Monday, July 14, 2014

The Beermuda Triangle

The plan for July is to ride, ride, ride! I have a 12 hour race coming up August 2-3 in Wausau, Wisconsin which I am really excited for! I'm hoping I can build my endurance up so that I can have consistent lap times like I had at the Lumberjack 100.

I had plans to ride for 6-8 hours on Sunday. My friend Bob told me about a group that was doing the Beermuda Triangle, which I had never done before. Intriguing: 125 miles and an average pace of 15-20mph. Yup. That'll do it. I figured I could get a good ride in with some roadies while riding my Salsa Fargo and I was pretty happy to have a fun group of people to ride with. 
It's going to be a good day when you're greeted by swaggering Bob!
The Beermuda Triangle... originally, the triangle starts at Founders Brewing Company and rolls out to Bells Brewery, then New Holland Brewing Company, and then back to Founders. Yesterday, the ride leaders decided to switch it up a bit and we rolled on over to the Waldorf Brewpub for our second stop instead of New Holland.

So I met Bob and Jeff at their house at 10:30 around the corner from my apartment. I was pretty chipper from a good breakfast of coffee and steamed kale and was pumped to have a whole day of riding with those two ahead of me. I've done long rides with both of them before and they're always a TON of fun! Another bonus was that Jeff has a speaker and is a pretty awesome ride DJ. :) 

Waiting for Bob to lather up with sunscreen, Jeff's rear tire suddenly made a PSHHHHHHHHH noise. Flat tire! Lucky for us we hadn't hit the road yet or met up with the rest of the group and Jeff was able to quickly change it right in his very own driveway.
Off to a great start!
We rolled up to Founders and met up with some of the Founders Race Team members, Brad and Dennis, and a new face, a guy in a Twin Six jersey named Ted. Twin Six? Instant friends! We stopped at a semi weigh station on our way out of town to see how much all of us weighed together, but the scale was off and we didn't get to know who had guessed the correct weight. I'm just going to pretend that I had guessed the closest at 1200 pounds for 6 cyclists, their bikes, and all of the gear I had packed on my Fargo. ;)

Another cyclist, Paul, met up with us on our way to out of town. Once we hit Plainwell, we were joined by two other riders, Robin and Matt. We had blue skies, everyone was smiling, the pace was good, and I was pretty much having the best day ever. (Which is basically how I feel every time I'm on my bike with friends!)
En route to Bells!
Someone admired my Fargo and asked if I had a road bike. I think it's funny that my response was, "this is my road bike!" The Surly Knard tires that I put on the Fargo are 700 x 41 and to me that's pretty dang skinny. I absolutely love those tires. I didn't feel like they were holding me back at all from riding with the road bikes for the Beermuda Triangle, and they're pretty great at being resilient and handling well in gravel, through construction zones, and the occasional ride-on-the-grass-and-road-shoulder-because-you-can moments.

Before I knew it, we were at Bell's! I love how riding with others can make 55-some miles fly by. We ordered food and our beer and sat on a picnic table in the beer garden. So good.
Bell's Brewery
Jeff was feeling a little rough before we had gotten to Bell's, but was recharged by the delicious beer and decided to stick out the rest of the day with us. I'm really glad he did! Leaving Kalamazoo, we found a new brewery that had just opened. We thought we'd add a fourth stop to our brewery bicycle tour, but we were there too early and they weren't open yet. Boo!
We'll have to ride back down another time to check out the Boatyard. :)
Bell's to Waldorf was about 35 miles and we kicked that out pretty quickly. Rolling into Hastings I saw a water fountain about a block away from the brewery and I had to stop to play in it. There were a few kids playing in the sprinklers and I bet they thought the cyclists running around in the water were cray cray! The water felt so, so good. And then the beer at the Waldorf was also so, so good.
Waldorf Brewpub
We all had more than one beer at the Waldorf and we had about 35 or so miles back to Founders. I had packed some fireworks in my pannier and was super excited to find a spot to light them off for everyone. A little outside of Hastings we found a field and I was so pumped that everyone was as excited as I was for the fireworks. A few weeks ago I had bought some alien parachutes from a fireworks tent on my way to the beach with my fat bike. The parachutes claimed "real aliens!" and the guy who sold them to me very elaborately described how awesome they were, "so they go up real high, and then POP the parachute opens up, and there's an alien on it, and there's a cloud of blue smoke that chases the alien around!" Unfortunately, all of the alien parachutes that I had light off wound up getting caught in trees or landing on the bike shop's roof, and I was determined to catch the last parachute.
The parachute exploded and we all cheered! Then the parachute drifted over an electric fence and landed in a farmer's field. NOOO! Determined to see the alien, I was able to climb over a locked gate and ran through the field towards the red parachute. I was seriously so excited to see the alien!!
It was just a white army guy! What a rip off!
Pfft. The alien was no alien. It was just a regular old army guy who had been made white to look different from the regular old green army guy. Not fair!

