Saturday, May 23, 2015

Call Me What You Will

Stubborn, tenacious, determined, headstrong, steadfast, or single minded.  I've heard them all before, I'm sure I'll hear them many times again.  Essentially, once I get a little seed or worm in my mind, I can rarely shake it.  Oh sure, I have learned to bend and drop things in my old(er) age, and I try my best not to let this behavior affect others, but when it comes cycling or travel, and I get fixated on something, I usually have to follow it through.

Today was no different.  I had it in mind to hit the IL border via the H8TR trail and by god I was going to do it.  I didn't feel all that strong, and when the crew I was riding with thought about bagging the final eight miles, I'll be honest, I thought about it too but instead I chose to go it alone and meet up with them again in Monroe.  So as not to make them wait too long, I picked up my pace--hoping this wouldn't come back to bite me in the long run--and did my best not to hit the kamikaze chipmunks choosing to hang out in the line of my tires. 

On my way back I ran into one of my crew who decided to do the same thing.  He almost turned back with me, but when he found out the border was only 1.5 miles away, he kept going.  I laughed to myself thinking "glad I'm not the only one to act this way". 

So here's what went through my head on the way back to Monroe (besides all the beer I was going to drink at the brewery):  Would it have killed me to not complete the ride I had in mind?, Isn't it more important to hang out with friends vs. complete a stupid goal which really means nothing?,  What did accomplishing this give me? 

Okay, so these questions weren't really all that important for this ride seeing we all joined up in one hour, but it really makes me think about longer trips with others or possible expeditions I may choose to do in the future.  Am I best doing these things alone (most of my more challenging wilderness trips and long road trips were done solo)?  Do I make a terrible travel partner for others because I feel the need to see things through?  I have both some longer bike tours I really want to do in the next few years as well as some extensive trips abroad.  I really need to figure out how to either drop some of my expectations (these only apply to me mind you, not my friends I'm doing things with) if needed or just be okay going it alone. 

No amount of beer and vile green malt liquor gave me answers.  Hopefully time will.

John "flying" back from the border

This, I think, is more important than just reaching a goal

My angel of death with beer

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Crushing Gravel part 10: What does say about Almanzo conditions?

Starting line of Almanzo 100
photo courtesy of Spring ValleyTourism

The view from where I was--and my riding friend, Marc

I swear I haven't learned my lesson.  I still look at a week before events, then again 5 days, 3 days and 1 day prior.  Why do I do this to myself?  Who knows.  Maybe somewhere deep inside, I feel the need to freak myself out a bit.  Of course was calling for up to 80% chance of rain/thunderstorms and high wind.  Did I believe them?  You bet.  Although I'd like to consider myself an eternal optimist, I'll be honest, I'm not.  This is how events go down for me.  I plan and check everything within my power...then check again.  When it comes to things I can't control, I tend to think of the worst case scenario so when anything better happens, I'm always elated.  It's a disease...I know.  This is how became  One of my friends, Steve, who was with me at Almanzo had to make fun of me regarding what I was telling him *could* happen weather wise.

So...did it rain cats and dogs?  Did roofs get blown off farmhouses?  Did pigs fly?  Well, it did rain right before the race started and it did drizzle a bit during the event itself, but honestly, the conditions couldn't have been better and all that stupid worrying I did prior was worthless--but I was elated (heck, I joke a bit in my head that I could have shaved 15-30 mins. off my time if I had saved that energy for the ride).

Mike and Stu headed out on their third day of touring the Alexander course

Creek forging

Beautiful scenery, beautiful gravel conditions

Banjo Brothers Oasis

Steve welcoming me in with beer

Dan crushing his first Almanzo

This is my brief and somewhat discombobulated recall (in snippet form) of Almanzo Lives.

-Smartphones may be good for some things but they can't direct you out of Madison properly.  I think it took us three tries to get off the beltline.  "Shut up Siri!" was said more than once.

-Nick Cave makes perfect road trip music.

-Candy, pizza, beer (including shower beers and bed beers) make you stronger for gravel rides.

-Squeezing other rider's tires is widely accepted (even though I constantly joke and tell people "hands off").  I may not have completely bought into Jan's theory in Bicycle Quarterly, or Mike's strong suggestions to run my 33mm tires at 40lbs, but I did bring my tires down to 55lbs.  Baby steps guys...

