Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Season Ending and the Season Beginning

So Iceman came and went and proved to be the season finale for me just like every year. This year was a cap to a successful comeback from the neck injury. Everything about the race was great! The weather was awesome, the race went smooth, and the post race sunset on the season was a blast. The cheers at the start line were awesome! It was a really cool moment for me standing there as all my fellow comrades clapped and cheered for my return. I’ll never forget it. It makes me realize how many close friends I’ve made over the years because of this sport. Cranking out mile after mile, hour after hour, with so many different people has given me the opportunity to develop and maintain so many close relationships. If I can take anything away from this sport, it would be the friendships. I hope to get to know many more of you out there on the roads in the coming years.

With that being said, the racing season for next year is already taking shape. Looks like all the sponsors will be back for 2012. I’ll still be rocking the Notubes wheels. If you haven’t heard of these fantastic race wheels, you’ve been living in a cave, which I suppose I can understand if you’re a pro cyclist. Anyways, they’re all over the podiums and they make great products. Rochester Bike Shop is supporting again as well, so get down to RBS in downtown Rochester for all your cycling needs. They’re great people and will bend over backwards to take care of you. Also on board again is CPA Crossings to support with the entry fees. Bryan Smith and his colleagues started this company on their own blood and sweat. I’ve had a chance to ride with Bryan on a couple of occasions and he’s a no bullshit straight shooter stand up kind of guy who’s definitely not afraid to push himself on the bike. So spread the word about this great company and the wonderful support they are providing for the team! Mucho appreciation! And of course we can’t forget the Trek 29ers. The new Superfly is straight up race ready out of the box rocking the top-o-the-line SRAM XX kit. Hopefully that’s what I’ll be on next year (hint hint).

The training has been going really well. I swooped up a killer new toy. It’s a Cycleops 300 Pro indoor spin bike. This baby comes power tap equipped with all the bells and whistles. I’ve gotten on it a few times and run a few tests. Very humbling experience looking at the power numbers right in front of you. Hopefully training with power is going to really help boost the fitness. It’s great to have something like this permanently setup in the basement so it’s ready to just hop and go. I’m still running a ton of stairs just about every day on my lunch break. It’s helping to keep the winter padding on the waist to a minimum. On the weekends I’ve just been cranking out the miles on the dirt rds to keep my endurance up. Other than that, nothing all that special for this time of year.

The 2012 schedule is shaping up. Looks like a another run at the NUE series, and I’m really taking interest in this new UltraCX series as well. The timing of the two series looks to work out perfectly. I’m also going to try my luck at the Leadville lottery again this year as well, but if I don’t make it, there’s plenty of other very cool options. Then of course there will be the fall run-up to the Iceman. So I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and getting ready for a power packed winter of training. Hope to see you out on the roads!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Getting Back in the Groove

It’s been about 2 months since the accident and things are going pretty well. The neck is still a little bit stiff and the muscles in my back get sore occasionally, but other than that, I feel pretty much back to normal. I got clearance from the doctors that I could go back to my normal reckless behavior early in October. I think they were pretty surprised to see how quickly things healed. I know I was. So with 4 weeks out till Iceman, I decided I was going to make a run at gaining back as much fitness as possible before November 5th. What better way to get fitness fast than to race race race! That and a whole lot of stair running on my lunch break.

First weekend back to racing saw me up North at the beautiful Crystal Mountain Resort for the Peak to Peak. This race is really taking off. The attention to detail and Tad’s willingness to take the advice of the participants to heart has really been the fuel that keeps this race growing. The bottom line is that he really sees the participants as customers. Anyways, the start went well, but as soon as we hit the singletrack, I panicked. I couldn’t get off the brakes and gaps were opening up everywhere. The legs locked up with lactic acid and the lungs filled up with phlegm. I decided to lay back and work my way back into the race. Sure enough I was able to recover and I kept the hammer down and was able to pick up a nice 11th place in a deep field for my first race back. Props to the Wisco guys who dominated. It definitely helps bring up the level of competition having them come over to this side of the pond.

During the week, I was keeping up with my stair running and I could feel the lungs coming back ever so slowly. On the weekends I decided to start hitting up these CX races since the next two weekends were on Saturdays, which leaves Sundays open for a longer ride to work on a little endurance. Definitely not a big fan of the Sunday races. The Mad Anthony CX went OK. The downtown Detroit vibe was really cool and refreshing. Again, the fast start blew my legs and lungs out of the water, and then it was a struggle to recover and try to regain some spots. I think I ended up 12th? Not too bad in the A class on the mountain bike. I’ll chalk it up as a good workout. Sunday I hit the dirt rds with Greg Kuhn and Sven. We hammered out 45 miles and I could tell the legs were feeling better.

I’d continue my stair running during the week, but this week I added in a 50lb vest. Needless to say everything was sore for a good 2 days after. I decided to try my luck at the Vets Park CX. The plan was to see how it went Saturday, and then make a decision about whether to race Sunday or not. Saturday didn’t go all that well. Every time I hit the barriers and the run-up, the guy directly in front of me would become out of site! That’s how bad I was at getting on and off the bike. Still I finished in the mid pack somewhere on the mountain bike, so I guess that’s not too bad. Another great workout, but I wasn’t feeling too motivated to come back to that mess again on Sunday and take another flogging on the slip and slide. So I decided Greg and I would go out and get in another 45 miler. We did some awesome V02 intervals and I was pretty smashed by the time I got home. I was happy about the decision.

