Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What a journey!

Warning: This is an extremely long post!

When I signed up for the DK 200 I don't really think I knew what I was in store for. Yes, I knew that I was signing up for 200 miles in the Flint Hills of Kansas, but I had no idea about the journey I was embarking upon. I will leave out most of the details leading up to the race other than..... I was able to purchase an awesome Salsa Casserroll bike and transform it into my very own gravel grinder bike. My long time friend Sheldon almost immediately signed on as my support crew. And I received lots of tidbits of information and tips, not to mention all the messages checking up on my training and giving me encouragement from Wendy Davis. Time quickly passed and before I knew it June arrived and it was time to head to Kansas.

Those are the only trees in Kansas, Seriously!

Crystal, Ethan, and myself hit the road and picked Sheldon up at his house on the way. I had already planned the route ahead of time so there was not much to worry about. Not a lot to see on the way out there. We did travel through Ft. Scott on the way, kind of an interesting looking town. We made a pit stop here and there and eventually landed at McDonalds for lunch. Not necessarily my choice, but majority rules. Ethan enjoyed a hamburger and some apples which greatly improved his mood, not sure if it was the food or just getting out of the carseat. One other tidbit of information about our stop, even though I said I would not blog about it just to avoid personal embarassment. While backing up to turn around, since the parking lot did not go all the way around the McDonalds, I backed into something ( turned out to be a small metal box) that was next to the trash can, that apparently I did not see ( courtesy of the bike and bike rack, which apprently does block you view slightly). When we got out to go in I immediately noticed that it had made a slice in the plastic part of the bumper of the car, Crystal did not notice it, that is until Sheldon had to go over and poke his finger in it and say " Hey, was this here before?". Thanks alot Sheldon. Anyways Crystal took it very well and it didn't ruin the trip. We arrived in Emporia about 4 p.m. and found our hotel. I had secured us a room early on at the EconoLodge using my corporate discount from work. Not the nicest of accomodations, but other than the musky smell in the stairs it served its purpose well. We unloaded our stuff and my bike and then headed downtown to find the Granada Theater which served as the Check-In, Pre-race meeting, and Start/Finish Line for the race.

I got checked in, received my t-shirt, water bottle, map for the first leg, and some complimetary chamois butter and we headed off to explore town a little bit. We found our way to Wal-Mart and picked up a couple last minute items and stuff to keep Ethan happy the following day. Next we headed over to Applebee's for some dinner, since I had opted not to purchase tickets to the Pasta Palooza event being held downtown. Crystal and I both ordered some pasta with the intention of sharing with each other, but it ended up that the cajun shrimp pasta was a little to spicy for her, so she got my chicken alfredo. Ironic that the person who was going to be nowhere near a bathroom for pretty much the whole next day was the one who ended up eating the " spicy" stuff. But it worked out just fine. After dinner we dropped Crystal and Ethan at the hotel since he was getting tired and headed downtown for the pre-race meeting. It was filled with the normal rules and then Thank You's and some great schwag was tossed out into the crowd, and just like always I won absolutely nothing. After the meeting I was able to find a few people to talk to ..... Bob Jenkins, Luke Lamb, Robby Brown, Jim and Wendy Davis, and a few others. I had been kinda anxious about riding and getting stuck by myself, but Bob was planning on riding about the same pace I had planned for so we agreed to ride together for a while. Sheldon and I headed back to the hotel, I made a few more preparations and laid out my stuff for the race and hit the hay. I think we were in bed around 10:30 and set for a 4:00 a.m. wake up. I didn't sleep real well because the air conditioner did not seem to be working properly, I had it set on 62 degrees and still seemed to be smothering. Morning came early, but I got up and got around.

We all headed downtown for the start of the race and I got everything filled up and loaded up. Racers began to filter in and the street filled up pretty quickly. I spent a little time with Sheldon, Crystal, and Ethan and then found Bob and the other members of Team Redwheel and lined up with them.

