September 25, 2012

2012 Berryman Adventure - Part 1

I wouldn’t be racing the 2012 Berryman Adventure with Robin, she was directing the Miles for Meso 5K race in Alton Il, but I didn’t have to look long for a replacement.  My youngest son Jacob was all over it.  We entered as a 2 person male team.  He has been running cross-country for his high school team, so I was pretty confident he would be able to do all the trekking/running sections.  But it had been a long time since he had any real time on the mountain bike.  As luck would have it, Andy Gibbs from The Cyclery race team planned a ‘skills’ day at Castlewood State park.  We both went and got TONS of great tips on bike handling, racing strategy, and even spent some time getting Jacob’s hardtail Niner to fit him a little better.

Race week finally arrived and I took off work Friday.  Packing camp stuff, bikes, required gear, food, and water for two racers sure seems like more than twice the normal amount of packing.  It was a good thing I took the vacation day.  But as you will see shortly, I will never again complain about why we are required to carry so much first aid stuff with us.

We were the first ones to arrive at the campsite we would be sharing.  Got all set up and unloaded about the time Bob and Travis from Team Virtus pulled in.

And not long after that we had the Boos brothers from Orange Lederhosen with world famous volunteer Emma, then SuperKate and Jim, all of us were goofing off and sharing a lot of laughs.
Jacob took the time to remind Kate about a certain volleyball bet she had lost to him earlier in the summer where the loser had to eat a raw egg.  Unfortunately for Kate, Jim heard it, and Bob, and pretty much everyone else at the campsite.  But she caught a lucky break when no one had an egg.  It went downhill l quick when Bob said, “Nobody said it had to be a chicken egg…. There’s got to be a nest around here somewhere.”
But the egg bet would have to wait.  It was time for check-in and the pre-race meeting.  Maybe there will be an opportunity to go double-or-nothing soon.

We drove over to BASS resort and checked in at the main office (you have to get a tag to hang in your car or the chubby-nazi-security guards will get all puffed up and excited).  While we were in their office we checked the cooler for eggs (none) and Jacob spotted a bin with volleyballs for sale.  He bought one with allowance money.   There is a sand volleyball court near the race meeting pavilion, so he was getting people to play with him while I was hanging out waiting for meeting to start.
The meeting got going and some attendance prizes were tossed out.  Jacob caught a tee shirt and a water bottle to go along with the cool orange tech Berryman shirt all racers received.  We picked up 1 map and cluesheet for each team.  The meeting was quick and to-the-point, which was nice.  It meant more time for plotting, planning and sleep.

I slept great, but morning came quick anyway.  We loaded up and took bikes, paddles, and a drop bag with extra water and bike lights to the boat ramp. 

We dropped it all off in a likely spot near the volunteer tent, and continued on to race HQ and the starting line.
Focused and in the zone.

Just before 8:00am we all got lined up and sang the National Anthem, which is always a great thing, but let me tell you, adventure racers are not singers. Haha, we were so bad.

I must have been talking or something, but I didn’t even hear the start signal, just all of a sudden everyone around me took off running.  So we did too.  All the racers looked to be taking the same line into the woods that we had chosen the night before, so it was lucky that Bonk Hard had two punches hanging at the first checkpoint.  It kept things moving along great.  We ran the entire first section only pausing to punch the points.  My nav was right on during this section, so we got to the bike transition (CP5) in just under an hour.   There was a lot of bikes still on the ground which is always a good sign.

The 12hr and 24hr course split here with 12hr racers getting on bikes, and 24hr racers going out by canoe.  There was a 6 mile road ride to CP6 and the next cluesheet.  We were only passed by one team on this leg – Out2Play.  The Scherff’s are super-fast and outstanding navigators.  I was feeling pretty good about ourselves to even see these guys after 5 checkpoints.
Gear Note:  If you are still racing without a map board on your bike, get one, or even better make one.  These things are the only way to go.

At the transition we were handed a cluesheet with 10 points to plot (CP7 – CP17).  Jacob was great, he had caught on to the UTM reading method that Robin and I figured out a long time ago, so we were plotted and moving again pretty quickly.
This is where I made the big nav mistake of the day.  It would have been so easy to pull out my compass and set a bearing, or at least north the map.  But no, I guess it was overconfidence from the morning success.  I just took off running down a likely looking dirt road.  The first clue was reentrant, so I ran us down a reentrant, obviously turned out to be the wrong one, then tried the next reentrant over, then the next one.  Grrrrrrrrrr.  After we had searched and wasted about 45 minutes, I finally pulled my head out of my ass and took us back to the transition area to re-set ourselves.  The error was so obvious. 

