Memorial Weekend in Northern Wisconsin- gravel, packrafting and more

Out of Rochester late Friday night and heading all the way to Wausau in time for 5 hours of sleep, early alarm for a lap at the 9 mile forest.

On the road again by 9:30 heading north to Eagle River.  Changed and packed in resort parking lot where Kim would be staying to shoot a wedding.  Noon thirty with her family's cottage in Mercer as my final destination.

I thought things were looking good at this point, just 3 miles out of town.

Then my route turned into stuff like that and pretty much stayed that way.  Insanely good.

A couple times it got a little sketchy...  where is the path?  Why is there a sniper tower?

Then I hit a Lake.  In fact, I hit the lake much sooner than I had anticipated.  One of the great things about my lazy ass method of making maps and not double checking them is that sometimes stuff like this geniunely surprises me.  Pretty beautiful surprise.

But then 2 nautical miles of packraft paddling later I was still in the middle of the Lake.  Who the hell didn't notice the 'out' section of this lake was miles from where I started?   90+ total minutes on the lake, all paddling.

Miles of this, somehow even better than before the lake.  How can this exist?

Found the good feeling in this section.  No pressure to go fast or slow but I was flying, out of my own head completely.

Got to the cabin after 7 hours or so and almost immediately jumped in a real kayak with Scott. Then we sat around a campfire and watched the full moon rise.

Sunday morning came fast!

Kim and I rode north from where we would exit the river and explored the good roads.

Then while trying to find a 'back way' into Manitowish Waters on ATV trail I saw a little path off to the right...

and it was all a mixture of singletrack, boardwalks and this...

Really, really cool.  So cool that we were talking about it and about how bikes are just the best way to explore.  Then...

Well, sometimes exploring just leads you to the dump.

We had a great late breakfast and stopped at the gas station.

Then into the river.  Immediately riffles and an incredible density of forearm sized fish presumably heading up to spawn.  Dorsal fins out of the water, darting everywhere.  Incredible experience to be right there with them in the raft in the shallow riffles.

A couple of larger riffles too and then hours of winding river.

We had all our camping gear and food, but we traveled the 10 miles of river too fast.  Decided to get back on the bikes, back to car, head to Wolverine Village to launch our Monday from.

Monday morning I rode Wolverine.

Yes, snow!  

Wolverine is never disappointing.  Totally great out there.  If we had trails like that around here I doubt I'd ride on the road.  1850' of climbing in first 10 miles. The "new" 2012 Flash Carbon is pretty incredible too.  The crankarms are starting to look worn...  good thing, races start this week.  Hope I have enough miles on it.

Next stop 'the gorge' as shown here...   and may as well look there because I never found it this trip.  Made a wrong turn early on and tried to push through to find a new route, but instead just took Kim on wandering circles on 'roads' that clearly see more wolves than humans.

We saw 4 different wolf kills right on our route, wolf and bear scat and two porcupines.  I wonder how close the wolves and bears were, wish we would have seen one.  Interestingly we say 3 dead deer but no actual deer.  I wonder if their behavior differs a bit where there is actual predation vs. down here where only cars really will get them 90% of the year?

It was frustrating never to find the gorge this time but now I have a fuller understanding of the area and all the roads further to the south that I hadn't been on.  I understand that they are ALL dead-ends.  I think we still had fun.


packraft testing and more

We have a trip planned for this coming weekend and it was time to pack things up and test some things out with the packraft setup.  My raft was recently in Utah with deathrider and Tim but I had only had time to do very minor trips to test things out.  Besides that, Kim's new raft and paddle hadn't even arrived until last week.  At least I had the bikes done...  mine is a 2010 Flash carbon and her's a Fargo.  There will be some tweaks to the setup on the bikes, but as-shown things worked pretty well.  We have a 2 man tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, cook kit, both rafts etc. etc. on the bikes in those pictures.

From that location we dropped down into the woods.  The descent required both hands on the bars working the brakes while walking...  'bikepacking' technique, eh?  About 20 minutes later and some major creativity (this was the first try to mount a bike) we were looking good, even if the water was looking awful fast!

