100 MoN 2014 : Spartan Village Short Track XC Division

Author’s note: I dedicate this race to my uncle Kenny. Kenny is a farmer and used to long extended physical efforts. But somehow I think this would make him shake his head and smile. You did what? On purpose…… Well yeah.

It was time. No really it was well past time. I had signed up for the Fat Cyclist’s 100 MoN and was unable to do the race on the scheduled date. But  I wanted to get the race in. And so on Thursday October 30, and 5:29 pm I started out on my 100 MoN.

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Even though I am a 4 time winner, and defending champion, of the 100 MoN I never really fully confronted an essential aspect of the race. Race on a ridiculously short course. (The N part of MoN stands for “Nowhere”.) My past routes had been 1.25, 5, 4.5, and 2.5 miles long.  This year I am in Michigan for the fall and luckily for me there is a little dirt track behind my apartment. It’s 0.3 miles long. Perfect. Here it is…..

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(Exciting I know!)

And so with music in my ears I set out to conquer the 100 MoN Spartan Village Short Track XC.

Now the course is really short and so I began by wondering how short it really is. I finally decided to compare it to something that is really long. Maybe epic in its length. The answer was clear. How many times could I ride around the course during Stairway to Heaven? I mean time really was an important metric for me in this race so that seamed like a good way to do some comparison.  Well……

(The answer is 5, if you counted.)

15 MoN in I had enough video so I settled into the seriousness of the race.

The race director in his infinite wisdom had set the course as a counter clockwise loop. That was good for me because I needed to work on my left hand turns. I got a lot of practice. At about 30 MoN I started to wonder if they would change the direction of the course. But I figured it would be to chaotic to the field and sure enough we continued to ride counter clockwise.

At 40 MoN I realized that  I had settled into my place in the pack leaving all the competition in the dust. That would remain true for the rest of the race. Pretty normal for endurance races where you find your place. Though I was shocked that I had not lapped anyone to that point.

At 50 MoN I started to see the deer that I would chase around the course for the next 30 or so MoN. They were darn persistent in being on the course.

My first play list ended at 60 MoN and so I took the opportunity to stop and start my second play list. Uncle Kracker “Keep it Coming” blasted in my head.

It gets dark early here in Michigan and at 70 MoN it was dark enough that I needed my light. I knew this was going to happen as I started very late in the day.

I had gone around the course so much that I had a well worn line on the course and so even in the dark it was pretty easy to see where I was going. I pressed on, confident as I was leading the race.

As I approached 100 MoN I became a little giddy. I heard a voice say clearly “The truth is there if only you look at it….. (Well you might need some math too, but the truth is there.)” Weird. But I was having a great time and a big smile stretched my face.

At 100 MoN I knew I had the race in the bag, but I decided to get some redemption. I did 104.1 in Leadville and had a memorable finish in which I collapsed after I finished. Today I was feeling good. I was going to do more than Leadville. My 100 MoN turned into 104 MoN.

Magically I finished (without collapsing) just as my second play list ended. I was done. And I won! This race was easy compared to Leadville. I wonder what the difference was?

Here is the obligatory “GPS shot” to prove I finished my race.

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Yup. The truth is there if you look, well if you do some math. I ended up with 104.3 MoN. Mission accomplished. Oh and I won again. That should make my race sponsors happy as they make important decisions about the team for next year going into the off season. I mean I did win a REALLY prestigious event.

It’s been a difficult month. I really needed this time, just to be silly and stupid. It helped me to remember that life can be difficult but it can also be fun. Never forget to make take time for that fun. Never forget to appreciate the moments you have and to live those. Thank you Elden.

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Pictures of the Day

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“Day”

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“Night”

(When times are dark, there can be light, or at the very least aliens with strange lights leading you through the dark.)

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Buzz Kill Monday

I’ve been slowly recovering myself since last week and had a really good day yesterday. Got lots done at work and was feeling energetic. Then some real life happened. I saw something I have never seen before.

I was stopped at a light on campus and looked down to my dash to see what the time was (I was on my way to pick Noah up from school). I heard tires screech and then a thump. I looked up to see a woman who was on a bike had been hit by a car.

I commented to some friends when I first got here that campus is a dangerous place to drive and ride. It is filled with lots of people, lots of distracted people. I have seen people on bikes texting on their phones. I have seen people walk into the street without looking to see if there was anyone coming. I have seen cars rushing to get from one place to another. Given the number of people, odds are good you are going to cross paths with multiple dingbats on any given trip you take.

