Saturday, March 24, 2012

To Kill a Sasquatch Part 2

Note:  All photography courtesy of Rich Hendricks

For Love of Gravel
From left to right: Farrow, Kershaw, Peterson, Ek

We approach the beast slowly as it stares down on us from what seems to be an unattainable height.  The steepest pitch of the climb is right at the beginning and the elites slowly pull away from me.  I know that to try and fly with them at this point would certainly be futile so I proceed at what I consider to be a sustainable pace.  The teachings of the cycling elders has inscribed into my intellect many lessons, but the one that is playing over and over in my heat at this point is that I need to ride smart.  Sustain…. sustain…. sustain…. is pounding like base drum and I quickly devise a plan as to how I will try to catch the uncatchable.  I know that they are on single speeds so my only advantage will be going downhill which is where I will try to make up the difference.  So I push at a good pace going up and do the same going down yet I make no ground. 

I’m clearly not as strong as these guys and now I’m riding alone which is always harder than riding with a group, yet I never yield.  I wonder what the others are thinking.  I wonder if they even know I am not there.  Do they even care?  A comrade has fallen yet the forward thinking racer types precede onward with nary a word.  It’s times like this when I try to view others perspectives and it always brings about deep introspection.  I decide to not pass judgment for the Sasquatch is their battle and I am a mere guest.  None the less, I feel good on the bike so I maintain forward progress, and at this point I have accepted the reality that I may be spending the next seventy or eighty miles alone. 

Tim and Rich finally turn back to check on me and when they turn around to pull me back to the group I’m told to hang onto Tim’s wheel.  I am uninterested in hindering their performance numbers any further so I decline their draft.  Tim sneers to Rich “he doesn’t care,” and they speed off without me.  The group stops on the side of the almost deserted highway in what I would call ‘the middle of nowhere’ to shed some layers now that the sun is up and I quickly come upon them.  As buzzards circle overhead I’m asked what the plan should be for the group if I happen to fall off the back again.  I tell them that I am fine alone and express my wishes to not hinder their training plans.  They reply with wishes to keep the group together and I agree.  We depart together and all is well for it is smooth sailing as a group for many more miles.

We turn off the asphalt at the town of Toimi to pound the gravel.  The group is in high spirits at this point and I hide my concern for the soft, wet road.  I’m the only one with narrow road tires and I’m not sure how much of this junk is ahead, so I press on without a word and hang with the group.  We stop a few times to take some pictures, which is a nice break, and the mood is constantly lightened by the sight of wolf tracks and Farrow’s seeming infatuation with rundown old buildings.  This area seems to definitely have an Alaska feel to it as the houses, which don moose antlers over the entries, are of rough cut lumber and look to be constructed using mainly hand tools.  I have never experienced anything in Minnesota like this and as quickly as the beauty of this amazing place came into our lives the gravel ends and we are back into modern times.  Pity.

The group turns south onto 44 and are caught off guard by a nice little headwind.  We jockey and joke around for a while and finally settle into a pace line.  Farrow suggests two minute pulls and it’s on.  We run a style that I am privy to, which consists of the person in front peeling off to the side when he feels that his time is up and tucking in the back.  I’m pretty tired at this point but I take my turns.  There is something invigorating for me about getting the chance to pull those who I look so fondly up to so I push past the aching knees and burning lungs.  I stand in the fire when it is my turn and I do it with a smile, yet I know what this is doing to me.  Every time I get to the front I push harder and longer than I should but I don’t care.  I forget my teachings about restraint and I live in the now….  It takes it’s toll.  My knees are falling apart and my recoveries are getting longer and longer.  We have many more miles to push into the unrelenting wind, but like a mirage in the desert I see it.  Hugo’s……….