As soon as we were in the water we both just had huge smiles on our faces.  Navigating the fast moving river's riffles and turns while dodging downed trees was much easier than expected and just super fun.  The 3.5 mile trip was simply not long enough!

One thing I definitely got right...  mounting the GPS where it works for both river and bike mode!

Awesome to expand the horizon of great things to do right in the city!

Wish us luck up in the Eagle River area this weekend-  we are going with minimal planning and information.  Just the way I usually go...  don't tell Kim I plan on having no plan, please.  Here are quick maps that represent the general directions I plan on heading...

Day 1 (me alone, one small rafting section that will require bushwacking...  will likely wander a bit more than this)

Day 2/3 (together, ride up to far East end, raft to a place to sleep, wake up and raft until it's time to finish things off on the bike, hope we aren't far from the road at that time)

Sort of on the back-burner, but still smoldering has been my trying to build up some sprinting fitness.  I have made it to a crit of some kind each week now for about a month.  At first I didn't have the 'pop', but things are starting to look better.  

Last week in Des Moines' field sprint-

Tuesday Night World's field sprint-

 Neither were played just right.  One I was forced to go early based on the riders around me and the other I went late, but in both cases it was obvious that I'm starting to redevelop some speed.

The weather has sucked for mountain biking.  I rode my mountain bike 40 miles today on gravel, that is the state of the trails with all this moisture.  Races are coming up fast.


2013 Almanzo 100

This year my Almanzo ended here...

It was Sunday around 11:00.  After the race I'd gone home and ridden some around Rochester, seen some friends and tried to unwind.  I'd not slept well, tossing and turning while envisioning going out and just punishing myself for 100+ miles.  Every one of the 26 miles I'd ridden prior to taking that picture had been hard and directly into a brutal wind.  

I wanted to see what I could do, to prove to myself that I'd deserved to be up front with such a large field in the 100.  I had made all the selections that had taken place prior to flatting, stayed out of trouble, put myself in the positions I wanted to be in throughout the race.  My new Tarmac and the Vittoria Pave tires had been the right choice.  Moreover I had found a way to show with good legs and the right attitude.  Sometimes you flat.  Sometimes that is aided or abetted by breaking both of your wheels on a pothole while following the Eppen tandem downhill at over 40 mph.  I heard the cracks as I hit the pothole and was immediately grateful for being on tubulars (almost certainly would have pinch flatted immediately on clinchers), secondarily grateful that my carbon repair on the frame was solid.  I rode on for another 16 miles.  The group split and split again.  I looked around and felt a sense of pride in being there, I shouldn't have allowed myself this...  certainly not so early in the race.  A tire blew like a starting gun and I almost immediately felt the sinking feeling.  

Now I was chasing something the next day out by myself, something I certainly wasn't finding.  But when the, new to me, gravel road appeared to dead end but what was really there was the above...  well I found the answers.  I had a great rides both days last weekend.  I love riding my bike, racing my bike, exploring.

 This was taken at the start.
 Jesse Lalonde and I leading the field over the first large hill.
 What followed after that road ended.
More of what was beyond.

I'm sad that the spring gravel season is over.  I was faster than ever before and don't necessarily have more to show for it, but it truly doesn't matter.  I had a great time.  In the big picture it's amazing what the Almanzo has become and was I'm excited about running the Dickie Scramble etc. too (yes that road will be on my route next year).

I wouldn't have changed much.  I think I had the plan.  I should have tested or somehow figured out that the valve stem on my vittoria tires wouldn't work on my spare such that I could have carried a different extension.  I should have taken the time to reglue the tires onto newer rims.  I broke older zipp 404s and I know that either of my sets of Reynolds 46s might have shrugged off the blow.  Maybe I should have run 5-10 psi more to protect the rims, but I doubt it...  it was such a fluke.  I hope to be back next year to most of the same events, particularly the Almanzo with more fitness and more wisdom.

