Monday, August 18, 2014

Ruby Gravel 50

Not sure if this race will be around in the future, but it sure has been fun for the past few years. And with a few new updates made to the route, its hard to find another race with so many unique features. with 8 miles for some of the fast gravel roads in Michigan, crossing a 100 yr old 100 foot tall train trestle, a paved +7 % climb, and the technical single track of Ruby Campground. The course was fast, and interesting the entire time.





The turnout was small, but there were still some fast guys looking to race hard, and give their best efforts. From the whistle, we quickly ramped up to 23 MPH down the first stretch of dirt road, we continued this pace until the first real climb. The "Ruby Wall". The pace slowed and many riders instantly started drifting back. Tony Bastuk made a quick little attack and claimed the first KOM of the day, earning himself a cold 6er of PBR!

The group formed back together, and everyone spent some time shaking the lactate acid out of their legs. By now the field was started to fragment. And then we hit the first section of Single track. My team mate, Scott Vermullen made the first move. Scott carved the trail like a hot knife through butter. I could barely hang onto his wheel and in do so, we were putting a huge gap into the group we were just in. Scotty also claimed the 2nd KOM of the day up the infamous "Lance" climb. When we finished up the single track Scotty was gassed. He said he was all done, so I pulled around him and climbed up the campground road. I gave it another surge on the dirt road and found myself with about a 1 mile gap. I pushed hard, but decided it would be best to fall back into the group. By now, the group was down to 8 rider. Tony Bastuk, Keith Regie, Robert Parrish, Chuck form BK fitness, a guy from Boston, MA, Scotty and now me.

We stayed like this for the 2 laps. And each lap played out the same way. Scotty would attacked before the single track, I would catch him at the end, and then I would get a gap on the road. But each time, I would back off and not let the gap grow as large so I could stay within the group and save more energy.

On the last lap, we played the same script. But this time I was thinking of a few strategies. 1, If I get the gap again, do I try and solo for 10 miles? 2, back off and stay with in the group and try to battle everyone in the last 2 miles of single track? 3, if I get the gap with one other rider, do we both try to work together and stay away to the end? As I come out of the single track and crest the campground road climb one last time, I sit up and access where I am. I have the gap, and a few more seconds, I see Keith... Strategy 3 pops into my head! I know Keith is a strong Gravel racer, and has years of racing experience. Also, he has had a great day in the saddle so far. I ask Keith right away, "do you want to go and try and break the group?" He says, "Sure!" And we were off.

We both went hard holding each others wheel, sharing pulls and making each other work. About 10 mins into this last 2 man TT, Keith looks back and access the damage, he then says, "we got it!" And we turned the screws a bit more. With about 4 miles to go, Keith spots Tony making a move to come across the gap. Tony is slowly closing in, but can not make it to us before the last single track section. Knowing I was able to clean the single track faster than everyone but Scott, I made one last surge to get around Keith and be the first into the single track. Keith stayed very close until we reached the top of Lance for the last time. Then I was able to put a little bit of daylight between us. I finished the race just trying to stay on top of my bike, and took home the Overall win and 30-39 age group win on the day!

Thanks to Brent and Fun Promotions for putting this race on again.

Thanks to my Mom and Dad for the great pictures and support.

Thanks to my team mates, Team Sandbag - Todd, Scott, Kevin, and Aaron for helping out with the event to get it ready and all having great races on the day!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Glacial Hills of Bellaire



What a Great Weekend!

Tailwind pulled out all the stops to come up with a world class event and the hit it out of the park. The Glacial Hills of Bellaire XC race was awesome! In its first year, this race already has the makings to become something really big. With some of the best trails I have ever ridden in the USA!!! A great welcoming small northern Michigan town to host the event, a downtown start, and one of the best micro breweries in the world as a sponsor, which is Short's Brewery, I had a permanent smile on my face for the entire weekend.

To make it even better, I was able to spend this time with great friends. Many laughs were had, and a few too many drinks where consumed, but it just added to the memories of a great time. I can't wait to do this race next year.

As for the race its self, Well, I had one hell of a hang over... Not typically something I do before a race, but it happens.. So I was not expecting much, but I was still going to push as hard as I could and see if I would have a good day or a bad day.

The first 2 miles was a long steady climb up a paved road to the single track. This would have been great for me any other time, but my head started pounding and I pushed to stay near the front. Half way up the hill a buzz of wheels and instantly 10 riders go down. It was nasty, but I was able to avoid it. we neared the trail head, and then the attacks started. 2 M-22 local guys hit the trail and never looked back. Dub-9 chased. I was stuck behind Dan Sterling and the rest of the pack followed. Dan soon started to slow down, so I was able to finally find a spot to pass. When I did I started to open up a gap. The trail is a perfect blend of speed and flow. Its almost 90% bench cut into the hills and is like a fine sculpture more than a single track trail. I was starting to get into a groove and push my limits. All while gain a little more time around each turn. Then I came around a blind corner on a steep down hill, and did not see the 90 degree right hand turn coming! UGH! I blew through the turn and found myself about 20 feet into the woods. I stopped and saw my entire class pass me by! Damn it! I ran my bike back to the trail and started to chase. By now they had already gained 20 seconds on me. I pushed hard and soon caught the tail end of the group. I knew it was going to be hard to pass because the trial was so fast. But I began to pick of guys one by one.

