Where in the world is Dennis?

Big bike adventure
So I’ve been in China two weeks and was finally able to acquire a bicycle.  I had a bit of trepidation because traffic here is nuts and I considered most riding opportunities dangerous.
The bike I borrowed is a Giant mountain bike.  Most bikes here are mountain bikes. I see very few road bikes and other two wheel transportation is mostly e-bikes and electric mopeds.
I had the pedals swapped for my road pedals to clip in (Time pedals).  I also found a nearby bike shop with the brand XDS nearby. It’s a decent shop on par with any good shop in the USA.  I found out XDS bikes are made in southern China and most XDS shops are actually factory owned.  This shop sponsors a team and they do a team ride each Saturday. I was told if I wanted to join to come to the shop at 5pm.
I arrived at 5pm and luckily one person who was riding, a young woman named Alisa, spoke very good English.  The ride didn’t start at 5pm, but after some food and checking of bikes etc, we finally got under way maybe an hour or more later.
on the XDS rides
The ride was more of a social ride than a training ride, but everyone was very enthusiastic.  We rode in fairly heavy traffic at times and rode on paved paths as we worked our way out of town.  The ride would progress a few miles, then come to a halt as we waited for all the riders of varying abilities to collect. There’s be some standing around and bantering for 10-20 minutes, they’d do a head count and off we’d go again.  I kept my Garmin running the entire time rather than pause it during these breaks to get an idea of the total time of the event rather than just the ride time so my average speed is perhaps 6mph.
I had thought this was only a 20-30 mile ride, but it turned out to be an all night affair.  We eventually reached the Wutong National Park where there was some actual elevation and climbing riding protected paths with pedestrians, as well as a mountain paved road which also had cars climbing into the park. Reaching the peak, descended to a small kiosk where most of us bought more water. (Temperatures were approximately 85F and 75% humidity even at night).
At one water stop, 6-8 people lined up to get their picture taken with me. I felt like a celebrity LOL.  A couple riders could speak some minimal English but I pretty much hung with Alisa as she was most proficient.
We exited the park and reached a commercial area where we stopped for dinner. Alisa had said something about a dinner but I thought that was when the ride ended, not in the MIDDLE of the ride.  We’d gone about 20-25 miles and it was now dark. (Everyone had lights.  I’d brought mine with foresight).  I didn’t look at the time but it must have now been near 10pm.  I had not expected to be out late and Alisa mentioned something about getting back to the start point after 1am!  WOW. But even if I had wanted to bail and head back to my apartment, I would not have known how to get back.  I had no clue where I was and no real option but to just finish the ride.
The riders lined up the bikes and took seats at three tables and ordered dinner.  When the tea arrived, Alisa instructed me to do as the others, peel the saran wrap from the bowl, plate, cup and chopsticks and use the super hot tea as a sanitizer. (Normally the saran wrap indicates the items are already sanitized but if they were not taking chances, neither was I). While waiting for dinner, a large fish jumped from the tank onto the pavement and flopped around until the restaurant manager came out and scooped it up and put it back in the tank.  And yes, fish was a menu option.
Dinner arrived arrived in the form of the traditional communal plates, about 6 of them. Fortunately a couple were vegetarian (one was a spicy cabbage dish).  After more than an hour of chatting and eating, we finally saddled up to head back in a near reversal of our outbound course with the same ride, stop, collect, resume pattern.  As we exited the national park, we were met by a support van. Several riders bailed on the ride as they loaded their bikes into and on top of the van.  Again this process took 40-45 minutes.
Onward now and getting back into town, about the 40 mile mark a couple of the young guys showed their vim & vigor with fast paced sprints and the overall speed of the group picked up.  But this tempered quickly and I could tell that despite the enthusiasm, most were not endurance riders and the more than 40 miles was taking a toll and the group slowed down.  We finally reached the bike shop at 2am! Whew!
I had thought riding here would be dangerous. Traffic is nuts and seemingly chaotic. But after last night one can see there’s almost a method to the madness.  I am not intimidated by riding in traffic however and ironically, it is really rather safer here with cars on the road than at home in Grand Rapids.  The reason is that two-wheel transportation is ubiquitous and drivers are attuned and accustomed to dealing with them.  Also, drivers here, when confronted with bikes (and e-bikes and mopeds) actually slow down when passing or maneuvering. So even if one was hit by a car or bumped, it’s at the same speed which lessens the danger for more serious injury.   In contrast, US drivers seem to come upon cyclists going 15-20mph and then want to punch the gas pedal and pass at 3-4 times the speed creating a more dangerous speed differential.
The real hazard here is e-bikes and pedestrians, but more so e-bikes.  When on the paved multi-use paths which are everywhere, the population has no sense of stay to the right-pass left.  This entails quite a bit of weaving and dodging around pedestrians and other bikes and e-bikes (and mopeds).
But the e-bike riders are most dangerous. We had numerous occasions on our ride with e-bikes riding against traffic in the wrong lane or on one way streets and none of them ride with lights at night.  One is more likely to collide with an e-bike rider than a car here.
Dennis w XDS team1
But I had the chance to carry the Founders logo here as I rode in my Founders team kit.

