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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Good news/bad news

The bad news which, to be fair, isn't really bad news unless you're superstitious. You see, I've had some really good rides lately, which means I'm due for a bad one just in time for Cedar Cross. That would be a real disappointment because a) it's Cedar Cross!! and b) it's probably going to be my longest pre-Dirty Kanza ride.  On the other hand, if it's just the kind of bad that ends my day early, I'd have more time hanging out at the finish line with awesome people and getting to see the leaders finish, which never happens. In fact, by the time I finish, usually a lot of people are gone. So even the (potential) bad news isn't terrible.


The good news? Wow, do I feel good on a bike these days! Tour of Hermann was encouraging, and I had a great hilly 68-mile ride Sunday.  I'd planned to do a 3-hour mountain bike race followed up by 40 miles of gravel, but Mother Nature had different ideas and the race was rescheduled. Thankfully, I have flexible friends who worked around my last-minute change of plans. I met up with some of the Momentum crew at the lovely hour of 9 a.m.

Rolling down the Katy Trail
We started out on the nice, flat Katy Trail until we turned off on Terry Rd and rode up up up after a quick regroup there so Joe, who'd stopped in Defiance to refill his water bottles, could catch back up. Melanie and Doug, who'd started at 7 and had about 16 miles on us, decided to ride on in case the hill took them a while.

I, despite knowing the hill would take me a while, opted to wait for the other guys and was, unsurprisingly, the last one to the top.  Mickey rode back looking for me, but I wasn't as far back as usual.  When we reached the rest of the group, he just kept riding.  OK...I thought to myself, I guess I don't get a break... 

Finished summitting Duke and Terry Roads
Joe, who'd ridden from home and had quite a few miles in already, turned off after this section, and the rest of us headed through Defiance to Callaway Fork Rd.  I'd ridden this road a couple of times before, once last year and once on New Year's Day, and the first low-water crossing always makes me nervous.

Success back in January
While I successfully navigated the icy, algae-covered slab back on our New Year's ride, I wasn't so lucky this time. With a higher water and lower confidence, I made it about halfway across before my wheels slipped out from under me and I was suddenly lying in the water. The best thing about my pitifully slow reaction time is that I never have time to throw an arm out to catch myself, thus protecting my collarbone from injury.

As I got up, Melanie warned me that my water bottle had slipped the cage and was floating away. Before I could grab for it, I fell again on the slippery crossing, then waded in knee-deep water to retrieve the bottle from the creek. My hip and hand hurt where I'd landed on them, but all I could do was laugh at the Keystone Cops show I was putting on.  While trying to help me, Melanie also fell, so we were both soaked and shivering in the 50* morning air.

"Get back on that horse and ride..." Hitting my first low-water crossing after wiping out in one just a few minutes earlier. #momentumracing #tothelimit #cyclingstateofmind #dk200training #scexperts #ridinggravel
Entering the crossing with some trepidation before realizing it was (safe) loose rock instead of a slippery slab.
Once that drama was over, we continued up Callaway Fork Rd, encountering a few more low-water crossings on our way. I think we were both a little nervous as we approached them, but the remainder of the road was far less eventful than the first crossing.  Still, I was really happy to learn that our route wouldn't take us back that way. I had no desire to attempt the crossing again, on foot or on two wheels; in fact, I probably would have waded across the creek rather than the slippery bridge.

Callaway Fork Rd. is really pretty
Once at the top of Callaway Fork, we had about 6 miles of highway riding. My lack of comfort in a paceline was evident as I had a hard time maintaining a close enough distance to benefit from drafting. Despite the larger amount of traffic we encountered, every single car passed carefully, giving us wide berth, something that was the rule for the day.

Abandoned bridges are cool.
After checking out an abandoned bridge on the way, we rode towards Femme Osage Ridge Rd. When we rode here in January, I had to walk pretty early on the hill. Not this time!

At the top of the worst part of Femme Osage Ridge Rd.
Once you summit the steepest part of Femme Osage Ridge Rd, it proceeds to kick you when you're down with several more climbs before you emerge onto flattish gravel.  We turned from that back onto pavement. Mickey and Shaun were ahead while Doug, Melanie, and I chatted a little further back. Seeing the other two in the distance, I decided to see if I could catch them. It took probably 10 minutes and some seriously hard work, but I finally chased them down, much to their surprise.

