Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Balm Boyette

Balm Boyette is not on the IMBA Epic list, but if Alafia River State Park is on the list so should Balm Boyette!

SWAMP puts up an impressive network. Brian McInnis (from JRA (Just Riding Along) Cycles just outside of Boston in Medford, Ma) and I discussed connecting these two parks,. With the facilities and sweet trails at Alafia and the even better trails at Balm Boyette, Swamp, may just have the makings of a IMBA ride center.

I actually like Balm Boyette, just a little bit better than Alafia. More over all mileage and Ridgeline does give Moonscape a run for it's money! There seems to be more advanced trails, Abyss, Pandemonium, and Garry's loop, at Balm Boyette. I admit it is a close call. Spider Berm  and a few others are better too, but North Creek and Roller Coaster at ARSP, have to be given there due. The Quadrants at Balm Boyette, do pretty much blow away any of the easy trails at ASRP though! Picture Endor with palm trees.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Maah Daah Hey 30 miles + 50 dirt roads

If it rains wait at least 2 days to ride the following part of the the Maah Daah Hey trail!

Don't take my word for it, click on the picture for a closer look


A good storm passed over the National Grasslands Monday night. So I decided to not ride on Tuesday and extend our stay one day, enabling a Wednesday attempt of the Maah Daah Hey. After getting the 411 from Dakota Cyclery in Medora and my second ride to the south, I opted to start at road 50, about mile marker 73, instead of at CCC trail head at mile 98. Tammy waited at the trail head for half an hour in case I found that it was still too bad to ride. But it sucked me in and was just OK enough for me to keep going, thinking "This is not too bad and it should get better as the nice sunny day and low humidity goes on". Well I was so wrong. I would get the bike muddy and then shake some off on a fast section. This pattern repeated over and over again. Each time adding a little more than would shake off. Then the turn for the Ice Caves. "Oh, I want pictures of that!" I thought to myself. I had to give it up, after only a tenth of a mile, maybe less. I had to find a stick and dig mud and grass out of the bike, only for it to start building up immediately again. I am glad I brought the derailleur free bike with lots of mud clearance. While there was some sweet single track, it was too far and in between mud, creeks, rivers, deep ruts and trails overgrown with tall grass, sometimes all at once! The scenery is spectacular in places, but starting from Bully Pulpit was pretty damn scenic too and I could see most of this scenery from the dirt roads. I have over four hours of video, I doubt that any of it is that interesting. Just tall grass, cows and me finding my way through creeks, rivers and bogs.

Maybe after a drought, this trail may be OK. But fun, I am not sure. If you want to test your resolve and stubbornness, this is the place. Ride south of Medora if you want. I considerthat  fun single track, before it overgrows. According to the shop, the sequester has taken a lot of park workers out of the equation and trail upkeep has been suffering. Hopefully they get it together for the August race.

I wanted to stay on top of my H2O. I filled up a bottle at the camp Magpie hydrant, with water nearly as brown as the creek of the same name that I just crossed. I still had most of my Camelbak and part of the other water bottle.

Then at about 29 miles, "I had all I could stands, could stands not more!" to quote Popeye. With no race on the line, I jumped on the fire road for the next 50 miles or so. I did detour to the camp Elkhorn trail head in hopes of finding clear water. The water was clear, cool and refreshing. As it was a long down hill dirt road to camp, I thought I would try the trail again. I soon turned back and took my knocks on the dirt road, preferring the climb to the mud and the tall grass trail, that only hinted of a trail.

I was temped once more. With less than 10 miles to go, the dirt road crossed the trail again. The trail I saw from the road looked good. It turned out that once again the cow path was rideable, but the MDH only paralleled it for a short while before getting back into deep ruts obscured by tall grass (a bad combination!). I went back to the dirt road. There was a short section on 94 (apparently legal to ride a bike on, in North Dakota), before exit 24 to Medora and paved bike path into town, where Tammy was waiting for me.

