Monday, June 24, 2013

Christina Anthony and the Gold Rush

Here's a nice update from Christina Anthony on the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. Coincidentally, this race takes place in some of my former stomping grounds as a Rapid City native. It's good to see more gravel races in SoDak. Christina is setting the bar with detailed updates and pictures, so all you other suckas that send me one line emails take note!

The Gold Rush Gravel Grinder is a 110 mile gravel road race in South Dakota and Wyoming. It's the first year for the event, so we (Dennis Grelk and I) had no idea what to expect. The website for the event said that "the course will consist of mostly gravel, some dirt, and a bit of pavement (gasp)! while rolling over open prairie, meandering through beautiful canyons with flowing creeks, exploring the deep forest, and climbing to several spectacular vistas." This summation of the course in no way prepared us for what was to come...

We made the long day's drive out to the Badlands and the Black Hills of South Dakota 2 days before the race. The day before the race, we explored a little bit. We went to Devil's Tower in Wyoming and also did a brief spin around our campsite to check the bike and loosen our legs. Throughout the day, I was noticing the amount of climbing the area had to offer. I also noticed the strength of the wind and how open the area felt for the wind to blow. The race director had also sent out an email before the race telling us that June was a wet month in the area and to be prepared to ride in the rain. I was NOT  happy about riding in the rain. We checked the weather the day before and I went to bed content with the fact that the forecast called for a zero percent chance of rain for race day. 

I woke up several times during the night to the sound of pouring rain and blowing wind. 

When the alarm sounded, it was still pouring. We got ready in the rain. Then, we breathed a sigh of relief when our friend checked the radar and said that the rain was ending and we ought to be fine for the race. Then, the tension came back when he cursed and said that there was a wind advisory posted for the day with 40mph winds throughout the day. *sigh*

We lined up for the mass start and 4.5 mile neutral rollout through town as the only tandem to start the race. Since we were the only tandem, our only goal was to finish the race. It nearly didn't happen...

The neutral rollout was the most low-key rollout you've ever seen - lots of chatting, super easy pace, no jockeying for position, lots of compliments on our Sprintin' Kittens kits... Then, as the rollout ended, BANG! We ran right into a girl who pulled off to the side of the road as the race began! I have no clue why she pulled off at that point, but we kept it upright and kept rolling the rolling hills out of town. It didn't take long for us to realize the hills were rolling, but the elevation was climbing. The course was beautiful - the trees, the hills, the creeks, the clouds. In the first 30 miles before the first water stop, we chatted with many people as we found our pace and settled in for a long ride. Word on the course said that there was 8000 feet of climbing in store for all of us today and the wind was only getting stronger. 

(Dennis took this photo at our first stop when he stopped to check the crank arms. A beautiful crossing on Sand Creek, I believe.)

After the first water stop at mile 32, we realized that most of the people we had been riding with were part of the 70 mile race and not the 110 mile race that we were doing. Bummer to find that out and we rode out of the checkpoint wondering if we were riding sweep for the 110 mile group. "It's ok," I told myself as I reminded myself that the only goal for the day was to finish. Soon after that, a guy rode up behind us and joined us for a bit. He told us that he had missed the start by 15-20 minutes due to having a flat tire on his car before the race and had been trying to catch up all morning. He also told us that there were more people behind us in the race. He rode on, and we noticed that there weren't any more rollers and we were simply climbing. Not a steep grade. Just enough to notice and settle into, knowing that it could go on for a quite a while. So, we rode, settling into a climbing pace and all the while making sure that we were staying above the 10 mph average we needed to make it to the first checkpoint on time. If we were going to finish the race, we HAD to make that checkpoint on time. And, we did well. We climbed for miles and were averaging around 12-13 mph and enjoying the scenery as we went. The gravel was super buff interspersed only with occasional open range cattle guards that were a bit unnerving to cross at speed. 

Soon, though, the gravel roads got steeper, the trees got thinner, and we found ourselves in some true open cattle range. We also found and experimented with the difference between our climbing riding speed and walking speed. We determined that we could walk up those steep inclines just as fast as we could climb with our mountain bike tandem rig. It felt more efficient to walk and gave our legs and our butts a much needed break. And, this is where Perry, the race director, happened upon us and snapped this shot of us walking up our first big climb...

