Lowell 50 Bike Race

Lowell 50 Bike Race: 34 Mile Race: Tandem Category, Saturday, October 25, 2014

Never Make Assumptions…

untitled-75Nancy: It was a beautiful, crisp Fall day, partly cloudy at the start with more sunshine later, 51 degrees at Race start. I had been struggling all Summer and Fall with riding and definitely not feeling like I was in very good shape going in to this race, but on race day I felt pretty good, excited to be there and see how well we could do. We knew we had only one other tandem, coed couple, to compete against in the 34 Mile Race. However when we lined up for the race, we couldn’t tell where the dividing line was between the 57 milers and 34 milers. We saw a coed couple on a white Cannondale and I assumed they were our competition. I looked behind us a couple times at the start but never saw any other tandems. When the 57 mile race started I couldn’t see any of the tandems take off, and again assumed the white Cannondale was in our race.

When the 34 mile race started 5 minutes later I did not see the white tandem, but again assumed they were just further forward in the start line. So we started off fast and strong, making our way through the crowd, continuing to look forward for the white tandem, and never saw them. We made our way across the covered bridge, already seeing people off their bikes on the side of the road, heading toward the first hill called “Rude Awakening”. As we were approaching the hill, I started noticing people getting off their bikes, and thought to myself, “this isn’t good”. So, Tim geared down and we began cranking our way up the hill, which was covered in loose gravel. Other people were having trouble, and we just kept passing people all the way up the hill, even though our back wheel slipped on the loose gravel a few times. Whew! The worst hill in the whole race was done and we were able to enjoy a nice downhill for recovery.

As we hit the flats we began increasing our speed, with lows in the teens and a high of 39 mph, still looking for that white tandem. I was feeling strong, surprised by how good I felt, and I worked hard trying to help out my Captain as much as possible, taking advantage of the downhills for recovery. Tim was riding strong, as usual, breaking the wind for me, so I wasn’t aware of how strong the west wind was until we turned west for the first time. At that point we slowed to around 15 mph and I was wondering “the road is flat, why aren’t we speeding up, trying to catch that white tandem?” At that point, I looked over Tim’s shoulder and got a feel for the strength of the wind and realized he was doing the best he could given the circumstances. Tim’s view: I was sitting in behind another bike drafting 🙂 Yeah, I can’t see anything around Tim, so I didn’t know he was drafting… 🙂

As the racers spread out we eventually joined a group of 6-8 riders who were riding our pace. Of course they hopped on the back of “the Bus” (our tandem’s nickname), and pretty soon we had a train. At one point, Tim pulled off the front to let some of the other riders pull for awhile. The first bike behind us pulled forward for about 15 seconds, then he pulled off letting the next rider take over, as we were making our way to the back of the line. It was funny to see that none of the other riders could pull for more than 10-15 seconds, and within 1-2 minutes we were back at the front of the line, pulling everyone again. It was great they were willing to try, but we had set a pretty fast pace and they just couldn’t keep it up on their own. Tim’s view: a constant rotating pace line didn’t work for us today. 🙁

A few times during the race Tim asked me to look back and look for the other tandem. I was thinking, “why is he asking me to look back when our competition is in front of us”. I didn’t realize until later that he was thinking all along the white tandem was probably in the 57 mile race, which is why we never saw them. However, I never saw a tandem behind us either, and kept thinking they were in front of us. We kept pedaling along, taking advantage of the flats and downhills, at one point hitting 39 mph.
Around mile 17 I had resigned myself to the fact that we were probably in second place, and I was okay with that, but I wanted to see how well we could do, and kept working as hard as I could. Tim was putting forth a great effort, and since the roads were in very good shape, we were traveling at a fast pace.

As we hit White Bridges road, heading south toward the finish, we were feeling pretty good and we picked up the pace, hitting a couple more good hills, feeling strong. Eventually we started dropping the other riders, with one or two riders hanging on. We had one mile to go and cranked it up for a strong finish, coming across the finish line at 1:46:23 with a 19.19 average. Tim dropped me off at the “little girls room” and watched the other riders coming across the finish line. As I returned he told me, “a green Comotion tandem came across finish line a few minutes after us”. I was shocked! Tim told me later that he always thought the other tandem was behind us, but since we never saw them, he couldn’t be sure. As a result of our hard work, we took first place.

