Boyne Marathon

The forecast calls for pain…and the forecast was accurate.  After Many attempts to convince the full team to take on the Boyne Marathon we had four takers; Danielle, Tim, Earl and myself. I was offering up a free ride to any takers and Danielle had graciously offered her parents place, thanks again Danielle, for the night’s residence.  Next year we’ll represent in true Founders Alger fashion.

We had a strong showing from the Founders Alger team members that raced…

Earl Hillaker–2nd place finish Men’s Elite


Danielle Shaver–3rd place finish Expert Women


Tom Stolz–4th place finish Elite/Expert Singlespeed
Tim Curtis–8th place finish Expert 50+

The trip began with an early end of the week for Danielle and myself to get a pre-ride so we could find out what all the granny gear talk was about. It didn’t take long to realize that climbing and lots of it was in our future. “Am I really walking and will I really need to go 32×18 on the SS?” were my thoughts for a couple sections of the pre-ride lap. After arriving at Danielle’s and recapping our pre-ride, 32×18 it was.

Typical pre-race activities began Saturday while we we’re all getting ready to race. It seemed that many of us were racing Boyne for the first time or the first time in a very long time. I wasn’t sure if that is because the race is tough and people don’t race it every year or we all decided to wait for gas to be too expensive before making the three or more hour trip.

Weather was perfect at the 10am start time with the threat of a little too hot by race end. The race began with about a mile of flat and fast twisty and everyone took off as though the whole ride was going to be like this. Thank goodness for the pre-ride as I knew what was coming and held back from spinning my legs off for the first mile. As the SS group approached the first climb I was in about 9th or 10th place and came out of the first hill in 6th or 7th.  First hill down and several miles of dusty sandy single track and a few big leg burners to go. About 20 minutes into the race we all got a pleasant surprise, a mid-morning rain shower.  The rain was welcomed with open arms as it kept the temps down and more importantly the dust.  The trail got a little tacky and a little faster. As the race progressed and the rain stopped, it was time to settle in and try to pace this course out.  I say try because when I started to settle in the course takes you down a series of longer down hills with short pitchy climbs in between then takes a sharp right for the longest and most grueling climb.  The climb is long a series of steep pitches with less steep short breaks in between and a paved surprise to cap it off.  A little relief seemed to be near as we cross an open field, but that is when the paved road comes into play. It’s just a road, so it shouldn’t be too bad, but the road looked to be one of the steepest in Northern, MI…no rest here.  The road climb that lacked all technical ability seemed to be the one sections that punished people the most. It’s a road, so you can’t get off and walk, right? Good news is that once you reach the top of the road it’s all downhill from here.  One quick loop of single-track, back out on the road for a few seconds and then dive back into the woods for initially a technical and eventually a very fast descent to the bottom of the ski area. You pop out where everyone is hanging near the finish line and cheering on the racers.

As the race progressed, I picked my way through a few SS’ers and was passed by another which put me in 5th position. From that point on I rode with another SS’er for the rest of the race.  We swapped positions often as he was stronger on the climbs and slower in the technical areas.  After passing him on lap 2 in the technical downhill section I came upon another Founder Alger member, Tim.  Tim was committed to four laps and had set a pace to finish strong.  We gave each other a little encouragement and raced on. Back in the flat section I got my final bottle hand off from Nancy, Thank you Nancy, and pushed on for the final lap.  My SS competitor and I continued to swap positions for the final lap where he was leading going into the final technical downhill section.  I would say that I passed him, but he actually let me by where I picked up
13 seconds on him to finish the race.

Overall the Boyne Marathon was a lot of fun… a challenging and rewarding race in a good setting. Hope to see everyone next year!

D2D Tour

Here’s a highlight summary of our trip through Door Co., WI.  If you weren’t there, this won’t make sense, but will hopefully convince you that you totally missed out on this excellent adventure! Here we go — SS Beaver – Hey Matt! – Not a complaint, just an observation – Was that a complaint??? – Is there camping there? – One tent per site??!! – Are you on bicycles or motorcycles? – What’s the route? – Do you have any beer? – (Re: Miller Lite) But you know, it IS triple hopped – Naughty Girl – Sunshine – Ass-hatchet – Freaky 3rd shift mullett girl with a Mountain Dew and cigarette breakfast – smoked salmon – free wine tasting – TMRTWLTTYFBYBTAS – girl who got dropped off at the porta-jon – I can’t feel my balls – the pickled egg incident – pickle back – Bernie – Dude, we’re going to Green Bay – swamp legs – Shipwrecked!!!! – IIPA – Scoresby – You can borrow my car – Eye wannapee – code brown – shitter.  And now for the gory details….