I will reiterate,  for a good time, ride the Deuce from the Bully Pulpit trail head a few miles south of Medora!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Maah Daah Hey Epic

Day one found me starting at the Sully Creek trailhead of the Maah Daah Hey.The creek crossing itself was not bad, only a couple feet deep and water was only moving moderately swift. But don't be deceived by what appears to be almost dry or dried mud. The mud on the MDH is insidious all by itself! Put that mud on a partially dry river bottom and surround that with at least a quarter mile of river sand! Let's just say it does not make for a good time. I tried to talk a group of helmetless riders, some on rental bikes and hybrids, not to start there. In this case, ignorance is not bliss, but they thought better of my advice. Another couple of mountain bikers saw my bike after I cleaned it up after just a couple mile jaunt and chose another trail head and told me about the Bully Pulpit trail head just down the road.

I had the good fortune to run into Lance Larson, Kelly, Steve and Ashley, just as they were getting ready to embark from the Bully Pulpit trail head. See them in action in the preview below. The trail for 15 miles south of Bully Pulpit was really nice and easy to follow and seemed to be getting ridden in. These are newer but more mature than the trails out of Tom's Wash.

It had rained early on day two. I had planned to do Buffalo Gap out and back but the north sections were still wet at noon, so I drove the dirt roads south until the mud did not instantly accumulate on my shoes.

Maah Daah Hey from Tom's Wash south was a lot of hunt and peck for the trail and crossing a lot of fields with no apparent tread. Although there was machine packed trail up to the gate and a new bridge near the next trail head (which I turned around before); I had had enough. But was glad I did not stop when I got back to the car. The trails north of Tom's Wash, were hard to follow in some places, all in all it was much better with more steady riding. The views were great from both sections.I did not make it up to the new campsites for water, but it was getting late anyway, due to the late start letting the rain soak in. The whole ride was less messy than the few miles around Sully Creek trailhead. The first one to ten millimeters seem to dry quickly, but in some areas a greasy goo awaits the uninitiated. particularly where the hillside has sloughed off due to a previous rain.

It is hot today with severe thunderstorms forecast from this afternoon into tomorrow. Ride tired today or see what the ever changing weather brings tomorrow? Hmmm.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Switchgrass IMBA Epic Wilson Lake

Warning there are biting flies!
This is one of the most scenic rides yet! My wife even enjoyed the video!!
The humidity of Kentucky and Tennessee was behind us, as was the flat lands of southern Kansas. We had almost given up hope of seeing anything else. That is until we turned north on 232 towards Wilson Lake.

The vista became much more aesthetically pleasing. Rolling hills that opened up to reveal the man made lake, that is ocean blue due to the high salt content from it's source river, aptly named Saline and flows towards Salina.

This trail epitomizes What an IMBA Epic should be. It has stacked loops, so that you can bail out and make virtually any length loop you want. There is a easy loop as well as a kids loop.

All are very well marked. All though it took me a while to figure out that the Lettered signs signified decision points. Dashed lined arrow pointed to the short cut and the solid lined arrow sent you along the full loop.

There are 3 main loops, Golden, Marina and Hell's Creek.

Day one it was very hot, near 100 degrees and I was trying to follow a GPS file from the race on May 5th. I missed a turn on the prologue and ended up missing some of the golden trail.

Every one I spoke too was there for the first time. While popular it is over 2 hours away from Kansas City.

One rider said he was not used to so many rocks. I thought to myself "What Rocks?" I must have missed something. I went back and did the Golden loop.

It was getting hot so I skipped the Hell's Creek section.
I came back the next day to overcast skies and steady degree temps. As I was driving the next day, I wanted to keep it short. But at just half an hour I needed more, so I banged out the whole course in 2 an a quarter hours. It was good to be on the Single Speed again, it had been a while.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bone Collector Screaming Beagle

This trail is just down the road form Buzzard's Roost and the trail building is just as good, maybe better, with the added flare of bovine skeletal remains displayed as if to say, "These could be your bones if you are not careful"! Throw in some forest road climbs and rim trails and you get 20 plus of good solid riding to. I followed a GPS file from Strava (while you still could) and I am glad I did. You can not even see some of the trail markers until you are on the trail. I wish I was able to hook up with a local. I mostly know the system now, mostly. I have to come back to the Black hills when I have a month or a lifetime to ride them.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Buzzards Roost

