Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 Funk Bottoms Gravel 100K

This was the 7th year for the Funk Bottoms Gravel a race that I helped start back in 2011. As in the past years I spend the fall winter scouting out the route.  Each year when setting up the route I try and make it easy for the racers to be self supported.  The route changes a little bit each year, and at 68.6 miles this was the longest. 

This years course was 68 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing and still wasn't the most climbing per mile.  The course made up for the lack of climbing compared to past years by being the most technical. The "easy" section of the course was from Danville to Greer which had several small rollers but you paid for it once you hit Beam Road.
My goal for the race was to have 100 people sign up this year. When online registration ended on Thursday we had 99 pre-registered.  Figuring a few people would drop out plus the few who show up on race day we had our goal of 100 racers.  We tell the racers they have to be self supported and the course is not marked. Once again my sponsor Hammer Nutrition provided HEED, Endurolytes, and Hammer Gel for all the racers. We had water and HEED at the start, the secret checkpoint and the hidden oasis. Friday my father-in-law, Potenza and myself drove the course and marked all the turns.  While we marked the course Friday morning and into the afternoon there was heavy rain.  I started getting text messages and emails from racers questioning the course.  Many were concerned about the hike a bike section. The rains stopped late Friday afternoon and the forecast for Saturday was sunny and a high of 80. Once the sun came out Saturday morning the roads dried quickly and the moisture from the rain kept the dust to a minimum.
The race starts out with a neutral rollout for the first mile, once we get to the first hill it time to start racing.
Photo: Potenza
Hammering out in the morning sun. Photo: Dan Nolan
The first few miles are relatively easy with a few short steep climbs and mostly rollers.  I took the opportunity to talk with several riders as we did the easy first few miles.

Alex and Zach Valigosky racing single speed.

Around mile 10 just past the common core corner there was a fellow rider with a flat.  I gave him my pump and took a few minutes drink some of my favorite mixture of Orange-Vanilla Perpetuem and Lemon-Lime HEED.  Alex and Zach rode past and I knew I would catch up with them on the climb out of Glenmont. 
This year parts of the course were done in different order.  Glenmont was early in the race around mile 13.  Instead of coming down Twp Rd 29 we had the fun of climbing up.

Twp 29
Just as we started the 2 mile grind to the top I saw the flying Valigosky brothers walking their single speeds up the hill.  I couldn't help but tell them they are "Almost to the top" That was the last I saw of them for the rest of the day.  Once we got to the top of the Twp 29 climb we went down Twp 34 which was just graded the week before when we scouted the route.  It was soft from the rain the day before and had fresh gravel down.
Up next was the Twp 28 followed by the hike a bike section. Yes it was muddy and I had to walk part of it, but it was only a mile of the 68 mile race.  The course continued with its fast descents and long steep climbs for the next few miles.  There were some amazing views along the way.
Photo: Adam McNiel
During my scouting of the course I found a park that was not on any maps.  With a few emails to the Tiverton Twp officials I had the place for the secret checkpoint.  The checkpoint was manned by members of the PCL-Ohio chapter and stocked with plenty of Hammer Nutrition HEED and Hammer Gels.
It wouldn't be the Funk if there wasn't a down tree across the road.
Around mile 40 when we rode through Danville we jumped on the Mohican Valley Trail between dodging buggies and road apples I had time to take a selfie.


I finished 26th  with a time of 5:37.

Friday, June 02, 2017

2017 Black Fork Gravel Grind: Just not my day

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing went as you had hoped?  Well for me that was this years Black Fork Gravel Grind. Last year the race was 30 miles and I finished second overall.  This year they added a 23 and 48 mile route, naturally I was planning on doing the 48.  Since I was very familiar with the roads and had done some training over the winter on them while scouting out the Funk Bottoms Gravel course which this year travels on a few of the same roads.

My mileage and training have been low this year compared to Mr. BigRing normal standards, but somehow I had managed to get my mileage goal for the month of April. Along with a few runs I felt like my fitness was coming along slowly for the spring but still headed in the right direction. I did one last quick spin on some of the course on Friday, the roads were in great shape and I even set a Strava KOM.

The weather forecast for race day did not look good with heavy thunderstorms starting Friday and continuing through Saturday night. Friday night there was heavy rain but it had stopped and it seemed like we should be able to start dry but get into some rain later. I did my usual race day routine of getting my bottles ready with bottle of my favorite mixture of Hammer Nutrition Orange-Vanilla Perpetuem and Lemon-Lime HEED . Since the race starts 5 miles from the cabin I figured that would make a great warm and easy spin in the morning.  I got dressed and finished my bottle of Fully Charged grabbed my bike and head down the stairs  to the race.

