Alarm. Blow nose. Coffee. Pack up rice cakes, a few Gu gels, mix up Skratch labs electrolyte drink, use bathroom, get dressed and get going. I desperately just wanted to go back to bed. I had to will myself to keep moving. I mean this is Rebecca’s Private Idaho here. I decided on arm and leg warmers because I hate being cold and then the three amigos from E-town headed out.
So there I was just minding my own business in downtown Ketchum for the start of Rebecca’s Private Idaho.
Oh who am I kidding, that is not why I ride the fatty in these things, she’s quite the eye catcher. She is one beautiful bike and the fat tires really stand out. But honestly, I didn’t think I would get as much attention from the bike being up North like we were.
Maybe it was the aeros bars. I heard many comments on them throughout the day. Some I am sure out of ridicule. Well here’s the skinny: Yes, I use them quite a bit to get out of the wind and more than that to get comfortable on a long ride. That was why I put them on. The long training rides on Flint Hills gravel had my wrists feeling pretty sore. If I can’t work the mouse during the week, then I have a problem. The night before LandRun 100 this year, I put the aeros on and have never looked back. I feel strong in the aero position and stay in them most of the time.
It was something like a 12 mile ride to the top of the first and biggest climb of the day. We rode out of town on pavement with a slight incline but not much. Right at the start it was simply beautiful as we rode towards the mountains.
I rode past the house on the left, thinking that would make a pretty sweet place to live. Or stop and call it a day.
My head was full of snot and the snot rockets were pretty thick, yeah gross is right. I made sure I didn’t have anyone behind me because they were out of control. People passed by, commented on the bike and rode away. I felt pretty slow. The fatty is a slow beast on pavement, but on bumpy gravel feels surprisingly fast. But we had about five-ish miles of pavement to ride. The whole way I was just deciding when I was going to turn around. My head cold had not subsided. The first climb was almost 1600 feet in four miles. I was sick, tired from the 20 hour drive, short of breath from the elevation, my ribs were quite sore so I couldn’t take full deep breaths. I had every reason to just turn around, tell the official that I was out and take the day to sleep it off. No one could give me too much crap for that.
But I kept going. Slowly. My legs weren’t there at all and more importantly my mind was already psyched out. But it was so beautiful I wanted to keep pedaling. I at least wanted to see some gravel. The pavement was killing me. On a road bike, maybe, but on a fat bike the pavement is worse than a page full of math problems. I can do it, but it’s boring and slow.
And then I got caught by the most inspirational riders of the day. Will and Maximus caught me. I was disgusted with my slowness but very happy that I was going to get a picture of them. I have a trailer bike at home and cannot imagine climbing mountains with Mikey. Will and Maximus showed me that it was possible. But I still didn’t want them to pass me.
Seeing them must have kicked me into gear, because I sped up just a little bit and passed them. They may be the only people I pass by, but by God, there’s no way I was going to let them pass me. I took them and kept going, but felt like I was definitely at the end of the pack. I was worried about even making the cut-off times at this amazingly slow pace. I hated that everyone’s ridicule of the bike would be justified. It was me, feeling like crap, not the bike at all.
But then I saw something in the distance. Two riders coming my way. I wondered why they were, wait, that looks like a High Gear jersey. It was! My friends were coming back for me. At first I was like, “What the hell are you guys doing?” They are both pretty fast and could actually race. But that is not why we were there. We were there for the experience and bonding time. They came back for me so we could all ride together.
I have the greatest friends.
Lelan is not only a pretty damn good cyclist, he is also a very knowledgeable one too. He is starting his own company to lead high end cycling camps, tours, no I would say – experiences around the world. He told me to keep spinning and not pedal mash if I wanted to make it the full 95 miles. That is what I had planned. I shifted down and kept them spinning and then something very unexpected happened.
