Monday, August 13, 2018

Isle Royale hike 2018


By Monday the blisters were very VERY sore!

I started my second backpack trip on Isle Royale in high spirits.  I was here in August 2017 and looking forward to an extra day or two beyond my previous trip.

My plan this year was to arrive on the island on Saturday August 3rd and be a bit aggressive with my hiking.

My camping plans were as follows:
Saturday  West Chickenbone
Sunday     Todd Harbor  (north and west side of the photo-mid-island)
Monday    East Chickenbone
Tuesday    Lane Cove (north and east side of the island)
Wednesday  Rock Harbor campground to depart Thursday

Original itinerary

Arrival Saturday was in gloom and as we completed our NPS officer's presentation the rain started.  After getting my itinerary with the park ranger I pulled out my rain gear and covered my pack.  I headed out on the Tobin Trail for Mount Franklin trail and Greenstone.

Two hours in and half a mile from Mt Franklin on the steep climb from 600 to 1000+ feet-DAMN IT!
Forgot to get my white gas canisters which I left sitting at Rock Harbor in the rush to depart amid the rain.  Power hiking back and hoping the gas was still there- it was in the ranger office.  Now it is almost 430-500pm and I've hiked a tough 10 miles to complete a circle and be where I started!

Well that was enough for one day- LOL - and I snagged a tent site at the Rock Harbor campground.  Prepped dinner (more on food later) and got my book out to read.  [The Triumph of Capitalism- by HW Brands].

Re-assessing my itinerary I decided to still stay true to original plans- aggressive the first couple days and taper back and circle back closer to the port the last day or two.  I still wanted to see Lane Cove which was recommended.  I decided to skip trying to get to Minong Trail and Todd Harbor and instead added Moskey Basin to my plans.

Modified itinerary

I get up early and head out to Moskey Basin via Tobin Harbor trail- Mt Franklin Trail to Greenstone via Mt Ojibway and back to Rock Harbor trail.  The total hike was about 13.5 miles.  By the time I got to the campsite and set up my tent I could feel "hot spots" on my feet.  It rained - again- but I'd already set up my tent.  However I used a group site which three other people already were in and we were all evicted by a Boy Scout group so I had to tear down and re-set up in another location.

Another early wake up.  I went to the dock and made coffee and was entertained by a swimming otter chasing fish.  I headed out on the trail which turned inland and I thought "I won't see moose this morning going inland" and no sooner had I thought that then just around a bend...BOOM  the bull in the trail 30 feet away was as surprised as I was and he wheeled away into the foliage with barely a sound before I could pull the camera out!

The hike was mostly the reverse of the hike in- back up Rock Harbor Trail to Mount Ojibwa-follow Greenstone to Mt Franklin then down the trail tot he north side to Lane Cove.  What a beautiful trail from Mt Franklin to Lane Cove.  Switchbacking down the descent (this was going to be rigorous coming back).  By now the 12 mile hike from Moskey Basin to Lane Cove hurt.  I set up my tent by Elizabeth and her parents boat ( I met her on the ferry- she was kayaking the island).  I then soaked my feet in the lake and had some coffee, but no dinner.).  More reading opportunity.  A guy from Maryland showed up to pitch a tent on the same area and we had a great conversation.

Another early morning was becoming a pattern- hike from 7am-ish to 2pm-ish, pitch tent, read, sleep by 7pm, repeat.  I strode out to conquer the switchback climb and reach Three Mile campground.  I'd decided last night to try to depart Wednesday rather than Thursday if I could get on the ferry.  Worst case the ferry was full and I'd camp at Rock Harbor again Wednesday night and be 100 yards from port Thursday. 

But first things first, reach Three Mile campground.   Back up to Mt Franklin then- dang it! ERROR- distracted by chatting with some other campers I headed to Mt Ojibwa for some reason thinking the down hill trail to Three Mile was from there.  I reach the fire tower and look at my map realizing my error- a non-essential 5 mile round trip! 

After a break and Clif Bar I pack up and head BACK to Mt Franklin and the trail down to Three Mile.  Reaching the campground I opt for lazy and grab a three sided lean to (which has screens on the open side) rather than pitch the tent. 

