Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Quadfecta!

Ninja says, "Happy Memorial Day!"
Cannonsburg State Game Area, Cannonsburg Ski Hill, Luton, and Merrell trail. Four great trails around the Grand Rapids area, all of which offer something a little different to the rider. Completing all four in one day has been dubbed the Quadfecta. I've never ridden more than 2 trails consecutively before and when I heard some friends were planning on riding the Quad on Memorial Day.... Of course I jumped right in!

Danielle and I met our friend Evan at Riverside park at 7:15am in Grand Rapids on our bikes and started pedaling towards the State Game Area. It was a little chilly Monday morning, so I was wearing arm warmers and knee warmers... which quickly got me overheated! I don't know what I was thinking when I popped them on in the morning-- I must have forgotten I was going to be pedaling on my bike or something!

Steve Bartzen joined our group at the first trail and we jumped right in to riding! The State Game Area is my favorite local trail hands down. There are some logs, some drops, it flows and you can get going pretty fast, and there's some roots and rocks to climb over. I always feel like I come out a better rider when I ride this trail. We were finished with the State Game Area before I knew it and we were off to the Ski Hill!

The Ski Hill is alternatively my least favorite trail in Grand Rapids. I'm really glad we hit up this trail second in the quadfecta instead of last, because I don't think I could have mustered up the energy to ride up some of the climbs! The Ski Hill has some long climbs, and now that there's a new section, it's got some really bumpy and sandy spots. I heard Danielle yell ahead of me something about sand, and was able to shout back to her, "What sand?" just before hitting a sandy turn that made my bike stop underneath me. I went down. The Ski Hill is actually a really great trail, and the reason it's my least favorite is because it just makes me work so hard. I really do need to ride this course more often.

I was feeling pretty beat up after the early morning and these first two trails. We finished the Ski Hill just in time before I bonked, and I was able to inhale some shot bloks before we started riding out to Luton. Cruising on pavement after climbing single track seriously feels like you're going 100 x's faster than you were previously going! It was nice to have a little break between each trail to get my heart rate back to normal!

The fun part about Luton is that you can roll through a lot of the trail like a roller coaster. I really like riding my single speed at Luton because your momentum carries you through a lot of the trail and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. I did have to keep reminding myself that I wasn't on my single speed so that I would pedal through the corners instead of just coasting through with a silly grin on my face! Danielle yelled something out to me while riding and I couldn't tell if she said "PEDAL!" or "METAL!", but whatever it was, I took that as a cue and started pedaling!!

The ride from Luton to Merrell was pretty much uphill the entire way. There were more cars out on the road now with mountain bikes on their racks, and it was cool that people were waving at us. I love our little mountain biking community here in west Michigan! When we rolled up to Merrell we ran in to Brian Buysse, one of the new mechanics out in Ada. He had just taken the shop's Cannondale F29 demo out for a couple laps and was getting ready to head back home. We tipped him off that we'd be at the Rockford Brewing Company in about an hour and hoped that we'd see him there!

The crew after Merrell. This kiddo was so cool he had to be in the photo!
Merrell rules. It seriously rules. The fact that I can say this after riding since 7am means that this trail really rules! This is another fun trail on the single speed, but today I was really happy that I not only had gears, but that I had a suspension fork and was on a carbon fiber bike. I'm not used to feeling so good after so much single track. I seriously could not stop laughing while riding Merrell. I don't know if I was just really happy that we were nearly done and on our way to some beer, or if I was bonking in a really weird way. At the top of one of the hills, you can choose to go down two different ways to connect back up less than a mile down the trail. We chatted for a minute up at the top about which way we should go when Danielle shouted, "Girls down Siren, boys down Phaser! One, two, three: GO!" And we were off and racing! I don't think I've ever ridden Siren as fast a I did just then. I was pedaling my brains out and we were both shrieking and laughing the entire way down! In case you were wondering, we won!

The ride to the Rockford Brewery was all downhill and I was so excited to sit down and to claim my reward! Brian was there waiting for us and we ran in to a bunch of friends who had ridden the White Pine Trail to Rockford from GR. Like I said before, I love our cycling community here!