The rest of the ride was pretty great, the sun was starting to set and it had been a really, really good day. We all rode pretty good together and had been cracking jokes and chatting all day. I'm so glad that Bob had invited me on the ride because it sure beat riding a century by myself. You have to love training days that involve other cool riders and fresh, cold beer.
heading back to GR
We got to Founders a little bit after 9pm and snagged a spot at a table on the outside patio. What a great Sunday! I can't wait to do the Beermuda Triangle again!
Good to be home at Founders!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Still grinning after the Lumberjack 100!

I've heard a lot of mountain bikers talk about how great and amazing the Lumberjack 100 was, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I signed up for it myself. I was thinking maybe I'd shoot for doing it next year. By time it made my radar, online registration had come and gone and the race was at capacity. I also hadn't done many endurance races and thought I'd start with some shorter ones before tackling 100 miles of single track.

Oh, but Danielle Musto has a really great way of pushing me out of my comfort zone and in to doing bike races! I also had a friend who was looking to sell his Lumberjack registration...before I knew it Danielle had talked me in to signing up for my first 100 mile mountain bike race!

Then this happened after the Ted Bentley release party :
Proof of the bet!
It's a little fuzzy how it all started, but it ended by Danielle and I yelling that Steve Bartzen was going down. After a few drinks at Harmony, we had gotten all riled up and started talking smack with Bartzen. He's been racing for quite a while and is pretty stupid fast. He seemed confident that he would have no problem racing 100 miles faster than me, and all those Ted Bentley's persuaded Danielle and I that I could train in a month and that I could beat Bartzen in the Lumberjack. Some mornings you wake up after drinking and remember cocky things that you've said and you feel like an idiot. This was one of those cases for me. I've only been mountain biking for a few years, racing for one, and although I had done centuries on gravel or on pavement, I knew single track would treat my body entirely differently-- especially riding that much single track at a race pace! The thought of beating Bartzen was pretty crazy, and the whole month leading up to the race was filled with more trash talking between myself, Danielle, and Bartzen.

Leading up to the race I tried to spend my days off from the bike shop doing longer rides. There's a really big hill out near Cannonsburg that I became very intimate with. Hill repeats are something entirely new to me and incredibly brutal! I really think one of the best training tools I had (aside from having Danielle Musto as my coach!) was my Salsa Beargrease. The larger tires gave me just a little more rolling resistance and have helped me to get some power to my legs. Plus the bike is just a lot of stinkin' fun!

Before I knew it the week of the Lumberjack was upon us! One of the coolest things that I noticed about this particular race was that people's faces lit up when you told them you had signed up. Everyone was super encouraging and offered up little tid bits of advice: just get out there and have fun being the #1 thing that everyone said. We're really lucky to live in such a cool mountain biking community in which everyone looks out for each other and wants to see each other succeed!

Friday morning rolled around and once again Grand Rapids Bicycle Company graciously let us take the shop van up for race day! We packed in some lawn chairs, the GRBC tent, some tools, a cooler, our bikes, our gear, and so, so many snacks. The plan was to get our tent and everything set up the night before so that we could snag a really great spot for all of our things for easy and quick pit stops between laps. We were able to find a spot near the bathrooms and right at the start of the loop. Perfect!
The Lumberjack 100 has the best swag!
It had rained the entire drive up to Manistee and we had gotten our tent set up a little later than expected, so instead of pre-riding and spinning our legs on the trail, we hopped on our bikes in the hotel parking lot and did a few laps to stretch out our legs. Snacked on some Marie Catrib's for dinner, and we were in bed by 10pm. Normally I have a hard time falling asleep so early before such an exciting day, but I think my eyes were closed as soon as my head hit the pillow. 

As soon as the alarm went off in the morning, I was up! The adrenaline was already pumping and I was super excited for the race to start! The sooner I was on my bike meant the sooner it would all be over! ;)
All of the race volunteers were super awesome! Danielle Shaver rules!
We got to the Lumberjack 100 race start at a little after 5am. I couldn't believe how many other people had already gotten there - good thing we had our tent spot! I had prepared three hydrapak's with Carborocket's 333 Half Evil endurance mix the night before and had them stacked in a bag for easy grabbing between laps. I also had three water bottles filled with CR's hydration mix that I would put on my bike each lap. I still don't feel very acclimated to the humidity and heat yet, so I also had Hammer Endurolytes and the margarita Shot Bloks in my gas tank bag. People who had finished the race before had told me to make sure I had solid food, but I felt pretty confident with this plan since I had been training on the Carborocket and had used it all winter fat biking.

The start of the race was a ways out of the parking lot and down a flat section of paved road. We all lined up together, and it was crazy to see 400-some cyclists all lumped together! I got a spot near the front next to Danielle and our GRBC teammate Jurrien Davison and felt really good on that stretch of road. I knew there would be some congestion once we hit the single track and I was really hoping for a good position right off the start. I was happy with where I was once we hit the trail, and then I accidentally mis-judged the speed of the guy ahead of me and when he slowed in a sandy spot I snagged his rear wheel with mine and veered off the trail. Doh! I looked back to see if there would be a gap for me and saw a long line of mountain bikers.. double doh! A rider was nice enough to let me back in and I hopped on my bike and started laughing to myself: only 99.9 miles left to go!

