April 23, 2013

The KIND in Kindness

When I was organizing the tracks n treads race, KIND had graciously offered to supply ROCK Racing with KIND bars for the racers.  I had big hopes that we would get 300 racers this year based on last years participation, but mother nature was not playing well with us and I think due to the crazy weather changes, many people were afraid to sign up.  Well, race day came and the weather could not have been more perfect.  The problem was registration was low just over half of what I had anticipated.
So we gave out these fantastic KIND bars that everyone loved, but we had some left over because KIND was so generous in the number they sent us.  This left me with a dilemma. 
I wondered what to do with the extra bars, I mean, I could have kept them and Chuck and I could have eaten them ourselves, because we love all of them, but that would be disrespectful to the generosity of KIND.
I could have taken them to the next club meeting and we could have had a nice snack during the meeting, but then again, that just felt wrong. 
I could have taken them to an animal ride and given them out to all the riders, but that felt a little wrong too.
Then I had this great idea, since my friend Krystal had just started a kids run club for 3rd through 5th graders at a local Boys and Girls Club, Chuck and I thought this would be a perfect place to use the KIND bars.  I had signed up to be a volunteer there, so on my first night, I took the bars to give to Krystal to use during the club practices. 

Some of the Run Club kids running with Coach Krystal
After we ran with the kids for a while Krystal gave the kids all a bar to eat, while she talked about fitness and nutrition.  I was a little leery, because usually kids aren’t good with stuff that is meant to be healthy and turn their noses up at it.  To my surprise they all liked them and almost seemed to inhale them.

One of the kids trying out a KIND bar
It made me happy that they liked them so much and I knew right then that we had made the right choice in how to distribute the extra KIND bars. 
KIND is a perfect name for these bars, because the company shows generosity and kindness while working for a healthier society, plus the bars are really tasty.  THANK YOU KIND for your efforts in helping the community stay healthy and exposing these kids to a healthy choice. 

April 15, 2013

Tour of Hermann Gravel Race 2013

Photo Credit - Dan Singer

Gravel racing seems to be a quickly growing bike racing event.  Just a couple years ago, I had never heard of gravel racing, now these races are popping up all over the place.  Being an adventure racer, this type of racing caught my eye, because in adventure races, we do a lot of gravel riding.
Chuck and I had been watching this sport grow from the sidelines, but last summer Chuck started building a gravel bike, you might have seen his gravel bike build posts.  Well, as soon as he finished his bike, I of course did not want to be left out, so I started shopping for a gravel bike. Chuck built a true adventure bike, so it’s a bit heavy, and like a tank, it can go anywhere.  Me on the other hand, I was thinking about trying some cyclocross this year, so I went with a gravel/cyclocross bike.  It’s much lighter than Chuck’s, and since I’m not as strong as him, it helps me keep up.

Chuck and I showed up about an hour before race time, did all our pre-race rituals, checked-in and picked up our schwag.  We both got a bottle of wine, Chuck picked red and I chose the sparkling grape juice.  I don’t drink much wine.  We also got a jar to fill with gravel, which was kind of cool.

Photo Credit - Dan Singer

We rode over the bridge and out of town, and then turned on to the Katy Trail.  For a few short miles we were on the flat trail, and everyone just took off, I on the other hand hung back, I was almost last at that point, but I knew it was going to be a long day and I just didn’t have it in me to ride fast that early.  I have to warm up for a long time, I’m more of the endurance rider and less of the sprinter.  Chuck was pretty far in front of me, but when I made it to the turn on a paved road section he was waiting for me.  I told him not to let me ruin his race, so drop me and go on, but he said this was just training for him, not to worry.  I do worry though, I don’t want anyone holding back just so I can stay on.  He stuck with me though, the good thing was as the day went on I got stronger, so I didn’t slow him down as much as I thought I would. 
We soon hit all the gravel roads, the rock on the first lap, was mostly small and only deep in spots, most of the time we could pick a line that wasn’t too bad.  The hills on the other hand, SUCKED, they were so steep and so long, but every hill we rode up we would see someone walking, I would think to myself, “you will not walk this hill, even if this bike falls over, you will not walk this hill”, and I didn’t.  Chuck of course made it up all the hills too, there were even a couple hills I beat Chuck up, not many, but a couple.  The down hills were probably more treacherous than the uphills.  They were so steep and the gravel made it really sketchy coming down.  My max speed on the downhills was 40 mph and Chucks was over 41 mph.  On one hills we both hit some deep gravel and started fish tailing.  I think my life was passing before my eyes at that time, but somehow, both of us kept our wheels on the road.  I was so scared that I was shaking at the bottom of the hill, but not to worry, there was another uphill right in front of us, so I was quickly in oxygen debt again and didn’t have time to start crying. 