Dennis B Murphy

Founders Lumberjack 100



You hear about cyclist in our community talk about the Lumberjack 100. It’s like THE race that is held high on a pedestal and once you can say you have actually completed it, you have arrived as a credible cyclist.

Some say, “I just want to be able to finish it.”
Some say, “It’s on my bucket list.”
Some say, “I’ll NEVER do that race!” Hey! That was me!

The Lumberjack 100 is over 9,000 feet of climbing through one of my favorite trail systems: The Big M. The meandering sections of trail lead you through pine forests that smell amazing as your tires crush the trail littered with needles. Then you go through these “aspen tunnels” of swooping single-track, followed by trail covered with a canopy of hardwoods that take you over some super-fun rollers. There are sections where you feel like you are riding in a scene from Jurassic Park as the ferns line the trail on either side of you as far as you can see. Oh…did I mention the punchy uphills in between what feel like endless climbs? 100 miles on dirt is not the same as 100 miles of pavement or gravel.

It is my 5th year riding for Founders. Many of my team mates had done the Lumberjack 100 & encouraged me to give it a try. I always felt it would be impossible since it fell on the same week that I wrapped up my classroom and completed report cards. There was also the fact that I had NEVER ridden 100 miles of dirt single-track in 1 day.

I considered it a fun race for me to help out at the aid station. But at last year’s race I felt the tug: “You’ve gotta do this!”

My goal was to COMPLETE not COMPETE since I had spent the week helping Rick, Cathy and Tenner get ready for the BIG SHOW. (A TON of work goes into this race. It’s like having a wedding and inviting 1,000 guests.) Friday was spent selling swag and chit-chatting with the racers at packet pick-up. Tenner kept saying, “You need to sit down and relax a bit” but we were super busy! Luckily, around 7 PM Rob & Jeremy were heading to dinner so I jumped into the Scooby-doo van & they gave me a lift back to the cabin to prep 3 hydration packs filled with Infinite Nutrition, make some potatoes and pack my secret weapons: Sweet potato waffles with almond butter and some home-made steel-cut oat bread PB&J’s. NO GU PACKS FOR ME!

The 4:15 AM alarm came waaaaay too soon. I got up and blearily ate an english muffin swiped with PB&J and drank my usual Mocha Frappuccino with coconut water & almond milk. I got dressed and pulled on some arm warmers since it was only 44 degrees. We arrived to the Big M hearing the traditional song of the whippoorwill and the hub-bub of racers waiting to pick up their race packets that Cathy & I spent hours stuffing. Before I knew it, it was time to head over to the start.

As I made my way down the road with Jenny Scott, my mind wasn’t in the usual “race mode”. We chatted about the ax she was wearing on her helmet and looked for a place to line up. When Rick announced the race start, we all rolled out in a big blob. Some faster than others until we swerved around to enter the single track. It was like the highway merging into one lane. Each man (& woman) for themselves. The tools barging in where they felt they deserved to be. The first 10 miles was a slow train with no momentum to charge up the short punchy hills. I could have sworn it was my slowest lap. Things began to spread out a bit and I just kept a positive attitude. I made it to the Founder’s support tent in less than 3 hours. My husband, (Tenner), Jeremy, Summer & her husband were all there to strip my hydration off, sling on a new one and re-fill my gas tank. Thanks, guys! On to lap 2.

