Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flatlandia Kermesse 2011

It was cold and damp when we began and I was very appreciative that I was not a 1/2/3 on Saturday as the day just got worse.  We had a good sized field - 40ish?? with Jason and I representing WFR in the race and Derek helping out.  After instructions, we rolled out at a rather easy pace - what I didn't realize was that this was due to a headwind that would crush most of my remaining spirit on Lap 2.  Jason and I sat on the back, chatting and just staying out of trouble.  We rounded a few turns and Jason let me know that the gravel was fast approaching.  As we neared the first sector of gravel the pace picked up and at this point I realized I couldn't hang.  Ugh.

Alone I hit the first sector of gravel - a seemingly 3 mile long winding stretch of slick crushed limestone.  Staying in the truck and tractor prints was like riding in snow - the bike slipping around.  Make no sudden movements here!  At this point, my 20 year old Vetta 1000 computer lost its feed from the wheel and I was suddenly seeing  no speed or distance - just the 174 to indicate my heart was still beating - quickly.  I settled in to slogging through it and hoped that it would end.  After an interminable distance, I was back out on road.  Briefly.  My computer sprang back to life. Yeah! The 2nd sector was more of the same, but I think just a straight 2 mile-ish jaunt.  I ignored the crust of cement on my water bottles - sucking down Cytomax to keep the legs turning.  I must confess at this point that I did something very un-roadie.  Under my longsleeve jersey and vest rode my camelback.  It was a great decision.  I could tuck the nozzle into the jersey and keep it clean.  Ah fresh water!  I exited the 2nd sector after being passed by the Cat 5 leaders who were battling for a frameset, tapped the brakes to clear the crud from the rims and powered with a bit of tailwind.  Hitting the 3rd sector was the worst stretch we'd face.  It was muddier and cruddier, but thankfully shorter.  Coming out of sector 3 we turned the corner and Lap 1 was complete. 

Hitting the headwind - solo - with nobody to hide behind was dreadful.  My legs were tired and the excitement I'd had for this epic race was quickly waning.  I'd barely kept it up in the gravel on Lap 1.  However, as the wind drove me backwards, I began to long for that sweet gravel.  At least I wouldn't be fighting so hard. Derek gave some encouragement.  I wondered how Jason was faring. Entering the gravel on Lap 2 was just easier - maybe I knew it this time and could better judge the best line.  Maybe I'd finally warmed up a little.  Though I did find myself stabbing for a 39x25 that my 9 speed cluster lacked - I managed to slip through ok.  My legs were beginning to tire and I chugged some Cyto and hoped to ward off the fatigue. I found a rhythm, settled in, and just rode my bike.  I was cold, though.  Rain spit from the sky. I decided that 4 hours of this brutality was asking too much, and so I made the decision to abandon after 50km.  Coming off the 3rd sector, which was growing worse from the battle that was taking place on it, I turned left and headed back to the start.  I let the official know that Rider 107 was done. 

I'd hoped for a better day.  I need more miles in the legs for certain.  Flatlandia did a great job putting on a great race in crappy conditions.  It lived up to its promise of being epic.

First, though I need to get the mild version, Mad Alchemy is just the thing for these Spring races.  Embrocating before the race made a huge difference - overall I was warm.  I've had some issues with the Russian Tea version leaving me basically with a mild burn, but i was very very gentle in my application and came through ok.

For the equipment I chose my 9-speed Campy Chorus equipped Bianchi.  Largely because I didn't have 25's for tires I rode Bontrager Dual-compound 23's that have proven reliable under crappy conditions.  They still looked new after the race.  I should have gone with a 13-26 instead of a 12-23 cassette, though.  Alone on the gravel I stabbed at the Ergo lever a few times for the 26.  I guess I've been on 10 speed long enough to appreciate the bail-out 25 it provides.  After an hour's clean-up and re-lube, the Bianchi is ridable again.  I'll post pictures of the cement encrusted drive-train.  I'm surprised it kept shifting.  Probably another advantage to the 9 vs. the 10 speed.

Anyway, I stopped in Hinckley at the Dairy Joy for a chocolate malt.  Always a good stop. 

