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...To the Falls 2014--Good Cycling Route in Wisconsin

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I always enjoy it when I have an opportunity to use my bicycle as a practical vehicle and not just a recreational one.  Over Memorial Day weekend, my family went camping up at St. Croix Falls.  I was on the schedule to work at Cyclova on Saturday and Sunday, and by Sunday morning the kids were tired and ready to go home.  "No problem," I thought, "we can pack up the tent in the morning and my wife can drive them home and I'll follow after work on my bicycle."  So it was that at 3 PM, I headed out from the door of CyclovaXC to my home in Chippewa Falls...92 miles away.

I did this same adventure last year with Ben and Jeff.  You can read the write up here.

There really is some beautiful riding to be had between Chippewa Falls and St. Croix Falls (here's another link to the route I took).  For the record there is a massive climb just North of Glenwood city--it's a curvy, switchback type thing that makes me think of riding in Colorado.  I also noticed some nice looking gravel roads out that way which might merit some future exploration.

Last year when we rode, we left a little earlier and the route was a bit shorter since we took off from Wolf's house.  Last year we also had a massive headwind that pummeled us for the first half of the ride--the same headwind that I ran right into this year.  Still, headwinds are just a part of life, and it simply felt good to get out and mash some pedals.

90+ mile rides really are more fun when they are social events, but it can be entertaining to ride by yourself as well.  I'm not really sure where my thoughts went through the duration of the journey, but it was a positive place, away from the stresses and preoccupations of daily life.  I pulled into the gas station at Glenwood city and saw a sign pointing to Spring Valley, which made me laugh.  Last year, Mullin put down a personal pizza, but I kept it to a Whatchamacallit and a chocolate milk (I thought these things went out of production like 15 years ago--they must have been working through some old stock):
For the most part, motorists were very courteous throughout the whole ride, although I did have one guy lay on his horn about a quarter mile before and after passing me.  There is a very small percentage of motorists who just work themselves up into a rage whenever they see a cyclist, and something needs to be done about that.  Still, he gave me a wide berth, so I can't complain really.  Don't hesitate to report motorists who get too close however.  Basically, the best attitude to adopt when cycling is to just assume that no cars see you.  There's really no entitlement out there--always be safe on the road.

The ride ended up taking me six and a half hours, so it was getting pretty dark with about 10 miles left to go.  There were advantages to riding in the evening.  It was cool and the wind died down considerably.  My only concern was cars, but I was sticking to county roads so the traffic wasn't all that heavy.  

As it got darker, I became more and more conservative with vehicles. I started riding in the oncoming lane (unless I was going up a hill) because you could see the headlights coming from miles away.  When I saw a vehicle way off in the distance, I checked behind me and if it was clear, I switched lanes.  I do this when rollerskiing as well.  In the case that two vehicles were going to intersect more or less at my position, I got off the road entirely.  We get a little too used to sharing the road with vehicles, but really if visibility is low I believe it is imperative for cyclists to make sure there is a minimum of 10 feet or so between them and any passing car.  I was grateful to have a reflective panel across the back of my jersey and a headlamp.  
In the above picture you can see my headlamp is around my forehead.  Originally I'd put it around my helmet and left it there for about an hour.  As I was descending the last hill into Chippewa Falls, I thought to myself, "whew, I made it safely!"  Right as I thought that, I hit a bump and it jarred my headlamp down over my eyes, momentarily blinding me!  Not a big issue, I just pushed it up to my forehead, but it kind of made me laugh (I think I'll be going for forehead placement in the future).

Hopefully this is the first of many trips from St. Croix to Chippewa Falls this summer!  You're all welcome to join me next time!

Sasquatch 2014 Run #2: Saturday May 24th

Hey Folks!

After our tremendous turn out for our 1st event, we're all pumped for Sasquatch Dash #2 happening this Saturday, May 24th.  Remember for all the information on the Sasquatch dash, please go to the homepage here.  Remember to be at CyclovaXC at about 8:30 AM.

Once again, Ben will mark the course with red flags.  This time it's going to be an out and back (so it will be harder to get lost).  Check out the trail here.

We have the T-shirts at the shop, so those of you who pre-ordered, please bring $15 to pick up your shirt.

Also, make sure you hit "join" on the Facebook Event for the run because that helps us know how many people to expect (we had twice as many as registered for the event last time, which was a pleasant surprise).

Remember, this is a no frills, fun run!  Looks like a lot of people are planning to come and we're looking forward to seeing you all!  I even informed Dalles house that we'll be swinging by for coffee afterwards. Cheers!

Mulln's 2014 Almanzo Report

My first Almanzo.  The stories from the team from the last few years made it sound incredible so when the Facebook messages started flying this winter about sending in post cards I was in.

Again, thanks to the organizational powers of Facebook we all booked sites in the cute little Maple Springs campground.  It was a great place to hang out with the team and share the positive energy of the coming ride.  Jeff and Jody and the hospitality of BOB sure helped too.
Rolling into Spring Valley Friday night in BOB with almost the whole team was a huge hit for us and everyone who saw us rolling in all that awesomeness.
As for the ride itself I didn't have any real expectations.  I only had about 300 miles on my bike in all of 2014 so this was a ride for a finish type event for me.  The team lined up at the back of the huge crowd and we were off and rolling.

The first 10 miles or so I spent chasing the V-train and Dallas.  They were more confident in their bike handling skills and sneaking through places where I just didn't feel comfortable.  I didn't want to be "that guy" who went down at the beginning of a group ride so I just sat up when I couldn't get through and hammered when I could.  I was mildly concerned I was burning too many matches for this early in a ride.

