Every once in a while you wind up somewhere and you feel the natural pull of something greater than yourself. That feeling could be ancestral, from another lifetime, or something that you have hyped up in your own mind to a fever pitch. Regardless of where it comes from, I hope that you have experienced this at least once in your lifetime. I feel like I get this experience in a few new places each year. Usually it only happens in very specific place; it may be a panoramic vista, a mirror-flat lake, a gnarly old tree, or a cool stream. Regardless of where this happens I always try to pause and fully soak in that feeling. I always make note of these places and try to bring others to them to see if they too get the feels or if it is just me. I want to share that special with them. Sometimes that is my gauge as to whether or not they really get it. You know? The difference between, “welp, this place is neat, what’s next,” and “whoa…. (followed by either 1. prolonged silence while really taking in the situation, or 2. nearly out of control whooping and hootin’).” I tend to prefer folks that experience the latter (the whoopin’) but either reaction is correct.
I always try to fan the spark of curiosity and childlike splendor while outside but I find myself eliciting a bored reaction in between bouts of wonder. However, there is one place, one very large place, where I have a perma-grin and sensory overload: the Huron Mountains. Located northwest of Marquette and running right up to Lake Superior this region is truly something special. It is as close as I have been to the forest primeval; wild, peaceful, tough, beautiful, unforgiving, and raw. While I had driven through a few of the sparse main roads in this area looking for brook trout, it wasn’t until I starting “racing” The Crusher that I felt the true gravitas of this place.
The Crusher is a gravel cycling adventure put on by the non-profit, the 906 Adventure Team, that pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a gravel event. We ride through rivers, up sugar sand climbs, and bomb down truck trails completely unsupported with very limited resupply options. This is some of the best of Michigan. While I love participating in official Crusher events what I enjoy even more is the sense of belonging that I have found out in that area.
You know that feeling I talked about above? Well, for me it’s here. Like in that entire place. Every single inch of those maps above is a special place that brings out the best of me. While out riding this area I have seen moose, ran over sloppy wolf poo, bonked, triumphed, fallen into rivers, and made much personal growth. Since moving up here I have gone to the Hurons to get away and get into my own head.
I have ridden with, and made, many new friends there.
No matter how many times I go out there I will always be at awe when I enter the Mulligan Plains from either direction, sneaky views of the Big Lake through mottled and dappled trees, the mouth of the Huron River, chunking down rocky truck trails with a fully loaded bike, and the sounds of true wilderness while taking a break. This is where I belong; where civilization ends and the wild begins; where my soul lives.
I think that I have put far too much thought into writing for this blog. My hopper of drafts is insanely full. I have spent countless hours writing, editing, prepping photos only to leave the post hanging in the nether region of the drafts folder. It’s probably due to some form of perfectionistic tendency which ultimately is rooted in the fear of being criticized for not adequately covering something. Well, no more! And yes, I realize that I have said that before. Ultimately, I still get stuck on the same hangups around putting a quality post together. But, I have been far too focused on the commercial side of blogging. Stuck on some goal of monetizing this outlet and in doing so I have stifled my ability to truly be creative. Things got really vanilla. Really PC. Really BORING.
So, here’s to me and the weird stuff that makes me uniquely me. Be prepared to see a shift in the blog. It will be outrageous at times, it will be raw, it will be personal; sometimes full of mind-numbing details about things you could care less about. I will be wrong. I will be loquacious. But my goal is to be me. My goal is to ditch the legacy social media garbage in favor of a more long-form genre where you will actually get to know me.
I will be mining the drafts folder to release some gems and also polish up some turds.
I’m starting a weekly check-in post. It’s something that I was supposed to do surrounding training for bike events but this year sort of went sideways in that direction. These posts may be short or they may ramble and ramble forever. The plan is to just get a few thoughts down about the week. I’ll talk about trails, training, articles, videos, purchases, experiences, and what’s going on in my life.
This week I’ll focus on an addition to me daily routine: yoga. I’ve got scoliosis and I also have a desire to be very active and stave off back issues so that I can keep being active. In the past I have suffered through training and events with substantial back pain. It sucks. Chelsea has been trying to get me to do yoga to stay limber and loose. I have never really liked the slowness of yoga and my perception of how long I would have to do it before seeing a benefit. I should have listened to Chelsea a long time ago. Honestly yoga takes time to do, and for a busybody like me it’s difficult to stay focused on slow things. However, I think that the time I spend doing yoga is paying back in spades. My rides are more enjoyable and the recovery time seems to be much much less. Also, my desk time at work has been much more tolerable.
