• The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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Tim

Tim

A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Posted by on in Training

Winter is definitely upon us here in northern Minnesota. It's not nearly as bad as last year and I keep telling b2ap3_thumbnail_10836631_959825124067636_1439790002_n.jpgmyself that at least it's not 5 below, but 15 above is still pretty cold! Despite the temperature I still hop on my bike and head out into the dark. It doesn't take long for the chill of the air to disappear as the furnace is soon fired up and running wide open. Once the heat is flowing and the rhythm of my feet spinning round and round is under way is when I feel the clutter and chaos of the day slipping away. It's not long before my mind is clear and I find myself noticing things around me that often pass by without a thought, the ridge line off to my left that I'd never noticed before, a span of forest that is much bigger than I ever realized as I unfold the map of the area in my head. I've come to love the period of time between sunset and dark, but oddly I favor the inky black of night. It's in the dark that my imagination takes over and I lose myself in great expeditions around the world as I set records for others to chase. I climb mountains, meet world leaders, change fate only to be brought back to reality by the mouse that dances across the road through my headlight. "Thanks little guy", I say to myself, "almost lost myself there". Back to the world that exists in the present I noticed that miles have passed without my knowledge and that's o.k., because I've been to so many more places on my bike in the dark than just where I started and ended. To me, it's the places in the middle that are the best, that's where the magic of being alone in the dark happens.

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Posted by on in Training

b2ap3_thumbnail_Threshold1.jpg site de rencontre entiГЁrement gratuit pour les femmes association rencontres francophones lille site rencontres amicales entre femmes halle saale sie sucht ihn find more http://www.pavegreen.org/vioper/5667 http://www.15m-acoruna.com/?privetys=hay-un-hombre-que-esta-solo-acordes&ab8=ab explanation dating honolulu andrea and eddie survivor dating "Threshold Test"


"What I have to take a test?" No, seriously I had an idea of what my friend had in mind for me when he mentioned the "threshold test", but I did NOT consider the suffering that would go into it. Quinn, the man responsible for designing this website as well as many other things, including the very gym I would take the test in is really into numbers. I've come to the conclusion that he loves numbers, he loves crunching them, he loves looking at them, and he loves talking about them. As he rambleD on about his numbers I often respondED with, "I have no idea what that means". He'd barely pause at my confusion as he told me about watts, cadence, power, and heart rates.

Cut to last night. I decided to step into his world and see what all these numbers could mean for me. I threw a leg over his gravel machine and uttered the words, "I'll do whatever you tell me to do", what a mistake. The last thing I have a clear memory of him saying was that he wanted to "take the SNAP out of my legs". I moved through a series of all out efforts, gasping for air during the recovery periods. As I finished his last interval he announced to me that the "test"was about to start. WHAT???!!!b2ap3_thumbnail_Threshold5-2.jpg

20 minutes of the hardest effort I could sustain for that time period was the task. I know as you read this you're thinking, "20 minutes, I could do anything for 20 minutes", and I'd say you're right, but it ain't easy! As I lifted my effort up to what I thought was a pace I could hold I became fixated on the numbers. I stared at the gps watching my wattage jump all over the place, "what does this all mean?" t I thought. I played games in my mind about trying to stay higher than certain figures, thinking it would be better if I was higher than ... It wasn't long before I put the towel over the monitor reminding myself of the same thing I tell myself in every race, "it's just pedaling, just do it harder".

The last 5 minutes dragged on and on as I tried to finish strong. It had to end. I knew that eventually the pain would stop and I'd find my way back toward the light.

Today I received a series of numbers on a chart with a note attached that told me I did a good job. I go back in 6 weeks to do it all over again. Then, maybe I'll understand what all these numbers really mean.b2ap3_thumbnail_10822104_10205426904902009_316252860_o.jpg

 

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Posted by on in General

b2ap3_thumbnail_P2010508.JPGIt's weird how it seems I ride my bike the most in the winter. I'm not sure if that's true, but is sure seems that way. Maybe it's just the structured aspect of riding that gives me the sense that I'm almost always on my bike. Winter came a couple weeks early this year with a moderate snow dump and a blast of arctic air that apparently everyone is feeling. Nothing like just getting right into it.

Regarding the (sort of recent) broken ribs situation; I've been feeling pretty good lately and I've been thinking a lot about training, especially with my recent entry into the 11th running of the Trans Iowa. I've come to find that training is a fickle thing, sometimes it works great for me and other times I don't feel like I've changed physically at all. I guess it's a matter of changing the routine, so this year that's my plan. Strength training will be a priority as will traveling longer distances on the super heavy fatbike. Of course I plan to mix in the gravel bike, which will be ridden on tar and hard pack snow. Oh, and the days of thinking I can just eat whatever I want, because I train a lot are OVER! It's sometimes hard to control the weight of your gear, but you can control the weight of YOU. So, that's my plan...build power...be lighter...be stronger! I'm not sure if it's a recipe for success or not and judging from what I've seen on the T.I. roster I'm sure I'll once again be "just trying to keep up", but for once I'd like to be the guy setting the pace.

Overall, I'm excited about a new formula (for me) and I can't wait to be deep into it. Hopefully, I'll see some results!

Now's the time, get out there and get it done!

Eki

 

 

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Pumped that this shot made it into Men's Journal.

2014 Vapor Trail 125.

This shot was casually grabbed by Joy from the Salida library (sorry, that's all I know about her) as I passed with about 12 miles to go. I was one tired boy at that point, it was approximately 1:30 p.m. and I'd been riding through the mountains on gnarly single track since 10:00 p.m. the previous night. What an amazing event!

 

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Posted by on in General

b2ap3_thumbnail_P7050082.JPGAs many of you know, about two and a half weeks ago I was involved in a serious bike crash caused by a car. I was fresh back from completing my 2nd Vapor Trail 125 out in Colorado. The Vapor proves to be some of the most rugged and difficult mountain biking I've ever done in my life, I didn't fall once. Then, the day before my home town's Heck of the North gravel road race I hit the deck on a section of road I've ridden hundreds of times, because of an illegal turn made by the driver in front of me. The four broken ribs I suffered took me to a new level of pain as well as a serious case of the "downs".  A lot of people have been telling me that it could have been a lot worse and when I'd hear that I'd nod, agree and say to myself, "yeah, but it still really sucks". The time is passing and each day I feel just a little bit better and can do a little bit more. Things are different right now, but heading back toward the way they used to be. I don't ride to and from work right now, instead I get a ride to work and I walk home. I'll add that a week ago I shuffled along, now I actually walk! Hell, if you were to see me you would most likely think I wasn't injured at all. I need to remind myself that I still am hurt and no matter how long I stare at all those bikes in the garage, I'm still hurt. Yes, sometimes I open the garage door and just look at them. The blue one pictured on the right really needs a bath, the Ti La Cruz sits in there still loaded and ready to go to the Heck of the North. I haven't had the heart to tell her that she most likely will just be heading back to the trainer. Despite my desire to get out there and ride in this spectacular fall weather I need to be patient.

My trip to the doctor today was a good one. He's been my doc since I was a very young man and he's been through all 7 broken bones with me, as well as a knee surgery, and a torn spleen. I didn't need to explain to him that I love riding my bikes, he already knows. Together we studied the x-rays and he let me know that I'd be o.k. to ride the short way to work next week, with the special instruction..."DON'T FALL". I told him about the accident and we talked about good people as well as bad. While saying 'good bye' he mentioned that he couldn't believe the driver just left me there. I shrugged it off, because now I'm looking forward, not back.

I'm excited to ride next week, even if it's for only 15 minutes at a time, but to be honest I'm nervous. I'm sure the uneasiness will pass, but for now I think I'll be extra careful around all those big steal boxes with wheels. b2ap3_thumbnail_P2210530.JPG

Looking ahead I see big races and big adventures. I can't wait to back in the game. I once told a good friend that I feel more comfortable on two wheels than I do on my own two feet. Soon I'll be back on those two wheels.

See you out there!

 

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Posted by on in General

b2ap3_thumbnail_PA020302.JPGIt was Friday afternoon and I was finishing out the work day talking with my co-worker about the week. A glance to the clock told me I needed to get going as my friend Quinn would be to my house shortly to borrow a hydration pack from me for the next day's Heck of the North that we'd both be competing in. The "Heck" is a 100+ mile gravel road race through northern Minnesota, it is not something to be taken lightly. I had prepared my Salsa La Cruz the night before for the event due to my Warbird suffering a worn out bottom bracket. The La Cruz was solid and ready to go, however I was not used to riding the bike and things were slightly different than what I was used to on the Warbird, especially the brakes. The Warbird has disc brakes, which require very little hand strength for a great deal of stopping power while the La Cruz uses traditional rim style brakes and in my case had cables that probably should have been replaced. The first thing I noticed on my ride into work was sticky brake cables that needed a stronger than usual grip to get real stopping power. This would later prove to be a critical factor in the moments following my departure from work last Friday.

