2018 Windy 500 wrap-up


509 miles this year makes it 4,083 total Windy 500 miles ridden for me so far. That’s the equivalent of a round-trip ride from Toronto, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and back. For the rest of you Pop Tarts, your total Windy mileage ranges somewhere between 4,083 (McArdle) & 509 (everyone else). What matters most though is not the mileage, it’s the adventure.

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This year, as with every year, the ride rolled from my house. Day 1 is a mix of veterans and newbies, well-wishers and tag-alongs who roll to the first stop with us and then head home.  It usually takes a few hours after we roll out to find our rhythm. Some are better than others at riding 2 up in big groups. Those who’ve raced are comfortable on someone’s wheel at 30 mph, riding shoulder to shoulder. That type of confidence makes for very smooth, safe, confident riding. Others, not so much. This group is a mixed bag of experience and ability, so for some, it’s a bit of a crash course in technique (without the actual crash part). Eventually, people figure it out, and we do our best to ride as one unit for the next 3 1/2 days.

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Day 1, stop 1, ALMA’S Cafe in Allenton. They’ve treated us way too well over the years, and after 35-40 miles of riding on fumes, their breakfast sandwiches are better than peanut butter dipped in peanut butter.

Our favorite stop is always Kwik Trip, because… it’s Kwik Trip:

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I would not recommend human consumption of ice purchased at Kwik Trip. Just sayin’.

Eventually, the hills find us:

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We ride all day, and nights are dinners and renewing friendships.

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Mornings are van loading and slowly rolling out of whatever parking lot we have taken over.

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It’s riding, chatting, working, recovering and most of all, making memories that will last a lifetime:

Geez Janisch, lighten up and enjoy yourself!

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

As always, if you weren’t there, you’ll never know.

The Windy 500 is just a bike ride, but it changes you, makes you better. The hardest day for me is always Day 5. The day when I wake up and shower and put on people clothes and drive to work and sit down at my desk. And I don’t pedal. Not once. And I don’t climb. And I don’t descend, screaming into a valley, tucked into my handlebars at 54, 55, 56 mph, with 5 guys right next to me, all doing the same, all smiling, ear to ear. I just sit.

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It has taken me quite a while to sit down and compose my thoughts about this year’s ride. The Windy 500 has become an extremely important part of my life, and I generally start planning the next ride when we roll into my driveway on Day 4. During the ride, we discuss ways to improve the experience, and I arrive home with scraps of hotel paper and bar napkins with random thoughts and ideas scribbled down on them. This year, I rolled into my driveway alone. And it was over. I showered up and sat down to a home-cooked meal with my wife and kids.  The rest of the group rolled on to Wauwatosa to celebrate Bill Finn’s birthday. I had developed some kind of sinus cold on Day 2 and once I cleaned up I was done for the day. And I didn’t think about next year’s ride until a few days later.

For 4 days on the ride, I control what I do. I control my time, my efforts, my thoughts. Well, maybe not my thoughts. But I really don’t think about manipulating Excel spreadsheets much. Or my mortgage. Or yard work. I just think about riding. And talking to my close friends. Mostly about nothing. Locker room talk and juvenile jokes. But sometimes it’s about really important stuff. Really deep stuff. The kind of stuff you can talk about when there’s nothing to do all day but move your legs in hundreds of thousands of circles.

That’s my Windy 500. I work really hard at times, not so hard at other times. I wake up, grab some coffee and wait for the hotel’s breakfast to fire up. Then I get ready and I ride. All day. For 4 days. It’s as pure as it gets.

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But this was Year 8, and I’ve done this before. 7 times before. And it was an adventure. A long time ago. In fact, I heard some of the guys who weren’t there in those early years telling the stories, and they even got some of it right.

Every year, somewhere along the route, people will ask:

“What are you riding for?”

I was recently reminded of this by my friend Dr. Long, and it stuck in my head like glue. The Windy 500 has become an event without a purpose. Without a True North. Why indeed? 

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Do you know what homogenized milk is, Billy? It’s bland Billy. Bland. And the Windy is pretty well homogenized. We eat in fancy restaurants and we have name tags, Billy. Name tags!

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Meh. I think it’s time to shake it up again.

Don’t get me wrong – this ride is still SUPER awesome. The route, the riders, the endless miles in the saddle. But it’s become so big, such an event, that it’s not what it was originally intended to be. For me.