Soon after this photo, we crested the hill and turned and found the 40 mph winds at our backs and we flew! We played tag with a group of 4 or so up and down a few rolling hills as we dive bombed down the hills and they caught us on the uphills. It was gorgeous and the trees returned as we moved into the National Forest and the fire roads. The fire roads were wet and mucky and rutted from a record rain event they had in the weeks before and we rode, avoiding the trees and ruts and water running across the road as much as we were able to. I held on for dear life and we bombed down the opposite side, scared out of my mind at having no control and not being able to see what was coming but seeing all the obstacles as we rode past them - too many chunky rocks, deep ruts, and fallen limbs to count. 

We came down out of the National Forest and back onto the sometimes buff and sometimes sandy gravel with more beautiful open cattle range views and trees in a valley. The views were just gorgeous. But, the climbing was becoming relentless and brutal. At our 'good' riding pace, we were going between 6-9mph. When it got especially steep, we were walking at 3mph. It was somewhere near 1pm, we had been climbing for most of the morning, we had nearly 10 miles to go before the checkpoint (which we thought we had to be at by 2pm), Dennis was bonking, and with each passing minute we were getting further away from our goal of finishing the race. 

We sat on the hillside and pondered our options. 

I fed Dennis one of the emergency Snickers I had packed just in case. Option #1 was to call our support person to come get us. Since we had no cell service, this was clearly not our best option. Option #2 involved us staying where we were at and letting someone find us. Hmmm... Option #3 was to keep going and just get to the checkpoint, some way, some how. We were expecting our support person to be there with supplies for us so we could bail at that point. I checked the cue cards again. To our surprise and relief, we had until 3 pm to get to the checkpoint! Dennis laughed and laid down amidst the pine needles and rocks. "Ha! We're good..." We ate and drank some more before climbing back onto our beast of a bike again to meander our way uphill some more. 

With a lot more struggle, both physical and mental, we finally pulled into the checkpoint. I sat down in the car and drank a Pepsi while Dennis went into the checkpoint. We were both struggling. We seriously considered bailing. I think everyone expected us to. Finally, I decided that I was not going to come out to do this race again and I knew I wouldn't be happy if I came to finish the race and I didn't finish it. Unfinished business is never finished. I wanted this done and in the bag. 

So, off we went. 

We climbed for just a little bit before we descended 9 miles on a dirt road filled with rocks and wet dirt and sand and water flowing across the road and downed trees. It was gorgeous and it breathed a new life into Dennis. It was good to have Dennis back again. Of course, it filled me with fear and I was wanting the super buff gravel back again. 

Here's Dennis walking the tandem over the one unrideable obstacle (a downed tree) on that dirt road descent and over the water on the other side. That guy in front of Dennis is the last person we saw for the rest of the race.

After that descent we had a steep climb to the Cement Ridge fire tower. As we steadily climbed, I played mind games in my head. Why exactly was I doing this to myself? Was this fun? What do I like about riding bikes? I was miserable and I couldn't figure out the answers to these questions. 

And, then it hailed on us. 

It wasn't big hail. It was only pea sized hail. It didn't help my misery any and I scrambled to get into my jacket. 

We kept climbing and soon we were walking. We thought we were to the top and got back on only to turn another corner and see a rocky ascent to the real fire tower and the deafening winds that were up there. The fire tower even had a sign that designated it a 'Wind Shelter.' I wish I had taken a picture. (We found out later that they had a baked potato station at this fire tower that was taken down partly due to the wind before we got there.)

The only way down was the way we had come up or a rocky ATV trail. Much to my horror, we went down the rocky ATV trail. I had a death grip on the handlebars as I watched the chunky rocks and deep ruts and multiple water crossings pass us by. At times, I could see over Dennis' back as the rocky, rutted descent was so steep! We soon turned and found ourselves climbing up another rocky descent and then walking. I swore and renewed my vows that I was never, ever doing something this stupid again. 