This week I went out Tuesday with Sven and rode the trail to get a feel for the rigid fork. Next few days will just be recovery rides. No stairs this week. So there ya have it… the Simonster Iceman 4 week training plan. Hope it’s enough to at least fake it at the front for a while. I’m super pumped about the race this year. Having a more relaxed approach and putting less pressure on myself is a nice change of pace. Looking forward to hanging out and partying with all my crazy bike riding friends! It’s going to be a blast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Shenandoah Saga

So here we are in Sept at the Shenandoah 100 after a hard season of 100 mile mountain bike racing. I was sitting 3rd in the points, however I had just received word that Josh Tostado placed 3rd at Park City. This meant I needed 2nd to reclaim 3rd in the overall points, quite a challenge knowing Christian and Jeff were out to kill each other and the pace was going to be all out. Shenandoah is one of my favorite courses. It’s like a Tour De France mountain stage on dirt guaranteed to make you scream for mercy. The race started quickly as usual. The XC guys were at the front pushing the pace hard up the first climb. I decided to just hang onto the back and not get too excited as the pack always seems to re-group on the descent. Sure enough we were all back together before heading out onto Tilfman Rd.

Things would begin to split up as we made our way up the next climb at Briery Branch. I kept a steady pace and I knew what my ability was on this climb since I pre-rode it the day before. Christian and Jeff flew up the hill followed by Sam Koerber and another local rider Kevin Carter. I let them go and focused on staying with the others as they passed one by one. We formed a group on the descent, but the group of 4 off the front were gone. We worked together somewhat for a little while on the roads until we reached Hanky’s. Sven Buaman, just off the plane from Germany, pushed the pace until it was down to just him and me at the top. Sven and I would continue together on the descent. We were working really well together and I knew if we could keep it up, we had a chance to regain the positions we lost. Up and over the next singletrack climb and onto the soul crusher, Sven and I were pretty much locked in step. By the top of the Soul Crusher, we had picked up Kevin Carter and we were bearing down on Sam in 3rd. I decided I was going to really push the pace on the descent and make the big effort to separate from Sven and go after Sam. The Chestnut descent comes off a 4000ft peak and in just a few miles, takes you all the way down to 2000ft, so this isn't your average roller. It's a full on downhill singletrack descent worthy of a downhill rig in some sections. The Superfly 100 was so smooth on the descent, it allowed for speeds far greater than I was used to on the hardtail. A quick little crash near the top should have been a warning that I was getting tired but I gathered myself quickly and was back to tearing down the mountain at warp speed.

I’d love to tell you that I kept riding at warp speed and caught Sam, then blasted up the return to Hanky’s and caught Jeff, placing 2nd and taking back my 3rd place in the points… but what was about to happen was the most horrifying experience on a bike I can ever remember.

So I’m flying down this descent. Not sure how fast I was going, but maybe 25mph??? I was barely on the brakes. I could feel my arms getting tired and pumped. Even my fingers were fatiguing from hanging onto the grips. Then just as I was coming around a sweeping corner I began to lose control of the bike. It was a steep section of singletrack with lots of big jagged rocks. I knew I was going down and I knew it was going to hurt. Then SMASH! As I tried to tuck and roll to the right, I went head first into a tree. My body flung around and I came to a stop lying on the side of the trail. My arms were up in the air like a praying mantis. I could barely move my legs. I was gasping for breath. I think Kevin was the first to stop, then Sven stopped. Sven decided to stay with me, giving up his shot at the podium. Thanks Sven, I owe you one buddy. Kevin carried on to let first aid know I was in serious trouble at the next aid station.

“Mike, you need to lay down, you have big cut on your neck.” Sven kept saying this over and over. I could tell he was extremely concerned. We laid there for a while as rider after rider passed. I kept telling him I was OK and I kept trying to get up. But something was definitely wrong. I had double vision and blood was dripping down my chest. I wrapped my jersey around my neck. I had no idea how bad this cut really was and I didn’t even notice the 5” long laceration on my forearm. I think I hit my helmet so hard that the chin strap drove right into my neck cutting it wide open. There's nothing like getting gashed wide open with a lycra strap. At that point, all I wanted to do was get off the mountain and down to my wife at the aid station. I even got back on the bike and started rolling down the hill again. But I was losing too much blood and the double vision came back quickly and I had to stop. Just then, one of the first aid girls got to me. She kept me company and got me to sit down on a log and wait for the evacuation crew to show up. About 30min later, they finally got there on the 4 wheeler and loaded me onto a stretcher. It was very slow go to get me the rest of the way out of the woods. I didn’t want to come out of the woods in a stretcher, and I was actually a little embarrassed about it. I knew my wife Mitch was going to freak. It also brings up the question as to how well prepared the NUE promoters are for this sort of situation. We all love to sign those waivers, but at some level, the overall safety for these events needs to be consistently provided for. But that’s a whole other bag of worms. I was just happy someone came and got me out of there. I just laid there looking at the sky as frantic helpers tried to figure out what to do with me. Next thing I know I’m in a helicopter on the way to the trauma center in Charlottesville as the hospital in Harrisonburg wasn’t going to be able to handle my injuries.

