Skirts in the Dirt Race Report

– Jane Van Hof, Founders Racing

IMG_3351Yesterday I enjoyed a “virgin experience”: racing my fat-bike for the first time at the inaugural Skirts in the Dirt mountain bike race! The event, meant to draw more women into mountain biking and benefit the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance, was a super success!Over 125 women came out to Cannonsburg Ski Hill to test their grit on the gravel and trails. Some raced the “Never Ever” category, others tried out the “Weekend Warrior” level, I gave the “Fabulously Fat” category a try, and left the real trail shredding to the “Dirt Divas”, including my teammate, Marnie Tencate.10628305_1456434611296244_3906666470031921575_nThere was even a “Girls on Wheels” free race for girls 12 and under who want to mountain bike!

10385490_1456443997961972_5080927339649712271_nThe day finished up with a “Drag Race” when the guys finally got to don their fishnet stockings, long-haired wigs, sports bras and of course – skirts. Matt Remelts clad himself in requisite attire and rocked out the Drag Race for Founders Racing! The Drag Race raised $410 for the Ghost Bike Project.
10610916_10100113999106824_1649014123694341053_nKudos to the event organizers Julie Whalen, Denise Peterson, Jill Martindale and Sarah Jaromin who definitely started something big with Skirts in the Dirt. Racers commented throughout the day not only how extraordinary it was to see so many women and girls out racing, but also that the event drew more participants than co-ed races at the same venue. Clearly, women want to race mountain bikes, gird their loins and gear up to grind out miles with a grin!
During the race, women had four “challenge” stations to complete. First, we climbed a long hill and at the top, we had to draw a bicycle. Then, after another hill climb, we had to eat a saltine cracker and then whistle! Gasping for breath made this a tough one for me – I chewed the cracker a bit, and then mouth-breathed the crumbs all over the volunteer in front of me (sorry, Village Bikes guy!) Finally managing a pretty pathetic whistle, I hopped back on my Pugsly to keep racing.

10645201_1456439081295797_6615804730519775162_n Next, women came to the “hula hoop” station where we had two options: hula hoop for ten seconds, or jump through the hoop five times. I knocked out five quick jumps and was on my way!IMG_3356Finally, we came to the Velocity station where we tossed rims onto cones – with ($3) cash prize for ringing the one in back. I granny-tossed my ring onto the tip of the cone where it balanced and stayed put, so I geared up the fatty for the final mile to the finish line.
Bike mechanics from Grand Rapids Bicycle Company crafted handmade medals for the category winners. Congrats to Marnie for taking second place in the Dirt Diva division!10616120_1456446387961733_6957288059030916491_n

The excellent raffle opportunities offered something for everyone – two Cannondale bikes, two Velocity wheel sets, a Yakima bike rack (donated by our Founders Racing leader, Rick Plite), two helmets, and plenty of t-shirts and water bottles.
10483727_1456433617963010_7306579517597638591_nDanielle Musto, local pro-racer for Salsa bikes, gave a free skills clinic the day before the race to explain proper race-day nutrition and to help perfect mountain biking skills. Danielle is a perfect ambassador promoting women’s cycling! How exciting to see so many Michigan women following her lead, and the lead of the event organizers, in setting aside fear and pretension to enjoy the ride.

10580959_10204504109750607_3342565733607533799_oA positive vibe pervaded the day. More than just “awesome”, the event inspired, encouraged, challenged and celebrated women and mountain bike racing in a way never done before in Michigan. I cannot wait for next year’s Skirts in the Dirt event!

Photo Credit to Jenny Scott
and Jack Kunnen

Drunken Beaver Tour Part I

image_1The whiskey had not yet fully set in.  The storm over the lakeshore, however, had.  As I laid in my tent I thought about the journey we had just embarked upon.  I thought back to day one of Matt and I drinking a couple of beers and downloading some Tom Waits songs before we even took the first “official” pedal strokes.  It felt like months ago.  We discussed this phenomenon many times only to draw the conclusion that the sheer amount of memories made it seem as though the timeline stretches much farther than one realizes.