For many of the other guys that did the ride this year, and for those who have done it in past years, maybe it’s exactly what they want it to be. But the ride is at an intersection, and for Year 9, 2019, I need more. Or maybe less.

Here’s the complete list of rules for the original Windy 500, back from 2011:

  1. You must ride a bike 500+ miles in 4 days
  2. You must ride in at least 2 states

Unfortunately, the rules have been amended over the years to include:

  1. Hotels must have pools. And hot tubs.
  2.  Support vehicle must be stocked with refreshments, spare wheels, spare bikes, (maybe spare riders next year?)
  3. Rest stops can take as long as the anyone wants them to.
  4. Anyone can make up rules as we go…

I realize that this is not just my ride anymore. Heck, I’m barely even responsible for it now. And don’t get me wrong, I like the pools. I look forward to cooling down after the ride. But the sense of adventure that launched this journey is long gone. So 2019’s route will have 2 fully supported options:

Group 1: 

Faster guys, stronger climbers, fewer stops. NOT race pace, but it will be challenging.

Group 2:

Casual pace. Riders will re-group at the tops of climbs. More frequent rest stops. This group will most likely leave 1/2 hour prior to Group 1. Both Groups will meet at the lunch stop and at the hotel. No need for the faster guys to feel held back and no need for the more casual guys to turn themselves inside out. And having 2 smaller groups will do wonders for safety.

That’s all. We’ll probably go West again. The route is really beautiful and certainly challenging. And everyone is welcome back.

Oh, and to answer the question “What are you riding for?”  I defer to McArdle’s answer:

“AWESOMENESS.”

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Windy 500 2017 wrap-up


Yeah, that just happened. The Windy 500 just became the most spectacular thing ever. And you weren’t there.

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It was Sofa King awesome, that it may never eclipse itself. Like Leo Sayer singing with Barry Gibb AND Justin Timberlake. Or donut wrapped hot dogs. It was that good. We may as well all put on some Nikes, cover ourselves in purple sheets and drink some Kool-Aid now…

I usually get right to the point, but I honestly don’t even know where to start this year. This was by far, the best and the most challenging time I have ever spent on a bike. We have hundreds of pictures, and it’s hard not to include all of them…

For 7 years we’ve ridden. Iron Mountain, Michigan and 545 miles the first year. 45 extra miles because we were lost. A lot. 105 degrees. Rain. 4 riders. 162 miles on Day 1 at almost 20mph average speed. No sag. Epic. Me, McArdle, Lampe and Gary Johnson. A proper beat-down, the likes of which may never be duplicated. Upon arrival, just after dark, the hotel staff hands us a small box that we UPSed there. A new kit and disposable toothbrushes for everyone. Yay! McArdle and Lampe are the only 2 to have done this every year, and McArdle is the only one who’s matched me mile for mile for the past 3,574 miles. Last year our cumulative mileage surpassed “The Ultralineamentum” – the longest possible route across the US – my initial dream/goal in this stupid plan.

Year 2: 7 guys, we decided to go West. Winona. Hills, hills and more hills. 500-something miles and 17,000+ feet of climbing. Jeremy drove his own truck for sag. Holy crap, we could actually pack a bag this time. Jeremy (aka: TRJ , aka: The Real Jeremy – ask Balden) met up with us every 25 miles or so. He thought we were nuts.

Year 3: This was the Van Halen III year – great compared to sitting at a desk, but shitty compared to the original ride. 9 riders, southern route. “Southern” was Illinois to Indiana and back. Flat, urban, and full of debris. Ridiculous number of flats, a zero score for scenery and fairly forgettable.  Still, we spent 4 days riding 500+ miles, so it wasn’t all bad. Jeremy on sag again, this time rolling right behind us the whole route. Still thinking we were nuts, but now “bike-curious”.

4: Escanaba, MI. Fantastic Mexican food, awesome route and full blown sag support. Jeremy jumps on a bike this year and becomes a legit rider. DuWayne (TRJ Sr.) takes the helm as all-time sag driver. 18mph average on a fairly flat route for 496 miles. Veterans bank their rollover miles from previous years while rookies do laps in every gas station to ensure the 500+ mark. Escanaba is a glorified shithole, but the route is a success. This thing is taking on a life of its own…

5: Back to da U.P. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 21 riders now up to Escanaba. Beer, Mexican, etc. It has rained every year to this point, we expect it to continue doing so long  after we are all dead.