The next 20 miles were a blur of beautiful rolling country side.  Right about mile 30 we had our first taste of riding west.  The forecast called for 8 mph winds.  The app must have cut off the 2 that went in front of the 8.  I got swallowed up by a fairly large group on that stretch and I latched onto the back.  I was feeling pretty good about having a nice sized group going a nice pace to stick with.

Then at mile 32, I became "that guy".
That GPS track is fairly accurate.  Definitely not the definition of holding my line.  To be very clear, this was all on me.  No one cut me off, no one was too close, nothing like that.  Just me and my poor bike handling skills washing out my front tire on the corner.  Down I went on my right side.  Luckily I didn't take anyone else down with me.  My response to the first dozen questions if I was OK was I would see.  The road rash was obvious, the pain in my shoulder needed a little diagnostic.  A little probing and prodding and it appeared my collar bone made it unscathed but something wasn't right.

I hopped on my bike and started soft pedaling again.  Now I was super tentative on every downhill and corner.  A couple of miles later I caught Dallas fighting some cramps walking up a hill.  A short while later we came upon a farmers driveway where he had set out the hose for bikers to fill their bottles.  I used it to wash off my wounds and Dallas helped me diagnose the rattle that had developed in my bike.  Busted rear drive-side spoke.  I had spare spokes with, but we were unable to remove the busted spoke and install a new one because of the plastic guard in the way.  Dallas clipped the busted spoke for me and reinflated my tire.  I am extremely grateful for his assistance.  With my jacked shoulder there is no way I could have gotten my tire pumped up again.

Dallas towed me through Preston and on.  In addition to my aching shoulder, the normal aches and pains of a long ride were starting to set in.  Then we really started heading west into that headwind.  I was not a happy camper.  At mile 55 we rolled into the farm water stop.  Dallas found me some ibuprofen and we caught up with Micah who had passed us while diagnosing my bike.

I told Dallas I was almost certainly going to drop at the campground.  It was another 14 miles away and that sounded like an eternity.  The three of us rolled out at the same time and Dallas jumped off the front.  The 5 or 10 minutes off my bike helped and I felt better for a little while and out paced Micah.  The country side turned absolutely beautiful at this point as we descended down into the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.  Starting the climb out the other side I saw the cutest little campground ahead.  It wasn't until I got to the entrance and saw Jody sitting there cheering that I realized it was OUR campground.  I had G in map mode all day and was not watching my distance.

Jody told me Dallas was down in the camp site getting some pizza and donuts.  I stood and ate my turkey/roasted red pepper hummus bagel sandwich and contemplated life.  My arm hurt, my legs were tired, but giving up was nagging at me.  I didn't think I was doing any additional damage.  So long as I could sit and spin (standing and pedaling was a no go) I thought I could still tough it out.  So I told Jody to let Dallas know I'd see him in a while since I was sure he would catch me and I took off up the hill for the remaining 33 miles.

The Banjo Brothers rest stop at about mile 76 was a welcome sight.  I think I ate a dozen Oreo cookies and had half a can of Coke.  Dallas caught me at this point and we rolled out together to finish thing.  The river crossing was a fun little diversion and refreshing.  Another couple of those over the course of the ride would have been nice.

Mile 90 brought Oriole Road.  I knew it was coming.  Turning that corner and looking up the hill, ouch.  I had ridden every hill to this point though and I wasn't going to stop now.  I'm happy to say I huffed and puffed my way up that beast.  Dallas was drafting off of me walking, but dang it I wasn't getting off my bike.

The last ten miles were a blur of headwind and one more hill just for fun.  Dallas and I rolled into Spring Valley together after almost nine hours in the country side.  I got my painful handshake from Chris and we collapsed in the grass.  For about 3 minutes before it started to sprinkle.  Too cold and windy to sit in the rain.  We headed back to the campground to trade war stories and eat chili in the comfort of BOB.

A great weekend with the CyclovaXC family.  Thanks everyone!

Post Script:

After Ben Jonjak brought me to my knees with a back slap greeting on Sunday I did go in and get my shoulder checked out.  No structural damage, but the ortho told me not to crash my bike.  I'll be sore for a few weeks but should make a full recovery.

2014 Almanzo 100 Report

What a blast!  If you've ever ridden a bicycle and you live within a thousand miles of Spring Valley, MN, you really need to make a point of participating in the Almanzo some day!  It's called a "race" but don't let that intimidate you.  The event is super casual (although there is a solid contingent of serious guys too if that's what you're looking for), unsupported, with thousands of chill cyclists out to have a good time and willing to lend a helping hand if you get in a pinch.  I'd call it one of the biggest rolling parties you'll ever see!

We had a nice crew of riders from CyclovaXC who came down to camp, ride, and sit by the fire drinking beer (my favorite part).
Scientific Pre-Race Preparations
This was my first stab at the Almanzo, so I was taking a low-pressure approach.  The day before, I printed up my "bail out" map (the one you see above--sans the pithy comments...you can download it here if you want a copy).  A couple of my friends asked me why I needed a map if I had a cue sheet.  Well, cue sheets are great but I wanted to be able to plan a route back to my car if my legs blew out on me.  