We absolutely flew down Osage Ridge Rd, where I hit my new fastest speed on a bike -- 47.9 mph!! -- and were soon back on the Katy Trail and headed for lunch at the Augusta Brewery. Happily spying the Augusta smokestacks in the distance and enjoying the knowledge that I'd be eating in just a few flat miles, I was most unhappy when Mickey led us off the trail for some unnecessary hills; I actually waited to start until he was halfway up because I thought he was just messing with us. But no.

This hill is pretty short but much steeper than it looks, hence the pained expression on my face.
From here, we cruised down into Augusta, making a quick stop for people who needed to refill their bottles. I'd brought two on my bike plus one in my jersey, and between the cool morning temperatures and the faster pace (which made it harder for me to grab a bottle) I still had about half of my water left. As much as I'd like to do without a camelbak at Dirty Kanza, I'm going to have to really focus on staying on top of hydration without one.
Gatorade stop in Augusta
 We had a nice lunch in Augusta (though I did regret skipping my normal pulled pork in favor of a kind of dried out tenderloin kebab) until Mickey mentioned riding up into Klondike Park just to add in another hill. I'd had a pretty good day, but I was pretty much over hills, so Melanie and I decided to mutiny and just soft pedal along the Katy Trail until the boys caught up.

We rode back to the Hamburg Trail and then back up the hill towards the Mound. We'd all been relatively close until the uphill started, and when Doug and I reached the top Mickey and Shaun were out of my sight.  "Those guys really dropped the hammer, huh?" I remarked before deciding to see if I could chase them down again. I got close (it's easier to race when the other people don't know they're racing) but ran out of trail, reaching the parking lot about 20 seconds after the guys. My disappointment was eased by going home and seeing that I'd just ridden my fastest time on that segment...at the end of a hilly 68 miles.

Of course, I can't help but measure our ride against Dirty Kanza, so I have to note that our mileage would place us just past the first crewed checkpoint of the race, or just over 1/3 of the way finished.  Put another way, at 68 miles into Cedar Cross I'll still have close to 50 miles left to go. Somehow right now it's more exciting than scary to see how that plays out Saturday.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One-trick pony

It can't have been all that long ago that I considered myself a runner, but the most running I've done in the past couple weeks has been one terrible 5k training run and the semi-regular Couch to 5K training runs I've been doing with my nephew and his friend. Spring is always a bad time for running what with Dirty Kanza breathing down my neck, but I'm taking it to a new level this year.  On the other hand, I'm getting in plenty of bike time.

Jacob's Saturday soccer game didn't start until 11, so I planned to get up early, leave at 7, and get in a good 3.5 hours or so of riding before meeting Jeff at the soccer fields to watch the game. Instead I d-r-a-g-g-e-d myself out of bed, at a semi-leisurely breakfast, and headed out shortly after 8. Known for my tardy tendencies, I'm even worse with only myself to disappoint.

Heading out...
We have a great local trail system built on old railroad rightaways. Our county transit system is "rail-banking", basically, saving the trails for potential future light rail lines, but for now they provide us with around 100 miles of car-free biking. They're mostly flat and almost entirely asphalt-surfaced, both lovely things if you're out for a ride but not so much if you're training for a hilly gravel race. On the other hand, I'm pretty familiar with the trail system, and it's super convenient to just go out and ride a certain mileage without having to map out a road route.

Heading back on the one non-asphalt segment of trail.
Despite my above-referenced familiarity with the trails, I spent my last 11 miles thinking I was on a different trail than, in fact, I was. Still, they both ended up at the same basic point, so I wasn't exactly lost...just slightly misplaced.  I ended up riding 30 miles in a little under 2 hours, arriving home early enough to ride to the soccer fields with my guys (and see Jacob score two goals, which was pretty awesome as well).

