Monday, March 28, 2011

Barry-Roubaix: Killer Gravel Road Race

The Barry-Roubaix 65 mile race is billed as a very hilly, tough course, so I thought that meant hilly for southern Michigan, which would be like two hills. I paid no attention to the posted 4000+ feet of elevation change in the profile for this two loop course, or the mile of gnarly, sandy two-track in preparing for the ride. My plan was to play domestique to Alaina by pulling as much as I could as long as I could on the tough parts of the course and help her try to podium.

4 hours of these hills.

The day was frigid. We started at 23F with 9mph winds, and by the time I finished it was all the way up to 30F with 12-17mph wind. All the racers were totally covered in balaclavas, neoprene shoe covers, lobster gloves, todos, and these were hardman riders on beautiful CX and mountain bikes.

We lined up with the ~150 other 65 mile racers (there were 23 and 35 mile options as well for 1,000 total cyclists), and the peloton absolutely rocketed off the line. As we exited the park, struggling to hang on to the back of the group, I noticed Alaina visibly not feeling well and knew it would be a very tough day.

Back of the pack and barely holding on.

The two track started a few miles from the start and went straight up. With sand, exposed rock, frozen puddles, and relentless undulations, this was a quad massacre. When you finally escape this section, you’re treated with a mix of short, steep climbs and long rolling hills. There is NOTHING flat at all on this course.

The gnarly two track. Many people walked their bikes.

Alaina and I hung together as the front riders of later waves passed us by absolutely hammering up hills and down descents alike. Now I know we’re not the best cyclists or anything, but at most HIMs, we’re usually the ones passing. Here, that was quite rare. Mmm, humble pie, you are so bitter yet so full of truth.

Alaina just behind me, both struggling for air.

By mile 20, Alaina was really suffering in the gut parts, so she told me to go on as she’d retire after one 35 mile loop. I was feeling great considering the conditions, so I pulled out my Superman cape to see what I could do with the bike training I’d put in over the winter. Confidence was very high. Much too high.

I'm King of the World!

We averaged 16.3 mph over the first hour and a half, so when I ratcheted up the next hour solo to average 18.8 mph for that interval, what the hell was I expecting except pain and slamming my head into the wall? The second loop was lonely and windy. The hills crushed me. Around mile 50 I had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t going to finish. ONLY 50 MILES! I did a frackin Ironman last year! But this course was harder than Lake Placid, albeit much shorter. Plus I haven’t done a ride much over 3 hours at all this year. I underestimated this course and how tough it is to race on dirt. That and I couldn’t eat a lot because my hands were frozen. I went straight down to the pain cave.

Getting lonely out there

Every mile crawled by on the edge of a straight razor. I ate a banana and finished my carb/gatorade mix. Nothing helped. I got re-passed by everyone I flew by when I thought I knew so much about riding. I saw stars and felt my head float away on a balloon string while ball-peen hammers pounded my quads. It was utterly excruciating.

And after a long, dark time, it was over. 4 hours and 1 minute later I crept out of a blackness I haven’t been to in a long long time. Alaina was there with a couple of Founders Centennial IPAs. And I didn’t really even want it. That’s how I knew I was in a bad bad place. I’d like to say I learned a valuable lesson here, but I bet I’ll make this mistake at least once more this season.

After eating a taco and heating up in the car, I took on human form again. We hung out on the beach near the bonfires, drank some IPA, and won a few raffle prizes: a Barry-Roubaix shirt, a jar of bike salve, bag of steel cut oats, and a great book mapping the dirt roads in our county. Cool!

Now it's time to get this season started! Please send us some warm weather :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pleasant Lake CX Ride

Check out this day. High 40s, a touch windy, but skies as blue as the ocean and every road drenched in sun. The exploring duo made it 54 miles in just about 3 hours and 20 minutes, and for the dirt roads and rolling farm country, that's not too shabby. Still, next weekend's 65 mile race is going to bring us some new kinds of pain. Can't wait!

After a delightfully lazy morning, we left from our house and quickly got out to farmland near Dexter and then Pleasant Lake. Everything about this bike was better than simply "pleasant."

We didn't see a single car on this stretch for 1/2 hour.

Time for a quick snack to lift the spirits.

I think I'll just hang out in the middle of the road.

All the inspiration I need to keep pedaling.

The barn says: Sunset Farms. Rochester, holla.

What kinds of birds of prey might live there?

Hobbitses homes, my precious.

That's the kind of view I can get used to.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Turkish Delights

The white witch of winter has offered us some delicious Turkish Delights for weather this week, with temps in the mid 50s up to even 67! waHOO! I presume this is just a ploy so she can turn us to stone or ice next week. But who can resist such a delicious morsel?

We have a 65 mile Cyclocross race next weekend in Grand Rapids, MI, which is going to be a loooong day in the saddle, since we only do ~16mph on the dirt roads on these bikes. This means we need to crank out as much riding this weekend in last ditch preparation for next weekend's madness. Should be a blast.

I hammered out a local loop this morning and loved every single second of riding outside once again.
I can see for miles and miles

Two thumbs up

After eating a few mud pies

One of my favorite barns

Thinking of my broski

Silly double post

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daylight Snoozing Time

The running couple struggled mightily to overcome the daylight savings lost hour of sleep this morning, but darn it if we didn't bang out some steady miles despite the sleep in our heads and less-than-positive attitude toward running today. Sometimes you just have to tuck your chin in and run.

We took one of our very favorite dirt road loops from the house, which has some nice rolling hills and mostly tree lined to protect from some of the wind. There is a very active (and young) convent on this loop, and Alaina picked out a running nun from about a half mile away. Domino Farms is also along this route, so we got to see some horses and a couple of llamas. Cool.

Mustering up the energy to go go go.

Our cheering crew

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter's Last Stand

A few hours after days-long rain finally washed away all our snow and had us thinking Springy thoughts, we got 4" of fresh powder. So we made the best of it and hiked Cody ragged through Black Pond Woods and the golf course. Then, as a special treat, we took naps, all three of us! I *heart* naps.

Determined not to sleep right through my long run day, I set off for the woods, for a last snow trail hurrah. Turned out to be one of the best two hour runs I've ever been on, as I explored some old favorites and found a few new sights as well.
Jacob and Rachel need one of these.

coffee + snowy woods = happy Alaina
"These woods are lovely, dark and deep"
Ain't no creek cold enough
Totally covered.  Totally happy.

Start of my run.  Couldn't be happier.

Fresh track loveliness

The dude approves.
Just outside the city, immersed in the woods.

Perfect picnic spot.  In a few more weeks.

Nothing flat at the Arb; reminds me of Highland Park.
Longest run of the year hurt, but at least I didn't need this.