Friday, April 3, 2015

Finishing the Ouachita Challenge

This past December I signed up for another Ouachita Challenge.  An event that I have been racing since 2008.  The course is hard and challenging but with the proper training, mental toughness and if you can get through Blow Out mountain without bike failures or bodily harm you should be able to finish.  Against my better judgment I also signed up Christopher.

Three years ago I signed Christopher up for his first attempt at the Ouachita Challenge.  Prior to that his only other distance event had been the Dakota 50 which he attempted in 2010 when he was 15.  Christopher is a good cross country distance rider.  He usually sticks to rides/races around an hour which is normal for a teenager I would think.  So far all of his attempts at completing Marathon type cycling events came up short.
Would 2015 be any different?  When I registered us I kept seeing this image in my head.  I know from first hand experience what it feels like to be dead tired and not wanting to continue on. To have those voices in your head say things like "why did I want to attempt this?"  "I just want to quit" and  "where is my mommy?".   I asked him did he really want to go through the suffering to finish and he said he did. 
The goal was to just finish the Ouachita Challenge.  No course records would be set.  No awards won.  Only the personal satisfaction of finishing.  Early in January I gave the above photo to Christopher as motivation and to help him realize that any goal worth attempting would take work.
I put in enough rides during the winter that I knew I would be able to finish.  I was really worried about Christopher because he never wanted to go ride this winter.  I do not blame him.  Who the hell wants to go ride when it is 15 degrees out?
I think his first ride of any distance/time was the Mullet Ride back in January.  After that he kind of did his own thing which had me very worried about 3 weeks prior to the event.
About a month ago we headed down to Arkansas for Spring Break. In my mind this would be the decision maker.  If he did not put in some long rides and feel good after them then he should not attempt to finish.  

We hit several trail systems including Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs.  Damn that place is hilly! This was a good thing because it offered up ideal training grounds for the challenge ahead.
It rained 3 out of the 4 days we were in Eureka Springs.  Luckily most of the trail systems down there are very rocky.   Despite the rain we got in several long rides.  After the trip Christopher confirmed that he wanted to attempt the Ouachita Challenge again, and this time he was going to finish.
While Christopher was confident I had my doubts.  Not only in him but myself.  My knees, especially my right knee, have been giving me trouble as of late.  It has gotten so bad that I can not even put weight on my knees while kneeling down.  Some days are fine but other days I take a handful of pain meds to make it tolerable.  More on the knee later...

We got a bit of bad news two days before the race.  During our final ride on Wednesday he said he was having trouble shifting.  When I checked everything out I found a broken link on the non-drive side.  No bike to ride.  Not really the news you want to hear a few days before your big event.

Luckily we had a spare bike.  My Ritchey P-29er was built up for gravel and still had CIRREM mud all over her and a rigid fork.  It took a long cold evening (and several beers) in the garage to switch everything over.  With no saddle time on her we loaded up and headed to Tige's house Saturday morning.

After 6+ hours of Smokey and the Bandit type driving we somehow safely arrived in Oden, AR.  Tige wanted to get in a little ride and Christopher wanted to at least ride the P-29er once before the race on Sunday.  I am glad we did ride because we ended up doing several adjustments on the bike to get Christopher somewhat comfortable.

Race morning came too quickly.  Before we knew it riders were lining up.  I told Christopher before the race to remember to pace himself, eat and drink.  If he did not blow up then he could finish.  Deep down I had my doubts but I wanted to sound confident.

The first 10 miles of the challenge are easy.  I stayed with Christopher until the final gravel climb before the single track began.  After that I rode my own event.  Christopher wanted to do this event on his own.   The event gets hard once you hit Blow Out mountain.  This trail sucks ass.  Part of it you can not even ride (at least mortal riders like myself).  I was really concerned that Christopher would try to ride the really rocky sections like he did 3 years ago and waste a lot of energy.  I later found out he listened to me and walked those sections.