We got to the top of that ascent and began descending. It probably would have been a lot more fun if I wasn't so shelled and frightened from the prior descent. We descended for a good 20 miles or so. We could have coasted to the finish, but Dennis made me pedal. We were starting to lose the sun in some of the deep canyons as we finished up the race. We passed some gorgeous falls - Roughlock and Bridal Veil Falls as well as descending along the creek the entire way. (We went back the next day to look at them properly.) The last part into town was all pavement and all descending - 20 mph even while coasting. That's about all I remember at that point. I still can't believe we actually finished it...

Goal accomplished and race finished! 

Thank you to Dennis Grelk for doing it with me and to Sprintin' Kittens Coaching for helping me get that goal done!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jeff Evans Pulls the Trigger

It's good to have so many new names to add to the Cup O Dirt rider list. Here's another one who has been pondering the Cup, and finally decided to go for it. Best of luck, Jeff! It's easier (and more addictive) than you think once you get started, I promise you. And SS gravel is not as bad as most people think.
I've followed your blog for a few years but i think this is the year i go for the cup, so consider this my official entry! I have a ways to go but I'd like to chase the dozen full century cup. 
With that in mind here's century #1:
1. Almanzo. Saturday 5/18- 109 miles of gravel (had a wrong turn and some re-routes).
I'm looking forward to many more of these now that spring has arrived here in Minnesota! 
Hopefully i'll be sending you another email soon! I converted my gravel bike to SS so this is going to be an interesting year.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kevin Loseke's Third Metric

Here's another update from Kevin Loseke from May 29th.

Morning from Central IL
This weekend I knocked out the Gravel Metric out of Dekalb.  Hell of a ride!  Taking me up to 3 metrics for the year. 

Dallas Wynne Update

Another new name to add to the list of Cup O' Dirt riders: Dallas Wynne. Here's his first update for the year from the Strada Fango Spring Classic in Wisconsin.

This weekend rode the Strada Fango near Rice Lake Wisconsin. miles of gravel, snow and ice. 14 miles paved
Hoping to make up for lost time in the next few months with a few more metrics and full 100 milers.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Double Kevin Loseke Update

I've got a couple of reports to present to you loyal Cup O' Dirt followers from Kevin Loseke from Illinois, complete with links to his blog. Keep it up, Kevin.

The first, from April 23rd:
I'm way late in getting my first one in, but better late! 
Rode the Grumpy Grind in Rock Falls, IL on Sunday.  Great ride with great people.  I clocked it at 76+ miles, well over 80% gravel/dirt. 

Here is my blog on it.
And the second one from April 30th:
Mornin, over the weekend I knocked out my second metric at the Dirty Mudd'r outside of Streator, IL.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Aaron Lackman Joins the Cup O Dirt

I have another update from a newcomer to the Cup this year, Aaron Lackman. Here's his first quick update, and we should be hearing more from him soon!

I just heard about the Cup o dirt recently and would love to get in on the fun.  I've already completed several rides this year of qualifying length on gravel/dirt roads.  One century, one century and a half, and one metric century all on gravel/dirt.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Steve Fuller Lightning Edition Update

Steve Fuller has been rockin' the gravel this year. Here's just a few of the rides he's done so far.

I've been training for TI pretty much non-stop since the start of the year. Weather has made getting outside impossible, or at the very least, extemely unappealing. I've lost track of how much time I've spent on the trainer this winter and spring. Anyway, here's a lightning update on my Cup O Dirt rides so far. 
GRR2BRR 2/2 - Metric. Group of 30+ left my house in Johnston and rode to the start of the BRR ride in Perry. I took the Fargo so I could pack plenty of food and warm drink. After we arrived, our group broke up, so I ended up making the return trip by myself. 66 miles in about 4.5 hours. 
CIRREM - Metric. This was a good early TI fitness test for me. I opted for my Salsa Fargo instead of my La Cruz just so I could run a bit bigger tire, expecting the roads to be lousy. Turns out that the course was fast and frozen. Despite the slightly higher weight and larger tires on the Fargo, I managed a respectable, for me, 4:22 for the course. 
March 31 - Headed west from Waterworks Park w Kyle Sedore and made our way west into some hellish west winds all the way to Earlham. 105th/Adams was blazing fast. Too bad we were riding into the wind. We headed south and did some exploring, finding a really cool new road, Hogback Ridge, that had a scenic descent, and a curvy steep climb. It had the benefit of connecting back in to the CIRREM route. Some more headwinds and hills rounded the day and our 67 miles in a little under 5 hours/ 
Gents Race - Metric. Another great day on the bike with the same team I've had for the last two years. Sam Auen, Bob Moural, Guitar Ted, and Dave Cornelison. The weather was windy and overcast, but we still had a great day on our bikes, even with some of the team running on just a few hours of sleep. The course was flat, and didn't have the enormous amounts of fresh gravel we experienced last year. 
Plenty of other gravel events on tap this year, so I'm sure I'll have another report or two. :)
Steve Fuller

