Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sweet Ruby Mud

Rain + Ruby = Fun Times!!! Made even funner when taken at race-pace. Yes, this past Sunday was the Ruby Campground XC race. Team Sandbag home turf. After watching my teammates Kevin and Todd put forth excellent efforts in the Expert race, I prepped up for my race in Sport/Beginner singlespeed.

After warming up, I headed over to the starting line, and took my position behind the Expert/Elite singlespeed guys. I noted that there were 2 others in my class.
A blast of a whistle, and we were off. I got a mediocre start, with one of the other sport/beginner guys in front of me, and another behind. We hit the opening hill, and one of the expert/elite riders fell, holding me up. The other sport/beginner guy made it through.
Very shortly after, I found my groove in the nicely flowing (imho) front section. I overtook 2nd place about a mile in, and quickly put some space between him and I.

A little over a mile in, the trail snaked through the parking area and ducked behind the "big green barn". Here was a section along the hillside with a very nice flow and some quick ups-and-downs. Just enough to keep your heart rate nice and high for "Lance", the first major climb at Ruby. This climb is always a crap shoot for me, and it wasn't any easier due to the greasy trail conditions. I did a brief hike-a-bike over the steep portion, and then rode along the top to the stepped downhill and the "washout", a mildly puckering armored downhill.
The trail then led me to the "mat hill", a short steep hill armored for a portion with a grid mat. I took this one on foot, since I'm usually successful in riding up it about 40% of the time, and it's quicker to run it anyways. The trail then led me down "outhouse hill", a bench cut downhill, that makes a 90 degree left just before the old outhouse.

Across the river we went, with me holding 2nd position. Through some greasy corners, up and down the section added last year, up "the wall", and then down "Ruby's Remorse", the biggest downhill. Somewhere in this stretch, I made a pass and found myself leading my class.

Lap 1 concluded with me holding the lead. Then disaster struck! I was hammering up "Lance", when just as I was about to crest (while carrying good momentum), I heard a "snap", and my foot violently came away from my bike.

First I though I had accidentally unclipped, but I glanced down and found that my pedal body was seperated from the spindle. Luckily with some quick thinking (to realize my teammate also used the same type of pedals), and some even quicker running by my buddy Scott (to find said teammate), we made a swap. This cost only about 2 minutes plus a run up "Lance".

I got moving, and found my groove again. The remainder of lap 2 proceeded uneventfully for me. Early in lap 3, I caught up with the leader, and overtook him to put myself in the lead. I gradually pulled away from him, and rolled through the finish chute after 1 hour 34 minutes and 48 seconds, to take the win!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pedal Across Lower Michigan

a.k.a PALM

This is a 6 day bicycle tour across the state, on the last week of June. This year it started in New Buffalo on June 22, and ended in Monroe on June 27.

We drove down to Sterling State Park just outside of Monroe. Here we loaded our bikes onto box trucks, and hopped on a bus bound for the other side of the state. A few hours (and a lunch stop) later, and we were in New Buffalo. We went through the registration bit, set up our tents, and headed out for a short ride to the lake to dip our tires in the water.

The last of the bikes get loaded

Dipping the wheel

Brad, Brandy, and Rocky on the shore of Lake Michigan

After a nice railroad alarm clock, we set out bound for Dowagiac. The first half of the ride gave us nice weather, until we hit the town of Buchanen. Shortly after, the skys opened up on us for quite some time. Thankfully we had decided to don our raingear prior to this. The rain let up just in time for us to stop at the "fruit stop" at Love Creek park. Here we took a deserved break, and snacked on a few things. We got rolling again, and the rain started back up. We had rain until about a half hour before Dowagiac, and then things started to clear. This was a nice thing, since it meant that we could dry out a bit and weren't setting up camp in the rain.
After setting up camp, we showered (ice cold gang shower for the men), had dinner, and then walked into town.
We stopped in at Zeke's Bar for some drinks to soothe the muscles. If you're ever in Dowagiac and looking for a good beer, Zeke's is the place to go. Something like 25 beers on tap, and about a bazillion other varieties in bottles.

Dinosaur Bones - must've been part whitetail

Three Oaks - the movie Prancer was filmed on location here

Dowagiac Union High School - where we stayed

Brandy and I in downtown Dowagiac

to be continued...