I was feeling fine up until the Sims aid station at around the 1/2 way point.  My legs started to cramp a little.  If I am already cramping what the heck is Christopher feeling like?   I kept riding and they went away.  At the 5 hour mark they came back.  The next 1 1/2 hours basically sucked ass.  Leg cramps and fatigue.  While I was going through my own little misery I kept thinking about Christopher.  Did he pull out at Sims?  I told him that if he had any doubt that he should bail at Sims as it was the closest to the Start/Finish area in Oden.  I had two goals on the day: Finish without suffering and to have Christopher finish (he was allowed to suffer).  I finished up in 6 hours 46 minutes.  Despite the leg cramps I felt fine. After a quick shower and some recovery food and I go and check the finish area for Christopher.  After 7 hrs still no sign of him.  7 hour 15 min still no Christopher.  I tell Tige we should load things up and go see if we can find him at the final aid station.  As I walk over to the finishing line one last time I hear the announcer say "we have our next finisher from Kansas City, MO,  #119, Christopher Locke".  The little shit did it!  It took 7 hour 30 minutes but he did finish and I am very proud of him! He did not give up and despite only a handful of training rides he finished. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 Milford Lake Hare Scrambles

 The 2015 Forward Motion Hare Scrambles Season has officially begun.  You could not have scripted a better beginning to the season.  Turnout was very good at over 250 riders - full rows for each class that spread along the entire beach area. Weather was near perfect.  Course was fast and fun with just enough technical sections to keep it interesting.

Carolynn was out on course taking some photos. She got several really good ones like the one above.  Check out her photos - 2015 Milford Lake Hare Scrambles  Photos.

Milford offers up several cool sections.  I really liked the course that ran along the shoreline.  Some sections were really rocky and you had to use a lot of throttle control.  Views along the shoreline were cool.

Like I mentioned above all of the classes had full lines.  It was hard for some to find a good starting position.   Some riders actually started in the water.  I got off to good start right behind my old cycling buddy Andy Lucas.  I ended up passing Andy along the first rocky shoreline section and found myself in the lead.

Christopher #845, got a little crowded during his start.  It was tight quarters for everyone.

I think Christopher was a little intimidated with all the riders on his line (nearly 40 riders) and got off to a very poor start.  At the end of the first lap he was still down in 27th place.

After the start there was this tricky rocky section along the shore.  Several riders fell victim to it.  This is where I got by Andy taking the smooth line along the shoreline.

Long registration lines caused me to miss practice.  This might be a trend for me because the last two Forward Motion races I did not get to practice and ended up getting dialed into the course quickly.   Course was dusty in places but overall not bad and allowed for passing in most places except for the tight rocky climbs which only had one line. 
Our friend Jason Schupp won the Trail Rider championship last year and moved up to the Vet 40 class for 2015. He looks good riding the very popular KTM.  Orange is his new favorite color. I like the elbow up Jason.
Christopher settled in and started to "ride the course" worked his way up to 12th place by the end of the race.  Nice job standing up son.
Last years Sportsman's Champion Lauren Stretz moved up to the C class this year.  Good form Lauren and I like the Blue.
I had to ride really hard to keep the lead.  I had a nice battle with #731 David Semrad.  David lead laps #3 & #4.  We passed each other several times during the race.  The last two laps were hectic because we would come up on blocked sections of the trail.  A rider would be down and was unable to make it up the rocky climbs.  All you could do was wait.  This really tightened up the fields.  I was able to put in a fast last lap, putting several scratches on my new helmet in the process, and secured the win for the day in the Vet C class. 
After our race we volunteered to work the event.  Our job was to patrol the 2nd race and then take down the course.  It turned out to be a long day with over 5 hours of riding. 
The rest of the working crew await instructions before we begin.  Sweeping was fun but stressful.  Those top riders in the A and B classes really haul ass and you did not want to get in their way.  The hardest part of the day was taking down the course.  Christopher and I took down a couple of miles ribbon and arrows.  Next time we are going to just walk the course to take it down.  Riding and stopping 300 times gets old :-) 