Lap 2 was lonely! Where were all of the choo-choo train guys from the 1st lap? Once in a while I would ride along and come across a lone soul, encouraging them that we were more than half way there. Once I reached the aid station I had accumulated a list of things Cathy could text Tenner about: Fingerless gloves, Booty balm, & 1 Bayer Back and Body (since I had wiped out and bent my pinky and cut my knee.) I remember taking my Carb-0-rockets regularly to avoid cramping & hearing Jeremy in my head, “Keep drinking!” Round 2 was nearly over! Another thanks to the pit crew while I made a pit stop.

One lap to go! I knew I could do it if I just stayed positive and just kept pedaling. There was not a moment when it crossed my mind to quit. I HAD to finish because I was not going to sign up for this again next year! It seemed to take forever to get to the aid station, I kept thinking, “I will be crossing the little bridges any second.” But it would always be the wrong pine forest with ferns. Finally, I saw the peace signs Cathy had hung up just past the little bridges. I was almost to the aid station! I couldn’t stop. I was afraid it would have hurt too much to get back on again. I looked ahead and could see Dennis! It gave me motivation to catch up to him. I climbed slowly behind him until I found my voice. “Dennis! It’s Marnie!” I shouted. He had done this thing 9 times and was going for the 9 hour mark.

“Marnie! Good job!” he replied. “We’re almost there.” We rode together for a bit until we hit Fire Tower. Dennis B. Murphy put that bike on his shoulder cyclocross style and ran up that Mo-Fo!
“You’re the man, Dennis!” I hollered, so impressed as I barely had the energy to walk my bike up that hill. I knew the sketchy gravel downhill was next and I could recover for a bit. I looked at my Garmin and seriously thought I would finish under 9 hours! (I forgot that time stops when you go less than 1 mile per hour.) I couldn’t believe it when I made that final downhill flyer toward the finish. I had a huge smile on my face knowing that I would finish. I crossed the line just over the 9 hour mark to the cheers of the crowd, most importantly my husband & team mates. Tenner handed me my “Lumberjack 2015 Finisher” patch and told me I made the podium! #10 for TenCate. I’ll take it!

The Lumberjack 100 is in the books, off the bucket list. The race I would NEVER do was done. Next year, look for me at the aid station! I will be wearing a sombrero, shaking maraca’s & handing out PB&J’s, encouraging YOU! YOU CAN DO IT!

Hellkat Headwind

garmin for hellkatHaving missed Barry-Roubaix due to a work trip, the lower-key Hellkat Hundie would be my first event for 2015.  There is a 50 mile and a 100 mile version, but of course I had to do the 100 miler!  Mike Clark and Cathy ‘Kaat’ Tahy put together this fun, challenging event as a JDRF fundraiser.  The course was well marked.