By the start of the 2nd lap, I had finally worked my way up to Aryn and Robert Parrish. We made some hard attacks and finally were able to drop the rest of the group. We all thought that we were racing for 4-6th at this point, so we all pushed hard, and took digs at each other to see who was fading. None of us budged.

With about 2 miles to go, a few riders from the 40-49 group caught us. When they started to go around, Aryn made a move to jump on. I was able to latch on as was Robert. Aryn was turning the screws and it was hurting. Now my hangover was reminding me that it was still present as my quads began to slowing cramp. Aryn Pushed until we hit the paved road back down to the finish. He opened up a quick 500 meter gap, and was pedaling as hard as he could to get away. I chased, and soon was able to catch him. I never pedaled so hard down hill that my legs hurt as bad as they did.

We hit the grass before the finish and back into the woods a bit. Aryn was continuing to turn the screws. I was at my max. And legs were cramping worse. I made one more push to try and catch, and began to close the gap once more. But it was not enough. Aryn took 5th by 1 second. I ended up 6th.

I was happy with how I felt considering, I back to rebuilding my endurance for CX, I took a long break 2 weeks ago, and I was hung over. So with 2 more MTB races to go, I hope to build up to some better results.

Congrats to Aryn and Robert. This was one of the best battles I have ever had in a race. And you guys rode smart and aggressive. See you at Stony!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Midland City Forest XC

Nothing special to report. Its that time a year again for me. If you want to see how my race went at Midland, read my Brighton XC post from the same time last year, and you will get the gist of how it went. See you in a few weeks.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Another Great One to Remember - Boomer XC 2014

 
I have said it to a few folks already, but this is by far the overall fastest, deepest, and evenly stacked group of guys I have raced with in the Expert 30-39 in the few years I have raced in this class. And Bloomer XC was another example of how tight the racing has been.

Right from the whistle, the blows started. Andy F, and Mike T, went off the front like rockets. A group of Aryn, Jon-Dub9, Robert P, Stephan Z, and a few other began the chase! I was already in the red zone, and felt like I was fighting my bike to hang onto the group. By the time the 2nd lap started, We had caught Andy, and were down to a select group containing Aryn, Stephan, Andy and Myself. We had a good gap to the remaining folks in the class. Knowing the Mike T was just ahead of us, and the podium was not going to be 6 deep, the attacks started. Aryn lit the fuse on the first few, then Stephan. Both would carve the single track like a butcher, and slowly begin to distance themselves from me. I was able to bridge the gap each time in the flats. This continue lap after lap. By the end of the 3rd lap, Stephan was able to get a gap in the confusion of a crash. Aryn and I gave chase and this was enough to ride Andy off our wheels. At the start of the 4th lap, we knew we had at least 2 in front of us to chase down and we could see them both.

At the start finish, I surged up the small grassy climb and into the single track. I was ready to light a few matches and see what happen. I soon realized that I forced a gap on Aryn. I continued to try and chase down the leaders but could not tell if I was gaining. I was still making sure that the gap I formed from Aryn was sticking. I would punch the hills, mange the bike through the single track and bury myself on the flats. This worked. In the end, I never made it back to 1st or 2nd, but I was able to round out the podium for 3rd.

What a hard race. We all stuck together, tested each others strengths and weakness, and never gave up. This is the way racing should be, a

nd I can't wait until the next round.

Congrats to Mike, Stephan, Aryn, and Andy for well earned podium spots in a very tough race.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Comfort Zone - LBJ 100

 
This past weekend I pushed myself into uncomfortable territory. I did my first every 100 mile mountain bike race at the Lumberjack 100. And for extra punishment, I did it on my single speed.

Since I been racing, long endurance races have been my Achilles heal. I have toyed around with the idea of doing this race in the past, but for most of the past few years, I never really thought I would be able to complete it. But with this year being the 10th anniversary of the race, the course running backwards, 90 % of the course being single track, 9,000 ft of climbing overall, super cool t-shirts and pint glasses I just had to have, I felt there was no better time than this year to do it.

Brad Lako, Joe Sidel and I jumped in the Jeep and head up to Manistee for the long weekend of good times and memories. We got the cabin and it was pissing rain. This was a good thing, and the course would be in stellar shape the next day. We did our pre-ride, had a few beers and chilled until the next morning.