Spring colds and snow have kept me off the bicycle more than I wanted this year (I manned the bacon stop at our Mammoth Gravel Classic at the end of April...which is the perfect Almanzo prep by the way).  In fact, I'd put less than 200 miles on my bicycle, but I've done two running marathons this May so I knew my fitness was solid.  Plus, our campground was right at mile 70 so I didn't feel I was being irresponsible by lining up at the start.  When in doubt, it's always better to line up and ride (with an exit strategy if you're not sure of your limits) than it is to stay home.  Folks, you've heard it a hundred times, you're capable of more than you think you are--you'll surprise yourself.
The CyclovaXC Contingent
We had a perfect day.  I could have done without the gale force winds...but there are always winds when you're on a bike so you can't complain about that.  The temptation would be to say that it was a little bit on the cold side, but in reality it was just cool enough to keep you from sweating but not so much that you were really uncomfortable.  Dehydration is probably the biggest thing that stops people from finishing most events (it's hard to carry enough water on your bicycle for a 10 hour endurance day), so in that sense, the weather really cooperated with us.

Our group lined up at the back of main street with the exception of Frank (Frank likes to hammer and he finished with an exceptional time of around 6:20).  We set off at nice pace taking over the entire width of the road due to sheer numbers.  The first 20 miles or so fly by since there are so many riders, and the big concern for that stage of the event is to just ride clean and avoid silly tangle-ups that might result in crashes.

I was doing the ride on 700X32 wheels, which really aren't all that wide.  Although Almanzo is gravel, there are spots where the gravel is as hard as pavement.  For the most part, the 32s were fine, but I think I might go a little wider next year just because as an old man I'm a bit timid on the downhills.

We had a safe start, but I heard later that one of our club guys had a crash at mile 32 and really banged up his shoulder.  I totally forgot about this and the next day I gave him a congratulatory slap on the back only to have him just about drop to his knees.  No more congratulatory slaps on the back from me...I still feel terrible about that...but dang, I was impressed with his effort!

In my riding group, our only minor issue was when Lone Wolf got a flat tire.  One of my other friends hollered out, "Flat!" and I pulled over.  We were climbing a hill and a rider who was coming along said, "now you have to decide whether to go back or make them come to you."  I spun around as he said it and started coasting down the hill.  The rider smiled, "you're a good friend," he said.

Tire fixed, we kept rolling and our group got more and more spread out along the course.  One of our riders, Tod, wasn't able to participate because he had a mishap on a step-ladder which left him on crutches.  Still, he didn't miss out on the day.  He filled up a couple coolers with water, threw them in the back of his truck, and picked strategic points to meet us out on the course.  At one of these points, a rider came up and asked, "do you have any duct tape?"  The sole had separated from his shoe and he needed a makeshift solution.  Tod dug around in his truck and came up with some electrical tape and got the guy back on the road.  On Sunday it was nice to see the following message on our Facebook page:
I kept thanking Tod after the event, and he always would reply, "but I didn't do anything."  His impression was that not many of the riders took water--but I filled up my bottle with him at a stop.  It's funny, but in regular life a half a bottle of water doesn't mean much--on a bicycle, however, it means EVERYTHING!  Tod did such a good job I might have to break his leg prior to this event again next year :) .

We got the tire fixed but I didn't completely trust it (it had been flat that morning too), so I stuck with Lone Wolf as we made our way towards Preston.  The Velaski's came by us on a tandem kicking up dust and hammering along at a thousand miles an hour.  They were having a great day, riding hard for a couple hours interspersed with frequent stops to eat, relax and enjoy the day.

South of Preston, things really got beautiful.  The gravel roads pass through these picturesque forests with lush undergrowth populated with white flowers.  Also, the riders were dispersed enough that everyone had begun to follow a single track down the road that you could see stretching off into the distance.  It started to feel like you had ridden in to one of those retro Tour de France posters:

Lone Wolf had gone into the event with the plan of riding about 40 miles (he ended up hammering out 60), so I gave him one of my "bail out" maps (I'd brought a bunch of copies to give to people who looked like they were in trouble) and he went off course to get back to the campsite.  He told me later that the map was a big hit, and he met a couple other "off course" riders who consulted with it to get their bearings.

A short while after that, I turned into a massive headwind and saw nothing but the back of a tire for the next 5 miles or so.  Apparently I passed one of our team guys out on the course without seeing him, which was a shame because I would have liked to chit-chat with someone.  At about mile 63 I caught up with Doran who told me he wasn't feeling well.  We rode along and stopped at a conglomeration of little buildings just at the entrance of the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.  A kind woman had a couple cans of Coke for us which gave us both a jolt as we got back on the bike.

We went along up to the entrance to our campground where a couple of our guys were sitting around and enjoying the day.  Lone Wolf pulled up in his GMC motorhome, and Doran threw his hands up in the air, "Yes, a ride to my car!"  I felt pretty good, but the prospect of drinking beer and hanging out with my friends appealed to me, so I started stripping my gear bag off my bike to load up into the motorhome.   However, at the last moment, Doran changed his mind.  "Nope, I'm going to finish!" he declared, and jumped back on his bike to head out.  Lone Wolf sent him off with a couple encouraging bursts of the air horn.

The soft seats and the beer looked good to me, so I threw my bike on the rack.  At the time I didn't think it would bother me to pull out.  This was my first ever gravel ride (except for mile or two jaunts on my road bike), and everything had gone extremely well.  There are a couple events on the calendar that I have an emotional commitment to which no amount of suffering will pry me away from.  However, this was just my first date with Almanzo...

"Well, either I won't think about it again," I said to myself, "or pulling out will start to gnaw at me and provide an intense/painful motivation to train like a maniac for next year...either way I win."

Sitting here, writing this now, I think it's going to be the latter.