This addition is hitting so many of my receptors: learning, fitness, back health, and mental health. It’s really fulfilling. I think that everyone should try some sort of stretching routine or yoga practice. Keeping yourself limber is an essential part of healthy aging. I never thought that I had time for yoga and stretching. Oddly enough, all I had to do was put my phone down and turn the tv off to find that time.
I don’t plan on stopping the practice anytime soon. The last thing I want is to slowly atrophy as I see so many around me doing. Side note: if I hear one more person in my age group say, “that’s just what happens at our age,” I’ll loose my dang mind. We can all do better and we should always be striving to be the best version of ourselves. That’s my goal at least.
Well, well, well, I’m back. I don’t have to say what’s been going on in my life that has kept me from writing. I could just say, “2020.” But honestly, other than the fear of contracting Covid-19, 2020 has actually been pretty darn good. It’s given me more time to focus, read, work from home, spend time with Chelsea, and ride my bike.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the way things used to be. You remember, back when they were normal. That was some stuff. I think that I’ve changed. My priorities are different, my views are more defined. I have more compassion and understanding for others as a result of the extra time that I’ve had to think. So, 2020 hasn’t been all that bad. It’s sort of been a good restart. Yes, I know I’m not the only one to say this but personally, I’ve turned a corner. I’ve grown disenchanted of traditional beliefs and the ascribed values that accompany them.
Because I’ve grown tired of consuming the negativity and seeing the awful I thought that I’d start using my blog as a place to share the happy and good that I see. To start putting joy into the world in hopes of brightening someone else’s day. My plan is to gradually leave the politically co-opted social media sphere and use the blog as a place to share. I’m not going to promote this at all this time around. No goal of this becoming a monetized side hustle. Just a place for honest, outside-focused, dirty fun! I may do race write ups, trip reports, gear reviews, recommend adventure spots, or just tell stories. I’ll probably also share too much.
So, here’s to a new beginning. Things are probably going to get worse in our country and world before they get better but at least we can spread some joy in the healthiest way possible. That’s the goal. Elevate the global joy, fun, and health level.
This is the beginning of one of my favorite trails. On the Edge to East Woopidy. I’ve ridden it during the enduro stages during Experience the Keweenaw and Trails Fest but honestly my favorite time to ride it is midweek all by myself.
I am not really into racing bikes. However, I sign up for quite a few different races because I think that they help provide structure to my riding. I am not into a rigorous detailed training schedule because, let’s be honest, this is bike riding not nuclear psychics. I ride bikes to be healthier and see the unique places where they take me.
Nonetheless, I still participate in races to gauge my fitness and ride new places. Honestly, I go to races with a desire to finish them in good shape and have enough energy to enjoy the after party. But you’ve undoubtedly seen a bonker: distant stare, delusional and often incoherent ramblings about how this has never happened on a training ride, bits of dried gu pukies on the chin, begging for the dregs at the bottom of your pack. It’s no fun bonking during a race. We have all been there. Some are more astute bonkers than others.
I’m Yonkers, and I have been in the dirt lab carefully testing various bonking strategies for years in an effort to keep you upright on race day. Having fallen victim to at least 4 of the strategies below I consider myself an expert in the field. I have lofty goals of seeing you all at the finish line. However, if you want to see what bonking feels like for yourself then do the following:
Try something new on race day. There are two types of new things that you should try: new gear and a different fuel source.
Gear: I highly suggest switching bike seats or handlebars, lacing up a new pair of shoes, and/or loading that new hydration backpack up to the zippers. Implementing these new pieces of gear will not feel quite right causing constant readjustments and discomfort. All of this extra unforeseen fatigue will bring you to your knees faster than stick in the spokes.
