Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Japanese engineering saves the day

I got a call yesterday from Chris "Mr. Clean" Cooper....

Cooper: You riding tomorrow? Me: Not sure Cooper: Wanna? Me: Maybe Cooper: We're heading to Sewanee Me: hmmm I'll get back to you

I checked my schedule and asked Coop if he thought it would be an all-day excursion, like our last LBL trip, or would we get back at a sane hour so my whole day wasn't shot. I'd already basically decided I was in, but I was hoping I'd be back to Nashville at a decent time.

I met Corey and Coop at the Cracker Barrel in Murfreesboro. (no not that one on exit 78B, the one on exit 81B, MBoro likes Cracker Barrel). After we all ate the exact same meal, minus some bacon from Canadia, we all loaded up in Corey's GMC truck and hit to road to meet Ivory at the perimeter trail at Sewanee. 9 miles later we notice the truck is reving really high. We're going 60mph and the truck is at 4000 RPMs. Ummm Corey, do you have a 'performance package' on this truck? Transmission a quality American made auto with less than 40,000 miles. So back to Cracker Barrel we go. Coop and I offer to drive our Japanese Engineered trucks and in no time we're back on the road.

30 minutes lost but we made it to the trail head, after a lot of GMC bashing and Toyota lovin' and found Ivory was waiting on us. It was to be another day of singlespeed riders with a Vassage, Redline, Quiring and Ivory's new trick EWR 29er.

We told Ivory we wanted a totally new Sewanee experience so he played tour guide for the day and lead us out on the loop backwards. The trail was dry and dusty and very loose. Rocks, twigs and rear tires were flyin' everywhere. Where's the flow? The first 1/3rd of the loop in reverse is quite bumpy. You start with a few miles of fireroads but then it's twisty trail with short climbs and lots of baby heads and no real decernable (unless you're Ivory) lines.

The trail was enjoyable in reverse but it was eye opening. I haven't ridden Sewanee in quite a while and it showed. We all had a blast though, even if Corey did pull a Jeffy and ride the last 4 miles off the front. The heat was not quite as bad as last weeks ride but it still felt like 100% humidity and we were all soaked by the end. We were done by 12:30pm and home by 2:30...not bad for some slackers!

I had a slightly frustrating day bike setup wise. My Oury grips started spinning on my bars right at the start of the ride. I guess the deluge of rain we drove through coming back from LBL loosened up my hairspray adhesive. My hands were getting sore after only 5 miles trying to keep control of my bike and brake, all with my grips spinning around. I know I know, they make things called Lock-on grips. meh what a cop out way to fix the issue. And the lock-on parts hurt my hands. This is only the second time since November I've had issues with the grips and when they stay put, they rock. I cleaned them and re-installed them when I got back with some true spray adhesive so we'll see how that works.

Other than that the bike worked great as is becoming par for the course. I was lazy and kept my 32x20 gearing on from our North South trail ride. I worried it would be too easy but it turned out to be a great gearing. Ivory and I were both riding 32x20, Cooper was on 32x19 and Corey/Masher was on 32x18 and we were all smiles at the end so gearing aint that important. (right Kanza participants?)

Tomorrow I will be one year older. I'll officially be into my 30's. Nothing much on the agenda other than spending quality time with Beth and with the bartenders at the Yazoo Tap Room. Hope to see a lot of my friends out!

Friday, June 12, 2009

More 2009 Dirty Kanza 200

Riding with my teammate Jeff
Originally uploaded by Chewieez
It happened again, no big surprise. I waited to write a full race/ride report and have lost much inspiration. I knew it would happen but truthfully I never really felt a lot of push to write down a long, nitty gritty account of the 102 mile ride. (edit: after writing this long account, I lied I guess. It looks long, but this isn't even 10% of what happened that weekend)

It was an amazing weekend and something I was equally looking forward to and also dreading the unknown. I have a habit of getting myself into rides that are over my head. I try not to sweat the details, like mileage, and go with my gut. I knew Dirty Kanza would sell out quick, knew that I would love to attempt it, that it was be a blast with my Yazoo/Moots teammates and that it was cheap at $40. I signed up and looked back repeatedly for the months leading up to the ride.

Most of the enjoyment for me was all the prep work. All the time thinking about and talking to my buddies about how were were going to set our bikes up. This ride was going to push me into completely uncharted territory. I was fortunate to have the guidance of all the boys who raced Kanza last year, Thad, Mike, Scott, Grant and Troy. 100s of emails were sent from what shorts to wear to how 35x17 on a small wheeled bike compares to 32x16 on a 29er with monster truck tires.