From now on, the Almanzo 100 is circled on the calendar.  I'm told that Christopher Skogen waits around personally at the finish line to shake the hand of every rider who crosses the line.  I think next year I'll take a copy of my novel Beyond Birkie Fever, put it in a ziploc bag, carry it throughout the ride, and hand it to him at the end.  So I guess you'll all have to check in one year from now to see if that happens!  It will be worth it for the picture!

In the meantime, I'll be recruiting more riders for this magnificent day in the saddle!  Here's the Almanzo 100 web page...prep time for 2015 begins now!

Review: North of Highway 8 by Dan Woll

A Mature and Thoughtful Cycling/Adventure Book

“North of Highway 8” by Dan Woll is a series of short stories dealing with various sorts of outdoor adventures. There’s canoeing, camping, some climbing, and a fair amount of bicycle riding. The stores are thematically linked by the type of adventurous spirit that you feel when you head “North of Highway 8.” The title refers to the Highway that runs through the Northern half of the state of Wisconsin which very much delineates where the “rugged/frontier” territory begins. Having myself been born and raised “North of Highway 8,” I can attest to the veracity of this book. “North of Highway 8” contains sincere affection for the Wisconsin Northwoods, and the spirit that you feel in that great frontier can indeed spur you on to many memorable endeavors.

The stories contained in this book are all of extremely professional variety. Many of them are reprints that originally appeared in local newspapers and regional magazines. Woll has a reflective yet concise writing style that makes this book a quick read. He very effectively constructs a compelling narrative, and knows when to sprinkle in just enough philosophy to give the story some kick, but not so much that it slows anything down. His work reminds me of Michael Perry with perhaps a little Sigurd Olson mixed in as well.

As a cyclist myself, I was naturally drawn to Woll’s reflections on the Leadville 100 and the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. The stories on these subjects effectively convey the both solitary and social nature of bicycle racing. Woll is keenly aware that although you are racing with hundreds of other competitors, all of them enduring the difficulties of the course the same as you, in the end, every racer suffers to the finish alone.

The best chapter is probably “The Untold Story of the Barneveld Tornado” which discusses the rebuilding process of a small town ravaged by a tornado. From the outside, we’ve all witnessed scenes like this where communities are wrecked and people come forward to provide aid. However, this fascinating account goes beyond the initial rush of support and examines the permanent scars that are indeed left by such an event.

“North of Highway 8” is a worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys adventure or outdoor activities. It offers a mature and philosophical account of many activities that are physically and emotionally draining. For cyclists especially, this book is a must read.

2014 Almanzo Pre-Ride Checklist

A great shot of the endless rolling hills at the 2013 Almanzo 100! Photo Credit to Craig Linder.

The 2014 Almanzo will one for the record books, 48 hours from now!  This is the event that started it all - the free event movement, the gravel movement.  Be a part of it in any way you can!

I expect 20-30 Cyclova XC riders will be braving the 100 mile course this year, and I'm proud to be one of the team!  I can't wait to enjoy the day with 2000+ of my closest gravel loving friends!

For many, this will be their first Almanzo, and perhaps their first organized gravel ride, so with that said, I thought I'd share a few things I'm checking off on my own pre-Almanzo checklist...
  1. Print out your waiver, and fill it out in advance.  This is a free event - don't rely on the very hard working volunteers time and money to print your stuff.  Download the waiver HERE, and come prepared!
  2. Print out your Que Sheets, and better yet laminate them - in case they get wet!  These are not provided, as this is a free event.  See notes about this being a free event in point #1.  HERE is the link to que sheets.  Also, have a plan as to how you're going to carry these (pocket, or clip onto your handlebars next to your computer, etc).
  3. Have a navigation system planned out, and know how to use it!  The course is not marked.  Use the que sheets you printed out & laminated (see point 2) and a cycling computer, or a GPS device with battery life sufficient to last you the entire event (HERE is a link to the Map My Ride GPX file, also the best way to check out the topography in advance).
  4. Water & Food:  This is an unsupported event - really!  So, bring with what you need for nutrition.  This means a whole lot of water & food - bring way more than you expect you'll need.  I accomplish this by having a Revelate Tangle Bag on my bike - all sizes are in stock at Cyclova XC.  There are one or two towns along the way where you have minimal opportunity to top off your water, but don't count on that.  Bring with your normal sports nutrition type food (bars, gels, chews), but also be sure to bring real / substantial food.  My secret rocket fuel is Salted Nut Rolls (not a secret after the Mammoth Gravel Classic Nut Roll & Bacon stop), and Chef Boyardee Ravioli (yup, right out of the can - now available with a pull top, no can opener required).  I of course bring with a titanium spork to enjoy my Ravioli with!  
  5. Tools, spare parts, etc:  Again, this is an unsupported event, with no tech support.  You are responsible for you!  Bring with multiple tubes, patch kits, tire repair goodies, multi-tool, etc, etc...  
  6. Wear some good cycling shorts, and bring with a chamois cream to use - such as Chamois Buttr or DZ's Nuts.  You won't regret it.
  7. Remember, this is a long day in the saddle.  No one will remember your being a hero in the first few miles.  Keep in steady, and keep a bit in the tank for the big hills later in the race!
  8. Embrace adventure, natural beauty, and all of the thousands of amazing people celebrating the bicycle, the road less traveled, and health along with you!

For more thoughts on gravel riding gear, see THIS POST on preparation for the 3 day gravel stage event known as the Gravel Conspiracy.

For more on Almanzo, check out the Almanzo Website, or the event Facebook Page.