About ten-ish miles in or so I started to feel decent. Not great, but no longer bad. I shifted to a bit harder gear and kept spinning upward. I was taking many quick, deep breaths to keep the oxygen flowing and I stepped it up just a tad and I actually started passing a few people. Amazing. After looking at my results from the Garmin, I never even got my HR into the 160’s so I never pushed it at all up this first big climb. I wanted to simply see if I could make it up the hardest climb of the day and then evaluate how I felt. If I felt terrible, I could coast all the way back to the condo. If I felt OK, I would continue on.
I gave Lelan the camera to take some pictures as I focused on grinding up the hill. After hitting nice washboard and using the low gears of the fatty, I was quite happy with my bike choice. I had decided earlier in the week to ride the CX bike, but switched at the last minute.
There’s just something about riding that Beargrease that I really love. It personifies the Adventure Monkey inside.
Up and up and up.
Then I saw it – The flags for the first sag stop. I made it. And overall, it was not that bad. Mountain climbing is much different that a day full of nonstop rollers and wind. I think I was liking the mountains. After the first big climb I had a wonderful descent to enjoy.
I got to the stop and since Red Bull is one of Rebecca’s sponsors there was a nice stash of it there. I downed one and decided I would keep going. A guy told me that a gnarly descent was coming up and to be careful. We don’t have mountain descents in Kansas, we all know that, but we do have some pretty gnarly roads in the Flint Hills. This wasn’t even close. But it was fun. On the fatty, the descents were simply amazing. I flew down that mountain as fast as my bike would take me. Washboard and gravel were nothing to my fat tires with about 15 pounds of pressure in them. I flew and suddenly I wasn’t the slow one anymore.
We had a bit of a tail wind and a long descent after the big climb which enabled me to keep up with Jeff and Lelan. We formed a paceline of sorts and soon caught up with another paceline.
I was keeping the fatty going and I was surprised how easy it was to keep up. I still wasn’t exerting much here. Soon the three of us passed by the pack and turned right to head up a bit and over to the next checkpoint. We were actually making good time. I was feeling quite well. Although still stuffed up, I felt great.
We made it slightly uphill for a while, then took a downhill and right at the bottom of a climb was the second checkpoint. I stopped to remove my arm and leg warmers, eat a rice cake, down more Red Bull and just behind the Red Bull tent I saw a beautiful stream so I walked down to take a shot. I was in no real hurry.
Just behind checkpoint 2
And we were off
There were a lot of slight climbs that I wouldn’t really notice until I was headed back. The course was a lollipop with the lollipop section being about 25 miles. Once that was finished we would head back the way we came and all those slight hills would play in my favor.
It was beautiful everywhere I looked. I tried to take pictures as we rode to capture the ride. There was still a lot of smoke from the fires lingering in the valleys. By the end of the race my lungs were feeling pretty fried and my coughs were a touch painful.
There is just something about riding a bicycle in the mountains that I love. I was reminded of my California trip many times. Other times the scene reminded me of scenes from the movie Ride the Divide.
We made it to the third checkpoint and since the big climb, we flatlanders were doing pretty well. Lelan and Jeff were hanging with me or they’d be making even better time. We were having a great time together. That is what cycling is all about. The third checkpoint signifies the start of the lollipop. We were about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Rebecca was there cheering us on and also telling us to hit the road before we miss the cutoff. I downed another Red Bull, grabbed a couple of Gu gels and we were off. But not before the leaders made it to us. Levi was a mere 25 miles ahead of me. In my mind I was riding with Levi Leipheimer now. Pretty sweet.
The lollipop section had the worst roads of the day in that there was a lot of washboard and chunky sections. The fat bike was perfect on that. In the picture above there are a couple of cyclists on the side of the road trying to fix a flat but had other issues too. When we rode up on them it was our friends Scott and Rick. Lelan stayed back to help and told Jeff and I to keep on going. Up to that point there were times when the wind and roads kept us to around 5-7 mph. He was worried we wouldn’t make it.