There are traffic rules. At everywhere there are signs telling motorists to yield to pedestrians. These are rarely followed. When I do I feel like I need to look in my mirror to see how closely the guy behind me is tailgating me. There have been times when I did not stop at the crosswalk because I feared the person behind me would not stop. There have been times when the person at the entrance to the crosswalk didn’t move when I stopped because they were on their phones checking the Book of Face or sending a text.

Maybe I just haven’t figured out the reality of the rules.

Coreen remarked at how many people were on bikes on campus (in a good way). But like all young people they have their limits. I came to work yesterday and passed a bike on the road. It was pitch black. There was not a light on the bike.

The girl who was hit had the light. The guy in the truck who hit her didn’t. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. None of them do. It would be a bother to carry a helmet and a problem to have to suffer some bad hair.

The girl looked to be mostly OK. She was sitting up and talking with the people who had gathered. Lots of people were helping her.

To counter the buzz kill afternoon, Noah and I went riding after dinner. With our helmets, obeying the traffic rules.

10 Days: Right

I don’t really know why I am writing this part of my 10 days. I don’t really know who its for or why I am sharing it. But here goes.

I got to the airport Friday morning to make my pilgrimage to my family home in Wisconsin. I was going Home. Sometimes you go Home just to go Home. Sometimes you go Home for times of great joy. And sometimes you go Home for times of sadness. It’s Home. And because Home is Life it has all of those things in it.

I hadn’t been sleeping well. That’s the first thing that deserts me when I have stuff going on. My sense of sadness and dread had been building all week.

But when I got to the airport, well, a strange thing happened. That all went away. I realized somewhere deep in my heart that what I was doing was Right. It was absolutely what I needed to do. It’s hard to express but it was just Right. That’s the word, but it doesn’t seam complete enough. Kind of like talking about Flow. The word is just a word it doesn’t express the totality.

The flight was uneventful, I met up with my parents at the airport (they also flew in Friday) and we headed Home.

I stay at my Grandma’s house when I visit. It’s the center of Home for me. When I saw Grandma I gave her a big slow hug. I ate a quick dinner and I was off to see my uncle.

I had talked with his daughters, my cousins, on Wednesday and they warned me. I was pleasantly surprised at how good he looked given everything that was going on. Wednesday it turns out had been a bad day. Friday was a good day. We had a great visit. When I was about to leave, my cousins came over (partially to say hi to me and partially to see their dad). I spent another hour or so with all of them. It was a really really nice visit.

Saturday, I fell into what was a normal (well as normal as it could be) rhythm for when I am Home. I got pp early and went over to the farm to see family and visit while they worked. Then I had breakfast with my cousins. It was more serious. We could talk more openly since we were not around my uncle. It was a time to get some facts. More, it was a time to connect and take care of each other. I don’t have sisters. These two cousins are the closest I have to that and we spent the time Being with each other.

I went running later that morning. Grabbed my headphones, put on Creed and hit some pavement. It ended up being the best run I have had this fall. 40 minutes and a fast pace.

Then I went back to see my uncle. I told him I wanted to get out with him if he was up to it. So we jumped in his truck and drove around looking at the farm. We talked about silos and cows. He showed me some of the new property that my farming uncles had purchased. We were alone and I was planning on talking with him more deeply but didn’t. Riding around like this and talking crops and cows is what we normally do. I was selfish. I wanted That. I didn’t want to spoil That by admitting anything was wrong. I don’t think he did either and so in that sense it wasn’t selfish. It was unspoken. I left my uncle so that he could nap before church.

I decided to go to church with my family. Long ago I “left” the church (recovering Catholic 😉 ) because of philosophical differences that I didn’t see how I could rectify. But I still love that church. Its small and beautiful. Regardless of my differences with “the church” this church is part of Home. And it too has been the scene of great joy and great sadness. I wanted to see it. A lot of my extended family was there and it was nice to see them and talk with them even if just for a couple of minutes.

Sunday it was time to go back to Michigan. The 1pm flight meant that I had to leave at about 9:30.