The weekend finally arrived and all the pieces fit together. We had rides lined up, a van to protect our bikes and "Ride the Lightning" to blast on the highway. We had roadtrip setbacks and didn't get much sleep Thurs night but we rolled into Emporia Friday with a lot of time to suss out bike setups and consume yummy Boulevard beers. The racer meeting went off without a hitch....even had Swiftwicks on hand to raffle. (I hope those lucky riders who won a pair of socks had their minds blown! Merino wool One's were the perfect sock for the ride, and most summer rides).

Race morning came quick (4am) and we all got suited up and made it to the starting line, 50 yards from our hotel room door. The morning was awesome; blue grey skies with a breeze and cool temps. We got quick instructions and heard things like... at mile 175 there is a steep creek crossing, be careful. We had an escort through downtown Emporia and then we hit the gravel and the group split up quick. Everyone found their group of 15 or so and rode the next few miles without incident, or hills. Scott flatted and we all stopped but Thad and Scott had it under control. Most of our group slowly motored back up and went on. I hung with Thad and Scott and we rode the next few miles of rolling hills together. This was my introduction to the amazing scenery on the Flint Hills.... and course markings. I almost lead us astray at mile 15... that would of made for a super long day. The wind was slowly picking up speed and even the three of us were having trouble sticking together. Thad received some 'inspiration' and pulled off to ride a slightly faster pace and I settled in as we lost sight of Scott off the back. This was how the next 60 miles would work out.

I rode alone, into the wind gusts of 40 mph for the next hour before I saw anyone I knew. There weren't any groups bigger than 3-4 or riders as the wind just killed everyone's momentum. Drafting helped a little, but the wind was so strong that everyone settled into their own pace and it was tough to find someone near you riding at the same pace. We all suffered in silence through the wind and the many rolling hills. I finally caught sight of one of my teammates, Jeffy, off in the distance ahead. It took me about 15-20 minutes to bridge the gap between us. It was great to see a familiar face and chat some but it was apparent that Jeff was hurting already, mentally more than physically. We rode together for a few miles and he was struggling with his gear choice. In reality it wasn't his gear but the wind that was the issue. No matter what gear we all ran, the wind sucked and it wasn't going to stop anytime soon. I eventually fell off the back and watched Jeff ride off ahead. A bit later I saw Jeff on the side of the road with Grant. This was the first time since the first 5 miles that we were together again. Grant and Jeff had trouble with flats and I was feeling a good groove so I motored on alone and met back up with them at the first checkpoint. (Jeffy would go on to be one of only 15 riders to finish the entire 205 mile course. He found his happy place and battled the demons and I'm proud of him.)

I spent a long time at the first checkpoint. I refueled and ate some and chatted with Dan, who was having a lot of stomach issues. Dan and Jeffy continued on but I decided to wait and ride with Grant and Scott who I thought would better fit my pace. We got back on the road and navigated through town with a few pitstops to fix Grants seat angle. You gotta have your contact points 100% correct for a long ride like this. No sense in suffering through a strange seat angle and hurting. The 3 of us would continue to ride together for the entire second leg of the ride. This was awesome. We were all hurting at different sections...sometimes just a bad mood funk, and other times some cramping issues. The wind had stopped which was amazing, but there were no clouds at all and no trees to shade the road. We all baked out on the pavement. I had 4 bottles on the bike, which should of been more than enough for a 40 mile stretch but with the heat, all bets were off. We were all on water conservation with the worry of getting caught out in the middle of no where in the 100 degree heat. I think what really compounding all of it was that our liquids, whether water or gatorade, were also 90 degrees. You had a thirst for cooler water that was totally unquenchable. Drinking 90 degree water does nothing to refresh you.

(Scotty, all smiles, all the time. Riding his new Moooots)

We drudged on and on and on, stopping in the tiny bit of shade of the very occasional tree that hung over the road. We met up with another rider on a Van Dessel crossbike who was napping on the side of the road. The 4 of us rode for a while....this stretch felt way longer than 40 miles. The scenery of the ride was so awesome that I was mad at myself for not paying more attention. I would force myself to stop looking straight down and soak in the views of the farm land. Tennessee has nothing like this terrain. Our local gravel grinders have hills but no open land where you can see for miles.

