Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Midwest Mountain Bike Fest

This is how my past Friday went: 8%, 4%, 4%, 12%... no, I'm not talking about the grade of the hills I was climbing, I'm talking about the ABV I was consuming on my day off during the Midwest Mountain Bike Fest held in Davenport, IA. I had gotten in on Thursday night to start my camping trip out at Scott County Park in Long Grove, IA where the Midwest Mountain Bike Fest was held this year hosted by my favorite club, FORC. Friday started with a fast loop at Scott County with my buddy Paul. After Scott County, it was off to Sunderbruch Park in Davenport, IA with some guys visiting from Michigan. That's where the ABVs started, and then continued at lunch at the Filling Station with some tasty wings. Once back at Scott County, the Michigan guys gave me an awesome 12% beer before embarking on the night ride. So, here I was on Friday night with a group of other mountain bikers preparing to start a night ride. I had no lights, and probably couldn't even walk a straight line. Now the no lights thing I've learned to master before. You simply just have a good friend in front with lights and another in back with lights, and just really trust the guy in front you to have a good line. Everyone I followed had a great line, but the last key to this riding format is being able to hold a line yourself. When I started riding I could see my front tire going everywhere on the trail but straight. The result was me crashing... a lot! After the hundredth crash, I finally forced myself to concentrate enough to make it back to the campsite without impaling myself onto a tree first. As a high level mountain bike racer in Colorado, I wasn't too proud to have fallen as much as I did... but did I mention 12% ABV! Oh well, at least I didn't hurt myself too badly other than a badly bruised right thigh and a bent brake lever on my friend's bike that I will be replacing for him. Saturday was more crash free as I opted to skip the night ride. There was a big beer potluck and grill out to occupy my time anyway. Great riding, great beer, and great friends! The Midwest Mountain Bike Fest was a huge success! Thanks to all my old and new friends for tolerating me for the weekend... now excuse me while I ice my bruised thigh and try to restore my dignity I lost on Friday night's ride.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bailey Hundo: Race Report

Saturday morning at 4:30 a.m. Bailey was freezing cold, as predicted. Arm and knee warmers in the middle of June... brrrr!  The shot gun (that's right, the race is started by a shot gun... gotta love Colorado!) went off promptly at 6 a.m. and we were off!  The first couple of miles were all dirt road climbs which made it nice to thin out everyone before hitting the singletrack. The course was designed very well in the fact that most of the climbing for the first half of the race was on doubletrack, and the rest was on some truly sweet singletrack!  I decided early on to back off from race pace so I wouldn't burn myself out too early. I'm glad I did because there was some really breath-taking views to be enjoyed, and some amazing trail to be ridden. By the end of 60 miles of twisty singletrack and descending, my index fingers were sore from all the braking (yeah, I do that 'braking' thing from time to time), and my triceps were burning. I've never been happier to ride my mountain bike on asphalt. After a 'break' on a good stretch of asphalt, we hit a looonnnngggg dirt road climb back to the top of the  mountain. You may think to yourself, "Dirt road? sounds easy!", but this was not the case. The road was steep, full of loose rock, and really choppy (kinda like the speed strips on the side of the interstate that when you hit them make your whole car vibrate in order to wake up swerving motorists who fall asleep at the wheel... except bigger). My legs were just screaming at this point. Once again, really glad I backed off during the first half of the race. The whole climb my legs were on the verge of cramping, but miraculously I never hit that point. After the first stage of the climb, we hit a false summit and got a break with some fast dirt road descending. In this race, there are two big water crosses. The first water crossing is the worst of the two and made the second one just a good way to rinse off the muck from the first. During the first, I was riding with a guy that I had been chatting with since the asphalt road. He warned me to stay left and just plow through it. Glad I did because about three-fourths through the crossing it was deep!  Seriously, it was up to my top tube. Oh, and did I mention the water was brown from all the cow pies dropped in it?  Yum!  Cow poo water!  Now somewhere between the last big climb and the last few miles my legs suddenly came back to life. This was probably because an afternoon thunderstorm was brewing above head and my legs didn't want to be out there any more than I did. On the last summit where the last aid station was, the storm finally let loose and it started hailing. I stopped under the aid station E-Z Up and threw on my rain jacket for last bit of the race which was muddy dirt road descents and short climbs that I was able to stand on to really plow through to the end. Hail turned to rain as I descended to lower elevation. Visibility was pretty low since my glasses were caked with mud and thus became a splash guard sitting at the bottom of my nose so I could see between the top frame of the glasses and my helmet. I really had to get on the brakes early to wipe off the water and mud before they even were semi-functional. I have to say, even with the terrible conditions I was smiling like a mad man flying down these steep dirt roads. I made one last standing climb to a short doubletrack section that desceded to the finish. Sprinting to the end, I crossed the finish line at 7:56:45.08. My goal was to do it in eight hours so I was pretty happy with the results. First thing I did was to make a stop at the beer tent for some delicious micro-brew. Not sure what it was, but it a fruity summer beer of some sort and it tasted absolutely amazing!  Have to say, best race I've done so far. What an awesome race!