A while back, when we still had snow on the ground, Rob asked me if I’d be interested in an adventure tour this summer.  Originally, it was a loop around Wisconsin and the U.P., then down through Mackinac.  After reality set in for the time committment involved, we cut it to a more manageable 4 day tour of Door County.  Rob Meendering, Scott Thenikl, Rick Plite, Jeremy Karel, Chris Davison, and myself all signed on.  We had several “planning meetings” for this adventure, which basically helped everyone align on a general plan of taking the SS Beaver (I know it’s not really Beaver, but it’s more fun this way) from Ludington to Manitowac on Saturday, June 30 and a return trip on July 4.  Pretty much everything in between was going to be classic “winging it” mentality.  Jeremy and I took an extra day off on June 29 to ride the 100 miles from Rockford to Ludington.  I would say the highlight of the day was a sea salt bagel in Muskegon for lunch and some strangely intriguing porta-jon activity at a roadside park in Hart. Rick knew Jeff, the owner of Trailhead Bike Shop in Ludington, and had called ahead for accomodations.  We stopped in as soon as we got into the city and were promptly offered a beer from the cooler.  What a reception! The rest of the group met up that night for dinner at James St. Pub and Grill.  Nevermind we were supposed to meet at Jamesport Brewery, our first diversion from the plan.  Jeremy and I were a little heat stroked, I think.  We all proceeded to set up camp in Jeff’s front lawn, unwittingly setting the precedent for our nightly routine which consisted of dinner at the local pub
(in this case – The Mitten) and free yard camping.  Thanks again Jeff!

We took the Beaver on Saturday morning as planned and within 30 miles of our departure from Manitowac, we were off track.  We rode beautiful lakeside trails and roads to our first stop in Kewauny for some smoked salmon and crackers behind a gas station.  High class lunch — good start!  We proceeded on the Ahnappee (pronounced I-wanna-pee) Trail which would have taken us into Sturgeon Bay for our first night, but we took a poorly marked fork in the trail and before we knew it, we were half way to Green Bay!  Trying to make the best of it, we headed straight north to limit our losses and ended up doing pretty much the equivalent of a Marne Tuesday night ride through farmland and the sweet smell of sun baked manuer up to Little Sturgeon Bay.  One bright spot on the way was the sighting of a “whiskey” distillery near our destination.  Apparently, “whiskey” tastes a lot like saki when it’s made by the Japanese, which we all came to realize after securing a free shot in the tasting room.  I’m not complaining, just an observation.  We ended up at an RV park, all camping in one lot for a total of $5 per person.  70+ miles on the first day.  We ate at the local pub and took some pickled eggs to go — one of the requirements of the trip.  One of us (Rick) didn’t particularly like his egg, and I ended up with pickled egg smashed into my spokes the next morning.  Not complaining, just an observation.

Our second day ended up being the longest, over 80 miles.  This was the defining day of the trip, combining the highest highs and the lowest lows both literally and figuratively.  We made our way along the west shoreline up to Egg Harbor, home of Shiprecked Brewery.  We didn’t have high hopes for this beer, based on our experience with the WI standard level of hoppyness, but we were all pleasently surprised.  We had our 3 martini (read “IPA”) lunch and promptly retired to the bayside park across the street to let the dinner settle.  Everyone fell asleep.  High point of the trip so far! Well, 3 hrs from stopping, we were back on the horses for the rest of the trip up to the tip of the Door Co. peninsula.  We continue the gorgeous lakeshore ride down into several bays and long climbs back out until we reach the intended destination of Europe Lake.  The only three sites, yes three, available were spoken for so we went over to neighboring Newport State Park.  Only two sites available there and it’s almost 8:00 by now.  We rode in and were severely disappointed.  Rick wanted to take a dip in the lake, which ended up being a dip in the muck.  We all were a bit surprised to see him come back covered in mud up to his knees!  There was a lot of inappropriate laughter at Rick’s expense at this point and Jeremy emerged as our source of positive energy – “Sunshine” from now on.  Chris chipped in too with an enthusiastic, “We’re on a quest for fun, dammit!”. Rick sucked it up like a man when we all decided we would try to ride back 8 more miles to the last town we passed to try and find another yard to squat rather than eating trail food with no beer in the mosquito infested campsite.  I’m not lying, the only place to eat in town when we got there was a high class Italian “ristorante”.  So, six guys sweaty from 80 miles on the road and one of us with swamplegs get the center table in the dining room.  We got a little concerned at this point, since every table was occupied and everyone was drinking wine.  I’m not complaining, just an observation.  We asked the server for beer and the first option she offered was Bell’s Two Hearted!  Oh yeah.  Six please.  We proceeded to push our luck and asked about local places to crash.  By the end of the dinner, we had an offer from one of the patrons to stay at a farm about a mile outside of town, complete with a map to the “shitter”. Thanks Zack! Confident in our situation, we all kept the momentum going and went to the only bar open in town and completed the night with a few pickle backs and a free round offered to us from the chef at the restaurant we just ate at. No one could believe the way this night ended up!