We had our sights on the halfway point as our personal finish line. Scotty really wanted to continue on and we were trying to get to the halfway mark inside the cut off time so he could. The closer we got though the more we all realized that our day should really end at the halfway. It wasn't safe for any of us to try to continue on to the city of Alma. This next stretch was to be the shortest mileage but the toughest terrain and Alma was another 30 miles farther from Emporia which would make getting picked up way harder on your teammates/support crew.

(gRant posing with his Moots cap that he wore the entire ride. Nice salt lick!)

When we rolled into the halfway point we saw Dan and Thad...both had also called it. Dan pushed hard to make it halfway but continued to have nutrition issues and Thad had sliced his tire and couldn't safely continue, even with 3 tire boots installed. Thad was looking fresh which I know was frustrating to him but he would of been stopping every 5 miles to change tubes so he had to quit. We laid in the small park and cooled down and exchanged stories with the other racers who finished their ride there also. Thad and Scott decided to ride their bikes back to Emporia to pick up the van and come back for us. Grant, Dan and I hung out in the park with David Pals and our new friend Michelle, Joel's (one of the organizers) wife. Thad's ride was 15 miles longer than expected so we all were in the park for a long time waiting. It was fun though, we ate pizza from the nearby store and just hung out and exchanged stories to pass the time. We ended up waiting until 11:30pm to get picked up. Grant joked that the ride was epic but so was the wait. Ride time=6am-4pm, wait time=4pm-11:30pm. Wouldn't of traded it for anything though and we were very grateful that Thad and Scott offered to go get the cars. We didn't have anything left in the legs to ride the 40 miles back to Emporia.

So, am I glad I went? You bet ya. Will I go back next year? You bet ya. Will I race it again next year? That will depend on my fitness now that I have a better understanding what it takes to finish a 200 mile gravel ride. We've decided we need to bring an extra support person next year so even if I'm not ready for the big ride, I will return to Emporia and help out if I can.

(My Quiring in full epic gravel grinder setup. Looks for another post soon on how the bike did....1 quick word, AWESOME)

(the park where we recovered)

Friday, June 05, 2009

more traveling

I'm back in Dallas for the weekend to celebrate the wedding of some friends of mine. We are staying in a nice hotel but it's so nice that they charge for internet access. No full Dirty Kanza report will have to wait for a bit. In the mind time, feel free to check out my photos on Flickr. There is a link to the right.

We just got back from the first ever Six Flags....favorite ride = Titan. About to head to dinner and a social. Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mini Dirty Kanza 2009 report

I don't think I can do a good write up yet but I'll pass on the short version and a few pics.

6 of us from TN drove down the Emporia, Kansas to compete in the Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel race. The race started out at 6am with the sun rising and cool temps. After about 15 miles of gravel, the wind picked up and didn't stop until mile 62. This was no ordinary was either a dead-on headwind or a wicked crosswind gusting up to 40 mph and averaging probably 25 mph. It was effort to pedal the flat sections and keep my speed over 10 mph. The sun was out in full force and by 1pm the temperature was in the 90s with peaks up to 98 degrees. The 40 mile stretch from checkpoint 1 to checkpoint 2 had very very little shade. The only sweat I had was in my helmet. My jersey never felt wet. I downed 4 bottles (94 ounces) in the first 62 miles and 4 bottles in the second 40 miles and had to ration fluids both stretches. The fluid was not refreshing at all due to it being 90 degrees....mmm warm gatorade...yum!

I made my goal the halfway point and called it a day. We barely made it in. New accomplishment in finishing my first true century. I had an incredibly fun weekend with the race just being the icing on the cake. I learned a ton about myself and riding and racing and friendships on this trip. Everyone who towed the line put in an immense effort. Moots/Swiftwick/Yazoo racer Jeff Scott was the sole rider in our group to completely the entire 205 miles. He rocked the race and pushed through some really tough conditions. I am inspiried by him and hope I can put what I've learned to use in future challenging rides.

I will add more of a detailed write up later today or tomorrow. For now here are some photo highlights:

Dan (L), Thad (C) and Grant (R) during the neutral roll out as the sun was coming up. (6:03AM)

The view from about mile 20-30.

Grant taking a photo of the cattle running along side of us. I have a short "oh shit" moment when I thought they were going to cross/run into us. But they stayed in their pasture and just ran with us for a 1/4 mile. It was something I'd never experiences before and was surreal.

Jeff Scott telling us the night before the race that he was gonna get 2nd place SS. Confidence is key!

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