We set out from my doorstep bound for my in-laws place on Cobb lake a mere 27 miles away.  Jeremy would joins us later in the evening as he was taking part in a game called “gulf or golf”.  Something involving sticks and balls without bikes.  At the Cobb Lake Luxury Resort we enjoyed a steak dinner, fine local wine, many beers and far too much bourbon.image_2The proprietor (my mother in-law) was kind enough to make us a delicious breakfast the following morning, of which I was only able to eat a few bites.  Something in my belly was not agreeing with the mix of spirits from the evening prior.  A quick refreshing dip in the lake had me feeling like a new man and we were off to Paw Paw.  Along the way we decided upon a brief layover in the “island town” of Plainwell.  Our first stop was a surprisingly good gastropub called the Lost Raven.image_3
We ate, we drank, we discovered that our waitress had a twin sister that worked down the road at The Old Mill Brew Pub down the road whom had just applied for a midget scholarship.  Naturally we had to investigate.
Upon arrival at The Old Mill Brew Pub we were greeted by the owner, Scott Zylstra, with a huge smile telling us to get our bikes up on the porch.  He then bought the 3 of us a pint of Crazy Beaver and took us on a private tour of the amazing building, a 150 year old flour mill.imageNever have I met a more energetic person.  Scott constantly wiped the sweat from his brow as he led us on a whirl wind tour, up to the expansive banquet hall, further up to the old grain bins and finally down to the basement where we were introduced to the ghost of William.

Back at the bar we enjoyed another pint before setting off for Paw Paw, the town so nice they named it twice.
The moment we arrived at Paw Paw brewing company, the locals welcomed us with slurred speech and glazed over smiles (Apparently they get the party started early down here).image_4 image_5 image_6We gulped down a few pints, shoveled some food in our face holes while listening to a decent string band and settled in for our first night of “camping”.  This evenings accommodations would be in a friends backyard complete with a pool, hot tub and multiple feline friends, some of whom tried getting very friendly with Matt at the wee hours of the morning.
The dawn would bring the first of many greasy spoon diners for breakfast followed by some incredibly beautiful gravel filled miles.  Rolling hills, small lakes, tunnels of trees, no traffic…heaven.image_7image_10 image_8 Then it happened.  This was our third long trip together and never did we have a breakdown or mechanical that I can think of.  Well, our fortune ended quicker than a Kim Kardashian marriage.  Matt ran over a piece of glass which I failed to point out and flatted.  No big deal…right?  Well, turns out that a valve stem can be incredibly difficult to remove.  Nothing that 4 guys, 3 pliers, a screwdriver, a hammer and a Dewalt drill can’t fix.

image_9An hour later (longest flat fix of my damn life) and we were on a beeline course for Sawyer, home of Greenbush Brewery.
The pace quickened as we turned onto Sawyer road.  We were all a bit excited, for Greenbush was a key destination.  The place was packed. Yet we managed to find a table against the back wall and immediately ordered a round of Brother Benjamin’s (a delicious imperial IPA brewed with honey).  One more round of beers (which we did not have to pay for) and we were out. image_11 image_12We would set up camp a couple miles north at Weko Beach in Brigdeman.  Fortunately they had one “site” available.  A tiny wedge of sand at the entrance of the campground.  Over the years we have camped in back yards, farms, side yards, behind bars and front yards.  This was the most piss poor excuse of a campsite we have ever had to utilize.  But as we always remind ourselves, nothing makes for a comfy night of sleep like a steady intake of beer.  So off to Tapistry Brewing we went.  After a half dozen very respectable beers, a brief brewery tour and a nightcap stop on the beach we settled in for the evening on our 150 sq ft sandbox.

The following morning we had the “pleasure” of meeting our new neighbor Dirty Larry.  This 70ish Veteran was kind enough to allow us use of what would be his piss poor sight well past the checkout time.  In exchange we were to endure stories of ‘Nam punctuated by seemingly endless ramblings of what was wrong with grownups then and what is even more wrong with the youth of today.  Turns out that Larry had a surprisingly colorful military experience which was cut short due to what he bluntly described as a “gay love affair”.  The next hour passed  in a blur of tent folding, gear stuffing and increasingly awkward stories of the legend of Dirty Larry.