You have trained for months at this point. You’ve ingested countless sport-specific snacks with varying degrees of success and indigestion. You’ve chosen the lesser of many evils: enough calories to keep you upright, some metallic “fruit” flavor which you just push down like a midwesterner’s emotions, and a sugar content that has no doubt created a strange stomach callous in order to keep it from ejecting. But in your race bag at packet pick up you have found a cure-all powder that just dissolves in your water bottle…. and look at the end of the expo line-up they have a tent. Why not go sniff around and see if this wonder dust is really all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out that you have no clue where the ingredients of your fuel are sourced from! Also the FDA has not validated any of the health claims of your fuel… Also the amount of sugar in your fuel is essentially high fructose corn syrup, you know that stuff you are eliminating from every single corner of your diet! Thank the endurance gods for sending this mystery powder charlatan to save your race day. Good news, buy 5 bags and the 6th is 25% off! Plus you get a free t-shirt (with a mail-in offer) AND you can put a sticker on your car or helmet AND if someone takes a picture of your sticker and submits it with their next qualifying order they get the 6th bag 50% off and you get a nice little commission which you can use towards your next qualifying order. KEWL so I guess I’m an influencer now!!!! BUY it; bottle it; slug it down at an alarming pace; puke it up an hour later; wish you had not filled all you bottles with it…
Lie to yourself about your pace. See that racer at the start line? Yeah, you know them. You have seen them at the trailhead. Your Strava times are about equal on a few segments. You should line up next to them. You don’t want to start too far back in the cue and have to claw your way past the other weekend warriors to get to where you rightfully belong. Just push yourself, surely they can’t all keep the leadout pace up for the whole race, right? What’s that saying about burning matches?
Skip aid stations. Those people there relying on the good of others and the questionable fuel choices they are offering are lessers. They haven’t taken the time to hone their nutrition needs. And besides, altering your caloric intake method would be akin to running gas station fuel into a highly-tuned race car… Wait… how many energy gels do you have left taped to your toptube?
Feel free to try any of the above at home, but for pete’s sake, don’t try them on race day.
I would love to hear your bonk recipes or stories.
C.S. Lewis wrote that “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
I hear the opposite from people all of the time. To tell you the truth, nothing is more upsetting to me than someone with a ‘woe is me’ mentality griping about how downtrodden they are and how “this is just how things are when you get to a certain age.” This reserved-to-mediocrity mindset is fatal and altogether false. I challenge those stuck is this sort of a rut to shake it off and try something new!
The end of the year season is an important time to reflect and plan. While you are setting your intentions for 2020 make sure that some of your plans including learning and trying new things. You’ll be surprised where this may lead you. Develop that business plan and get to work; sign up for a race and start sweating; collect your ideas and put pen to paper on that novel.
I regularly ride my bike down two tracks and snowmobile trails without knowing where I will end up and this has taught me that you are never too far down one path to turn around and try another. Remember that.
So, set those new year intentions and plow ahead. You’ve got this.
The stack of files is towering over my head and my desk chair is really cramping my style on this particular morning. My back and shoulders are super uncomfortable under my pressed white shirt and my tie is cutting off the circulation to my brain. You see, I’ve spent the weekend surfing, riding/racing bikes, and/or fishing. Oh bliss of bliss; having a life full of passions that involve entanglement with the natural world in ways that encourage mastery and conquest while never ceasing to remind you that you are only a mortal. The weekends come and I try my hardest to be wild and rad; to escape, and yet here I sit on an ever widening rear end; back to the grind.
Seventy-two hours ago the texts started rolling in: “4 hours until go time!” “Finally getting out of here!” Pictures of gear jammed into vehicles, grocery cart of weekend fuel, and trail maps blow up all of the phones on the group chat.
The stoke is high. Cars start pulling up and we can all feel the week’s stresses start to ebb away. Crack a beer, eat a coma-inducing meal, more maps, youtube slopestyle videos on the projector, finalize plans, water, bed.
Fourty-eight hours ago we debated the merits of a light breakfast during gear checks and coffee. Toys in tow we head to the trailhead and strap up and prepare to let loose.
It’s go time, the moment that everyone has been waiting for all week. Sure each and everyone of us puts in a few after work laps of some sort but this is the chance to shine. This is the opportunity to not be overworked or crunched for time. Today is the day where we can play ’til our hearts are content. We shred all the gnar; seek out the secret trout spot; and maybe if the wind is right we catch a wave or two.
Twenty-four hours ago I cheerfully whipped up a camp style breakfast of churro crepes and eggs while my wife and friends played with Copper; everyone anxious for one last late morning session.