Saturday night we had a trivia night with Daniel, his wife, and his in-laws. It was a very fun evening, made somewhat bittersweet by the fact that they're moving to Eugene, OR, in just a couple weeks.  I'm very excited for them; your early 20's is a wonderful time to explore the world and live different places. On the other hand, while they're closer than Nathan in Japan, Oregon won't be an easy visit. I love watching my adult kids grow up and live their lives, but I miss them.
Scenes from today's ride. A little rainy, but I'm not sweet enough to melt. Spring may be my favorite season! #bikes #ridinggravel #dk200training #buschwildlife
Rain makes the colors pop (as do Instagram filters)
Sunday morning Chuck and I had plans to ride a hilly 55 miles in the Defiance area, but a forecast threatening a 90% chance of precipitation and severe storms convinced us to keep our ride in closer proximity to our cars. It did indeed rain, but never hard enough to make it worth putting on a jacket. We ended up logging about 35 miles before calling it a day. Hardly big mileage, but a very enjoyable weekend of biking.

I'm now at 324 miles for April, already 4 miles above what I rode last April. I also (surprisingly) ended March 20 bike miles ahead of 2014. On the other hand, this February was 100 fewer than last year.  Still, maybe I'm closer to on track than I'd thought. That, combined with Tour of Hermann, makes me feel cautiously positive.

In other news, Trans Iowa V11 is going down this weekend. I'd sent in my entry for this 331-mile monster but been (semi) bitterly disappointed to have the rookie division fill up before my postcard arrived.  January and February's light bike training load left me more relieved than sad, and now the upcoming forecast has reinforced that sentiment.  97 hardy souls are currently slotted to attempt the beast, among them my friends Jim, Collin, Josh, and Don; teammates Pete and Jason; and Facebook stalk-ees Tim Ek, Greg Gleason, and Mike Jones.  When I'm not riding this weekend, you'll be able to find me turning my obsessive tendencies to the Mountain Bike Radio coverage of the event, and when I am riding, I'll be thinking of my crazy friends and the incredible stories adverse conditions are sure to write. Wish them luck!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Tour of Hermann

Scheduled about 90 days before Dirty Kanza, Tour of Hermann is perfectly timed to be both a hard weekend of training and a good gauge of where your bike fitness is.  Last year I arrived in some of the best shape of life and with solid training behind me; this year I'm carrying 10 extra pounds pounds and a mental bruise or two from my struggles at Death by Gravel.  A good showing in Hermann would be a huge confidence builder moving forward.

Saturday morning my desire to go completely deserted me, and I spent my drive contemplating the decisions in life that have led me to a place where I pay money to ride really hard roads for a hundred miles a day. I was strangely nervous about the weekend, and there was no good reason to be as freaked out as I felt.  I was going to be by myself, but I rode much of last year's race alone too, and while I enjoy talking to the people I meet along the way I'm comfortable on my own. I've ridden most of the course before; if it didn't go well I've never found walking hills to be the end of the world, and if it went really badly, there was SAG support available.

Checked in, number on, and zip ties trimmed by the Momentum teammate I'd just met.
Thankfully the nerves dissipated as soon as I pulled into Hermann City Park, which was packed with cars and familiar faces. I absolutely love the St. Louis area cycling scene, and the vibe at gravel events in particular is so friendly and low-key that you can't help but feel happy. I did as much socializing as preparation, but somehow I managed to be ready in time to get in the pre-race team photo.

Mickey, Shaun, Brian, Jeff, Joe, me
Mickey was planning a solo run (you can take the guy out of triathlon, but you can't take triathlon out of the guy...), Brian was riding with a couple of friends, and Shaun, Jeff, and Joe were planning to stick together for the day.  Being nowhere near as fast as the guys, I intended to ride my own race, making friends along the way as always.

I not only pose for my own pre-race selfies but also those of strangers.
Race director Jeff Yielding said some words and then led us out of town towards the Katy Trail. I chatted briefly with Josh before he cruised ahead to find his crew, and then I spent the next few miles catching up with Tracy, a Springfield-area cyclist who'd been an internet-only friend until we officially met in January.  Once we hit the road and started the first gentle climbs, he moved ahead and I continued at a comfortable pace, talking briefly with Charlie and Stoney as we rode near each other.

Look ma, no camelbak! Since Dirty Kanza will have more closely spaced water stops, I'm experimenting with just using water bottles and jersey pockets instead of the pack. Photo credit: Tracy Wilkins
The first climb is paved and not so terrible, and I'd just crested it and started to fly downhill when I shifted into the big ring and dropped my chain. I fixed that as quickly as possible and then set off, all too quickly coming to the monster gravel hill that I remembered from last year. It looks impossibly big, but since I'd ridden it last year I was committed to staying on my bike this time too.