Next up on the calendar is the Ouachita Challenge.  It is back to peddling.  60+ miles of trails.  I really hope Christopher can finish the event this year.  I still remember my first Ouachaita Challenge.  It was a fun day riding with Rich.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hitting Rock Bottom at CIRREM

The 7th Annual CIRREM was held last weekend.  It was cold as hell (10 degrees) at the start but the gravel roads were frozen and remained that way for the entire event.  Conditions were really not that bad for racing and several course records were set including overall male winner Joe Peterson, overall female winter Liz Martin, Single Speed winner Marc Thierry, Fat Bike winner Taylor Webb and the overall tandem winners Dennis Grelk/ChristieAnthony.  Basically every category except fixed gear set new records.  That frozen gravel sure is fast.

While other riders were having great rides I was having one of my worse.  It has been a rough winter for me.  I have put in what I thought was some quality training rides including several gravel grinders.  As with anyone, with enough miles my form comes along nicely by the beginning of Spring.  This year that has not been the case.  I have reviewed and analyzed  my training logs but still have not found a reason for my poor performance.

Part of me did not even want to go to CIRREM this year.  When you are not not felling strong it is easy to stay home.  I had already made plans to head up with Tige so I stuck with those plans and we ended up staying with his cousin up in Des Moines IA.  It was nice not having to drive the 2 1/2 hours in the early morning like I have always done in the past.  After Tige's super secret breakfast and "Dirt" coffee I actually felt good and was looking forward to getting out on course.

I knew my day was going to be long when within the first 5 miles I went to shift into my big chainring and nothing happened.  After a quick look down I see my front derailleur had twisted.  I checked every bolt on my bike except that one 5 mm clamp.  Nothing to do but stop and fix it.  It took awhile, especially with the freezing temps, but I got the cage all lined up and shifting again.  I start rolling again in last place.

After a couple of miles I catch up to George Williams and Chris Orr of  Dirty Dogs.  All of us settled into a comfortable conversational pace with an focus on finishing.   This would become a real challenge later on as with each mile my legs became more tired.

In past years I usually roll into the half way checkpoint in around 2 hours.  This year I was pedestrian slow at 2:26.  As a reference my teammate Tige Lamb rolled the first half on a single speed in 1:44.  That is really sad when you think about it but when the legs are dead they are dead.  The ladies at the checkpoint were offering water, food and hugs.  I needed all three just to get up enough motivation to continue on. I filled up my water bottles, got a nice warm hug and tried to ignore the guy who was calling out "if anyone needs a ride back I am leaving now".  I downed another cinnamon roll and reluctantly rolled on.

The next couple of hours were some of the most trying of my life.  Each hill got progressively harder.  While my energy level was normal my legs were like piece of iron.   For about 10 miles I rode with a group of women but they soon left me behind.  I stopped trying to figure out what was wrong and just wanted to quit.  But when you are out in the middle of Iowa you can not really just put up your hand and ask for a ride home.  At one point I stopped just to rest some and eat.  A couple of rolls of hay provided a nice shelter from the cold wind.  After a couple of minutes I realized I needed to keep going.  There was not going to be any sag wagon to pick me up.

As the miles slowly clicked off and the finishing town of Cummings grew nearer it started to snow.  Great, just what I needed.  I was cold, tired and hungry but I still had an hour or more to go.  The last 10 miles or so skirt the edge of town but then takes you back onto the frozen gravel roads.  Part of me really wanted to take that short cut direct route back up to the Cumming Tap but I knew I would not be able to sleep well if I did not complete the entire course and finish.

Finally the last mile came and I rolled in the finish.  5:38 was on timer stop watch.   As I ate my post race meal I questioned whether this would be my last CIRREM and/or my last endurance race.  When you are at bottom it is hard to find a reason to continue on.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

On the Job Training

This Fall/Winter we decided to catch up on some house projects after basically neglecting our home for over a decade. So far things have been going well and Christopher has gotten some "on the job training".  He still has no idea what he wants to do in life.  He really liked woods class and seems to like working with his hands.  Like many young adults he does not know what he would like to do.  Other than that he is a hard working kid that will work if you tell him what needs to be done. 