They gave me a good looking over and asked me all sorts of questions. I was actually thinking they would just sew me up that night and send me home… but as the E.R. doctor was on the way out of the door, she said, “I wouldn’t make any plans for the next few days.” I began to feel a little scared. They quickly moved me onto X-rays and CT-scans of the top half of my body. The news came back that I had 3 fractured vertebrae in my neck, a fracture in the base of my skull, and two fractured vertebrae in my back. The laceration on my neck was so deep, it had exposed both my jugular and carotid arteries. My heart sunk. Would I ever be able to ride again? Did I need surgery? The doc then gave me the good news that I was extremely lucky. She said the fractures were non-displaced, meaning that the bones were more or less just cracked and stayed in place. Most likely I’d just be in a C-brace for 6 weeks and they’d heel just like any other sort of bone break. She also gave me the good news that they were going to be able to stitch my neck and arm bedside and it wouldn’t require surgery… only pain killers and local anesthetic. “You must have had an angel there with you,” she said. “If the cut had gone any deeper, they wouldn’t have gotten to you time. If the fracture on the base of your skull was any larger, you could have been completely paralyzed and stopped breathing. I can't believe you have no damage to your nerves whatsoever” I didn’t know what to say. I just sort of brushed it off and chuckled at her. But the reality was that it hadn’t quite hit me as to what just happened.

Mitch, bless her heart, stayed by my side as they stitched me up and sent me off to the ICU. The next day, I was released from ICU. From there, I was on flat bed rest until the trauma team decided I was OK to release. Ryan O’Dell, founder of the NUE, stopped by and chatted with me for a while to get the story out to the press and let everyone know I was going to be OK. I was sort of in and out of it as whatever pain medicine they had me on, kept me pretty whacky, but I’m glad it did. Laying flat on your back for 3 days is like torture. Mitch slept in the room with me all 3 nights and made sure the nurses took care of me. She called all my friends to spread the news that I was going to be alright. Being laid up in a hospital is a terrible experience and I have nothing but sympathy for anyone that has to go through it. The doctors in the University of Virginia trauma center did a fantastic job putting me back together and I’m very grateful to have had such a good team working on me. Finally I was released, but dreading the 10hr drive home. Thanks to my father in law Dan O’Dea who soldiered out the 10hr drive solo through some of the worst downpours I’ve ever traveled in. I believe they even evacuated part of the highway the flooding was getting so bad.

Anyways, I made it home, and have begun the recovery process. It’s hard to believe I’m back here in my cubical when only 2 weeks ago I was almost killed in a bicycle accident. I'm sure this accident has left an impression with a lot of the NUE racers. Even the pro's make mistakes, and an accident like this is just a second away from hapenning out there when we're pushing the limits so far. It's something that's always in the back of my mind, but I've always tried to ignore it and just made the assumption that it wouldn't happen to me... but it did, and I was lucky. Makes me double take how I feel about racing. I mean I work a desk job, but I still need to be able to make it to work on Monday. But I think bicycle racing is in my blood. I still love this sport and I’m not not quite ready to give it up. It actually feels good to get back to normal. I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon in a couple weeks to check up on the bones, but so far so good. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stony Creek XC

It's been 10 years of racing now, and I can't remember one of those years not including at least one trip over to the local trails at Stony Creek for a race. My training has swung full gear into high intensity mode lately to get ready for the fall season of shorter races. Mitch has gotton really good on the scooter and we're like a team out there on the dirt rds. However my body is still adapting. The workouts are really intense and I always want to quit at least once before we're halfway through.

There was plenty of crazy fast talent present for our local XC series race. Christian Tanguy, Mark Parmelee, and Greg Kuhn to name a few. We took off and a group of 5 of us were riding together. Kuhn, Tanguy, Parmelee, J. Whitbrot, and me. By the end of lap 2, it was down to just me, Tanguy, and Parmelee. During lap 4, Christian made a super charge through the roller coaster and got a gap on Mark and I. Without my full suspension Superfly 100, I wouldn't have made back to his wheel on the rough singletrack. It was down to just him and me as we made our way out the pines. I was feeling pretty gased from Christians's roller coaster effort, and just couldn't seem to fully recover. Christian rolled away at the end of lap 4. I was doing everything I could to try and recover and keep my tempo up. Finally Mark caught me about halfway through lap 5. The legs were feeling better, but still not 100%. I punched it a couple times, but Mark was right on me. We both rolled into the finish and I just sort of rolled in behind him. Didn't have much left for a sprint. Congrats to Christian and Mark who both rode strong races. It was a fun race, and a really good workout. I think my finishing time was 2-1/2hrs! That's a pretty long XC race.

