Whirlwind of a season. The blogging monkey is just a big fat wheel sucker! But I’ve been eager to get that monkey off my back for a couple months. This blog is expressly not a place for race reports. Not a place to share what I ate at mile 77. Unless it’s beef jerky, or a beer hand up. But I do think there are some great and exciting things to share from the past few months. I haven’t blogged since before the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan back in June.
So let us begin our Blogging journey there! LJ is a must hit for me in the future. I rode out to the Upper Peninsula with some great folks. Through the “Midwest;” which is a geographic naming tool for total armpit regions use to attach themselves to places people actually want to go, we enjoyed each other’s company and the 13 hour drive flew by over two casual days and a couple good beers. And a lot of beef jerky. LJ is three laps of incredible sandy smooth flowing terrain.
It’s a fast race, anybody should PR up there, especially in conditions like we had. Days worth of rain made the course incredibly fast as what would be muck in the Old Dominion turned out to be packed sand that traffic formed into a beautifully microbermed highway of hurt. The pace was high all day and I was witness to a real battle between the “Baggied Crusader” and Gerry Pflug. Jan Roubal is a Canadian bike shop owner who raced Gerry at LJ on ss last year and was beaten, but Jan wanted more! A few days leading up to LJ Jan was registered for ss but hearing Gerry had switched to gears so did Jan. I’ve never seen anybody want to beat somebody else so bad! They rode close to each other all day and I got to sit in (relative term) and watch the throw down play out. I took advantage of it within a few miles of the finish and put in a HUGE effort to get some space between me and these wild boys because I had had my fill of being passive and enjoying the ride all day. Gerry is a talented climber and Jan showed he has descending chops like I’ve not seen from a flatlander. I knew if I was in sight these guys would hunt me hard. So I grabbed a leg full of gear right in the sweet spot of a little valley and stayed on it to get a gap and made good for a third overall. I have come to really love the look on peoples faces when a singlespeed rider comes through the finish ahead of almost everybody. And I loved it at LJ. The scenery was incredible. Dense forests, open fields, gravity features, wildlife, the whole deal!! Lumberjack would be a great first 100 mile off-road adventure. It’s lap system makes easy work of nutrition and pacing, and the course is taped off impeccably well to make sure nobody wastes the trip. If you want a couple day adventure, Lumberjack 100 is a pleaser. After LJ I had a couple weeks light on the bike. I had done three big hundred mile races at good fitness an it was time to recover.
These races take it out of you deep and so a long period of recovery is necessary. Emily and I set to planning a wedding (ours in case this is your only source of news). And we enjoyed time with our fast growing puppy Pippa the SockSchnauzer and I needed to start job hunting in the Cumberland Gap area of TN where Emily is in PA school for a little while longer. You know, life stuff. In the midst of all this I lost my training partner Daren Cox who moved to Williamsburg and I was feeling a little down. I know I owe some of my success this year to Darren and my commitment to training together this past winter and I will miss him next winter. Williamsburg has acquired two quality individuals in the Cox’s. Maybe a training camp is in order!
During this period of rest and recovery I heard some rumblings that the Patapsco 100 was in ink for a second year. Last years Patapsco was a killer I had heard. It was penciled on my calendar but I didn’t feel ready for a hundred. On paper it’s a “how hard could it be” race. It’s in Maryland, it’s near the Patapsco river, heck it’s all multi-use trail! How hard COULD it be? But I was planning on saving my juice for bigger fish later in the year. I got a call from a friend saying: hey man, you thought about Patapsco? And an offer I couldn’t refuse to put together a one man assault on the PTap100 I registered for ss so I wouldn’t feel pressure to go too deep and from past racers comments Patapsco has a way of sneaking you into going pretty deep. I was thrilled to crash with Andrew and Charlotte Dunlap who live close by and opened their home in classy fashion. Andrew and I met at Cohutta where he started a great season racing for Rare Disease. Andrew got in from out of town early that morning and then turned around and won the 33 mile option at Patapsco; strong stuff, and I’m thankful for friends like he and Charlotte.
Patapasco is owned by Pat Blair. A strong overall rider with a SM100 SS win and a lot of other notches in his belt. Pat lives close by and spends a lot of his time in Patapsco. His team Adventures for the Cure puts the race on and his win and subsequent course record from last year made him the wheel to watch. He went out hard while RDC’s Jesse Kelly and Mad Scientist Kevin Carter and I sat somewhere in the front couple seats settling in. Carter rolled up late but fought to get back to the front quick. When he got in touch with me it was a great time to capitalize on his energy and move upward. And we did. Some touch and go between the three of us over the next several hours left me chasing back up to Pat after Kevin was touching red. I sat with Kevin too long and knew I had some work to do. But work I did. I put on a slightly easier gear for Patapsco because of it’s reputation and was able to stay on it through everything very nicely. Patapsco may be in the flatlands but it also has over 15k ft of climbing. And it meant business this was no easy course to chase through but near the end of lap 2 I was nearing Pat. Good news as I knew he and I could put in time on Kevin; who has a way of rallying hard. There’s a 300 watts story about Kevin at Cohutta a couple of years ago. Pat and I rode until about a third of the way into lap 3 where I got a little gap climbing up from the river. I hollered to him, leveled for a second to see if he would/could catch on and then left. No favors. At least not in lap 3. Patapsco had fantastic markings and fantastic support. The amateur radio crew AFC had on hand passed race updates so well that folks knew I was coming before I pulled into aid 2. A guy handed me a beer and was kind enough to save the other half for my return when aid 2 was then aid 3. Handups for cross is all fun and games, Handups for Hundos is just nutrition boys and girls!