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Zach Bonzer Joins the Chase

We have yet another newcomer to the Cup O' Dirt chase: Zach Bonzer. Here's his first of many updates for the year. It's good to see so many new people entering the cup - maybe I should be better about updating the blog :)

I'd like to enter the Cup O' Dirt challenge with my first ride being the Gents Race 3.0 on April 6th.  We started at 8:45 with our team of 5 for the race that day with strong winds out of the south pushing us north about 19 miles.  When we made our first turn we knew it was going to be a rough day (especially for the guy on the single speed...).  At about mile 23, we had our first member drop out (the guy with the singlespeed) as we made our second turn to head into the wind.  A couple miles later our second teammate dropped.  We geared down and spun away into the strong south wind and finally made it to the halfway point in Slater.  After departing Slater at about mile 35, the 3rd member left the team.  My remaining teammate and I pushed our way south with the now SW wind. Finally catching a break and headed east for several miles before pulling back into Ankeny and finishing the course at about 3:15. 
Looking forward to another 11 100k gravel rides this year...I think. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jim Smith and Ed Matthiesen Raise the Flow

We have two more newcomers to the Cup O' Dirt. Jim Smith sent me these emails about some of the qualifying rides he's done with Ed Matthiesen. Raise the Flow, whatever that means!

Hi Nick,

Ed Matthiesen and I would like to enter into the cup of dirt challenge.

In the last two weeks we've done two metrics while scouting roads for the Dirty Lemming ride ( and getting some miles in for the Ragnarök 105 coming this Friday.

For both rides the roads were actually in pretty good condition.   I did more planning for the first one and the route worked out pretty well. The second one I planned in 10 minutes and we ran into a number of dead ends and ended up following what looked like a road right into a farm. Did run into a couple nice minimum maintenance roads though that will be nice to add to our ride in July, and a pygmy pony that was smaller than most dogs that we run into.

Attached are some pictures and I've created maps at these links.
Thanks for putting this on!

Jim Smith
Ed Matthiesen
Watertown/Delano area of Minnesota.
Here's their Ragnarok report from April 20th:

Last weekend Ed Matthiesen and I completed the 107 mile Ragnorok gravel ride near Red Wing Minnesota in a blazing 11:35 or so.    So that gives us each 2 metrics and one full for the year.

I posted a report with an elevation profile here.

Pygmy ponies: more fun to look at than farm dogs, and much less vicious.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jared Morford Double Update

Here's a couple more updates from Jared Morford, who was grinding away the miles in March in anticipation of TransIowa.

Hello Dirt fans!
I did a 70 miler today (4/17) with the Race Team and it sucked! I had a blast but my legs didn't want anything to do with it. However, I have some awesome teammates and the pulled me along. Not really much else to say. Crappy ride personally but I realized that on the days you are in a dark place the days you are in bright place are even brighter!  So with that lesson learned I saw today was great!

And the second on March 24th:

Yesterday Matt Maxwell and I did a 100 mile out and back from Ames, to Frazer and then up to Stratford. It was a good ride! Did some hill climbing in the Des Moines River valley. Saw an owl, some deer, galloping horses and a squirrel that made me and Matt lock up our brakes. Seriously, why do squirrels flirt with death and why wouldn't I just run it over? I don't want to run a squirrel over but is it worth almost going over the bars? Enough about squirrels. Another good ride with a great friend. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Christina Anthony's CIRREM Report

I had the pleasure of riding with Christina Anthony and Dennis Grelk for a spell at CIRREM in February. It was a great ride, and I was happy to have it be the last race I did before leaving Iowa. Check out Christina's detailed report about the race, and then be ready to sign up for it next year!