We had a headwind and some slight climbs that had me feeling pretty slow. Jeff too. I kept going and just pushed at a comfortable level but once I made the turn and had the wind at my back I was really moving along on the Beargrease.
Freaking beautiful scenes through the mountains
We had another pretty steep climb on the lollipop section. I geared down and spun up actually feeling pretty good. After that it seemed like I had downhills or slight downhills for quite some time. I ripped that up. I love going downhill as fast as possible and I did. Jeff still hadn’t caught me yet and I don’t know why I was smoking those downhills so fast except that the tires absorbed all the washboards and other bumps and the weight helped me fly down, but really the bike is only 29 pounds with the areos. It doesn’t matter. All I knew is that I was feeling good and the pedals were almost spinning themselves. I enjoyed it immensely.
I made it to the end of the lollipop and back to the Red Bull tent. I shoved a delicious salty potato in my mouth and was ready to roll out. I had to keep going because my body has a way of shutting itself down unexpectedly and since I was feeling good, I wanted to keep moving before that happened. I saw Jeff and told him I needed to keep going. I knew he’d catch me when we had to climb again so I didn’t feel so bad. Since Lelan stayed back to help friends and Jeff for some reason couldn’t catch me (he loves it when I write that) I was on my own for quite some time. But I didn’t mind that either. The mountain vistas and crisp air were quite therapeutic. Rebecca is lucky to have this in her backyard, just like I am lucky to have the Flint Hills in mine.
The slow climb of death
I made it back to the checkpoint with the stream, ate some chips, had another Red Bull and was ready to go. Jeff was pulling in as I was leaving. I didn’t wait. I knew climbs were ahead and once again 100 miles is still a tough mileage for me. Since surgery I haven’t been able to feel really good for long mileage rides, but I am getting better and better. I kept going and was moving along quite well until I turned and rode in a valley that led slightly uphill for miles and to top it off the wind was in my face again. Those slight uphills were deceiving. I felt like I should be moving faster, but just couldn’t get the wheels turning. The woman in the picture above passed and said something about the headwind not being fair and disappeared into the distance. Another pack of cyclists passed and I tried to hold their wheel and did for possibly 200 yards before peeling off. I was starting to tire.
Soon Lelan and Jeff caught me.
Lelan slammed a PBR at the last checkpoint plus he burned a match or two catching up with us and by the time I saw him, he was hurting. I had never seen him in that sort of state, but I gave him one of my delicious rice cakes and he perked back up and was fine.
We were making the big climb back to the first checkpoint. I knew if I made it I was done. After the climb I’d have the sweetest descent back into town. I remembered the descent after the big climb seemed like it went on forever. Now I had to ride up it. I geared down and rode as fast as I could which was quite slow. But suddenly and to my surprise I saw the Red Bull stop just up ahead. No way. I thought we had another 3-5 miles to go. I had made it!
I stopped to shoot a couple of pictures of the descent that we were warned to go slow on and then I put the camera away. It was my time to fly.
And fly I did. I did brake around one blind curve but other than that flew as fast as the fat tires would take me down that mountain. That may have been the most fun I have ever had on a bicycle. I learned that I love downhills. The road was peppered with washboard but at those speeds and with those tires, I didn’t even feel it. I flew.
We made it to the bottom and back to pavement and the plan was to ride in together, the three amigos. But where in the heck was Jeff?
Lelan looking back for Jeff
Me looking down at my bottom bracket as it was making some popping noises that weren’t so good.
Come to find out, Jeff’s strap that holds his tube and tools on his seat post exploded as he was descending. He went back to gather up his stuff and that’s why he took so long. He finally caught us and we crossed the finish line together. What a great ride. At that point I was very happy I kept pushing and didn’t call it quits in the morning. Looking at my Garmin, I never really pushed it, my HR never got above the 150s and it averaged only 139. I definitely could have pushed a little harder, but who cares? I had a great time and actually had one of my fastest centuries ever (well almost a century. I’ll just round up) And that’s with plenty of picture taking and messing around at the stops.