The babe locking up her bike outside in the Twin Six jersey wound up being Jenny Scott!
The ride home down the WPT was intense. I was seriously so giddy from riding my first quadfecta, and having a few ciders from the brewery probably didn't help. I know I say this a lot... but I could not stop laughing!!! The whole day was hilarious and I just can't put in to words how funny it all was! From being made fun of by some teenagers, to Danielle getting fishing line caught in her cassette, it was a riot the entire way home. By the end of the day, I had gotten a little over 65 miles in on my mountain bike. Can all training rides please be this much fun??!

Fishing line in the cassette?! Where did that come from!?
What a good Memorial Day! I'm so appreciative to have riding buddies like Danielle, Evan, and Steve! They're all a million times faster and more skilled than me, and it's great to get to ride with them! If I would have tackled the trails by myself I would not have pushed myself so hard. Thanks for waiting for me, friends!

Sunday Funday.
Other bonuses of the Memorial Day weekend? I went to a bonfire with a surprise keg of KBS, B and I took our kayaks out on the Rogue River, Ninja helped us get the garden at B's mom's house ready, and my best friend got my face tattooed on her butt. I think I honestly had the best weekend ever!

What, you thought I was going to post a picture of Emily's butt on my blog? :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Suggested fun: the Zoo-de-Mack & the Jordan River Valley

Morels love this weather!

It's actually not the weekend for me yet: I work Saturday at the bike shop. I had Monday off for an extended weekend and still feel like I am gathering my bearings from that. The weather has just been too nice and I haven't been able to put anything away! Here's to hoping I can make some of an improvement on that laundry pile while having this Sunday and Monday off... but if the weather's like it has been all week I can't make any promises. ;)

Last weekend was really, really great! It started out with a 54-mile group ride with a lot of my family and friends who I don't normally get to ride with. A few of us have been doing this ride for the last four years or so, and each year it's a pretty big riot. This year my uncle brought up a big trailer so we only needed one vehicle to transport all of the bicycles and bodies to the start of the ride.
So that's how we all fit... (inside of the trailer!)
The Martindale / Schafka crew!
There's a huge variety of fitness level and bicycle capacity on the Zoo-de-Mack, so I consider it a challenge to finish this ride as a group. Bob, myself, and B somehow lost the rest of the crew and finished behind them, which was funny because we were the most seasoned bicycle veterans with our group. Perhaps we took too many bicycle safety checks? Either way, it was a super fun day.
A giant rotten food slingshot... aka "Oh, my bike is making a weird noise, let's stop here"
Bob needed to adjust his headset.
B got a snake caught in his spokes.
On Sunday the family took off for back home, Bob rode off for a few days of bikepacking, and B and I headed off for the Jordan Valley River Trail. We had only explored a little bit of it after the Zoo-de-Mack last year, and I couldn't wait to see more of it. There are a little less than 20-miles worth of hiking trails and we figured the best way to see the most of it would be to combine two of my favorite things... hiking and biking! B devised this really clever plan that totally blew my mind: we would search for morels and set up camp on Sunday, and on Monday morning we would ride our bikes down dirt roads to one end of the trail, and then we would hike back to camp and drive to go get our bikes! We could travel faster via bicycle (which aren't allowed on the hiking trails, fyi) and then hike along the river all before having to make the trek back home. We were able to dink around our usual amount while exploring and were still in the truck well before sunset. The Jordan River Valley trail is absolutely stunning. We heard a million different types of birds, had to climb over logs that were pretty fresh with beaver bites, the entire forest floor was covered in ramps (sweet onions), and we got to jump across logs and moss-bridges all along the waterway. The dirt road we rode on was sandy and took us past some cute little waterfalls and gullies. There's a fish hatchery up the way from the Pinney Bridge campground, where we left our bikes before dipping back on to the trail. Hatcheries have always been cool to me, so of course we spent some time checking the place out. They had instant coffee and hot chocolate in the visitor's center which I was so excited about because I was dying for a coffee! Seriously check out this trail if you get some time. The day trip we did was really great but there was still so much more to explore! I am tempted to hop back in the truck and to do the trip all over again this weekend. These pictures don't do this trail justice:

Too cool to just ride past.
Jordan River National Fish Hatchery
There were so many trout in here!
...the river!
Seriously, check this place out and jump across these logs!
Weekends like this one get me unbelievably stoked for the summer. I can't wait for more trips like this one. :)

Have a good memorial day, everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

6 Hours at Stony Creek

The single track out near Stony Creek is so much fun! I seriously can’t believe that I never hopped on a mountain bike growing up and that I never even knew the trail at Stony existed! Growing up, my family had gone out to Stony frequently during the summer to go swimming and to ride our bikes around the paved trails in the park. We had never ventured to the gravel two-track or to the dirt single-track, and a part of me wonders how I would have done this weekend knowing what I was jumping in to. Either way: I had a blast, I did my best, and I didn't get too beat up!

Grand Rapids Bicycle Company graciously let Danielle and I snag the van away for the day so that we could have a vehicle to not only transport our bikes, but a tent, some chairs, some tools, and a few coolers to the 6/12 Hours at Stony Creek. These items honestly saved the day! It was really great to have a little space near the beginning of each loop to grab an extra water bottle or to grab some nutrition. My parents were also super appreciative to have a place to sit and to cheer us on as we came zooming through for each lap.
I don't know what I am doing here, but Danielle looks good!
Before the start I rode around for a little while on the grass mentally checking through the list of things that I had brought for the race. The race promoter said it would take about an hour for each lap, so I would need one water bottle and one gel per lap. So I brought a Hydrapak filled with Carborocket’s regular drink mix and 6 water bottles filled with their endurance 333 half evil mix. In a few of the bottles I poured an additional electrolyte powder mix, which makes them kind of salty, but helps with the leg cramps. I figured with all of the hydration and with some extra nutrition items thrown in for good measure, that I should be just peachy.
My mom and I
It was pretty sunny, humid, and warm the day of the race and I wound up going through the entire Hydrapak bladder, two water bottles, and two gels… all within the first two laps! I came around before lap 3 and tossed the Hydrapak to my dad, said something really fast about drink mix (without telling him where it was), grabbed two fresh bottles, and I was off. Each lap took you through a variation of woods, gravel climbs, some bridges, and a lot of wet spots that got sloppier with each pass through. At one point I nearly ran over the biggest snapping turtle I have ever seen, so I stopped to warn a few of the riders behind me. There were a lot of people dog walking, mountain biking, and hanging out back on the trails, and I felt like a bad ass each time I pedaled past. There was a man I passed taking a water break on his clean bike on top of a hill wearing a white t-shirt and no helmet… and I huffed and puffed up the hill covered in mud on a gritty bike, smiled and said hello, and then careened downhill on my way, laughing. The fact that I was able to do this on a Saturday, sporting a GRBC/Metal kit, on a really neat mountain bike made me grin ear to ear and made me feel like a winner, no matter how many laps I was going to ride and no matter what place I was going to come in. Despite the heat, the mud, the climbs… I was stoked!

I came back around for lap 4 and was still feeling awesome. I was drinking a lot more water than I initially thought I would need, and was happy to have finished the lap so that I could grab the Hydrapak from my parents. At this point, my grandma had arrived, and she wanted to grab a picture of me riding before I left again for the next lap. It was really cute but I really wanted to get out for another lap as quickly as possible. I rode off with a mouthful of sports beans and started riding up the first climb of the loop. Finally done chewing, I expected a cool, refreshing gulp of kiwi lime Carborocket and instead got a mouthful of warm well water from the taps in the bathroom at Stony Creek. Blech! The water tasted like iron and threw me off so much that I puked a little in my mouth… gross! The single track started its descent and was a little curvy with some roots and I refused to reach towards my bottle to wash the taste out of my mouth. It was more warm water or nothing at all. Yum!
Trying to put on the Hydrapak, shove sports beans in my mouth, and laughing as my Grandma took a bazillion unflattering photos
I love doing lap races because I start looking forward to different spots on the trail and trying to figure out how to choose the best line through them. There was an area with about four different bridges that I got gutsier with in each passing. Bridges typically scare the bejeezus out of me, so it was neat to get some practice in! There was a pretty steep loose climb in the latter half of the course that I fell on in my first lap and cheered every time I made it up again after that. Sometimes it’s just the little victories that keep you going, you know?

