Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Gran Fondo Ephrata 2024 - Dwaine

My race calendar included Gran Fondo Ephrata as a 'B' event. It fell at the right point in my training calendar to be a test of my fitness level as my May 'A' events drew near.

Anthony and Thomas and I hoped for a three man Fell Swoop gravel team time trial but Thomas' recent illness sank that plan. Anthony and I planned to stick together until at least the three devils at mile 60 and then see how the chips fell.

The course profile of Gran Fondo Ephrata starts with a kick to the face. The first climb starts just a few minutes into the race and lasts about fifteen minutes. Anthony felt more eager than I and he went up the road with another forty or so riders. I knew what I could tolerate and what I couldn't. I held just over 300 watts for that first sector of the climb.

A short paved descent connects the first and second climbing sectors. A rider near me was motivated to chase on the descent and I reluctantly joined the rotation. We quickly caught Anthony and a few other riders.

The second sector of the climb is paved, lasted a bit over 20 minutes, and Anthony chose a lower effort that allowed me to hold his wheel to the top. We crested onto the rolling gravel flats within a large group. It felt like victory to me. Last year I crested with a solid group but was so spent I couldn't hold the wheels at the top.

A mile later I was surprised when Anthony let me know he would drop off this group. I let him know I had to hold these wheels and hoped he wasn't too disappointed in my choice.When we started the gravel descent it became evident there were only two riders who weren't touching their brakes. I didn't get a name but I could always identify the other descender by his yellow hydration back pack. Every technical or steep bit found yellow pack man and I rolling to or off the front.

But rolling to or off the front was not where I wanted to be. I wanted to hide in the middle. Because riding at the front on this sector wasn't very friendly.

Our group had grown to about 20 riders. Five of them were motivated to take turns pulling down the loose gravel of Baird Springs road. One of the five was pretty vocal about his wishes. I did occasionally join the five and take a few short pulls but that was not enough to prevent the ire nor verbal abuse from the most vocal of the five.

At another interesting moment I was riding third wheel. The rider in second slowed a bit and I overlapped to his left. I put my hand on his hip to let him know of my presence. When he finished his pull he barked 'Keep your hands on the bars!'. I was speechless. He barked again so I responded with a cheery 'You betcha' while looking straight ahead, taking my pull, and trying to hide my eye roll.

Fortunately the demeanor of the group improved when we reached the pavement. At least half of us were taking pulls and the train was moving along nicely. We also picked up a few stragglers.

At the mile 40 aid station our group split with about fifteen of us skipping the aid station and starting right into the false flat of Palisades road. It took a mile or two of coaxing but soon enough every rider was participating in a rotating paceline. Fifteen strong riders made for light work and we were at the base of the Three Devils before we knew it.

The Three Devils is a series of gravel climbs that come 60 miles into the 85 mile race. This is where pacelines and comaraderie often go out the window and it's every climber for themself.

A few riders expressed their exasperation about the first pitch of the Devils. I hadn't spoken much to my fellow riders up to this point and decided to break my silence with a joke. I shouted "We'll regroup at the top, right?" and received a hearty round of laughter. The laughter faded quickly as the climbing took it's toll. I dug deep and was about the fifth rider to crest.


By the second pitch the strongest climbers had reformed to a group of eight. Every rider, myself included, knew the importance of finishing these climbs in company. When the final climb was finished we still had a strong group of eight riders and went right back into rotation.

As we approached the final aid station at mile 64 I started the water stop strategy conversation. Except there was no conversation. Every other rider planned to skip the aid station. One rider pointed out I had an extra bottle in my back pocket. True. But I wasn't sure it was enough. Another rider said my third bottle would be plenty to get me to the finish. Maybe. A third rider said we were most of the way to the finish and the remainder of the race would be easy. Definitely Not.

At mile 67 we were back onto gravel and at mile 69 the wheels began to loosen. Three riders quietly dropped off the back. Implosion occured at mile 72.The two strongest riders rode off the front. Rachel was riding third wheel and I was fourth. I quickly shared with her that the two going up the road were too strong for me and that I would rather stick with her and Zak instead of trying to bring the two stronger riders back. We made just one more rotation before Zak took a strong downhill pull and Rachel lost connection.

Once the dust had settled I shared with Zak that he was stronger than me. I wouldn't be able to help much until we got to the pavement. He was OK with that. I did take one short pull but mostly I rode his wheel and kept my legs spinning.

During this sector we were sharing the course with the Medio riders. I recognized Mike G as we approached and yelled 'Hey Mike G' and flashed him a shaka as we rode past. Then I immediately put both hands back on the bars.

The final gravel climb is not too steep nor too long. But our legs were pretty spent by the time we arrived. To my surprise Zak said he was 'done'. I shared my prediction that he would reconnect once back to pavement. He did. For the final paved run into the finish Zak did the majority of the work. I was quick to let him know I appreciated his work and wouldn't fight him for finish position. We finished without drama in positions 32 and 33.