"Have a good race", was the last thing my co-worker said to me as I walked out the door. Soon I was rolling out of the parking lot and into the neighborhood streets following an older model Subaru Legacy wagon. Coasting down hill at about 20 mph with a comfortable 2 car lengths between myself and the car things seemed very normal. The car in front of me gradually started to pull over to the right as if it had reached it's destination, so I began to veer left in order to give myself some space while I passed. At the moment that I closed the distance to the slowing car it suddenly took a sharp left back into the lane as if to make a U-turn. Shocked, I moved further left in an attempt to pass by the front of the car knowing the driver would stop once she realized I was behind. However, she seemed to be accelerating toward the curb in front of her and off to my left. I couldn't believe that she had not looked around her at all before trying to turn around in the middle of the road. It was clear to me that she intended to nose up to the curb in front of her (she was now perpendicular in the road), then back up a bit, and finally put it in drive and complete the turn around. My options were diminishing rapidly. I was closing fast on this car and my plan to "sneak" between the front bumper and the curb were now minimal. In a nanosecond I concluded that if I tried to slip between the curb and the front of the car I would most definitely be hit and pinched between the high curb on my left and the car. I decided that I needed to hop the bike up onto the curb, but I was running parallel to the curb making the hop up to it more difficult. What I feared most about the move was exactly what happened. My front wheel went up to the top of the curb without issue, it was the back that had problems. I was in such a situation with the front of the car closing in fast that I had no time to "load" the bike for the complete hop. As a result of the miscue my wheel began to slide along the edge of the curb as it fishtailed hard out to my right. I had no choice but to dab my left foot into the grassy boulevard in an attempt to bound one footed along side my bike, which at the rate of speed I was traveling this would prove to be a tough proposition. On the first dab my foot met with firm purchase followed by an 8 foot bound through the air with the bike still clipped into my right foot. As I sighted my landing I recall noting the heaved surface of the concrete and how I'd be hitting it's uphill slope. My foot seemed to only graze the side walk as the hard bottomed cycling shoe ricocheted off the wet cement.

The combined sounds I heard in the next instant were the clatter of a bicycle hitting and sliding down a hard surface, a whoosh of air as my lungs were instantly deflated upon impact, "ooooofffff"...the sound of my own voice, and the crunching of a full bag of potato chips - my ribs. I rotated into a chest down position and slid that way for about 10 feet.

Photo: Eki versus car. Eki loses, suffers 4 broken ribs.  I am in a new kind of pain and I've experienced pain before. The driver that caused the accident stared at me for about 40 seconds, then sped away. I tried to get the plate #, but the adrenaline was flowing and I couldn't concentrate.  I re mounted and rode several blocks wondering if I could ride the Heck of the North tomorrow.  The body's morphine began to wear off and I knew I was in trouble. A kind lady let me call Amy and as I was doing so I saw the driver go by again. She wouldn't look at me as I yelled at her. I'm so bummed out right now.

To my friends riding the Heck, have a good ride and ride a mile for me.

Eki

White hot pain seared through my upper left back and I was completely stunned. I sat upright in the middle of the side walk and began to rotate my shoulders in order to check that my collar bones were in tact, surprisingly they felt fine. I rose to my feet and turned to where the car sat perpendicular in the road just as it was when I careened over the curb in front of it. The driver stared at me as I yelled, "WHY?". I'm not sure what I wanted from her, but in that moment I don't think I was just asking her why she decided to pull an unexpected U-turn, but more of a "Why did you break my ribs?, Why did you just put me on the couch for weeks?, Why aren't you getting out of your car?, Wait...why are you driving away?"

I circled my bike about 3 times as I tried to make sense of what happened. I growled into the air as the pain seemed to ebb and flow in a way that made me light headed. With the adrenaline flowing I mounted my bike and began riding down the street one handed as extending my left arm caused excruciating pain. I worried about how uncomfortable I would be the next day riding the Heck of the North. My head was spinning after about 5 blocks of riding and it was then that I felt my ribs moving under my skin in "clicking" action. It was then that fear began to rise inside of me as I contemplated possible internal injuries. I tried to stay calm and focused on getting home. As I arrived at 27th Ave. W., a formidable hill, I knew that it would be impossible to ride up it in my condition. Just then a woman pulled into her driveway talking on a cell phone. As she emerged from her car I yelled to her, "Can you help me?"Photo: I'm almost through the night. I've never been in this world of pain before. It's gonna be a long road.

As I explained my situation to her the girl that put me on the ground 5 minutes earlier drove by again! I yelled out to her as she went past and I saw her avert her eyes from me while blasting on the gas, clearly uncomfortable with seeing me again. Seconds later I had Amy on the phone and she was on her way.

Amy shoved my bike in the back of the car as I slithered into the passenger seat muttering something about getting to the hospital now! Fortunately we live very close to where I went down, so we made a quick stop for my wallet and insurance information. I skidded down the sidewalk at approximately 3:55 p.m. and was talking to a nurse at 4:20 p.m. My case was a slam dunk for the staff on duty. I had the sense that I was the 4th broken rib case they'd seen that night. At one point I actually said to the R.N., "To me this is all very confusing and to you guys it's all pretty straight forward?". Her reply, "Yes". I left it at that.

Laying on the couch that night, a dull ache coursing through my whole body I replayed the situation over and over in my mind. The extreme impact my body took, the position of the car sitting in the road, and the look on the driver's face. Should I have tried to squeeze between the moving bumper on my right and the high curb on my left? Maybe I would have made it. Maybe I would have had my leg broken by the car and various other injuries? The questions never end. I made a split second decision, it didn't completely work out -or did it? Time to stop thinking about all the could've, should've and start thinking about getting back to business as quickly as I can. A good friend recently reminded me that "bones will heal and the pain will leave" and he's right.

So, now that it's all over maybe I should say "Thank you" to that girl in the car and let her know that "I'm motivated now more than ever."

Be careful out there guys.

-Eki

See you soon!

 

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Posted by on in Training

b2ap3_thumbnail_2014-09-29-14.44.01_20140930-155539_1.jpgOddly enough, with the race season all but over I have decided to embark on a structured training plan. And, as any athlete worth his or her salt knows working within a specific plan requires commitment. So, when real life threw it's first snafu at me I needed to make an adjustment. I would slide a 2 hour mountain bike work out into the super early morning slot. This change would require a stupid wake up time, but I was determined to make it happen.

Like a man possessed I fumbled with an alarm that I couldn't shut off while somehow rising from my bed. In full zombie mode I stumbled down the hall toward the stairway, while an orange cat took a stab at ending my life by zig zagging through my steps as I navigated the first few stairs. I did not know the reason she wished to see me fall to my death, I didn't even spend a moment to ponder it, I just kept moving. Somehow I made it to the machine that would deliver me a cup of coffee, the juice that I hoped would allow me to enter the world of the living. I stared at the controls of Mr. Coffee hoping I'd pushed the right button. Deliriously I waited for the bubbling, gurgling sounds that meant I had done it right. Soon enough the machine sputtered to life as a blast of hot steam hit me in the face. I turned from the counter allowing the moisture on my face to remain as I moved on to the next step.b2ap3_thumbnail_night-trail-studio_20140930-155615_1.jpg

The orange cat took one more shot at ending me through a more modest attempt. This time, it seemed she wished to simply put me down to the kitchen floor by quickly darting in front of my feet. She received an inadvertent boot to the ribs for her effort, resulting in a dirty look and a short snarl, as if I were the one to blame. I mumbled something to her in what sounded like a foreign language as I made my way down to the basement.

Suddenly, I was brought back to focus through the sound of a helmet strap snapping together. A quick scan of my body told me I was in a full cycling kit and ready to walk out the door. Peering up toward the sky through a basement window at an inky black night confirmed what I was about to do. A final sip of coffee, a pat of the head to the orange cat (in search of forgiveness) and I was out the door.

It was not that long ago that I was somewhat unnerved by riding trail in the dark, but since those days several events have had me riding through the entire night and I've come to find a sort of peace in it. A few short minutes after leaving my driveway I was in my local trail system ricocheting off of rocks that I normally avoid during the day. 20 minutes later I felt in control, like I was riding smooth and I was concentrating on getting smoother. My mind was as blank as my surroundings.b2ap3_thumbnail_night-over-Duluth-Studio_20140930-155607_1.jpg

The trail and the woods around me were owned by a different set of critters, the ones you don't normally see in the day. An eerie calm controlled the environment as small birds flashed through my light. I concluded that the birds were bug hunting as they seemed to be everywhere on the trail in search of a morning meal. I felt bad for disturbing them, but enjoyed the little burst of air I'd feel as they fluttered through my head lamp.

I was the King of my city as it slept beneath me, but I was merely a guest in the dark world around me. I moved through this world as gently as I could, in the hopes that the critters of the night would welcome me back. We'll find out soon enough.

-Eki

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Posted by on in Racing
b2ap3_thumbnail_2014-DK-Photo-by-Mike-Riemer.jpgI inched closer and closer to the turn that would send me south to Emporia. My condition was fading fast as I had not eaten or drinking anything since the last cp. In addition, the first 100 miles had several sustained periods of very hard efforts and it all seemed to be catching up to me. Now I was questioning the wisdom of my decision to carry only 3 bottles, but my condition had nothing to do with the number of bottles on my bike, but more in the reality that I had fallen behind on my hydration. As any experienced cyclist knows (me included) that when this happens it's too late. I had lost focus and now I was paying the price. I had less than 20 miles to go so I let the count down begin. Glancing at the gps every block wasn't helping my mental state so I switched to the map screen to avoid seeing the mileage. Thinking I'd beat the gps at its twisted trickery of never changing the mile I noticed that now I had replaced that obsession with another - water! Finding a water source was all I could think about despite the fact that I had two full bottles on the bike and wasn’t drinking any of it. My mind swirled from one irrational thought to the next. I was beating myself up mentally now as I analyzed other riders only to determine that they looked better than I did. The demons that lived within were frolicking through my brain. 
 