I think the best thing you can do is have your kids try different things.  I tried many things growing up and found out early on some of the things I did not want to do for my career. Professional Motocross racer?  Sure why not until you nearly kill yourself jumping a huge double (which actually was not intended to be jumped but you had to try it anyway).  Truck driver? Not for me - I had trouble keeping away driving at night.  Account/Bookkeeping?  Not for me.  Truck mechanic?  Not for me.  Stock Broker?  I actually wish I would have pursued  that career more but I was a little timid in my early 20's.  Bicycle Mechanic?  If only I could make money working on bikes I would be happy. 

First task before it got cold and the ground froze was to fix an area behind the house.  Over the last year water stopped draining away from the house.   Still do know know the root cause.  I think it was Carolynn's garden that she planted a couple of years ago.  The soil she put down so her vegetables would grow basically seemed to cause a dam and did not allow the water to drain away like it has for the past 14 years.   It could have been the drain pipe along the side of the house. It was filled with dirt and rocks. As a project I asked Christopher to clear the pipe but he could not find a way.  When I went to assist him I came up with a brilliant way to clear the pipe.  I used our shop vac and sucked all the dirt out.  It seemed to work very well because the next rain the water drained right down the new french drain that Christopher installed.   Maybe there is a career in Landscaping for him?

 One thing Christopher has learned is the damage that water can cause.  We ended up just replacing this small section of wood rot.  The end result looks very good.  We also chiseled away some concrete that was causing the problem in the first place.

 It is amazing what termites can do.  Luckily we caught them early and only had to repair two sections of siding.  Overall Christopher did a good job.  He still needs to some carpentry skills but with direction he can do the job.  Just do not leave him alone on a project because he seems to waste a lot of time texting  :-)

Some deck refinished was next.  Overall the deck was in good shape and just needed cleaning and staining.  This project took forever also with Christopher working alone.  If you ask me painting is an art.  As with the front of the house Christopher needs more patience and develop into an artist.

One of the next projects was to refinish the kitchen floors.  We had several spots with high wear and we wanted to fix the creaking floors.  I am happy to report that the creaks are gone and we have a shinny floor. I do not think Christopher will pursue a career in this field.

Mechanical skills are something Christopher really needs to work on.  We worked on several projects on our motorcycles like replacing the chains, sprockets, and installing a new Twin Air power flow kit.  I think we found out why we have been going through valves.  Dirty air will do that.  While disabling the air box boot I found several missing bolts that held the boot to the box.  Hopefully keeping a clean air source will allow us to go once complete season without a rebuild.

The other project we have decided to focus on this winter is refinishing all the wood cabinets.  Overall this project is going along nicely.  Bathrooms are done and now we are working in the kitchen again.  


Our last project we tacked was replacing the hot water heater.  My friend Ashley Blum helped us out on this one because I did not want to blow us up since we have a gas water heater.  He worked with Christopher and showed him each step. He even learned to solder and impresses me with his work.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Time for a Change

I thought I posted this already and everyone knew, but I have received dozens of emails about event promotion and our 2015 season. Well it is official - I am taking a break from promoting cycling events.  Why you ask?   The first reason is my work and what I have to do to grow in that area of my life - see below.
The biggest reason for not promoting anymore is my family and my team. It takes a lot of hard work and time to promote events properly.  I started over a decade ago because I wanted to give back to cycling/racing. When I look at the work that my family/team does to make these events possible and then get turnouts like we had at our last event and get basically harassed about cost (and the way the events are run) and have riders boycott your events.  There are turning points in life and that was a big one for me. Add in the changes that USA Cycling have made and it is not worth the risk I personally take to promote.  I am not going to ask my family and friends to help anymore unless there is a big change in our area

It is time to make some change in my career also.  Off with the long hair and back to school.  I have worked hard at my job and waited long enough.  Time to make some serious changes and invest in my life and career.   More on this later but many people will be surprised to learn of my new path in life.

Damn my hair was long.  I feel much better now and ready to tackle the next chapter of my life.