We all knew what was coming the next day so we pushed ourselves one last time. But Sunday rides are sad. Not like pointless sad, you know? But everyone plays it safe. We make loose plans for the next round of awesomeness (at an undetermined future date), and ease back to the tame, civilized, version of ourselves.
Monday: The lunch hour comes and goes and still my bike rests in the back of my car. Another training opportunity squandered. On top of the missed ride I also smashed a fistful of redvines and another cup of office coffee. Refined sugar and caffeine: great fuel for the after work ride which will serve as a release and reminder of what I am and what I could be.
So what do I do? Well, I certainly don’t quit my day job because no one is going to pay to support a middle of the road weekend warrior’s pursuit of action-adventure sports mediocrity. (If you are willing to do this, and why wouldn’t you be, please slide into my DMs and we can talk).
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That leaves one real option: keep giving it hell. We’re not called weekend warriors for nothing. Not only do we train and strain for age group podiums, Strava KOMs, and the well-deserved beer and burritos which follow, but we also have to crush a full-on work week on top of it all.
So instead of a lament, let’s hear a battle cry from all of the weekend warriors out there. Get out there and do your thang you well-adjusted, slightly above-average doers!
So, that’s a wrap. The inaugural HAMR weekend is over. How’d it go? In a word: wild. We were up in the wilds being wildmen (and women) having wicked type-two fun.
Since I am only a little bit of a masochist I opted for the Team HAMR race this year. My partner and dear friend Adam flew in from Colorado to suffer right along side me.
The concept of this adventure was simple: 7 checkpoints total in a cool passport; 4 mandatory, 3 optional. The more checkpoints you hit the greater the time bonus when you hit the finish line. Twelve hours to get them and get back. Random wakeup time. Ready, set: GO. Part adventure race/ orienteering and part endurance cycling. Sprinkle in a little knowledge of the area and you have yourself an adventure.
My pre-race prep involved eating a burrito, drinking a few beers, and stuffing half a watermelon down my gullet.
Spoiler alert: I was one of the first people up to use the two porta-johns. This race-prep worked out well as I discovered the lights on in the race tent and some of the volunteers scurrying about. Win for Team Dirtbag Yuppie!
You see, the start time was random and my bubbly belly served me well by forcing me out of bed early.
“Africa” softly wafted through the loudspeaker while racers rubbed the sleep from their eyes. This song was the harbinger of things to come. Those blessed rains would come soon enough.
Adam and I took off toward the old 510 Bridge checkpoint in the same direction as the SledgeHAMR racers. (Those sick puppies did 186 miles). We rolled down to the checkpoint just as the sun came up, punched our passports and headed up 510 in the general direction of the next checkpoint. The watermelon demon again raised (or rather lowered) its ugly head and I was forced to make a pitstop at the pullout just before the new 510 Bridge. (Thanks MDOT for providing that one).
We headed north of CR 510 toward the Red Road.
The next checkpoint was south of Mosquito Gooch in the Mulligan Plains and the Red Road was the only way to get there. The steady light rain tamed the otherwise sandy road and made it nearly enjoyable. However, every time I started to get into a decent cadence I would get sucked into a sandy spot and reminded of the shortcomings of my 2.3″ tires. Adam and the fatty pounded on, mostly unfazed by the loose spots. Riding in nasty sand can be quite taxing and the roadside was loaded with wild blueberries so Adam and I took full advantage of nature’s bounty whenever we felt our energy dip. You know… every 5 minutes or so.
We turned north toward Mosquito/Mulligan and were immediately delighted to find that the road grew firmer with every rotation of our tires. We arrived at the very picturesque second checkpoint, punched our passports, and took some quintessential photos:
Surely, we thought that it would be time to start piling the miles on again now that we had solid trail under our tires. Unfortunately, we were sadly mistaken. We began to notice that we were climbing, which was to be expected, as we are in the Huron Mountain Range after all. However neither of us was prepared for what we encountered partway up the hill. As the road deteriorated into rubble we started pushing more and more.
Here’s Adam; he is suffering up some rocky crap. We saw many footprints of those who came before us. I thought it’d be fun to take a cute picture of him suffering. Shortly thereafter karma struck and mother nature rewarded me for my hubris. On the first descent following this enhanced climb, I tried a stupid shortcut. ‘Why ride around solid-looking mud when I could probably ride right through it?’ Big mistake. I shoulder-checked that mud puddle after going OTB. Rich, black, backwoods mud covered my helmet, jersey and most of the integral moving parts on the front part of my bike. Adam only heard my very manly screams as the mud consumed my pride. I washed my sins away at the Yellow Dog River crossing and we motored on.