The downside of racing an endurance race is that after a few hours you’re going to have to go to the bathroom. There was an “uh-oh” moment in that fourth lap when I had to go pee. I didn’t know where I stood in comparison to the other female riders, and I was uncertain of how to gracefully urinate in the woods being a lady and wearing bib shorts. I fought the urge off for as long as I could until I got to an incline. There was NO way I could ride up that hill with a full bladder. I saw a footpath off to the left and took advantage of it, going as quickly as humanly possible. I zipped my jersey up frantically and left the bib straps flying in the wind, just in case nature would call another time..Which it did in my fifth lap, but I held it together until lap six-- I knew I needed to be in by 7:30 if I wanted to do another lap and wanted to take full advantage of my time to put in as many laps as possible!

I was finally passed by Danielle (who tugged on my bib straps) in the homestretch of my final lap and was proud of myself for making it so far before she had lapped me. Looking at results, I’m also incredibly proud of my teammate because she got second place in the entire race! What a beast! I placed third out of the solo women and was so happy to have been able to race with such a fun group of endurance racers. I rode about 60 miles of single track and my body felt surprisingly well afterwards! I’m looking forward to the next long ride on my bike, and I think my parents are looking forward to being my pit crew sometime again soon, too!
Myself (3rd), Danielle (1st), Sarah Temby (2nd), Barbara House (4th)

I didn’t get home until after 1am and was really happy to shower and to hop in to bed. I was so tired from the long day and had such a hard time falling asleep because of all the caffeine I had consumed all day, and because every time I closed my eyes I saw the trail at Stony Creek and felt as though I were still on the bike. I needed to take the van back to the shop Sunday morning before going on a Mother’s Day group ride for CycloFemme, so I set my alarm for 7:30am and had it back at the shop by 8am. 
Showing off our cool CycloFemme temporary tattoos
So, Sunday morning I stopped at the gas station a block away from the shop and groggily walked in to pre-pay. I didn’t know how much gas the van would need and the cashier offered for me to pump and to come pay afterwards… I guess I was a lot more disoriented than I thought because after filling up I hopped back in the van and drove off! I didn’t realize I had done this until GRBC’s owner, Tom, asked me how the race had gone on Monday morning with a huge smirk on his face… luckily amused that I had driven off without paying.. I’m so embarrassed about it!! He just kept laughing and saying that my reward for doing so well at the race was that he stopped me from going to jail… whoops! I’ll be more careful next time I take the van, I promise!! I can't believe I did that! I feel like such a jerk! Doh!
Happy to not be in jail!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fort Custer Stampede

So I'm borrowing a Foundry Tomahawk for the 6 hours at Stoney Creek this upcoming weekend, and thought, what better way to get used to the bike and to make sure it fits than to race at the Fort Custer Stampede the weekend before?

I am falling in love with this bike!!
I caught a ride down to the race with Steve Bartzen from the Farm Team and was really excited for the race. While debating whether I should race cross or mountain for the weekend, a lot of people gushed about how awesome Fort Custer was. Danielle told me it was similar to Merrell (she lied) and someone else told me it was like Luton (another lie). *UPDATE: Danielle told me Stoney Creek was similar to Merrell, I was just not paying attention. ;)

I did hear from a lot of people that it was collaboratively a favorite, and I was finally sold on Fort Custer when I remembered that I would be riding the Foundry Tomahawk for six hours in front of my family... It would make sense to see how it handled on dirt, wouldn't it? Day before the stampede was spent hanging out at the Spoke Folk's Kickstand Kickoff event and rolling around town before heading home to swap some of my own parts on to the new toy. I put the same saddle, grips and bars on the bike that I had been using all winter to fat bike race on and figured that would help me to transition to the new bike smoother. I was a little worried that the 2.3" wide, 650b wheels would throw me off. The last month I had been riding exclusively 29" tires and a big no-no before a race is to change part of your routine--and here I was changing my whole bicycle! I guess I like to keep it challenging. 