6: Escanaba again. 3rd year in a row. Bike practically rides itself along the route by now. It’s an awesome route for a big group, but becoming a bit vanilla. Biblical rain (again). Hail. Sun. Fun. Laughs. 27 guys. bc and McArdle have become co-Directeur Sportifs, and apparently from April through July they only work part-time at their real jobs. The “Windy” has reached legendary status. The world is divided into two halves; those who’ve done the Windy, and those who haven’t.

Fall, 2016: Windy 500 2017 Planning session: Lampe’s firepit. Talking about Escanaba v4.0. Longing for the excitement of the early years. Lampe calls bullshit on a 4th year to MI. We all agree. You know what would be awesome? Some soul-crushing climbs and 55mph descents. Really riding. Not another charity ride. It was undeniable. It could not be undone.

Windy 500, 2017, year 7 – Winona, Minnesota and back. 22, 23, 24, 22? riders. Picked up another rider on Saturday on his way home from 7 days of RAGBRAI, lost one the same day to Volmonia, a new communicable disease that is apparently contracted from staying in shithole hotels.  18,500+ feet of climbing this year. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I contacted Pabst before the ride, and they hooked us up with some sweet swag and enough PBR to keep Jeremy hydrated for 4 days…

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IMG_3927 IMG_10498 O’something a.m. Go time.  The mayor sends us off as usual. Reaches VO2 max on the first climb out of the subdivision and taps out. Maybe SPD Crocs for 2018?IMG_1713.JPG35 miles from my driveway to Alma’s again for the most spectacular breakfast on Earth. Riders may believe that this kind of stuff just happens, but bc and McArdle have toiled for weeks going over the finer points of logistics, including trial runs to Alma’s. Rookies are clueless.IMG_1706

From there we rolled, fatter and happier, to Reedsburg. 136 miles. 5,000 feet of climbing. World’s worst hotel, The Voyageur. Don’t Google it, you’ll get some kind of disease just from looking at it. I’m not kidding. Most riders have checked in post-ride with some form of malady. All part of the adventure. I guess.

You know it’s a classy hotel when you see wheelchairs and organs for sale in the lobby.IMG_1743So, who wants to ride to Winona, MN? Let’s roll.

123 miles, another 5,000 feet of climbing. Seemed a lot harder than yesterday. Dozens of world-famous Bloedow’s Donuts were waiting for us upon arrival, laughs and even a little rest that night. By the way, the most spectacular weather ever. Mid-80s, sun and (I swear this is true) a tailwind for 500 miles. It has rained at least one day of the ride for the past 6 years straight. Rookies Dino, Janisch, Walls and Lex think this is the best thing since sliced bread. They have no idea that every year prior we’ve had to assume the tornado position at some point during the ride. Pop Tarts.

IMG_4882Rolling into Winona, we were all just happy to be clear of the Mississippi, avoiding eye contact with Leach, fearing that he might kill again.

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Sunday morning church service at 6:30am, courtesy of Dr. Long. This is a secret portion of the Windy that I really look forward to every year. Steve is an ordained Methodist minister and Professor of Theology. He offers it up to anyone who wants to participate. About 8 of us shared a private service, and it left me energized and focused on the task at hand. It also reminded me of how awesome this slice in time with this caliber of men was.

Breakfast and some foreshadowing – the hills await. 6 monster climbs. Inclines as high as 17%. We all rolled out. A bit nervous, a bit excited. Road was flat, but we could see what was coming.

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No way to avoid it. The first “hill” punched us in the throat. And by throat I mean balls. It officially qualifies as a Category 3 climb. Al Krueger now has the 5th fastest ascent (all-time) on Strava with an average speed of 9.1mph. Soul crushingly steep and long. We also climbed 2 Category 4s that same day. While I was praying for a swift death, I was reminded that it would be considered a relatively flat day in the Tour de France. Really glad I took the last year off of cycling… not.

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By the end of the day, I think everyone was smoked. We rolled into Spring Green well-done and STARVING. It was the hardest day EVER on my bike, I would have cheerfully eaten any of the various roadkill we passed in the last 50 miles. 7pm. 8pm. 9pm.  FINALLY the pizza dude showed up. At that point – no one cared. We’d have eaten a dog turd or 10. Crap-ass pizza x 15. Thanks? I know that I ate (probably) an entire pizza in about 5 minutes. I hear that there were wings too, but they were set in front of Janisch and no one ever saw them again…

  I’m excited and exhausted simultaneously. bc takes the lead on getting the fire going, and we’re in the happiest place on Earth. Again.