Last year I rode it and completed the course in seven hours.  This year I hoped to better that time, but at the last minute opted for a second goal.  Teammate Marnie Tencate was riding the 100 in training for her debut at Lumberjack-100, so I decided to ride with her for  the 100 miles.   Scott Tencate was planning to hammer the 100 and teammate Matt Remelts was racing the 50-miler.
As we rolled out from Third Coast Cycles, we soon encountered a strong headwind.  When we went south we rode into a headwind and when we rode east we rode into a headwind.  Oh, and did I mention the headwind!?  Frankly it seemed every direction was into a headwind.
At one point we were climbing a long shallow grade- yes, into a headwind- and I recall saying “Okay, headwind or a climb. Can we have one or the other rather than both?!”
Marnie and I picked up a couple other riders.  Eric Sooy rode with us in the first 25 miles until he split off to complete the 50-mile event.
Shortly after the 50/100 course split, a rider from Novi (Ken) joined us.  Later, Chicago rider Paolo caught up and decided to ride with us as well.  He had an interesting bike with 50mm cross tires and said it was built specifically for races in the ultracross series. These two guys would ride with us pretty much into the finish line.
I felt pretty good and fairly strong this day and so I went to the front of our little pace line for most of the ride.  The gravel roads were hard packed most of the day though they did get a little bit tacky after Noon as the temperatures warmed up a few degrees.
Marnie and I discussed race and food strategies for Lumberjack.  At one point she couldn’t reach her Endurolytes so rather than stop, as I rode along side her I started pulling items out of her back jersey pockets until I could reach the Endurolyte bottle.   Le Domestique hahaha.
Not everyone can do the Hammer stuff on rides but I have gotten quite used to their products.  I had my standard fare all one me for the race:  one bottle of Perpetuem for fuel, two bottles of Heed for hydration, Endurolytes, and a flask of espresso Hammergel.  Other than filling one of the Heed bottles with water at the third checkpoint, these items would get me through the entire seven hour ride.  After numerous 100-milers I pretty much have my nutrition needs dialed in for the expected duration and distance of such events.
The most disconcerting aspect of the event was the darn dogs.  On a couple of occasions, the dogs were quite determined.  One chased us for over 100 yards.  Marnie had to put a foot out and kick at the last one as I and one other rider started to turn around to defend us from the charging canine.  The dog then dropped off as we rode onward.
The Hellkat route is unique in that it can seem like it goes forever at times.   Left turn, right turn, left turn, left turn.  At some points you forget if you are going east or west or north or south until a familiar street sign at an intersection reminds you of your location and orientation.  And just when you think you are heading in to finish, the course takes another dodge left and seemingly away from Hudsonville, before turning again back to the finish.
Marnie ended up second on the podium for her women’s category!  I was surprised to find I was third for Master’s Men category though I had not been actually racing this day.  We got nice Sram ball caps as awards.  (First place finishers got a special pair of tightie-whitey Hundie Undies  hahahaha).
The roll-out started at 8:00am and we crossed the finish line at about 3:10pm.  Our moving time was 6:58 per my Garmin though the actual finish time was a bit over 7 hours when stops at the aid stations are taken into account.

Founders Barry-Roubaix 2015 – Hell of the Mitten

Hell of the Mitten
119 years ago a couple of textile manufacturers named Teddy and Moe started a little race in France called the Paris-Roubaix.  Maybe you have heard of it.  It is referred to as the “Hell of the North”.  Not because of what the riders endure but because, after World War I, much of the route was left in a hellish state, bearing scars from years of shelling and trench warfare.   The air in many areas hung thick with the stench of rotting cattle and ruptured sewage systems.  The blackened earth in every direction was churned up creating a flat, baron and muddy landscape.  Sounds like a real blasty blast huh?!

Well over here in the good ole mitten state we have our own Teddy and Moe.  You may know them as Rick Plite and Scott Tencate, and they know how to put on one HELL of race…THE BARRY-ROUBAIX! Are there cobbles?  Well…no.  Is it 253.5 KM of beautiful northern France?  Not quite.  17th century farm houses?  Castles?  A Velodrome finish?  Nope, nope and nope.  But you know what it IS…miles of beautiful southwest Michigan gravel, challenging climbs, unpredictable weather, rabid dogs, a mile of 2 track which scares the living shit out of most roadies, some of the most well lived-in double-wide trailers, dozens of full sized Chevy trucks parked on the side of the road while their owners are off in the woods doing god knows what and the greatest post-race party on the friggin planet!  It may not be the “Hell of the North” but it surely will challenge you.  Oh, and you know what else?  IT IS THE LARGEST DAMN GRAVEL ROAD RACE…..IN THE WORLD (read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson).