I. Love. Endurance. Racing! I absolutely love everyone out there that I'm racing with! People were talkative and were super friendly. All 100 miles of the race, other people were smiling and encouraging one another.

When I came to the aid station the first time, I couldn't wipe the grin off of my face. A lot of friends were wearing party hats and started jumping up and down when I rolled through. Part of me wished that I could stop to hang out with everyone, but I had my Carborocket and didn't need to. My legs were feeling super fresh and I just kept trudging on. Before I knew it I could hear music and was already coming through the tent area. I rolled in about half a minute after Jurrien and chatted with him briefly while swapping for a fresh hydrapak. We wished each other good luck and I was back on the bike.

The trail was a lot of fun to ride on. It wasn't super technical and there was only one hill that I couldn't pedal up. There were a lot of downhills that made me really, really glad that the course was being run backwards this year! My favorite part of the trail was the last segment, the Lumberjack. I don't know if it's because I knew it was the last part of the trail... or if it's because it made me feel like a Lumberjack. ;)

Before we hit the last aid station I started riding on the wheel of a guy named Kelly. He was super nice and had come up from Indiana for the race. I was surprised when he told me that he had estimated that he would finish in about 8 hours and 40 minutes, because if that's how fast he was riding, that's how fast I was riding! I had estimated that I would finish the race in about 10 hours and hadn't thought about time once we started pedaling! (Maybe I should invest in a Garmin?) I had paced myself at pedaling about 75% of what I knew I could do in order to save some energy for the last hills, and I was really glad that my legs still felt good.

I saw a Farm Team jersey ahead of us and started getting really excited. It was Bartzen! I started yelling to Kelly about how we had a bet and I'm sure he probably thought I was bonking because he asked if I was going to stop at the last aid station. "No way! I'm good! I have to beat that guy!" I was a little nervous that maybe Bartzen would just roll through the aid station, but I saw him start to slow and put a foot down. WHAP! I gave him a good slap on the caboose and laughed maniacally as I pedaled past! Yes!

Coming up to the last 10 miles of the trail I started slowing a lot on the climbs. It wasn't that my legs were getting tired... my bladder was just full! I started getting nervous that I would slow too much and that Bartzen would catch up to me. I also knew that I had passed the third place female at the aid station and I didn't know how far behind me she might have been. I told Kelly I'd catch him again and decided that I could ride faster if I relieved myself, so I jumped off my bike and dropped my drawers right next to the trail - no time to find a tree to hide behind! Just as I started going, I saw a rider in red coming towards me. "I'm sorry! I had to go!" I yelled, feeling a little embarrassed. "It's okay, it's only me!" I heard a female voice shout back. Oh crap! She rode past me and I watched her disappear into the woods. I pulled my shorts back up and hopped on the bike, speeding away from Bartzen and trying to catch the lady in red! I caught back up to Kelly and he told me she was just ahead of him, so I wished him luck and kept trying to catch her.

When I saw the finish line I couldn't believe I was already there! It felt so good to cross that finish line! Scott Tencate gave me a high five and told me I was the fourth place female and it really felt like a dream. I hadn't even thought I'd make it in the top 10, let alone the top 5! I heard someone screaming and saw Danielle running towards me, flailing her arms and jumping up and down. So I started screaming and jumping up and down! She picked me up and gave me a giant bear hug and I couldn't stop laughing. Jack Kunnen documented the whole spectacle and I am so, so glad he did. Every time I look at the pictures I can't stop laughing!

Check out Danielle in the background

I should have put my bike down...
I had finished about two minutes behind the lady in red, Shannon Ancel, but there isn't any part of me that's disappointed in how I did in my first Lumberjack 100. I had a blast, I absolutely loved it, and I absolutely loved everyone that was out there riding. I am so lucky that I work in a shop that's so supportive of my new favorite past time, and that I have some really awesome friends that I work with to be my mechanics. The Foundry Tomahawk rolled perfectly and I never had to worry about something not working on it. The Lumberjack was a couple weeks ago now, but thinking back to how much fun I had still puts a big silly grin on my face! I finished with a time of 8:40 and had a pretty consistent lap time, only slowing by 2 minutes each 33-mile lap. Looking at the results, I still feel like it was a dream. Plus, Danielle came in first place in her 10th Lumberjack 100! She's the only woman to have raced all 10 years of the race! I'm so proud of her!
Lumberjack 100 Women's top 10 podium
Oh, and Bartzen kept up on his end of the deal! We went to Little Africa, my favorite restaurant in town, which just so happens to be BYOB! I invited some gal pals along to bask in the glory with me and I ate so much Ethiopian food that I felt like my stomach was going to explode. So good! I can't wait for next year!