Obviously not me, but it gives you an idea of the hill.
There's me! Photo credit: Dan Singer

I'd loaded the route onto my Garmin. Though the course was impeccably marked and I would have been fine without GPS it did add some entertainment/irritation, as the "time remaining" screen spent the entire weekend estimating my finish time based on 10 min miles. Even riding uphill I didn't deserve the 5.5 hour predicted time for the first 30 miles.

When I repeat a course, I always find the dichotomy between my memories and the reality interesting. I clearly remembered the hill pictured above but not the far bigger one about 17 miles in...until I got there, when I vividly remembered walking up it.  Not this year, though.  It was slow, but I stayed on the bike the whole time.

There was one big sweet, sweet downhill, followed by a paved climb where some guys who'd leapfrogged me earlier passed me once more, and then another, more gradual downhill that led back to the Katy Trail towards Hermann. I pushed to catch back up with the guys who'd passed me so I could draft along behind them, only to have my plans thwarted when they pulled up as soon as I reached them to regroup with their friends still behind them.

I felt great as I pulled through race HQ to have my first loop recorded and felt really good about my time, which as it turned out was very similar to my 2014 time. This year I had virtually no stopping (just to put my chain back on) and rode all the hills, as compared to 10 minutes stopped  and walking at least one big hill last year.

Loop 1
2014: 2:03:72 moving, 2:13 elapsed, 39.1 max, 13.3 avg.
2015: 2:11:14 moving, 2:12 elapsed, 40.9 max, 13.6 avg.
Elevation profile for loop 1.
Loop 2: 

I spent about 12 minutes total refilling bottles, stocking up on fuel, and stopping by the bathroom on my way back out of the park, not a quick transition but almost twice as fast as last year's 20 minutes. This loop started with a big paved climb I'd been dreading since the previous year. It just went on and on, but eventually I made it to the top and enjoyed some sweet downhill pavement until the course turned back onto gravel.

Unlike the smooth, packed gravel of the previous loop, this one was marked by thick, fresh gravel that required much more work to ride. I was plodding along, feeling maybe a little down on myself because it felt so hard, when I recognized a spot along the road where I'd stopped to take a break and stretch my back and aching hip. I know I was in way better shape last April, so reaching this same turn and feeling, overall, pretty good gave me a shot of confidence.

I definitely reaped the benefit of my increased comfort on downhills on this loop, which made the uphills not quite as terrible. Eventually I had to start walking some hills; that was slightly depressing but only slightly because I usually had a lot more pep once I got back onto the bike. I'd been playing leapfrog all day with a group of guys. They'd pass me on climbs, and then I'd get back ahead when the leaders stopped to regroup. The last I saw of them on the course was at the top of a sketchy gravel hill.

I'd reached that point that Jill Homer (I think) calls the zen of fatigue: you're so tired that you don't really care what happens to you. I let myself speed down the loose gravel, and though Jeff Sona's advice "Your bike wants to stay upright" echoed through my mind reassuringly I didn't even whimper it aloud as I descended.  That, my friends, is progress.

One downhill where I did not let it fly, though, was the one where last year a washout sent several people to the emergency room. I cautiously eased my way down, meeting Jonathan and Brandon (in whose selfie above I make a cameo appearance) as they finished fixing a flat at the bottom of the hill. We rode together and talked for a little bit, but they were stronger riders and pulled ahead before long.

Team Red Wheel's Stacy caught me several miles from the end of the loop. "No singlespeed this year, huh?" he asked, remembering my woes with last year's broken shifter. He was much stronger than me on hills and passed me by pretty easily, but my touring tires rolled faster than his mountain bike ones, so I eventually caught up with him again and we talked mutual friends and Cedar Cross until we hit the pavement back to the start/finish.

"How was it?" Jeff Yielding asked as I passed through the timing pavilion.
"You going back out again?"
"...I guess..."

Comparing my 2014 and 2015 times, I was 13 minutes faster this year, though my guess is all of that improvement is due to the fact that I had fully functioning shifters for the entire loop. I had 12 non-moving minutes this year compared to 18 last year. Better, but still a LOT of room for improvement.