The race started with a police escort out of town, so esentially it was a neutral start. Bob and I took off at the pace that kept us right behind those in front of us and then found Jim Davis and we pedaled through town together. It was at this point that I realized that we would have to watch our speed and not get caught up with other people and go out to fast. At one point before we hit the gravel we were cruising at 20 + mph, once we hit the gravel we settled into our own pace and let the riders pass us by. It seemed kind of discouraging at times, but we knew we needed to ride our own race. Jim took off and we didn't see him again until checkpoint # 1. We rode with several different people in the first several miles. All the riders were very polite even when passing us by. We rode with a few of the Redwheel guys for a couple miles before the went on at their pace. I settled into a pace about 13 mph and Bob stayed right behind me, if I seemed to get a little ways ahead then I would slow down and he wold catch up or vice versa and we took turns riding in front absorbing the wind I guess you could say. The miles clicked off pretty quickly and before we knew it we were twenty miles in and then thirty. We were rolling through beautiful scenery and the weather was great. We had to stop a several ( or maybe only like twice) times for Bob so he could go pee, I think he must have a really small bladder, or he might be pregnant. We reminded each other to eat and drink and things were going really well. In fact somewhere around mile 40 or so I may have even said " I think we can do this Bob, we can just stick together and finish this thing" to which he said" Be careful now, this thing will suck you in and deceive you, before you know it you're lying in filthy cow stained water, begging for mercy" or something like that. We kept pedaling, passing some people and being passed by others. We came to a few hills that were probably definetly rideable, but still having a lot of miles left for the day we took our time and walked up them. No shame in saving energy for later. Somewhere around mile 50 I would guess. We turned into the wind on a dirt road, ( by dirt I mean dirt, not gravel) it went on for around 5 miles or so and this was when I got my first taste of how the day would go. I started to feel hotter than I thought I should and just drained of energy. I had been eating, but obviously not enough. We eventually turned out of the wind and we could see town and picked up the pace. I came into checkpoint #1 right behind Bob and felt pretty good, 58 miles down, 146 to go. My awesome support crew was anxiously awaiting my arrival and quickly shuffled me to a chair, handed me a sandwich and powerade and began to refill my bike. I sat down and ate and looked around at all the people that were there, it seemed like a lot more people were hanging out than what I thought there would be. I saw Jim and Wendy Davis, whom I assumed would have been long gone, out snapping wrists with their Superior Attitude, Superior state of mind. Crystal informed me that there had already been people that dropped out. Wow only a quarter of the way and calling it a day, even though deep down I kinda envied them, because it was really starting to get hot outside. Bob ate and drank and was ready to go pretty quickly, quicker than I wanted really, but I knew that we should not waste to much time sitting around. We headed back out for the next 44 miles. Bob was feeling good, better than me and I could tell it too. I felt like I was having a hard time keeping up and could tell he was slowing down a lot to let me catch up. About 8 miles out, around the 65 mile mark, I told him I needed a break. He stopped to wait with me, but I told him to go on, to keep up his pace and not let me slow him down. He was very reluctant to leave and tried to give me electrolytes and about a half dozen Honey Stinger Waffles, I took one and he wasn't happy about it but he went on, not before telling me " Dude I'll see you in a few minutes", thinking that I would catch back up. It was around this point that Wendy went flying by and I told him to chase her down and ride her back wheel for a while. Bob rode on and I sat down on the road, in the sun. I had planned that as soon as he was out of sight I would just call and get a ride and quit. There wasn't any shade nearby except for in the tall grass so I just sat in the gravel. Several people came by and every one of them asked if I was ok. I ate the honey stinger waffle and drank most of a bottle of Gatorade. I was still feeling poorly, but I just didn't want to quit. I called Crystal to tell her what was going on. She asked " How do you feel? Me: I feel like just sitting here in the road and crying. Crystal: Why? Me: I don't know. She said that she would come and get me if that is what I wanted or if I wanted to go a little farther then check back in to do that. I hung up with her and mounted back up thinking I would just ride a little and see how I felt. I went about a half mile and stopped to look at the map, to see where a good place to stop would be, so that I could be easily found. About that time Jim Davis rode by, camera in hand, I saw him in time to " wave" to him Team Seagal style and he rode on yelling something about Lets go or something. I jumped back on my bike thinking if I could catch him maybe I would be a little more motivated, well that didn't happen, he was flying and was soon out of sight. I was now by myself and in my own personal hell. It was hot and I felt terrible. A couple more miles down the road I came across Derrick of team Orange Lederhosen, he looked about like I felt, he was changing a flat tire. I slowed to ask if he needed any help, he said he was fine and getting ready to inflate his tire. I rode on, but about a couple hundred yards down the road