Thursday, May 23, 2013

Almanzo 2013

Last Weekend I competed in my second Almanzo 100 gravel race. The Almanzo is a 100+ mile gravel road race that takes place in Spring Valley. I did it for the first time last year and had a really rough day on the bike, so rough that I had to walked up many of the hills and actually took a short cat nap in a cemetery. This year my goals were simple, beat my time from last year and ride up all the hills.
Ross and I rolled in to the start area a few minutes before the start, we had planned to start towards the back but by the time we got there, there were already 1000+ cyclist lined up. I started the race at a nice leisurely pace but when the route turned onto the first section of gravel and all I could see were people to pass, I went into race mode. The problem with starting in the back was, I was always passing groups and could never find a group that was traveling at my speed. Ross and I would come up on a group of 20 or so riders and would think this is the group we'd ride with but then up the road we'd see another group and we'd jumped across to them. This leap frogging went on for the first 40 miles. At mile 40 we came into the town of Preston, where there's a grocery store where we could refuel.
One of the many climbs.
 After refueling in Preston, we got back on course and settled back into our pace. Before the race we were informed that one of the bridges we'd cross was no longer there, so we'd have to cross the river on foot. About a mile outside of Preston we rode through some Closed Roads signs, and then arrived at the bridge less river. Some riders took their shoes off, others brought along water shoes or sandals, and one guy had some plastic bags from Preston and threw those over his shoes. I didn't have the space for another pair of shoes, and I didn't want to waste time taking off my shoes or risk walking through a construction site barefooted, so I shouldered Skittles and jumped into the water. The water was cold but felt great, got to the other side and jumped back on the bike and continued to pedal.

River Crossing
After the river crossing there weren't many more groups in front of us. As we got to the base of another climb we could see a group of around 5 guys all from the same team. The guys were working good together and were going at a good pace. We decided to jump across to them and become part of their paceline. The problem with that was we were on a long grinding climb, we latched on to the group right before the top of the climb and I was able to stay with them on the following downhill, but as soon as the road went upwards again my legs and heart screamed in protest and had to slow it down.

Miles 50 to 70 are always my hardest part of a century. It's usually where I start to get hungry and the Adrenalin starts to wear off. When I lost Ross and his new group of friends I slowed my pace and focused on not bonking. Luckily for me I had plenty of water, a Coke, and some homemade Bacon and Egg Rice cakes. I chowed down two rice cakes, drank some water, and slammed a Coke. After my meal I started to feel good again and brought the speed back up. The next water stop was in Forrestville State Park and I was running low on water so I stopped and filled up my bottles. Ross was there when I got there and we left the state park together. The road out of the state park is a long paved climb followed by a steeper gravel section. Once again my 240lbs frame couldn't stay on Ross's wheel and I watched him ride away.
Race Face
Photo: Craig Linder
 So far I hadn't had to walk up any climbs or stop and take a nap but I knew the worst was yet to come. Once I watched Ross ride away, I settled back into my pace and kept the pedals churning. Mile 80 was where the cemetery I slept at last year was located, this year there was a tent set up and they had some cookies, water, Beer, and bourbon. I passed on the beer and bourbon but filled up a couple bottles. Before I left I spotted a pop machine, I grabbed some dollar bills and hopped in line. I watched the guys in front of me open up their Pepsi's and Mtn Dew and I started salivating. I put my money in and hit the button for Pepsi.... Sold Out,  Dew........Sold Out,  Diet Pepsi......Sold out,  down the line I went, everything was sold out. I contemplated taking a shot of bourbon but that would have ended up with me screaming "George SMASH!!!!" So I got back on the bike and continued to pedal.
Team Bike and Fitness
Photo: Craig Linder
The next 10 or so miles went by pretty fast, there was suppose to be another river crossing, but it ended up be pretty sketchy so the organizer had to reroute the course. After the reroute I came back on course and soon found myself turning onto Oriel Road. The name sounds so peaceful, but it's not. Oriel Road starts out with a 1/2 mile climb that averages over 10% with some section of 18-20%, if you don't know how steep that is just know it's painful. As I turned onto the climb everyone in front of me was walking up the hill, I felt pretty good and decided I wasn't going to walk but grind up it. The climb hurt like a motha, but I made it to the top and knew there was only one more real climb left and I'd be done.

Seemed like the wind picked up in the last 10 miles and for the majority of those 10 miles I was going into it. Powered through the last climb, gritted my teeth and fought the wind, and before I knew it I was crossing the line. I hit the stop button on my Garmin, I ended up with 104.5 Miles with a riding time of 7 hours. My official time was 7 hours and 31 minutes, so I took an hour off of my time from last year. I didn't have to walk up any of the hills, and didn't feel dead after the ride, so all in all I'd call Almanzo 2013 a success.

Thanks to Chris Skogen and all the volunteers for putting on an amazing event. Can't wait for next year.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


With the recent nice weather, things at the shop have been on the crazy side. We've been getting a lot of people on new bikes and fixing up a ton of older bikes. Along with the shop being busy, I've had events to wrench the lat two weekends. Last Saturday was the Alex tri, I had a mechanic's area set up there, where I changed flats, ran through gears, and made sure the tires were pumped up, something a lot of people forgot to do. Yesterday I did the Alexandria area Bike rodeo, this is the 3rd year I've done it, and always have a good time seeing the kids all excited to ride their bikes. At the rodeos I do a safety check on the bikes and make sure they are safe to ride. This year we donated a 20" Specialized Hotrock and some helmets. Every kid that showed up walked away with something. Good times.

