Thursday, June 7, 2012

Change > The Endurance Experience

Hello friends.

Some of you knew this was coming; I've hinted at this in other posts. Gravel Quest is being replaced. The thing is, I ride a lot more than gravel. Now that Dirty Kanza is over I'm excited about switching to the 29er again. I've got a summer full of trail plans and I'm already thinking of doing some backpacking somewhere along the way. I met my two goals for this site (share routes to help others and meet people with common love for dirt roads and trails) and I've also come to enjoy the writing process. The common themes here are bikes and endurance and I want something that I won't outgrow anytime soon. Thus I present to you The Endurance Experience. All the content that was here, is now there so nothing is lost. I am still tweaking and revising content, but the heavy lifting is done.

EE on FB
whether you love or hate Facebook, clicking the "like" on the pages of other websites and organizations has become an easy way to follow what's happening. I get snippets of my friends, websites, organizations and businesses all in one place. The Endurance Experience has a Facebook page as well. If you go to The Endurance Experience Facebook page and click like you'll have a way of following what happens. Not tons of postings there, but when I update the EE site I'll put a link on FB. This also means I no longer have to put these links on my own personal FB page.

The fate of the Gravel Quest blog
I debated deleting this or maintaining it for all the gravel things I'll continue to do. In the end I decided that the best thing for me is to have gravel specific sections of the new site. That way it's all in one place. I won't be deleting Gravel Quest anytime soon, but I will stop updating soon. EE will have all the gravel content you love and it will have endurance MTB content, reviews and my random musings on other topics. I've been contacted by some other site owners so you may see your author's writing cross posted other places as well.

Switching Teams - or why WordPress
I want to have a little better site organization so that it's easier to find content. Blogger is a great tool, and very easy to begin, but it doesn't quite give the power to design the site architecture for something more than a traditional blog. A full website will work best, but it's more work and more $. I've moved to WordPress for it's enhanced abilities. With The Endurance Experience domain name secured I'll easily be able to switch to a full website some day if I decide it's really needed. Right now WordPress does everything I need.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Dirty Experience: DK200 2012

This is going to be rather different. I did not take any photos. This is the one long event where I wanted to actually race and I knew the camera would become a time suck. Instead I saved my energy and focus for pedaling. So instead of a long rambling narrative about how each mile went I'll give you a semi-sequential perspective of thoughts that passed through my head at various points.

Leg 1

  • Damn, I forgot the map of leg one in the motel room.
  • Wow these guys are fast!
  • (standing up) Is that the front? How far back am I? Is the group splitting up yet?
  • Why is that guy riding towards us?
  • 3 minutes pass
  • Now why is this second guy riding towards us? "Wrong way?" Response "Yeah, you're off course."
  • Why didn't I ask the first guy that?
  • "Hi, are you Matt?" Yup.
  • (Pass Chamois Butter crew.)
  • Oh, this must be the big hill I saw in the elevation profile. Nice views.
  • Da na na na, na na, na na. Can't touch this. Why is MC Hammer in my head? Must be this fun rough descent.
  • Ouch! Bottoming out on this rough descent. I need to back off or I'll crush these rims.
  • That rear sounds a bit flat-ish. (Stops to add air)
  • There go those Chamois Butt'r guys
  • 10 min pass
  • Ha! Caught the Chamois Butt'r crew
  • That rear sounds a bit flat-ish again. (Stops to try adding air, uses up another CO2, gives up on hoping the Stan's will seal, adds tube. Press on.)
  • Gee, everybody has been really great about asking if folks need help when they flat.
  • Sigh, there go the Chamois Butt'r guys again.
  • I should have added more air pressure.

Leg 2

  • This really isn't a ride, it's a race. There seem to be a big number of folks "racing" this year and not just doing it to finish. 
  • Hello Chamois Butt'r. This is like some crazy Easter Sisyphean torture - The CB kit looks like an Easter egg and I keep collecting the eggs only to lose them later and have to collect them again. Sheesh.
  • Ya know those CB team guys are probably the nicest team I've meet. Really they're genuinely just really friendly. :)
  • I kinda suck at riding in a pace line. Not like I've ever done it before, but I really could improve here.
  • Aaaaaaaaacck! (A wasp or bee or something ran into me and immediately stung me!)
  • (5 minutes later) Ow, F#$&! What the hell is that! (Something different was inside my jersey and under my bib strap and biting or stinging me. Pulled over to remove the bugger. Press on.)
  • 40c seems to be the sweet spot for tire size. Not required, but it would allow me to go a lot faster on some sections and be slightly less careful selecting a line.
  • Huh, I haven't looked looked anywhere other than 20 feet down the road for the last 30 miles; I wonder if the scenery was worth a look?
  • Ok. I think the flint of the Flint Hills is a bit overrated. The roads are certainly rockier than I expected, and that's something I didn't account for, but the rock doesn't seem as heinous as a lot of folks have made it out to be. A pinch flat seems like a bigger issue than getting a sliced tire from a razor sharp rock. ...or I'm just cashing in a bunch of good karma chips I suppose.
  • (entering Florence, KS) Man this place is all boarded up. half these buildings are abandoned. Did the zombie Apocalypse happen on that last leg?

