If you are anything like me, I took a friend’s advice (who started cycling the same time I did and has surpassed me since then) by getting outside before work for a run—any run, just run and enjoy the morning.
I did, slower run, but the stars were bursting and, aside from a skunk who wanted to show me the exit to the woods, it was one of those painless deeply cathartic exercises that makes you happy and ready to face the day. Thanks Doug for the advice. Even though I will not be able to get on my bike again today (early morning start and late evening work dinner), I harvested some outdoor time before ‘old man winter’ forced me into solitary winter interval training.
There is about a month left before the Iceman Cometh Mountain Bike Race, and the culmination of fund raising for the MADC Family Support. Check out the website. If you have a family caregiver who would like a retreat, there are events starting as early as October 6. Spread the word! http://alzheimers.med.umich.edu/live-well/
Everyone has a day where, at the end of work, the gravitational pull of the couch and a bag of potato chips is very strong. Today was one of those countless days for me. Thankfully, I know that the only way to combat that demon is to prepare in advance…putting my bike and all of my gear in the car is half the battle, the other half is making the trip to the trailhead before I get home. On the way home tonight, I was going to stop at Island Lake for a quick loop before the autumnal equinox darkened the woods. Instead, I went to a place that I have heard of many times, but never tried-The Tree Farm in Novi.
I got there about 5:30pm and put my WSI/Team Active knicker and long sleeved shirt on, seemed a tad cool for me. As I went to the trailhead, I ran into a guy who was just getting ready to roll as well. Since I have never ridden the trail before I asked him where the trailhead was, he said that he was on his way and was happy to show me. He was riding a Niner, full rigid, single speed–I knew I would not be waiting for him! I asked his name and he said in a British accent Paul. I immediately wonder if he knows Gary, the other British guy I ride with (what a silly thought it was, but it was my thought, none-the-less, so I say nothing.) Bad thing about accents on the bike, if someone warns you about a long drop off a log jam and you cannot understand them, chances are you will find out the hard way what they were saying–I did, spectacular crash off the top of a log jam in the first 5 minutes of the ride.
After that, it was just a nice flowing pace on a semi-technical course through the woods in southeast Michigan. I made a new fried (which is always the way these impromptu exploratory rides seem to be) and had a nice training ride on the last day of summer 2014. Not too much longer to the Iceman. There will be a lot of miles and crashes between now and then.
Don’t forget to check out the fund raising that is the focus of the Iceman race for me. We are over 1/3 the way to our goal to raise $3,000 for Alzheimer Family Support at the University of Michigan. See you on the trails!
I have been riding with WSI/Team Active for about 7 years and racing for about 5 of those. Before I was adopted by the Team Active family, I did a couple group rides with my fraternity brothers. These group rides happened once a year (for 24 years!) from Birmingham Michigan to the Big House in Ann Arbor. This last weekend, was the annual event and after I describe this gathering, you will know why I was an easy convert to a cycling enthusiast.
The Friday night before our annual ride, we all get together along with our spouses at one of the rider’s homes to catch up. I have known many of these guys since 1980 and some of them knew each other when they were in diapers. (We joked about the fact that long before ‘keg stands’ some of these guys may have been done ‘sippy cup stands’). We carb load (excellent pasta and cheeses) and have some of the best wine in the country and then we try to retire to our respective homes before it gets too late. Some Saturday mornings are easier than others, but the older I get, the more intent I am in enjoying the morning ride instead of having a pounding headache until we reach the Ann Arbor Township line. This year, I was at home double-checking my gear, well in advance of 11pm.
Our ride starts early in the morning because we want to stay ahead of the traffic and ensure we have ample time to get to the Big House and ‘tailgate’ before the game. I leave my house in West Bloomfield and ride the 15 miles to Birmingham by myself with my lights on. It is a very cathartic ride, rarely do I see more than 5 or 6 cars on some of the most travelled roads in Oakland County. 5am is just a little early on Saturday for most people to be out, let alone on a bike so I am sure people are wondering what I might be doing until they see that I am dressed from head to toe in the University of Michigan cycling team gear, and on game day! (Then they might at least suspect that I am headed toward Ann Arbor.