 
My speed had slowed considerably and my legs looked like the legs I owned when I was 12 years old. While I contemplated my new found scrawny, shriveled self I saw a female rider ahead suddenly pull off the road. "What's she doing?" I asked out loud. Just then I saw her working the handle of a pump. The words "She found water!" jumped out of my mouth. I pulled up next to her and asked her if she thought it was safe to drink. She ignored my question and went on to tell me that she had recently sat down in a cattle pond in order to cool down. As I cringed at the thought, she assured me that it was "semi clear". I hoped the water emerging from the pump wasn't nearly as parasite ridden as the water in those ponds. We topped off our bottles and mounted back up. This ultra strong woman from Tennessee didn’t say much, but neither did I. Our lack of conversation was of no concern, as it seemed that all that needed to be said was written on our faces. I noted how she steeled herself against the road, owning her machine with a bullet driven focus. Her determination kept me in the game. I wanted to tell her, but the effort to speak the words seemed too great. I told myself that I'd tell her how she motivated me once we got to the finish. 
 
 
With less than 5 miles to go I had entered another world. Severe dehydration had its boot on my neck while I meandered around the road fixated on my gps, begging the mileage to flip to the next number. I recognized where I was on the course, but was confused by the myriad of turns that existed in the closing miles. To add to my confusion was the fact that in previous years I’d passed through these roads in the dark. Despite my desperate state I made the effort to note the position of the sun in the sky, riding high against its blue back drop. Somehow it shined down on me pleasantly, while taking what little moisture remained in my body, a strange beauty within the paradox. b2ap3_thumbnail_10431537_10204153971794697_7403250750618017969_n.jpg
 
 
199 miles! My gps was permanently stuck at this point. I was all used up with nothing more to give. My stomach gave up pretending that it could make it to the finish in tact. My calves were cramping regularly now and any movement other than pedaling would send them rocketing into golf balls under my skin, causing me to grimace and cry out. I wondered what the moment would be like when I stopped to call Amy telling her to come and get me, because I could go no further. The disappointment would be overwhelming when I would let her know that I was just outside of town. Suddenly, it occurred to me that there would most certainly be paramedics and an ambulance at the finish. The thought of getting medical attention started to drive me toward the finish. "Once I cross the line maybe they'll give me an I.V.", I told myself. I'd heard from other athletes who had been in similar situations that an I.V. turns the tide on dehydration very quickly. This would be my salvation! 
 
Emporia proper was passing under my wheels. I was home now, inside the city that has adopted Amy and me as two of their own. A grounds crew worker at Emporia State University turned off his lawn mower as I approached and started clapping for me. With tears in my eyes I lifted a hand off the bar in acknowledgement of his gesture. I read the messages written in chalk on the road, "You're almost there; YOU DID IT!" As I entered the finishing chute I held my hand up over my eyes in a gesture that shielded them from the sun, for this time I had beaten the sun and for the 5th time I rolled across the finish line of the Dirty Kanza 200 and into Emporia's open arms. 
 
 
 
Epilogue:
Minutes after completing 200 miles of Kansas gravel I pressed my cheek against the cool brick of the Jimmy Johns sub shop located just feet from the finish. I stared at a crack in the side walk, lost in a world of ants going about their business, hustling around, and working as a team. I zoomed in on their life as cheers of finishers crossing the line echoed somewhere in the distance. Amy sat close by watching me, reminding me to drink and eat, but her voice was distant and barely audible to me. Soon a shadow appeared over the ant colony I had become a part of. It was the shadow of a rider who had just approached me after finishing his 200 miles. His words snapped me back to the world in which I belonged. He was filthy and fatigued, but focused. Our eyes locked and in an emotional tone he simply stated, "You have no idea how many people you have inspired. I can't tell you how many times I watched 'Racing the Sun'. I want to thank you." I muttered "Thank you" back to him as I contemplated what he said. "Me? An inspiration" I thought. I'm not an elite athlete. Who could I have inspired? I began to reflect on the last few days in Emporia and how welcomed we were, how we'd been taken care of. Had I done something to affect this race, these riders? Had my ‘race against the sun’ offered them a perspective on their personal journey through these b2ap3_thumbnail_2014-DK-finish-recovery.JPG200 miles of gravel? I don't know. What I do know is that my story was honest and from the heart, just like the people of Kansas and just like the people riding in the D.K. 200. So, when I need inspiration I'll think of what I saw out on that course, on the faces of those riders, they were and are my inspiration. Thank you.
 
 
 
 
Special thanks to:
 
Amy Fullerton: It’s you that let’s me know that I will never quit. It’s you that knows exactly what to do and what I need. You are what draw me to all of my finish lines. 
 
Salsa Cycles: Your products not only do what you say they will do, but more importantly they are products that I believe in. The Warbird Ti has proven to me to be the most effective, performance orientated, and forgiving bike in the gravel market. 
 
Schwalbe Tires: I want to thank Jeff Clarkson for his conversations with me about gravel tires and what Schwalbe tire would be the best choice for the Dirty Kanza. The Mondial is durable and a fast rolling tire, perfect for the D.K. 
 
Rudy Project: My head and eyes were well taken care throughout all 200 miles of the Kanza. I know the Sterling helmet did its job when I forgot that it was even there. 
 
Mike Riemer (Salsa Cycles): Thank you for all your product support, but more importantly thank you for your friendship. The message you left for me on my phone during those closing miles meant the world to me. 
 
Jim Cummins, Lelan Dains, Tim Mohn, Kristi Mohn, and the entire crew of the Dirty Kanza: I’m not sure where to begin. You’ve welcomed me in and made me part of your family and for that I am truly grateful. You have created a national treasure and touched thousands of lives in the process and not just the racers, but their support crews as well. I will forever be connected to you. 
 
Rus and Myra (Our host family): Thank you for opening your beautiful home to Amy and me. The comfort of having space to organize gear and to relax was a huge stress reliever. Rus, thank you for your support at the finish line. I am grateful to you for not only your understanding of my physical state at the finish line, but for your care of my gear and bike, you are one of the good guys. 
 
Citizens of Emporia: The Dirty Kanza is not only a race, but it is an experience and it is the people of Emporia who make it that way. For example, Amy told me on the drive home that she apologized to an employee at one of the stores and her response was this, "That’s o.k., I’m just glad you’re here." Enough said.
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Posted by on in Racing

b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300674.JPGEventually the 100 mile check point came into view. I had a list running through my mind and knew exactly what I needed to do once I arrived. My strategy has always been to take care of the bike first with the thought that without the bike I am nothing. Once I had all of the bike’s needs tended to I concentrated on what I needed, fresh bottles and nutrition. With these items taken care of I was on my way in short order. The mid part of the race was upon me and this is typically when I struggle mentally and physically the most. As if I were in a "no man's land" I had nothing to connect to. The thread connecting me to the start line had stretched so thin that it snapped long ago, while the finish lie so far ahead that I could not yet feel its pull. It was and has always been a very lonely time for me. 

Muscling ahead I noticed that my sense of urgency was fading. Food was becoming more and more unappealing so I focused on fluids. Calories were what I needed; they were the precious fuel that must be consumed in order to keep the engine running. "Why wasn't I eating?" I wondered. Then, it dawned on me, the sun was wrapping me in a blanket of heat. Heading north with a slight southerly breeze on my back I felt like I was riding in an oven. Each glance to the gps resulted in a sigh as the temperature continued to climb, 83, 85, 86, 91. A review of what I’d eaten through the course of 6 hours was disappointing, 6 Fig Newtons, 2 gels, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that was it! I needed to eat more! I pulled out some trail mix and immediately noted that all of the m & m’s had melted, it was getting hot! 

Up ahead was a single speeder I’d been trading pulls and positions with all morning. He was strong as an ox on the climbs and I needed him to pull me up while he needed me to pull him on the flats. Earlier we’d developed a codependent relationship as we moved through the naked landscape. Finally, I caught him and after some small talk we introduced ourselves. His name was Hunter, originally from Mississippi, but now living in St. Louis. I enjoyed his southern drawl and deliberate delivery. He wasted few words and meant what he said, I liked that. We agreed that we should work together during a 12 mile push into the headwinds as we headed east out of check point 2. Riding on good road conditions is when it happened, a sudden jarring hit to the rear wheel, the kind that cause you to take a deep breath and hold it for a second. "Whoops, must have not seen that one", was my immediate thought. Kansas gravel tends to be loosely strewn on top of what seems to be bedrock, which often reveals fixed rocks in the road. A couple checks of the rear tire had me feeling confident that all was o.k. Approximately 20 minutes later was when I felt the sickening bounce of a soft tire. Dumping my weight on the saddle confirmed the tire was down by the metallic clink of rim hitting hard ground. "Got a flat", I announced. A few others had joined us by this time and the group turned to look at me. This announcement had become all too familiar to everyone in the event by this point given the sheer numbers of riders pulled over working on damaged tires. It was Hunter who expressed concern. The look on his face said it all, he was disappointed and now caught with a decision, should he wait or press on. I’ve been in his shoes and I didn’t want him to worry about anything other than his own race. "Do you have what you need? Do you want my help?" he asked. "I’m fine, keep going", I told him. I watched him ride over the next rise and out of my sight. He would continue his wrestling match with the Kanza without me, while I would embark on upcoming struggles of my own, without him. 