I take my water filter (Katydyn Pro) and stove with coffee to the dock.  Tuesday is the most beautiful day of the week!  Bright blue sky with puffy clouds and shimmering  blue Lake Superior.  I soak my feet, drink coffee, read my book and take my shirt off to enjoy the sun while laying on the dock.  A bit later the wind picks up and I go to the lean-to and lay all my damp equipment and clothes in the sun to dry as I finish my book finally. 

Early morning departure for Rock Harbor.  It was a very painful 2 miles with my feet very very sore and to add to it my backpack straps were now irritating my shoulders which I attributed to walking oddly to baby my feet.  At Rock Harbor the rangers cannot say if there's room on the ferry so I grab another Lean-to shelter just in case then go have an omelette breakfast with potatoes at the restaurant.   Given the amount of free time I also purchase the 5 minute $6 shower from the gift shop and get into clean clothes for the day.

The ferry arrives about 1130am but there's no way to reach the captain for possible departure until after 2pm.  The line of planned departures then depletes and I (as well as another man and his daughter) ask about getting on the boat- and there's room.  So I hustle to the shelter to get my gear and get back to check out with the rangers and board the boat.

Once in Copper Harbor I head to my friends Pam & Wayne in Ontanogan County for the evening.  Once there I realize the pain in my shoulders was due to sunburn Tuesday from laying on the dock hence the irritation of the backpack straps.

Lessons learned:
My shoes were on their last legs so to speak and too broken down. I thought I could get one more hike but this one proved false. They went to the trash once off the island.  I also honed my equipment list to include moleskin.  On the plus side I did bring pac-mocs so I had other foot wear in the camp area each night. 

Food- the Harmony House food is particularly unappetizing.  I don't think I ate three meals the entire five days and four nights and only ate three Clif Bars.  I think it was a combination of naturally not being hungry and NOT wanting to eat that food.  My next trip will be preceded by more investigation of palatable options- so if anyone wants THIS stuff you can have it free. Most of the original pack is still left.

My next trip won't be to Isle Royale- twice in a row is enough and the logistics of the ferry add complications. I am considering Porcupine Mountain Park or Pictured Rocks for the next trip- though that will necessitate bear canisters most likely.

Photos here

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Journey from Garmin to Wahoo

A Journey from Garmin to Wahoo

Let's do the wayback machine. Back in the olden days, simply used a wired or wireless bike computer like the Cateye.  A few years ago I opted for a Garmin GPS unit.  I don't recall the model but it worked great for about 1-1/2 years. Then it started to go wonky.  I would notice this on mountain bike rides and races.  I'd look down at some point and find out the screen was blank and the unit had shut off!  I'd turn it back on and the same thing would happen later. Some research as well as opening it up and I found what I considered a design flaw.  The Garmin had some bent metal prongs which connected the power source (battery) to the PCB via touching on pads on the PCB.  This was NOT a hard solid connection- just contact connection- and especially on mountain bike rides, hitting bumps would cause the prongs to disconnect from the pads they were touching, effictively shutting the unit off.

I eventually threw this unit in the trash and went back to Cateye wireless, but later opted for Garmin again- the Garmin  Edge 200.  Small, reliable, basic.  I lost one, bought another, found the first and had two for the last few years.

I did not consider upgrading until discussing the possibility of buying a Wahoo Kicker trainer this fall with Ralf and Joel, I then thought about upgrading.  One option was the newer Garmin 510 or 520. But Ralf, Joel and Ronald all had the Wahoo Element or Element Bolt which touted some fantastic features:

Great turn-by-turn from downloaded routes.
Wirelessly connects to your Strava once you save a route and hit the connected wifi.
Accepts heart-rate/power meter via ANT
According to Ralf it will also plot a direct return to your start point from the ride you are on.
It likely has other features which I have not yet been able to explore.

But what clinched it for me was the fact that the Element can also CONTROL your Kicker trainer - essentially you can ride a route already stored in the bike computer and it will increase and decrease trainer effort/resistance if you re-run the route!

Kinda pricey at about $250 but I bought the Element (and subsequently sold both Garmin 200s for $70 each on Ebay).