When I say head down the stairs I literally meant head down the stairs. Walking across the wet wood deck with my Sidi shoes on I slipped and somehow did something resembling an Irish Jig falling down the stairs before it turned into rolling down the stairs.  In the process I had twisted my left ankle bad and smashed my left shin into the stairs.  I'm not sure which pain was worse my leg which felt like it was broken or my ankle. I walked it off for a few minutes and hopped on my bike for the ride to the start.  Normal riding didn't bother my ankle too bad but putting pressure while climbing increased the pain.

Moments before the big fall.

The Start

The Black Fork Gravel Grind starts out at the Mohican Wilderness (same place as Mohican 100 Aid Station 4.5) with an easy 1 mile on a gravel road before the first climb on Valley Stream Rd. its a long step climb with some pitches at 20%. 

Valley Stream

This is where my day went from bad to worse. I felt a pop in my seat on the climb and my saddle started to move around and I thought I had broken seat bolt. I made it to the top of the climb and found out my seat rail had broken and popped out of the top.  I smacked it back in place which seemed to work for about a quarter mile.  The heavy rains and lightning which we had hoped would hold off until later had just started.  I stopped again and grabbed my multi-tool and tried to loosen and retighten a few screws on the bottom.  My tool only had a slotted and not Phillip's bit. I tried to pound the seat back in place but it still kept flopping around. A little bit up the road I saw fellow PCL Ohio Chapter member and asked to borrow his Phillip's screwdriver.  That fix lasted about another quarter mile. Bombing down the hills gravel roads at 30+ mph with a saddle that's flopping around is not very fun.

Paul and I road together since miserly loves company. We got to the bottom of Bill Hill Road about 5 miles in and I had debated about dropping out.

Busting out the walk on Bill Hill Rd.


We started riding down Beam in a heavy downpour and neither one of had brakes that seemed to work. Sprained ankle, broken seat, no brakes and we were only 8 miles into a 48 mile race.  We got back to Wally Rd and I decided it would be best to drop out.

We road the 2 miles back to the start to let them know we had dropped out.  The good news is were the first of many DNF's for the day.
Paul with a much "earned" beer
Not a fun way to ride

That night my ankle was swollen and black and blue.  I had done RICE and was off the bike for 3 weeks.  A month after I had hurt my ankle its still slightly swollen and sore. I can at least ride without pain now, although it has a constant dull ache.  Occasionally it does feel like someone is driving a large nail into my ankle.  I would like to thank Hammer Nutrition for supporting me, and Jay and Matt for putting on a great event.

Next race Funk Bottoms Gravel on June 24th.

Friday, October 14, 2016

2016 Akron Half Marathon


2016 Akron Half Marathon Finish
This has been a very difficult year in training for me.  I started out the year with a separated Shoulder and have been spending most of my time helping taking care of a family member with cancer.  To top if off in August I went to the ER for having chest pains. The good news is after several test the doctors were unable to determine the cause of my chest pains and I have been cleared to exercise again.
I spent the 7 weeks prior to the race not running or cycling just walking a few days a week.  For those of you who recall my 12 Week Marathon Training Plan I present my 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan.
I knew going in that my time would be my slowest Half Marathon but I was very happy to be able to run again.  I was going stir crazy sitting around doing nothing.
On my way to the race I drank a bottle of Hammer Nutrition Lemon-Lime HEED since it was a relatively warm 66 degrees at 5:00 in the morning.  My fueling plan for the day was to follow what always works for me in training and racing.  I carried a bottle of Lemon-Lime HEED and Orange-Vanilla Perpetuem. I also carried several Endurolytes to prevents cramps and Hammer Gels.  My plan was to take Endurolyets and Gel once an hour. As usual I carried several extra Gels to share with my fellow runners. Around mile 11 I gave 2 Hammer Gels to Helen McWilliams who set the Guiness World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a chef.  She had complete chef outfit on and Carried a 3 kilo stock pot.

I started out the race slow and felt good and was surprised to see I ran negative splits with my fastest mile at 11-12. Considering I did not train the way I should I was very pleased with my time of 2:18:37.

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Funk Bottoms Gravel

This was the 6th edition of the Funk Bottoms Gravel race.  Along with PW and Potenza I was one of the founders of FBG in 2011.  What started out as a training ride  for Gravel Worlds has turned into a growing event, with this year having our largest starting field. Starting over the winter I scout out new sections of gravel roads in the area to make the course slightly different each year.
2016 Funk Bottoms
This years route was the most challenging yet with lots of long gravel climbs and descents.  Due to several factors my riding this year has been way below my standards. With 7,500 feet of climbing I knew it was going to be a long day. This was the first year I did the 100K and not the 200K.  By doing the 100K it was easier for my finish line volunteers to record times and places.