Every year seems to be a new experience for me at the Barry-Roubaix.  This was my 6th go at it and I can honestly say that each year has brought different road conditions and different weather.  I have slogged through mud bogs and two tracks.  I have skated on my ass down ice covered gravel.  I have been chased by 3 legged dogs trained to kill all the weirdos in spandex.  Now, I wouldn’t compare these conditions to those of post WWI France, but mud, ice and 3 legged killer dogs are pretty frickin scary.  With the exception of testicle shrinking cold temps in the morning, the 2015 edition was the best yet.  Clear blue skies and some of the fastest gravel I have ever ridden awaited me and 3500 other racers.  Add to this an extremely well-orchestrated race start, a well-marked course and the greatest group of volunteers/corner marshals around and you have a race experience like no other.
At race start I felt really good.  For once, I had a decent amount of training leading up to the race.  Also, for the first time ever I was actually able to pace myself in anticipation of the first series of climbs, aka “The 3 sisters”.  As Tenner says “You never want to blow your wad before you get to the 3rd sister”. (Despite being raised in a duffel bag in the back seat of his uncle-daddy’s truck, that mop head Tenner is somewhat bright.)  The first two sisters came easy (get your mind out of the gutter) as they often do.  The real gauge to how the first half of your race will go is the 3rd sister.  She can be a real bitch from whom there is no quick recovery.  But this time I found myself cresting her with only a fair amount of effort.  Hell, my heart rate barely reached 210 bpm!  The highlight for me on this beautiful race day was the paved sections on both Gun Lake Rd and the Fat Lady on Broadway at the end of the race (think about it).  Fortune smiled down upon me as I was able to hang with a decent sized group averaging well over 20 mph.  I did more passing than getting passed and never let off the gas. (until another rider nearly took me out in the very last turn before the finish.  But I won’t get into that here.)
I ride my bike for several reasons.  Good friends and good beer are two of them and there was plenty of both awaiting me at the finish line.  The Barry-Roubaix after-party is unbelievable!  It is a huge gathering of bike-minded, beer-guzzling, bad-ass friends all celebrating the start of the nonfat season.  If you participated in this year’s race and did not leave with a huge smile on your face….well then you are doing something very wrong my friend.
Rob Meendering3


Gabe Niehof Founders Racing Grand Rapids MI 1:18:38

1:49:35    Matt Remelts                       40-42 Men 36M
1:58:10    Shawn Crowley                      35-37 Men 36M
2:09:57   Marnie Tencate                     46+ Women 36M
2:10:14   Rob Meendering                     35-37 Men 36M
2:13:00   Jane Van Hof                     40-45 Women 36M
2:15:25   Joshua Hogeterp                    35-37 Men 36M
2:26:04   Jeffrey Jacobi           Men SS & Fixed Gear 36M


Jeremy Karel Founders Racing Rockford MI 3:09:09
Earl Hillaker Founders Racing Grand Rapids MI 3:15:40





Cannonsburg Ski Area Fatty Fatty 2×4 Downhill Fat Bike Race

11006419_962877143730369_4248192848802025089_nWhen I heard about this I knew I wanted to try it. The cost was only $10 and it was a race format I’ve never tried on dirt let alone snow. The format was to race 4 wide down the course which is littered with bank turns, double jumps, step downs and rollers. Each run down the hill 3rd and 4th place were eliminated to the consolation round and the top two advance to the next round and so on. I was only able to get Brad Bacon from the team to sign up and he even got a loaner 616 Fatbike to use for the day. We both chose the Intermediate Class over the Expert Class.

10676351_722358581215414_245295480191889065_nBoth Brad and I were called up in the first round to compete against each other. I knew right there I was in trouble since Brad is use to racing downhill events. Sure enough he was off to a fast start and had the lead, while I was sitting second. I had taken 3 practice runs and knew the course was getting softer and softer as the days temps rose into the forties so my goal was to just ride safe and survive my run down the course. I was fine with getting bumped out early and enjoying the sunshine and a cold Founders Centennial while watching others battle it out. But then it happened, Brad hit the second to last double jump with way more speed than I would have and sure enough he was sailing through the air without his bike and landed hard on his right hand and shoulder. I came in first but I would not wish that on anyone. Ends up Brad broke his wrist and will require surgery. Dang it, our team is jinxed of late. First Tenner with a clavicle, then Paul with a clavicle, then Tom’s turn as he breaks his ankle. Now we have Brad all gimpy. Someday this team will be whole again, lets hope sooner rather than later.

I got to advance to the next round and again survived with a second place finish as racers kept crashing around me. Just stay upright and safe I kept thinking, after all Cathy made it very clear I had a large job ahead of me in 3 weeks (Barry-Roubaix) and my daughter said I was too old for this shit anymore, she didn’t want to have to take care of a vegetable. Her exact words!

5335192857_baffc74dfcOne the final round of four racers and I was clearly in the lead as racers fell left and right behind me but I kept hearing someone yell, “pedal, pedal faster Rick!” Sure enough someone was on my tail for the final sprint to the finish but the 40 yards of finish chute had 3 rollers and a jump at the finish line. The last thing I wanted to do was sprint as fast as possible over bumps and jumps only to become airborne. Air and me don’t do well together, at least anything over 8″ maybe. I had no idea who won, it was too close to call from my position. Did you win? “I don’t know, I couldn’t tell either” said John. So I was the first to ask the officials, who won? You did, by 2 inches was word. Wow! Are you kidding me!? I show up only to survive with no broken bones and end up walking away as the winner of the Intermediate class. Just goes to show you never know.