Our third day was admittedly a rest day, only 25 miles to Jacksonport.  Still no campground though. Rob sweet talked the owners of a local pub to let us camp in the back yard and our theme of “yard camping” was maintained!  A relaxing dip in the lake and some beers in the park was exactly what we needed.

Day four was a long 70+ mile trek with the goal of getting as close to Manitowac as possible, so we could take it easy on our last day.  We made it all the way to Two Rivers, which left only a short 10 miles to the Beaver.  Along the way, we stopped in Algoma.  Two reasons this is one of the best stops of the trip: smoked salmon and wine!  We stopped for some free wine tasting at VonSteil winery.  One of the best sellers was a concoction named “Naughty Girl”.  I thought it was a tad sweet to deserve the name, but all the names were entertaining nonetheless.  Before leaving town, we made a stop for smoked salmon (best of the trip!) and all split a bottle of wine on the patio outside the winery.  Glad you made us stop, Rob!
At the end of the day, we made it to a private campground in Two Rivers and were lucky enough to secure a shaded lot at the edge of the grounds.  Food and beer were another 2 miles into town and our generous campground owners entrusted us with one of their cars to make a food/beer run.  I know 2 miles each way doesn’t sound like much, but I think we were all mentally and physically spent after this day, which capped around 240 miles with this last day entirely into the strong winds off the lake.  Besides, we may have been tempted to find another yard to camp in 2 miles closer to the Beaver.
After a great breakfast in Manitowac the next morning(ish), we hopped on the boat and headed home.  Great trip guys!  I’d do the whole thing over again.

Earl gets third place at Windham


Windham is not a resort town as you would think of it. It is more of a small country town amidst a hilly rolling country side.  There are no major highway in, no major hotels, and no big chain restaurants. Friday Night I arrived at the “hotel”. A large farm house that has been retro fitted to be a Bed and Breakfast. The dining room is a place that feels like home with some cluttered table and other tenants bikes leaned about. There was a strong feeling of staying at a friend’s house. Two of the other tenants are women’s World Cup Pros and more than will to shoot the breeze.

The atmosphere for a World Cup event is awesome. The first thing I noticed on Saturday is the sear size of the event. The Worlds Cup Pro pits for both XC and DH are foot of the Ski resort. This is back dropped by a large resort and a general level of busyness from everyone. There is activity in all directions. Downhill guys are doing practice runs, Pro XC guys are warming up, and everyone else is either registering, checking in, or generally mingling in the event.

Saturday was race day for Citizen DH and Pro XC. That left me as a spectator free to wander the Ski hill and see how rough the course was going to be for me on Sunday. What a topographical fails to show is that 550 ft of climbing in 2 miles is a lot. It is close to triple the height of my last race at Cannonsburg. It is easy to lie to yourself and say it’s not going to be that bad a little as you watch the pro’s effortlessly climb the hill. Additionally what you cannot see from Michigan is the very dusty loose silt that piles over the rocky descents.

Race day started really early. The race was at 8am. That made for and early morning. My legs felt good as I prepped my bottles and started my warm up.  The way that they set up the course for the worlds included a lot of gravel road climbs across the face of the ski hill. That is how the race started with a drag race up a gravel road.  Then you would duck into the wood and navigate a technical rock section all slightly up hill. It took me a few laps to get use to riding large flat tippy rocks covered in dusty silt. They give us a countdown we charged up the hill. Three of us got away and then it strung out as we made are way up the long climb. The first few laps it was hard to find a manageable pace and the laps hurt. The two that was riding with made a push and got away. The last laps I rode solo trying to gain back some ground and make my way around slower lapped riders.  In the end I made the third stick.