Stony Creek seemed like the perfect fitness topper for next weekend at Shenandoah, the NUE series finale! I'm currently tied for 3rd place in the points, so it will all shake down by then end of this weekend between SH100 and Park City P2P. I'll take it easy on the intervals this week and give the body a little time to rest and adapt. Hopefully I can continue my streak on the NUE podiums! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ore to Shore 2011

Ore to Shore is a race that’s become near and dear to me over the years. Marquette is a beautiful place. The town atmosphere is relaxing and low key. I’d actually like to take a trip there sometime without the added stress of the race. The course has always been a good one for me, and my fitness is usually topped out this time of year. But for some reason, my legs just didn’t quite have that explosive power this year. Seems the better I get at racing the 100 milers, the more I struggle at the high speed point to points. Go figure. Perhaps next year I'll make the lottery into Leadville.

The action got started right away and as usual I went to the front for the loge hill ascent. However this time, Cole House came ripping by, as well as a few others. I was able to latch on as we crested the top of the hill. The group was huge. I looked back and I couldn’t even see the end of the train. I should have known right then and there, that with so many strong riders, any attacks were going to be futile. The attacks came periodically and I just tried to stay near the front. I was the first into the power line climbs and tried to push the pace, but I just didn’t seem to have enough strength. At one point I got gapped off the back when I bobbled in a sand put. However, Mike Anderson, Bryan Eppen and I were able to chase back on.

We hit the long road section and I decided to give it all I had on the last hill before it turned to dirt. I attacked hard, opened a little gap, but it wasn’t sticking. I tried again when we hit the downhill two track, but it just wasn’t happening. Shortly after Brian Matter pushed the pace and I was hurting. Finally Mike Phillips made one big push and I was off the back. I was paying for my attacks from earlier. I was content with just coasting in from there, but I latched onto Brian Eppen and Mike Anderson and borrowed their motivation to push to the finish ending up in 8th place.

I was kind of surprised I wasn’t able to hang in there for the sprint at the end. Normally the downhill run in at Ore to Shore is gravy for me. However, my training has been heavily geared around the 100 milers this year and I spent a lot of time focusing on riding more efficiently. The sporadic full power surges were a shock to my legs which have been trained for more steady long efforts. I won’t chalk it up as a complete loss though. It’s good to get a dose of that every once and a while, but I’m afraid the truth is my body has been converted to handle more endurance type events, and I’m not sure I can do much about it in such a short time frame before Chequamegon.

Therefore I’m switching my efforts back to endurance and focusing on the NUE season finale at Shenandoah 100 and…. Marathon Nationals! I’m super pumped about heading out to Oregon for the first time. I’m actually not too sad about missing Chequamegon. The start of that race has just gotten way too out of control. I mean I love any kind of bike racing, but I swear I fear for my life in the first 3 miles of that race! It's not safe at all. It’s a relief knowing I won’t have to roll the dice again this year on that start. I’d love to see the pro’s start at Rosie’s Field, but until then, I’ll pass.

Congrats to Brian Matter on the win, and perhaps by the time Iceman rolls around I’ll be able to get the leg speed up and make it to the finish with a chance. Thanks for reading and get ready for fall season of MTB racing. I’m pumped!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wilderness 101

I have to admit, me and the Wilderness 101 course haven’t gotten along since we met years ago. Flat tires, broken wheels, broken chains, ripped derailleurs… you name it, this course eats bicycles. Needless to say, in 2011, it was time to settle the score. My bike was dialed and I came prepared with a new level of endurance and full heat acclimation.

The pace was fast right from the opening climb. Roger Aspholm pulled most of the way up and made all of our legs burn before we had a chance to warm up. There was a large group of us moving right along all the way to the first aid station where Drew Edsall attacked up the climb pushed the pace. His attacks were hard, and they continued all the way up the following climb until a group of 7 formed; Jeff Schalk, Christain Tanguy, Chris Beck, Drew Edsall, Roger Aspholm, Brandon Draugalis, and myself. We traded pulls and kept the pace high all the way up to aid station 2.

The big climb after aid #2 is where it all went down. It’s the biggest climb on the course and would take us almost 30 minutes to ascend. Christian went to the front, followed by Jeff. I lined up behind the two and knew it was only a matter of time before the attacks would start. It’s right where I wanted to be. The legs were still feeling good. Soon after, Christian pushed the pace and it was evident that his and Jeff’s power to weight ratios were slightly above mine, as well as Rogers. Instead of completely blowing up, I backed off and went into my own rhythm all the way to the top. Shortly after Brandon bridged up to me on the downhill. He and I worked together till we reached the next big climb on Sager Lake. I was able to break away from Brandon and bridge up to Roger on the climb. Once we reached the lumpy single-track at the top, I was able to break away from Roger. From this point on, I put my head down and pretty much rode solo in 3rd all the way to finish in 6:48.