I spotted a perfect place to get out of the way and get to work on my problem. Things went shockingly smooth and before I knew it I was hitting the new tube with a blast from a CO2. The tire was nice and hard and holding air. However, I was now spooked by the notion that more pinch flats were coming for me. There were 38 miles between myself and check point 3 where I’d be able to get my hands on a floor pump and the ability to bring the tire up to the pressure I wanted. I waged a war inside my head against the road. "Keep an eye out for big rocks", "You’re going to get another flat", "The tire is fine, stop checking it", and on and on. I was making myself crazy and it needed to stop. I was finally able to push the thoughts of a failing tire from my head only to be consumed by the idea of a depleting water supply.   b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300673.JPG

With 3 bottles hanging off my Warbird and the temperature rising I began to worry about having enough fluids and as fatigue set in the slightest concerns controlled me. I couldn't stop thinking about water and how I was going to run out. Then, suddenly ahead there they were, road angels, 3 men dressed casually as if they were having a beer at a ball game, except they weren't at a ball game, they were sitting at the end of a long driveway in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. What I must have looked like to them as I pulled up with 140 dusty miles behind me, "Hi, would you happen to have any ....?" I tried to get out before one of them interrupted in an excitedly friendly tone, "Do you want some water?" "YES PLEASE, OH MY GOD THANK YOU!" One of them pulled a 2 liter bottle from an ice filled cooler and proceeded to top off my supply while another commented, "All of these guys with 3 water bottles need water." Their bottle was still 3/4 full of cold, clear water when I was asked, "Want the rest of this?" I gazed at the clearness of the water before bringing it to my lips. I proceeded to drink and drink and drink while the men continued their conversation. I noticed that whatever they were talking about had petered out into silence save the sounds of the bottle crinkling and crackling while water poured down my throat. The three men stared wide eyed at me while I drank a liter and a half of water without a pause.   

I was approximately 50 minutes ahead of the projected time I told Amy I’d be hitting check point 3. The advanced pace caused me to be concerned that I’d arrive before she got there and I’d not only miss the opportunity to see her and receive some words of encouragement, but also miss the opportunity to use the floor pump that I knew was in the back of the car. As I rolled under the Salsa tent and over the timing strip I heard her familiar voice, "Tim over here!" It was good to hear. As I leaned my bike against a tree near the road I assessed my body. Mentally I was in the fight and felt good that I was ahead of schedule, but my concern centered on my lack of caloric intake. Physically my legs were smoked. My neck was sore, as were my hands. But, I only had 50 miles to go, roughly 3.5 hours if I were to maintain the speed I’d been riding for the last few hours.  

I moved through the needs of my bike as quickly as I could and asked Amy to set her timer for 10 minutes in order to get me back on the road. I knew my tire needed more air so I asked, "Amy will you run to the car and get our floor pump?" She responded with, "The car is a long way away; it could take me a bit." I was o.k. with that and told her I’d take care of other business while she was gone. And, with that she took off like she was shot from a cannon. Within minutes she was back with the pump and breathing heavily. I would later find out that Amy ran as fast as she could for just under a mile in order to get that pump to me. As I brought my tire up to an appropriate pressure I heard her say, "God, it’s hot out here."   b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300680.JPG

150 miles were behind me now and all had been going to plan minus the one hiccup with the flat tire. The finish line was within reach, yet I hadn't begun to think about it. I knew that the last segment included some rugged stretches and some steep climbs. Climbs so steep in fact that I recall last year having to dismount and walk up a few of them. I also knew that I'd travel approximately 35 miles north out of cp3 and then make the swing for home...I mean…Emporia. The miles north were uneventful as the sound of gravel crunching under me served as a kind of white noise while my mind traveled to places much further away than Kansas. Suddenly, out of no where my bike started making a bizarre buzzing sound that can only be described as a baseball card chattering through my spokes. I even looked down between my legs to see what was caught up in my wheel when suddenly a large shadow enveloped me. Startled, I looked up to see an air plane! A yellow, single engine, crop dusting style plane passed above me low and slow. I was so surprised that I rode along slack jawed in awe of what I was seeing. The pilot made impressive banking turns and at one point he appeared to be landing. "Is he going to put it down right here on the open range?" I thought as he disappeared over the next hill. As quickly as it appeared the whine of his engine was gone and so was he. As I thought about whether I imagined the entire experience he reappeared, this time coming toward me extending off the top of my next climb, his engine screamed as he seemed to be throttling hard toward the sky. He exposed the planes under belly as he made a hard banking turn in order to continue flying in the 'nap of the land'. I couldn't get the smile off of my face as I crested the climb we shared. My eyes strained into the distance as I studied the ribbon of gravel stretched out ahead amidst the expansive green and blue back drop. Riders were strewn among the road like a string of pearls; all lost in their own thoughts, but on the same mission. As I took in the awesome view in front of me my new friend returned, this time flying parallel to the road. He was backlit by the sun and flying 20 feet off the ground. I raised my fist, pumping it in the air in an effort to communicate with him. Cooley, he took one hand off the controls and held it out the window to me. I yelled "yeah" to him as he passed. I watched the silhouette of his plane move out in front of me in stellar fashion. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than this, he tipped his wings ever so slightly. Goose bumps came over me and in that moment he was gone.

Part III, the final chapter coming soon.

 

 

 

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Posted by on in Racing

b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300671.JPGI vowed not to look at the mileage on my gps until I reached the next corner of what seemed to be an endless gravel road meandering somewhere through the state of Kansas. My vision was blurred; I had no moisture remaining in my mouth despite 3 nearly full water bottles on board my bike. I marveled at the surreal sight of my calf muscles dancing to their own music under my skin. Straining to keep moving forward I stole a glance against my own rule to see the mileage had not changed; I was forever stuck on the 199th mile of the 202 mile long Dirty Kanza gravel road race. There was no way to move forward any longer. My stomach repeatedly revolted at simple thoughts of food or water. It had been some 50 miles since any real nutrition or fluids had made it into my body, systems had begun the painful process of shutting down hours ago, I had past desperate some time back and I now lived in complete survival mode. "Just make it to the finish line so you can get to the ambulance", was the last coherent thought I recall. 

My 5th running of the Dirty Kanza 200 came on the heels of a short documentary made by Salsa Cycles called "Racing The Sun" about my experience with this event located in Emporia, Kansas. The film connected with many people as they set their own personal goals within the most popular gravel road race on the planet, for this I was flattered. I too had set some goals for this year's race. First and foremost, I wanted to finish before sunset in order to obtain the award inspired by my previous experiences on these dusty, rugged roads. Second, I was bent on completing the distance in less than 14 hours. Weather conditions have been so extreme in previous years that finishing within the 14 hour mark had always eluded me, but this year the forecast spelled out the perfect scenario for a fast day. 

Once we were settled into our host home my wife Amy and I headed down town to see how things were shaping up as well as to attend the pre-race meeting. I spotted some old friends from Emporia as well as my friends from Salsa Cycles. It was great seeing everyone again, but the 6 a.m. start would come early, so we headed back to our temporary home for some last minute preparations and a good night of sleep. 

The start line was filled with an energy so strong that if bottled it would have powered all of Emporia. I squeezed in among some familiar faces, one of which was Joe Meiser. Joe and I have logged more miles together than most guys and we've suffered together more than two guys ever should. I've seen him take the pain and he's watched me get up after being knocked down time and time again, I was in good company to be sure. 

The countdown ended and race director Jim Cummins set us free. I wriggled out of Emporia's grasp as Commercial Street passed under my wheels. The increasing light made me aware of the rising sun as I refused to think of what the Kansas heat had done to me in the past. Like an image that should not be looked at I allowed myself to make eye contact with the only competitor I had on the course. I held my stare as my eyes strained against its burning light. It wouldn't be the last time I checked its position in the hours to come. b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300678.JPG

Joe scurried toward the front in search of safety as almost 800 riders tried to do the same. I promised to ride my own race so I watched him until I was overtaken in a cloud of dust. It was as if I were riding behind a semi truck on the driest of dirt roads. Choking on the dirt, I forced myself to breath through my nose, but the effort of the pace made that difficult. Soon after accepting my world of dust I encountered the first incline of the race. While spinning up that climb I felt the awful feeling of a bouncing rear tire. Was I already getting a flat? I was certain that I was as I craned my neck to get a look at the tire I heard "Tim, what's wrong, you o.k.?" it was Mike Johnson, another gravel junkie of which I’ve shared hundreds of miles. "I think I'm getting a flat." I said. "You can't get flats with these tires", he joked as he was running the same tire set up as I. "You're FINE, it looks FINE!", he said in a tone that seemed to scold me for even worrying about it. He was right, everything was fine and it was just the message I needed at the time. I told myself to "calm down and settle in". That's exactly what I did. 

The pace was high, but manageable. I wished I was further toward the front of the race, but attempting to move up at this point would be too risky as the crowd of riders around me was thick. I chose to hold my pace and keep my head on a swivel as riders made moves around me that kept me on my toes. I longed for things to string out and for people to settle into their own pace, I knew it would come soon. "Just get through the first hour and a half without incident", I told myself. The first 35 miles went by in a flash and soon the space I longed for was around me. Although other riders were always within talking or yelling distance things were eerily quiet. The big business of riding 200 miles of rugged, dusty gravel was at hand and things were being taken very seriously. I was fine with sticking to the task at hand and found myself concentrating hard on the road in front of me. In fact, my eyes were glued to the road, searching for any rock or obstacle that might give me trouble. I was too focused, wasting valuable energy by riding tense, I needed to relax! 

