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!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Scotland 345

Well sorry for the delay!  We arrived in the Highlands this afternoon.  Did a 3 mile hike r/t to a small distillery, Edradour outside of Pitlochry.  Our B&B tonight faces out onto Inverness Castle with a beautiful view of the Highlands which is veritably relaxing.  Tomorrow we're going to the Colluden Battlefield which ended the Jabobite Revolution over 350 years ago.  Had fish & chips and real ale for dinner.  Getting spoiled having real ale everywhere for certain.  I haven't found the Scottish ales as memorable as the English ales, but we've still plenty of time. 

Botanic Gardens
National Museum of Scotland & Highlands

Thanks for following along!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scotland - Day 2

Well today was another packed day of adventure.  A lovely breakfast that included a Scottish pancake left us fueled to take on the day.  We first took the bus to the Brittania, Queen Elizabeth II's yacht for many years.  It was really spectacular in both its beauty and in how it was operated to provide her luxury at sea.  Holyrood Palace saw drama with Mary Queen of Scots and was a lovely palace to tour whilst it rained.  The attached abbey ruins were perfect on a gloomy day.  After stopping for a pint we toured the Museum of Edinburgh and St Gyles Cathedral.  We ended the evening with a literary pub tour that was quite entertaining.  Two of the girls on the tour were NWU theater grads acting in a show at the Fringe.  We spent awhile after chatting with them which was quite fun as they probably enjoyed hearing midwestern accents for a pleasant change.  A stop for a pepper steak meat pie ended a good day. 

Pictures Day 2

Thanks for reading,

Scotland - Day 1

Departed Amsterdam on a 10:30 flight for Edinburgh.  Got a bus downtown and then a taxi to the B&B.  After unpacking, we set out, found pies for lunch, and then wandered a bit of the Royal Mile.  With a beautiful day, we set out to Holyrood Palace Park with the intention of hiking to Arthur's Seat, but took the route with a bit less climbing, but still had lovely views of the city.  We quickly went through the People's Museum.  Several pints and fish & chips were well earned after all of the walking.  We returned to the B&B, donned warmer clothing, and headed back out to wander the streets, watching all of the street performers in for the Fringe, and finally took a walking tour, Murder & Mystery, that was quite campy, yet quite entertaining.  A quick pint followed and a blissful 8 hours of sleep.  I think I'm over the jetlag and ready to go!  This morning, Monday, I had a lovely Scottish breakfast with a potato scone, which was an interesting addition.

Pictures from Scotland Day 1

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Haarlem, Holland

Landed in Amsterdam and caught a bus to Haarlem.  Haarlem is a great Dutch town with lots of small shops, a lovely church, and plenty to see.  The center-point of the church is the organ that Mozart once played when he was about 10 if I recall the signs.  It has been a long day after getting just a few hours of sleep on the flight.  We found a great little cafe to sit out and watch the people go by!

Pictures from Day 1

Tomorrow morning we fly on to Edinburgh and so begins the real vacation!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hueco Tanks - El Paso Texas

Got done with work and wanted to see something new in El Paso, TX.  A glance through the guide made Hueco Tanks State Park seem interesting, and the 45 minute drive to the mountains was appealing.  So off I went.  The drive was beautiful and once I got off of 180, I never saw another car.  I took advantage of it and stopped frequently for pictures.  Once I entered the park, I asked about what I could see in the less than two hours I had before closing and Buck volunteered to take me around.  We had a great afternoon and he showed me so much more than I'd ever have seen on my own.  I never would have ventured into the crevices to find the pictographs!  I was kicking myself I didn't have my Canon travel camera that usually floats around with me and so I had to make due with my phone camera, but the results were good and you can find them here.

Superweek 2010 - Geneva Crit

Well gang, it was a really tough hot race in Geneva.  As the lone WFR rider I knew I was going to have to be smart, but at Superweek you can't cheat on good fitness.  About 50ish guys rolled up for the Masters 4/5 35+ crit in downtown Geneva.  It featured a final turn with some nice smooth brick, unnoticeable in the heat of the moment.  The 6 turn course saw tricky turns 3 and 4 where the road narrowed dramatically in the turn causing speeds to drop with the caution and then a hasty acceleration up a slight hill out of 4.  It would prove my downfall.  I chose to race my Cherry as I needed every advantage I could get - my favorite bike with light fast wheels that would hug corners like a mom saying goodbye to her kid on the first day of kindergarten.  Temps were 94F at the start with a slight breeze.

At the start a guy from Freeport Bicycle Co. lined up just ahead.  As I grew up out there, I tapped him on the shoulder and introduced himself.  Turns out I worked summers lifeguarding with two of his kids.  His son raced 4's last year and is now a 3.  When I kept seeing the name in the results I just didn't put it all together!  After instructions we set out and immediately the tempo was fast.  We nailed the turns safely and charged the stretch between 4 & 5.  I felt ok.  Definitely it was hot and fast.  We kept the speed up the next few laps and I just stayed on wheels as my heart rate climbed and my tongue started to hang out.  I stayed in the field and hoped that I'd just be able to hang.

Finally, coming out of 4 the rubberband snapped and I was done.  I couldn't handle the acceleration and I was going backwards.  I tried to ride as hard as I could, but the field left me behind.  Another rider caught me and we started working together.  I can't even tell you what team.  We traded pulls and soldiered on.  A Beverly rider caught us, recovered, and then rather help us with the work, dropped us. Typical.  A Spin Doctor rider got to us as well.  Exhorting us to "work together" failed.  The Beverly rider came back, but there was no coordination.  Just me and the guy I'd been with trying to take even pulls and not get pulled.  It didn't work.  With probably 12 to go, we were prompted by the moto to withdraw.  Crud.  I knew I wasn't really race-fast, but was hoping that if we stayed safe we'd finish.  No luck on the technical course.