Overall, I was pretty happy I didn’t have any crashes or mechanicals. I rode conservative on the downhills. I’ve learned the hard way you can’t always go careening into baby head rock gardens at 30mph with a 20lb plastic bicycle. I was also happy I had a clean shot at matching up against Christian and Jeff. It was my best effort. I couldn’t have done anything more on that day. It was all I had. The long steep climbs are something I’m going to have to continue to work on. I think I’ve definitely improved a ton this year. It’s taken several years and lots of hard lessons to hone the NUE skills, however I’ve managed to convert myself from a point to point hard man to somewhat of an endurance specialist. It’s August now and I’m not really counting on any major leaps in my NUE fitness before the season finale at Shenandoah. The tricky part now will be quickly converting myself back to a point to point hard man before the first Triple Crown. Congrats to Jeff Schalk for taking the win. It's going to be an interesting battle at Shenandoah to see who will take the 2011 series! I hope I have a front row seat to see the show.

Thanks for reading… now go out and ride that bike!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lumberjack 100 2011

It's summertime in Northern Michigan... a perfect time and place for a mountain bike race. The sun was out, and temps were mild. I was really looking forward to this years edition of the Lumberjack 100. The competition seems to get tougher each year, as well as the course speeds. We're now racing a full 100 miles, and it's awesome to see everyone upping their game and pushing the sport to new levels.

The rollout in the beginning got going pretty quickly. I found myself burried 20 deep going into the singletrack but I quickly made my way to the front. There were lots of sticks covering the course and I tip toed my way around paranoid one of those bastards would end up in my wheel or drivetrain. I stayed near the front 3 positions most of the first lap and followed Robert "the rabbit" Marion. He kept the pace nice and steady for us as we naviagted the twisty singletrack. For most of the first lap, there was a train of riders. I'm not even sure how far back it went, but all the usual suspects were there, including a few new names which is always welcome.

I blasted through the feed zone and head out for lap two. We all stayed together until Christian put in a long attack on the Road Monkey section, which is a flattish lumpy section of twisty trail that beats riders into submission. I stayed glued to Jeff Schalks wheel and tried to remain as smooth as possible. By the end of Christians attack, it was down to 5 of us, Brent Prenzlow, Jeff Schalk, Christian Tanguy, Derrik Graham, and me. The pace sort of chilled out as Jeff took over for a while.

We blew through the aid station one more time and head out for the 3rd lap. My exchange was so fast thanks to my wife Michelle, and my in-laws, Dan and Sandy, that I found myself with a little gap. Shortly after Jeff and Christian bridged up and the game set match was on. I pulled over and let Christian go by. He immediately upped the pace and we saw Jeff struggling a bit. Christian just kept hammering until it was down to just the two of us heading into road monkey again. I was hanging in there, and the legs were doing it, but it was tough. Christian was on a mission. I stopped for split second to remove a stick in my wheel. I quickly bridged, but I was red lining. Christian kept the hammer down through the twisty trees like a joy stick. I seemed to be OK, but unfortunately you need to steer your bike as well as pedal it in mountain biking and it was right then where I clipped a tree and went down. I knew that it was over.

I quickly recovered and got back on the bike. I kept the pace up and avoided my typical meltdown. I thought for sure I had 2nd wrapped up, then sure enough, Jeff came rolling up on me with about 5 miles to go. Rat farts! I knew I had another battle on my hands. I was pushing the pace on the hills and I was struggling. He actually tangled up with a lapped rider at one point, which enabled me to recover a little bit. It came down to the final climb and Jeff punched it and dropped me, but I still had a little fight left in me. I dug super deep and thought, "if I could just catch him, I'd have a shot for the sprint." But Jeff held me off and we both crossed the line completely smashed and in the red.

I have to admit, I was a little bummed, but I'm happy with the race. I think it was my best NUE performance yet. I've never been able to stay with Jeff to the finish, so I think this was a breakthrough race. I feel like I'm getting more consistant and I've almost got the 100 mile gas tank developed. Congrats to Christain Tanguy for the win, and thanks to all the sponsors that help me out. The Trek 29er ran great! The notubes wheels and tires were the ticket and the SRAM components popped out the shifts flawlessly. Next up is Wilderness101, where I hope to keep the fitness rolling. Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mohican 100 2011 NUE Stop #3

It’s hard to believe this was my 5th Mohican 100 and every one of them was just as hard as the other. This year was no different. The action got going right away with the $200 prime just ½ mile into the race. I made my way to the front and decided the $200 was at least worth the effort. After the un-godly steep paved climb, it came down to me and Robert Marion, in which he just edged me out. Dang! My lungs were burning, it was a full out effort. Ouch! Good thing we had a gap on the field and I was able to recover before heading into the singletrack. I launched from the left side of the group and pushed hard to be first into the shoot. This is one of the knarliest sections of trail in the whole race with steep off camber descents and I didn’t want to get in trouble. Soon after, Josh Tostado came ripping by. He was on rails going down the hills, and must have been holding onto a tow rope going up the hills! I prepared myself for the dis-mount of the early hike-a-bike, but Josh just started riding up it! So I followed and we cleaned the whole hike-a-bike. I thought “wow, that’s two bullets out of the magazine already. The last 25 miles is going to be misery.” A group of 5 developed. It was Schalk, me, Tanguy, Draugelis, and Tostado.