Loop 2
2014: 3:13:38 moving, 3:30:56 elapsed, 36.2 max, 10.5 avg -- 6:03
2015: 3:00:07 moving, 3:12:14 elapsed, 38 max, 11 avg -- 5:35 

Loop 2 elevation profile
Loop 3

A multiple-loop race is a diabolical. It's so easy to quit when you get back to the start/finish, and loop 2 must be designed to make people question why they would want to ride any more hills when there's a lovely park...and fun people...and a cooler full of cold drinks right in their car.  While all of these things were tempting, however, their allure didn't outweigh the crap I knew I'd hear from my teammates if I bailed on the third loop for no good reason.

It took me 18 minutes to get back on the bike this time, but I'd promised myself that if I went out on loop 3, I could walk every single hill I wanted to without feeling bad. With that assurance and the knowledge that I only had another 33 miles to go (33 miles, that's just like a medium Trailnet ride), I grudgingly set off again, telling Stacy I'd see him when he passed me on the hills.  My timing was good, getting to see John, Greg, and Chris as they finished their second loops and Peat as he finished his third. Yes, 33 miles ahead of me. There are some seriously impressive people on bikes. I'm just glad to get to know them (and see them at the start line :D).

Loop 3 was a lollipop that started with about 5 miles of pavement, so I immediately subtracted the out and back mileage from my total miles. 10 miles of pavement barely counts, so now I only had 23 miles to ride...I'd just started and was practically halfway there. Fuzzy math is an important part of my mental game.

At the top of the first hill I walked on loop 3 (and not the last)
Stacy did indeed catch me walking up hills partway through, but he took pity on me and stuck with me. I'd been fine riding on my own, but it was SO nice to have good company and it made the time pass much more quickly.  I started taking the uphills personally about halfway through -- Seriously?? Another one?? -- but at the same time was thoroughly enjoying the day. The Hermann area is absolutely beautiful, the weather was glorious, and the downhills were super fun (except one that was really steep with a turn at the bottom...that was still a little scary).

While I'd been ambivalent about riding that third loop, I came into the start/finish feeling much better than after loop 2 and very glad I'd gotten back on the bike.

Loop 3:
2015: 2:52:38 moving, 3:08:10 elapsed, 41.2 max, 11.4 avg.

Loop 3
I got out of my bike clothes as quickly as possible and headed the few blocks to the Tin Mill Brewery to meet the guys, who'd finished way ahead of me and gone to eat. My pizza took forever to cook, but that's OK because I just at their leftovers.

Day 2/Loop 4:

After a hot shower and a good night's sleep and even with a freshly washed kit thanks to my wonderful teammate Jeff, the last thing I wanted to do was get back onto my bike.  Once again, a park full of awesome people lifted my spirits, as did handouts of slightly expired waffles and delicious maple syrup packets, the perfect compromise between a mid-ride pancake breakfast and the convenience of a gel pack. So good! I came home and ordered a box.

I reluctantly put my kit on and rolled my bike to the starting line next to my Team Virtus teammates. Bob, Robby, and Luke had come for day 2, and their company was reason enough to get back on the bike for another 52 miles. It didn't escape me that when I do Tour Divide it'll be 100+ mile days back to back for a few weeks and that maybe I need to toughen up a little, but that's still 6 years away.

The very first small hill out of time reminded me that, while my ass was complaining the most about the previous day's ride, my legs weren't fully on board with this day 2 plan. The 17-mile stretch of Katy Trail that followed, though, was actually surprisingly pleasant, filled with easy spinning and good conversation as Luke, Robby, Bob, and I rode near the Wild Trak crew and then with John and Greg as they rode their way back towards Kansas City.

Robby and I got ahead when Luke and Bob stopped to do a little mid-race mushroom hunting, but I didn't mind waiting to regroup at all.  A paved climb awaited us as soon as we turned off the Katy, and Luke and Robby's stronger climbing put them well ahead of us. We regrouped again at the top of the day's first gravel descent.

We all rolled together for a while, but Luke and Robby were so much faster that eventually we spread out again.  I rode on my own for a while before realizing how dumb it was for Bob and I to both be riding solo when it would be so much more fun to ride together. Best decision of the day.  I had so much fun, hanging out with Bob, and not just because he never fails to tell me how much better I am at descending than when he first rode with me.

It's so important to walk your bike regularly.
This was another seriously beautiful loop, and if I couldn't ride up all the hills, well...Bob was kind enough to walk them with me, spotting deer bones left and right while I was all "Look how green it is here!"