See you in Spring Valley!

Update from Ben:
Here's a map I just did, it's pretty low-tech, but I prefer to see the whole picture at once.

2014 Sasquatch Dash #1 Results

Race one is in the books and what a way to start of the 2014 series!  The morning dawned bright and sunny, the temps quickly warmed to a perfect running temperature, and the valley looked fantastic.  When I rolled into the shop at 8:30 it was already a packed house with the largest turnout for any Sasquatch event yet.  Waivers were signed, an orderly line for the bathroom formed and progressed, the course was announced, and we rolled on up to the Overlook to get the race started.

Next time someone needs to be in charge of getting a group picture organized before the start.
Talk about a lot of positive energy flowing before the start.  25 people on the line plus a fair contingent of spectators.  I think the race went extremely well.  I heard quite a few comments about how great the course was, in spite of the hills.  I think it is possible we even managed to not have anyone get lost on the course for the first time ever.

This was a great start and I hope to see everyone out there again in two weeks plus the people who couldn't make this one.  The course is still TBD at this point, but the SOC (squatch organizing committee) is working hard on it and keep an eye here and on Facebook for details soon.

Enough chit chat, down to the results.  Last year's reigning hesquatch champion Alex was back to defend his title.  He won every race he participated in last year.  Unfortunately for him, hot shot graduating high schooler Carson toed the line today.  Looks like the defending champ might have his work cut out for him.  Just one note for Carson for next time though... first guy to the clipboard gets the points.  I let it slide this time.

Hesquatch results #1.
On the ladies side we had a record turn out.  We had six women total in six races last year.  This is a very exciting development.  Keep it up ladies!  Taking home the top prize today, just two weeks removed from the Chippewa Moraine 50k was Lisa.

Shesquatch results #1.
After one race, the series scoring is still pretty swamped by the pre-order bonus points for the t-shirts.  Remember, the final scoring will be the top 4 race points plus any bonus points (10 pre-order shirt, 5 post-order shirt, 5 points for running the William O'Brien 10 mile race).  Here is how the scoring is shaking out so far.

Hesquatch overall after 1 race.

Shesquatch overall after 1 race.
See you all in two weeks.  And don't forget to hit up one of the local establishments for recovery calories after the race... can you say bacon covered caramel roll?

Movie Review: The Armstrong Lie

Well, I finally broke down and rented “The Armstrong Lie.” I’d been waiting for an opportunity to watch the documentary about the unparalleled collapse of probably the single sporting hero I admired above all others. But instead of watching the film surrounded by friends, I just plugged it into the old DVD player after the kids had gone to bed and worked my way through it alone. The DVD copy itself was the only one on the shelf, and my thoughts are that this is simply a story that people really don’t want to acknowledge. Sure there is plenty of debate and anger going on out there regarding Lance Armstrong...but there are so many contradictions on every level that most people seem to want to dig no further than their first superficial emotional reaction.

My superficial emotional reaction? Sadness.

The film starts out with some highlights from Lance’s wins, and man...there’s a hearty hollow echo of nostalgia for each and every one because I remember when they happened live and I remember how I thrilled to watch them then. There’s the moment when Lance dropped Pantani on L’Alpe d’Huez, and the moment when the spectator got too close and slammed Lance to the ground when his handlebars caught her handbag strap, and the moment when Joseba Beloki crashed in front of Armstrong leaving Armstrong with no other choice than to go offroad down the side of a mountain. It was strange watching those moments again in the context of seeing Lance as a cheat.

Then they showed some scenes of Lance with his head shaved struggling to push out a couple miles on his bike, and I couldn’t help but remember what a blow it was when we learned he had cancer.

But let’s be clear, this isn’t a pro Armstrong film. It’s called “The Armstrong Lie” and the fundamental theme of the movie is how Armstrong cheated. The driving force of the film as it was originally conceived was to document Armstrong’s return to racing in the 2009 Tour de France. To this day, Armstrong insists that he did that race clean, although the film documents how a spike in his red blood cell count has been taken as an indication of an illegal blood transfusion (Armstrong’s explanation is that the blood sample in question was taken immediately after the Ventoux stage when he was “dehydrated” and it wasn’t...blah, blah, blah—sorry, but you can’t trust anything he says).

In terms of the doping, lying, bullying, this film doesn’t show you anything new. However, there is a reason to watch it, and that reason is the footage that was shot of Armstrong during non-racing moments in the 2009 tour. We’ve all seen Armstrong charging to the finish in pursuit of a stage victory, but we’ve never seen him in the recuperation moments after stages that have gone well or—in the case of the 2009 tour—poorly. The truth is that Armstrong has such a well-polished public persona, that it’s rare that you get a glimpse of the actual man. He’s always “on,” always demonstrating a refined image that is very much under his control. I think one of the things about Armstrong that made him easy to portray as a villain is that we don’t know who he is. What we’re allowed to see is always coldly calculated. That was especially apparent during the infamous Oprah interview when he seemed to be able to work up some tears or drop his boyish smile on cue. But in “The Armstrong Lie” there are moments filmed in hotels between stages where you see a different, and I think, more honest side of the man.

Armstrong reflects on the 2009 tour candidly at one point and says he doesn’t know if he wasn’t more dominant because he was older, or because he wasn’t doping, or for some other reason. I found it interesting that he listed age before his lack of doping (although, again, there is debate over whether he doped in 2009). In that tour, Armstrong found himself in a battle with his own teammate Alberto Contador which continues throughout the race in absurd ways even though Contador early on proves himself to be the better rider. For example, there is a moment in the tour where Johan Bruyneel tells Contador not to work in a breakaway because he doesn’t want an accelerated pace that might risk pushing Armstrong off the podium. Contador responds by attacking, and Bruyneel is left slamming his headset against the dashboard of his support car.