Pre-race final instructions Photo: Katie Eno
Start of neutral rollout Photo: Katie Eno
The race started with a 2 mile neutral rollout until the first hill and then it was game on for everyone. Last year with good fitness I was able to finish second in the 200K, this year was another story.  I had suffered from some heart problems over the winter and have been helping take care of family members with serious health issues. I was more in the taking a scenic ride through rural Ohio than racing mode. The first part of the race to Killbuck was nice and easy rolling along with a few other riders.  When we pulled into Killbuck I suggested the other rides get water since it was hot and a long 33 miles to Glenmont with next water.  I had gone through one bottle of my favorite mixture of Hammer Nutrition Orange-Vanilla Perpetuem and Lemon-Lime HEED 
Even though my fitness was lacking knowing the course would be a big help. Hammer Nutrition once again sponsored the race with all riders getting some Hammer Gels and Endurolytes before the race.   Since I designed the course this year I knew on advance where the secret checkpoint would be along the way. The secret checkpoint would be between Killbuck and Glenmont and would have plenty of water and Hammer HEED.
Around mile 30 on the TWP 324 climb a fellow racer was walking his bike with a flat.  He had suffered from multiple flats and was out of tubes, so I stopped gave him on my spare tubes and pump.  This gave me a nice 5 minute break before continuing with the second half of the race.  This year the secret checkpoint was around mile 40 staffed from volunteers from the PCL-Ohio Chapter.
Stopping for a few minutes for water at the checkpoint did my legs in.  I started to get dead legs and cramps on the next climb. After slamming a bottle of water and a few endurolytes I felt better. The afternoon heat had kicked in and my day had become a just keep moving slowly and not stop affair.  I ended up finishing in 5:52 about an hour slower  than I would have like but not bad considering my lack of fitness this year.
Finished 66.7 miles in 5:52 Photo: Katie Eno

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

2016 Black Fork Gravel Grind

Saturday April 30th was the first year for the Black Fork Gravel Grind a 30 mile "race" in Loudonville, OH. At the start they said it was not a race. When you have 120 cyclist doing a mass start on a challenging course with a 12 pack of Four Stings on the line for the first finisher, it quickly turns into a race. I was originally going to pass on doing the race as I had not been doing much training.  I was suffering from heart arrhythmia and was just cleared by my cardiologist to begin training only two weeks ago.  Fellow 765 Racing team member Paul was unable to race and was able to transfer his entry to me.

Photo: Matt Simpson

Photo: Matt Simpson
The Black Fork was a short 30 mile race with roads that I was very familiar with.  Since I'm used to doing much longer races than 30 miles I knew there would be a fast pace from the start. Several of the roads have been on previous editions of the Funk Bottoms Gravel race. The first mile everyone stayed together on Wally Rd and when we made a left up the first climb on Valley Steam Rd several rides dropped back and a few took off. The roads continued to be big climb followed by fast descents with only a short break on the flats or asphalt before the climbing continued.
Photo: Matt Simpson
Photo: Matt Simpson

Photo: Katie Eno

Photo: Katie Eno
My Fueling plan would be to use Hammer Nutrition products that I use during all of my training and in racing.  I carried my usual mix of Perpetuem and HEED in my bottles. Around the half way point we came to a easy road section and it seemed like a good time to slow down switch out gloves and grab a Hammer Gel.
Photo: Katie Eno

I would end up about 2 minute back from the winner and finished in second place. I was hoping for a top 20 and was very pleased with my finish. Thanks again to Hammer Nutrition for the continued support.

Photo: Matt Simpson

Monday, January 04, 2016

2015 Year in Review


2015 5867 Miles
January 346 Miles, longest 101.5 miles
February 224 miles, longest 103.9
Road Apple Roubaix 4:37 1st Single Speed
March 603 miles, longest 104.1
April 684 miles, longest 102.4
Amish Country Roubaix DNF
May 836 miles, longest 107.4
Mohican 100 12:05
June 655 miles, longest 70.1
Funk Bottoms Gravel 4:40 2nd place in shortened 200K
July 904 miles, longest 102
August 674 miles, longest 149
Gravel Worlds 10:47 29th Mens Open
September 400 Miles, longest 60.8
October 408 miles, longest 116.8
ROGR 8th place with Team 765 Racing
Cleveland Browns Dawg Pound 5k 18:15
NEOCX SSCX 7th Place, Cat5 17th Place
November 122 Miles, longest  25.7
Bills Bad Ass 50K trail run 6:20 30th overall
Road Apple Roubaix
Amish Country Roubaix
Mohican 100
Gravel Worlds
Bills Bad Ass 50K
A crash in November at the fields in Broadview Hts practicing for the cross race would result in a grade 2 separated shoulder. The result of being off the bike for 6-8 weeks would bring an early end to my season.  I am looking forward to representing Hammer Nutrition again for 2016, and racing with 765 Racing.