That's the scoop.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tyranena Brewing Oktoberfest Bike Ride

Yesterday, October 2nd, was the Tyranena Brewing Company's Oktoberfest bike ride around Lake Mills, Wisconsin.  With Autumn in full swing, I expected a pleasant ramble through the changing leaves of Southern Wisconsin, between Madison & Milwaukee.  It was breezy, veritably blustery save blue skies, with winds around 20 mph.  We set out amongst the clumps of 1750 riders, Jeff, Ed and I together, leaving Jan, Nancy and Kim to ride their own ride.

Trek Factory - Waterloo WI
It was pleasant enough to be begin.  Some rolling hills greeted us, but the legs were still fresh.  I'd applied Mad Alchemy's embrocation before the ride hoping for a pleasant warmth on my legs, feet and lower back as the temperature was just north of 50 degrees.  I'd grabbed my favorite bike, my custom John Cherry steel frame wearing Campy Chorus, Easton EA70 wheels and Continental GP4000S tires.  It seemed the perfect mate for a long day in the saddle.

The first 12 miles took us to the Trek Bicycle headquarters where we stopped to re-fill the bottles, grab a cookie and banana, and take a quick tour of the shrine constructed with Lance Armstrong's Tour de France Bikes.  It was fun seeing his 2001 bike again from the year Bryn and I were there

After 20 miles, we buzzed through the rest stop, feeling ok.  The wind and hills were beginning to take their toll, but Ed and I were ok, and Jeff was following wheels fine - so far so good.  By the Mile 30 rest stop fatigue was setting in.  The clouds were heavier and the wind brisk.  I began to wonder how I'd do with over half the ride to go.  But, knowing I'd survived some epic rides in the past, I was confident in my ability to survive.  Such misplaced confidence.

Around Mile 40, Jeff made the decision to just do the 45 mile route and turned off.  I debated it in my head strongly.  Ed was clearly the strongest, even though he'd not ridden the road since breaking his collarbone in an August crash.  Could I hang?  Surely I could.  Surely.

Several miles later I saw the folly of this bravado.  I stood on a climb and realized that I was cooked.  I literally had nothing left to give my legs.  I could feel the beginnings of cramps as I plunked back down on the saddle.  Oh crap.  I had 23 miles to go and I was blown.  At the next rest stop I downed Gatorade and a banana along with a few cookies.  I was hoping that the influx of electrolytes and calories could stop the inevitable.  As we rolled out to face the last 15 miles, Ed found he'd punctured.  I was happy to have more time to try and recover.  We fixed his flat quickly and then set out.  The suffering began in earnest.

I was literally counting down miles, alternating my gaze between Ed's rear wheel and my cyclocomputer that fed me the bad news - 14 miles to go, 13 miles .... I was hurting at a level that would place this ride in my Top 5 of suffering on a bicycle.  Last year's Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival had set a high bar, but this "ride" was literally tapping every ounce of strength and courage I could muster.  I wanted to sit down in the ditch, maybe have a cry.  My cell phone battery had died as I tried to map the route and so if I lost Ed I'd have no way to call Kim to bail me out.  I dug deeper into what Paul Sherwen famously calls my "suitcase of courage". I was feeling muscles in my legs starting to cramp that I didn't know existed.  Ed's wheel grew a bit more distant.  He'd sense my growing gap and ease off a little.  We passed a slower group and I fantasized not about the riding behind the pretty girls, but rather just riding at their slightly slower survival pace.  The riders we passed were suffering as I was.  The last 10 miles saw shattered riders, hollow eyes, grunts of acknowledgment.  It was hell.

Finally I could see the Lake Mills water tower and hope was restored.  I saw 2 miles remaining on my computer, Ed's wheel was still ahead.  We rolled through town, a blur.  Tyranena Brewing appeared.  We pulled in and found Ed's wife Nancy, who had survived the 30 mile route.  We got food/beer coupons and then ran into Jeff, Kim and Jan.  I asked Kim if she'd brought the XTerra rather than walk the mile from the motel.  She looked at me if I was crazy.  She didn't understand at the time that I didn't think myself capable of riding one more solitary mile.  Thankfully, Ed & Nancy gave me a lift back to the motel where a shower restored my flagging spirits.