The D.K. was doing what it does, eating tires for breakfast. I passed rider after rider as they worked to change their maimed tubes as quickly as they could. Sometimes there'd be 4 riders working on tires within a two block distance. Typically, these rashes of flats would occur at low spots in the road where wash outs existed. It seemed to be that these areas would be approached at high speeds without the rider "lightening" the bike before entering the rough spot and as the bike "G'd out", pinch flats were the result. I made a mental note and tried my best to turn my 165 lbs. into 130 lbs. every time I saw these sections approaching, it seemed to be working. It wasn't much longer after I had adopted this strategy that I saw my good friend, Joe on the side of a Minimum Maintenance Road working on his tire. I quickly pulled over, "Joe, everything o.k.? I'll wait for you!" I yelled. He replied, "I just need to add a little more air, let's ride together for a while." Joe and I ride well together, we stay positive and have a knack for picking each other up when things get bleak. I rode slowly ahead, looking back for the colors of his kit as often as I could. I started to become anxious over wasting precious minutes when suddenly, I picked out his riding style from a group of about a dozen. He was moving through them quickly and soon he'd be on my wheel. I slipped into his draft as he rolled past and within minutes things were as they have always been, me trying to keep up. Joe has a lot of horse power and when he's determined he's capable of putting the hurt on some of the best gravel riders in the state of Minnesota, so one can imagine my concern as he started throwing gas on his own fire. I told myself to hold on. I’d held his wheel many times before, but this time things seemed different. He was riding well, often surging with power then backing off some. I became concerned with these surges as they were hurting me, so I came forward and stated that I was very close to my limit and didn't want to ride much harder than I was. Joe surprised me by admitting that he didn't mind slowing a bit as he felt he needed to ride "smoother". As we approached the first check point I glanced at the time of day on my gps. I was a HALF HOUR ahead of schedule in regard to my goal time! "Am I riding over my head?" I thought. Only time would tell.b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300669.JPG

A fast pit stop at the first check point had me rolling down the road in quick fashion. Joe handed me the last third of his Coke and we were on our way. It was a little past noon, but the real heat of the day was yet to come. The early morning overcast had given way to puffy white clouds backed by a Kansas sky that was so blue you didn't dare stare too long for fear that you may not be able to ever look away. The day had evolved into one that I dreamed about during the winter months while pedaling through slush and snow. Joe and I joked, laughed, and goofed around on our bikes like kids riding circles around our elementary school. We inadvertently took turns passing each other, making the other laugh with stupid jokes. I looked up beyond the remote two track to see my friend ahead of me singing out loud to whatever obscure music was blasting into his ears while ahead of him lay the vastness of the open range. The ribbon of gravel swirled off into the distance, we were the kings of our universe, and we were doing what we loved to do. It was a moment to behold. 

Ten mile chunks of distance were no longer passing as easily as they had before. Joe was beginning to lift the pace and I was feeling it. I was 80 miles into a 200 mile event when I realized the pain of holding my friend’s wheel was becoming too much. I examined his face and his position on the bike, he was in total control. I told him that I was impressed with his effort and encouraged him to keep it up, while the gap between my front wheel and his rear steadily grew. In my mind I told him to "Go, Go!" as he moved from one small group of riders to the next out ahead of me. I laughed to myself as I rationalized that it was time for me to "let him spread his wings and fly." The reality was that Joe was doing what he can do and that is flat out deliver power when he wants to, now he was chasing his own race. 85 miles into the event and I watched my friend ride out of my sight. Although he never heard me I thanked him for giving me a fast first 100, pushing me way ahead of my goal time. I was in great shape in regard to my race against the sun as well as my race to beat 14 hours.

 

Part II coming soon...

 

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Photo: Wausau 24 is complete. This one was tough  and a much different race for me compared to last year (in a suffering kind of way). Good news is podium goes 5 deep and I was 4th! Actually, the better news is I tried my best and I'm glad I saw it through to the end when all I could hear in my head was QUIT, QUIT!!As my backside hit the lawn chair with a thud, the result of a somewhat controlled fall into a sitting position, I knew that things were not going smoothly. I was 6.5 hours into my effort and I had broken my cardinal rule of not taking a pit stop. I guess maybe I could have pushed through the pit, wobbling on down the trail, but after weighing the pros and cons of the stop I concluded that the benefit of taking a short break would somehow out weigh the benefits of pushing on deeper into the hurt tank. Amy happened to be there when I stopped which was a good thing as it was nice to see her face and receive the help she was offering. For what it was worth, I made sure to let her know that I was feeling "pretty worked over", in the hopes that at least saying the words to her would somehow ease the pain. The chair seemed to pull me deeper in as if I were an anchor sinking to the bottom of the sea. Not sure when I'd hit bottom I decided that I better get moving before getting up no longer was an option. "I'll see you at the finish", I yelled over my shoulder as I rolled away. I was back to the single track, but lacking the pop I had displayed during the early hours of the race.

Rolling through "no man's land" I pushed on alone riding disappointingly slow as the doll drums took over emotionally as well as physically. Over and over again I reviewed my strategy of resting on the bike when things were bad and pushing hard when things were good. The problem was that the resting seemed to be dominating the ride. I grew increasingly concerned about my position within the field as the intensity I'd felt in previous years was lacking and I seemed to just be on a very long bike ride. It wasn't long after these concerns emerged that the demons came out in full force. "Failure. You're a failure", was the phrase that grooved in my head. I couldn't shake it no matter how hard I tried. I've dealt with negative thoughts countless times during races, but for some reason this time was different. The negativity was so strong that even my conscious efforts to replace them with the reality that I was most likely in 3rd position could not take over. Finally, a moment of clarity came to me and I concluded that my electrolytes were most likely off kilter which was affecting my mood and rational thought. I promised I'd pop some tablets the next time I passed my pit area.

Photo: Soon

The sun had passed it's high point a while back and was now casting long shadows through the trees making the darker sections of the trail more difficult to navigate. As a result of my compromised vision I relied on my Spearfish to get me through the rough stuff. The course itself was not that physically demanding, but it was rough and required a great deal of attention. Scattered with roots and rocks the trail wouldn't take much to dislodge a rider from his or her machine. I was fortunate enough to stay mounted despite a few close calls. Deep fatigue dominated my being as I searched for any inspiration I could find. The trees and landscape were aesthetically pleasing, but offered little in the way of encouragement, I was alone with the bad guys in my head.

Sunset had arrived as I climbed slowly up a gravel road, my eyes focused on a camp fire burning at the top. A small group of 20 somethings relaxed around the fire, spent beer cans at their feet and smiles on their faces. "C'mon Salsa!" they shouted to me as I crested the climb and entered their party. They begged me for a small smile, but I could not muster one. I liked these guys and they became my inspiration. I tried to communicate with them telepathically given the fact that I could not spare the energy it would take to exchange comments. Instead, I thanked them in my mind and let them know I heard their encouragement by slamming into harder gears at the top of the climb and pinning the following descent as hard as I could with their cheers fading behind me.b2ap3_thumbnail_securedownload.jpg

I was into my 9th lap of what I had concluded could be an 11 lap race for me, but most likely would only be 10. I had already worked out all the details, all the excuses, and all the ways I'd live with the fact that I only did 10 laps when 11 were possible. Still, there was a tiny voice that would emerge stating, "If you stop early, it's the same as quitting and you don't quit." The dilemma became all encompassing and ultimately very confusing to me. It sounds easy, but at the time I could not make sense of what the right thing to do was. I decided that I would make the final decision as to how the race would end for me when the moment was upon me. In other words, it would be a decision I'd make at the completion of the 10th lap. If I finished the lap before 10 p.m. and wanted to end my race I'd need to stop and wait before crossing the finish line until the 10 o'clock hour passed. Conversely, if I wished to continue on with my race I would need to cross the finish line of my 10th lap before 10 p.m., and push on into my 11th and final lap.

Decision time came at 9:10 p.m. Over 11 hours into the race I approached the conclusion of lap 10. I suddenly accelerated toward the line, took a deep breath and rolled over it. "Now you're committed, you have to see this through to the end" I thought as I gingerly moved out of the start/finish area toward the single track. I had lost my 3rd place position at the start of the previous lap to a fast moving rider that I could not keep up to, but it mattered little. I had now been reduced to the race in my head and the one that existed between my wheels and the dry single track beneath them.

Throughout the day I had broken the course down into sections, all of which contained one difficult portion, usually a rock garden. I planned to ride to each section, get through it and then ride to the next one. My headlights would show me the way as the dust swirled through the beams of light. At times I'd find myself focusing on the tiny specs floating innocently toward me as struggled down the trail. Amazingly, I had met with the gravel road section which not only told me that I in fact was making forward progress, but I was actually nearing the end. "Push down, Pull up" I repeated to myself as I turned the pedals over up a short climb when I heard a familiar voice say "Last lap!". "Thanks Danielle" I whispered as I watched my fellow Salsa rider blow past me on her way to a podium finish in the co-ed duo 12 hour.

"You did it!" I said out loud as the final piece of single track was behind me. A deep yawn grabbed me as I spun toward the lights of the finishing area where Amy and my sister-in-law's family waited for me. I couldn't wait to see them.

I may not have had the same fire I had last year and I may not have done as well in the race, but tenacity and mental toughness ruled the day and for that I am proud. After 12.5 hours and some 120 miles I had completed the Wausau 12 hour solo, finishing in 4th position. I recently read that one trait of mentally tough people is that they only worry about impressing themselves. I'm not sure if "impressed" is the word I'd use to describe how I feel about my effort, but what I do know is that I stayed true to my values out on that course and I DID NOT QUIT! b2ap3_thumbnail_securedownload-2.jpg

Special thanks to Salsa Cycles, Rudy Project, Schwalbe Tires, and Ski Hut. Also, thank you Amy for understanding what it takes, helping me with the cramps later, and always drawing me toward the finish line. Thank you Gina, Nick, Morgan, and Kate. It sure was nice to see you guys waiting for me in the dark of the finish line.