My lesson for the day: Never make assumptions… cause you’re usually wrong. 🙂

Some other quotes of the day:

Tenner- “I felt really strong today and rode with the lead group for 20 miles. Too bad it’s a 34 mile race….”
untitled-88 untitled-116 untitled-125Marne- “I took 2nd in women 40-49…1st was 1:52:59, I was 1:54:25. Close…I just can’t compete with 40 year old stay at home moms. I ended up 3rd overall women.  Then later they said, “Marnie, I think you were 4th…we’ll know tomorrow.” Oh brother.

Rob- “If my results were posted in the correct category I would have finished 15th out of 35 with a time of 1:52
Wind, sun, pain and fun!”

Earl- “Early flat and busting wind for 12th”

Mondays listings
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Tim Curtis Tandem 1
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Rob Meendering 34 Mile Men 17
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Dennis Murphy 60 Mile Men 4
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Marnie TenCate 34 Mile Women 2
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Scott TenCate 34 Mile Men 5
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Earl Hillaker 60 Mile Men 12
Lowell 50 Fall Edition Jeremy Karel 60 Mile Men 3


untitled-16 untitled-112 untitled-156Tim and Nancy Curtis

Peak2Peak Mountain Bike Classic

Peak2Peak Mountain Bike Classic

P2PIn preparation for this year’s Iceman, I decided to add a little late season racing to my routine. Peak2Peak was on my bucket list and it was time to git ‘er done. Saturday, October 18th Jeremy Karel and I drove north to race at Crystal Mountain and represent the Founders Racing Team. On the way out of town, we detoured past Rick’s place to pick up the required post-race refreshment, Founders Centennial IPA.
Friday night had brought steady rain to Crystal Mountain. As we drove north, Saturday was not looking much better. 40 degrees and steady rain did not make me optimistic about racing on a wet and muddy course. Fortunately, the weather improved during the last 30 minutes of our drive and the rest of the day was rain free.
Pre-race, Jeremy and I were interviewed for Founders new media campaign. We had fun talking bikes and beer with Rick Fortier from Founders. Can’t wait to see the actual footage.
With the glamor work finished, my teammate and I prepared to race. Jeremy was racing Expert Single Speed and I was racing Expert 45 – 55. We both had 3 – 12 mile laps ahead of us. Earlier racers reported that we’d be dealing with a few mud pits, in addition to the required climbing at the end of each lap.
My race got off to a good start, the flat wide sections at the start of the course being well suited to my riding style. I dropped back from lead group as we hit wet single track. I hadn’t ridden single track since Ore to Shore and needed some time to work my way back up to speed. Not wanting to attract Josh’s dark cloud, I was cautious in the wet conditions.
About mid-way through the lap, I encountered the first of two mud pits. These pits, deeply rutted and full of standing water, required a run through the muck. Getting dirty is part of the fun! The lap finished off with a climb up the back of Crystal Mountain and a fun twisty decent to the Start & Finish line.
I picked up the pace for lap two with the goal of picking up a few spots. Several miles into the lap, the course left pavement with a right turn onto single track or two track. In an Alzheimer’s moment, I picked the two track and rode for about ¾ of a mile before finding myself on the golf course. Hmm, don’t remember this. I realized my mistake, took a U-turn, rode back ¾ of a mile and got back on course. After this error, I didn’t have much hope of getting a good result but rode hard and had fun racing with a few of the 55 – 65 guys. I finished 30th out of 34 in my age group.
Jeremy rode a strong race in the first two laps. By his own admission, he ran out of steam on the third lap. His very quick times in laps 1 & 2 were enough to put Jeremy on the podium in 3rd out of 12 Single Speed racers. Congratulations to Jeremy.

Jeremy and I had a fun trip up north, enjoyed a few post-race IPAs and spotted the coolest shift lever ever.