I heard an explosion, sounded like his tire or tube had popped. I rode on knowing that I needed to keep moving. ( I later found out his tire wasn't all the way on and his tube popped). I just kept pedaling a few miles at a time and then resting. I would call Crystal and let her know I was ok and still going and then continue on. I came across a lot of people sitting along the side of road, some were just taking a break, others were waiting for a ride. I would pass them then a mile or two down the road they would pass me. Just back and forth, back and forth. I had eventually made it to 75 miles and found a Low Maintenance road, Travel at your own risk, or at least that is what the sign said at the beginning of the road. It was on this section that I got my one and only flat of the race. I had met up with a lady and was riding along with her and inadvertently rode through some big rocks which resulted in the flat. I changed it in what little shade I could find, thank goodness for the cO2 inflator I had purchased, because I never would have pumped that thing up. I kept trudging on, pedaling and taking breaks. I knew that if I could make it to checkpoint #2 I would be done, I really wanted to get my first century ride ever. I was watching my fluid intake, but I couldn't eat, nothing tasted good, every bite made me want to vomit. I managed to stomach a couple accel gels and honey stinger gels which gave me a little energy, but not enough. Still I pedaled on, the closer I got the more determined I became to finish this leg of the race. Around mile 90 or so I came across a guy who was pushing his bike along up a slight grade. I was ready for a break so I stopped to walk with him. He was cramping up, was nauseated and feeling terribly. He was about ready to throw in the towel. I tried to give a little encouragement telling him there was just about 12 miles left, we had already made it 90 miles what was 12 more. He wasn't buying it, I offrered to give him anything he needed, but he declined. We crested the hill and i rode on, I eventually saw him go by in a vehicle he got a ride. A couple miles later I grabbed my camelbak tube to get a drink and sucked air. At first I thought maybe it had just bled off, but no it had not. I was out of water. I remembered passing a water spigot by a corral a ways back, but I wan't sure how far so I did not turn back. How could I be out of water, I didn't even drink much over half in the first leg? Regardless I was and I had drank most of my powerade during my mental breakdown and what I had left was too hot to drink. I pedaled on wondering if I could make it without any hydration for the last ten miles, probably not. And then my prayers were answered a jeep pulled up, one of the jeeps from the jeep club that was running support for the race, the only people other than racers that we could accept assistance from, and he had water. I quickly filled a bottle and my camelbak and started to drink, I nearly made myself sick I drank so fast, but it was cold and tasted so good. This saved my race, I don't think I could have made it without this water. The miles ticked by and I saw more people waiting for rides and more support crews came by searching for their riders. The town eventually came into view and I knews that I was going to make it. I rolled into checkpoint # 2 around 4:45 ish 15 or so minutes past the cutoff of 4:30 p.m. I had missed the cutoff, I was out of the race, which was good, cause I couldn't have went any farther I don't think. Bob and Jim were there along with a couple of the Team Redwheel guys, they were all calling it a day. Wendy had went on, she had convinced Corey Case to go with her and they were on their way to # 3. We didn't get to sit around very long because the sky was clouding up and it started to rain. Now I was really glad I wasn't still out there. The heat had been enough of a blow, let alone to get rained on. We made a stop at a gas station for some post race beverages and we were all headed to #3 to wait for the other riders to arrive. A few miles down the road everyone stopped and pulled over. Wendy and Corey had gotten into some horrible soul sucking, unrideable mud and needed a ride and another team redwheel guy had endured high winds and hail and was calling it a day. We doubled back and found Wendy and Corey and headed on to #3. We arrived in Council Grove and found the grocery store, Stoney and Matt of Team Redwheel were already there and heading out to finish so this only left Luke out on the course. Robby had ridden the first 102 miles and Luke was to ride the second half, relay style. We hung out and listened to the horror stories from the riders coming in about how bad the "B" roads were. We waited for quite some time and were starting to become concerned about Luke when he came riding in, he was in good spirits despite the conditions. A big majority of the riders had abandoned the course and took other roads to come into town, actually riding more miles to avoid the mud. Initially it was thought that this was acceptable, but ultimately ended in those riders being DQ'ed. I am not sure that everyone was being truthful, but that is their own personal issue to deal with. Luke was up front and admitted to taking the highway and accepted his DQ, like a man. Luke had arrived just in time to enjoy some pizza that we had ordered and just got back with and then we loaded up to head back to Emporia. On the way back we received word that both of the Team Redwheel guys had already finished. Great job to those guys, over 300 started only around 65 finished. I don't know for sure but I hope the guy who I loaned my light to was able to finish as well. It wasn't an expensive light, but I hope it worked for him. After dropping off Lukes' bike and Robby at the hotel we headed back to our room and called it a night.