While rain and 10-15 mph winds had been in the forecast, we'd enjoyed a really nice day.  Overcast and slightly cooler than Saturday, the wind had been absent and the weather had been perfect for riding.  We met back up with Luke and Robby on the Katy Trail, where they were midway through an extra 10 miles to round out a metric century for the Cup o' Dirt Challenge.  Distant thunder added a bit of urgency to our pace, but the rain caught up a few miles from Hermann.

Briefly taking shelter in the tunnel and being glad that my status as a girl exempts me from "Caught peeing" photos.
The rain became a downpour as we rode onto Hwy 19 towards Hermann, tiny drops pelting us like needles in a ridiculous headwind that made the lovely flat pavement feel like a long uphill climb. It was the perfect weather to try out the awesome new Showers Pass jacket that was packed away in my car, so instead I pedaled and laughed about how ridiculous the weather was. Riding back into City Park as raindrops stung my face and tents flew across the park will certainly be up there in race memories.

Finishing! Photo credit: Andrea Boianoff
While I had another 15 or so minutes before the cut-off to ride the final 52 miles, I opted to be finished after loop 4.  I actually felt great and confident that I had another 50 miles in my legs, but I had no desire to spend the next 5 hours alone and then ride into an empty park, only to drive myself home.  Even though I was a quitter, I still ended up with a bottle of wine for riding farther than I did last year and finishing in the crazy rain. 

Bob got wine because...well, because he's Bob.
Even riding at a chill pace and making liberal stops, I rode this loop nearly 20 minutes faster than last year. Of course, last year my semi-fixed shifter re-broke halfway through, leaving me riding a virtual singlespeed, so that likely accounts for the majority of the difference. That 43.2 max speed, though, is my new speed PR. 

Loop 4
2014: 4:42:50 moving, 5:40:27 elapsed, 39.6 max, 11.2 avg
2015: 4:24:34 moving, 5:25:25 elapsed, 43.2 max, 11.8 avg. 

Loop 4

The guys and I put on dry clothes (all except Bob, who hadn't brought other clothes) and headed for some delicious Mexican food.  Once we were finished and they were all ready to head home, I drove back to City Park to see the Momentum guys (all of whom rode the full 200 miles. They are SO ready for Dirty Kanza) finish...and then go to dinner with them.

This two teams thing could get hard on my waistline.
So...awesome, fantastic weekend. Tour of Hermann is a great event and a great deal -- $40 for two days of racing/riding on some of the best gravel roads around. And while I didn't ride the full 200 miles, riding 148 miles and feeling confident that I had another 50 in me was vastly more encouraging than struggling through Death by Gravel. I still have plenty of work to do, but I'm feeling pretty good about my chances in Kansas this May.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pedaling for pancakes, biking for BBQ

With memories of last weekend's butt kicking chafing me like a cheap chamois, I had a bike-heavy spring break calendar. Thursday's mountain bike ride with Jacob and Friday's mountain bike ride with Luke and Casey were both scratched due to wet weather, so Saturday's sunny forecast was a big relief.

I met up that morning with Joe and Pete for a 60ish mile gravel ride on the Katy Trail. Though it's lovely, the flat Katy can wear on you: with no hills to get you out of your saddle on the way up or give your legs a break while coasting down, long rides can be more punishing than you'd expect. For these reasons, it's definitely not my first choice for a training route, but Joe's plan for a midpoint pancake stop won me over.

We rolled out right on time (since I don't know most of my new teammates well enough to be late), hoping the 34* temperature was going to rise more quickly than predicted.  I was particularly chilly, having loaned out my tights the previous weekend under the assumption that I probably wasn't going to need them any time soon.  Within a mile or so, pedaling had warmed me enough that I stayed comfortable as long as we were moving.

Pete and Joe rolling down the Katy. It's hard to tell from the picture, but spring is finally starting to make a green dent in the flat browns we've had since winter began.
Taking a quick break at the Weldon Spring trailhead, we were surprised to see Shaun race up, having chased us for the past 14 miles.  The next 16 miles passed fairly quickly with Dirty Kanza talk and general conversation, though I definitely felt draggy towards the end of our outbound leg.  There wasn't much breeze, just enough to make the open trail past Augusta feel like work, and I spent the last few miles looking hopefully ahead for signs of Dutzow.