Michigan Mountain Mayhem- Gravel Grinder

On October 4th Jeremy Karel, Jeff Jacobi and myself headed north to Boyne City for the first annual Michigan Mountain Mayhem- Gravel Grinder edition. There is also a spring and summer edition but this was my first MMM. I have to admit I was not in the mood to get up at 5am and drive close to 3 hours to race in 39 degree temps and rain showers. After all I told myself I was going to just ride the 45 mile event as a color tour on my Salsa Fargo, a mixture of road frame, mountain frame and off-road touring bike, I can handle racing in the rain but hate it otherwise.


Jeremy and Jeff were both entered in the 60 mile singlespeed class but with a mass start for the different distances they were unsure if they had any completion. I think the whole race attracted 280 racers. Similar to numbers of the first Barry-Roubaix in 2009!

The Fargo was a blast to ride, so confidence inspiring on the downhills and rough seasonal roads (two tracks). The claim that this course was hilly did not disappoint. I think I clocked the first paved climb at 2.5 miles at about a 6-7% grade. Many of the dirt climbs were steeper but also shorter. I will admit that the Fargo was such a blast that I did find myself going race pace at times instead of tour pace. The rain held off, peaks of sun filled the sky and the fall colors were just starting to happen, it was a great course for scenery.

1669812_726044080806154_260257629705361810_o 1601793_10152815691403200_7838037991641539022_oWhen all was said and done I placed 11th in the 55+ category and Jeremy and Jeff placed 1st and third respectfully. They had a large tent for the awards party with some much needed heat, cold beers for purchase and choices of chicken, burgers or pizza for lunch which was included in the entry fee.

Paul did a great job with the event and I am certain he will grow this race up to the 2000 rider limit very soon.

Paul later told me in an email that he vacationed in Australia once and during a ride stopped to take a break when an Aussie rode up, stopped and asked if he needed any help and were he was from. Paul said Michigan and he said no way, I did the Lumberjack 100 a few years back. Small world huh?


Iron Cross – tough UltraCross event!

ironcross 60 percentSaturday. October 4th I traveled to the middle of Pennsylvania to participate in the Iron Cross UltraCross race.   The Iron Cross is one of nine in the UltraCross serieswhich includes Barry-Roubaix in Michigan and Gravel Grovel in Indiana.  The series requires minimum four races to be scored for points and  now I wish I’d done one other.  I raced Barry-Roubaix in March and will be doing the Gravel Grovel for the third year in a row.  That will make three races in the Ultracross series.
This race is the toughest of the three I have now done! Nearly 70 miles long, the course has screaming downhill gravel roads and pavement.  I hit a top speed of mph on paved descent and regularly was feathering the brakes to maintain 32-35 mph on gravel road descents! I went back and forth with a racer on an orange Niner mountain bike.  I’d pass him on climbs and gap him when we hit a flat section but on the downhills he’d catch up. I think the wider mountain bike tires made for better hold on the gravel roads which had quite a lot of loose stones. These were NOT hardpacked dirt like we see at Barry-Roubaix.  More than a few racers 40mm tires which seemed huge compared to my standard Kenda 35mm cross tires.
The course also included some bone-jarring single-track more suited to a mountain bike with at least front suspension.  Some of the single-track climbs were unrideable as well.  My hands got really sore on numerous occasions gripping the flats and using my brake interrupter levers to control the bike in these technical sections.
ICrunup2There was also several steep segments requiring dismount and pushing or carrying the bike up the hill.  One segment had three powerline hikes like this.  For those riders who have done Ore-to-Shore, picture the powerline climb- only steeper and at least 50% longer- then do that THREE times in a row!   The last really hard hike-a-bike was narrow uphill and at the top three people had a sign that said “Larry’s Tavern” and were doing Busch beer hand-ups.. so I took a shot and then went on to ride the gravel road.
As I got past the 65 mile mark that Niner rider caught me again on the last major descent.  From there it was a steady but not steep climb to the finish and I was gradually closing the gap, but unfortunately ran out of course and he finished in front of me by about 25 seconds- and he was in my category.  Darn
After the race there was food and awards and conversation. I got to chat with Gerry Pflug (who to a second place podium finish despite nasty crash) and Stephanie Swan.  My favorite nutrition writer, Selene Yeager, took first place in the women’s category but I didn’t get a chance to congratulate her.
I had registered for camping on site for both Saturday and Sunday night.  There were quite a few campers Saturday night but the place cleared out fast after awards and food were done and the last rider finished at just over eight hours.  I was at this rustic state forest campsite all by myself.  Early sleep and I woke up at 3am, so I packed the car for the ten hour drive back to Michigan.
I am glad I did the race.  It was extremely challenging and fun.
photo credit xxc magazine