Really, Contador was in the right. It’s stupid to risk the overall classification of the Tour so a weaker teammate can get on the podium. But that’s the Armstrong effect, the guy makes the regular rules irrelevant. Armstrong even defends some unconventional tactics at one point by saying, “we’re doing it that way because I’ve won the Tour 7 times!”

But there are a lot of moments in that 2009 tour that clearly demonstrate the party is over. At one point, Armstrong is sitting on a hotel bed watching the results of the initial prologue. He’d briefly been in first place, but one by one his rivals post better times. It’s compelling to watch Armstrong sit there and seethe as he sees his result bettered. He doesn’t do, or say anything, but I think in that moment you understand Armstrong and there’s something in the anguish he feels that isn’t wholly despicable. He looks like a very frustrated ten year old boy who is resolved to not allow his pain continue no matter what the consequences are. It’s like a silent temper tantrum with all the emotion of a child and none of the rational maturity of a reasoning adult. How is it that a guy like Armstrong who had accomplished so much at that point still could get worked up into such an unpleasant emotional place? It seemed like nothing in his life had taken the edge off, and yes, this is a person who is compelled by something to put his own personal health at great risk just for the fleeting joy of having the best time in a bike race?

As the race develops and Contador pulls away, Armstrong admits he feels “tension” for the Spaniard (the Spaniard claims the feeling is not mutual, but he pressures Armstrong on the course every chance he gets). The only moment that Armstrong looks like he finds a bit of peace is when he accepts his chances of winning are gone, yet he manages to “win” a place on the podium (again, maybe with the help of a blood transfusion).

At the end of the film, I didn’t feel anger against Armstrong, but sadness. This is a guy with an emotional hunger that will never be filled. I really wish the film, or the media in general, would start discussing what the long term effects of Armstrong’s doping are. Did this guy willingly sentence himself to an early grave for his fleeting glory?

Or who knows? Maybe he just wants to be paid attention to? Maybe he’s grateful for this scandal because it’s kept him relevant over the last year.

I think, though, that the people who don’t think Armstrong has been punished enough might enjoy this film. You see the guy suffering and I at least realized that this is not an emotionally healthy person. His treatment of people along the way cannot be justified, but the “attack/win at all costs” component of Armstrong’s personality was never a secret. The film doesn’t justify anything, but I think it helps give you a better understanding of why events played out as it did. In a scandal as wide reaching as this, understanding is about all you can hope for. Hopefully peace will come to all the players, maybe further down the road.

The Woolly Race Needs Volunteers for Sunday, May 18th, 2014!

Subject: Woolly Race Volunteers Needed - Sunday, May 18th, 2014


2014 St. Croix Valley Woolly Race, Sunday May 18th 2014 is fast approaching and we are in need of many volunteers to help make this event a success.
Due to your interest and help with past Woolly Races, we wanted to reach out directly to you to see if you were interested in being part of race day again this year.
Volunteers are needed for a wide variety of positions, many of which can be done in pairs.  You can volunteer for a full day, half day, or even just a couple of hours and still have plenty of time to cheer on your favorite racer, compete in one or more of the races, and enjoy Woolly 2014 as a whole. Anyone able to commit to 4 hours or more will get a free Woolly Race T-shirt as a thank you for their time.

Position Descriptions and Hours Needed:

·         Registration 7am – 1pm

·         Course Marshals – 8:45am-4:00pm Direct and assist riders and spectators, monitor crossings and report accidents.

·         Finish Chute/Timing – 9am-4:00pm Slow riders down, keep them in line, pull back tags, call out or record numbers.

·         Awards – 10:30am-4pm Make sure that medals and awards are prepared prior to each ceremony and hand out or announce awards.

·         Feed zone - Hand out water/energy drink on course or in finish area post races.

·         Clean-up/Tear down – 4:00pm ‘till it’s all packed up (approx. 7pm)

·         Positions will be done in shifts, so it is not necessary to commit to the full time listed for each. Just specify what hours you will be available to work.

Just reply to woollyvolunteers@gmail.com with your name, phone #, email address, hours desired to work, position desired, t-shirt size and we will confirm receipt.

Effective volunteers will be assertive and proactive, but always courteous and helpful.

Thank you!

Twitter @Woollybikeclub

Sasquatch 2014 Run #1: Saturday May 10th

Hey Folks!

We're about to have our first Sasquatch run of 2014.  For all the information on the Sasquatch dash, please go to the homepage here.  Remember to be at CyclovaXC at about 8:30 AM.

Ben marked out the course with everytrail and published it here for you to check out.

I've been in contact with the folks responsible for the T-Shirt, but they haven't been clear as to whether they'll be here for the weekend.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but if not this weekend, we'll have them for next time.

Make sure you hit "join" on the Facebook Event for the run!

Remember, this is a no frills, fun run!  Looks like a lot of people are planning to come and we're looking forward to seeing you all!  Cheers!

Bob Barabe Memorial Time Trial May 17th--Dan Woll at St. Croix Library May 8th

Click image to enlarge
Bob rode many events in Northwestern WI, and was a founding member of the Hudson based Big Ring Flyers team, an offshoot of the iconic Osceola Lumber Co., and Art Doyle's bike team of the 1980's.  Also on tap is the Frederic Lions Bicycle Classic TT on June,14  www.fredericlionsclassic.com 
 www.wisport.org  Excellent opportunities for spinning class enthusiasts and tri-racers to get out on the road, bike racing without the pack riding element.  Click on the above image to enlarge for details.

