Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Almanzo recap, one rider's view from the back

Four of us rode down to the check-in on Friday night in Charlie's RV, which we continued in down to Spring Valley a few hours later. My head was getting congested during the day, with my nose running and a constant headache, though not sure if I'm getting a sudden allergy issue or a head cold. I went to bed by 11pm or so while the others went on a walkabout.

Upon waking up on Friday Almanzo morning it was immediately clear that it was cold and raining out, though not heavily, making it tough to get out of my warm sleeping bag inside the RV. Very glad at this point that I had packed a decent rainjacket and wool helmet liner, as well as a rain helmet cover, and wool everything. I quickly packed the night before with enough clothes for three riders, not knowing the conditions until we got to the start - something like a 50-70% chance of rain forecasted a few days ahead.

I threw on two pair of Sock-Guy wool socks, a thin wool t-shirt, pulled up my wool bib knickers, a wool jersey on top of that, finished by a rain jacket. My head had the wool beanie under the helmet and cover. My fingers took just a thin pair of full-fingered Mechanix gloves, my preference for year-round riding.

Ate the high school breakfast, more to support the cause than to eat the food, I'm glad I ate, though it's still being debated whether or not there was actual food on the plate. The lunch-lady was kind enough to fill up my Camelbak, which I should have done prior to the race start, but the only stop we seemed to make on the way down was to get beer, which I was saving for finish time.

Headed outside again, I run into Chewie, who scored the mark of the beast. We discussed the upcoming Dirt Burger, which is going to be bigger and better than ever, by the sounds of it.
Here's a video Chris shot of the roll-out on turn 3. That's Hurl leading the pack into the corner, I saw him lead this left turn and didn't see him again until the finish. I show up at the 40-second mark, letting Chris know he's #1. There's already a 4:15 gap between the front and back of the pack!

Untitled from Chris Skogen on Vimeo.


To give you an idea of the racing conditions, here's a shot of Hurl (R) and four other riders at mile 20:
#AGRS riders around mile twenty @almanzo100 on Twitpic

Another shot of the leaders at the same spot:
@almanzo100 Leaders at ~Mile 20 #AGRS on Twitpic

I didn't ride great during the first 22-miles, but got a bit of a second wind up until the town of Preston at mile 40 or so. The town came up sooner than I expected, and this year I decided to take a left and venture to the market, where I figured I could top-up on enough water for the rest of the ride - there are no further towns during the remaining 60-miles of this race ride. By the way, the hospitality of the workers at the market has to be mentioned - thank you for opening your doors and floors to the mud we left behind.

Eric Leugers of Banjo Brothers took this shot of me when I arrived outside the market.

Note how I'm clean from the waist-up, my ass was dry from my fender and there was no drafting on my part up until now, hence the clean face. My legs were wet up to the mid-calf, but the wool knickers saved the day, keeping me warm and cozy. I'm also trying out contact lenses, something I haven't worn in several years - they treated me very well, with added clear safety lenses for protection.

People were dropping from the race in this town of Preston like flies, by some accounts several hundred riders called it quits here. I didn't feel great, but wasn't that bad off - I decided to keep on keeping on, before I saw Kelly Mac and Charlie, and we agreed to team up and ride together from this point out (K-Mac was my riding partner from this years Ragnarök, if you recall.)

I have no hard feelings whatsoever for the people that dropped out at this point. One of my first century attempts was back in April of 1989, where I made it about 65-miles before being pulled out by volunteers at a rest stop - it started chilly, but turned to rain, then sleet, then snow. I'm out in the middle of farm country, riding solo, wanting nothing more than to curl up on a farmhouse couch and take a permanent rest. Turns out I had hypothermia - when I walked into the rest stop there were no empty chairs - without a word from me, I was surrounded with people offering their seats, my bike was placed on the sag wagon trailer, and I quickly had something warm to drink, though chilled to the core. That was my lesson in being prepared - I was never in the Cub Scouts.