Only like 5 minutes later and we were punching CP12.  Why, why, why, didn’t I do that the first time, we had started off so good.  I should know better by now.  Never Assume.
We got back on a roll and knocked out four more CP’s (11, 8, 7 and 9) when the AR Gods of chance bit again.  We were moving fast down a ridiculously steep and leaf covered hill when I stepped on a baby head hidden in the litter.  I never even saw it.  My ankle rolled out from under me and I crashed down the hill with a high pitched and probably very girly-sounding “Yelp!”    I heard some popping sounds, but maybe it was just the sound of the rocks rolling under me.  My ankle hurt so bad I thought I was gonna puke.  I sat there on side of the hill cussing for a few seconds trying to get it together with my head running ideas around about search and rescue, helicopters, hospitals, casts, etc.


September 16, 2012

Gravel Bike - Part 7

There are some great step-by-step wheelbuilding guides on the web so I'm going to only hit the high points with this post.  All the details to wheelbuilding can be found here and here.

There are not a lot of tools needed, spoke wrench, screwdriver, punch, old broken spoke (donated by SuperKate and Matson Hill), wheel truing stand, and a tube of grease.

Gathered up all my parts (spokes, nipples, etc) and leaned a 32 spoke wheel from my mountain bike up against my workstand to use an example for the lacing.

I used SuperKate's broken spoke to help with dropping the nipples into the rim holes.  The Stan's Iron Cross  rims are double wall so it would be way too easy to lose a nipple down inside the rim.  You don't want to do that - the little nipples are a real PITA to shake and rattle back out  (Yeah, I know this from personal experience).  I put a little spot of grease on each nipple to make sure it wouldn't get seized up during tensioning.  

Then I lubed the threads of each spoke end

Armed (and dangerous) from reading internet instructions and looking carefully at my mtn bike wheel, I started lacing spokes into the hub, rim and nipples.

I did the inward spokes first.  Doing the outward spokes first would make threading the others in later more difficult.

Installing the spokes gets confusing, be sure to find a quiet spot to do this.  292mm spokes on the drive side, 294mm spokes on the brake side.  You skip one hole between spokes on the hub, then skip three holes on the rim.  I ended up replacing a 294 with a 292 later on during tensioning that got mixed up.  Also caught myself with a 2 hole gap on the rim in one place.  Once you get to this stage (8 spokes on each side) you have to start lacing.  I was doing a 3 cross pattern so I kept repeating to myself as put another spoke in:  skip one-over-over-under-skip three.  Then put about 4 turns on each nipple to hold them in place.

And eventually they were all installed.  In this picture the nipples and spokes are all lose and rattling around, some even have long bends in them.
I followed the internet instructions for tensioning and stress relieving.  The only thing to really watch out for is to keep exact count of the number of rotations you make with each nipple.  The nipples ALL have to have the same number of turns or the wheel will not come out round.

The other thing to watch is spoke thread protrusion in the nipple.  You are supposed to aim for the threaded end of your spokes to stop right at the bottom of the nipple screw slot.  Mine came out just right.

With all the tensioning done i took the wheel over to the truing stand and straightened it out.  I got it almost perfect, like tenths of a millimeter.

So I had to see how the wheels looked on the bike:

One last check to make.  The internet experts say that its easy to tell when wheels are built by a 'good' wheelbuilder if the Presta valve hole in the rim will line up exactly with the name on the hub.  I must've gotten lucky cause I nailed it:

I couldn't be happier with how these wheels turned out.  I really like the black spoke / red nipple combination.  Being a first-time wheelbuilder I had to potential to scrap a lot of parts.  I was afraid I bought all the wrong length spokes, or I would overtension one and pull it through the rim, or tear a hub hole.  But everything really went great.  If you've ever thought about building a set - Do It!  

I can't wait to ride these wheels.  Hope they don't blow up on a big descent and kill me.

Next up in Part 8 will be brakes.

Part 6                                                                                Part 8

September 13, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin 2012

By Robin Rongey
with comments from Chuck in orange
How many times do you think it will take before I say NO when someone suggests I do something stupid with them?  So this is how the story goes. Just over a year ago, my friend and teammate, Chuck suggested I do an Ironman with him.  Of course at first I was like “no way” then after a while I gave in and said yes.  Chuck said I found the perfect race, Ironman Wisconsin, it’s a 5 hour drive, it should be cool by September and it gives us all summer to train.  So we had a plan and the minute registration opened for the race, we were online and both in.  Now this is something you need to know in case you ever want to do an Ironman race, registration fees are awful, $650 dollars per person and don’t even think of backing out, not for any reason, because they already have your money and they don’t care.  I mean even if you break your tailbone, still not a good enough reason to get your money back.  So once you’re in, you may do what I did, start thinking this was not one of my better choices.