Also, be sure to catch Dan Woll at the St. Croix Library on May 8th.  Dan Woll is a Big Ring Flyer and rides WiSport events among other ventures.  Dan is the author of North of Highway 8.  For more information, click here.

2014 Eau Claire Marathon Recap

My daughters met me at the finish line and crossed with me--best finish ever!
I wasn't exactly sure how the Eau Claire Marathon was going to go considering I'd run the Chippewa 50k the week before.  Actually when I say "run" I'm being generous since I mostly walked it.  I guess my logic was that I was trying to conserve something for the EC Marathon...but you really can't do a 50k trail run and conserve anything no matter how slow you go.

Honestly, I would never have signed up to do marathons on consecutive weekends if it weren't for Eric T. Olson.  He was going in to the EC Marathon after having done Nashville the week before.  He kept saying things like, "it will be fine," and "I think you'll surprise yourself."  It's a little easier to take Eric at face value since he's always out there actually running marathons on consecutive weekends.  The guy's even done marathons on consecutive days, so at least I was going to have a week to recover.  The most succinct way Eric put it was to say, "doing marathons on consecutive weekends is great because you don't have to train for the second one!"

For those of you who are curious, I didn't do all that much training in the week between Chippewa and EC.  I was too stiff to move around on Sunday and Monday (plus it rained all week).  By Tuesday I couldn't take it anymore and went on a :40 minute bike ride.  Then it cleared up enough so I was able to take my girls on a ride in the Burley on Wednesday for :50 minutes.  I rested on Thursday, rode :50 on Friday (with the girls), and had a nice 1:30 group ride down River Road on Saturday.  I thought that last might have been pushing it a little bit, but honestly by the time the marathon came around, there was no superficial soreness in my legs at all.  Keep in mind, none of these rides were "hammer fests" (they rarely are these days).  Eric told me that he did a four mile run around Wednesday or so in between the two events.

I felt really good marathon morning and was excited to get out there and run.  Back when I was younger, I used to get stressed out at these events because I wanted to "do good."  Looking back, it's kind of silly to have your day ruined because you thought you could run a 3:44 and you ran a 3:51.  These days I just see marathons as big training days.  It's nice to sign up for one because I wouldn't be running otherwise, and it's a lot more fun to run 26.2 miles with company than alone.

Our plan was to do the first half of the marathon fast and then run/walk the second half.  Last year we did the first 13.1 in about 2:02, which surprised me at the time because it's been years since I have done a half marathon in close to 2 hours.  But that first half of the Eau Claire marathon goes by quickly, and as the mile markers clicked off, I was surprised to see that we were going to be hitting the half way point at close to two hours once again.  Eric kept telling me that I was going too fast (he was right, I'd pay for it later), but I really wanted to hit that halfway point at 1:59.  At mile 11, I spontaneously felt good on a hill and decided to start hammering.  Eric was too smart to stay with me (he knew I'd be waiting for him at the 13.1 marker, so he let me go).

I did the best I could, moving from group to group, but as the minutes ticked away, I realized the 2 hr half wasn't going to happen.  Still, I kept on and crossed the midway line at 2:04.  The second I hit the marker I started walking, resolved to walk a whole mile or so.  Eric caught up pretty quickly and he was only too happy to start striding along beside me.

"Ok, we did our work for the day," I said, "I'm happy to walk the rest of the way."

"Fine with me," Eric replied.

After halfway, it's all down hill and it was fun to chill out and enjoy the day.  We ran/walked for a couple miles, but about mile 17 I started to notice the deep soreness that was left over from the Chippewa 50k.  That was fine though.  Eric kept saying, "I'm really out of shape," which made me laugh.  Finally I had to remind him that he was in the middle of doing two marathons in 8 days, so I think that qualifies as "in shape."

At one point we pulled into an aid station.  I was kind of looking for a GU packet, but they didn't appear to have any.

"We've got some doughnuts though," one of the workers said.

"Yes!" I replied, grabbing a big powdered sugar doughnut.  As I crossed the street stuffing my face with powdered sugar doughnut, I looked up at some spectators and said, "I do all these marathons and I can't lose any weight!"  Then I scarfed down the rest of the doughnut...they didn't seem to know what to think.  

The miles clicked away as we headed in to the finish.  Every now and then we'd look at our watches and calculate our finish time, but then we got smart and remembered that we were only out there to have fun.  It was a beautiful day with just enough sun to keep you warm, but not so much to burn you or make you sweat.

At the finish line, I looked up and was surprised to see my daughter Sofia running towards me with tears in her eyes.  I stopped and picked her up.  She told me later that she cried a little bit because she missed me.  Ariel was a little farther on, but she had a big bag of baby carrots to munch on so she was doing OK.  The two of them walked with me across the finish line which was nice.
Ariel at Casa Mexicana afterwards
We got our free brat and beer, which was enough to tide us over until we got to Casa Mexicana for a big plate of food.  Frankly, I'm glad that I don't have to run a marathon for a while, but I'm excited about Grandma's coming up this summer.

It's pretty fun running the first half hard and then jogging in.  I think with that tactic just about anyone can do a marathon, and it allows you to finish well within the cut off times.  I'm enjoying these events a lot more than I did when I was younger.  There's enough in life to make you stress out, these days I run marathons to relax!  Honestly, if you're one of those people who says, "you know, I've always wanted to run a marathon" my advice is to just sign up and do it.  I think you'll surprise yourself.  Oh, and there's plenty of time to train for the upcoming inaugural Gandy Dancer Marathon!