Racing to fix flats at the Kickstand Kickoff
Once we got to Fort Custer I unloaded the bike and started rolling around the parking lot on it. Not only was I riding a bike I had never tried on dirt before, but I was also riding tubeless tires and as embarrassing as it is, I had no idea what tire pressure to run. I settled on a psi similar to what I keep my single speed 29er at (40psi... wrong! so wrong! too firm!) and before I could ask anyone it was time to line up! 

I felt better about my tire-choice when I looked around and saw that the other girls racing in the Expert category with me either had 650b or 26" wheels. It was time to go, I started pedaling and I was the second female in to the single track and I felt good about the race. Until we got to some more technical swoopy, fast-paced, in-and-out type stuff, which is where I am inexperienced and not that fast. The third place woman caught up to me after I hit this portion of the trail and passed me. I didn't let it discourage me and I kept spinning on. The race felt more like a fun ride to me on the Foundry Tomahawk and I'm pretty sure that if someone could have heard me laugh over all of the drops and roots that they would have thought I was a crazy person! Rolling over all of those things on my single speed usually has my arms sore and my back a little achey. Riding a carbon frame with front suspension over everything was incredibly comfortable and I couldn't believe what I had been missing out on. More big drops, some tight and twisty stuff, followed by riding uphill over some roots. Yeah, it was a lot more technical of a trail than I was used to, but I was having a blast figuring out how a smaller diameter wheel could help me dodge more obstacles! The two main thoughts running through my head the entire first lap were "Why isn't this trail closer to home?" and "why haven't I tried this bike before?!" Fort Custer is so much fun. I was actually sad when I headed back out for my second lap. I was already choosing better lines than on my first pass through, and I just kind of wanted the chance to really peg down all the tough spots. I guess now I'll just have to make time to head down there more frequently to ride!

Jack caught me having a blast on the trail.

I finished the race in third place and was really happy with how my legs had held up. My body wasn't sore, my hands weren't blistered, and I felt like I could have gone out for another lap. I am seriously so stoked that I get to ride this same bike so soon on the other side of the state! Plus, I get to road trip out there with my favorite bike race travel buddy, Danielle Musto! Yesss!! 

I can't wait to ride Fort Custer again!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April Recap

The whole month of April has flown right past. Despite the chilly and wet weather, it’s been a great month and I’m getting incredibly stoked for the rest of the Spring / Summer. I really can’t believe it’s May already! This month was a training month for me, as I am planning on racing 6 hours at Stoney Creek on May 10th. It’s my first endurance mountain bike race, and I’m really excited for it because it’s close to where my parents live. I can’t wait to see them and to make them do water bottle hand ups to me! I grew up riding the bike paths at Stoney Creek and cannot wait to be back in my old stomping ground!

So here’s my April:

I’ve lived in Grand Rapids since 2005 and have always been a fan of baseball. I don’t know why I never went to a Whitecaps game—when I lived on the other side of Michigan I went to Detroit Tigers games a lot. Anyways, I got a group of about 30 friends to get group seating at the Whitecaps home game opener. Half of us rode bikes there. It was awesome! Group outings to local sports games are always a blast, but getting to them via bicycle makes them 5,000 times more fun!

Taking over the bike rack at the Whitecaps Stadium
Thanks for printing out my face, Jenny Scott!
This April is also my first time being 27! This is just a silly first. I’ll only be 27 once. The Whitecaps season opener happened to fall on the same day as my birthday. I was really blown away by how many friends came out to get drunk and to party on a Tuesday! My friend Emily wore a hot dog costume the whole time and got on the news. My friends are pretty great, and that’s the best birthday gift ever.

Emily and Clemo 
Lots of riding! Like I mentioned, the whole month of April was geared towards getting on the bike and just spending time being there. I have always had pretty good endurance and I'm excited to see how I do spending 6 hours on single track. Working full time at the shop doesn't leave me with a whole lot of time to get long rides in, but I think I've done an okay job at riding when I can. Merrell and Luton are both in really great shape thanks to a work day at which nearly 60 people showed up to! Grand Rapids Bicycle Company bought all of the volunteers pizza and everyone was super enthusiastic to help.