The Element also connects to your phone.  You turn it on and a pairing QR code shows up which enables your phone's camera via the Wahoo app and you can then control settings on the computer. (One neat setting is auto-pause which I use for training rides. Since I live in the city, numerous stop signs and red lights will stop my riding and the auto-pause stops the computer and automatically resumes the ride once you start riding.  This isn't something to use in a race, of course, but is handy in town). But this connection issue is one of the Element's flaws IMO. My camera is perhaps not the greatest on my phone and I had difficulty getting it to hold and capture the QR code, but eventually did after 15-20 minutes.  (There should be a manual method in which you can key in the computer's serial number rather than rely on cameras and QR codes, IMO).

I had the unit for a couple of weeks and here's where complications arose.  I accidentally dropped it on the pavement and it mucked up the display screen.  It is still functional but some parts are not readable.  I conctacted customer service at Wahoo and was told that "due to the design of the unit it is not repairable."  WHAT?!  My option was to send them photos of the unit showing damage and the serial number with proof of purchase.  They then offered me a 40% "crash" discount to buy a new unit.  After some thought, I opted to do this... another $150.

Holland-100 day. Joel, Ralf, Angie and I rolling through Ottawa County at a good pace.  Got to the 60 mile mark for pancake breakfast.  It had started raining quite steadily so we opted to shorten the ride and head straight back to the start point about eight miles away.  As we got on the bikes and started to ride, my Element shut down and all the LEDs began flashing wildly.  This was the very first ride with this unit!

I tried to get it to turn back on or shut down the LEDs but nothing.  So I figured I must have not charged it fully. I got back home and plugged it in for a day but nothing.  So I am back to emailing Wahoo customer support and he asked what I as charging it in.  I sent photos of the USB 4-port tower and he said that that may not be appropriate for charging the Wahoo.  He indicated I should see the ubiquitous "lightning bolt" when the unit is plugged in to charge along with battery level.

Mind you, these email exchanges are taking place day after day. I email one day, get a responose the next, return my answer the following day- and so on.

Anyway I perform a DOE.  I still have the damaged but functional Element so I plug it in several different outlets and receive the lightning bolt in each one.  I then plug the newly failed Element into the same outlets and get zero on the screen. I swapped cables too just in case it was a cable.

So now I email Wahoo support with my findings.  I explain that while I am not an electrical or electronic engineer I do work as a quality engineer in manufacturing and have spent several years working with electronics modules. I understand that catastrophic failures across a whole product line are rare but that the occasional "infant mortality" can occur in which a unit will pass all testing at the factory but fail very soon in the field. I've seen this with Bluetooth units, compasses, and telematics over the last 15 years.  I suggest his engineers should really want this unit back for analysis and propose they send me a new unit and I send them this failed on back.  They accept. Wahoo support sends me a PDF shipping label. As soon as I shipped it and they received notice that the failed unit was in transit they shipped me the new one which should arrive any day.

So, to Monica's question which spurred me to write this adventure (I had meant to anyway but had not gotten around to it), how do I like it?

Strengths (so far as I've explored all options):
- turn by turn routes, wifi connection, can be set up on phone app, return route plotting, controls the Kicker, and maybe more

I can't believe the option to repair is a new unit, but it is.  The QR code can be a pain in the rear but I suspect if you have an IPhone it works like a charm.

All in all I am satisfied with how it works and look forward to trying other features.  Customer service is clunky with the back and forth email but they do try to make it right and are responsive.

I also ordered extra bike mounts as I had had for my Garmin.  I have four bikes and don't want to mess around un-mounting the brackets and attaching them to another bike so each bike has a Wahoo bracket.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

MSU Gran Fondo ride June 23rd!

Though I dropped out of Lumberjack100 mountain bike race at mile 41, I feel I redeemed myself yesterday at the MSU Gran Fondo 80 mile ride with a finish time of 3:37 which is just over 22 mph average.  As in previous years, the whole pack stayed together from the start until about twelve miles as the peloton turned left on to Leonard (which we would stay on until we reached Spring Lake) the lead group popped off the front.  They would go on to finish the 80 miles in less than 2-1/2 hours with the first rider finishing in 2:17!