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Posted by on in Training

b2ap3_thumbnail_10271555_698333800203884_331033570266903286_n.jpgDuluth finally hit one out of the park in the weather department by offering up two gorgeous days for biking, hiking, or sitting out on a deck with a cold one. I went for the first option. My decision to get out on the Spearfish for a serious session was a good one. The Spearfish and I haven't had a lot of time to get to know each other, save the six and half hour mud fest at Lutsen. I needed some solid trail time to do my part in making this a lasting relationship. I hit two major trail systems in Duluth after wasting a frustrating hour in the AT&T store dealing with my new "smart" phone. My bike just didn't look happy leaning against the wall inside the high tech gadget store, not did I feel right sitting in there in a full kit. Finally, I told the guy my Saturday was more important than solving the issue at hand and I bolted. Soon I was soaring through some of Duluth's finest single track and feeling quite comfortable with the suspension wide open and the bike doing exactly what it was supposed to. Throughout the ride I schemed up new plans to ride all the trails in Duluth in one shot which would make for a pretty long day on the bike, that's a good thing. After scouring one trail system thoroughly and touching into another I arrived back at my house with a satisfying 4 + hours under my belt.b2ap3_thumbnail_10494630_698696756834255_2150925768631568231_n.jpg

The following day I would hook up with my old training partner Charlie Farrow for some gravel goodness. It felt good to be riding together and to be using the Warbird for what she was intended. We cruised through a familiar loop doing our best to out run an angry flock of black flies that loomed ominously just above our back wheels. We reminisced about times when we were in better shape and about epic rides we have out in front of us. Soon we were descending from the country toward Lake Superior ready for the ride home down the north shore when suddenly we rode into a refrigerator. The temperature dropped from 77 degrees to at least 58. We didn't give my gps time to accurately calculate the new temp as we scurried back up the hill in search of warmer temps. The drastic switch in climate was freaky. I guess that's what the big lake can do. Hell, there's probably still ice on it somewhere. After 4 hours of riding, a quick stop into the bike shop for a wheel truing and I was back home. A back to back slam dunk on the bikes!

It's weekends like this that have me dreaming of riding where ever and when ever I want.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on in General

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tim-12-yrs.-bikejpeg.jpgThe word freedom is often loosely tossed about. We hear it on the news every night and we take it for granted as we go about our daily business. To a 12 year old boy who's world is confined to his neighborhood the word freedom means very little, until that special day when he holds that first two wheeled machine in his hands. That first real bicycle represents so much, it tells the boy that he is trusted, that he is encouraged to go see the world through his own eyes and come to his own conclusions. That first bicycle tells him that it is time for him to start making his own decisions ... left, right, or just a little further. That first bicycle has the potential to teach him the meaning of the word freedom in a monumental way.

I received my first bike that I considered a real bike when I was 12. This bike had 10 gears, drop handle bars, brake levers that offered braking in a couple of different hand positions. It was love at first sight. I remember staring at my Huffy Santa Fe, promising that I would always keep her clean and never treat her poorly. To me, it was the most important day of my life. I could now travel at faster speeds, cover more ground, and stretch my boundaries outside of my neighborhood. I didn't know where I'd go, I just knew I would go.

I took things slow at first, riding to baseball practice, cruising around my school, or just riding circles on the street while my best friend and I solved all of our problems. It wasn't long before I discovered the phrase, "Mom, going for a bike ride!" as the screen door slammed behind me. I was free!

Mb2ap3_thumbnail_P5170615.JPGy best friend and I would meet at the top of my road. Many times we'd have nothing but a water bottle, and miles of road ahead of us. One memory stands out for me as I think back to those days. My friend and I were contemplating where the wheels would take us when it came to me suddenly, "I know! Let's go to the lake where my Dad and I go fishing!" I knew the way, but I didn't have any comprehension of the distance. The length of time the ride might take or the distance didn't matter to two 12 year olds, all we had was time. So, we started pedaling and talking. We covered all the topics available to men of our age, the price of burgers at McDonalds, how much we didn't want to return to school in the fall, and of course girls. It wasn't long before we were outside of our city and deep into the country. "Do you know where we're going?" was his question as the black top turned to gravel. I was positive of the route and the miles were peeling off our rear wheels as we continued forward. I assured my friend that everything was fine as the heat of summer was upon us. We took a short break to remove our baseball hats in an effort to keep cool. There was no such thing as helmets for kids in those days, in fact, we had no safety gear whatsoever, nor did we have the knowledge or means to repair our bikes. The thought of something going wrong never occurred to us. At that time we existed in a place where everything was perfect. Clipping our hats to our seat posts we pushed on.

Finally, we had arrived at the shores of the lake we'd been pedaling toward for hours. Flicking our kick stands down we high fived as the waves lapped at our wheels. We had done it and we were proud of ourselves, but we were a long way from home. The realization that we had to turn around and cover those miles again in order to get home landed squarely on our shoulders. This would mark the first time I would enter what I now refer to as the "dark times". There were no more topics to discuss and we were tired. Our moods flew up and down as small arguments erupted over trivial things, but it wasn't long before they'd pass and we'd become the masters of our universe again.b2ap3_thumbnail_PC070396.JPG

Exhausted I stepped into the kitchen several b2ap3_thumbnail_slide1.jpghours after I had yelled those insignificant words about going for a bike ride. My mom, hands on her hips was there to greet me. The tone of her voice was one I knew all to well, she was concerned. I'd been in spots like this before, but this time I might have pushed it a bit. Even as a young boy I always craved a sense of adventure. For example, as a five year old a friend and I went for a "rock climbing" expedition. With my family cat in tow we covered approximately 5 miles in search of climbable rock with nothing more than a small back pack, a rope, and of course our cat. My parents launched a full on community involved search for us. We had no idea that we'd done anything wrong. So, 7 years later here I was again, answering the same question, "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!". I casually announced the name of the lake and watched her mouth drop open. She was in disbelief as the trip was about a 65 mile round trip. My Dad came home from work with my Mom giving him the news of what I'd been up to in the hopes that he'd be just as displeased as she was. He feigned concern and later gave me a wry smile, a pat on the back, and an "Atta Boy". I was hooked.b2ap3_thumbnail_2014-DK-Photo-by-Mike-Riemer.jpg

My Huffy Santa Fe and I went on many more bike rides after that day. I fell deeper into the curiosity of what lie over the next rise and around the next corner. I also fell deeper into the feeling of being free. Today I look over a different set of bars, but what I see is the same freedom I saw when I was that 12 year old boy, that will never change.

 

  

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_P6280021.JPGThis would be my second time at the Lutsen 99'er located on the northern shores of Lake Superior. I was fortunate last year with what amounted to a miracle race for me resulting in a 5th place overall finish. I had no expectations to repeat that performance this year, but I did hope to have a clean race and planned to invite myself into the lead group for as long as they'd have me. O.k., the plan was a little more in depth than that, but first I feel it's necessary to talk about the unique form the 99'er takes. The intriguing part about this race is that it doesn't seem to fit into the typical categories of bike races. With a mix of single track, double track, and a lot of gravel road this event finds it's own place to live - I like that.

Off and on over the two weeks leading up to the event I pondered my approach to the race. Last year's plan was simple, "go as fast as you can in the beginning and then just try to keep up". It worked, but it was so unpolished and gruesomely simple that this year would need more detail. I figured that with a top 5 finish last year I'd earned the right to start the race right on the line with the big boys. I had also resigned myself to the fact that going hard with the lead pack was a necessity in order to place as high in the standings as I could so that portion of the plan remained in tact. The details would come in the other riders that I knew. I've been to the ball many times before and it seems that it's always the same dancers out on the floor and I knew what they were capable of. This year I planned to mark them and do whatever it took to hold their wheels. Super fast guys like Charlie Shad, Todd McFadden, Ted Loosen, and Matt Ryan would stay in my sights for as long as I could see them. I knew good things would happen if this plan unfolded the way I wanted it to.b2ap3_thumbnail_P6270009.JPG

The lead car cut us loose on Highway 61 or as those of us from Minnesota call it, the "North Shore". Things were moving fast, but very manageable. It was the climb away from the shore that I worried about. This climb is a grunt up a long steep black top road and typically this is when the field blows apart. It was imperative that I stay up front during the climb. My heart rate was that of a humming bird as the drone of knobby tires took over the scene. I was doing it, I was right where I needed to be. Things had become very serious now and there was an eerie feeling as the pack climbed higher into the fog that blanketed the surrounding wilderness. 