Josh continued to push the pace in the singletrack, and at one point I had to let him go, but bridged back later on. We blew through aid #1 and I grabbed two bottles. One managed to leap out of my cage. Shit, better turn around and go get it. For the next 20min or so, I dug super deep to bridge back up right before we hit the 2nd and 3rd hike-a-bike… bullets number 3 and 4. I was definitely in the red, but it was good enough to hang on as we head out onto the roads. Legs were feeling a little wobbly, but I recovered before we got to Mohican Wilderness. I attacked to be first into the singletrack, shortly after I heard yelling. Dam! I made a wrong turn and had to hike back up to the intersection. Chase chase chase, whew, I made it back on. A quick bottle grab at aid #3 and we were back on the trail. I noticed Josh was struggling a bit. We traded pulls and were working together pretty well as we made our way back out onto the roads. Jeff rolled to the front and began pushing the pace up the next climb. I followed and noticed we had a tiny gap over the others. I made my way around Jeff and put in an attack of my own (bullet 5). I was able to pull out Christian and Jeff. Shortly after I attacked again on the following dirt rd rollers and whittled it down to just Jeff Schalk and I.

We traded pulls and distanced ourselves on the horse buggy trail. Jeff was taking tremendous pulls that had me in my 39-11 (bullet 6)! I would pull through occasionally to give him a break, but I was starting to feel the fatigue. It’s a long uphill grade on the buggy trail, and there was no way to really recover. We pulled through aid #4. At this point, I was just content with sitting on Jeff’s wheel as long as possible to keep gaining time on the others. I finally popped as the mid day sun began to beat on us and Jeff rolled away like a runaway freight train. I was out of bullets and my magazine apparently only holds 6 bullets. He knew he had it and knowing it was going to fuel him all the way to the finish.

I began to ride very slow. The heat was oppressive, but I’d been in these situations before. I knew if I didn’t stop and just kept the bike moving, I had a chance to hang onto 2nd. So I relied on my training and experience to get me through. I stuck to my nutrition plan and actually stopped to get extra water which helped bring me back to life in the final singletrack section. Wait, just plain water helps? Who knew. I was glad it was over, and I was happy with my race! No crashes, and no mechanicals! Woohoo!

Thanks to my wife Michelle for the support, and to all the sponsors. It really makes getting on the podium a whole hell of a lot easier. Next up is Lumberjack in just under 2 weeks. Lets pray for some cooler temps this time around! See you there.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mohican/Lumberjack Setup

Superfly Hardtail Frame 1250 2.76
REBA XX fork 1700 3.75
Ergon GX1 125 0.28
Truvativ World Cup bar 161 0.35
Bontrager X Lite Stem 120mm 135 0.30
Cane Creek Headset w/spacers 100 0.22
XX Shifters 183 0.40
Der. Cable W/housing 100 0.22
XX Brakes 600 1.32
ZTR Race Gold Wh eels 1350 2.98
XX 11-36 Cassette 225 0.50
XX R. Der. 181 0.40
Kenda Small Block 8's 2.1" 1180 2.60
Bontrager Evoke RXL Saddle 165 0.36
Truvativ World Cup seatpost 225 0.50
Gary Fisher Seat Collar 60 0.13
Eggbeater 3 pedals 278 0.61
XX Cranks 39/28 w/BB90 690 1.52
XX chain 250 0.55
Stans Sealant 100 0.22
XO Fr Der. 100 0.22
Notubes Skewers 100 0.22
King Bottle Cages 100 0.22
Totals 9358 20.63

Rider Height 6'-2"
Rider Weight 80 kg

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cohutta 100 2011

The first 100 miler of the year treated us with fantastic weather and pristine trail conditions. I have to be honest, after my performances at Barry Roubaix and Paris Ancaster, I was beginning to have doubts about my aggressive training plan this year. However, between Barry Roubaix and the weekdays leading up to Cohutta, I had managed to whittle 10lbs off my chubby winterized frame. It’s the leanest I’ve been in a long time. In my training, I could feel the difference on the climbs. It felt as if I was riding up the hills, rather than wrestling up the hills, so I knew the weight loss certainly wouldn’t hinder me at Cohutta with all the climbing involved.

We start up this 3 mile long paved road climb. The legs were feeling pretty good, the brisk morning mountain air was nipping at my ears and hands, but it warmed up quickly. A group of 8 emerged at the front as Chris Peariso pushed the pace on the 2nd half of the singletrack. We had, me, Chris Peariso, Jeff Schalk, Thomas Turner, Robert Marion, Andy Johnston, Chris Beck, and Christian Tanguy.

As we head out onto the fire roads, Patrick Mossler bridged up and joined our group, a mystery rider I wasn’t familiar with. There always seems to be one or two of them at each NUE. My legs were feeling good, so I tried a few moves off the front. Perhaps they’d let a large sized man off the front before the climbs… but no luck. Jeff would pull me back each time while the others sat on. We blew through aid station 2 and dropped a few off the group as we hit the steeper climbs. The course sort of undulates between aid 2 and 3. As we approached aid 3, Christain took a couple hard digs off the front which were covered by Schalk and I. We rolled into aid 3 and I got a quick hand-up and continued to push on. It was the only feed I took the entire race. I had maybe 30s on the others. On a short steep climb just after aid 3, Christian broke away from Beck and Schalk and got to within maybe 10s of my wheel, with 30s over Chris Beck and Jeff Schalk. I was pressing the pace on the long descent and holding off Christian, then the dreaded hiss started. Dam! I immediately went to work on fixing the flat as Christian went by, then soon after Jeff and Chris slipped by. But before anyone else caught up, I had the tire fixed and was off in pursuit.