I went over to say good bye to my uncle at 8:30. I am not going to say much about that fair well, its private. My uncle has a new wife who I don’t know exceptionally well. But she is awesome. After we chit chatted for a while she looked at us and excused herself to go “clean the bedroom”. I said the things that needed to be said. It was one of the hardest and most painful things I have ever chosen to do on purposes. 10 hours in Leadville had nothing on this. I never said good bye. My last words were “I love you” as I left the house. In a weird twist of fate/timing Coreen text’d me as I was walking out the door. “I love you and I wish I was there with you.” (Thank You C.)

My cousin was taking me to the airport. I knew I had about 30 minutes to go back to Grandma’s before she came. I resolved to hold it together in front of Grandma (she’s 90 and anything I can do to keep positive around her I will do). When my cousin came Grandma got an extra long and firm hug.

The door had barely closed behind me when I looked at my cousin. “I am going to be pathetic here for about 10 minutes.” She nodded. We got into her car and drove away. We cried together for just about 10 minutes.

I text’d my cousin when I got back to Michigan to tell her thanks for the ride and to let her know how important that ride was to me. She replied that she knew and it was important for her too. For me it was a balm that I needed to put on me to get through being in public to go home. The best word here is raw. I was raw and I didn’t want to be in public. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone. I wanted to be alone. But I had enough salve on me that I didn’t snap or go to pieces when the nice, happy, totally, oblivious people at the airport would say “How are you doing today?” With big customer oriented smiles on their faces. The closest I came to loosing it was replying to the TSA guy who asked me how I was doing, that it “was complicated”. He looked at me smiled just a little smile and said “My brother always tells me not to ask that unless I want to here someones shit.” (WTF is it with people looking at my face and Seeing? Engineers don’t have feelings. We have calculators and duct tape.)

I made it back to Michigan.

When I got the news about my uncle a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend. It went something like this:

“I realize how stupid I have been in my life. How often have I told people or thought that they are Lucky because they got to say good bye? I don’t feel Lucky.”

“No, you are not Lucky.”

I don’t know how to describe what I am. Lucky is absolutely the wrong word. It’s a complex feeling. Fortunate may be the closest thing I can come to it and even that is wrong. It sounds like it was something good. What is happening has nothing good about it. I went out to visit and be with my uncle. I went to say the things that needed to be said. And even right now I cannot say even that I am ‘glad’ that I did that. Maybe that will come in time. I did it because it was Right.

Picture of the Day

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“Going Home”

10 Days: The Normal

My little oasis or normalcy happened during the middle of this 10 day span. Life went back to the schedule that Noah and I had developed for just a brief moment. It was blessedly mundane. You know the usual kind of stuff.

Fixing Noah’s laptop after he spilled hot chocolate on it. While not a “normal” occurrence I did get to be a super dad who saved the day for him on that one. We did end up having to get a new computer, BUT it was the same kind and so I swapped the hard disk and hoped it would boot without us having to re-install everything he had. It worked.

Fixing my bike. While out on a training ride I heard that nice little “ping” noise indicating a spoke had broken. I made it home nicely on the bike and went to the bike shop. Where we discovered that when I dropped the chain while racing at Pando the chain had sheered all of the outside spokes at the hub. My rear tire was a disaster waiting to happen. I am just lucky that that I didn’t have a more serious brake down. I had been hard on my bike and it could very well have collapsed on me at some point.

But as much as I wished it time didn’t stop (stupid forward march of time) and as the oasis days came closer to Friday I steadily became more nervous.

10 Days: The Good

As I mention in my last post, I am currently in the midst of an extra ordinary 10 day span in which I get to experience the total gamut of what life has to offer.

The first 4 days of those were the highs. Coreen came on Friday to visit me and Noah. I picked her up from the airport. Well once I figured out the parking situation at the Detroit airport (for which the signage really stinks) I picked Coreen up from the airport. We got to the apartment and lickity split we had to head out. Noah was marching with the East Lansing High School Marching Band at the Friday night football game.

Coreen and I found our place in the bleachers (resting comfortably on the aluminum benches in cold weather, yeah heat sapping!).

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and watched Noah play with the marching band.

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(Noah is the last kid in the second row from the right.)

Saturday was a whirlwind. Apple picking

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and dinner with Coreen’s best friend in Michigan. (Noah dumped us at dinner to go over to a friends house.)

Sunday. Biking and running (I dumped them to ride hard 🙂 )

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and then dinner with Coreen’s old boss and good friend. His daughter used to babysit for us when we lived here. Bailey was 4, Noah was 6 months old. Now she is married, has a 2 year old and is expecting her second child (and Bailey gets his drivers licence next week). Yeah we are getting old. Noah made a friend (he was absolutely the most fascinating thing in the 2 year old’s universe at that dinner).