For the record, Ronnie James Dio once stayed at this hotel. He wants you to pull his finger.

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Day 4: Rested, humbled, ready. Just 112 easy miles, only 3,000 feet uphill to go. No real climbs, just all rollers. I could go on and on, but honestly – you had to be there.

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M.I.A. – Dave Volmmmmonia

Did we have fun? We’ll never tell, but I’m guessing by the smiles that you already know the answer…

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I think Jeremy McKinney’s second cousin Cat Stevens sang it best:

And the cat’s in the river in the afternoon
Jumped off the bridge just past that pontoon
When’s it coming back, Leach?
I don’t know when
But we’ll be in Reedsburg then, yeah
You know we’ll catch pneumonia then
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
2018 – 8th annual – Back to Winona!

Pin the number on the donkey


SCHL_0845_13My 2013 ToAD – here it is:

Day 1: (Day 2 of ToAD actually, but for all of us who don’t get paid to play – it’s Day 1)

East Troy.  Nerves on edge, been training and looking forward to this since the end of ToAD last year (like hundreds of other riders).  Storm blows in and dampens the course and bodies, but not spirits.  We’re still all jacked to race… too jacked.  Corners are sketchy and riders pile up like bodies in a war zone.  A friend from velocause flats his rear wheel and neutral support gives him a rock hard slick replacement to ride for the last laps in the rain.  That’s not a good combination in any playbook, and he eats it hard right in front of me and 2 teammates in turn 1 with 4 laps to go.  My teammates and I all slide into someone’s front yard, but somehow manage to stay upright.  By the time we veer back on course, the main pack has mostly passed us and any attempt to get to the front is a suicide mission.  I decide to play it safe and finish mid-pack ~ 38th of 74.

Day 2:

Grafton.  A fun course, nerves are settled down quite a bit.  Was able to follow Dave Eckel’s wheel around at the end of the course and sprint for 10th (of 116).  I’m still learning how to ride aggressively at the end of races, having been a support guy at last year’s ToAD, but I was happy with tenth.  I knew I wasn’t close enough to the front on the last lap, so I was hoping to improve  the next day.

Day 3:

Waukesha.  I ate it hard with 3 to go on this course last year.  Over-shot turn 1 and flipped into the barriers.  I was able to get back on my bike and work my way to the front with 1 to go, but I burned every match I had to do so and fell back quickly.  No crashes for me this year, but apparently everyone I rode behind didn’t get the memo.  Every time I tried working my way to the front, I’d end up behind a wreck and get relegated to the back again.  One guy piled his bike into the barriers, went to neutral support and got another bike, then piled THAT one into the same corner.  I was lucky enough to be right behind him both times.  I spent the entire race avoiding crashes, then trying to sprint back to the front of the pack.  With 3 laps to go, Dave Eckel and I found ourselves out in front, me on his wheel.  He hit some soft tar in the gutter and thought he flatted, so I’m all alone off the front with 3 to go.  With all the yo-yoing I had been doing combined with the extremely humid heat that day, I knew I didn’t have enough in the tank to gut it out alone for 3 laps.  I sat up and waited for a wheel.  The group passed me like a freight train and I was pushed to the back.  Tried my best to make it back to the front but once again I had burned all my Waukesha matches before the final sprint.  Finished a disappointing 41st (of 110).  After the race, my body temp was so high I could not cool down, or catch my breath.  An hour and a half later I jumped into my neighbors pool and sat with ice on my neck for 15 minutes before I could slow my breathing.  I love riding in the heat, but I’ve never experienced anything like that.  Waukesha was by far the toughest race of the series for me.

Day 4:

Sheboygan.  This course was made for guys like me.  Fast and flat with just 4 corners.  I moved to the front right away and just stayed on the gas with the race leaders the entire race.  With no traffic in my way, I was able to roll through just about every corner at will.  The effort felt like 50% of the previous day.  I was having a great race, until 2 to go.  Rather than take the riskier, but faster, inside line, I found myself taking corners on the outside and giving up 2-3 spots on each corner.  By the time I worked my way back inside I was probably 30 spots from the leader.  Clawed my way back a bit in the sprint to finish 17th of 69.  It was just lack of experience, and I told myself not to make the same mistake at Fon du Lac (a carbon copy course) four days later.  Overall, I was really happy though.  It was fun to race at the front, and I knew what I had done wrong at the end.  I was making some progress.