There are about 25 to 30 of us who ride and everyone is at all levels of experience and fitness. To say there is a no-drop rule would be a complete lie, but we do try to stay together in small groups. There are so many people and we are so spread out, often times, we have no idea if anyone has had a mechanical until they roll in after we have been standing around for 30 minutes. (So much for being our brother’s keeper!) I doubt we have ever taken the same route twice, and this year we went more south than previous years because some of the roads were under construction. I am not that familiar with the route but I was out front with Steve Frank pulling into the 11 mph headwind from the south. We missed a turn and by the time Steve and I turned around, the main group had already made good progress toward our final check point (a party store at Plymouth Road and North Territorial).
This is a false flat and there was a crossing wind and the two of us were well separated from the group. This group ride suddenly felt like a road race. Steve is a spinning class instructor and very solid, so I tucked in behind him and he started to pick off the back of the group one by one. They would try to hold on to my wheel, and I was doing everything I could to hold on the Steve’s. After about 5 minutes, Steve said that was all he had and we were still 1/10th of a mile behind the lead group. I pulled for a couple minutes and gave Steve a chance to catch his breath, then he got in front again and started to narrow the gap again. We narrowed the gap, but did not catch them before our final stop. When we rolled into the party store, the lead group said they were going so fast because they thought that Steve and I were on a parallel road trying to beat them to the check point!
At this final stop, many of the group grab a quart of beer (which conveniently fits nicely into a standard water bottle cage) and we have our own victory lap complete with the champagne of beers for the last 6 miles to the stadium.
When we arrive at the stadium, we do a bit of a tour of the tailgating area and then find where we stowed our change of clothes and commence to celebrate our 50 + mile ride to the stadium (and that we all made it one more year). It is great to see these guys every year and do something that is so enjoyable. It is a nice long ride for me and it underscores the miles that still need to be completed before the upcoming IceMan Cometh Mountain Bike race. Go Blue and Go WSI/Team Active Racing.
Josh and Devin here; every year we participate in the Battle Creek Corporate Cup time predict cycling event. This is a fantastic event that allows even the slowest cyclists the chance to truly compete. The premise behind this event is each rider submits their predicted time over a 10 mile course ahead of race day. The route is ridden with no computers or watches so it’s important to know how to pace and attempt to finish the 10 miles as close to the predicted time as possible.
While riders can go at any pace, we treat this like a time trial, go all out and suffer the 10 miles for the fastest time possible. This year, Devin and I teamed up and treated this like a mini team time trial. We rocketed away from the start and started faster than normal to gain some space between us and the other riders also attempting a fast ride. It paid off and even after we got into our rhythm, we just kept spreading out the field. We ride a lot together so this ride went very well for us. We smoked the 10 miles with around a 25mph avg which was a bit slower than we wanted but given the winds and rainy conditions, we were very pleased. We crossed the line together and came in first which made for a great start to both of our days. =)
This past weekend I returned to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH to compete in the Rev3 Half Aquabike event, Clydesdale division (220 pounds and over). This also happened to be the US National Triathlon National Aquabike Championships, which was also pretty cool. This was also my big event to raise money for the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation (CNCF) as part of Pedaling With a Purpose. Inspired by Christi Thomas, a sweet little girl who lost her battle against the disease at the age of 9, Cedar Point was one of her favorite places and we spent many afternoons riding rides, eating elephant ears and having fun. Plus, September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so even though my race is over, I’m leaving my donation page up through the end of the month and with any luck, I’ll be able to exceed my $1,000 fundraising goal (so spread the word!).