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To Kill a Sasquatch

 Part 1

 Silver Creek Cliff

As I depart, the early morning air is crisp and it sends an all too familiar shiver down my spine.  It’s before 5:00 am but I mount my trusty two wheel steed and make haste to the Irvin which is where I am to meet my comrades Eki, Kershaw, Farrow, and Hendricks.  The streets at this hour are deserted and we gather under a flickering street light like gangsters, but instead of wearing finely tailored suits and fedoras we don spandex and bike helmets.  Instead of Tommy guns and knives we have bikes and tire pumps.  The seriousness of this affair to these great atheletes is no less significant though, and after just a few short pleasantries we are off.  The air by the lake is damp but the thing I feel most is anticipation, for to slay the great 140 mile Sasquatch loop in a mere ten hours would be for me a substantial feat.  Add to that the company of elites that I was in and I could potentially be in a world of hurt later that day.  None the less we were now rolling and I quickly relaxed and settled into the bike. 

There is something magical about riding at night and I really started to enjoy myself.  The world around me melted away as we ticked off the miles until I started to realize something.  It was colder out than I had expected.  Normally it takes my body about 45 minutes to start pumping warmth to my extremities during exercise and it had been longer than that.  I made several attempts at warming the digits but they all proved to be futile.  It would be quite a few more hours until the day would warm so I made the decision to just press on unless things went completely numb or refused to respond.  As luck would have it the discomfort never subsided which meant that everything was still alive and I was able to continue without incident.

We pulled into Beaver bay and made a quick stop at the gas station to refill water and shed some clothes.  It was starting to warm up finally and it would no doubt get warmer yet as we made the ten mile climb away from the big ice box.  We bravely turned onto Hwy 4 and headed north which is when I realized that the past 50 or so miles was just a warm up and that the real battle with the Sasquatch was about to begin…..

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ray's Awesomeness!

A recent road trip led me to find myself in the wonderfull city of Milwaukee with the intended purpose of checking out Ray's Indoor Bike Park.  The trip started on friday at noon with Rudy, Dave, Drew, and myself piling into Rudy's diesel Jetta wagon.  Sitting in the car for a sixteen hour round trip didn't sound too appealing, but I'm always up for a roadtrip if the intended destination is something adventurous like this.  The conversations were light in subject matter and stimulating to the immagination which made the time pass quite nicely. 

At 9:00, after being greatly dissapointed by a quick detour to Madison for a "Bike Expo" we pulled up to the hotel.  All of us were quite hungry for some real food so we drove arround until we found something that looked promising.....  It was a mistake of a choice since the service was terrible and we clearly didn't "belong" there but we were hungry and tired so we ate quickly and headed back to the hotel to rest up for what was to come.

We got to Ray's at 9:00 AM and quickly got to work exploring.

Some intermediate techincal stuff.

This is me on the awesome "pump track." 

Rudy chasing Dave on the pump track.

Some more intermediate techinacal stuff.

The words on the floor say it all....

Dave in the expert section.

Drew catching some air in the rhythm section.

We ended up riding there for 11 hours that saturday and it was amazing.  I used muscles that I don't normally push hard and as a result my entire body feels like it was tossed arround in a giant mixing bowl for hours.  The hot tub and beers after made everything feel better that night but the next day the four of us looked like a couple of 90 year olds.  We hobbled arround slowly and groaned whenever we had to get in and out of the car which was actually quite amusing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Snow Day!

I woke up this morning to a nice strong snowfall and although my legs are still not up to par after my recent Duluth to Ely trip with Charlie Farrow I couldn't resist getting out for a short ride.  It was early and the roads hadn't been plowed yet so I decided to ride up to Skyline and over to Hartley in search of some ride able single track.  When I got there I found some nicely walked trails so I aired down and off I went.
I apparently aired down too far because I soon started hearing some all to familiar hissing sounds coming from my front tire.  I stopped to investigate and found my front tube had a tear at the base of the valve stem.  Awesome.  This is the second Surly tube problem that I've had in the past week.  Just outside of Ely I was airing up for a firm trail and broke the valve stem in half.  These were my last two Surly tubes and I'm happy to say goodbye to them.  Now that I used my spare tube I decided to cut the ride short and head home.  By the time I got back about eight inches had fallen and three hours had passed with no breaks in the falling snow.  Nice little Saturday morning.