Day 5:

Schlitz Park.  The great big lie detector test.  I’ve raced it twice before, both times pulling myself from the race after about 20 minutes.  There’s no faking it at Schlitz.  If you can’t hang, you either blow up and slither away to lick your wounds somewhere, or the race officials step in front of you and pull the plug for you.  This year, since I planned to race every day, my goal was just to finish it.  I’ll never be confused with a little fella who skips meals, so this wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  Even with a long warm-up, it takes me about 15-20 minutes to settle in at races and not feel like my heart’s going to explode.  I fought hard for the first 15 minutes and managed to find a rythym.  With 1 lap to go I rounded turn 1 and started the final climb.   Everyone got out of the saddle and hammered.  I knew that if I tried that, I’d make it to the top with everyone else, then I’d fall over dead.  So, I stayed in the saddle and ground my way up.  Crossed the line 21st of 60.  Since my only goal was finishing, I was satisfied with that.  Cross it off the list and move on.

Day 6:

Fon du Lac Road Race.  When I started racing road bikes a couple of years ago, I did so with not a lot of group riding experience.  Well, not 25mph-corners-6-wide group riding.  I was a mountain bike guy, used to riding alone.  My very first Crit was a 9 corner, .8 mile Superweek race.  I started dead last on purpose, so I could see things unfold in front of me.  I assumed that this would be the best way to do it, and like in a mountain bike race I could just pass people one at a time.  I think I might have lasted about 8 minutes before I was so far off the back I had to take a bus back to the start line.  After that I assumed that road racing would be my forte.  But live and learn, and now I prefer crits to road races.  I stayed upfront for the whole race and sprinted for 12th of 81.  Had I been more patient, I would have done better.  I started my sprint too early as we climbed the final hill.   I don’t think there’s enough Meth in the world to get me to sprint all out for a quarter-mile.

Day 7:

Road America Road Race.  Schlitz Park and then back to back road races.  Hope you’ve been eating your Wheaties.  This was a really fun course to ride.  Again stayed at the front whenever I could, though I did find myself on the outside wheel in the wind a lot.  On the final lap I heard Eck yell “Patience!” which is great advice if you follow it.  Instead I decided to try a Groundhog Day version of the previous day’s race.  Giant finishing hill, I get out of the saddle and mash the pedals like I’m driving a rented Pinto.  As I crest the top I look into the (very distant) horizon and see what looks like a finish banner somewhere in the next county.  Several months later I cross the line 23rd of 109.

Day 8:

Fon du Lac.  This is the one I was waiting for.  A big, flat rectangle.  Wide streets.  I’m ready.  My plan is to just sit on the race leaders’ wheels at the front, maybe take an early pull or 2 and finally line myself up for a real sprint.  Plan works just as scripted, though I still give up a few spots on the final lap.  Coming around turn 4 I’m in good position and I stand up and hammer.  I can see the banner coming up fast as I’m passing guys… this is working!  Probably a good time to mention that my Mom and Stepdad came to see this race and positioned themselves right at the line to watch the final sprint.  50 yards from the line, a guy comes across 3 lines and clips a wheel sending a rider to the pavement directly in front of me. Zero options at that point – I hit him full force and flip onto the pavement.  As soon as I do I curl up and wait to get hit by the rush of riders directly behind me.  1, 2, 3 hits, then I’m up and running my bike across the line.  Turns out someone had ridden over my back and into my head with their chainring.  Blood is cleaned, stitches are waived off and I wash down my frustration with 2 pints of Guinness.  When results are posted There are 2 “unknown number” slots, so I go to the podium and watch the video of me running my bike across in what appears to be slot #1, 29th.  Once results are finalized I realized that I’ve been bumped to slot #2, which is 51st.  Either way, it’s not part of the plan, and it’s just salt in the many wounds.