Keeping on the gas I built a great lead and started to get those goosebumps where you know a win is close. The “hundred mile high” some folks call it. Relief, exhaustion, who knows, but couple all those feelings with a win, much more an OVERALL win on a single speed, and I was thrilled. I pedaled home with a win in ss, overall, and a course record by about 45 minutes. What was even cooler is that Pat and the AFC crew were so stoked I was there! Patapsco is close and a great challenge for anyone looking for one. It was a fantasticly hard day.
After Patapsco I saw USAC XC nationals penciled in on the calendar. A couple weeks out XC nats was a tough call because it was the weekend before Wilderness 101 and after a miserable time at Mohican 100 I needed a win. So I had to make W101 count and a high intensity effort and 10 hours of driving the week before might either be just the right effort or drain me. But usac nats rotates location and probably won’t be back in the burly East for four or more years. And let’s get real who doesn’t want to win some Stars and Stripes? And so I went, crashed with some collegiate racers and came home in red white and blue. It was a great chance to reflect on a great season and to let out some steam in anticipation of a big push this fall.
Even though a USAC title was only in pencil on my race calendar I was glad I made the trip. It was really good to refocuse on what matters, and that no matter the particular scene of cycling you fit into, the cycling world is full of amazing people. From there I jetted home just to jet right back to the Wilderness 101 in State College PA. W101 has probably been my personally hardest race this year. It started out so right, so smooth. I had been given my good friend Matt Ferrari’s race number and was super honored to race “The Intimidator” #3.
I made it through the first 40 miles or so super comfortably. Even up to the crux climb when Jeremiah and Christian made their move, draggin Keck Baker and I along for the ride just a bike length or two back. But coming down that I hit hard. I dont crash often, pretty rarely. I make it a point to ride within myself and that happens also to be at a pretty high level. But I was going for it, outisde my comfort zone. I dont remember what happened but I know as I tucked I slammed my arm into a rock with the full force of me landing on it, compressing my chest and hearing a nice firm, CRACK. Arm…nope, hurts like hell and bleeding but no breaks. Hand…everything moving fine. Stand up…There it is. As soon as I went to stand the raging pain on my right side split me in two. I had clearly hurt something very bad in my chest. Season over? Who knows. Race over? Not getting a chopper in here! As I squirmed on the ground gripped with pain I felt my ribs, one clearly gave way while the other two beneath it were a lot farther down than they should be. This was going to suck bad. Real bad….
For those of you who dont know Wilderness 101 is a long rocky, bumpy second 50. The first 50 is relatively smooth. but from about mile 40-100 you are bouncing all over, technical skills challenged and pushed pretty hard. This is not the course you want to ride with broken anything, much less anything core/stability oriented. But I did. I rode with Rare Disease’ Rob Spreng, who I have come to know and really like through my NUE series this year. But mostly I rode by myself after Rob got away on a descent. It hurt. It hurt extremely bad. I thought it would never end.
Words dont easily describe how much discomfort that day put me in. If you have ever broken a rib imagine proceeding to ride 50+ miles of technical singletrack with said injury. I finally came to the railroad tunnel used to mark the event and knew I couldnt be far. Just a short burst of road and…Pflug. I dont know when he saw me but he was HAMMERING!! My whole season I have ridden with Gerry in one way or another and I am impressed every time by his physical ability, his tactical ability, and have learned NEVER to count him out. He was back on a geared bike for W101 but I wasnt going to let my 5th place go! Even if technically he would get it either way. So we sprinted to the line and I nipped in 5th overall.
Wilderness meant I was back where I wanted to be for the NUE series. 3 wins was enough to get me dang close to an overall series win. At least get me to the finale in contention.
After Wilderness the main even was schedule for August 10th. I am of course referring to the biggest podium of all; My wedding.
Emily and I and our families had an amazing time and were blessed in so many ways. We are very lucky to have the families we do and I am a very lucky man to have married a woman who understands and supports me. Shes the best!
But a wedding means a honeymoon and so, being us, the decision was made to incorporate the bicycle in our plans. Sitting where I was in the series with two more races on the east coast before the Finale and one more on the west we decided; with some suggestion from the Pflug himself, to head west and try and steal a win.