In between the craziness I've been trying to get some rides in. Almanzo is a week away and other than Ragnarok I haven't really gone on any longer rides. What I have been doing, are shorter more intense rides, which I'm hoping will allow me to beat my time from last year. Also shop rides are now on the regular schedule, we have the Tuesday night sprints and Thursday night social ride leaving the shop at 6pm. If you haven't already get out and ride your bike!

Enjoy the ride!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend rides

Used to getting chased by dogs, Cows were new.
What a strange week? Last Monday I went out on a ride and got stuck in the mini blizzard, Friday I'm in knickers and a long sleeve jersey and felt like I was over dressed.  I got out early Friday afternoon and did a 30 mile gravel ride. The weather was awesome and the gravel was even better. It's not uncomon to get chased by dogs on the rural gravel roads, but getting chased by a cow was a new one. Thought it would make a good pictures but when it started stomping it's foot, I decided to put the phone down and go. In the tree behind the mad cow there was a Bald Eagle, but I wasn't able to get the phone out in time.

On Saturday Ross and I left early in the morning and did a similar route. Other than ragnarok this was my first ride with an another person. Not that it meant we chit chatted the entire ride, like always we took turns trying to rip each others legs off. Felt good early but towards the end legs were feeling pretty empty, all in all it was fun ride and we were able to get back on time.

Today the plan was to get out for a quick gravel ride, instead I did hill repeats at Victoria heights on Skittles. I have about three weeks until Almanzo, so need to hit it pretty hard.

We are officially starting our shop rides this week, so Tuesday at 6pm we'll have our first sprint night.

Enjoy the ride

Blue skies and fresh gravel


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ragnarok 2013

On Saturday I completed the Ragnarok 105, Ragnarok is a hilly 107 mile Gravel road race in Red Wing. This was the 4th Gravel century race I've done and by far the hardest. Each time I do one of these I want to write some epic report that would make George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Tolkien or Homer proud, sadly once I write anything it's less than epic and more of a turn by turn recap.
In December I sent my postcard in and was one of the lucky 100 that were picked randomly to race in April. Once I got my confirmation I sat down and came up with this awesome training plan that was going to put me into mid season form before most people here are even on their bikes. During my planning, I forgot to  plan out that Claudia was due with baby #2 in early January. In my mind Julieta was going to be born during a planned rest week and after that week I'd be able to go back to training. Fortunately  I'm not that selfish and enjoy parenting. My rest week turned into a rest month or two, I went for one ride in January, rode the trainer a handful of times in February, some more trainer and one more ride in March, and 3 rides in April before the race. All in all my awesome training plan went out the window and going into race day I had a whopping 120 miles on the road. So my goal went from competing in the race to completing the race.

Pretty easy to spot Skittles
The race started at 7:30 am and like always I started a little too hard, but the organizers were nice enough to put a bunch of climbs early that forced me to settle into a easier pace. A couple of the climbs took place on Minimum maintenance roads that were covered in so much snow that I was forced off the bike and had to walk up them. It sucked having to get off the bike and walk but in the end it allowed me to catch my breath and was a good opportunity to drink and eat. Going into the first checkpoint I was happy with the way I felt and after checking in and getting my next cue sheets even happier to see Claudia with a Day breaker and shot of Espresso from Caribou.

Dirty Skittles
The next leg of the race started out nice, but after two leg zapping climbs and a 10 mile section of more climbing and thicker mud, I was starting to feel tired and speed was dropping. Too make things worse the wind was picking up, so if I wasn't climbing I was eating a lot of wind. Pulling into checkpoint 2 at mile 81 I was tired wet and cold, but I couldn't quit with 20 some miles left too go. I could tell Claudia was starting to get worried but she knew I wasn't going to give up. I added another top layer, changed my socks, tried to eat some food, but stomach wasn't really wanting to work. Since I couldn't eat I drank a Coke and a Powerade and got back on the bike.

Heath can keep his Damn Hill
My legs were not too happy with me, but I kept telling them to Shut up and keep pedaling. Speed at this point was mostly in the single digits and I knew I still had some climbing to do. A few miles after the check point I turned onto another Minimum Maintenance road that was called "Heath's Hill". I don't know who Heath is but I don't like him or his hill. Like the early MMR's "Heath's Hill" was covered in deep slushy snow and I was forced off my bike. The hill felt like it went on for eternity and that I was never going to make it to the top. Forty Minutes later, I summited Heath's Hill and was able to get back on the bike. I slowly watched the miles tick away on the Garmin and after climbing the last two agonizing climbs, I put it in the big ring and acted fast on the descent to the finish line. The parking lot was almost empty but the organizers and Claudia were still there and it felt like I won the race.

In the end 68 started the race 48 finished, I finished the race in 11 hours 5 minutes I was the 38th. Ragnarok was an awesome event and I'm glad I did it. I might not have been the fastest but I finished the hardest race I've ever done, I didn't give up, I got some great riding in, and even though I suffered like no other I had a blast.