Photo Credit - Dan Singer

I wish I could explain how big these hills were, the pictures just don’t do them justice.  I was thinking, that riding hills is much easier in the dark because you can’t see how big the hill are, you just keep grinding away until you come to the top.  Chuck and I discussed how we had ridden to the top of the LaSalle Mountains in Utah during the CPT National Adventure race championships, it took us over 6 hours and it was uphill the entire time, but we did most of it in the dark and I think that is what helped us make it to the top. 

We finished the first lap, and refueled at the Adventure Jeep, we probably wasted a little time, we were taking off layers, eating, filling water bottle and packing our pockets with food.  We headed back out for loop two which had longer steeper hills and deeper bigger gravel than lap one.  

Lap 2

I felt pretty good though and I think Chuck was in good shape too.  We were somewhat worried because we thought the cutoff to start lap 3 was at 3:30, but at the start of the race, the race director said it was 2:30, I was thinking he probably just said that in error, but we knew we wouldn’t make it back by 2:30. 

Right from the start of the lap, it was uphill and it seemed to last forever, but it was a paved section of road so at least we wouldn’t have to worry about spinning tires.

Photo Credit - Dan Singer

After the first hill the roads turned to gravel and it was a chunkier, thicker gravel than what was on lap one.  It reminded me of the gravel that you see in a river bottom.

Photo Credit - Dan Singer

The gravel went on and on, the downhills were getting tougher and tougher, plus I was so tired from the uphills, I just didn’t have the strength needed to really control my bike, so I just started loosening my grip and hoped the bike would take me where I wanted to go.  We stopped at the top of a hill where we rode through a small town, and grabbed some food from our pockets, and took off more clothes.  The day was getting warmer, but the wind was making it cool on the downhills. It was really a hard day to dress for. We looked at our watches and the mileage, and knew that we would not make it back by 2:30, but maybe we could be there by 3:30.  We hoped that 3:30 was the cutoff for the third lap. 

Photo Credit - Dan Singer

Once we were back on the road we started passing people, some were just slowing down, others were having mechanical problems. No one needed help, so we just kept riding. As we rode into Hermann, I knew it was going to be really close to the cutoff, but didn’t know just how close.  We made the turn to ride the last hill into the chute and as we were just about to the top we heard the announcer say, “we have just reached the cutoff time”.  We finished in 6:30:30, just 30 seconds too late to start the third lap. 
On one hand I was upset because I wanted to do the full 3 laps, on the other hand I was secretly glad because I was so tired that the last lap would have been brutal.  The good thing was, when we rode back to the jeep there were racers everywhere who did not go out on the third lap, so we didn’t feel like real losers at all.  We stopped and talked to our friend Wendy, who is in great shape and she made the decision not to do the third lap, so now we felt a lot better.  Chuck made a good point too, we could still walk after the ride and we had a really fun time with good memories, so maybe not riding the third lap was a way of keeping the memories good because I know I would not have finished that last lap with any good memories.

Photo Credit - Wendy Davis

So our first gravel race went really well, we both want to do more.  I do need to have my brakes looked at and Chuck needs to learn that it’s ok to drop me, but all in all, it was a beautiful day, spent riding bikes with good friends, you really can’t ask for more than that.  

Oh, and one last thing, I love my new Cannondale SuperX, I will have a bike review coming soon. 

Thanks to the race sponsors for having this race, and having such great support out on the course, I think I saw the race truck about 50 times, it was always around when someone needed help.  Like the guy on the ground that looked like he broke his collarbone. See neither Chuck nor I broke anything and we didn’t have any mechanical problems, well Chuck dropped his chain once, but I don’t think that counts.

April 9, 2013

tracks n treads 2013

Well I can’t say EVERYTHING went perfect, but I can say that it was an excellent race even with a few glitches.

So let me see if I can get tell you the story of tracks n treads in less than 100 pages.  Oh, quit moaning, I will keep it short.

As you know the weather this year has been more than crazy, we don’t know from day to day if it’s going to rain, sleet, snow, or be hot enough to jump in the pool.  So as we were just 3 weeks out from the race, and we ended up with 12 inches of snow, I was more than a little worried about anyone showing up to race. Just a week before race day, we only had about 50 entrants, but then the weather got nice and by the closing of online registration, just two days before the race, we had 105 entries. After race day registration, we had 159 entrants.  I guess I need to thank mother nature for that.  The weather was perfect, in the low 60’s at start time and the trails both run and bike were in perfect condition.