Leg 3

  • got hot.
  • Why is the gravel here so bright? Perhaps I should have used darker lenses in my glasses.
  • Riding solo in the second half, in the heat, means riding in the hurt locker - much more focus on what hurts.
  • (after catching Paul Errington) Hi Paul. 
  • Having good company keeps focus less on the brutality of it all.
  • I'm not hating this, but I'm not sure if I'm 'enjoying' it.
  • There are far more B roads than I expected.
  • I'm tired. It's hot. My feet hurt. My hands hurt. (repeat)
  • Oh, a stream! I'd like to put my feet in there! That would be nice.
  • (at 8:50) This isn't good. Usually food starts to taste like poo at 9 hours and I've still got a long way to go.
  • (Entering CP3) These people cheering me on are pretty darn cool. I'm pretty wasted though. I hope they see my half hearted wave and feeble smile as exertion and don't think I'm a jerk. I don't really have the sauce to react fast enough to wave before I pass some of them. 
  • Me not think so well right now. (At he last CP after garbeling a few words and forgetting something 3 or 4 times)
  • PB&J tasts WAY better than anything in my feed bag right now.
  • I'm so glad Eric and Nick are there at the CPs supporting me. That really helps a lot. (as I write this - I think I said that to Eric at every CP! I wonder how I looked to them at this one as I fumbled around?...)

Leg 4

  • This rail trail is nice, but why did we leave it for gravel only to cross it two more times??? Perhaps it's a sinister plan to keep us out of the shade...
  • I could easily be pushing a bit harder and easily do this in under 14 hours. 
  • Aero bars. Next time I need aero bars.
  • Company makes the ride more pleasant. Sometimes I'm coasting waiting, sometimes I'm struggling to keep up. I wonder if I would be faster solo, or if this is actually faster?
  • Would I want to just push myself the whole time? The company is nice and I really enjoy that experience. I feel conflicted on this point more than any other. 
  • Huh. My legs don't hurt that much, but my hands and feet are killing me. (It's the reverse 2 days post race)
  • Should we be drafting? Ride side by side is more social...even if we're both tired and not talking. It's solidarity. 
  • Wow, even the tiny seams at the edge of my chamois are starting to rub me wrong.
  • Somehow I seem to be doing just fine on the hills still but the flats seems a like a lot of effort.
  • Oh neat! A little town.
  •  ...are we supposed to be on pavement here? Perhaps we should check the map. (checks and turns back around to the little town)
  • Strange that I don't have a craving for any particular food. Usually I'm dreaming of ____ for the last 50 miles.
  • Sigh...these miles aren't rolling by fast enough.
  • I reallllllllly want a root beer. Ice cold. Yeah root beer. 


  • Wow!!! The folks honking and cheering are great! This is awesome. 
  • (one of the race directors to me) "Do you have support here?" (ME) I don't know if they're here yet. "Here let me take your bike. I'll put it here. Can I get you a Coke. Do you want to sit in the grass? I'll be right back, you just stay there."  Hmmm I must look not so good right now. (Lays back in the grass, slightly panting.) I feel like I could very easily pass out right now. Should text Eric and ask for stretcher. 
  • (Hearing riders come through the finish) Hey I know that name! I read their write up of a previous DK ride. Hey that person is from Colorado. 
  • That Coke helped a lot! I want another.

After the finish

So, yeah. That was it. I never really felt like quitting and always knew I would make it. I was surprised by a few things and learned several things. A friend at the finish commented that he was "One and done." I tend to agree...mostly. The DK was a great event but there are simply so many other events and places I want to ride. Seriously training for something this long takes a lot of time and means skipping out on many other things. I really had to take it this seriously this year because of my lack of experience and fitness. It worked and I'm quite happy with how well I did. My goal was 15 hours, and I finished in 14:22. Not bad.

The only reason I would come back is to be competitive. I could have  pushed and gone faster. I also could have done slightly quicker turnovers at the checkpoints. I honestly think I could reduce my time by at least 30-45 minutes at my current physical ability. In the road and weather conditions of this year I might have been able to hit 13:30 if time was my sole focus. I was actually really surprised at this. On the other long rides I averaged 13.8 mph, and at DK it was 15.2! A big bump. It's even more surprising to know I could have done sub 14.