I got to within 3min of Jeff and Chris before I hit the final 3 climbs in the last 20 miles, then the chase was pretty much over. I buried my head and pushed on a steady pace all the way to the end to finish up in 4th. Other than the tire, which was a bummer, it was a clean race and I was pleased with the performance. The form is good, and I still have another 5lbs I think I can shave off my carcass before Mohican and Lumberjack. Congrats goes out to fellow Michigan rider Christian Tanguy for a strong ride. It’s kind of ironic that he and I only live 10 miles from each other. The Superfly was a great tool for the job. The new frame is a big improvement over the first generations. The Ergon grips kept my hands happy the whole 7hrs, and the Notubes Crest 29er wheels stayed TRUE to their reputation as FAST wheels. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Paris to Ancaster 2011

I wasn't quite sure what to expect for this race. It's like a whole different scene over in Canada that I'm totally not familiar with. I knew Mike Garrigan and Semaus McGrath, but other than that, I was pretty clueless with whom was on the start line, but apparently I still had enough credibility for a front row call up which was nice. Thanks! The wind was whipping like crazy! I heard reports of gusts up to 50mph, which was a tailwind for us most of the day. The start went pretty well. I kept my nose out of the wind, and was able to stay right near the front. I still need more practice with this technique though. Comming from mountain biking, it's all about getting to the front and staying there. However in road racing, the tactics are way different and I have to admit, it's something I've struggled with over the years, especially when it's really windy. We hit the rocky two track off the rail trail, and I was right in the mix. It was hard, but my legs were doing it. With the tailwind, the group was absolutely flying along... much faster than my 39x11 would let me go. I'd bridge on the trail sections, but whenever we hit the road, I was struggling with proper positioning in the cross winds. I got caught out in the wind a couple times and would continue to get spit out the back of groups. Finally I got the hang of it and hung onto a little group in about 25th position or so. We rode together most of the race until we hit the mud slides. Finally! A place where I could use the MTB to my advantage. I ripped down the two mud slides and dropped my group. On the way to the finish I was able to snatch up a few more spots finishing 19th overall. I was pretty pleased. I got what I wanted out of the race which was a really hard race effort. I just came off another big week of hrs, so I'm happy I had enough zip in my legs to finish the race strong. If I really wanted to hang up front however, I would have been on a CX bike. My training has been quite different since I started doing 100 mile MTB races too. 5 years ago, I would've been doing short, more intense rides with lots of intervals. However I find I need quite a large base of miles to stick a 100 miler all the way to the end. The long hrs take away from my speed somewhat, but I think it's a wise trade off. I mean most of these 100 milers are going 7-8hrs with over 10,000ft of climbing. The extra miles help trim me down to size and improve my climbing efficiency immensly. It's a tricky blend being able to do well in a 100 miler, then turn around and stick it in a short fast gravel grinder. Perhaps I'll save my speed training for later in the season when the focus turns towards the tripple crown. Lets hope I can make that plan work. Next up is Cohutta in good old Ducktown TN in less than 2 weeks time. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks to the Naishy mate for driving last weekend and thanks to RBS for the sweet new kit. Oh! and thanks to Don Cumming for the ride back to Paris! Don even played frogger on the 403 to retrieve Naishy's wheel after it blew off the roof rack! Not even a scratch on the Notubes wheel... so you can run and tell that! Homeboy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Barry Roubaix 2011

Wow how this race has grown in just 3 short years! Over 1000 people entered!!! Rick Plight must be doing something right, and I believe he is. I won this race 2 years ago and I thought the terrain suited me well, so after skipping last year, I thought I'd give it another run.

We woke up to morning temps in the teens. After training all winter in MI, I thought great! Everyone will be stunned by the cold temps and I'll feel right at home. My new RBS kit came equip'd with all the cold weather trim. No prob... Well needless to say, the cold temps didn't bother anyone. We rolled out nuetral with ol' Ward Wilson at the helm with the trusty KTM. Yes, he managed to get it started one more time for us. Once we hit the dirt, the pace quickly escalated, but it was manageable. We hung a right onto the pavement and I knew Sager Lake was coming up. I rolled up the right side of the road and took the holeshot into Sager Lake.

I immediately went into red, and after that, Graham and Anderson danced around me leaving me gasping for air. I thought, OK, we'll deal with the early attacks here, then it will all come back together... sure sure. But the pace didn't seem to let up. We hit the hills just after Sager Lake and I couldn't recover. The roads were dialed. They were almost like pavement. I probably could have rode a road bike. I had to let the front group go. Meanwhile, my seat rails managed to self destruct. My bike was spewing out pieces of titanium tubing all over the road on Sager Lake. Bahh!

