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.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Barry Roubaix 2018 - 62 mile report- did okay, not great

The second race of my season is now in the bag- the Barry Roubaix 62-mile.  I had a goal of under four hours, but this year that was not to be due to various factors.

I had not got quite enough miles on the bike the last few weeks as I'd like, but initially felt confident due to my improved performance at the Southern Cross in Georgia.  However, in the last week preceding the Barry Roubaix I developed a painful knot in my neck as well as came down with a head cold.  Popping zinc tablets to ward off the head cold I had two sessions at the massage outlet in the Woodland Mall where the Chinese masseuses worked on my upper back, shoulders and neck and alleviated the knot about 75-80%.

I felt well enough then on Saturday morning, maintained my usual pre-race schedule and routine with regards to eating and beverages and by the time we got to Hastings I felt moderately confident of a decent ride. 

Roll out at a bit after 10am and the race was on.  I was able to hang in the groups for most of the first 20 miles though never enough to really get in paceline and draft. Consequently I rode quite a bit into any wind on my own.  However, about mile 44 I was feeling like I'd hit my peak was down to little energy levels.  I am not sure what that was about but by mile 50 I seemed to get a second wind, and even though my legs were screaming on every climb or attempt to push power to pedals I picked up the pace for the last 12 miles.  I had two bouts of near cramping first in the left thigh, then the right thigh but popped a couple of endurolytes and the cramps went away.

In any event I finished at 4:14 this year.  Acceptable given the circumstances in my view.

This time of year is particularly difficult trying to train for bike races in addition to the Riverbank Run 25K at which my goal is to try to beat two hours- a heavy lift I think.
The early season schedule be seen just below.  Yankee Springs mountain bike time trial is this coming Saturday and I will be doing only biking, hopefully on the trail a couple times, before that event.  No running this week.  After Yankee I will NOT ride the bike for the next 14 days and instead concentrate on running in preparation for the Riverbank Run.  THEN, after Riverbank Run I won't do any running because I then have 35 days until the Lumberjack-100 mountain bike race.  I am planning on riding the MSU Fondo on June 23rd and that settles the season down for a while.  On the bike, other than a commitment to Iceman, we may go up to Ore-to-Shore and I might go to Pontiac Lake for a mountain bike race but that is the extent of the season.  No running events until the 5Ks start up again in September. Whew!

Southern Cross     March  4 2018  Time 4:18, 45th of 62 in 50-59 age group
Barry Roubaix      April 21 2018  Time 4:14, 94 of 125 Master's Men
Yankee Springs     April 28 2018  Target less than 1:54
Riverbank Run 25K  May   12 2018  Target 2 hours
Lumberjack-100     June  16 2018  Target: under 9 hours

Monday, March 05, 2018

Southern Cross Race Report

Southern Cross Race Report

So much adventure and change for this event  this year it's difficult to know where to start.  I will touch on lodging, meals and the race itself, however, in case anyone plans to go in the future.

I first did the Southern Cross (which is now in its tenth season) last year 2017.  I'd  been to Dahlonega, Georgia and the Montaluce Winery area in 2012 for the Fool's Gold 100 mountain bike race and wanted to check out the gravel road event.  This early in the season is a real tell-tale as to how in shape one is, for sure!   My adventure last year had a couple mishaps which caused me to have a 5:02 finish for the 55 mile race.  This year, the five mile singletrack was eliminated due to rain the week before so the race was now strictly on gravel roads for 50 miles.  My target then was to beat 4-1/2 hours.

The course for me is a tough course as you can see from the profile with the long climbs twice in the course followed by super fast gravel downhill sections!

In 2012, I stayed at the Hiker Hostel for $15/night which included breakfast. Other bike racers stayed there for the Fool's Gold event as were numerous hikers heading out to the Appalachian Trail.  Last year, 2017, was no exception except the rate had gone to $18/night.  However, in preparation for this trip, I called them and they changed their business model, becoming more like an upscale B&B and were charging $48/night.  Since the hostel is located outside of Dahlonega on the opposite side of town from the race start as well as the fact that my wife decided to join me this year for the trip, we opted for a Day's Inn which was not much more expensive than the B&B and was only 15 minutes from the race.   But should anyone go, there are numerous places to stay.

The Dahlonega area has numerous dining options.  I ate at Shenanigans last year.  However, due to an intestinal issue during my race last year I decided to be very careful with my diet.  The Montaluce Winery has a rather fine dining restaurant so we decided to treat ourselves.  The prices are moderately expensive, but if you want a treat don't let that put you off- the food is fantastic!