My finish time for the 2024 Gran Fondo was a personal best and five minutes faster than my previous PB. I was really happy with my performance. And I was truly wrecked. My legs hurt too much for a cool down ride. I was walking crooked. I left everything I had on the gravel roads in and around Ephrata Washington.

In the hours that followed I evaluated what I did well this year. In summary I think I simply avoided the big mistakes. I stayed within my own means on the first climb. I worked the hardest when it was in service of staying with other strong riders. I worked in the pacelines to show my commitment but never more than I could sustain to the finish. I came prepared with enough food and water to have freedom to choose my stops. And, when it mattered most, I kept my hands on the fucking handlebars.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

2023-09-09: Les Becker's LOTOJA 2023 Experience

 LoToJa 2023

When I first heard about LoToJa, the ride from Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming, it was intriguing, but in my mind was a non-starter due to the magnitude. It is 207 miles long with 8,800 feet of climbing, like a RAMROD and STP combined. But as I have done more riding in Utah and meeting other riders here, I have learned that it is the iconic ride of the area. It began in 1983 when two riders in Logan wanted a race that resembled the difficult European classics. One of them was the owner of Sunrise Cyclery in Logan and the starting line is still in front of that shop. I think he is still the owner. So it grew in popularity and now it is a USAC-sanctioned race for about half of the 1500 participants and the rest are Cyclosportive riders, like me, distributed into age categories. As the web site states “Cyclists must conquer three mountain passes as they pedal through scenic terrain in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming en route to a finish line below the rugged Tetons at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.”


Sunrise Cyclery, Logan, UT

Two years ago I began to wonder if I could possibly do this massive ride. There were many challenges to consider. Conditioning was just one. Also, they recommend personal support crews to meet their riders at the feed zones for quick hand-offs of food and drink. I didn’t have this and didn’t know if the neutral support tables would be adequate/efficient. Also, how do I return to Logan after finishing? There is no shuttle. And would this ride fit with my family’s schedule for being in Utah? After much contemplation, I pulled the trigger and began training and planning in 2022 for the event which is always the first Saturday after Labor Day. I planned on RAMROD and Rainiering to be good training rides for LoToJa, and preparation was progressing. Unfortunately, I cra***ed on RAMROD sustaining a couple stable pelvic fractures. Those healed uneventfully but the really awful neck, hip and back pains, which were largely an activation of existing arthritis took a lot of time and PT for recovery. It was two months before I could ride again and then I wasn’t sure if I would ever become flexible and pain-free enough on the bike to ride intensely. Through the winter I slowly improved and began Cyclopath riding again in early 2023. I saw a podiatrist for my Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot and got good inserts and bought wider bike shoes. My dry eye syndrome sometimes stings to degree that I have to stop my bike and apply drops. I saw an ophthalmologist, got some good advice and prescription drops. And my conditioning began to improve. So, hey, should I try LoToJa again this year? I sent in the registration fee again (prior fee non-refundable/non-forwardable…ugh) and began preparing. Then, in April, a large pick-up truck rear ended Cindy, reactivating severe low back pain that had been treated with major back surgery a few years ago. So the pain and anxiety with driving, especially unfamiliar mountain roads, prevented her from picking me up at the finish line in Jackson. So LoToJa became just a dream, not to be. But I kept riding just because it’s fun. Then our daughter, Molly, who lives in Utah, offered she and our grandson, Carter to be the driver and pick me up in Jackson. It would also give them some time looking around Jackson and seeing this stunning outdoor scenery. Hooray, back on schedule. I just felt bad that Cindy wouldn't be waiting at the finish line for me as she so wanted. In August, the 10,000 feet ride with Mike and Rainiering ride with Mike and Tom Gorczynski were key to getting me ready for the climbs in the Rockies. Conversations with riders I've met in the SLC area were helpful. And Rob Critchfield happened to be in Utah visiting family so was able to meet with me a week prior and gave me a detailed review of the ride as he had experienced riding it several times in the past. That was very helpful also.

                                                                   Me at start line.

Standing at the start line in Logan at dawn on September 9th with hundreds of other riders gave me nervous anticipation. Waiting to be called into the chute with my ride category, I realized that any one of the many obstacles during planning and training that I dealt with could have brought this whole endeavor to an end. I felt an overwhelming peace that all these issues had worked out to get me here, especially the people close to me who helped so much. In a sense, I’d already met my goal, just to be placed here with this opportunity. My Garmin read 52 deg suggesting I should have worn long sleeve base, but I didn’t feel cold, so was wearing short base, short sleeve jersey & arm warmers with vest in pocket just in case. Our 65+ group of about 15 was released into neutral roll-out at 7:02. I anticipated a slow pace with these “old guys.” Wrong, the paceline was sometimes uncomfortably fast. Soon it evolved into a longer paceline; not sure where the others came from, but seemed loose with mini gaps so I stayed in front 10 or so just to prevent being gapped & dropped. That meant I did at least my share of pulls. Arrived at Preston, at 47 miles and rode past the feed zone as planned without stopping. A few big rollers lead to the long  2600 foot climb up through Idaho wilderness to Strawberry Pass. This was the largest climb of the ride, but the grade was typically 4-5%. This was not stressful especially since my last training rides involved a lot of 10% around Sandy, Utah. On the descent I grabbed onto a group of 4 racers (I think cat 4 racers who dropped off their group drifted back) who went really fast downhill, then into rollers. I got tired so dropped off. Was probably a mistake as I had to ride a lot of solo after that into Montpelier.