Chuck and I got a training plan from our friend Jeff. It was a 25 week plan, in just 25 short weeks we would be called Ironman!  Then about half way through the plan, we started to hate training, every day, every weekend, our whole life revolved around Ironman training.  We had to miss races because we needed to do long workouts, we had to schedule early morning workouts to fit all the training into our day.  It was grueling.  Next thing we knew every time someone would ask, “how is Ironman training going”, we would both say, Ironman sucks.  By the time race weekend got here, we were both just ready to get it over with.

I say IM weekend because that is what it is, an entire weekend. 

If you ever decide to do one of these races be sure to budget 3 days in a hotel along with that monster entrry fee.

You have to sign in on Friday, attend the IM dinner and pre-race meeting on Friday night, drop our bike and transition bags on Saturday, and of course hang out in IM village fulfilling all your IM needs.

Ironman Village

Loot I bought, but said I wouldn't use unless I finished
Chuck and I met in Madison and went through all the motions to prepare for the race, We stood in line to check-in. 

I couldn't believe the lines of people all over, but the volunteers had them moving along pretty quickly

Line to check-in
We went to the dinner/meeting and were more nervous after than we were before all the stories were told and the race information was given out.

The Voice of Ironman
I didn't even know Ironman had a voice before this dinner, but the guy was a great speaker and kept us entertained.  Lucky too, dang dinner lasted almost three hours.
You are allowed to buy dinner tickets for friends and family so they can attend also.  But they are pretty pricey ($30 each) for pasta, cold vegetables, and hard bread.  Luckily we decided against purchasing them.

On Saturday we got our gear and bikes checked in while Rob and Lori took photos. 

My Beautiful Bike
Awesome Spectators
We had pizza for lunch, and then had dinner at noodles, carb loading you know.  Andrea, Russ and Madison came to cheer us on and they graciously helped out by bringing my China doll with them.  If you don’t know who my China doll is, it’s my daughter, and between her and Madison, I knew we would have a great cheering section, since they are both varsity cheerleaders at their high school.  But it all comes at a price, I also had to go to the local mall and buy a homecoming dress for China while I was there. Good thing I had Madison along, I’m not good at this dress thing and she helped China pick out the perfect dress.  Oh and they got some encouragement from a close friend while at the mall too.

A little dress shopping
So I guess you can say I had two great accomplishments over the weekend, I made it through dress shopping alive and finished a simple little Ironman.

And I found a cool backpacking and adventure gear store.  They had a pretty good selection of backpacking stoves that I was playing with.  I didn't buy any though, think I want to build my own like Patrick Albert, I love little projects like that.

Back at the hotel I double and triple checked my gear, I set the alarms on my watch, phone and the alarm clock and then went to bed.  At 5:15 am on race day we were off to do what so many people have never done.  I felt like I was going to puke, and was having a hard time eating, so I took some little white donuts with me, you know that is the breakfast of champions.  Chuck and I did a final check of our bikes, then dropped out our special needs bags and headed to the water. 

Bike Transition
We put on our wetsuits and were standing there ready to go when I realized that I still had my socks and shoes on.  I hurried and took my shoes and socks off, then we headed for the water, and I still felt like I was going to puke.

Why does Chuck look so happy -
Because the 25 weeks of IM is almost over!
The swim took a long time, and I found myself off course more than a few times, I was just trying to swim the entire lake.

Swim Start
This was the part of the race I was most afraid of.  Funny it worked out to be the easiest and most enjoyable leg.  The kayak volunteers were great, there were several times I would look up and see one of them hovering near me, guiding me back into the swim course (I swim all over the place and can never seem to go straight)

As I stood up to run out of the lake, I heard the voice of Ironman say, “Chuck Vohsen from St Paul, MO is out of the water”, then the next words out of his mouth was “Robin Rongey from Edwardsville, Il is out of the water”.   Chuck beat me out of the water by about 10 seconds.  

There were several things I wanted to get out of this IM experience, one of them was the wetsuit stripping.  (haha, I dunno why, just something that seemed cool).   So I made sure I stopped and two volunteers grabbed my suit as I sat down and put my feet up, they yanked it off and I was on my way again in seconds.

I caught him on his way to transition, we both ran in to change clothes and I just couldn’t seem to get things working right.  I finally just let the volunteer help me with everything, she pulled my clothes off, helped me pull the dry stuff on, got me water made sure I was eating, helped with my shoes and sent me on my way.  Chuck was much faster and he was ahead of me when I got on the bike.  As I was running to my bike I could see China and Madison above me hanging over the wall screaming.  It’s really hard to explain the feeling you get when you know the people who are cheering you on really love you and want you to succeed.