In the past we have always gotten a lot more trail runners than biathlon, but this year was different, which makes me believe that the word is getting out to the mountain biking community that this is a great race.  So here are the stats for the race.
Biathlon - 82 Male, 19 Female, 12 Team Male, 12 Team Co-ed                    
Trail Run - 10 Male, 12 Female
There are even more stats, which I love, but most people don’t so I won’t bore you with them.  Thanks to Randy from Metro Milers for leading the timing team and getting me the stats.

Now that you have the stats let me tell you a little about the day.  We had great volunteers that helped mark the course and setup the transition and finish line. 

Finish Line

Wade did a great job making the finish line interesting with a hill and a cyclocross barrier to cross, and with red bike sculptures along the finish chute. I bet there is no other race that you can get an art exhibit with your race at no extra charge.  

Bicycle Sculptures

The barrier gave spectators plenty of entertainment, watching the variety of ways people crossed the barrier.  This guy in particular was very cool.

Cool Dude jumping the barrier

All the pre-race setup was finished on Friday and on Saturday we just had to pull the race off.  We started the day with late coming information about a 5K race starting and running on some of the same course as our bikers and the race start time was about the same time as our bikers would be coming through.  Lucky for us Mike was able to reach the race director and workout a safety plan just before the race. We also found out about a canoe race so there were spectators all over the course.  We adapted to the change and no one was hurt.

Racers showed up and got registered, picking up a very cool custom printed Camelbak water bottle and KIND bars. 

Participants Schwag

The volunteers worked overtime getting everyone checked in. There were a couple bib number mix ups due to changes from trail run to biathlon, but other than that, everything went extremely smooth.  Soon we had everyone in place and after some pre-race comments, we were ready to go. Oh wait, I have one story to tell at this point.

My daughter China and her friend Jordyn had one important job to do, it was to stand at the top of Whiteside hill with the police and make sure that no cars came through as the runners crossed the road.  So Jeff, the Run Course Lead took them to their post and tells them what to do. Well as they stand there, they have a great idea to run to the car and get a blanket because it was kind of windy and they were cold.  Being teenagers, they didn’t think to check the time, so they headed back to the car and Jorydn starts to cross the street out of the cross walk, China tells her not to J walk because you can get a ticket. They get to the overpass and see the runners take off, so they turn and start running as fast as they can to get back to their post, Jordyn is running for the cross walk and China yells “just J walk” so they cross the street and are only yards in front of the first runner, they barely make it to their post as the runners pass by. 

The Race has started

They are so out of breath that they had no idea if there were cars coming or not, it’s just a good thing the police were there.  They did go back and hand out water though, at least they were good at that.

The volunteers that almost missed the race

So as you can see, the race took off at a fast pace with Travis Redden and Garrett Fulkerson running neck and neck most of the run. 

Travis followed by Garrett

Travis finished the run first and went through the finish chute, but then we noticed he was on a team, so he just ran about 200 meters out of his way and had to run over and tag his teammate.  Russ quickly ran down to the tunnel to direct the runners to make sure that didn’t happen a second time.  Garrett Fulkerson came in winning the trail run, with Renee Wilcox winning the female division of the trail run. Garrett ran a time of 27:07, while Renee finished in a smoking fast 30:52.  These were both super fast times for the difficulty of the course.

More and more people headed out on bikes while trail runners finished the race, there was an incredible race going between the 1st and 2nd place overall all men, Anthony Dust and Matt Fulbright were racing it out for 1st overall with Anthony taking first in a time of 1:05:24 with Matt coming in just over a minute behind him. Melisa Lemus took 1st place for the women in a time of 1:10:22.

Anthony Dust

Another notable finish was our club president, Mike Wever.  He competed in tracks n treads for the first time and had a pretty good finish for an old guy, but he couldn’t beat Pat or Keith, which means they will never let him live it down.

Mike at the finish

Soon it was time for the awards and other then one competitor’s time getting lost, due to a missing bib tag, all went well.  Winners took home a really cool acrylic leaf.

Cool Awards

We had several people taking photos and they can be found on the Team Godzilla website, along with the full results. 

I want to take time to thank everyone involved with this race, the Cyclery and Fitness for coming out and helping with bike needs, Wild Tracks for loaning us their cyclocross barrier, Metro Milers for doing the race timing, SIUE for allowing us to hold this race on their beautiful campus and providing police protection, KIND for donating the very tasty and nutritious bars, that everyone loved, and of course GORC for building and maintaining great trails for us to ride and run on.

A special shout out goes to all those behind the scenes that do the work no one ever sees, thanks Jeff S, Mike W, Russ D, Mike H, Andrea M, Andrea W. And lets not forget the 40+ volunteers who were out there on race day.

2014 will be our 5th year for this event and we hope to make it our biggest and most memorable yet.  I hope to see you next year.