I ended the day with right at 103 miles, what an experience. I will be going back next year, you should come along. It is almost a year away. Plenty of time to train. Also a huge thanks most of all to my wife Crystal for putting up with me training and being out riding and going along for support. Thanks to Sheldon for coming along and chauffering Crystal and Ethan. Thanks to Wendy Davis for the encouragement and training tips. Also a huge thanks to the Redwheel support crew and Luke Lamb for keeping Crystal company while she waited on me all day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ozark Greenways Adventure Race

A few weeks ago several of us traveled down to Noel, Mo for the OGAR. If you don't know where Noel is, lets just say that I heard a lot of banjos as we got near there. The teams were as follows.... Holly and Danessa, both of whom raced with us last year, Steve, and Myself would be racing 4 person coed while Chris and Dr. James ( I later found out he preferred to be called by his first name, Weldon, and not anything that had to do with Doc, Dr, or so forth) would team up for a 2 person team. Everyone had raced before except Weldon, this would be his first and to say that he was excited would be a major understatement. In a visit to his house the week before the race he had ran around like a kid at christmas showing us all of his new clothes and camelbak, He also purchased a brand new Gary Fisher Cobia 29er for this race. I did take the opportunity to "test ride" it while I had it at the base, and I must say it would not take much to convince me to ride a 29er. And by not much I mean getting one of my own by any means necessary. =)
Race check in was on Friday evening with the race on Saturday. Steve and Weldon were not going to be down until late, so Chris and I arranged to take all the bikes with us so that we could do the bike drop before it got dark. Chris took three and I took the other three on my new trunk rack that I had recently purchased for the upcoming DK200. It is made to hold three bikes, but there is not any extra room, that is for sure.
Crystal, Ethan, and I headed down early Friday morning, her brother David just so happens to live in Noel and he wanted to hang out for a while and eat lunch. In true fashion, just like the past two years, the day before the race was filled with rain and bad weather. We found his house and visited for a while then he took us to his favorite place to eat, which turned out to be a gas station cafe. Crystal was not overly impressed, but I thoroughly enjoyed my double cheeseburger and fries. David soon headed off to work and we drove around exploring while waiting for Chris and the girls to arrive. Once they made it we headed off to the bike drop, and staged our gear for the next day. We then headed off to check in, where we received our race numbers, t-shirts and even had time to eat a little pasta. We had planned on camping and sleeping in our tent, but between the torrential rains and the fact that Davids house was only about a ten minute drive from race headquarters Crystal decided that we should just stay at his house, he was more than happy and had already prepared his spare bedroom in anticipation. Everyone else ended up sleeping in their cars rather than setting up their tents, unfortunately there wasn't room for me to invite them to share in our accomodations.
I got an early start on Saturday and headed down to headquarters for the 530am map pickup, Crystal elected to stay asleep and get a ride down to the car later. The maps were handed out, a few last minute course changes due to high water, and we boarded the buses to head to the start of the race. We were bussed to a gravel road intersection about 4 miles from where we had dropped our bikes the night before, which would also serve as the TA from the orienterring leg. The race started with a road run just over 4 miles, mostly gravel, then ending on pavement. The faster teams took off like a shot, the slower teams took off walking, and we were in the middle. Chris and Weldon were out in front followed by the rest of us.