Thursday, July 21, 2011

Race Report: Farmhouse Classic

This weekend I headed down to Lathrop, MO to take part in the Farmhouse Classic gravel race.  Or it could have been the clear cut jungles of Guam.  Or possibly the outer lip of a volcano at high noon.  I don't know for sure.  My point is it was friggin' hot.

I met up with my buddy Don and a couple of his friends (DK co-winner Barbie and DK finisher John) for 90+ miles of rolling hills and gravel.  This was my first race since my conversion to single speed and I was planning on just taking it easy, having fun and meeting some new people.  After some pre-race preparation and breakfast (graciously provided by race organizer Joe Fox) we started our neutral roll out at 9am.  Before long we settled into a nice sustainable pace near the back of the pack.  After 5-10 miles we were getting spread out enough that I picked up navigation duties for our group.  Back at DK I had been the navigator for about 100 miles and it worked out well, so I dug right into it here.  Unfortunately, it seems like it's not a gravel race unless we get lost and 17 miles in I made our first wrong turn.  Up to that point the cues and my GPS were off my 3/10ths of a mile and I had been correcting for that.  However, they chose just the right spot to synch back up and we made two wrong turns (that lined up with the corrected mileage) before we noticed that there were no tire tracks in front of us.  We checked the map and found a reroute, screwed that up, corrected again, missed our turn and finally backtracked to the proper road.  Yup, my nav skills are rockin'.

Six wasted miles later, we were back on course and cruising again.  We ended up going back to our DK navigation formula where Don reset his computer after every cue and I calculated mileage between points.  With two of us involved it worked a lot better.  Well, three really since John was also verifying our call outs. From there things were pretty uneventful for a while.  We were cruising along the gently rolling hills, trying to keep cool and avoid the ever present dogs, one of which took out Don at one point (he was ok, but mad).  Barbie had a bee sting, I crashed on a rut, and John felt like a "petrified slug" for a while.  Otherwise things were going well and we were having a good time.

Until around mile 75 anyway.  That's about the time the heat started getting to me.  We pulled into the final service town a few miles later and spent some extra time inside to cool off.  There we met up with another racer (Kevin, maybe?) and the five of us took off 15-20 minutes later.  It didn't take long before I was suffering again.  I was more than happy to hand off navigation duties to our new member so I could just focus on keeping the pedals moving.  It didn't help that the hills got considerably steeper and more frequent at this point and I was really having a hard time.  I fought off a few bouts of cramps and had to walk a pair of hills.  I dumped two bottles of water over my head in a desperate attempt to cool off.  I questioned whether my (frequent) goosebumps were a sign of heat exhaustion or an impending bonk.  I secretly hoped that goat that was chasing after us was not a hallucination. 

With 8 or 9 miles to go, we met up with another rider who had already finished and was back out on the course getting some extra miles.  He rode the rest of the way with us, taking over navigation duties.  A little less than nine hours after taking off, the six of us finally rolled in to the finish.  Don and John called me up to the front and us three single speeders lead our group up the driveway and to the finish.  Damn I was happy to be done with that. At the finish someone kindly pointed me to the water faucet and I spent the next partial eternity filling my bottle and dumping it over my head.

I'm pretty sure we were the last group in, but that doesn't bother me.  In spite of the heat and last chunk of suffering it was a good ride and a lot of fun.  It was a very informal race with no entry fee, a free breakfast and a potluck post race meal.  If they didn't record the final results, you'd have thought it was just a large group ride and I liked that.  We hung out and chitted the chat for a while before it was time to pack it in.  99.2 miles on the day, plus at least point eight worth of warmup to qualify this for the Cup O' Dirt.  More friends made, more people met.  A good day all in all.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's new?

Lunch ride to Club Deli.  I was on the Huffy cruiser with the coaster brake.  Those steel rims didn't handle my powerslides all that well...

It's been a while since I've really posted much.  Here's a little bit of what I've been up to since Dirty Kanza.

  • A couple months ago I started organizing group rides with my coworkers for fun and RAGBRAI training and it's had a much better turnout than I had expected.  We do a lunch ride (2-4 miles) every week to a different restaurant and an evening ride (10-25 miles) to a pub for dinner.  These rides have been pretty casual and usually have 4-6 riders, many of which just started riding within the last few months.
  • I've also been organizing bi-weekly weekend rides for those that want a longer, more serious ride.  The intention has been RAGBRAI training and the rides have run 25-40 miles over rolling terrain.  We have breakfast before the ride while I wrench on anyone's bike who needs it, and we have lunch afterwards while we relax and recuperate.
  • I've been wanting to do some high intensity group rides that would really push my limits, so lately I've been doing a Thursday night ride hosted by a local race team.  It basically involves me getting run through the wringer until I'm ready to pull over and start crying in a ditch.  I've done it four times now and last week was the first time I didn't get dropped or pull out early.  I even managed to chase down some attacks and contest a few sprints.  I hope that means I'm getting stronger.
  • Project Backroads has seen some updates, but I'm working behind the scenes to improve the mapping and media.  Sadly my Script Fu is weak, so it's taking me longer than I'd like.  Taking a look at my schedule over the next month, it might make more sense for me to job out the coding to someone else.  We'll see how it goes.
  • I'm now riding gravel single speed.  I converted the Cross Check after Dirty Kanza and have since done a full century and two metrics.  I've got a (near) century coming up this weekend in Missouri, The Farmhouse Classic, so we'll see how I perform at a race pace.  Beyond that I haven't done much gravel since DK.  I've been pretty much sticking to the road for the last month or so.  The change of pace actually isn't that bad.
  • I've got two new projects in the pipeline.  Project Thunderbutt is currently in progress and Project Stormtrooper will follow up in late August.  More info on those as they unfold.  It's gonna be exciting...