1450670_962876927063724_4341952685185519314_nGet well soon Brad, I bet we would have been on the podium together had you not crashed, only you’d be on the top step instead of me.


Late Iceman report from a new Mom

Iceman Race Report-Postpartum Division
The rain came down in slush-drops. And there I was sitting in the front seat of our car breastfeeding my six-week-old next to a truck full of middle-aged men. This was my Iceman pregame. I work at the Gaslight Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, and for weeks up until Iceman I had to listen to people get psyched up about their training for the race. I kept fairly quiet, secretly holding my spot in the race, meanwhile struggling to get past my huge belly to pick up the hex wrench I had just dropped on the floor. I had found out I was pregnant in January, so I held back from mountain bike racing for the year. Iceman was my only chance to get in at least one race for the Founders team for the year.

IMG_0683Needless to say there were a lot of stars that had to align in order to do Iceman. Here was my list of things that had to occur:

1. Baby must be born on time. Due date was September 28. Much later, and I would not have enough recovery time.
2. No C-Section. Again, not enough recovery time if this is what happened.
3. Recovery must go well. I kept running (a generous term for my brisk waddle) up to the last weeks of pregnancy in hopes this would help.
4. When baby is born, it must take a bottle.
5. My husband must be okay with it. I knew this was already okay, as Kyle has supported me through almost every race I’ve been in since we’ve been together.

I was extremely lucky, and our boy, Jules Escher, was born with no complications on September 20 at 3:26 in the morning. Recovery also went well. Two weeks later I was running. Three weeks later I was biking. Four weeks later I was doing single-track. I knew I was ready when a friend I biked with said, “You should do Iceman!” I said with confidence in my new nursing sports bra, “I am!”
The start of the race was miserable. Not only the feeding and pumping in the car, but the rain-snow mix, the Stan’s leaking out from my tires, the cog on the back of my single speed that I had last-minute put on, and the zombie-like feeling that comes from the lack of sleep newborns bring with them. Still, I headed to the start if the race with a plastered “this is X-TREME!” smile, in a wave that was much faster then what I deserved six-weeks postpartum.

-4We were off. As the start of Iceman is on pavement, it only took a few minutes for me to be at the back of the wave with the other guy on a single speed. Then the mud hit about 1 mile in. It was like oatmeal; a never-ending track filled with oatmeal. There was no break. And the slush-rain kept pouring down. It was only a few miles into the race and it started, the grinding of gravel-laden gears and the dropped derailleurs. The cassettes were no longer visible on people’s bikes. Jane, a teammate, said she was one of the many who ended up riding single speed because of the terrorizing mud. At this point, I realized my single speed wasn’t a half bad idea.
Shortly after the sounds of clanking gears the silence started too. People were already drenched, hypothermic and miserable. I saw many friends on the side of hills not even having enough energy to curse. They wouldn’t talk. Iceman generally is a positive race, with people saying “Great Job” and “Go get it!” This year it was a mix of grunts, sighs and spitting of dirt. At one point, the rain stopped for a minute and I exclaimed, “This is a nice change!” with as positive of a tone as I could. No reply, just pissed faces.

-3As I was approaching Williamsburg Road where my dad was going to be I kept thinking, “I’m a mom now. I have to do the responsible thing. Should I bail, or should I keep going?” But I kept thinking two things. A. This is your only race for the year and B. You just endured three days of labor, what’s three hours? So I went up the hill, gave my biggest smile and kept going.
My pants were now so soaked that I was getting comments from time to time that my pants were falling down. I kept going. I told myself, “Once you see that 10k remains you are golden. Just make it to 10k.” I made it to 10k. It wasn’t as good of a feeling as I hoped for, but I kept going. I had to get back to my baby. Coming into the last 3k the trail was pretty much unrideable, as it was single track they just put in for the race, so it did not fair well with the thousands of riders on it that day. I kept going. Finally the finish. The fans cheered and I saw Kyle with Jules tucked away in his carrier with his red hat peaking over the top.
I crossed the finish line. I had done it. I took a picture with my boys and realized I had just completed the Iceman with my slowest time ever. I think the rest of the team may be able to say the same (even though several took podium places). But I think we’d all say that with the shittier the race, the better the beer tastes in the end. Especially if you haven’t been able to drink for several months.