( Important note: We were two different teams, but decided prior to the race to just stay together due to lack of navigational experience of some team members) I did have to take a few breaks and walk a little, but was overall satistfied with my performance, especially since I ran absolutely none in preparation for this race. I had actually debated even doing this race, just to prevent injury to my ankle, due to the fact that DK200 was only two weeks later. We made it to the TA for the start of the orienteering leg and eventually corralled everyone onto the trail. This leg was made up of 5 checkpoints, they could be done in any order. On the map they all appeared to be pretty close to the trail, which later proved to be not exactly so true. We hit the first two pretty easily, probably mostly due to the beat down path where everyone else had went, and headed on to the next one. I knew it was going to be a little bit more difficult, but figured with the stampede trail to the others it would be the same. Wrong! We ran, then walked, then ran and pretty soon we thought we should be in the right spot, but we couldn't see where anyone else had been. Needless to say we wasted well over an hour looking around before we finally went back and found a reference on the map and led us right to it. ( Should have done that from the beginning, or just took a slow and steady approach following the map closer from the beginning) Next we could take the trail up and around, which was what the girls wanted to do, or a short bushwack to the next point. I insisted on the bushwack, and even though they were apprehensive that we could find it that way, we went off trail. It was thick, dense, tick infested brush, but we came right out on the trail only about fifty feet away from the checkpoint. Score one for my navigational skills. That was our last one and we made our way back to the TA.
Next up was the biking leg, the part I was most excited about, since I had been training and riding a lot. We quickly realized just how much time we had lost once we got back to our bikes, I think we were the next to last team out of that TA, but we were having fun, and that was most important. We hit the road, then across a field to the creek where we had the privilege of wading through waist deep swift water while carrying our bikes. This was followed by a muddy hike/ bike push fest across some private property to intersect with a trail system which started with another bike push up a hill from HELL! It may not have been too bad early on, but after a hundred or more people come through and rut it up and get it all worked up, it was pure cardio intensity. The rest of the "technical bike" was mostly uneventful, a few sweet downhills followed by a lot of pushing on trails that were not really trails, and one more navigational blunder which cost us another 30-45 minutes by going up a wrong hill.
We eventually made it back to transition to the " road bike" section. While some of us were filling up on water I overheard one of the volunteers saying that the winners had finished about three to four hours ago. What a slap to the face, we still had 8 miles of highway and then 8 miles of paddling to go. Once on the highway I really started to feel good, finally something that we could actually pedal and ride for a while. I actually had to make myself slow down and wait so as to not get to far ahead of everyone. I think we covered this part in around 40 minutes or so, and found our way to the river.
We had made up a little ground while on the bikes because there were still about a half dozen canoes left when we arrived. We paddled on the elk river, it was pretty wide and calm with a little bit of current. A little bit of scenery, but not the prettiest I have seen for sure. The wind was really starting to blow as we progressed down the river, sometimes it would almost stop the canoe in between strokes, or it seemed like it anyway. We kept a good pace and covered this leg in about 1hr 40 minutes I think. Not to bad considering that for about the last mile I was so nauseated that I thought I might puke or just fall overboard. I guess I forgot to drink anything once we got into the canoes, I had taken my camelbak off and sat it behind me, out of sight , out of mind I guess.
We made it into the finish line in about 10 1/2 hrs. I don't know where we ended up placing and I don't really care. There was still food and beer left and it was still daylight. We had a great day, no one got hurt, everyone was still smiling, Weldon had a positive first race experience, and we all made it home safely. Luckily, because the next night was when the tornado struck Joplin, which it just so happens is less than twenty miles from where we were.