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.