-5Danielle deJonge Shaver

Gravel Groveling

Friday after Thanksgiving found me in the car with Joni heading to a bike race. 

This was my third time participating in the Gravel Grovel in Norman Indiana.  I had only a modest goal to break the five hour mark.  In 2012, my time was 5:50 with three flat tires!  In 2013, I took a lot of time off the previous year, had no issues mechanically and finished 5:07.

The course winds through the southern Indiana country side and unlike the course at Barry-Roubaix for those familiar with that event, the Gravel Grovel includes two significant “mountain bike” segments in the Hoosier National Forest.  The 60-mile course also includes 3200 feet of climbing, some quite steep.

It was actually quite cold and felt colder than the temperature read from my car’s display.  I had started with the same gear I used at Iceman- baselayer, windbreaker, armwarmers and jersey.  But as I got my bike ready and the wind blew, it didn’t feel like enough.  I then swapped the windbreaker for the thermal jacket.    Seven miles into the race I had second thoughts and was getting a bit too warm.  That soon ended as the windchill dropped the temperatures and I was VERY glad to have the thermal jacket on.

As with most events, I was back and forth with several other riders as different terrain appealed to different skills.  There was a six man team with Bertolli jerseys riding really strong.  They would often break up in the technical areas and regroup to ride together.  As a pace line they hammered and I was able to jump on their back wheel for a few miles at one point.  But their team was plagued by mechanical issues and flat tires and they’d pass many of us other riders, then we’d go by them as they repaired some issue.  

The course finishes with the ever familiar creek crossing.

But I just did NOT have the legs this year, finishing in 5:22.  I think I just had a busy, busy few days leading up to the event.  I have been running regularly with Joni.  Leading up to Gravel Grovel I had two 5K running races in which I placed 1st and 5th respectively with times of 22:08 and 21:49.  I had been running anywhere from three to six miles an evening.  My legs were simply tired.

The course was different also. It’s been slightly different each of the last three years and I think was more difficult this year than last.

I realized at the 30-mile mark I would not make my goal and almost wished I could DNF. But I rode on and after 40 miles I got a bit of a boost in energy.. or determination.  Mile 50, refill of a bottle, take a banana and Hammergel and motor on to FINALLY see the last downhill on the course to the finish.  WHEW!    

Anyway- that closes my cycling season for 2014.


