2019 Windy 500 wrap-up


511 miles.

10,613 ft of elevation.

4 days of awesome.

That’s the facts. Now the fluff…

The Windy 500 (AKA: “The Windy”) is now 9 years old. In total, we’ve covered 4,594 miles (New York to Los Angeles and back) and climbed 105,704 feet (20+ miles straight up). For reference, the “Death Zone” begins at about  26,246 feet above sea level. At that elevation, unassisted from compressed air or oxygen, severe altitude sickness sets in, debilitating the human body and eventually resulting in death. I have certainly felt like death at the top of some of those climbs over the years… and we’ve gone 4 times the Death Zone height in total.

2019 finally marked the “return to form” (credit to bc for that term) for this adventure. For the past few years, the vibe of the ride has been “off”. For me, this is a mental checkout, an escape from the pressures and responsibilities of daily life: being a Dad, a husband, a breadwinner, a home remodeler, a boss, etc. Just my chance to do physical work all day long and then chill with friends at night. Then get up and do it again. No spreadsheets, no sports schedules, no meetings, no homework, no bills to pay… just pure work. And all of that pure work leads (me) to internal purity. Which leaves me with serenity, joy, strength, harmony, happiness, patience and magnanimity. Or it should.

For me, and a few others, the last few years have lacked that reward. This trip had become an organized Tour – more about the rest stops and KOMs than the journey. We ground people to dust with big dick contests on legit Category 3 climbs, and we raced to hotels to end the rides faster and faster each day. We yelled at each other to “Hold our lines!” and “Ride two up!” We took guys who normally ride at 16 mph and asked them to hold a wheel at 24 mph.  And we were genuinely pissed when they couldn’t. And we called it a “vacation”.

This was not the ride that many of us needed anymore. To use a Lampe term, it had been “Kayzared”. You take something really good and turn it up to 11. Until it sucks. Oh, and to make matters even worse, I sent out invitations this year. Yeah. So, some people were not invited. Because I’m super cool. And I had to pick and choose people based on bullshit criteria because I had invited everyone I knew, which made the ride too big and unmanageable. Now I was barely looking forward to riding because I had pissed friends off, the ride sucks, and life was way too busy this year to even take 4 days away. I was feeling uber magnanimous indeed. And also like the world’s biggest fraud.

Fast forward to August 2. The day after my 50th birthday. The launch of the 9th Windy 500. I was excited, but my expectations were low.

Fewer of us than last year, by design. An almost on-time launch. Zero drama. All smiles. Things felt different already.

After a much shorter than usual amount of time, the group fell into a smooth rhythm. By the time we had crushed another delicious all-you-can-eat Alma’s breakfast, we were functioning like 1 unit.

We spent time on roads that were very familiar and roads that we had never seen before. McArdle, our perennial RouteMeister, never disappoints and this year was no exception. Roads were rolling, beautiful and virtually traffic-free.
  

bc treated us to his usual round of surprises and delights by piloting us to the only authentic Mexican place within 100 miles, after lowering the bar by announcing that we’d be eating at fast food joints that day.

We made our way to the 1 and only hotel stop – a first for the Windy. Green Bay became our hub for 3 nights, which was a welcome change from schlepping bags of dirty kits back into the van every morning. From GB we rolled West into Central WI, North to the UP and finally back to Brookfield.

The pictures always tell the story better than words ever could. Suffice to say, the Windy is alive and well. We came, we saw, we made friends with retirees and biker gangs… and we were serenaded by the always entertaining Bill Finn. We received cake and medals to keep us safe, and smiles and warm hospitality everywhere we went. Except when we went past the laundromat. Do not go past the laundromat.

And suddenly, it’s over.  Everyone says their goodbyes and we wake up in our own beds the next day and go to work and start thinking about next year.

I can’t describe what this event has become to me, for me. I can’t describe the level of gratitude I have for everyone that has participated over the years. This has truly become far greater than I had ever hoped, despite my best efforts to screw it up over the years. The funny thing is, everyone always remembers the Windy differently. And that’s OK. Everyone is free to pick and choose their own highlights, their own greatest roads or their favorite conversations. I am humbled to have created the vehicle to provide those memories.

The only way to make it better for the upcoming 10th Anniversary in 2020 is to make it 1,000 miles… and so we will.

2011 racing season – that’s a wrap!


AKA – the continuing evolution of a fat dude…

Here I am in summer of 2006.  Riding an old mountain bike on the road with my other fat old friends –  Bob Roll and Greg LeMond.  OK, we’re not really friends – just fat.  I had taken many years off of the bike, and was inspired to get back on for the Trek 100.  I did the 32 mile route that year.  Slowly.

My Official Return to Cycling - 2006

That was enough incentive to get me rolling again, literally.  I had so much fun, and it felt so good to be doing something I loved so much, I started making time to get on my bike.  Just a little at first – probably only did a handful more rides that year, but I did one very important ride: on the trails of the Southern Kettles.

My off-road skills were anemic, and that’s giving me more credit than I deserved, but I knew they were in there somewhere.  Covered with years of rust and beer and God knows what else.  I was slower than a stampede of turtles.  Hill-climbing?  That’s where my dominance really showed!  I could climb anything under 10 feet tall in less than an hour.  Maybe.

I rode a little more the following year, even got a road bike.  I remember telling my friend Mark how proud I was after a 15 mile ride where I had averaged 17 mph.  (This year I did a 161 mile “fun” ride and averaged 19.6mph).   Late that summer I was really starting to feel the mountain bike bug again.  My fitness was starting to shape up a little, and I had started trying to get out and ride a bit more.  The whole idea of a single-speed bike really seemed to make sense to me.  After all, I was a reformed BMXer – not a roadie.  On the road, I had nothing, but get me into some single-track and I could at least hold my own with stronger guys by riding smart.  In 2007, 29″ wheels were just starting to get some attention – most bikes sold  still had 26″ wheels.  Trek took a chance and produced a small run of Travis Brown inspired 69ers.

NOTE: When it comes to “stuff”, I am not a technical guy, I’m an impulsive guy.  I’ve never researched a major purchase.  I liked the idea of a single gear (only later did a I realize that you might need to change out the gears for different courses…) and I liked the idea of the 29er, but I wasn’t sold on it.  The 26″ riders liked the cornering and climbing of their bikes, the 29″ riders loved the way their bikes flew on the flats and rolled over everything at speed.  A 69er seemed to make sense so I bought one – without riding it.

2008 was the year that the MTB virus really took hold.  I started riding the singlespeed quite a bit, getting out to the Kettles or Crystal Ridge occasionally to grind out a few miles.

Fast forward to 2011:

2011 - Year of the fat boy!

My 2011 season started with the Burnham Racing Spring Super Criterium on March 26th, and yes, it was snowing when we started.  My 3rd road race ever, I managed to finish a respectable 13th in the Masters 4/5s and avoid getting crashed out coming into the sprint.  Did a few more road races and 5 WORS races.  Managed to get (3) 3rds, (1) 1st and (1) DNF, so 2012 will mean a move up to Singlespeed Comp/Open to get my butt handed to me.  Even though I raced less than I wanted to, I rode more than I thought I would (and I’m still riding of course).

2012 should be a great year for me.  I have a great Team that keeps getting better, and I’ll have more focus and more experience.  I plan to do more WORS racing, more ToAD and even a little CX.

As always, time will tell.