Rockford MTB Club

Every time I ride Luton Park I’m reminded of my good friend, coworker and mentor Jon Muller. Jon and I use to commute to our schools in Rockford together from our homes in Alger Heights, discussing and dreaming along the way of one day giving students a chance to experience one of our passions; cycling. Although Jon is no longer with us, his legacy continues in a small but extremely meaningful way.

Rockford Public Schools offers many intramural sports to students, mostly free of charge, in hopes of giving kids a chance to experience something new and challenging. I was extremely honored to take on the role of leading a mountain bike group each week in hopes of sharing what I love outside my classroom walls. While I purposefully train and race most weekends throughout the spring, summer and fall, simply getting on my bike and sharing the experience with others is what makes the sport worthwhile. It has brought me great friendships and community that I otherwise would not have.
Our club meets on Mondays. The first week, about 15 students showed up along with a few parent helpers. By the second and third week, we had more than 30 students, almost filling the parking lot off of 10 mile. Our group ranges in ability, from high schoolers who can ride the entire loop in an hour, to my normal group of 4 who ride a short distance, stop for a water break and take in the wonder of the changes leaves. Our group has both boys and girls with bikes from department stores to Rockford’s very own Speed Merchant. The coolest part about these Mondays after school really isn’t the riding or the challenge of getting through an obstacle that may have tripped someone up the week before, its the idea that riding a bike can bring together kids in a way few other sports can. A bike is a basic machine, but allows those who are willing, the freedom to simply be present and stress free. Every time I get on my bike, I’m reminded of my childhood and the carefree life that once was. My hope is that students get a feeling of this also. And maybe, one day will remember how much this sport can offer when they are older.

While Luton has changed and grown with the addition of the new parking lot, I still find myself taking the long way and heading into the trail off of Kies. There’s a plaque that sits at an entrance to one of Luton Park’s loops dedicated to Jon Muller. Jon started this club. Many of the students he began with are now high schoolers but still come on Mondays. Legacy’s aren’t always just born but built over time. Jon’s legacy continues to grow.

Jeremy Karel

ed. note: Wow, very cool. It is weird how this blog has taught me so much about our own riders. Ernie’s MLive article was another great example of this. Thanks for sharing Jeremy.

Mountain bikers input needed!

Dear fellow mountain bikers,

Kisscross Events has submitted a proposal to the Manistee National Forest Service to obtain a permit to use the North Country Trail System for a Fall 2015 mountain biking event.

more event details http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=45340

This would be a point to point, timed challenge that would navigate approximately 80 miles of the most scenic sections of the North Country Trails, which are always open to bicycle traffic. Sound awesome? We need your help!

The Forest service is soliciting comments from the public regarding allowing or denying the permit for this event.

If you, your friends and teammates feel this is an event you would support, please take a minute to provide your feedback and help spread the word throughout the cycling community.

The deadline is October 15.

Comments can be addressed to: Kathy Bietau, US Forest Service

Email: kbietau@fs.fed.us or Phone: 231 745-4631

Positive comment bullet points would include:

Economic impact to the community

Bring awareness and appreciation of The North Country Trail

We are active and enjoy healthy lifestyles

We are respectful to other trail users

Enjoy the scenic beauty of the Manistee National Forest

Scientific evidence now indicates that mountain biking is no more damaging to trails than other forms of recreation, including hiking. (source-IMBA 2007 study “managing mountain biking”)

Thank you for your help!