I headed out on the bike leg and was passing people, and at about 5 miles I passed Chuck, I didn’t even see him, but I heard him yell, “Go Robin”. I yelled hey Chuck and kept pedaling hoping I wasn’t going out too fast, but I felt pretty good, I was pushing the small ring and not working too hard. 

What came next was probably the downfall of my race.  I know you think it was the crazy hard hills, but it wasn’t, it was the awful wind.  I heard the wind was 15 to 20 mph, and I believe that to be true, if not worse.  It was a head wind for most of the race and it never let up.  At one point I was on a steep decent that should have pushed me to 35 mph and I was going 18 because the wind was so strong.

Ah How I love a Good Headwind
At Least My Bike Looks Fast
By now I was feeling so mentally distraught because my average speed was much lower than I had planned, but all the spectators on the course really helped me get out of my funk, they were everywhere, cheering like I was their best friend.  On the big hills they were 3 and 4 deep, and some were dressed up in costumes, and they would run up the hill next to me screaming that I could do it.  The hills were steep and long, and these people I didn’t even know were running beside me doing everything they could to help me get to the top of that hill. 

I was slowly cranking up this giant hill and seen a guy (wearing a tiny Speedo) had a sign on his back saying "Catch me if you can!!!"   I called over to him "I'll go!" he took off running up the hill and I chased him. Hahah, another one of those IM experiences.  Was a bad decision though, I was spent at the top and had to spin easy and recover for awhile.

The spectators were giving me crazy, unimaginable support.  Then at about 45 miles, I see Russ and Rob, then further up the road I see Lori and China, and that came at just the right point, when I was felling mentally drained and I needed a boost.  I started the second loop, stopped at mile 58 for my special needs bag, where a grabbed my can of fruit juice and some pretzels then headed back out.

As I rode I saw signs posted all over the road, some encouraging, some funny, all helpful.  One guy was holding a sign that said “smile if you’re not wearing underwear”, of course I smiled. 

A Supportive Sign
Some other signs I saw:
If triathlon was easy it would be your Mom
Triathletes have balls, other sports just play with them
What the F#%& took you so long?

Then it hit, disaster, the last 40 miles of the bike leg my quads started cramping, and I was having problems seeing out of one eye.  I thought the eye thing was just salt getting all over my glasses, but later found it to be something else.  Oh and I saw a unicorn, I thought for sure my race was over when I saw that, but then I realized it was just some guy in a unicorn costume.  I finally finished the bike leg by riding back up the same parking garage ramp that I rode out on.

IN/OUT Bike Transition
I was a little worried about riding back up the helix after 112 miles, but it turned out to be no big deal after the hills out on the course.

I had a little problem getting my leg off my bike, but I got through it. I ran into transition and got through it pretty quick, the volunteer helped me get my jersey on, got me water and found me some Vaseline to put on my chaffed arm.  I was heading toward the run out, when a guy yells down to me from above, to make sure I eat and drink.  I think it was because I was looking so skinny, I needed food, ok probably not, but that’s what I want to think. 
I started out on the run and came around the first corner that runs right by the finish line.  Standing there was Andrea and Russ cheering me on, then I made the next corner and saw Rob, China and Madison.  I stopped and hugged the girls then took off. 
First Lap
I don't know how to say enough about the crowds of people on the run course.  It was a total holiday atmosphere.  There had to be 100,000 people out screaming encouragement for us.  Our race numbers had our names printed on them, so tons of people would call you out:  "Go Chuck!"  "Chuck, you're going to be an Ironman!"  It was just incredible.

My legs were cramping, but I just kept running, thinking I would just get some salty foods at the water stops and work it out.  Then I kept trying to wipe my eye because I couldn’t see out of it, it was just blurry grey, when I finally figured out there was nothing in my eye, I realized it was a low sugar thing, I needed to get my sugar back up to get it to clear up.  So now I was trying to eat grapes for the sugar and drink chicken broth for the cramps, while fending off my upset stomach. It wasn’t going well, but at least I was still running, stopping only to walk through the water stops.  I did walk up observatory hill too, but I think everyone was walking up that hill.  At mile 13.1 I started the second lap and knew that there was no way I was going to finish in my goal time, but I just thought, goal or not, I’m going to finish this.  I paid $650 dollars to do this and I’m going to get my money’s worth out of it.  I ran through the Wisconsin’s badgers stadium for the second time looking at all the empty seats and thinking that what I have been feeling on the streets with thousands of people cheering me on, is probably what it feels like to play football in that stadium.  The feeling was so amazing.