This segment of Merrell trail maintained by GRBC!
Everyone appreciates a good pizza party!
The Hellkaat Hundie/Fidie was on April 19th and it was my first gravel race this year not on my fat bike. I really should have signed up for the 100 mile race, which would have been great training, but it sounded like a lot of friends were riding the 50 miler, and I thought it'd be fun to ride as a group! The day after the race was also my boyfriend's birthday and he wanted to head up north, so as a birthday gift I didn't want to be sore and useless for his big day. ;)

Still feelin' great after 25 miles on loose gravel.
The Hellkaat was put on as a fundraiser for JDRF and a ton of people showed up to the race! Part of the fun for the event was that everyone had to send in a postcard for their number plate. I had a postcard hanging around from Tahquamenon Falls from when I rode my bicycle around Lake Superior in 2012 that I deemed perfect for the cause. There were some other pretty spectacular number plates and I couldn't help but laugh at nearly all of them! There was a good turn out of Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. race team and cycle club members and a lot of us stuck together for the ride. Danielle Musto's mom even came out on her Salsa Vaya and helped pull us along on a lot of the dusty, windy gravel roads! I haven't done any riding out near Hudsonville and the 50 mile route was pretty brutal on the freshly-graveled course. One memorable moment (to a lot of racers!) was a 3-legged dog wearing a bandanna that did not like cyclists! He lured you in with his cuteness and his handicap and then tried to bite off your legs! That one terrifying moment did not ruin the race, though. Big thanks to the people who organized it!

Sarah Jaromin, myself, Mary Musto, Danielle Musto
T6 Metal Martindale & Metal Musto
I grabbed a growler from White Flame brewery in Hudsonville and left shortly after finishing the 50 miles. I wish I could have stuck around to see the Hundie finishers to cheer on my teammates Jason Schippert and John Despres, but getting home and having the rest of my Saturday off was pretty great. I hopped back on my Salsa Fargo and spent the rest of the day riding around town, stopping in at Vertigo for National Record Store Day and catching Breathe Owl Breathe at the Pyramid Scheme.
Katy Batdorff and Brad Smit at Record Store Day.
The next day B and I packed our bikes on his truck and headed up to Ludington State Park! We dropped Ninja off at B's mom's house for the day in Grand Haven and headed up for some exploring. We hiked a pretty cool trail along the water and found a few hidden crevices with snow piled inside of them -- snowball fights! Running and laughing towards a snow pile, B realized that the snow pile was actually a giant chunk of Styrofoam. One of the reasons why I think he's just the greatest is because he's the type of person to pick up trash that he finds while out and about. So he picked up this giant piece of garbage, stuffed it in his sweater (so it wouldn't crumble all over the trail), and carried it with him for the remainder of the hike. We were actually out for a few hours carrying "Brick", talking to him, calling him a wet blanket, and lugging him around.

Ready for adventure!
The rest of April was spent swapping through my single speed El Mariachi and on my Fargo riding dirt and fooling around town. One of the best parts of the spring is that all of my friends are excited to get out to ride, too. GRBC also has a women's dirt ride on Wednesdays that started up mid-April, and it's been great to have people to ride with!
Pit stop on the way to a Grand Raggidy Roller Girl's bout.
Jenny Scott strikes again with the face cut-outs.
One thing I discovered in April was that I really like cyclocross races! The Spring Fury Cyclocross series is a training series designed with the beginner in mind. I attempted a cross race on my fat bike back at the end of the Kiss Cross series, but had a mechanical and didn't finish the race. I rode my single speed El Mariachi with a group of friends out to Perrin Brewery for race #2 of the Spring Fury series and was blown away by how much fun racing for 25 minutes could be! What a rush! I have a lot of work to do to get better at hopping over the barriers and getting on and off my bike quickly.. but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Having a blast at my first cyclocross race!
So the biggest decision to be made this weekend is... do I race at Perrin Brewery at race #3 of the Spring Fury Series OR do I race single track at Fort Custer Stampede?! Whatever decision I make, I know I'll have a lot of fun!

Riding at Merrell trail.
If you're not doing anything on Saturday, be sure to stop by the Spoke Folk's Kick Stand Kick-off event!