I struggled for a bit and decided to wait for the next group. The nose of my saddle was about 1" too low and my back and knee's were starting to cramp. Double Bahh! I would hang with what I think was the 3rd group for a while. My legs felt terrible, every hill hurt, and I just didn't seem to have it. I decided to pull the plug going into the 2nd lap rather than risking another 35 miles without a seat. I think it was a good call.

I think this year was the year for the CX bike. Seemed like these guys were zipping back and forth with no problems. I found myself pedaling on the downhills to keep up with the guys on CX bikes coasting. My training has been going pretty good. Been getting in lots of miles, and I did a lot of cross training. Perhaps I'm just missing a little bit of intensity in my legs? Were the CX bikes that much faster? Was my seat issue a big deal? Was I tired from all the miles I've been putting in? Am I just getting too old? Am I missing something in my diet? Was I dehyrated? Did I tie my left shoe first? Did I forget my rabbits foot? It'll drive a cyclist crazy, but these are all questions I'll have to sort out in the coming weeks. The good thing is that it's still early and these early season races give you a chance to see what you missed in the off-season. I think I've got better races in me for sure.

Congrats to my fellow compratiots who finished on the podium. Next up is Paris Ancaster. Hopefully I'll have things a little more dialed in by then. Thanks for reading, and if you missed the Barry Roubaix, make sure its on your calendar next year!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A little glimpse...

into the joys of training in Michigan winters. As some of you know, I work 9hr days and have every other Friday off work. This was my short week, so I had my eye on the weather and it kept getting worse all week! I knew pulling off a hundo in the conditions they were calling for was going to take every trick in the book.

I thought I had it nailed. I swapped my tires and laid out all my clothes on Thurs night... I even filled up my Wingnut and stashed it in the fridge. I went to bed feeling ready for whatever mother nature had in store. Sure enough when I woke up, I found a 1/4" layer of ice covering everything... the only thing I wasn't prepared for. Bahh! I thought it was over for a minute. Then I remembered about the old Kenda Klondike CX tires I had hanging in the garage. The perfect tire for the job. I think Mitch was preparing to go into work late, but when she heard me tearing the tire rack down out in the garage, she quickly made her escape. Even Buddy and Tigger ran and hid behind the couch. I think everyone was still traumatized from the last tire swap. The animals had Stans juice in their fur for weeks after an unexpected blowout!

A couple bloody knuckles and about 6 oz of dish soap later, I had the Klondikes seated up and I was out the door by 9am. It didn't occur to me till I got a few miles down the road that these tires didn't roll very fast. It felt like I was riding on velcro but it was nice on the ice. Studs along with the 11 lbs of Gatorade strapped to my back and single speed bike had my legs burning instantly. I quickly realized pulling off a hundo was going to be tough.

I had a tailwind pushing me out to sea. I decided to roll one of my trusty old century loops up to Columbiaville. It's a nice loop with minimal traffic, and it's all pavement. The country scenery of old farms and small towns keeps my mind fresh and interested. I rolled into Columbiaville at mile 50. The rain was on and off, and by now all of the ice was melted and roads were just wet. Good thing I had the studs... ugh. I flipped and head South into the headwind. My legs were starting to get stagnant and the little aches and pains were creeping in, especially my back. There's a few bailout points along the route to cut the hundo short, however I wasn't going to let the demons win today. I was pulling this off even if it would kill me.

I pulled into the "hell of Elba" and cringed at the headwind. This is a 10 mile section of the route with endless rollers that escalate back to Hadley. I knew if I could get thru Elba, I'd pull it off. Sure enough, I silenced the inner demons and pressed on to finish out the full century loop in just under 6-1/2hrs. Not too shabby for a single speed bike and studded tires. I stepped into the house completely exhausted greeted my old pal Buddy. I slammed my recovery drink, hopped into a hot shower... and began preparing to do it all over the next day.

Keep up the motivation! Spring will be here soon!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Update - 2011

Well, hope everyone had a happy new year and is ready to start working hard towards the 2011 race season! Every year I think back to the long winter rides we do and I always wonder how the hell we pull it off. 10 degree's, snow, ice, wind, it sounds awful. But there's something about it that makes training outside through the winter so peaceful, maybe even enjoyable. I always love the little battles with mother nature. Seems I've always got a little trick up my sleeve to offset what she's got planned for the weekend to thwart my training... even if it requires a little duck tape and a late night.

If you haven't heard yet, I'm changing up the sponsors just a little bit this yr. Instead of the Trek 29er Crew, the primary sponsor will be Rochester Bike Shop. They're located in downtown Rochester MI. Check them out! However I'll still be flying the Trek 29er colors, most likely on their super sweet superfly hardtail. Notubes is also back on board taking care of my wheels/sealant/tire needs. Thanks guys, the support goes a long way in this day and age!

And who couldn't forget ol' Coach Art. He's still working with me for 2011 as well. Now that football season is almost over, I'm sure he's glad he won't be recieving anymore belligerent phone calls... well maybe one more if Green Bay ends up winning. Bahh! The training has been going along steady and I'm keeping up with my routine. I should be ready to rip come spring time.

Well thats it for now. For those of you braving the elements, try to keep the rubber side down and most importantly KEEP THE HARD WORK UP! It'll pay off in the spring, I promise.