The Pierre’s Hole 100 is a race I knew little about. I hadnt planned on doing it so why research it. I knew it was near the Tetons and wasnt a full hundred. Other than that I knew nothing. We did some research last minute, packed the bikes, and prepped for PH100. We arrived a few days early to unpack and settle into the Lodge at Grand Targhee resort where the race was staged. I exchanged emails with AJ Linell (the competition) about where to eat and what to ride, and we enjoyed a day of doing very little resting up for the race.I asked around and people seemed to know who I was, and what I was doing there. AJ lives less than 20 minutes away in Victor Idaho and at a race of 38 people, word gets around. It was hard not to appreciate the scenery on our pre-ride and while we didnt ride hard the altitude didnt seem to be too affective on us.
It was. I went hard out of the gate to try and hold Josh Tostado, knowing he has the motor and the pacing down from 24 hr racing. PH climbs right out of the gate. Really climbs:
Out of the gate you climb up to 9000 feet. The climb is fire road on the first lap and I was gassed. Gassed more than I knew I could be. Its rare I have nothing in the tank. My recovery time is my ace in the hole usually. I can recover off of nearly any effort pretty quickly as long as I stay on top of my nutrition. AJ Linell rode up to me pretty quick and we chatted for a bit before I simply let him go. I couldn’t afford to not. Fortunately for me he flatted early. I couldnt imagine flatting on that buttery Wyoming dirt but he did. And I passed him; FLEW down the 38 switchbacks of the 38 Special descent and reckoned to myself that I may have a chance at this after all. If that flat of his fights him all day I could be in luck. What luck it would be.
Luck did’nt hold unfortunately…AJ made his way back on me somewhere towards the end of the lap. I was bolstered by the fact that I held him off every time the scenery got twisty. I may have been feeling terrible but I was putting in time; or not losing it anyhow, on the technical stuff. At least I had that. We passed the start line together to head into lap 2 and I lead into the singletrack climb feeling ok. Not great, and hoping AJ wouldn’t notice. We climbed and chatted together about life and the racing we had done. I cant say he wasn’t pleasant to ride with but unfortunately this scenario wasn’t a casual ride in the woods. I expressed I had never raced at altitude before and was feeling it. I asked if he could arrange a bear or moose sighting for us. He said he would work on it. Not far from the top of the climb AJ asked if he could come around. He “hated to do it” he said, but did it anyway and I saw my race ride away. I continued to climb and suffer. I suffered more than I ever have in good weather. My second lap at PH100 was a deep dark place. Albeit a gorgeous place to suffer, I suffered hard. My gearing was good and my nutrition didn’t wander too far off the plan but the altitude and the dryness of the heat out there didnt do me any favors.
And so I rallied a little for my third lap after seeing Emily in the pit. She assured me she was proud of me and knew the kind of suffering I was enduring. But at this point I could still bring home a second place, a paycheck, and some points in the series; although not the points I had wanted. And so I did. I rode the final lap in a gorgeous place and once again took some stock of what I had done so far this season and refocused for the work that would have to take place between now and the end of my season at the Fools Gold 100. This race had defined what needed to be done and would frame the next race in the series and my approach to it.
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones they say and Pierre’s Hole was bittersweet racing. The journey and my time in Wyoming and Yellowstone National park with Emily was absolutely amazing. We are blessed with amazing friends and amazing support from Blue Ridge Cyclery who helped make the trip happen in some pretty big and exciting ways. We travelled a ton during our brief honeymoon and had a fantastic time doing and seeing things we could not have seen otherwise.
We arrived safely back home, a few Delta Bucks richer due to a voluntary layover in Atlanta and prepared to have all our amazing friends over for the “I Do BBQ” at my parents home in Roanoke. We had folks come from far and wide for it and got to spend a little time with everybody. Thanks to all who came out and thanks to all who made it happen.
After the BBQ Emily and I were very ready to come home. Emily has lived in Cumberland Gap Tn for about a year studying and working towards her PA degree and I would be moving down there to live until she goes on rotations next spring. Even if it would only be for a couple of days I was very happy to be coming home.
Home didnt last long because it was time for the Shenandoah Mountain 100!!! My favorite race of the NUE season, the only race of the series I had prior knowledge of and what was shaping up to be a trial indeed.
You cant say a whole lot more than Team Dicky has already said about Gerry Pflug. Coming off of his win at Hampshire 100 and SS wins early in the year Gerry was in a position to perhaps win the NUE series AGAIN(!!!) if he could win at Shenandoah. He would still have to work at Fools gold but he would go into it matched for 1st. Over my cold dead quads anyhow. And I mean that with every fiber of me. I wanted to win at Shenandoah and I wouldnt be playing around with my day in the forest.
It was a long day, but a great day. And here to tell you about it is ME!
And for now folks its off to get ready for the main event. I will be battling it out with the tall boy AJ Linnell for the NUE title. Its been an incredible season, no question about it and I am stoked to see it still playing it out in epic fashion. After the season and year we have had who knows what remains. La Ruta perhaps, or even a Munga. Its pretty exciting stuff and I wouldn’t trade this year so far for the world.