It was roughly 10 degrees with light winds as we pulled into a parking space outside the Cumming Tap to register for CIRREM. The gravel road conditions were mostly clear throughout the course as the roads had all been plowed and graded since the snow storm on Thursday. Dennis and I started towards the back for the neutral 2.5 mile rollout as the pack rolled over a sketchy wooden slat bridge known for eating wheels. Our goal was to finish with smiles at the end, so we stayed our pace content with catching stragglers and being caught by others. Throughout the first half of the race and until the checkpoint at the roughly halfway mark, we were able to talk with people and tick off the miles. The hills were punishing though on the first half of the course and we spent a fair amount of time dive bombing down them but crawling up the other side as we struggled to find gearing that we were both comfortable with for the climbs. Shortly before the first checkpoint, we walked the first hill when Dennis hit a low point. I fed him some sugar and nuts and we were on the road again and rolling the hills. Temperatures also warmed up and by the time we'd reached the first checkpoint 3 hours into the race, I had shed my jacket, gloves, and buff. There was a monster of a hill right before the checkpoint, and I was singing, "This is the hill that never ends; It goes on and on, my friends; Some people started riding it, not knowing what is was; and they continued, just because..." on repeat. Dennis smiled (or so he said), and we were grateful to be greeted by smiles at the top from the people at the checkpoint. Fresh water and a few treats, and we were back on the road again. Temperatures also warmed up and by the time we'd reached the first checkpoint 3 hours into the race, I had shed my jacket, gloves, and buff. 
After the checkpoint, the road became a little more of a course that favored a tandem for a while with hills we could use our momentum to fly over and we were rolling a good clip for quite a while. We even happened upon a flat section with a tailwind! We also saw two more bridges and I managed to get a picture of one of them while we were rolling. After all, this is the land of the famed Bridges of Madison County movie. Interestingly, after that checkpoint we saw not a single soul until near the end of the race. 
Throughout the race, I was in charge of keeping us both eating and drinking. In my one humorous misstep, I dropped the Reese's peanut butter egg on the ground as we were slowly crawling up another long hill and I learned the value of Reese's as we stopped and I ran back down the hill to fetch the peanut butter egg for Dennis. My low point came a bit later in the race (around 4.5 hours in) when I was all of a sudden starving. We stopped and walked the third and final hill of our race and I ate nearly every bit of emergency food we had brought along on the course. With my belly stuffed, we hopped back on and kept motoring. 
Towards the end, both of us were struggling. Dennis had a sour stomach and my legs and low back were tightening up and I couldn't find a way to stretch them out on the bike. Our pace had slowed, and all we wanted to see was the finish line. Because my computer had paused itself somewhere along the way, we truly had no idea how close or far we were and we just kept plodding along toward the line. Our spirits were bolstered a bit when a friend caught up with us and we were able to talk for a bit. His computer had died, so we were all just riding along, chatting and distracting each other from the pain. Before long, though, we turned and had the tailwind helping us again and lost our friend as we rode into town. I have never been so grateful to walk into a bar, be given a Pepsi for me and a chocolate milk for Dennis (on the house!), and presented with a trophy for the tandem division! Smiles all around! 
I attached two photos... One I took during the ride of one of the bridges we crossed and the other is a photo of the trophy we got at the end.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dave Giegerich's 2013 Resolution

Hey there Cup O' Dirt friends. It's been a while. I finally got all settled here in Montana, and am ready to keep the cup alive. I sent all of the cups from 2012 out before I left in March, but haven't done much since. So, if you've sent me an email with an update, it should be up here in the next week or so. Here's an update from the inimitable woodchuck-smashing Dave Giegerich, which he sent me in late February.

My Dear Cup-O-Dirt
Ok I have set myself a goal for 2013 and that goal is to turn in my Century rides on a timely basis and not wait till after the year to back track through my diary and count them. So far this year I am on track for a metric fat bike ride each month with two centuries in now on the fat bike one at Triple D and now one last Saturday 2/23/13.
Thanks for the chase.
Dave Giegerich