With another year or two under my belt my speed and endurance will naturally increase. Heck if I go again in 2014 that would literally double my time riding! Hopefully I'll also have my nutrition completely dialed in by then too (so I can find something I can still eat after 10+ hours). All of which would help me go even faster. So, will I ever go back? I don't have any immediate plans, but if I did it would be with an eye on the podium.

Survivor's guilt

I feel just a little bad. I really don't think I suffered too much out there. Everything I read about DK made me believe that it was a long evil road covered in razor wire traversing hell's hottest and most remote acres where demons would sneak up and dash any and all remaining hopes with monsoon rain, lightning to frighten the keys off Franklin and winds to blow you into Missouri. The truth is, that wasn't my experience at all.

I do realize how seriously lucky I was to run this race for the first time in near perfect conditions. There was vary little wind, the temps were not above 90 and there was not a drop of rain all day. To top it off we did have a light rain the night before which kept the dust down and improved the roads. On the other hand, it was still over 200 miles, the flint and rocks were still there, and there were still over 200 people who did NOT finish. I had a flat but it was nothing like the sidewall tear and multiple flats experienced by folks like Tim Eki. Really with a bit more tire pressure I could have avoided even this flat (i.e. it was operator error).

I don't feel guilty really. I'm quite happy that the weather turned out so well. I've had some (i.e. multiple) incredibly horrendous experiences climbing that were all out epic sufferfests and literal near death experiences. So yeah, I fell just fine about a mild sunny day. My performance out there does however make me think of "what next".

Fortes fortuna adiuvat 

I think I made the decision to do DK 2012 sometime in January. Previous to this I was familiar with the event, but the distance and reputation made me think I wasn't ready, and wouldn't be ready to tackle something with the reputation that DK has (See Survivor's guilt above). I've only been riding just over a year. Is that too soon to do this? I pushed and went big at the High Cascades 100 as my first year riding goal. I finished, but paid for it with an avulsion fracture. For some reason I went for it. It helped me to have a big goal (a BHAG if you will).

"Chance favors the prepared mind" - Louis Pasteur
I found a training plan. I rode my ass off. I passed up invitations to go on fun MTB rides in Moab and Buffalo Creek so I could focus my training. I nervously worried about and experimented with my nutrition. I got a bike that worked for me. I researched the hell out of tires, equipment, and the experience of other riders. I went in so prepared that there really were very few surprises. I got damn lucky that I went with two great folks who did an amazing job of supporting me at the CPs and were a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with. It all worked.

I have a few other races this summer and I have R2G2 in the fall. I've decided to keep R2G2 as is for this year and have the full 200 next year (the history of this idea here). Doing the full 200 will be a gonzo goal, one that will be a big effort filled with a little suffering, but it's doable. After DK I'm already reevaluating myself and my abilities. I have a very interesting project I'm now involved with that involves foreign travel, stage racing, economic development, and a route section with the ominous name "the soul collector". For me that's not the gonzo goal. Will it be the AZT 300? Coconino? the CTR? I'll make that decision in the coming months, but there will be something big and it will probably involve fatter tires and an overnight.

Monday, June 4, 2012

DK 2012 - By the numbers

Dirty Kanza 2012 is over, and I have my finishers pint glass. It was an interesting topsy turvy experience for many different reasons. I have a lot of mixed feelings so it'll take a few days before I have a full report up here. For now, I'll give you the short version by the numbers:

0 - Number of photos I took
1 - number of things I forgot in the hotel room (the map of Leg 1)
2 - number of times I missed course marking and went off route
2 - number of times I stopped to fix a tire issue
14:22:01 - my official finish time (goal was 15hrs)
18 22* - my place in the men's open (of 159)
40 45* - my place in the overall results (46? registered, 267 finished)
70 - approximate number of miles I rode with Paul Errington of Newcastle, UK

mid-80's - high temps for the day
206.2 - Total miles at the end.

*early results missed some folks, so I bumped down a bit.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Good to go

All packed, new tires seated tubeless, new chain, clean, pretty and 6 fresh tubes ready to tackle the flint. Yup, we're good to go here. See you after DK or at the starting line. Enjoy the porn

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

going farther...

Last weekend I didn't get to scope the full route for R2G2 due to some mechanical issues in the car. But I did get to scope the first leg - it's pretty damn awesome and I'm very excited about it. I've thought of doing a shorter version to attract more folks, but with Dirty Kanza coming up I had another idea, and I'd love some feedback.

The gravel race scene is exploding. There must be over 100 events now. The thing is, most of them are in the Midwest and remarkably similar in style and length. I love riding among the cows and farms, but the stuff I saw on the SPDF and in my R2G2 scouting trip is radically different; it's really something special. I'm also seeing that big and gonzo attracts a certain crowd, but those events with the most mystique are in Kansas/Iowa/Minnesota. Why not have something truly incredible here? Something that's an enormous challenge. Something very different from the gravel on DK200, Almanzo, Trans Iowa etc. Something that's worthy of the name "epic" - a true test of endurance that will attract a wider crowd willing to test their mettle. It's not to say that these events aren't great, but the point is rather to say, "Hey, thanks for the inspiration. You've got some great stuff there. We do too, and it's pretty different. Are you up to testing yourself on our alpine gravel?"