5 AM came quick! But with the pre-race jitters, we were up and at'em. The start was cool, crisp and damp. Just about perfect racing temps. We kitted up and marched to the paved start line. At the start, we rolled down the road and good clip. I soon got shelled out the back, because I could not spin fast enough to keep up. This would be my big mistake of the race. I soon found myself behind about 200 people in the single track on a 5+ mile conga line up the first big climbs. This was not good especially being on the single speed. I had to track stand my way up the hills and very slow speeds. Once the traffic started to thin, I was finally able to move along and settle into my pace.

This was the first time I had been on the outer trails of Big M and I have to say they were amazing! Some of the best trail riding I have even done in Michigan. This was a key factor of my race, and the constant awesome views of the forest, and fast flowing trail kept me stimulated for the entire race.

At the end of the first lap, I was feeling really good. I took a quick break and was off. I was not happy with my lap time, but there was not much I could do with all the beginning traffic. But now the course was wide open, and I went at the rest of the race a little harder. I was now steadily picking off riders one by one. I kept getting behind geared riders almost every climb. This would slow me a bit, but would get around when I could. I was still feeling good and keeping to my pace. The flat 2 track sections were really hard for me, as I would spin out and lose my time that I was gaining. But I was here to finish and not win, so I just managed my efforts and used it as a opportunity to rest my hands and eat solid food.

At the half way point of the 2nd lap, I was surprised to see Joe Sidel at the aid station. He said "hey John", I looked up and almost took out a tree. I stopped and asked what happened? he then told me about his brake issue taking him out of the hunt, and then about him helping his team make Mike F. fix his chain and some other guys chain as well. He said he was about to DNF, but then decided he would just finish it out with me. Joe Deserves the karma award for the weekend for sure.

Joe and I were now together and discussed everything under the sun! But we kept and good pace for the rest of the lap. At the start of the 3rd lap, we slammed a coke, took on some more bottles, and pushed ahead. Joe helped me to keep pushing the pace. We continued to pick off more riders. The entire time I was surprised at how well my legs felt especially on every climb. Soon into the last lap, we hit the 1st 2 track section. We were in a small group of riders, and were trying to sit into to draft the geared guys as much as possible. Then I saw the guy in front of me kick up a small down tree with branches and all. I came right at me like a missile, and got lodged between my chain stay and spokes. It completely locked up my wheel and I came to instant stop. It took me at least 5 mins to pull it out of my frame! Ugh! Nothing was broken thank God, and Joe came back to stick with me. We pushed together through the rest of the lap. Joe pulled away at the end to bring back one single speeder that was dangling in front of us. But I just stayed in my zone and pushed as hard as I could to the end. I came across the line at 8:31. I was a half hour off my my goal time, but I finished and I didn't cramp! In the end, I had a lot to be happy about for the day. I finished something that was way out of my comfort zone, and I got to hang out with great friends at one of the best events in the state!

Congrats on Brad on his top 10 SS class and top 30 overall result!
Thanks again to Joe for coaching me through the race.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Addison Oaks XC

After figuring out my seat post has been slipping on my race bike, and getting back into a consistent training routine, things felt like they were finally clicking on the bike again.

The race at Addison Oaks last week went much better for me that the previous 2 Tailwind races. It started out very fast as usual, and a group of 10 or more of us stuck wheel to wheel for the entire first lap. Then Mitch for Twin Six clipped a bar going full tilt early in the 2nd lap. He wedged between 2 trees, and clogged up the course. The let the 4 guys in front of him get away. Jessy Gould and I finally made it through first and lit a match to try and catch back on. Half way through the lap we caught Stephan Z. We worked together and finally were able to see the lead group just ahead. By now, we had dropped the remaining guys in our class. I hit the grass for the 3rd lap and did not look back. Soon I was away from Jessy and Stephan, and was closing in on the leaders. But in the process, Mike T. made a move that broke up the group ahead containing Andy F, and Jon Dub-9. This must had caused the gap to grow again, because I could see them from time to time but never pulled back the final seconds in the last lap. However, the legs felt good and had plenty of punch until the very end.

Great racing by everyone in the class. It great to finally line up with 20+ equally fast guys week after week.

Next stop Lumberjack 100... This is going to be interesting.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stony Marathon XC

Here we are again. the Stony Creek Marathon. The race that more people either misjudge, or over estimate each year than any other race in the state of Michigan. Including me. This year was no different. I have often heard for many very strong elite and expert racers over the years that this race is harder than Lumberjack. So I guess I will get my chance to find that out in a few weeks.

As for this Stony chapter, some mistakes, bad luck, life, and general piss poor frame of mind heading into the race, resulted in a DNF. After 40 miles, of feeling like my knee caps were going to blow out my legs, and not having much fun. I decided to just pull the plug and live to fight another day.

So back at it. Topping off fitness, and getting back on my routine. See you all in a few weeks.