As we crossed I saw Elden, the Fat Cyclist! He was so excited to see the Adventure Monkey that he came right over and asked to have a picture with me. No wait that’s not quite how it happened. He saw a fat bike with aero bars and came over to see what in the hell that was all about. He even asked to ride it. It, not me, made the Fat Cyclist blog (scroll to the bottom). I had to get a picture with him. I love his blog and it kept me smiling through some dark times at my old job.
We cleaned up and came back to the important part of the day – the after party. But this wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I am single now. My buddies did not approve of what I threw on. I guess I needed tighter shirts and hipper clothes. I don’t disagree but I have been out of the game for um, like 21 years or so, so cut me some slack.
First things first. I needed a picture with Rebecca.
I was good with just a quick shot standing next to her, but she said, “Should I get on your back or something for this?” Um hell yes! Before she jumped on she said,” Be ready, I am heavier than I look.” “Yeah muscle is pretty heavy,” I said before realizing that sounded terrible. She didn’t care and I got sweet pictures with the Queen of Pain. I will come ride way behind her anytime since there is absolutely no way I can keep up.
Could we get a little more cowbell?
After I took a picture with the amazing Rebecca Rusch I was ready for some food and drink. And I have to stop and say this about Rebecca. She is a class act. I never got to talk with her at the DK200 and being that she’s a cycling goddess and kind of a superstar, you never know what she’d really be like. She was a gracious host and a genuine person. What a sweetheart, off the bike anyway, she crushes while on the bike. She didn’t earn the title “Queen of Pain” for nothing. She put her heart and soul into this event and it showed. I for one want to be back next year. I know I said it was about the high percentage of women riders (like 30% instead of 10% usually seen) but I must commend Rebecca for inspiring women to get out there and feed their monkeys! I have a daughter and can’t wait to get her to something like this. She isn’t quite as crazy about cycling as me, but just give it time and role models like Rebecca.
After the awards ceremony the real games began. It is called Gelande Quaffing is may be the coolest beer drinking game I have ever witnessed.
I did not partake and it’s a good thing. I was still sick and usually a good night of alcohol poisoning drains the body of nutrients. But I did manage to have a great time.
But then, and it seemed awfully sudden, the party ended at like eight or nine in the pm. Looking around the park it was just us Kansas boys – Jeff, Dan the DK King, Collin, and myself. Oh and a full trashcan of PBR. Wait where’s Lelan? Funny story. He saw a nice looking lady out on the race course and ended up hanging out with her instead. I don’t blame him. Anyway, they just don’t know how to party like us Kansans. We kept the party going until we were driven out of the park by hunger. But hanging out with the Sunflower guys was quite a good time. Laughs all around.
We sort of recycled
We all had breakfast together the next morning and Dan gave a few PBR’s to Jeff. I was once again blowing my nose, sneezing and generally feeling sick. But all in all that weekend turned out to be a top 5 adventure for me.
We left, headed for Colorado. More driving. Next time I need to take more time to break up the driving because the driving about killed me, or I should say, the sitting in the car for 40-some hours did. We passed through some more beautiful country on the way.
Oh and there’s Jeff. Driving. Where’s Lelan? His new friend lives in Colorado. They drove together and Jeff and I drove together. I thought either that was a great thing or that cute girl would be wearing a Lelan suit later. She did ride a single speed through the mountains, so I am pretty sure she could overpower him if she wanted to. Anyway…yes Jeff should have worn some sunscreen.
We made it home, exhausted. We did stop in Colorado Springs to get some sleep at a friend of Lelan’s house. We planned on riding some single track out there but just wanted to get home. And when driving back to Emporia, eastern Colorado and western Kansas may be the most boring places on earth. But we made it and I was glad we did that trip. It was a great weekend. One I will not soon forget. My monkey was well fed.
Feed Your Monkey!