So the three of us roll out of Preston. Readers take note that K-Mac is riding her single-speed, but the freewheel was slipping, so she had to flip the wheel to fixed. At this point I didn't think she'd make it the 100-miles riding fixed, not knowing yet if I would continue on solo. However she does like to handicap herself on these rides, and usually pulls out ahead of most, historically. After just a few miles, we were all warm again and feeling much better; I knew just a few miles out of Preston we were going to go the distance.

The wind wasn't a factor up to now, but we would soon be introduced to the gravest headwind I've felt in a long time. There was a roughly 8-mile stretch around the 55-mile point that sucked the soul out of me - pushing the cranks one rotation at a time, making 7-9 miles an hour. At the end of this stretch, there was a turn, but now the wind is at our sides - easier, but not easy. The course was followed by many more soul crushing miles pushing into the wind.

We passed a few riders on bicycles I wouldn't choose to ride 100-miles on dry pavement on a clear and windless day - ride what you have, but good god man; more power to you.

Coming up to the checkpoint at mile 64 or so, three riders come up from behind like we're standing still - it's the lead riders from the Royal group, a ride that started at 7am and totaled 162-miles. So these three are 62-miles ahead of us and are riding as if they just started out. These three Royal riders yelled out their numbers while barely slowing down as the three of us dismounted to grab a few energy packs offered by the kindly volunteers.

Here's my bike at the checkpoint.


And a shot of my lower leg, note the new shoes courtesy of folks at Specialized via a brief stopover with Hurl - they fit like a glove and I couldn't recommend them more. What model are they? Hell, they're covered in dirt, I can't tell anymore than you can. (Though upon a google, it looks like they are the BG S-Works shoe.) Huge thanks to Amy for the footwear.

The three of us walked up this hill at about mile 69. It is steeper than it looks here. A pick-up truck stopped me here and a couple asked if I recall seeing a broken down tandem. Yeah, but they're several miles back and on the other side of the bridge, which you can't cross with an automobile. I wished them luck and carried on.

The rest of the day consisted of wind, gravel, more wind, hills, and some extra wind thrown in for good measure. Walked across the water crossing, it felt very good and cleaned up my legs, though the mud on my socks was not fazed by the strong current; the cuffs were solid at the end of the day. There was a bit of cheering from K-Mac at the 90-mile point. At the incline at roughly 91-miles, there was a lack of cheering - that hill downright sucked. One more hill with 5-6 miles to go and Charlie broke ahead from the two of us.

Like last year you can see the water tower with about 3-miles to go. From there the ride is over mentally, just grind down a few more times and make it to the high school.

I've never finished a race that late before - the parking lot was mostly empty and the prize tables inside were gone. I did get a few cookies after rinsing off my ride, however. [update - results posted: I came in 100th.]

Props to Sage, who rode the distance despite her friends all bailing on her and her gears unwilling to shift the last half of the ride. My gears were getting janky for sure - next time bring a small bottle of chain lube.

The course was exceptional, seriously. The rain made for packed gravel, with the occasional long stretch of single-track to ride smoothly on. Occasionally wiping the muddy grease off my handlebar mounted computer, I took note of my speed on the downhills, which didn't exceed 35 mph or so.

Next time have shoe covers and different gloves, though my digits weren't uncomfortable, just wet.

Am I doing this ride next year? Very likely, though I wouldn't mind shooting photos one of these years; there is too much beatiful scenery out there and I would love to have my SLR along one of these times.

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A huge lot of photos by Craig Linder on Flickr here. Dang, he even got one of me, trying not to overheat during a dry spell, by the looks of it. One of K-Mac, and Charlie. This is a beautiful shot of Hurl - love the green and blue.


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3 comments:

HotWater said...

props for getting it done. what kind of frame bag did you use? did it accommodate your frame pump well?

Marco Esteban said...

HW,

It's a Jandd frame pack and it works great with the pump. There's no bump big enough to shake the pump off with the frame pack secured.

http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FFP

Cheers!

HotWater said...

awesome, thanks!