While most have heard of the term “triathlon,” which consists of a swim, bike and run, an aquabike event eliminates the run part and just athletes swim and bike. It’s a great opportunity to compete in a multi-discipline sporting event, yet avoid running (which seems to be what takes most athletes out of comission). I hurt my knee earlier this year training and was not up for the 13.1 mile run, but wanted to still compete in this great event. The funny part is, when I say I’m doing the aquabike, visions of a “bike riding on the water” spring to mind. However, with the rolling waves in Lake Erie at start (3-5 foot swells), there’s no way I’d even consider riding a bike on those waves (heck, swimming was hard enough).
A Swim Like No Other
Our wave was the first to head off at 8:20 am and many of the full distance Rev3 racers were in the process of finishing their 2.4 mile swim (they went off much earlier). Heading into the water the get used to the temp I realized very quickly that this was going to be a swim like no other. I’ve played in waves this big before, but never swam in them, let alone tried to race. Good thing for the wetsuit, as the buoyancy was surely going to be a Godsend and keep me from becoming fish food for the Lake Erie inhabitants.
Start time arrived and we were off. Swimmers were “dolphin jumping” over the waves, as the sandy bottom reached pretty far out into the water. Once we got past the point of touching the ground, it became an immediate challenge just to spot the sighting buoys to keep on track and swimming straight, having to time my breathing with the roll of the waves. For racers that had done a lot of open water swimming this may not have been a big issue, but for me I have to admit to being just a “little freaked out” at what was ahead of me. I kept saying to myself “just keep swimming forward, even if that meant breast-stroke and doggie paddle to get this over (which happened more than I care to admit, unfortunately).
Once I made the turn (which seemed like it took forever to get there) and started swimming parallel to shore, it got a bit easier. I breathe on the right, so when I turned my head I was facing away from the oncoming waves, but there were times when I went to stroke with my left arm and I could feel it never even coming out of the water with my timing coinciding with another oncoming wave. “Just keep swimming” I said to myself and make the turn to that final buoy to make the swim back to shore. One of the cool parts about racing in Lake Erie is at this point when I took a breath, I could see Cedar Point (assuming I was not at the bottom of a wave and looking at water, that is).
As land got a little closer with every stroke I was elated that very soon I’d be back on the ground and soon would be tossing a leg over my bike and headed off for my ride. Coming out of the water, my buddy (and WSI Cycling teammate) Shayne was there to cheer me on and he said afterwards that I looked totally spent – he was right. I can honestly say I’ve never been so glad to be back on land after a swim in my life. But the good news was I was headed off to get on the bike and then the fun would begin.
Let’s Go For a Ride
After getting “stripped” of my wetsuit (yae) by a couple of the volunteers, I entered the transition area. Knowing that I was not going to have to continue with a run afterwards, I skipped the socks and just tossed on my shoes, grabbed my helmet and glasses and was off for the remaining 56 miles. Due to my horrible swim time, I knew if I wanted to make up any positions I’d have to put the hammer down.
It was so nice not to be sucking in water and praying for land like on the swim just a few minutes ago and I was able to keep a fast pace for most of the bike leg. Passing riders one after another, you can tell which division they are in thanks to the markings on the racers’ calves. “H” meant they were also competing in the Half Rev event, everyone also had their age, but I was looking for that extra “AB,” which stood for the aquabike. Those were the people I was after and needed to pass as many of them as I could.
I passed a lot of people out there, but it wasn’t until about the first 15 miles, I started to see some of my fellow AB-ers and was able to pass by them with ease. It was pretty obvious which of the disciplines was my strongest and I kept thinking about how nice it was going to be not to have to put on the running shoes and finish with those 13.1 miles at the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to do all three legs of a triathlon (and a little part of me did miss being able to do the full event), but it always ended up with me passing a ton of people on the bike, only to be passed by them again on the run, which meant they ended up finishing before me in the overall event. Well this year that was going to change and I just ride.
