Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Camp Trip To Mammoth Gravel

The Mammoth Gravel ride is a 35 or 70 mile mixed terrain route put together by the fine folks at CyclovaXC in  St. Croix Falls.  Since we're preparing for the 100 mile Almanzo gravel race coming up in May, brother-in-law, Scott and I decided to take on the 70 mile route.   
The weather on Friday was looking good so I decided, if I could get out of work a bit early, I'd pack the camping gear and ride up to St. Croix Falls and camp the night before the ride.  I got the go ahead from work so it was a go.  

Me and the gear.  It was supposed to be cold and possibly rainy in the morning, so I way over packed.

Mom and Dad are, conveniently, right on the way so Dad joined me on the ride for a few miles.

I'm diggin' the sign.

Right before the descent into T.Falls is the lovely Franconia Sculpture garden.

Dang, I could have just squatted in this, and I wouldn't have needed to schlep all this gear. 

Pulling into camp

I earned a treat.

 Scott, getting prepped for the ride.  

Saturday morning the crowd  began to gather at the Overlook park in town.  At 9:30 we began our quick roll out of town.  The front of the pack went out rather quickly but we were content just to hang back and take the start nice and easy.  About 18 miles in, we hit the notorious Sand Barrens.  Since about 100 people had tore through them before us they were in worse shape than I encountered a few weeks ago.  We ended up dismounting and walking a fair amount.  At the end of the barrens the race organizers had a truck parked to celebrate the end of the sand with trailside treats.  I enjoyed a PBR with Mr. MacNaughty, Scott downed a Coke and we were back on the road.  After tackling a long southbound section into the wind, we had a fantastic "roller dog" lunch at the Cushing gas station and then it was time to tackle the next section.  

Miles 40 through 50 are eastbound and bring a section of non-stop 50-75 ft. rolling hills that really wear on you despite their relatively small size.  About halfway through this section the rain started to come down.  We made a push to Cafe Wren, in Luck, where we decided to don our rain gear and make the final push on the Gandy Dancer back into St. Croix Falls.  We covered the final 17, wet miles and rolled into downtown SC Falls around 3:45.  We were pleasantly surprised to be greeted, near the finish, by our cheering wives and my parents.  We wrapped up by hitting the bike shop for the swag drawing and refueling with some great burgers at the Indian Creek Winery

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ragnarok 2012

Ragnarok # 5 is in the books.  This is a 100 mile plus gravel road race that I have been doing every year since the boys in Red Wing first conceived the evil idea in 2008.  It was my first ever century ride on a bicycle and will forever hold a special place in my heart.  That first year was filled with horrendous weather and the only thing that saw me through to the finish, after nearly 12 hrs, was the comaraderie and co-misery of two great friends Scott and Porter.    

This year, the forecast during the week prior to the race, looked a bit grim but on race day we were greeted with mostly cloudy skies for the morning with a temp starting out around 50 degrees.  Absolutely perfect as far as I'm concerned.  My day started with a 4:45 AM alarm.  Started coffee and jumped in for a quick, wake up shower.  Truck was loaded the night before so now it was time to whip up some banana pancakes before heading out the door.  I ate 3 of the 4 pancakes and decided to shove the extra one in the feed bag on the bike.    

I rolled into Red Wing around 6:40 with plenty of time to make a bathroom stop and get signed in at the race table.  Pre-race time was filled with the usual milling around and greeting friends and training buddies at the start.  I handed off a jug of water and a small cooler to Bob's Shepherds wife, Carol, for transport to the first check point.  Having this option is a huge time saver.  Thanks Carol! 

The first few miles of the race, for me, are usually very predictable.  I'm a slow starter, so I purposely take it very easy on most of the climbs and try not to get sucked into a pace that I cannot handle early on.  After about 45 minutes or so, I started feeling like all systems were firing strong and I started passing a few people until I settled into my spot in the long string of spaced out riders.   About 1 hour and 15 mins into the race, as I was chatting with another rider, suddenly there was the sound of a large pack approaching us from behind.  6 or 7 riders blazed by us like we were standing still.  I chuckled and said "That's funny."
"Why's that?" the other rider said.
"Those are your leaders."  I responded.  "They must have taken an awfully wrong turn."  
Ahh, the joys of an unsupported, pay attention or pay for it, type race!

The checkpoint in Zumbro Falls came around mile 39.  I came in feeling good, got my new cue sheet to get me to Lake City and headed over to see Carol and refill my bottles.  Neil Cary also came in about this time but beat me back onto the road by a minute or so.  Neil was riding strong and he and I would leap-frog a few times until nature called him for an extended break.  I made a quick phone call to my sister Kyleen and my wife while on one of the flat stretches along the Zumbro river, just to give them a quick race report.  It was nice to chat with them for a while.  Shortly after that, there were a few more killer hills (624th!!) that quickly caused me to shed the extra layers I had debated about removing earlier. 