I rode this small (10 miles) trail system before riding the Bone collector down the road. It is a blast to ride and just four miles out of Rapid City South Dakota. It kinda reminded me of the rocks of northwest New Jersey, with a little of that sandstone I came across in in the Kansas Switchgrass, but with greater elevation changes. The Video should be good! A guy from Fargo, which is almost Minnesota, where I was born and raised, he thought some of the trails were so rocky that they impeded the flow. But my Ninja Jersey honed skills was loving it. After all New Jersey is the Rock Garden State, at least the northwest corner!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tatanka 100

Tammy asked me how finishing the Tatanka 100 made me feel. This is because I am "Sense of Accomplishment Challenged" (I am sure that it will become a diagnosis and treatable by pharmaceuticals in the very near future) :-)
Well, my answer was that everything else pales in comparison. The athletes that take on these events are my new heroes. Before the Tatanka, 100 was just a number. At this point, I am not sure if I will do another one, but maybe....

How did I feel?  I felt AWE!

It transcends a sense of accomplishment.

The race started at 5am. Anybody that knows me, knows that I am not a Morning person. But recently being on the East coast and changing a couple time zones did help, albeit slightly. I slept well and got up ok.
Ryan Heerschap and I were the first ones at Woodle Field for the start. The shear wall of the cliff behind the stadium glowed ominously from the WoodleFfield stadium lights. The neutral roll out from Sturgis, South Dakota, famous for the motorcycle rally, had us pushing about 20 miles per hour. I spun my single gear and drifted back, while up front, Ryan felt like he was already on the rivet. We climbed Bulldog Canyon Road (see us coming back down from our pre-ride in the video below)
I was staying conservative and would ride up onto someone's wheel and many would just let me by, even before I asked..

There was walking involved, particularly the infamous vertical skree climb to switch valleys. I would catch people, only to be dropped later, and catch them again or not.

Endurance sports really are an equalizer between the sexes, six women came in front of me and I was not ashamed to take a draft from one of the ladies. I found out that I walk up hills slower that a lot of people and most gearies walked what I had to walk. And then there was the Mickelson, with my 34 chainring and 20 tooth cog, I could not wait for the incredibly shallow grade of the rail trail to end. I could only manage 10-11 miles an hour. Ryan said they were only doing 12-13, so I did not feel so bad. But I did draft that woman at 12-13 as long as I could; about half a mile total. Then a guy came by at 14 and I could only hold that for about a minute.

I took a little long at the Englewood aid station (last bag drop), almost leaving then deciding to leave my Camelbak and fidgeting with that way too long, a few gearies got in and out faster. I was pleasantly surprised that when the topography turn more jagged I could still climb and was immediately on two that made speedier stops than I. They split and I went right by one gearie and was closing on the next as he caught a third. One caught me back on the, not flat, but still too gradual descent, leading to the final aid station. As I could only coast around 13 mph and could not pedal faster, I ate my molasses cookies. So I only had to take on water. That gearie was trying to get an idea what next lay in store, I just went. Then another gearie, older than me even, pedals past me as I am coasting around 20 mph. He asked "Will this ever end?" I answer, "They tell me it does", then he exclaimed "What! another climb!" I just start pedaling up and past him. There was hill after hill with wicked fast descents after each one.  I was making every climb and was in the zone on every descent. Just as I entered the culvert leading back to Woodle Field, I caught up to the woman that towed me for a bit, back on the Mickelson. She was with her SO or husband and teammate. None of us were in the same class and I could not break them up as they crossed the finish line holding hands.
Finishing in 11 hours and 19 minutes. 14th out of 17
So all said, a reasonable first 100 mile mountain bike showing. Particularly since I have hardly trained for even short races. I climbed more in the first 22 miles than I have done on some of my 30 to 40 mile rides this year and twice as much as in the 50 milers and almost exactly twice the duration, from last year. See the Bear Scat Strava Link below. Consider that my average training time has only been 6 hours and 45 minutes and my longest week was 16 hours.

I have done Hillier Than Thou with that much mileage and climbing but that was on the road!