The only “potential incident” (that was luckily avoided) was coming out of one of the small towns that we pass through. There were people lined up along the streets yelling, rattling their cowbells and cheering us on. I was coming up on the right of a woman to pass her and ahead was a 90-degree left hand turn to take us back out into the country. Not even thinking that she would go the wrong direction, I was surprised (and quickly applying my brakes) when she turned to the right, directly in front of me. It looked like she was really out of it and obviously was not paying attention, but fortunately I avoided a crash, which would have ended my day on a sour note (and some road rash).
At about mile 40 I could tell that I had been riding at red-line for most of the race as one of my legs began to cramp. I ate one of my energy gels, grabbed a drink and dialed it back a bit so I would not blow up. Heck, I still had 16 miles to go and wanted to make sure that I was able to finish strong. Fortunately, I got the cramping under control and was starting to see more AB racers. Being in the Clydesdale division, when I saw a “big guy” with an AB, that got me even more excited.
Coming into the last five miles, I basically took the gas pedal and stepped on it, all the way to the floor. While many of the triathletes on the course were starting to dial it back a bit in preparation for the run (which I would have been doing if 13.1 miles awaited me), I was blowing by people like a man on a mission. Making the final right-hand turn in to the big Cedar Point lot, I could see the aquabike finish banner in the distance and sprinted across it, leaving “nothing in the tank.”
Coasting into the transition area was much different than years past. I would have been hurrying to get to my rack, ditch the bike, scurry around swapping my cycling shoes for my running shoes, messing with my number belt and then heading off to run the streets of downtown Sandusky. Not this year. My event was done and I coasted in, took my time, sat down and leisurely put on my socks and shoes to go out and then run through the finish chute and claim my medal and get a few cheers from the crowd.
I hopped up and exited the transition area. Volunteers were handing out water and Gatorade, which I would have normally taken as I started the final 13.1 miles of the day, but I decided to leave it for the runners and made my way to the final turn, headed back into the finishing area. Shayne was there and could see he was headed back to try and get a photo of me, so I just took my time and even waited at the end of the final straightaway for him. The announcer, who is a bit of a card himself, even called me out on it saying something like “looks like we’ve got another finisher taking some extra time to make sure he’s got a nice Kodak moment – here comes Eric Cook from Battle Creek, MI.”
Unfortunately, Shayne’s iPhone froze on him (hmm… maybe he should get an Android – ha ha) so I don’t have any photographic evidence of my finish, but I came across in 3:34:12, which was good enough for 2nd place in the Clydesdale division. Overall I finished 78 out of 141 and considering the horrific swim time, I was happy with my result. Not sure I could have done either the swim or the bike any faster, which is what my goal was.
The day before my race, Shayne raced in the Sprint triathlon, which was the second year for the Saturday event. He won the Clydesdale division last year, and since it was the first time for that race, we were telling people he was the “world record” holder for the Rev3 Cedar Point Clydesdale Sprint Triathlon. May be a bit of an embellishment, but it was true (technically speaking). Good news is that he retained his crown and again won the Clydesdale division. In true Shayne fashion, I caught him “hamming it up” a bit coming into the finish line (and yes, I’ve got an Android phone that did not freeze up!).
Just Being Kids
One of the best parts about this race is spending time at Cedar Point with Shayne and just being “big” kids. We went in Saturday and Sunday and rode just about every ride we wanted. As mentioned earlier, it’s a special place for me given the memories of Christi. Angela, Shayne’s wife, and Shayla, their daughter, came up Sunday as well and I got to take Shayla on a lot of the rides her sister and I used to ride together. Of course, Christi was seven or eight years old and Shayla is now a sophomore in high school, but it was nice to carry on the tradition.
With any luck I’ll be back agai next year for the “regular” half (70.3) triathlon and will have some time to get a bit of running in. While I’d like to continue competing in the Clydesdale divison, it would be nice to also come in next year under 220 lbs. I have a feeling the run would be a little less painful if that were the case, so we’ll see how it goes.
Thanks again to those that have donated to support the CNCF and supporting me along the way (and it’s still not too late to donate). While the ability to compete is certainly a blessing, being able to tie it to something that can does good for others is just an added bonus.