Windham preview

An opportunity to see how your fitness stacks up is what racing is all about. It could be by comparing to training, to last year, or to others. Last year I wanted to try one of the biggest event I could find. To test myself in a large talent pool and see how I stack up and likely eat some humble pie.  I decided that the only UCI world had to be the biggest.Traveling to cities like Pietermaritzburg KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), Mont-Sainte-Anne Quebec (Canada), and Val d’Isère (France)  was out of the question. Windham New York is the only US location and is a drivable 12 hours from home.  I had my event.

Windham is this weekend on July 1st. With a strong finish at the Michigan State Games I feel as ready as I can be. Details to follow. Wish me luck.

Earl

http://youtu.be/SSdfdfzSOSM

Founders Alger Racing dominates the podium

The Michigan State Games race was held June 23rd 2012 at the Cannonsburg Ski Area and the team showed up in full force. Podiums included Jeremy Karel (2nd), Gabe Niehof (2nd), Tim Curtis (3rd), Earl Hillaker (1st even though he was initially placed 2nd in photo), Ralf Sharnowski (3rd) and Marnie Tencate (1st). Great work Team!

A trip to Founders Fest was in order to round out the day.

Lumberjack 100, Monkey Time!

Lumberjack 100

Preface

“What gear are you running?” –a question I hate from other single speeders, because no matter what you have to be confident you are ready after months of preparation for the 100 miles of scenic, and hilly, single track in the Manistee National Forest that make up the Lumberjack 100.

“32-17,” I said.

“Me too!” he said.  If I were 6’4” and built like him, I would have felt good about this ratio similarity, but this made me not feel so good.  I could already feel how difficult the race was going to be with the heat, a day promising to be 90 degrees, and now I had nervousness attacking, along with multiple insects.

 

Good luck monkey tail stash worn by Matt Remelts

 

Lap 1: Pressure Party

Ralph, Shawn and I decided we would try and ride together, and so we did.  Josh and Wade were hoping to go faster, so they started farther ahead. As we rolled out I realized the pressure in my front tire was extremely low. I told myself, “Just make it to the aid station.” In order to do this I had to wobble up the killer hills in the first third of the course, and started doing what I hate most, second guessing my gear ratio.

Finally I came to the sign for the “Monkey Aid Station.” What a brilliant place! Everyone was dressed in hula-wear, and I quickly took some Heed and jerky (my favorite) while my volunteering teammate, Jeremy, pumped my front tire up a bit.  Cathy, who was appropriately dressed in a coconut bra and grass skirt, told me she had to get a picture b

ecause I looked great, that was when I looked at others and realized we were all pretty dirty, covered entirely with dust from the course.

Soon I was off, and I caught back up with Ralph and Shawn as they had not stopped at the aid station.  We began riding what Shawn dubbed “Party Pace,” three of us team members together (Josh and Wade, who were also racing were partying far ahead). Ralph made sure to say, “Passing on your left buddy,” every once in while because he found out I don’t like this as a girl.  I told Shawn I should have Beyonce blaring so others would know to say, “Sister” instead.  In turn he began singing “All the Single Speeders,” to the tune of “All the Single Ladies.”  Before we knew it we were done with Lap 1.

 

http://www.jhkunnenphoto.com/p237868256/e396f884d#h3d021a59

All three teammates at party pace!

 

Lap 2: Cramping Questions

As I was headed up those blessed hills of the second lap, they came–CRAMPS! It was extremely early for me to cramp but the exceptionally hot weather made it very likely.  I downed water and continued to take electrolyte supplements.  I had no one to share this with because I had left behind the partiers in order to avoid such cramping that happens if I stand too long.  I was waiting for Ralph to catch up and say, “On your left, buddy.” But this never happened because, yet again, people at the monkey aid station, some in grass skirts appeared and helped me.  I was able to refill my bottles and hear another teammate, Marnie, cheer me on.

From there I headed up the next set of hills, working through the pain and playing tag with a couple on a tandem. I would pass them on the uphills and then on longer downhills they would catch me. Second lap done, a little under 6 liters of fluid in, and a total time of a little over six hours.

 

Lap 3: Raining Single Speeds

Since I was tired and hot, all I could really think about was how joyful I would feel when I saw the aid station again. I went up those first hills yet again with significant pain, in not only my legs, but my arms that I recruited for any extra help. I wasn’t alone, however, as one woman passed me going up a hill, but then immediately cramped too much that she had to stop.

I made it to the aid station again, now Scott and Marnie both helped me where I filled up on Heed, Coca-Cola and a banana that Marnie practically forced on me (in a loving way). As I rode off she said exactly what I needed to hear, “Only 15 more miles!” That sounded easy, but the rest of the course in these dry conditions was becoming more and more sandy. And the dirt continued to cake onto everything.