Rob Meendering

Stay tuned for Part II of the Drunken Beaver Tour

Top of the Box at Ore to Shore

    10608238_697483086995587_269492283186684032_oMarquette is one of those gems that might not stay a secret for long.  It has something for everyone from great breweries and hiking destinations, to some serious mountain bike trails right in the city limits.  The city of Marquette makes the drive from West Michigan worth the trip.strategy
Ore to Shore has been on my list for a few years now.  I decided to give the single speed class a try as that has been my bike of choice as of late.  I tried for a preferred start but because I had never done the race before, one was not granted.  After spending some relaxing nights at the duplex at Brentwood thanks to Paul, the team headed out early Saturday morning to put our bikes in line hoping for a decent start towards the front.  Because it’s a mass start, the closer you are to the front the better off you are.  Once the trumpets blew, the race was off and I settled into what felt like a decent pace on the fast pavement roll out.  I knew I would get passed by a lot of people on my single speed but also knew once we hit dirt I could begin to pick people off.  josh oremarn ore
Ore to Shore is cool for several reasons.  First, its a hammer fest from the start.  You have to lay all your chips out if you want a good result.  You really can’t hide or rely on mtb skills as it is pretty much a pure road race.  Second, the dust makes it look and feel like a race through Baja, California.  There were times where you literally couldn’t see your own front wheel.
jer ore
As the race went on I ended up moving up the field pretty quick.  I ended up passing the first place single speed rider around mile 12 and didn’t look back.  The group I road with put the hammer down and what was a large pack began to whittle down to just four.  We road together the entire last 12 miles and once the infamous Superior Dome was in sight, my legs knew it and began to cramp.  I ended up letting the three other riders I was with go and crossed the line as the first single speed rider and 39th overall.
dennis ore
The Founders team was kind enough to go back and suffer through the awards ceremony so I could snag my cash money and trophy and good times with friends was had later in the evening.
This is a race that I will definitely make a point of doing again.  The South Trails in Marquette are incredible and grow every year.  Going up a few days early and staying a couple days after the race make this a perfect mid summer trip for the family and friends.
Holy Wah!
Jeremy Karel 1st Place 2:42 Finish Time
Josh Hogeterp 18th Place 2:56 Finish Time
Tim Curtis 3rd Place 3:05 Finish Time
Paul Popeilarz   5th Place 3:07 Finish Time
Ralf Sharnowski 31st Place 3:12 Finish Time
Jane Vanhof 2nd Place 3:14 Finish Time
Dennis Murphy 37th Place 3:21 Finish Time
Marnie Tencate 2nd Place 3:25 Finish Time

Capital City Crit by Earl Hillaker

Road races are generally foreign to me. I liken mountain racing to the use of a hammer. Everyone brings a hammer and the biggest hammer wins. Mostly road racing is not like that. It is tactful, timely and opportunistic.The first 30 min of the 35 min race has riders testing the field to see if they are strong enough to get away. Which almost no one can do alone so you launch an attack and see who will come with you. Are they strong enough to make it stick? The answer is almost always no. But there is pride in the effort. There is a hope that with every effort you are wearing down the field and improve your chances. I launched a few of these attacks to no avail. I chased a few with the same result. The last 5 min is an all all out assault.

Earl first place 8.2. 14 Earl, medal, capital, 8.2.14I was caught off guard by the ringing of the last lap bell. I was mid pack and needed to be close to the lead for an effective sprint finish. Three corners later and some hard work and I was able to move up. On the a long straight away I made a hard effort to put me in 4th. Around the small block and down the long straight to the finish is all we had left. The pace had been high and only got faster on the last lap. The pace for finish straight was like a down hill run away train. The speed kept building. 500m from the finish the lead group I was following began to fade and at the same time from my left someone launched an attack. I left the train and stood in an all out effort to catch his wheel. I sat in for 3 hard breaths and exploded around with 200m to go. I lurched at the line and saw someone closing fast. It was not enough. I held in for the win by 1/4 of a bike length. Everyone behind was almost to close to call.