Right now the R2G2 is 170 miles, which is a big day. But for some reason we're attracted to numbers and 200 has a more worthy sound to it. Add in that it would be mostly over 8000ft and include probably around 18k of gain and the list of folks for whom this is a reasonable route dwindles; for the rest of us this would be a massive challenge.

 To this end I present the routes I've developed:

Elevation Gain*
Rampart 200
Rampart 170
Rampart 140
*all of these are likely UNDER estimated. 

These are all solid. Barring a forest fire they are all on open, maintained roads. I am trying to contact some private land owners so that I can run the route past the Bucksnort Saloon, which is simply a cool place along a pretty amazing road. I'm not sure if this year is or is not the best time to do this. I'd do the 200 starting at 4am and expect to finish around midnight (my own personal time estimate) - that's a lot of night riding in late September. End of June might be preferred. Of course late Sep means all the Aspen are changing (bonus) and the dark would add to the challenge - a la Vaportrail 125. This could go under the Endurance series heading, but I could see this also being something a bit different at some point. I'd also kinda want to change the name a bit. Something that throws down the gauntlet. Perhaps the Rocky Mountain High Gravel Challenge. One option is to have all these as options - another is to only have the 200 (my preference). 

So this is where my brain is going... Any thoughts, opinions? Think I'd get folks to do this? September vs June? Do it this year? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

R2G2: Scouting Leg 1

We're getting down to the wire on DK. By this time next week I'll be back here, the race will be over and I'll be on to other things. Ironically the race it self doesn't seem like it's as big a deal anymore. My training has been going so well that I although I know 200 miles in the heat will be an endurance challenge, I know it's well within my range. I suppose something else that reduces my enthusiasm for DK is my excitement about other things. I was beginning to get a little burned out on the long distance gravel. This scouting mission was just the ticket to bring that back. Since I wanted to do very little riding I left the bike at home to avoid temptation.

I had planned to drive down through Woodland Park Saturday check out the town, get some details about resources etc, then drive the first half before camping and driving the second half on Memorial Day. Well, since I didn't get my CV joint fixed last week I was only able to do a day of driving - I didn't like the sounds I was hearing and I didn't want to risk needing to call for a tow way out there. I was able to get some good info on our start location.

The first leg up Rampart Range Road (RRR) is pretty awesome. There is just a bit of pavement for the first 5 miles or so and an initial climb accompanies this. Up on the ridge there are many miles of scenic views, rocky crags, and quaking aspens. This is gonna be pretty darn cool in late September when the leaves are beginning to change.

RRR is very well maintained. There are a few lengthy sections of washboard, but it always looked as though a bike could find a smooth path. There were also several sections that were a bit more rough, but they never lasted very long and a cross bike still seemed plenty adequate. It's hard to tell exactly what shape the road will be in over the next four months. I've seen a road near Mead go from loose fresh gravel with washboard to concrete hard and smooth in the span of a month.

Coming down towards the Platte River I found that The Sprucewood tavern should still be open from 11am-8pm when we're racing. You'll only hit it around the 40 mile mark, but it's nice to know it's there in case something happens. Going down Pine Creek Road is an interesting affair. There's a half mile section that pitches down at a 15% grade with a cliff to fall off on the left and rock walls on the right. It's over quick and you're rewarded with a very gentle grade in the amazingly gorgeous Platte River Canyon. The current plan is to go through Foxton to Buffalo Creek, which is rather nice, if paved. However, I'm working on contacting some private land owners to see if they'll allow us to roll on their road. It'll will take us past the Bucksnort Saloon on one of the most amazing jaw dropping roads out anywhere.

For now enjoy the images and some damn good reasons to be excited about the backroads here.

The steep bit on Pine Cr Rd. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Dirty Kanza is rapidly approaching. It's relax, taper, recover from SPDF time for me. There won't be many ride posts till after Kanza, but I'm sure I'll have a few things to blather about. For those of you so inclined,  there is now a live streaming of Dirty Kanza - at least of the beginning and the end. I don't expect you'll see full live race coverage like on Le Tour, but it's a start. Times include Friday 6/1 at 6:30 (I assume local) and race day 6/2 at 5:30am from the start line, and 6:30pm at the finish line.

Free live streaming by Ustream

I'm actually rather surprised that this is happening, but it should make interesting viewing. Well, for those of us involved it 'll be interesting to see and reminisce when we're old and sodden, waxing about the days when we used to be hard. So long as they don't run me into a fence I'm ok with pretending I'm a celebrity.