Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Got Blown on the Lake Express

My vacation is over. I had a great time in Michigan and it will be hard to go back to work tomorrow morning. Where should I start telling about my trip, how about the drive? We left Minneapolis Thursday morning to catch the 7pm fairy from Milwaukee. Lake Express, the boat company who sponsored the race, let all racers take the fairy from WI to MI for free. The boat ride across Lake Michigan took about 2 hours, it didn't save us a lot of time, but being able to get out of the rental van, get some fresh air and enjoy the sunset was great.

Word to the wise, if you every take the fairy be sure to wear some warm clothes. When we boarded the boat it was around 90, but the breeze of the lake is chilly and make for a very cool ride.
The Boat was going so fast if I wasn't careful I think it could've blown me over.

Sunset from the boat.

After we got off the boat in Muskegon we drove to Grand Rapids to spend the night at some friends house. Thursdays travel time was roughly 9 hours.

Friday morning we went got breakfast at Real Food, a diner style join that served up some killer Banana pancakes with granola on top. In fact, the pancakes were so good Katie, Joe and I all got an order of cakes to go so we could have a solid meal before the race on Sat. From GR we drove north to Manistee to check in to our hotel and go pre-ride the race course.

Pre-ride went well, we rode an 8 mile section of the 25 mile loop to stretch our legs out and make any final adjustments or decisions about equipment choices for the race. Mainly, I wanted to see if I should wear a hydration pack or just carry my water bottles. I noticed early in the ride that my legs were rubbing on my saddle bag, which was really bothering me and the terrain was rough making it hard to grab my bottles. For me it was a no brainer, and I chose to ditch the saddle bag, only carry one bottle full of energy drink and ride with my hydration pack. After our short ride we drove to the shore for a dip in the lake and to clean off the dust from the trail.

Shot from the beach.

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 4:55 am. Because the race started at 7 with a "mandatory" pre-race meetin at 6:30, I wanted to make sure we had enough time to eat, pack our gear up, drive to the race and get ready for the race. Remember those pancakes we ordered to go yesterday morning? Yeah, they were just as good reheated as they were fresh. Some hotcake, o.j., and a cup of Starbucks "cowboy" coffee and my belly was ready for the long ride ahead of me.

The race (if you want to call it that, I considered it a long ride with a goal of finishing) was awesome. The group started on a paved road about a 1/2 mile from the trail head. this was to split the field before everyone hit the single track. When I reached the single track I was riding fairly strong and was passing a lot of riders. After about 5 miles I found a rhythm and slowed my pace down. I immediately noticed there was about 8 people riding with me and following my pace. I was climbing the hills much faster than most of the group so I decided it would be easier for me to stay in front and just continue to ride at my own pace. Which I did for the first 25 mile lap.

My first lap split was just over 2 hours, I was feeling good and still had plenty of water in my backpack, so I only pulled over for enough time to eat a fruit bar and continued on with my second lap. The second lap was still relatively easy. The course was really fun with some rolling hills, nice single track and at the end a couple fast descents which only made for some long climbs. In all, the course was 99% ridable. By the end of the second lap I was feel tired and started planning my pit stop. I finished my second again in just over 2 hours and headed for the Salsa tent to take my shoes off, grab some food and re-fill my water. The stop was a little long at about 20 minutes and then I was on for my 3rd lap, 1/2 way there.

During the 3rd lap I was riding strong and felt really good after getting some food in me. I slowed the pace down a little because I knew the last lap would be tough and I wanted to make sure I had enough left for the final 25 miles. I cleaned the whole course again (except the first big climb which was really washed out from all of the traffic) and was feeling confident as I headed into the pits for my final pit stop.

After sitting down I noticed a lot of the original people that were following me the first lap continued on 4th lap with no pit stop. I didn't pay any attention to them b/c I was confident I would catch them after my break. What did flustered me was that while I was on my little break the race winner crossed the finish line in a course record time of 6 hour and 50 minutes. That was when I realized I was officially lapped and I should get moving.

I started the final lap with a good pace. I passed one rider who had been riding with me the whole race. I knew there was one rider left ahead of me that I wanted to catch so I kept moving as steady as possible. Around 10 miles in to the course I caught up to the rider I was after and continued to follow him as for as long as possible. The pace was good and I couldn't go much fast. Eventually we crossed the 1/2 way point of our last lap. I was hoping he was going to stop for some food or water but the rider kept going. I was worried if I stopped he would pull away from me so I continued to follow. A few miles later we reached the part of the trail where the climbs became more frequent. I was still climbing good so I took the lead. I was ok with leading and only hoped I could keep up my pace.

That is when things started to turn for the worse. My rushed exit out of the pit on the forth lap and the missed aid station didn't allow for me to grab as much water as I needed and I ran out with about 8 miles left. At this point I was beginning to cramp up at every incline. As soon as I felt my legs tighten I would get off the bike and start walking. At this point all I wanted to do was finish the race and if possible finish in front of the rider I went out to catch. We exchanged the lead every time I had to get off the bike but eventually I was able to hold the cramping legs off and the terrain flattened. I was in the lead and didn't see the other rider anywhere behind me. At 9hours and 1o minutes I came to a break in the woods and saw the finish line ahead.

I finished the race in a total time of 9 hours and 13 minutes, almost 2 minutes in front of the biker I set out to pass on the last lap. Overall I finished 52 out of 129 finishers. I am very happy with my ride.

Congratulations to all the other MPLS riders too. Joe Mieser 31st, Ezra Taylor 49th, Blake Jenssen 74th, C-Rocker for riding out 75 miles and finally to Fiona who crashed early and had to pull out.

Yep the race was everything I expected. That night we went back to the hotel after a couple beers and everyone slept really well. In the morning at breakfast I started making up for the 8000 calories I burned during the ride. Our trip continued back to Grand Rapids for one more night before we headed to Chicago. We stayed one night in Chicago and made the final leg of our journey back to Minneapolis Tuesday morning.

What can I say, I had a great time and it was a trip to remember. If it wasn't so great, why would I have wrote so much?

Thanks Katie, Joe and Anni for the great trip and great memories.

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