Eric T. Olson's 2014 Nashville Marathon Race Report

Don’t walk like an Egyptian, Run like a Kenyan!”
Eric T. Olson

Nashville, “The Music City” and Capital to the great state of Tennessee. Home to over a half million people, Nashville draws tourism from all over the world. It's known for its Downtown bar and restaurant industry all geared toward Country Music!

We wanted to run a spring Marathon someplace warm after a long, cold winter in Northern WI. So we flew in Thursday morning with temps already in the 70s. The first warm day we’d experienced since last Oct. This is another city I have never been to before. It will be good to cross this state off from my 50 State Marathon bucket list.

After checking into our hotel we decided to walk a few blocks downtown and check things out. It was obvious a Marathon was happening in the city with all the fit-bodied people around us. (We just hope to look like that some day). The streets were packed with people walking in and out of all the attractions. There seemed to be live music playing in every bar we walked by. I was also surprised to see so many Street Musicians playing solo in hopes of someone dropping a friendly donation into their open fiddle case or upside-down cowboy hat. Some dressed clean and neat, others not so much. I even saw a man on a unicycle wearing a helmet along with knee and elbow pads on the sidewalk weaving through the crowds of people trying to make a living one dollar at a time.

We found a nice place for dinner and it just happened to be Mexican night! We were there to run and we needed calories right?  Well, I don’t mind if I do... We still had another full day before the Marathon so we accidentally found ourselves patronizing the downtown establishments as the night went on. I think we hit them all. We even walked past a sign asking for some brave souls to attempt “Naked Karaoke.” We didn’t actually go inside, but took advantage of the photo-opp with the sign and provided all the folks on the street with a good laugh. It was a good night and a great way to start our trip.

The next morning we met for breakfast and I checked out my wallet to see how much fun I’d had last night. By the looks of things it must've been ecstatic. Later we headed over to the Health and Fitness Expo. 30,000 participants were registered to take part in this event between the Full and Half Marathon so this Expo was huge! We’ve been to many of these and they all seem to offer the same things. We moved through the crowded isles up and down, back and forth, blah blah blah... I did my deed of collecting a handful of stickers to add to my collection displayed on the Ironman Bus that can usually be spotted traveling around the Midwest from race to race. We grabbed our race numbers and headed out to see the rest of this famous river town.

Our second day in Nashville was another full day on our feet. I’ve found through the years, that really doesn't effect Marathon performance. Sitting around the day prior can keep your mind on the race a little too much perhaps? Every runner has their certain remedies, I’m just telling you what works for me.

So it was one t-shirt shop to the next. Every Country Western themed Trinket you could dream of owning is available in Nashville. Our next stop was the Lawrence Record Shop. Thousands of old vinyl records for sale and really fun to look through along with the autographed poster collection totally covering the walls featuring the legendary Country Music Greats. Two blocks further was the Johnny Cash Museum. A must-see when in Nashville! $12 admission and worth every penny. Then it was a walk across the pedestrian bridge that spans the Cumberland River and heads to the Titians Stadium where the next day’s Marathon would finish.
As the day came to an end, some extra large, extra grease Bison Burgers with JalapeƱos and Fried Onions. A great pre-race staple! “(Eat Hotta, Run Fasta).” It was another good day that had to come to a close.

An early wake up with coffee and treats and it was time to walk down to the Marathon Start. These large Marathons use Start Corrals that help with the congestion of so many runners all sharing the same street. We were in Corral 22 and the last Corral was number 30. The National Anthem was played and I looked in the sky for the fighter jets to fly over but it didn’t happen at this race.

The start Gun went off and Corral 1 left the gates! Every 3 minutes or so the next Corral would move up to the line and take off by the sound of a loud siren. Pretty soon it was us, and we took off running down Broadway Street. The temps at the start were in the high 60s. It was a few miles into the race before the sea of runners spanned out enough to have your own little space. We got to the outskirts of the city and then came the hills of Tennessee. Nashville is a River City, and that usually always incorporates a River Valley of steep grades and that is what we were up against here.

My goal these days is just to get through the race and stay uninjured for the next. I don’t mind walking parts of them as long as I keep moving forward and run as much as I can. When we reached mile 10 the Half Marathoners split off from our course and headed to their finish line. As we went by a Bank at about mile 12, the thermometer read 79 degrees. It was really getting hot and it was still early in the day. Police Swat Teams were staged here and there donning their Military attire as will become more common at Marathons in the future after what happened in Boston last year. I did my best to thank all of them for being there and felt bad that they had to stand out in the heat with all of that gear and dark clothing.

There was lots to see on the trek through this Historic City. Interesting architecture and some High-Dollar Mansions overlooking the Cumberland river. I just kept plugging along and ran strong until mile 20 but at that point it was just too darn hot. It was time to just walk and take in the experience which is really the main reason we come to these events. The temp made it to 84 at the finish and I was just happy to be done. I enjoyed an ice cold chocolate milk and a short break in the shade. I was feeling good and thankful that I could do this.

Another Finisher’s Medal for the growing pile! It was another great day and we earned this one in the hot sun up and down the hills of Tennessee... I will keep doing this as long as I can, meeting up with good friends in interesting parts of the world participating in the greatest events known to man.

Life is Good! Take it all in...
Eric T. Olson Luck WI