I was in the now second pack all the way out to the half way mark 40 mile aid station which is a required stop.  The organizers also stop your clock so you don't lose time in the aid station.
We reached the 40 mile aid station in 1:45 which is about 26-27mph average!  WHEW!

 After a few minutes the pack forms up and is released back on to the road.  I rejoined many of the same riders on the return 40 mile section.  We were moving quite fast and on a long false flat in Ottawa county north of Coopersville I finally could not hold on and at mile 63 I pulled off the group and rode the remaining 17 miles by myself.  I did actually catch and pass two other riders in the next ten miles who had hung on that group longer but got dropped as well.  I ended up riding the last 17 miles in the 19-21mph range which was quite good in my opinion for solo riding with some headwind!  I still finished with a 22+mph average speed.

 The group that I dropped from only finished 12 minutes ahead of me.  I was quite pleased with this ride.  This is my third Fondo and I was ten and eleven minutes faster than the previous two years.

Monday, June 18, 2018

What's next for my racing and riding and running?

Not much-  Aside from a week excursion backpacking Isle Royale in August, I am planning on these events at this time.  It will be interesting to try the Port Sheldon and Coopersville road races as I've never done a road race. Should I participate it will be as a Cat5 rider.  Fall will see the return of the 5K running races as well.

Saturday  23-Jun MSU Gran Fondo
Saturday 14-Jul Holland 100
Sunday 22-Jul Tour of Port Sheldon road race
Saturday 18-Aug Strade Bianche Road Race Coopersville
Sunday 16-Sep Lake Michigan Bridge Run 5K
Saturday 13-Oct Run through the Rapids 5K
Saturday 27-Oct Alger Hts 5K
Saturday 3-Nov Iceman mountain bike race

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lumberjack-100 DNF

Well, Lumberjack100's 2018 edition is behind me and unfortunately I wasn't able to put a 7th finish notch in my race belt.

There are a number of reasons, as all racers (and runners for that matter) know, why one cannot complete an event:  Lack of training, mechanical issues, injury, weather, etc. Common ones of which any single item can derail a finish result, but if a combination occurs that makes it all more likely.  The failure to finish brings up for me a few other specific issues as well.
I don't recall the last time I was not able to complete an event primarily  because I basically bonked and ran out of gas.

I arrived at BigM Friday afternoon hoping to get a ride in that evening but rain interfered.  I needed to get back to campground and set up my backpacking tent before it rained too hard.  As the rain came down, Don Lee and his son Wyatt were there.  Don bought a tarp and we strung it across four trees over the picnic table to give us some rain cover.  I ended up going to Manistee to get dinner rather than cook the bean-rice dish I'd brough for dinner. This was probably mistake #1.  Frankly, Manistee is a vegetarian food desert!  The only two places which had any kind of pasta dish were Mancinos and Big Al's.  I opted for Big Al's and was severely disappointed with the mediocre Penne Marinara.  The employee kept asking if I wanted pizza sauce or red sauce...UH?  You don't put pizza sauce on penne... that's just cheating- jeez.  Well enough of my food snobbery.!

Back to the campground, we all turned in early. Sleep was fitful as usual before a race especially with the downpour thunderstorm coming down in buckets!  Fortunately my new MSR Hubba solo backpack tent withstood the carwash forces like a champ, boding well for my use on Isle Royale in August on my backpacking excursion.

Early wake up and off to the Big M.  Race started at 7am.  This year the promoters opted to include waves based on time.  8 hours or less, 8-10 hours, 10+ hours.  I was in wave 2 and hoping for a sub-nine hour finish this year. 

Frankly I've not ridden in such a crowd for so long at Lumberjack that I can recall.  Usually lap one is wheel to wheel for miles at least through to the aid station midway on the lap after which it breaks up a bit.  But this year, it seemed I was in the longest trains on the trail for the entire first lap! 20-25- even 30 riders steady through the course!