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Monday Noah went to school. I went to work in the morning and Coreen had coffee with her “bestie”. Coreen and I had a lunch date and walked around East Lansing. We got to hold hands and just stroll around a little bit.

Tuesday I took her back to the airport (the signage was not a problem).

Whew!

It was a great weekend. Just enough active time and just enough downtime. Michigan was the first place that Coreen and I “lived” and had adult friends. It was truly a lot of fun to have her around. But there was not nearly enough Coreen time. Still she will be back in a couple of weeks for another visit with Bailey. 🙂

10 Days

The next 10 days are going to be extra ordinary, running about as wide a gamut as 10 days probably could. It is a time to reminder to live in the moment.

Today I am heading off to the airport to pick up my super awesome wife who is coming to visit Noah and me in Michigan. Noah and I are both really excited. I mean how could we not be?

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It’s going to be a fun filled weekend of apple picking, corn mazes and visiting friends.

Tuesday I go back to the airport so that Cori can get home and get ready for a new job.

Then Thursday I pack for a trip.

It was supposed to be a trip to Northern Lower Michigan for the Crystal Mountain Peak to Peak race and some sightseeing. Noah and I were going to go and have an adventure.

But instead I am packing for a trip out to Wisconsin by myself.

It’s going to be a difficult trip.

I am going out there to say good bye to my godfather. He is sick, and not the kind of sick that will get better (Hey cancer, you suck… and that’s from both me and Yeti…. so up yours). I am not going to eulogize him now because, well, its not the time. It is sufficient here to say that outside of my immediate family he is probably one of my extended family members that I am closest too.

Right now its time to spend some time with him while I still can.

So yeah, well that’s my next 10 days.

One of my favorite movies of all times is Parenthood. This is one of the best quotes from it. It seams to somehow fit my next week.

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.

Gil: Oh?

Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!

Gil: What a great story.

Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

Yeah, I know…….

As the summer started to wind down I started to think about training this winter, and that is when the trouble started.

For some unknown reason I started to think that it would be a good idea to do some cross-training. Of course the obvious thing is running. Well I am not really a runner. Running to me is just something to be endured. When I am running my mind keeps thinking about what I could be doing on a bike.

Then I started to think about maybe trying trail running. I mean that’s kind of like mountain biking right? It didn’t help that one of you my dear readers has gotten into trail running and for some reason has dedicated a vast portion of time on his own blog (which I kindly remind YOU CHRIS is named after a bike part not anything running!) to running these days.

Then I was at a running store with my wife (who was looking for new running shoes) and asked do you have trail running shoes. I tried a couple but somehow I could not pull the trigger on the $170 pair that I liked the best. So no worries. That idea sat idle for a couple of months.

Then the other day I made the mistake of looking up those shoes on line to see how much they cost. And much to my chagrin, I found a pair on clearance (2014’s are so “last year”) for just about 50% off. Before I knew it my card was out and they shoes were on their way to my door. Then through the magic of free 2 day shipping they were at my door. A brand new pair of Hoka Stinson Trail shoes.

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They are a little strange to look at. Total opposite of the minimalist shoes that became so popular because people thought that they could run like indigenous peoples if they ran barefoot. These shoes were designed for ultra runners (OK people don’t even go there. My DNA would totally have to be rewired in order to consider THAT!).

I knew what was going to happen. I needed to get that first run (its been about 8 months since I did any running) out of the way. Well not so much the run as the sore muscles (which remarkably seem to have NOTHING in common with the biking muscles I have worked on so hard). Saturday I “ran” 5k. The conversation with Noah before I headed out went like this:

Noah: You going biking?

Me: No, running.

Noah: Ohhh………….

Me: Yeah I know……..

(Even Noah was doubting the wisdom of this choice.)

Sunday well it hurt. You know the kind of muscle hurt that when you go down a stair makes you doubt that your legs are going to be able to stop your body when you step down to the next step. I got in a shortish (1:15) ride to stretch my legs (which were remarkably shot from running, again proving that bike muscles have nothing to do with running muscles). Now Monday, still sore. Yeah it seemed like a good idea at the time. Yeah it will be better next time I run. Yeah I knew it would happen like this.