I rolled into Lake City (81 miles) excited that there was only another 26 miles left in the race.  I was now in a state mentally where I just wanted to close in on that finish line.  I wasn't in a dark place but rather just looking forward to being done.  I filled waters and was back on the road after a 5 minute stop.  There were 4 more major climbs left.  The first is Heath's Hill (335th min maint rd.).  This is one of the steepest and roughest climbs on the course but thankfully there's a reward at the top.  I managed to climb the whole thing without walking so I celebrated by accepting a hit of Crown Royal and some summer sausage provided by the fine Almanzo crew at the top.  Next up were the three stooges of 335th, Huneke and Lehrbach.  All of these are long slow grades that finish off with steep kickers at the heads of their respective valleys.  Having climbed Heath's, I knew I could tackle these last three also.  Somewhere along Huneke, I felt the twinge of a cramp in my left leg.  It wasn't severe, but just enough to let me know to tone it back just a bit, pedal smooth circles and drink the rest of my fluids.  As we turned on to Lehrbach I caught up with Steve S.  We chatted for a while but I was focusing most of my energy on trying to get to the finish before the 8.5 hour mark so I wasn't to talkative (sorry Steve).   I increased the pace a bit and despite Steve saying he was completely blown, he managed to stay right on my wheel.  I was hoping to put a bit of a gap in prior to the kicker because I knew, with legs that were on the verge of cramping, I wouldn't be able to turn the screws on that final push.  At this point another rider with whom I'd been leap-frogging, passed us one final time on his push to the finish.  Steve was strong on the climb and crested about 20 seconds ahead of me.  Knowing we were close, but not exactly how close, I still had the goal of getting in under 8.5 so I started ramping it back up on the flat run across the top before the final, flying fast downhill, to the finish.  I caught Steve on the downhill and holllered "Let's go, we'll make 8 and a half hours."
Happy to be done, we both rolled in at 8 hours 26 minutes.  A personal record for me.  

Food Consumed
Leg 1 - 42 oz Nathan Catalyst electrolyte drink, 1 banana pancake, 1 gu pack, 5 hr energy

Leg 2 - 90 oz. Catalyst/endurolyte drink mix, 1 pack sport beans, 1 pb/banana burrito, 1 gu, 1 caffeinated gu, 2 perpetuem tabs

Leg 3 - 42 oz Heed/catalyst drink, 1 perpetuem tab, 1 small clif granola bar, 5 hr energy, 3 slices sausage, 1 hit Crown Royal, 1 blackberry double caffeine gu

Five Ragnarok Finishes 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sewing - Frame Bag #2

Finally got around to sewing up the slimbag for the Doublecross.  It was about time, since Ragnarok is coming up in a few days and I wanted to have it done by then.  The last bag I made was a team effort with coach Mom at my parents house using mom's fancy machine.  I figured it'd be nice to have a sewing machine at my house, so over the winter we dug my grandmothers mid-century Singer out from the dust and I proceeded to give it a little TLC and refubishing.  It's not a showpiece by any standard but it lays down a solid straight stitch and it does it well.  

Despite checking and double checking my velcro layout, I still managed to screw up two of them and didn't notice until all the sewing was finished.  Thankfully, I came up with a feasible work-around and didn't have to rip the bag apart.

Oooh, note the fancy reflective piping on the trash pocket.  Too bad I forgot to sew it into the zipper on the other side.

Look closely and you can also see the stem/handlebar "feed trough" bag I slapped together a couple of months ago.  

Carrying capacity of the finished Slimbag is; 1 liter of water, a wind vest, a tube, 1 PB banana burrito and a snack bag stash of endurance athlete drugs (ibuprofen, rolaids, chamois butter, etc.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mammoth Gravel Recon Ride

Had a day of of work on Friday so it was a perfect chance to get up to St. Croix Falls and check out the course that the folks at CyclovaXC have put together for their Mammoth Gravelle event in two weeks.  Bob and Tom were able to join me for the full day of exploration and dad hooked up with us in Luck, to join us for the last 17 miles back into town on the Gandy Dancer.  Had to fight a bit of a wind for our southbound portion but overall it was a great day spent on the bike.  Also got out for a Saturday ride with Scott.  Unlike the beautiful sunshine of friday, Scott and I managed to suffer through 30 miles of rain and wind.  We'll take it on a training ride hoping that it'll lessen our chances of it happening on race day.   We'll see how that goes. . .

Along the beautiful St. Croix River

Umm, yeah, It's a bit sandy in places

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Carbon on the Gravel Grinder

The drive train on the SOMA Doublecross has seen it's better days.  It's gotten me through the past 3 years of Ragnarok, a few Almanzo races and many, many hours of training and commuting.  Considering that original drive train was built up with a smattering of old parts dating as far back as 1993 (cranks), I think that's pretty good.  The straw that broke the camels back was actually the bottom bracket.  It's not good when there's a considerable amount of loose play in your pedal stroke.  Instead of just seeking out another square taper BB I figured it was time to replace the entire drive train.  Thankfully, sweet deals can be had at the Twin Cities Bike Swap and I came home with my first bit of carbon.  Rather funny that it gets put on the bike that gets thrashed the most.  I doubt it'll make me any faster.

Something I should have done the first time I built the frame up.

 Not light by any means, but that 36t should be nice around mile 80 of the Ragnarok.  After Rag it goes on the Pugsley.

Rear wheel needed a little TLC.

All back together.  Still some vintage parts that work perfectly, so those get to stay.

Bonus points if you can tell me what Kerry and I were shopping for when we saw this.