Joni had roast Springer chicken with risotto.  The risotta was excellent and not too rich- a complaint she has often with risottos at American restaurants ever since she got hooked on it in Rome.  The chicken, we found out from the waiter, was raised 27 miles away at a local organic farm.  It was cooked perfectly for her.    I had the vegetarian alfredo dish.  Now, I usually shy from alfredo dishes as too creamy or milky which upsets my stomach and would especially not eat such a dish before a race the next day.  I toyed with the idea of asking them to merely make me a primavera style (pasta and vegetables with olive oil) instead, but took the plunge for the alfredo... and was NOT disappointed.  It was superb!  The alfredo was not overly milky or creamy and simply clung to the noodles.  As I was eating I told Joni that the noodles tasted fresh- from scratch- not boxed noodles, a fact that the waiter verified.  Additionally, he said they don't keep a vat of alfredo sauce on, but rather, make up just the needed portion for each meal as it is ordered!  WOW.   We both felt our meals were one of the best we'd ever had- literally. 

We each had one glass of wine.  Last year I obtained a bottle of their cabernet franc to bring home as well as a sweet white for Joni and a dessert wine for her.  They were out of the franc, but had a Risatta available. It is a red blend and I had that with dinner and liked it enough to get a bottle to bring home.  Joni had the Dolce, but opted to buy another bottle of the dessert wine to bring home.

I used my Cannondale Cyclocross-6 bike again equipped with the Panaracer Gravel King 35mm tires.  Last year, my hands and wrists were really beat up from the downhill washboard gravel roads (and I wore cyclocross gloves with little padding).  So this year I made a couple changes. First, I added gel pads to the handlebars and wrapped it with a cushioning Salsa bar tape.  Then, due to an advertisement from Barry Roubaix, I took a chance and ordered the Red Shift Sports shock stem.  With your hands on the hoods, you can experience about 3/4ths  to 1 inch of shock travel on the stem.  I installed it with the elastomers that came already in place- the softest ones.   But my experience from the race is that even riding on the flats, which I tend to do especially on technical descents, the shock stem does a great job of dampening vibrations.  I may even get one for my road bike.

The Race:
The race started at 10am following a rider meeting at 930am.  There was about  350 racers including Christian Vandervelde and George Hincapie who were back again, though no Lance Armstrong this year.  Spoiler alert- they beat me.

As my teammates know, I hate to be cold!  I had arm-warmers, leg-warmers, long finger gloves, base layer, jersey and windbreaker.   On the first long climb (see next paragraph) I did begin to regret the added layer and unzipped my windbreaker. However, once over the top and speeding downhill in the shade at 27-30mph I was once again completely comfortable with my attire.

The race rolls out on the paved road of the winery property and then on to the public roadway for approximately two miles under a neutral-ish roll out then turns left off the pavement and on to the gravel. The course hits short grades of 6-9% for the first 13.5 miles followed by a fast 1/2 mile downhill which hits +12% in spots after which the real climbing begins!  Ugh!   Grades up to nearly 14%  to mile 17.5 during which I did walk about 1/10th of a mile on the steepest section as I was grinding in my easiest gear possible at about 1-1/2 mph. Upon reaching a slightly flatter section I got back on and didn't put feet down until near the end of the race where two forced dismounts were in place.  Reaching that peak followed by another 1/2 fast descent and another climb to mile marker 19.6 marked the end of hard climbing for more than a dozen miles. The next ten miles were mostly all descents with my speeds reaching 30mph at times. Fortunately, most of my downhill riding was with no other riders around me, or on occasion a single rider here and there making passing safe and easier.

There were a few people with mechanical issues though I surprisingly saw no flat tire issues.  One guy passing me on the first long climb had an issue with his rear derailleur because it kept jumping every few pedal strokes.  Later I saw him on the side of the road with his chain jammed between the big rear cassette cog and the spokes.  I saw another rider rear derailleur issue, a woman with front derailleur problems and one guy 30 miles in walking the climb carrying his bike though I don't know what his problem was.  Luckily he had only a couple miles to go to the 32 mile aid station.

Note- the climbs are even listed in Strava as categories!  This event has 2s, 3s and even 4s!

The second half of the course isn't quite as hard as the first though still challenging in a similar fashion.  All bike racers will be familiar with the fact that once an event starts you often see the same riders again and again. Someone will be a bit faster in some section than you, then you catch them and pass them and so on.  As usual for me, people would pass me on the climbs and provided I got to the top soon enough after them I'd pass them on the downhill.  I really pushed it the last couple climbs to keep a few people in view and was indeed able to pass them on the last downhills and not be passed again before the finish.

All in all I consider the event a success.  No crashes and iven the difficulty of  some of the grades and only having to walk 1/10th of a mile in a location where numerous other riders walked.  With the single track removed and the course shorter the only apples-to-apples comparison I can garner is overall average speed between last year and this.
     For last year's 55 mile event my average speed was 10.92 mph overall.
     For this year's 50 mile race  my average speed  was  11.63mph overall.

Up next is Barry-Roubaix with a target to break the four hour mark to beat my previous 4:05 result  which means at least 15mph average over 62 miles!