Day 9:

Downer Avenue.  The biggest and baddest of all the ToAD races.  This is the giant party that everyone comes out to see, and therefor every rider wants to do well at.  Really an uneventful race for me.  I was really stiff and sore, so I did a nice, long easy warm-up.  Worked my plan, but didn’t get to the front with 1-2 to go, sprinted for 15th of 94.  Starting to become a bit predictable when things go well for me.  I have 95% of the race handled, and I’m getting good at it, but I can’t seem to finish it off.  Tired of using the “lack of experience” excuse in my own mind. I know what I need to do now, and I have 1 race left to prove it.

Day 10:

Wauwatosa.  I ride in Tosa practically every week.  Half of my friends live there.  This is it!  The night before, I send an email to the entire M 3/4 squad: here’s the plan, we stay at the front the whole day, push the pace but don’t take unnecessary chances.  With 5 to go we start making our way to the front.  With 2 to go we ARE the front.  Last lap, anyone with anything goes and they go as hard as they can… Break!  I’m kind of impressed with my sudden and complete understanding of the entire game.  It took 10 days, but I have absolutely nailed this one!  Race Day… there’s a hill in this course?  Did they just put that there?  It’s always been there?  Are you sure?  2 free laps and I line up mid-pack.  That was not part of the plan.  Whistle blows and we start into a nice hard tempo ride, right?  No?  We go balls out from the start?   Did anyone read my awesome email last night?  Apparently I was not the only person who wanted to win this thing.  I was not aware of that.  The guys in the front are just laying it down, lap after lap.  The guys in the middle are gasping like goldfish that just jumped out of their fish bowls and have no idea what the Hell to do next.  Hard on the brakes into every corner, hard on the gas out of every corner.  Hey, this reminds me of that first Superweek Crit I did!  Just when I start making up a little ground, they announce a prime.  The field surges.  Then another.  And another.  And another.  4 back-to-back primes and in my mind I’m just trying to figure out how to recall my email message.  With about 5 to go I pop.  Nowhere to go but backward.  I find a friendly velocause rider and we pull each other around a little and limp across the line.  I’m 41st of 92 and my 2013 ToAD is officially over.

ToAD Tosa

Summary:

  • Despite not being able to use all the knowledge I was picking up as I went along, I definitely learned a lot.  I have more confidence than I did 2 weeks ago.  I’m OK with riding at the front now.  2 weeks ago I didn’t feel worthy, and I’m still struggling with the mental part of racing as much as the physical.  I ended the series in 10th overall in the Masters 3/4 35+ category.  Next year I’ll be racing in the 45+ category, and it’s a whole different ball game.
  • I had fun.  Like everyone else, I put a lot of effort into training and make some sacrifices.  If I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do, there’s no way I would put that much of myself into it.  At the same time, I’ve enjoyed getting better over the past couple of years.  I used to be an excuse maker, for every aspect of my life.  Cycling has helped me prove to myself that if you put the work in, you get results.  There are no excuses that can take the place of that work, and quite honestly no one cares about your lame-ass excuses.  Score your touchdown, set the ball down and go back to the bench.
  • I have some really great friends.  Not only the guys I ride with, but the people who lined the courses.  There was always someone yelling for me – at every course.  It makes you want to do better, for them, and it’s a great feeling knowing you have people around you hoping that you succeed.

I’ll be back next year, I’m already planning it out in my head.  But first, there are kids to play with, burgers to grill and beers to drink.

The end of an era


7,437 miles and counting…

In the past 2 calendar years, the longest I’ve been off the bike was 9 days: November 30 to December 8, 2010.  Before that, I wasn’t keeping track.

I’ve enjoyed every mile – every adventure, every race, every crash, every one of the 316 rides so far.  But it’s time for a little time off the bike.  I’ll run, lift, do something else.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be riding on a regular basis, just much less… for now.

Ah, who am I kidding?  I’m riding tomorrow.

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.

WORS #6 “Alterra Coffee Bean Classic” pre-ride report


82 degrees at 6am this morning – great morning to head over to Franklin and check out the Crystal Ridge trails.

Once again this year the Alterra team will host the Crystal Ridge WORS race and their crew along with the Metro Mountain Bikers have made the once “fun to ride but crappy to race” course into a legit WORS course.  It’s still one of the most technical races in the series, but over the past 2 years they’ve opened a lot more passing lanes and made the course a lot more “race ready” – especially for those of us with only one gear.  The biggest change this year is the elimination of the snaky switchback climb.  It has been replaced with a “straight up the backside” climb that is longer than you think.  The Team & MMB crew will be doing some more trail grooming tomorrow too if anyone’s available to help out.