The crowds were still huge even at 10pm that night.
I had passed mile 18 headed for 19 and Chuck comes up next to me and he says “hey, aren’t you that Trek Mountain Girl, I read you blog all the time”. I just acted like I didn’t know him and said “yeah I am” and started laughing.  We were just getting to observatory hill for the second and last time, so we started walking it and Chuck just about saved my life, he gave me some ibuprofen which I really needed.  At the top of the hill I could tell Chuck was ready to go, I told him to take off and not wait for me, so he took off. I was soon at my lowest point and feeling like I might have to crawl to the finish line, when out of the blue, a guy cheering on the side of the road held up a sign that said “Hey Stranger, I’m proud of you”. Wow, I almost started crying, and then I thought, if he thinks I can do it, then I can do it.  The ibuprofen kicked in and I started feeling better, then at the mile 22 turn around, I saw Chuck ahead of me, but not as far as I would have thought he would be, we yelled at each other and kept going. Oh, and my eye was getting better, although still foggy I could now see things through it.

Chuck headed in and crossed the line about 20 minutes ahead of me, enjoying every minute of it.

Chuck is about to be an Ironman
I soon came to the last half mile and saw Russ, he jumped in and ran with me for a couple minutes then headed to the side of the road to cheer me to the finish.  

Robin is about to be an Ironman
I came around the last corner heading to the finish line.  Everyone was reaching out giving me high fives, then I saw China, Rob, Lori and Chuck, I stopped and kissed China and then ran through the finish line, with a smile on my face, and a feeling of relief that it was over.
Then a volunteer put a big honking medal around my neck, it was so heavy I couldn’t hardly keep it from pulling me to the ground, ok, maybe not that big, but pretty darn big.

I was walked through the finish line by the volunteer, handed a finisher hat and shirt, taken over for a short photo shoot.  Those are the pictures they later sell to you for a million dollars, but you know you have to have one.  Oh and I asked the volunteer to make sure I looked good, I wanted a good photo, so the photographer made sure it was good.  I walk out the end of the finish chute to see China standing there wrapped in a blanket waiting for me with a big smile on her face, which was exactly what I needed at that second.  I knew I did it and not on my own, I did it with the help of so many. 

Call Me Ironman
So a BIG thanks goes to my family for putting up with all the long training hours, to my workout buddies, Jenny, Russ, Jim, Carl and Chris, who came out at 5:30 am everyday to train with me and swim in a hot green lake while it was still dark outside, to Russ who drove a boat around the lake following my slow butt so that I could get long swims in, to Mark who’s training consisted of pulling my butt around on long bike rides, to the guys at the Cyclery who rushed to fix all the code blue problems that I ran into the bike shop with, to Andy who figured out how to setup my bike and shoes so my foot quit hurting all the time, to the St Louis Cycling Club for their continued support and all the good advice I get from Louie and Jim, to John and the Wednesday night gang for allowing me to ride with them all year, and of course to Chuck for talking me into one on the biggest events of my life. Wow that was one big run on sentence. BTW, Chuck I hate you!

I hate you more.

Oh and I can't express to you how great the volunteers were and the spectators too, I want to say THANK YOU, YOU ROCK!

So many spectators were in costumes, they cracked me up.  Here are a few I remember:
Fat guy suit
1920's dance hall women - fishnet stockings and all
Dudes in grass skirts with coconut boobs
Lotsa dudes in little speedos.  Whats up with that?
Speedo guy with suspenders?
Group of Leprachauns
Bikini girls with signs saying "Ironmen are sexy"
Bongo drum guy
Group of guitar guys
Bagpipe guy
Tons of crazy hats all over the place

Now I know you’re wondering, so what did I get for my $650 dollars, well I got a ton of great loot, backpack, license frame, hat, shirt, book, medal and I earned the right to use them and show them off.  Best of all I can be proud to be called an Ironman! In fact Chuck and I just go by the name Ironman now, when he calls me, he just says “hey Ironman” and I say “how’s it going Ironman”. 

All the Loot
So would I do it again, well if you would have asked me between miles 55 and 90 on the bike I would have said “NO”, if you would have asked me between miles 16 and 20 on the run, I would have said “HELL NO”, if you would have asked me after I ran across the finish line, I would have said, “NO WAY”, if you ask me today, I would say “One more time, then I’m done”. So look for my next report in 2014. 

Yeah, I'm still solidly in the "HELL NO" camp.  I miss mud and rocks and sand and ropes and paddles and poison ivy and spiders and nettle and blisters and maps and compass and roots and snakes and most of all ......ADVENTURE!