Today I transition primarily to mountain biking for a while but still with road mixed in.  I think that's the best combination both because my true focus is CX, but also because it's good to mix it up and be able to find joy in riding regardless of what the weather does.  I bet that from here to CX season I'll be 40% mountain, 40% road and 20% touring/rafting/camping.  We have an awesome trip along those lines planned for this weekend.  One that I thought I would need to recover, but which now I'm just excited for.


Another great weekend: Lacrosse criterium and the Dickie Scramble

This criterium was super fast and fun.  No group ever got off the front so it was pretty much a full hour of perfect training for me to get some "speedy" legs under me and not just endurance.  I finished mediocre but it was more tactical than physical or handling and I'll take that for sure.  I'm definitely looking forward to more crits soon.

Almost immediately after that I got into race director mode and pretty much ran around like a chicken with it's head cut-off until the Dickie Scramble started Sunday morning.  It had snowed 15" here late in the week. To the point that THIS was Thursday...

so I was a little worried about gravel conditions, flooding and REALLY worried that the weather would keep too many people away.  At the same time I knew it was warm and I knew that the conditions I was seeing were going to make for great riding.  Did my best to convey that with a couple pictures and some text updates but I know I still lost a ton of people because of the weather. While I was out checking on roads...

 In the end though it was a truly perfect day conditions wise.  With temperatures over 40 at the start but soaring well into the mid 60s with sun.

I'll have more to say and results up for the Dickie Scramble on the Dickie Scramble blog really soon.  For now here is my recap...

It takes me a while to get ready to ride one of these events just as a racer.  I am not good at organizing or packing.  Saturday night as race director I found that the list in my head of things to do was always getting longer.  I did most of them.  I must have done enough of them because no one seemed like they were angry with me Sunday.  Overall though, I did not sleep much.  I was up at 5 re-routing the course due to flooding and was running on nothing but a single pop tart and some ice tea when we started the neutral lead-out at 8:15 or so.  I've certainly been training hard this year, but my only ride over 85 miles thus far has been the Ragnarok.  I was stuffing my face with on the bike type foods and water for the first hour or so while also trying to navigate through the pack a little bit and say hi to friends etc..  Some of the planning for the race/finish/number of volunteers definitely was counting on my finishing near the front...  which is something I'll avoid in the future.

The route starts fairly easy and a large group of 15 or so were together all the way to mile 45.  I had not had time to investigate the MMR that was coming up next but I knew it may well have snow on it.  I went to the front to stay out of trouble and set a steady climbing pace.  There were downed trees, some soft stuff and eventually snow.  Eventually I realized I was putting some distance on a lot of the group and kind of picked things up even more.  The checkpoint wasn't far ahead and so I waited at the top and many of us regrouped.  A few people chose the 77 mile route home from the checkpoint and the rest of us left for the remainder of the full route in good spirits.  The sun was out and it was getting warm.  It was a beautiful day.  I envied those who didn't realize how much harder the rest of the route would be.  

I love a lot of those roads but it got tough out there!  By the last couple of climbs it was just Trevor, Moriarity and myself and we were still climbing pretty fast but otherwise doing a lot of resting.  We sat at the checkpoint so long the second time that the volunteers almost pushed us out.  I had a little bit of 'go' left and I attacked on the last climb where I was able to get a decent gap.  Trevor then closed me down and was able to basically diesel away from me on the false flat up to the finish.  Moriarity was 45 seconds back at the top of the climb but came back hard and closed on both of us over the last couple of miles but came up short of catching me.  Felt very good to be done!

The Huddle was great and it was even better because there were so many other riders in there enjoying themselves.  Stay tuned to the race blog for thank yous, overall update, a spot to leave some feedback etc. etc.

Finally got home around 7 and had to get to work repairing a really fancy DA9000 equipped Madone with a damaged stay and top tube...  by 9 I was hungry again!  Kim and I finished the night off right with a ride down to happy hour pizza and appetizers at the Loop.