Pando 6 Hour

I set out for Pando Saturday morning August 2nd to defend my title. Last year I captured first place with 14 laps and five minutes on my second place competitor.  This is Fun Promotion’s annual 6 & 12 Hours of Pando endurance race.
I really like Pando’s trail. It’s has everything a mountain bike race should have packed into a short course- long climbs and descents, short steep climbs and descents, technical single-track and wide open sections for passing- all in about 3.7 miles!
For this event, Brent was running the course clockwise rather than counter clockwise but as usual with the start of each lap right up the ski hill.  At the top, we turn left (east) and ride through the woods and down the first hill through the perennial “wet spot” mud-hole IMG_5811which gets worse and worse as the race progresses.  Then uphill to the back of the Pando tubing hill, down again and after a right turn you have a long long long (did I say long?) climb up to the top and a flat sandy section.  (When riding the course counter clockwise, racers will recognize this long climb as that fast grassy descent to the outside of the tubing hill).  At this point you really have finished the hardest part of the course.  The remainder has some small roller hills and contains the technical single-track
I arrived at Pando and set up my pop-up, chair and table and got all my gear and supplies ready.  Founders Racing teammate Jane VanHof was going to share the site as we were the only two racing this event.
My strategy was to carry one bottle of Perpetuem (fuel) and one bottle of Heed for hydration along with Endurolytes and a couple Hammerjel packs and only stop at the tent when I needed to refill bottles.
At registration I noticed I had four other competitors in the six hour event.  However, at the rider meeting a half hour before the start, Brent Walk changed the event and eliminated the 12-hour race since so few people signed up. The effect was to double the men’s 50+ category to ten of us competing!
I decided to ride hard and went full out right away.  I did the first three laps in under one hour.  I completed lap six at 2:05 (I was trying to do it in less than two hours).  I didn’t need to stop until after lap eight where I swapped my Heed bottle and filled my now empty Perpetuem bottle with plain water.  I ate a Hammerjel and re-filled my Endurolyte container and headed out again.
Lap 11 was where things started to go awry.  My back tire was getting soft and squishy in the turns.  It had been low earlier in the week when Joni and I rode at Luton.  This was a huge miss on my part since I needed to refill the tire with Stans sealant and did not. I had gambled I could last the day without doing so.  I considered dropping out at this point since I can’t ride with a flat tire.  But perserverence won out.  Into the tent, I checked my toolbox for a small bottle of Stans. It was there but only about 1/4 full.  I removed the rear tire presta core, poured in what Stans liquid was available and pumped up the tire and headed back out.    It lasted about two laps so I realized I didn’t have enough sealant and was going to deal with this the rest of the day.  Lap 13,  into the tent and I removed my tool kit from my lower bottle cage.  I pulled out two air cartridges and put them into my back pocket.  I dropped the Heed bottle and kept only the water for the remainder of the race as we were now in the last 1-1/2 hours of the event.  I ate another Hammerjel, pumped the tire to 30 lbs and back up the ski hill.
I had been in first place most of the race. Every time I looked at the results at least up to 3pm (three hours) I was in the top spot but had two or more competitors with same lap count.  This meant we were all pretty close in pace but I was merely finishing the laps ahead of them.  But I had not looked at the results postings since 3pm and had no clue where I was in the standings.
I gutted out another lap (14) and up the hill to start lap 15.  Down through the mud pit and up the steep climb on the other side I finally stopped a minute.  It was  hot and humid and I felt my heart beating hard!  I put my fingers on my neck and could feel the artery thumping away. Whew!  Then a guy on a fatbike rides by and says “you should get going.  I think you are in the lead.”  So I rode onward.  As I approached the last few rollers of the course I looked at the clock. Part of me wanted it to be over and part of me figured I’d go out for another lap if I could make the cut-off at the lap chute.  For those who don’t race these events, for a six hour race, if you make it through the chute by 5:59:59 you can go for another lap and make it count if you finish it. But if you get there at the 6:00:00 mark or later you are done.  So I rode on, and figured the clock would tell  the tale.
As I rolled into the chute, Jack Kunnen said “one more Dennis” and I did get there with about five minutes to spare so UP the hill one last time.  I actually got a bit of second wind and rode pretty hard most of the lap finishing strong at about the  6:25 mark.
You can see from the attached photo of the results I was leading up until that lap 11.  This was the fifth hour and all the fiddling with the wheel took time off the course. But that’s part of racing.  I should have had my equipment ready.  Lesson learned.  Bog Kidder rode well and hard and finished ahead of me by 18 minutes.  However had I not done the 16th lap I would have been in third place.  Going out that one more got me the second place podium spot!
 IMG_6040 IMG_6073
Teammate Jane Vanhof also rode hard with 16 laps and unfortunately had NO competitors. No other women showed up to compete in the six hour race. So to crank out 16 laps was indeed solid self-motivation.  She could have done one lap and won.
Next up Ore to Shore.  I looked up my last Ore to Shore result from 2009 and finsihed in 3:39 which is 13.1 mph average.  So my goal this year is to be closer to 3 hours. (I rode Ore-to-Shore in 2011 but was in between three of my last of five 100-milers so I rode the 28 mile race with Joni that year and didn’t consider my finish time).