I blew through the aid station as is my usual procedure for the first two laps of the event and completed the lap at 3:03 and realized I was suffering a deficit in my quest for sub-9 hours.  I wondered if the steady line of riders may have contributed to the longer lap time and was looking forward to seeing some open trail with less traffic to perhaps pick up some time.  I also found that my triceps were aching a bit on the downhills.  But by the time I hit 41 miles on two track, for which I should have been able to crank at least 14-16 mph I found I was pedaling about 6-7mph.  My stomach had begun to ache a while before and make it difficult to take in hydration though I forced myself in order to stay hydrated.  I was also not able to take in the Perpetuem very well.  My right knee was also aching.  As I said- a combination.  I realized if I did finish it was going to be a long long slog and perhaps injury inducing.  I made the decision there to find a shortcut back and call it a day.  I just had no energy to push on the pedals.

I had been doing a decent amount of road riding but was very low in the mountain biking lately due to lots of factors in life.  I had gotten away from doing regular physical training items like the stretches that Dr Eric Graff prescribed (hence the knee issue) and the push-ups and weights which would build up tricep strenght one needs for mountain biking but not for road riding. 

My Lumberjack history now stands as follows:
2018 DNF
2017 DNF- broken fork
2016 Finished 9:47
2015 9:05
2014 9:18
2013 9:33
2012 Did not race
2011 11:11
2010 Did not race
2009 11:45
2008 DNF
2007 DNF
2006 DNF
2005 DNF

I don't know if the heat or humidity a significant factor, I usually do fairly well in the heat. In any event, this wasn't my day.  Looking at the race results it wasn't a day for a number of riders! Overall 18+% didn't finish and just over 20% of my Men 50+ didn't complete the event today.

Men Open Started 240 Finished 198 DNF 42 DNF% 17.5%
Women Open Started 32 Finished 24 DNF 8 DNF% 25.0%
Men 50+ Started 82 Finished 65 DNF 17 DNF% 20.7%
SingleSpeed Started 27 Finished 24 DNF 3 DNF% 11.1%
Tandem Started 1 Finished 1 DNF 0 DNF% 0.0%
Fatbike Started 22 Finished 18 DNF 4 DNF% 18.2%
TOTAL Started 404 Finished 330 DNF 74 DNF% 18.3%

Oh well, maybe next year with some more diligence and training.  For mountain biking my only next target is Iceman, so I have time to improve my training processes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My difficult history with Lumberjack-100 Mountain Bike Race.

My difficult history with Lumberjack-100 Mountain Bike Race.

Back in 2003 or 2004, after helping Rick Plite set up and take down a Kisscross race, four of us were at a pub having a beer and Rick says  "Michigan needs a 100 mile mountain bike race" - or words to that effect.   And Lumberjack was born!

This year will be Lumberjack's 14th event and I have participated in all but two (2010 & 2012, due to Joni's family scheduling weddings on that weekend- dang it).

Though I participated in twelve, it took me five tries to actually FINISH for the first time. I had no clue what it took to ride a mountain bike 100 miles in those days much less do so at a course like Big M.

But over the years I got a bit faster and stronger and have targetted a so far elusive goal of breaking the nine-hour mark.  2014 and 2015 were close and I was feeling pretty strong in 2017 until my fork broke 40 miles in.

In 2016, I simply did not have enough ride time going into the race and by lap three just dialed it back and enjoyed the last 33 miles for fun.

While hopeful, I suspect I may also not have enough saddle time for 2018 especially considering the course in even-numbered years runs clockwise and the long climbs in that direction are not my strong suit. But I will still have fun!

If I finish this Saturday it will be my 7th finish and I need to keep going to reach TEN finishes!  

2018 ?
2017 DNF- broken fork
2016 Finished 9:47
2015 9:05
2014 9:18
2013 9:33
2012 Did not race
2011 11:11
2010 Did not race
2009 11:45
2008 DNF
2007 DNF
2006 DNF
2005 DNF

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Riverbank Run 25K- time to retire from endurance running

Well, my mission was accomplished, but it was completed painfully yesterday at the Riverbank Run 25K in Grand Rapids.

I had developed a soreness on the inside of my right knee a couple weeks before when out for a training run.  It is somewhat the inside of the knee version of an IT Band issue which occurs on the outside of one's knee.  I went to Train Out Pain clinic and Dr Eric Graf did some work on my leg and prescribed stretches to alleviate the issue which I began doing.

A week later, this past Monday before the race, I did another 7 mile training run but after six miles the same pain came back.  I realized I wasn't going to get rid of the issue before the race and any more running would actually not help at this point five days out.  So I spent the week icing the knee in the evening and taking ibuprofen. 