After getting on the AAA road the checkpoints seemed to tick off with greater frequency. As we headed south on CR 510 on our way to the Wilson Truck Trail the rained picked up. (It rained about 5 of the 11 hours that we were on the course) After 15 minutes of hard rain on the well-packed CR 510 I turned around to apologize to Adam for dragging him out of sunny Denver to slop around in the cold wet midwest. My spirits were lifted and I knew that I picked the right co-pilot when I saw the smile on his face. He was soaking up the rain and sucking down gels with a side of sand.
We thought that we had lost our way en route to Wilson Truck Trail but ended up righting the ship with a little help from some friends on a tandem. (Thanks, eh?) There are few activities where competitors will come to each other’s aid. That’s one of the main reasons that I love riding mountain bikes and events like this.
Heading down, or east, on the Wilson Creek Truck Trail was a blast. We thoroughly enjoyed the creek crossings and even made a few stops to snap some semi-rad shots.
Letting gravity do the work in this section provided a welcomed reprieve from pedaling and gave us some time to recharge, chat, and eat more sugary gels and bars. This was also about the time that we both became oddly infatuated with the bag of Lays that was nestled in the van back at basecamp. We totally forgot about the free pasties but more on that later.
The last 22-ish miles and checkpoints 4, 5, and 6 are sort of a blur. This is mainly due to the fact that they were quite consolidated and close together compared to the first three checkpoints. The one that sticks out the most is Top of the World. Chelsea and I have made several trips out here and it was really cool to be able to show Adam the killer view of Lake Superior from this point.
After the final checkpoint dubbed “Chunky Summit” on some strange snowmobile/atv trail we emerged onto the Noque ski trail somewhere around the 17km marker. We made our way to the basecamp along a freshly flattened trail through the overgrown grass. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t sink mid-thigh in the “wet area” just before the bridges… At this point we were both rightly soaked and honestly I didn’t even notice the extra 3-4 pounds of mud that clung to my body and bike. (Why was I the only one that looked like an extra from Swamp Thing?)
The finish line at the basecamp came up quick and we had our passports cleared just shy of 11 hours in the saddle. Because we got 6 of 7 we received a 3 hour time reduction and ended up placing 5th of 20 teams. Not too shabby for all of the berries that we ate.
We finished up the party with a pastie, a gallon of ketchup, and a few bags of candy from our wives.
Something tells me that HAMR isn’t going anywhere. Like many endurance events, this one will probably get its own cult following and serve as jewel in many future crowns. I’d like to thank Beardsley and Todd for putting this great event on. I’d also like to thank Adam for making the trip out to ride bikes in poor weather, on an un-marked course, with this strange little man in the woods. Chelsea–thank you for supporting my childlike dreams and for putting up with my super loud trainer rides while you are trying to do yoga and achieve inner peace. Kathleen, thank you for the moral support, encouragement, and forcing Adam to pose for pictures. Michele, thanks for the Garmin and tutorial. Finally, thanks to Velodrome for allowing me to ride on Team Tamp Stamp and that dope little packet of instant coffee.
Oh yeah, that snorkel? The one from the famous #snorkdangle?
We didn’t friggin’ use it for anything substantive. We took a picture. I cannot wait to see what they make us carry next year.
The past two weeks have seen several multi-day warm ups. In most places this would mean that snowbike trails become ribbons of unrideable mashed potatoes that only get worse when they freeze. But, if you live in Marquette it means that the wonderful groomers from the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) Single Track Section put in some serious hours to ensure that our trails are top-notch when the inevitable freeze comes.
The NTN groomers have come up with some very unique grooming implements that suit our local climate. Their hard work and innovation is the subject of a great new short called “Whack Jobs.” It’s a true testament to those hardworking volunteers that make winter riding not only a possibility but a real pleasure.
The riding has been stellar so far in 2018. Despite the warm weather, as long as the temps drop overnight the trails are primo early in the morning before the sun hits them. In these few precious hours the planets align and you can really rip.
This weekend my friend Tim came up from Wisconsin to revel in our beautiful trails. I set up the GoPro and we went to the woods. Check it out!