For some reason, every time I see the acronym CPS, I think of that beloved after school routine I once had growing up watching two motorcycled policemen chase down goofy, horribly overacting, hoodlums in the sanitized and innocent made-for-TV version of the City of Angels. Keeping the groaningly horrible references to the show to a minimum, this is the story of how my season on ChiPS unfolded.
I have been participating in the series for a few years and had been admittedly complacent about really making a front page bust to solidify my standing on the force. I had my first brush with fame on the front page of the Local section (not really) in 2013 with a third place cowbell in expert class 30-39. I didn’t pay much attention to my standing and the top two spots were well out of reach. 2014 would be my last year in that age group and I wanted to make that glamorous swan song bust. I wanted more cowbell!
Getting a podium finish this year proved to be a lot tougher than chasing down a random speeder on a posh palm tree lined boulevard in Southern California, though. Halfway through the season, I found myself in first place by a speeding ticket’s worth of points. Most categories have a few top contenders, but I knew I was in for some serious battles when our top five were separated by a mere six points. So this is the point where you start playing the “what if’s” to no end and ultimately come to the conclusion that you just better buckle down and get your ass into shape. I had a 3rd place finish at Hanson Hills, bested by Josh Zelinski and the winner, Paul Nederveld from New Holland, who was now in the top three overall. I was lucky enough to get a first place finish at State Games to boost my confidence. My first 1st place race as an expert in 6 years. So things are good. Just stay the course, right? Nope. Stepping out of the inky shadows (RIP, Tom Magliozzi), a Freewheeler dark horse by the name of Eric Langley burst onto the scene with wins at Sweat Shaker and Maybury. Seven Mary Three, we got a 211 at ChiPS 30-39! At this point, Eric’s in first and I’m tied with Paul for second with Addison and Pando remaining to duke it out.
Addison was a great race. Four laps was the sentence and after the first two, I was running 2nd behind Eric. Paul surged on the third lap with sirens ablazing, but Eric was able to evade the arrest at the line. We finished 1-2-3 with Eric pretty much solidifying 1st place in the series. There was one race left with nothing but pride (and 2nd place) on the line. Pando has always been that anaerobically painful end of the season staple in the chest slug-fest of a race that makes the Founders Centennial at the finish transcend the literal category of fermented malt and grain. This year was again true to form. First place in the series was out of reach, but this was a race just like any other. When the clock ticks “GO!”, friends become targets and racers become obstacles, not to mention the bull’s eye on your own back. Starting somewhere around fourth or fifth in the first lap, I had passed my main ChiPs competitors by the midpoint of the race with only one perpetrator to catch, but this OJ got away. Chasing over hill and vale for the next three laps the gap was still about 100 yards and giving it one last push up the final climb, I finished 15 seconds behind the winner. It was a hard fought 2nd place effort. Special thanks to the hills of the West Side of GR for getting me in shape for that! Also my teammate, Josh Hogeterp, needs to be commended for a strong race that ended up being, through ChiPS mathematical magic, the reason I was able to take sole possession of 2nd place in the series. So I failed in my pre-season goal of taking home the gold by only a couple points, but I worked hard for it and came to the end of the season in the best shape I’ve ever been. That’s the beauty of competition.
unnamedWithout that heated competition, I never would’ve raced 9 of the 10 races in the series this season. Without my team, I never would’ve been in shape to compete at all. And without mountain biking, I’d still be an ex-college tennis player. A heartfelt thank you to all the race promoters of the series, my  teammates, and all my competitors. You make this sport more than about riding a bike, but a way of life.


541535_887882041222451_1098551933766898914_nSomething about the Iceman just gets me so excited! I guess it is the idea of spending time with my awesome team mates and their wives.  Well, as the forecast turned to crap…most of the wives bailed and I can’t say that I blame them! Thanks Nancy Curtis, Joni Murphy, Amy Remelts & Kim Stafford for sticking it out!
2014…My 7th Iceman, Wave 7. Thought it would be a LUCKY sign…but then it started to rain as temperatures started to drop.  My team mate, Jane and I lined up together behind the ginormous puddle with a planned strategy: I would try to hang with her on the pavement and she would stick with me on the dirt. Except there wasn’t any dirt. Nope. None! It was all MUD! Thick, oozy, snag your tire and pull you backward mud. We trudged through rain, sleet, slush, wind, snow, more rain, and other precipitation. The course went from bad to worse. What a MESS! I have never ridden in mud so deep! The Ka-chunking of my big ring told me it was time to ride thru a puddle for a “rinse”….I nearly drowned. My numbing fingers seemed to give up after a while so pushing my gear shifter with the palm of my hand was the only option. (No luck with the big ring. Jane had the opposite problem…no luck with her small ring. Good thing she is so strong!)  I ended up having the record slowest Iceman of my 7 year streak. I assumed there would be no podium for me this year. Wrong! 10734143_887878761222779_3134749545901650561_n
As soon as I crossed the line, I searched for the FOUNDERS tent, peeled my soaking clothes off in the Stafford’s heated camper, then was off with Tenner to catch the shuttle back to our car. We arrived just in time to see Max crossing Williamsburg Road.
By the time we got back, the awards had started.  Our team did pretty dang awesome overall. (See results.) 1979727_887881744555814_1713814040134687439_nBut the real fun began when Rick grabbed the big FOUNDERS flag and we made our way into the woods to cheer on Earl, Jeremy, and Dennis who were racing in the Pro category.
Wrapping up the night all huddled up in Rob & Jeremy’s condo, eating gumbo and cornbread with burnt pizza…we all re-lived the day and how much it sucked. Signing up again next year will be like signing up for childbirth. Somehow you forget the pain & in the long run you know it will all be worth it!


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