My race strategy devolved to simply finishing even if I walked.  I decided rather than to go out at a race pace, which would be about 8-minute miles for me, I would stay between 8-1/8 to 9 minutes a mile and run easy, hoping to put off any pain or discomfort for as long as possible.  I also decided to walk if necessary and stretch if necessary.

The event began with a cool morning, damp from the previous day's rain.  I lined up between the 8-minute and 9-minute pace signs. And we're off.

I jogged easy as we ran through downtown on Monroe St out to Market.  I kept my watch on PACE mode and found I was pretty comfortable at about 8:34-8:35 minute miles.  Keep it steady.  I drank water at each aid station throughout the entire course.

I actually felt good up through about 8-18 to nine miles in and was initially confident of a decent finish time at this pace of close to 8-1/2 minute miles.  But once the climbs really started in earnest with the turn on to Maynard past Millenium part up to Butterworth, by Mile Nine I had to walk a bit and stretch.  The hills on Butterworth took a toll not only on my pace but my knee, the added climbing effort stressing the ligament more.   I ended up walking and stretching several times in the last 4-1/2 miles but resolved that once I hit the last mile or half mile I would gut it out, pain be damned.  There's too many people lining the finish area to limp in.  Guess it's a pride thing LOL.  One can see from the strava graph that my last half mile was a faster pace to the finish chute.  I ended up with a Chip time 2:24 and avg pace 9:18.

All in all, it's a great event and I enjoy the atmosphere and the crowds.  But my finish times are erratic for this event over the years since I first ran it in 2013.  In 2013, I'd never ran the event, I had just begun running again since college and had only been doing a few 5Ks.  The Sunday before the Riverbank Run I told Joni "I think I will do the Riverbank Run this Saturday."  Which one, she asked.  The 25K, I replied.  She thought I was nuts.  I was feeling fairly fit and worried mostly about my legs in terms of the mechanics of running versus biking. Sure enough my legs really tightened up that day but I finished with a time of 2:32 with almost zero training.

2014 was an injury year.  I'd been running up to this point with minimalist running shoes, landing on the ball of one's foot.  I ended up getting a Morton's Neuroma injury in my left foot, babied the foot to race day but dropped out before two miles due to the pain.  I later changed my shoes to normal running shoes- Brooks Dyads- and never had another foot issue.  That said I am now a firm opponent of the minimalist, barefoot-style of running.

2015 was my peak year, both cycling and running.  I was coming off a strong 2014 cycling season and peaked at Riverbank Run with a 2:08 time  (and did really well at the Lumberjack-100 mountain bike race a month later), I began to fantasize about breaking two hours at the 25K running race.  But not to be.  I did not even start the race in 2016 due to another injury.  Returning in 2017 I posted a decent time of 2:18 and this year resolved, as noted above, to just finish.

2018  Finish time 2:24, Pace 9:18
2017  Finish time 2:18, Pace 8:57
2016  Did not race- Injured
2015  Finish time 2:08, Pace 8:12
2014  Did not finish- foot injury
2013  Finish time 2:32, Pace 9:49

Part of the problem is attempting to be a two sport person:  Biking and Running.  It is especially difficult early in the season with bike races in March and April while still trying to train with the running for the May Riverbank Run.  To do well at Barry-Roubaix or Southern Cross gravel road bike races or the Yankee Springs Time Trial means riding in February which cuts into run time.

I do think if I concentrated only on running and didn't bother with the biking I could break two hours at the 25K as well as even complete a marathon.  I enjoy running but frankly love biking more.  With that in mind I have decided to retire from the endurance running- no more 25K or half marathons.  (I did the Grand Rapids Half Marathon in October 2015 finishing in 1:50).  I will still run, but rather than the long running events, I will run for cross training on the bike (and it aids cyclocross too!) and focus my running on 5K events with a goal to get my 5K times back under 22 minutes.  Working on speed for my running rather than endurance will also encompass less time in any given training session.

Well, now that the Riverbank Run is over- it's all bike all the time for the next month as I get ready for my favorite race- the Lumberjack-100 in mid-June.