Ahead I saw a volunteer waving a sign indicating the 99'er turn off the tar and into the first section of dirt. This is where the race would really become a race. I gripped my bars a little tighter and told myself to hang on, it was time to see what I was made of. Just then as I set up wide in order to swoop into the right hand turn with as much speed as I dared carry I heard yelling..."RIGHT TURN" followed by "STRAIGHT AHEAD!!!". This confused me as I knew we needed to turn right, but a lot of people planned on going straight. I realized then that some of the faster riders of the 39'er race which started 2 minutes behind us had drafted their way up to the front of the 99'er field and their course had them going straight. Chaos ensued as near collisions took place all around me. Midway through my turn I saw a young kid full of hope and promise coming into the side of me at a very high rate of speed. In a nano second I did the math, he was going to hit me. I crushed my brake levers into the grips, skidding both tires. I came to a complete stop while he made an incredible move to avoid me sacrificing himself to the ditch and ultimately to the ground. I stole a glance in the young buck's direction as I tried to get the heavy gear spinning again. He was being ejected from his machine like a cowboy being tossed from a bull. I shook my head in disbelief and took stock of my situation. "NOOOOOOOOO", I yelled as I saw Charlie Shad's jersey disappear around the corner along with the lead pack. I'd never catch them with the amount of speed they had under them. I was alone when the thought came to me..."Now What?"b2ap3_thumbnail_P6270012.JPG

In about .3 seconds my race plan was in the dumper. I had no plan B. I hadn't thought it through, I was screwed. There was no choice but to develop a contingency plan. The new plan would involve a level of complexity capable of boggling the mind. Here's what I came up with, PEDAL HARD!!!!

Determined to salvage what I could I buried myself creating a world in which I suffered greatly. Often alone I had no other rider to draft off, but I didn't care. I had resided in this world of pain many times before and in some twisted way I kind of liked it. Soon I became a part of small groups of riders, some who had caught me from behind and others that had been spit out of the lead group. These were talented riders each exploiting their own strengths. One in particular absolutely crushed the gravel sections as he would sit out on the front of a 12 man group refusing to let off the gas. I was content to sit in as I didn't think I had the strength to pull at the pace this man had established. It wasn't until the first off road section that I found my own strength. I hit the single track with this group and quickly found myself moving through them. I wondered if handling the rugged trail suited me as a small gap began to form between another rider, myself, and the rest of the group. It was during the off road sections that I tried to spread my wings and during the road sections that I did my best to hold on.b2ap3_thumbnail_P6270019.JPG

The miles past as I moved from group to group when up ahead I saw a familiar jersey. Duluth's own Todd McFadden looked as if he was out for a leisurely ride just spinning along. I pulled up to him wondering what happened as I was certain that he belonged with the lead group that was motoring along somewhere up the road. Little was said as I began working with him in an effort to keep our pace as high as I could stand. Soon we were joined by Ted Loosen who was side lined by an early flat and seemed to be riding with the same intensity that Todd was. As these two strong men chatted about the state of things I did my best to keep up. It was impressive to watch as gaps would form and they would simply speed up and close them while I would work for 5 minutes to shut down a 20 meter distance.

Fatigue was the name of the game for me as I plowed through the middle to late stages of the race. As the 80th mile passed under my wheels I noted how uncomfortable I actually was. To say that I was miserable would be an under statement. My eyes burned from constantly being sand blasted by mud, my leg muscles twitched as they threatened to cramp, and my mood resided somewhere between crabby and pissed off. There was a long way to go and I was far from operating at my best.

Finally, I reached the coveted milestone of having less than 10 miles to go. The moment occurred on a gravel road section and was one of the few times that my group actually communicated with each other. There was a short discussion as men compared mileage readings on their gps units. Once it was confirmed that we were under 10 miles to the finish the pace ramped up. I cursed myself for helping them determine this fact as I once more slipped to the back of the group.

b2ap3_thumbnail_P6280023.JPGWhile reminding myself that this pain would eventually end I entered the final stretch of single track that would lead to the finishing chute. I was passed one more time in this section marking at least 10 times that I had been passed in the last 10 miles. I was discouraged by my performance in the closing miles, but I shook off the disappointment by reminding myself that I did my best and for that I was proud.

Suddenly, I thought I heard something through the trees, something that sounded like cheering. I strained my ears for any hint that I would soon be off my bike. At last I could hear the announcer shouting the names of finishers into the microphone. I popped out of the woods and before me was a long stretch of road with a beautiful sign in the distance that read, FINISH. I poured some coals on the fire in an effort to make it look like I knew what I was doing as I crossed the line. Amy was there to congratulate me with an extra amount of exuberance that I took as a very nice gesture. Inside I wondered why she seemed so excited for me, but I chalked it up to her just being great. Later she would tell me that she thought I was in the top 20. I assured her that she was wrong that it was more like 40th or so. Set to prove me wrong she insisted that we head to the computers to check for sure. I hobbled along behind her after an impromptu bath by the car, where I stood naked while she dumped water over my disgusting body. It was a scene to behold, trust me. Eventually, we were in front of the computers and I stared out the window while she punched in my race number. "I told you, 18th!", she said. I was totally in shock and very pleased.

For the second year in a row Lutsen delivered it's mud, pain, and rewards. There's something very special about that place and most of it doesn't have anything to do with being on a bike. If you're ever heading up the north shore and you don't have a plan take a left and head up to Lutsen. Oh, and don't forget to pedal hard.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Trading-Card-Pic-1.jpgThe Lutsen 99'er is fast approaching. This coming Saturday hundreds of like minded cyclists will converge on the tiny hamlet of Lutsen, Minnesota to participate in one of the most popular races in Minnesota. The event boasts a 99 mile version as well as a 39 mile version for those who are of the more sensible mindset.

Last year I went into this race with one goal and that was to just give myself a chance. I told myself that I would do whatever it took to keep up with the leaders for as long as possible in order to give myself a shot at the best result I could. Well, it turned out that I was able to keep up with them through the half way point, then through the 80 mile mark, and then I thought, "you've made it this far, might as well keep it up". I went extremely deep during this effort and I can still feel the pain of trying to close down gap after gap. It's the pain that gives me the jitters as I type these words. I never want to go through the suffering, nor do I want to dance with the demons, but if I'm going to give myself the best chance I can I have to.

This year is sure to bring even more talent to Lutsen which will most likely drop me down in the standings, but if I'm able to finish with the same smile I had on my face as I finished with last year it will be a success.

If you're heading to Lutsen this coming weekend or to a race in some other land, remember to just give yourself a chance, you might be surprised at the result.

 

 

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Posted by on in General

A couple years ago I went way out on a limb, drove to Colorado with a bike and went about the business of racing in the Vapor Trail 125. This race starts and ends in Salida, Colorado and everything in between exists high atop mountain peaks. The beast starts at 10:00 p.m. for God's sake! The directors got my attention when I found myself signing off on what appeared to be life insurance during the registration process - what had I gotten myself into?

Well, I survived that epic ride and I don't use the word epic lightly. It was truly the toughest ride I've ever been on. I've suffered in different ways on a bike before, but this one was insane. With almost the entire race existing at over 10,000 feet and an elevation gain of almost 20,000 feet in 125 miles I was beyond wasted.

It's a good thing I don't have that great of a memory, because I sent out the registration form for this year's Vapor yesterday. At least this year I'll know what to expect, right? I hope to finish a little quicker than last year and I hope to not use up what's remaining of my 9 lives.

All that's left in front of me between now and September is a few long distance mountain bike races, a few gravel events, and the Big Work required for Big Racing.

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Posted by on in General

So, I thought of you as I rode (the long way) home last night after work in a TORRENTIAL down pour. I had rain gear, but chose not to put the pants on as my lower half was already soaked and somehow reasonably warm due to the exercise. My top half however was getting soaked despite my rain coat which is a total joke and I'm in the market for a $300 jacket now. My gloves were a light weight fall/spring type of glove. Well, after about 5 minutes of hard rain they were completely soaked through. My hands were cold at that point, but what could I do? As I slogged through the gravel/closed portion of skyline (west of spirit mountain) on ultra soft dirt my hands continued to deteriorate. By the time I crossed the highway that heads up to Proctor off of 35 while going east on Skyline I was in serious trouble with the hands. They were so ungodly cold that I was almost crying. I couldn't shift the bike anymore and I was caught in the dilemma of, "the faster I go the colder they are vs. the slower I go the longer I'm out here". When I finally made it home the final hurdle was to somehow get the garage door open. My stumps that used to be my hands couldn't negotiate the tiny key, nor the lock itself. By some miracle of GOD I got the door unlocked and made it into the house. I almost stepped on Charley, because I was in such a panic due to the AGONY. Amy had to start a shower for me so I cold return to normal. Then it was off to "ladies night" at the Ski Hut for a promotion for women's cycling.

At the height of my pain I looked at my gps and the temp was 32 degrees and I could barely see with the rain coming down. It was possibly one of the worst/most painful rides I've ever been on due to cold. I almost asked someone if I could sit in their car for a couple minutes.

Enjoy the warmth of Omaha! It's cold and foggy again today.

Hugs.

 

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Posted by on in General

This film has been on my mind since it's inception. Little did I know that a piece called "Racing the Kansas Sun" would turn into so much. I wrote that piece from the heart and every word of it came from an experience so real that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about those hours on the prairie. I was excited by the attention the article was receiving, but never in my wildest imagination did I think it would evolve into what it did. I was contacted by journalists from Kansas, approached by Jim Cummins, the director of the D.K. about a special category within the race designed to motivate riders to race from within, and ultimately Salsa Cycles wanted to talk about a documentary. Saying that I was flattered doesn't come close to what I felt. I was moved, honored, and reminded that people crave honesty. People are inspired by not what is magnificent and spectacular, but by what is real.

I'm humbled by the amount of people my story has touched and grateful for not only what I've experienced out on all those race courses, but more importantly in what I've found within myself.

Thank you Salsa Cycles for not only believing in me, but for seeing the "Nitty Gritty" too.