So clean... that didn't last!

The only way I could see for the last few miles!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bailey Hundo: Big Day in the Cold and Rain

Well, it's finally here. The start of the Bailey Hundo is less than 24 hours away. Tonight I'll drive into Bailey and set up camp. Race start is at 6:00am. Weather is calling for 30% chance of Isolated T-Storms this afternoon until 10pm. In other words, 30% chance for camping in rain and lighting. Temperature at race start is 45 and will get up to 69 by the last 2-3 hours. Once again chance for Isolated T-Storms starting at 11am. Yep, it's going to be a long, cold, and potentially rainy day. Going to have to carry a lot of clothing for this 8+ hours ride. I'm a little nervous, but not as nervous I was on Monday. Now that I've checked off everything on my 'what to bring' list and looked over it a hundred times I'm a little more at ease. All that's left is to drive down, set up camp, and attempt to get a halfway decent nights sleep until I wake up at 4:30am in the dark and cold. What can I say, this is what I raised $500 to do, and I love it! The second the gun goes off I'm going to be in mountain biking bliss. There are some really good trails to be ridden tomorrow. Thank you to everyone that donated so I could do this race! Don't know how well I'll do, but failure is not a option! Game on!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Yeah, I'm One of Those Guys

Having some Midwestern mountain bike friends visiting this week really made me think, “Gasp! Should I ride with baggies or not!? What are they going to think about my shaved legs!?”. 

When I started mountain biking in the Midwest, it was always considered taboo to ride in just bike shorts and would most certainly result in ridicule. When I came out to Colorado, that same mind set lasted about a year for me until I really started to put in a lot of road miles where riding with bike shorts without baggies is not only accepted, you kind of look like the black sheep if you're seen road biking with baggies. Not too long after I started riding non-baggy during my off-road efforts as well. It may seem trivial, but when you ride as much as I do having one less layer to deal with makes a huge difference. Not only is it more comfortable, it's one less item you have to wash. Plus, you don't have to worry about the occasional catching of the baggies on the saddle case scenario. This isn't to say I've completely shunned baggies altogether. My rule is that if I'm on the road or on the hardtail race rig really pushing the pace I'm in bike shorts. If I'm on the full suspension and taking it easy I'm in baggies: more all-mountain style. And of course, when in a group ride I always follow the dress code that everyone else is wearing.

Now that I've explained the baggy or not topic, on to why I shave my legs. Now it's not like I bought a bike and bunch of gear and instantly started shaving my legs the day I began biking. It wasn't until mountain biking for six years and my second year of endurance racing in Colorado before I started shaving. It all started when I decided to 'trim' my leg hair two days before the Firecracker 50. The day before the race I went for short ride to warm up the legs with a friend who insured me that my 'trimmed' legs looked terrible and shaving them would actually be an improvement. I went to the store, bought a razor, and the shaving of the legs began. At first I was shy about my newly smooth legs, but I quickly came to the realization that I deserved to shave my legs. That's right, I DESERVE TO! Each year I put in thousands of miles and hours training. Each vein and muscle that protrudes through my skin is a medal of honor to me, and damn it I'm going to show them! Besides, if I want sponsors to take me as a serious endurance mountain bike racer I better look the part. If you look at the rest of the top finishers you'll be hard pressed to see hairy legs standing on the podium. Nuff said!