-Who would have guessed gravel could be so pristine on a course which had 30-50 miles of freshies the past two years?  I swear this was some of the easiest gravel I've ever ridden--hence my faster finish time even though I spent WAY too much time at the Banjo Brothers oasis swilling Hamm's and eating oreos.

-Maybe I should have stopped to reapply chamois cream somewhere along the way since riding in damp shorts for over 100 miles isn't the nicest feeling.  To quote Dan "my nether regions are tender".

-Taking pee breaks while doing these events is 100% acceptable.  Peeing while still on the road and connected to the bike is not.  C'mon folks, stepping off the road isn't that difficult.

-Disposing of one's used gu packets on the road is worse than peeing while still on the road.  Although Steve's theory is that it must be the roadies with high psi in their tires--so much damn rattling they can't stick 'em in their pockets afterwards.

-It's always a blast chatting with folks for a few miles--finding out where they're from, realizing you have common connections (the bike world is way too small), and then parting ways on the hills only to meet up with them later down the road.  Leap frogging is part of the fun at these rides.

-Seeing folks you only ever see at other gravel events during the year is one of the cool things that makes you realize this is one giant family.

-I finally made it up the dreaded Oriele climb (I'd like to think my legs were stronger this year but I'm guessing it's just because the gravel didn't look like a riverbed).

-When you're really tired, and have had maybe one too many beers, the funniest things are said--or maybe they aren't that funny and it's all just situational.  Either way, I rarely laugh as hard as I do during gravel weekends.  Having really cool folks around you the whole time of course helps.

-I rarely want these weekends to end--this was just another example.  In fact even though I said this would be my last Almanzo, I may have been talked into doing another one with Dan.

Thanks to Steve and Dan for making this weekend what it was.  Thanks to Stu and Mike for knocking on our door and telling us about their adventures. Thanks to Marc for keeping me company on and off up to Forestville.  Thanks to all the cool guys from IL who hung out with us in the hotel hallway drinking beer with us while it poured rain outside. And thanks to Chris Skogen who started Almanzo and Spring Valley for taking it over.

My parting shot of the hotel room

Sunday, May 3, 2015

No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn

I'm beginning to wonder if I really need sleep.  Bikes=need.  Friends=need.  Beer=need. Adventures=need.  Sleep?  Meh.

RW24 sign up

I used to be "that kid" who couldn't function the next day after a slumber party.  I'd be a walking zombie.  Throw in any type of imbalances in my eating (eating late, eating junk food etc) and what you'd have is a very grouchy kid who resembled the one in the exorcist.  You think I'm kidding?  Ask my mom.

Somewhere in my teens, I realized I had to stay up past 9pm to go to good concerts.  Hey, I had been bred to wake, eat, go to school or work, ride and repeat.  No room for any of this nightlife nonsense.  What happened when I discovered an entirely new world out there?  Fun, that's what.  Almost instantly my training went out the window.  There were bigger and better things to do.

But wait!  Thankfully I came to the realization that bikes, friends, and late night shenanigans can all exist peacefully together.  Enter in RW24 and urban riding in general.  Each year, RW24 puts me into a blissful sleep deprived state.  I get to the point when I actually think "I don't need sleep--just another beer and shot of espresso...oh, and maybe some candy".  Normally this mix doesn't occur on RW24 sign up day (May Day), but someone who shall remain nameless decided to get the line going earlier and earlier so that now, to get a coveted spot, one must spend the evening and night as well as the entire next day in line to make the cut.  I took the bait this year, although I said it'll be my last, and spent the night in a park with more than 100 others, none of which I'm guessing slept with the booming techno 'til three and the constant banging of empties.  But hey, it's for the best bike event in the world and this is just another part of it.

So any rational person would go home and sleep on and off for a couple days after something like that. I'm not that person.  Nope, instead I slept six hours, got up early to do a road ride, then b-lined it to La Crosse to hang out with friends, watch bike races, ride around the city and down the trail, drink and essentially suck every single drop out of the weekend.  Hey, after what seemed like a year long winter, it's not that irrational.

Now, after a shower--god I needed that shower--and consuming copious amounts of vegetable matter to offset the brick in my stomach, I can sleep.  Thanks go out to my partners in crime over the past few days!