Then it came: the RAIN!  At first it only sprinkled, but then a bit more and I was feeling great.  After the worst hill in the several at the end, I heard the guy who I had been riding with for a while say, “Three Single Speeders in a row!” Must be the guy behind me and then the one behind him was a single speed.  This made me pick up my pace so as not to look like a wussy single speeder, but an awesome one.  I saw the cars through the trees signaling the end of the course.  I picked up the pace and finished strong.  I looked like most people on the course, covered in mud and beautifully black.

 

Afterward

I found out I got 2nd in the Women’s Single Speed division and the entire Founders team finished the race, and finished strong, whether it was “party-pace” or something you would classify as harder. http://www.jhkunnenphoto.com/p237868256/h177aed47#h302ff8d

 

Team Results

Wade Bagnall: 8:25:00

Josh Hogeterp: 9:27:59

Danielle Shaver: 9:47:09

Ralph Scharnowski:10:18:27

Shawn Crowley: 10:33:47

 

 

Hanson Hills XC Report

Sunday June 3rd was the  MMBA’s Championship Point Series  at Hanson Hills in beautiful Grayling Michigan at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area.  The weather promiesed 30% chance of rain on the day of the race and Friday’s steady drizzle seemed to promise the chance of rain.  However, while cool and cloudy in the morning, the weather cleared up, the sky turned blue and the temperatures climbed from the low 50s into the mid-60s during the race.  The trail was in great condition with the exception of one puddle! The event was another record breaker for the Championship Point Series with Brent Walk reporting nearly 300 racers!

Hanson is a flowing scenic trail with very little techinical sections but steady climbs will test all riders.  What passes for technical on the course are the slightly bumpy fast downhill sections and any weaving flat single-track.  Technical sections like one would find at Fort Custer or even Yankee Springs are not present at this course.

The race starts out on a flowing two track for about 1-1/2 miles then turns up to the hills and begins a long steady climb.  What follows for the remainder of the 10-1/2 mile lap are steady climbs of varying length often followed by a flat flowing section and then a fast sometimes bumpy downhill,  then repeat.

The elites had a large field with over a dozen racers. Team-mate Earl Hillaker sped off at the 10am start time to compete in this crowd.  Several waves later nine of us in expert men 50+ began our race.

The field quickly sped away from me and I had on racer right in front of me and another right behind me as we hit the first long climb.  The racer in front pulled way here and I spent the next several miles trying to stay in front of my competitor and put distance between us.  Every fast downhill and weaving singletrack I’d open up 50-60 yards on him, but the next hill climb he’d be right back on my wheel.  Then, between mile four and five the two of us were caught by the first elite women racers.  The lead woman soon passed both my competitor and me with two other women behind him.  She had passed me on a climb, which I expected.  However, to my detriment, right after this climb we had a fast bumpy downhill and a steady section of weaving singletrack.  She was skittish on the downhill and I had to ride my brakes the entire descent.  Once reaching the weaving flat section I really wanted to go about 2-3 MPH faster but she was apparently pacing herself. Consequently, she basically blocked my ability to open up any space on my competitor and he was on my wheel the whole time.  The very next climby he passed me and despite riding as hard as I could I lost sight of him by about mile six.  Shortly after this I passed a racer from a younger category who was wearing a green shirt.

I rode hard for the remainder of the event with my heart rate regularly in the 156-165 range.  I still had some goals to motivate me.   First, I wanted to maybe catch  my competitor of he bonked or had a mechanical or some such. Second I wanted to NOT be lapped in my lap two by elite racers.  Third,  early in lap three that green-shirted racers caught up to me again and I wanted to at least finish in front of him so as to not be the very last expert racer.  But as before, every climb he’d close the gap and every downhill and weaving singletrack I’d open the gap again.    Finally, as we neared the end of the lap in the last two miles, I gutted out a couple small climbs and rocketted down the descents, cranking on any flat section I could to open a gap.    Within the last mile was a very long long climb.  My big concernn was that if I did not have ehough of a gap going into this very long climb he’d pass me here.  If I could reach the top without getting passed I had a lock on finishing in front of him because the last half mile of the course was fast downhill and aggressive benchcut sections. As I reached the top and glanced back he wasn’t there so I knew I could finish in front of him- a minor success.  I was able to avoid being lapped as well by elite racers.

I actually think the racer I was trying to catch, and failed, was the one I did finish in front of at Ft Custer.  Of course at Custer I  opened  up a gap due to the very technical nature of the course, which Hanson lacks.  But that’s series racing.

I finished and rode to my car and saw team-mate Earl enjoying a sponsor beverage.  He reported he took third place in his very competitive crowded Elite category, winning some prize money as well.

All in all a great biking day!

Dennis