a guy from the U.P. that'd dropped off Kelly, Matt & co) worked with Matt who got us to Telemark, through the Ojibwe trail & back to Timber Trail. That time in the race was a very dark place for me. Running low on fluids, knowing you don't have directions & getting dropped due to bonking would very likely mean getting lost and ultimately being really screwed. It was sorta on the edge of being scary.

Fortunately getting to Timber trail meant we were in the home stretch. How close I wasn't sure but at least the single track was close to being done. It was here we stopped to figure out the next move. A road closed sign added to the confusion as well. It was about that time that Tim Wilkie & a guy in a Nature Valley jersey road up & between Tim & Matt we chose to ride Timber trail to our next turning point.

It was here Tim was another lifesaver with whom I can't say thanks enough. I'd been completely out of water since mile 80 & knew it was just a matter of time before I was done for. Fortunately Tim was gracious enough to share some of his water, it tasted like heaven. The darkness of the ride was starting to leave & I was coming around again. Had a great chat with Tim from that point out. He's a darn good guy. And you gotta be amazing given his background how well he rides. The guy puts in 40-50hr weeks doing heavy labor concrete work and somehow still manages to train to do 100 mile races. Add to the fact Tim is in his 40's -- I don't think you could show me a single person in that race or probably any race that is capable of pulling off that feat. Heavy manual labor for a living & endurance training is one combination that no ordinary human being should be able to pull off. Try it just once in your life and you'll have an immense respect for what Tim is able to accomplish. (Not to mention it'll take any excuse away from anyone who says there're "too tired" to train.) If bike racing was a handicapped sport like golf Tim would blow folks out of the water.

The narrative of this story is soon coming to an end if you've hung in this long. I had a lot of nice conversations & cool experiences in this race day but nothing tops what happened shortly after riding Timber Trail. I was still low on water but Tim said his ride support "Beth" would be able to hook me up shortly at the next trail mark. So as we are cresting this hill we see some vehicles and people and to my utter & complete disbelief --- there's my wife Kate & kids Marshall & Hope & Grace! Totally unexpected. Maybe you've got to be at the right point in life to appreciate that but combined with the intensity & emotion of a long race it was really hard not to break down. You can't believe what a lift it brings to you when someone special in your life surprises you when you completely unexpect it. Kate's an amazing woman... just 2 days previously she broke her elbow & is in full arm cast. Should totally be at home chillin' out & getting herself waited on, yet here she is rounding up & managing a 5,3,& 1 year old and tracking down "Daddy" at a bike race. Wow, words can't really put it out there.

Kate handed me a bottle, asked how shocked I was to see them and started to laugh & laugh & laugh. How I must of looked? Well, I soon got right back on riding as Larry Sauber went by with two other guys & we caught back onto Tim's group.

If the guys that put on the race did something right it was how they structured the finish. Most of it was & certainly felt like it was downhill. It made for some pretty fast group riding and it helped that I was getting my second wind. If there was 10ish miles left it went by faster than any other part of the race. The group I was with wasn't satisfied with riding to the finish easy. It was pretty hard core fast riding to the finish where you had to be on your toes not to get dropped. Of the likely 10 that started in the group with a mile or two to go it was down to 5 guys, myself, Tim Wilkie & Larry Sauber included. I did well on the hill climbs using momentum & getting to the top first and the final two Birkie trail climbs were could either be called awesome or awful but they were certainly tough.

With alittle more than a mile to go I went to the front of the group and said I'd pull 'em into the finish. Well, the dig I put in for a half mile only served to drop all but one guy (certainly not my intent). I'd saw one of the yellow Cheq. Bay guys jersey and thought... "hey, I might just be able to catch 'em!" I wasn't sure who it was at first but myself & my breakaway companion went into time trial mode and keep closing the gap & closing the gap... it was Kelly Mcknight. From the bay area, Matt Hudson finished up 5 minutes back, Curt Cline about an hour back & Big Mike Weisphenning another 30 minutes behind Curt (and both those guys did single speed bikes the entire

And just at the tail end of Northern light road/aka the finish we were within a bike length or two. With only a "soft finish" and no line to cross or shoot for we softpedaled in right behind them as we approached the people & cars. Pretty amazing that after 100 miles & not riding with someone for a generous amount of time that two people would end within a second or two each other.

Results not in yet but from what Kate witness at the finish we were perhaps in the top dozen or so of the 200 racers. It'll be interesting to see when the results are posted what the tally sheet of how the finishers & DNF's pan out.

Finishing time was just over 10hrs (10:13 as I recall). Put that in perspective... get on your bike at 7am & don't stop pedalling or more then 5 minutes until 5pm that evening.... somethings just aren't made to make sense.

After chatting abit at the finish with fellow racers & having a brew, I had some serious chaffing to attend too and the need to EAT! 7000 or 8000 calories is no small task to working on... but definitely an enjoyable one. So Kate, I & the kids headed up to Rivers Eatery (home of the world's best pizza) for chow & then on home.