Todd Somers from the Alterra team put together this summary of the 2011 course layout:

“No prolog lap. Up the hill and around the cap. There is a drag strip on top that will suck but should help to separate the milk from the cream. Then in the woods over to Alpha then back to CR up the west side of the hill and around to O’Malley’s on the south end (open spots again) out and back to the hill. Comp will go up the hill a bit but not to the top. Pave plunge is gone, then let it rip down the hill in the small intestine and back up the starting hill.”

Unfortunately, every year I forget how much fun this course is, and how close to home it is too.  I spent the second lap this morning picking bugs out of my teeth because I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  There are still about 7 million trees that seem to jump out at you around every corner, and the rain and (finally) sun have kicked the brush growth into turbo mode.  It’s hard to see what’s around every corner, and trust me there are more corners than you can count.  This morning I saw enough wildlife to load an ark, in fact I stopped and had a staring contest with a doe who was only about 10 feet away from me.

Do yourself a favor and get over to Crystal Ridge and ride it – or better yet, race it.  You are guaranteed to have a blast!

I can crush you, but I won’t… yet.


I was born a loser – small, weak, not into sports… in fact I was the last kid on the block to learn to ride a bike.  My parents moved us to a different state when I was 7 and then divorced when I was 10.  Since I didn’t play sports and was relatively shy, moving to new towns didn’t do much to boost my self-confidence.

I tried to be competitive, even raced BMX when I was 10 and 11.  I won a few trophies when the class was so small that everyone got one, or the time I had to beat a 10-year-old girl to get into the main moto.  I just never knew how to win; I never had the drive to be better.  Don’t get me wrong, I WANTED to be better.  I idolized my little brother who was consumed with the desire to win.  He lettered in 3 sports in high school – was all-conference on offense and defense in football and was romanced by 2 universities to play football.  But I didn’t feel that same drive, I was OK with just participating and then making up excuses for why I wasn’t the best.  I blamed everything and everyone and when things got too tough, I quit.

As a 20-year-old, I raced a few mountain bike races.  It was a relatively new sport [people were wearing acid-washed jeans and Billy Ocean had one of the top-selling records (yes I said records)].  My goal in these races was to “not finish last”.  That meant that my goal was second to last, a goal I always managed to hit.  That’s like setting a goal of breathing at least once every hour.  I had fun, but my “…bike was never good enough…” for me to do better or this reason or that reason.

I carried that same attitude into every aspect of my adult life.  It was OK for people to walk all over me and it was OK if I wasn’t the best, as long as I tried (a little).  But at some point, that changed.  I started to find focus – in my work, in my life and in things that I enjoyed doing.  I found a competitive drive deep inside me that brought out a will to win.

At one point, I got away from cycling and worked at a health club for a couple of years.  My high school graduation weight of 148 eventually went to 205 as I found something tangible and rewarding in working out.  I eventually returned to riding, and my weight settled in at 180, but I was a different person.  I put together a mountain bike that was too small from spare, used and borrowed parts, and I started riding like I never had before.  I felt an inner drive every time I clipped in to go harder.  I found a serious job that would support my family and I became very good at it.  I started a company and grew it into a successful business.  But over time I had stopped riding again.  I had lost that harmony that I was just starting to tap into in my 20’s.  So, on a beautiful fall day 5 years ago, I dusted off my old mountain bike and took a ride.  I was rusty and slow, but I felt the passion come through stronger than ever.  From that point forward, I made time for myself every day and I let that inner drive fuel me instead of defeating me.  3 years ago, I signed up for a few WORS races.  I didn’t do very well, but each time I raced I learned and I worked on getting better.  I had no excuses, and that felt great.  I owned the losses 100% and that felt even better.

Fast forward to today – I love to toe the line at races.  My heart is beating like a lawnmower and I can’t sit still until the race gets underway.  I am racing to win and I’m disappointed if I don’t.  I expect to win now, yet I’ve never stepped onto the top step of any podium.  I have a lot of 2nd and 3rd place medals, which now represent “1st & 2nd loser” to me.  I still wrestle with the demons of mediocrity though, like Gaylord Focker with his wall of 8th place trophies.  I still want that recognition of a job done “well-enough”, but I know I won’t stop until I step on top of the podium.  I might be 80 when I do it, but I know deep down inside that it’s mine for the taking now.