We enjoyed the beer garden and great Tyranena beers - their staff and volunteers did an exceptional job of taking care of the large number of riders.  They really put on a great party.  Eventually we ended up back at the Pyramid Motel (and Liquor Store) and got a 20" pizza from the neighboring Pizza Pit (that shares a building with a car wash, but admonishes you not to ask for change for the wash at the pizza pit).  The pizza took 15 minutes to bake and 7 minutes to completely consume.  Even after food at the brewery we were famished.  It was an epic day in the saddle.  Definitely a Top 5 which puts it in league with a ride in the Alps, Chequamegon, and the 1994 Swedish Day's Metric Century where I ran over my brother Stephen. But, you know what, for all of the agony, suffering, and pain, I'd do it all again.

I'd posted this, thought about it for awhile, then realized that I'd not said anything about the beer and the title of this column is indeed Kevin Butler's Beer & Bikes.  It had been a lot of bikes, and little beer save mentioning the great folks at Tyranena.  I have to give a very big thumbs-up to their Painted Ladies Pumpkin beer - it may be the best pumpkin beer I've had.  As a lover of pumpkin, I've tried quite a few and had just had a Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin the night before the ride.  Tyranena's Pumpkin is like liquid pumpkin pie - it is fabulous.  I also managed to taste their Oktoberfest which was good, Rocky's Revenge with 40% aged in bourbon barrels - yummy, and the Chief BlackHawk Porter quite good, too.  Overall, if you find yourself near Madison, Lake Mills and Tyranena is worth the 20 minute or so drive!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sctloand - Days 13 & 14

At the Ibis Amsterdam Airport about to catch the shuttle, but wanted to get up the last of the Scotland Pictures.  Great trip.  Can't believe we're flying home today.  At least tomorrow is Labor Day!

Thanks for following along - I really hope everybody enjoyed the pictures!

Scotland Days 13 & 14 Pictures


Friday, September 3, 2010

Scotland - Days 9 - 12

Sorry it has been a few days.  We've been without wifi.  I apologize that these are not captioned yet so that you know where we were, but for the quick summary, Loch Ness, Uqurhart Castle, Isle of Skye, and finally Oban, Isles of Mull and Iona with Saint Columba's Abbey. 

Scotland Day 9 & 10

Scotland Day 11 & 12

I'll caption as soon as I can, but for now just enjoy the beauty of Scotland.  Today we are going to Glencoe, Stirling Castle and finally back to Edinburgh to start the journey home.  Hard to believe the trip is nearly over!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scotland - Day 8 - More Great Glen Way

Did probably 16 miles of hiking with 2000 vertical gain today and we are both feeling it!  It was a beautiful hike, though the best view was shrouded in rain and fog.  Thank heavens for waterproofs.  We definitely had a well earned pint at the Loch Ness Inn at the conclusion of the hike.  Most of the photos are not captioned today as they just took place along the hike.  They are all from between Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit along Loch Ness.

Scotland - Day 8 - Great Glen Way Photos

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Scotland - Day 7 - Loch Ness

Hiked along the Great Glen Way today from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston. The route followed Loch Ness, but as of yet, we've not spotted the monster. I hold out hope, though. Tomorrow is a 16 mile hike!

Day 7 Photos

Tonight's dinner is in a CAMRA Pub of the Year which means one thing: Real Ale!

Thanks for following along!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Scotland Day 6 - Happy Birthday Kim!

Happy Birthday, Kim!  Today is Day 6 and we went to Culloden Battlefield.  The Highlanders and the Jacobite Rebellion were crushed in 1746.  The weather was perfect and the lighting really dramatic with the sun and clouds!

Day 6 Photos of Culloden

We also visited Clava Cairns, an ancient stone circle and cemetery from 2000-1000BC!

Dinner was tapas and now a bottle of wine and books.  Hope everybody has a great weekend!

Thanks for following along!