 

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Posted by on in Racing

b2ap3_thumbnail_P4050555.JPGThe Renegade Gent's Race is unlike any gravel race I'd ever done. Wait, check that. I've ridden in packs before many times in gravel races and that's exactly what I did at the Gent's race in Ankeny, Iowa on April 5th, 2014. However, the difference here was I didn't have to worry about my little group of 5 trying to destroy each other as the finish line came near. This time the little "band of brothers" were my teammates, our mission was simple..."stick together at all costs and go as fast as possible".

The event was to start at 8:00 a.m. with each team leaving at approximately 5 minute intervals. A loose handicap type system was employed in attempt to even things out. That is to say, an assessment of which teams were supposedly "faster" than others was made by the race directors and thus they were given their starting times according to this "rank". Our team, "The Midwest Gravel Grinders" was slated to go off at 9:40 a.m. about the 42nd team to leave the starting line. It was then our task to move up through the field the best we could before the finish line arrived. Which ever team made it to the line first would be the winner. The "Grinders" all hailed from some of the best gravel states in country, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. We were eager to hit the dirt!

At last we were under way and tweaking the system so to speak as we searched for the most efficient way to work as a team. It wasn't long before we were rotating smoothly in an echelon formation while a stiff wind hit us hard on the left shoulder. I smiled to myself as I watched the guys work into this riding style without a word being spoken, there was a lot of experience in this group. It wasn't uncommon to feel a handle bar slightly bump into one's hip as a teammate looked for that sweet spot in the "pocket" that the wind just couldn't seem to find. We were riding very close together and cruising comfortably right around 20 mph.

Challenges came to us as fatigue began to creep into our bodies. It was Jim who spoke first requesting a bit of a slow down as our stronger members pushed to pace hard on the front. We'd agreed earlier to leave all egos at the starting line as if any would ever show up among this humble group, but nevertheless we knew honesty would be the best policy. We needed to stick together. Soon, the commands came in short bursts from the group, "quarter mile an hour up", "a bit off", "hold steady at 19.5 mph", the group was formed and working well together and more importantly we never allowed one to find himself alone in the wind. The operation was smooth and rb2ap3_thumbnail_P4050557.JPGunning on all cylinders.

With the race only being 66 miles long it was still easy to see the roles our members played and how we fit together. We were also able to see the competitive edge we all have as we were passed by two fast moving teams. I shared a bit of anger as we watched these two teams move through us, but the mission of sticking together was more important than going on a mad chase, we'd let things play out on the gravel.

The end game was upon us soon as I revealed to the team the mileage we'd covered. It was then that I noticed Jim Cummins quietly churning through the Iowa country side with a slight grimace on his face. Jim had openly admitted that he needed us to shelter him from time to time and that he didn't want to hold us up. I assured him, as did the others time and time again that he was not holding us up, that he was as strong as an ox. But in the closing miles I noticed the team looking after each other as the stronger riders kept an eye on the ones who'd "gone to the well" more than they wanted to. It was a hand to the small of the back on the uphill grade of a struggling rider by one who was fairing better at that time that proved to me that we had gelled as a group. Late in the game, with Jim digging hard to hold his position in the line I noticed an empty water bottle working it's way out of his jersey pocket. I moved up the line next to him and without a word I pushed the bottle back home and resumed my place. "Team work", was all Matt said as I slid backward down the line, he was right. This is where our group was at now, one for all, all for one. b2ap3_thumbnail_P4050559.JPG

Grabbing one more position in the final miles with a pass on the tarmac leading to the finish line secured a 6th place overall finish. We crossed the line together as one rider and although we felt good about our overall place, we felt better about what we did out there "sticking together".

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

b2ap3_thumbnail_P3150543.JPGThe Balsam Basher put on by my local bike shop, The Ski Hut proved to be one hell of a good time. With the race being held in Duluth, MN it was a no brainer that I attend. Another motivating reason to show up was the fact that the trail conditions were/are superb right now with a melting and freezing cycle repeating itself over and over it was sure to be a fast paced event.

Now, I've slogged, pushed, and had too many temper tantrums to count with the best fat bike riders my area has to offer, but I've never gone wide open and simply "raced" them. I was excited!

I set my expectations low and hoped for a mid pack finish. As I lined up for the LeMans start I noted the heart and soul of Duluth's FAST contingent of cyclists, Scotty Kylander-Johnson, Todd McFadden, Dianna McFadden, Mike Bushey, just to name a few. Some familiar faces such as Jay "Hollywood" Henderson along with a few others had made their way up from the Twin Cities.

As I stood in the second row waiting for the "GO" I looked across the parking lot at the thousands of dollars worth of Fat Bikes laying in the snow waiting for their owners to jump on them. "Holy Crap, these guys take this stuff seriously", I thought as I my eyes scanned over carbon framed bike after carbon framed bike. The next thought through my head was, "Oh well, my trusty Mukluk and I will just do the best we can".b2ap3_thumbnail_P3150544.JPG

To my surprise I managed to hop on my bike and get moving in about 5th position. I wondered if I should let off and allow the other faster riders to get out in front of me. Then, the competitive racing Tim emerged and said, "Screw that, they can pass me if they can!". Weird...20 minutes into the race and no one had passed me. In fact, I had caught and moved through a few riders and was now asking "Hollywood" if I could sneak by him. I must admit the guy looked ultra smooth on his super light carbon Lampier (sp?). I've admired his riding since the mid 90's and I wouldn't doubt if the guy holds some kind of record for the most races ever completed - he races and then races some more.

I reminded myself to keep the heart rate in the "just below death" zone and keep the pressure on the pedals. Things were going smoothly as I began to "yo-yo" with a nice guy wearing a "Wolf Tooth" kit (didn't catch his name). Just as I began to think that this whole fast Fat Biking thing wasn't that tough the mistakes started happening as the track slowly started to break up. The leaders were up the trail a bit and had been punching through the crust from time to time revealing a speed sucking, momentum taking soft under belly to the trail. Putting a wheel in these spots brought a lot of internal swearing as what had just been gained seemed to disappeared in a second. It was up a short climb that I faltered and pulled my first dismount. "Hollywood" would pass me back on this climb and simply ride out of my life - kind of rude I thought. The mistakes kept coming and as I honed in on other riders rear wheels and noted how soft their back tires looked, I needed to let some air out...Damnit!b2ap3_thumbnail_P3150542.JPG

The top of a huge climb is where I decided to release a bunch of air out of my rear tire. The stop was about 40 seconds, enough time to allow "Wolf Tooth" and Dianna McFadden to pass me. I was determined to reel them back in, but what I didn't know was that the trail would soon turn into a white beach.

One lap down, one to go, but wait, a twist. An odd requirement was tossed into the format. If a rider did not want to do a lap around a huge field before heading back into the single track he or she must down a shot of apple tasting schnappsy stuff. "Hell, I'll take a drink if it means I can skip the field", I thought, so I did. That shot stayed with me well into the second lap, it was like the shot I had to drink 3 times, it just kept coming back up. 

The second lap was a whole lot different than the first as the trail had now seen all the riders, many of which were forced to dismount a lot. It seemed that every foot print broke through the crust, chewing up the trail. Ruts and foot prints took over huge sections and made the descents an exercise in blind faith and sometimes blind faith just didn't cut it. While descending a steep ridge I spotted a nasty looking rut and immediately chose to stay out of it, which of course put me right into it. My body and bike started leaning while the rut held tight to the front tire. Shortly after the "Ohh Crap" moment I was air borne, followed by a swim in white powder. The snow was so deep that I could not get up. I'd put my arm down looking to push off of something firm, but there was nothing. Eventually I rolled around enough to get in a position that I could use my bike as a huge snow shoe, climb on top of it and jump back toward the trail. It must have taken over 2 minutes to get out of that snow and it was super embarrassing. Luckily no one saw my flounder in the snow, most likely because they were doing the same thing somewhere else. As I pushed on down the trail I started to notice the body prints in the snow next the trail as riders ahead of me went for their own swim.

Soon I was beginning the long roller coaster descent to the finish line with super fast Dianna b2ap3_thumbnail_P3150546.JPGMcFadden in my cross hairs. Di was handling her carbon Beargrease like the champ she is. Coming off a recent podium finish at the Fat Bike Birkie I could tell she was in top form. With the track being quite narrow I tried to find a place to pass, but her pace was very similar to mine, it would have to wait for the field before the finish line. Di and I flew through the rollers of the closing miles until finally an open spot ahead in the trees, it was the field. I saw the volunteers pointing out where the finish line was and that's when Di stole a glance over her shoulder to see me smiling at her. Immediately we both rose from our saddles, grabbed a couple harder gears, and went for it. Approximately 50 meters separated us from the finish line as I pulled left and began to make the pass. The hard pack snow kept things quiet save the sound of our bikes slamming into harder gears, "CLUNK, CLUNK" as each of us looked for more speed. I felt my trigger go slack as I slammed into the last gear I had, but I was inching up next to her and was certain I'd take this sprint until I heard Di's bike make one more "CLUNK". "What! She's got one more gear?!" We crossed the line together with Di edging me out by a front wheel, for 5th place while I took 6th. It was awesome and there's no one I'd rather lose a sprint to than Dianna McFadden, such a class act.

Not long after my finish the always smiling Charlie Farrow pulled in with snow all over his clothes proving that he too had his swim in the snow. The finish area was a blast as cold beers and warm brats were on hand, all part of the entry fee. The Ski Hut put on a great event and one I'll be back for next year even if it means I have to push my bike around the course for two full laps.

Thank you to the Ski Hut, Salsa Cycles, and Rudy Project.

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