The Dutzow Deli finally emerged in front of us, and if heavenly light didn't actually spotlight it while angels sang hymns, it was still a most welcome sight. As happy as I was to get off of my bike seat, I only realized how chilled I was once we'd stopped. Service was none too quick, but I was perfectly happy to relax in a comfortable chair, cuddling my mug of hot chocolate for warmth until the food arrived.

Digging in

And it was delicious.  Eventually, with clean plates and no excuses, we headed back out to our bikes and turned back towards St. Charles.  Fueled by pancakes and boosted by a gentle tailwind, our return trip was a bit faster than the outbound leg, and we even got to shed a layer during a brief stop at Augusta. The pace picked up a few miles from our finish line, and we cruised along between 17 and 19 mph. I could manage the pace while on someone's wheel but eventually shook loose after one too many times slowing to negotiate the progressively busier trail.

I had 63 miles on my Garmin when I arrived back into the parking lot, my first unassisted metric century of this year...or, to look at it another way, just about to the first crewed checkpoint of Dirty Kanza...where I'm thinking they could make a killing selling me some pancakes.

Sunday was Easter, where the only real activity I had was running my nephew's C25K workout with him (a story for another post) on a full stomach and playing a few rousing rounds of finger rocket wars, where the takeaway was that you don't want me on your side in a "combat" situation.  I'd been watching the forecast pretty closely, though, because I was really excited about the bike plans I had for Monday.

Ever since having to bail early at the MLK ride because of thawing trail conditions, I'd wanted to get back down to Berryman to ride the whole loop again.  Jacob was back at school, so I took advantage of my last day of break to plan a return trip.  My wonderful oldest son (adult children rock) came over to stay with Jacob until he could be dropped off at school so I could head out bright and early to meet Dave and carpool to Berryman.

We met up with Luke and Amanda, who had also managed to be free that day, and set off down the trail in disorientingly nice weather. The vast majority of my Berryman rides have been MLK weekend, typically featuring snow and ice.  The trail was in awesome shape, and if I didn't feel great on the initial uphills, at least I could spin my inner dialogue from I'm in such bad shape! to This is great training!

Amanda was feeling the after effects of a long dirt bike race on Saturday yet continued to get stronger the longer we rode.
Dave, sporting his new BOR jersey, and Luke
My mental warmup took as long as the physical one, but eventually I started to feel better on uphills and really enjoy the downhills.  I still bail on things that I know I could ride if I just went for it, but at least I fell a couple times riding things instead of while trying to stop and walk them, which is often the way my falls happen.

Slow speed topple on a rooty uphill switchback. It's not a good ride unless someone's bleeding, right?
We enjoyed a chill pace and liberal stops.

Mandatory break at the artesian well.
The forecast had called for a chance of storms in the afternoon, but though we had several periods of heavy clouds and the kind of breeze that just seems like it's ushering in a deluge the weather stayed fantastic. It's hard to imagine a nicer day to ride unless it featured an absence of horse droppings and horsed-up sections of trail. 
The kind of day I'd been longingly picturing while suffering through Death by Gravel
The hills definitely hurt, but the downhills were worth all of the climbing.  We took another longer break after the awesome descent to Brazil Creek, and thought I dreaded up uphill riding to come most of it wasn't that awful and was thankfully broken up with some fun descents.  By the last few miles (or what I hoped were the last few miles due to a 2-mile gap between my Garmin and Luke's), I did start to dread downhills because I knew we'd just have to climb back up.


I consoled myself with thoughts like, if we only have 6 miles left, and 1/3 is uphill, 1/3 is downhill, and 1/3 is flat (clearly from the elevation profile "flat" was a happy delusion), then we're practically finished with the climbing.  That may have been slightly more comforting to everyone else than my repeated assertions that "I'm sure that was the last uphill...OK, I'm sure THAT one was!" I was pretty sure I was wrong, but it still made me happy to pretend that the climbing was over.

My last several miles were fueled by the knowledge that we'd be hitting up Missouri Hick for some delicous BBQ, and once we finished and changed we made a beeline for Steelville and lunch. Amanda lived in the opposite direction, but Dave, Luke, and I thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

The exact same meal I'd eaten just over a week ago after Death by Gravel.
Two great weekend rides and two awesome meals. I'm not a fan of using food as a reward in my classroom, but it's pretty effective for me!