As it turns out, Bill from Freeport's daughter that I last saw in 1993 was at the race with her kids to cheer on grandpa.  It was actually really nice to catch up as we watched the race continue to evolve.  A break with two guys got away - one a Bicycle Heaven rider Andy Swims was in the break with a Bellum rider, Dan Cleveland.  The field trailed well behind. With 3 to go, Jenny's kids exclaim that "Grandpa is at the front".  Sure enough, rather than finish at the back of the pack, Bill Liebman turned it on and led the field through the line to give the crowd some excitement.  Bicycle Heaven took the race which was practically home for them so that was nice to see.  Chatted with Ed Ekstrom from Tower post-race who took 10th.  Bill scored 28th.  For me, all I can do is commentate.

I can't make excuses.  My fitness just isn't there right now.  Wednesday nights are helping, but I need to be more consistent.  Due to a mishap trying to fish my computer pick-up out of my spokes that was merely irritating, I pushed it further into the spokes and watched it disintegrate against the curb so I can't even give averages and confirm my agony.  I opted not to race the Homewood crit.  Wish I'd have seen Ed from Tower take 2nd, though!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Sherman Park Criterium

I know it has been awhile since I've posted any racing updates.  It isn't that I haven't raced, though Saturday marked only my 4th race of the season, it is just that the races have not been terribly exciting.  Though I often tell my tales from the back of the peloton, the tales of me fighting alone after being dropped are just rather dull.  It has been good to race with Stephen and Chris, and see that Jason is coming close to joining us in the 4's.  This past Saturday at Sherman Park was better.

It is great to get to race at the 105 year old Sherman Park.  Designed by the Olmsted brothers and Daniel Burnham, the 10 new parks created in 1905 would serve Chicago's burgeoning immigrant population and Sherman Park with its water, bridge and beautiful field house and pool is lovely.  The road was also designed for bicycle racing, a very popular sport in the days before the automobile.  One of the magical things about racing bikes in Chicago is the opportunity for us to race on courses like the Midway, Sherman Park, and Grant Park. 

According the results, 53 riders showed up to contest the 30 minute criterium.  We'd hit the field limit of 75, but 24 riders did not start.  On our warm-up lap, it started to drizzle and as we reached Turn 3 I looked to Stephen as the black sky came into view and muttered that it didn't look good.  By the time we'd reached the line, the skies opened and the rain fell and the thunder boomed.  We all scrambled for some cover.  After 10 minutes, we lined up in the rain, received our instructions, being told not to worry so much about wrecking in the rain as we'll slide and shouldn't get as ripped up, and then we set out.  As I said last year when writing about Leland, this just confirms the difference between bike racers and our other adult sports cousins.  We don't have rain-outs, we suck it up, pull on our big-boy-spandex-shorts, and ride - fast.

I opted to race my steel Cherry on Saturday.  Had I really thought it would pour I'd have probably raced the Bianchi, but of all my bikes, my Cherry is indeed my favorite.  I did have the forethought to run my Bontrager Race Lite wheels with Bontrager Race Lite Dual-Compound tires. While I really love my Easton EA70's with the Conti 4000S tires and think this may be the smoothest setup I have ridden, I've raced the Bontrager setup in rain and I know I can count on sure-footed traction in the turns.

We quickly jumped up to racing speed and the 53 rain sodden riders sped through the left hand turns with nary a brake tapped.  The nature of this course is that all of the turns are wide and curved so that we don't have a traditional crit course's 90 degree turns.  The result is that this race was really consistent in speed and there were not a lot of hard accelerations beyond the prime laps of which we had 5.  This suited me perfectly.  Though we were often riding 25+ mph the lack of braking was gentle on me and my overall lack of race-fitness. 

The grit and spray from the wheels ahead made for a grind, and I got in the drops and just followed wheels, trying not to be too far back.  Stephen was ahead usually fairly near the front.  I was able to check in with him a few times.  I don't quite recall all of the primes, I know Clif and probably Get a Grip had provided some, but the others I just don't recall.  There was a breakaway midway through and I do remember a $50 prime offered to the first rider if we caught the solo rider.  At one point I realized that I could feel metal under my fingers and I glanced down to discover my handlebar tape unwinding.  Now I've never been great at wrapping bars, but this was pretty embarrassing.  I dropped back so as not to be erratic and tried winding it up as best I could.  I'd fight with it the rest of the race.  It made me look like I was riding a kid's bike with a streamer from my bar-end. 

With 2 to go we got another prime and I noticed Stephen towards the back with me.  Hmmm.  He was unhappy with his position.  I should have fought with everything to get up to the front and drag him up.  I got caught up in the euphoria of knowing that I'd finish with the field, my goal, and I didn't realize till the cool down lap I'd never gone hard once - never crossed threshold, never been remotely near max.  Without a lot of racing this year and questionable fitness, it just didn't click the way it needed to.  We got the bell and hammered around the course.  Till now we'd been safe and so I hoped that we wouldn't turn in a last lap wreck.  We did not.  We flew through T4 and sprinted to the line.  Being so far back I rolled through for 44th and Stephen ended in 38th.  I found out after, that with it being such a short race that Stephen just lost track of the laps and didn't realize that we were in the closing moments.  He, too, had gas in the tank. 

XXX Racing put on a great race in the conditions.  I'm hoping that with some home-time I'll be able to get my fitness back on track with Superweek looming large on the horizon.  I'd like to do a long ride on Saturday if anybody has interest.

I did attend Wheel Fast Racing Sponsor Two Brothers Brewery's For the Love of Hops festival after the race.  It was a blast with plenty of great beer and music. 

Thanks as always for reading,