This was my first food stop and where I had a drop bag sent. I emptied my pockets and drop bag into a pile and put all the Nature’s Bakery bars into the drop bag to be sent to the finish since I was finding them hard to swallow with a dry mouth with the temps now in upper 70’s. I put all the Quaker 100cal bars and gel packs, ones I brought and ones from the food table, into my pockets. Another good decision. Traffic control was superb and somewhere past Montpelier after approximately 80 miles was the first time I had to pause for a stop sign or signal light. Soon I was riding up Geneva Summit, a 1,000 ft climb. Next was the last and toughest climb, 1400 ft up Salt River Pass, elevation 7630 ft which had plenty of 8% grade in unshielded  80 deg sun. I passed a number of struggling riders here. When I heard heavy breathing and saw a vacant agonized, look on their face I would ask if they were OK. This reminded me of Cayuse Pass. It then dropped down to the town of Afton and a feed zone. I don’t recall stopping there, but I must have picked up some more gel packs. What followed was my least favorite section of LoToJa. The 34 miles to Alpine followed US 89 through Star Valley, rural nondescript agricultural land with many trucks and farm related businesses along the very straight busy highway, with jarring rumble strips in places. I rode a guy’s wheel for about half of this and solo’d into cross winds the rest of it.


A few general notes. Starting temp was 52 deg but didn’t feel real cold so I bravely wore just short sleeve base with short sleeve Cyclopath Jersey, vest and arm warmers. This was a good choice and I ditched the arm warmers & vest in the drop bag in Montpelier. Subsequently almost over-heated in 80 deg on Salt River Pass but crested the top just before got in trouble. Regarding food, I mentioned dry mouth and settling on just Quaker bars and gels. I resupplied a few times with Hammer gel packs from feed zones.. Hydration included a couple bottles of Skratch from small packets I carried but was mostly Hammer Heed from feed zones and I didn’t cramp. I did see many of the racers and two or three times I fell into a group, usually drafting from the back so not to interfere. I’m not sure where they came from as I thought they were all released prior to me, but probably some cat 5’s had drifted back.


Just prior to rolling into Alpine, Molly texted me saying she was driving back to Alpine from Jackson. At the time I couldn’t respond without losing a wheel. Did she think I was done in and needed a ride? Forty-seven miles separated me from the finish line, but I felt quite up to it and when I got to Alpine called Molly with my intentions. After grabbing some hydration and gel packs from the neutral feed, I headed out of town and soon saw Molly & Carter waving at me from a roadside parking area. It was quite reassuring as they cheered me on. From here the terrain changed dramatically into pure majestic wilderness. The Snake River was in a deep gorge below and tall forested or rocky peaks on both sides gave shady relief. The two-lane winding highway had new, smooth pavement with ample shoulders, although the traffic was sparse. From here on, the grade was gentle uphill with some level. Most of this I rode solo and the bike rolled at a good clip without too much effort. Molly & Carter pulled over at a couple viewpoints overlooking the river and cheered me again as I rode by. I was so thankful for their support. This was the most enjoyable, rewarding part of the ride for me. Then about 8 miles from the finish, a volunteer support person was handing out bottles of Coke on the fly and of course I grabbed one. But that was a mistake since I really couldn’t drink Coke while riding and half of it ended up as a sticky mess on my cockpit. A brief view of the Tetons presented itself on the final stretch toward Teton Village, the finish line. By then I was in a group of equally satisfied riders with lots of spirited chatting. Crossing under the finish arch, I almost wished it wasn’t over. Total ride time 12 hr, 44 min which was 4th out of the cumulative 21 riders in groups of 55+ yrs and up. Goal accomplished.

Reflections after a ride like this always involve analysis of whether and where I went too fast or too slow. I never felt totally spent like happens on RAMROD, so perhaps could have gone faster. Bottom line, though, is I really enjoyed this very well organized ride and finished before dark, so was a success.


Safe riding,


Sunday, June 18, 2023

Volunteer Park Criterium Race Recap - By Dwaine

Getting to the venue was my first challenge of the day. I had never been to Volunteer Park and parked way to far away. I was feeling rushed when I finally arrived at our Fell Swoop team tent. There was just enough time to talk race strategy and take a short warm up ride with Jonas who knew his way around the neighborhood. 

The course is not your typical four corner crit. Except for the finish straight, the course is always winding and includes a long and shallow descent followed by a long and shallow climb. Z-Dog informed me my bike handling skills would pay dividends.

Our field, Men's 35+ cat 3/4, was only about 25 deep. Teammates shared with me that this would make moving up the field easier than if we were in a 40 rider field. Our start was mellow enough but my first lap was, at times, harrowing. The racing line was starting to dry but, on my first lap, I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time on at least two occasions. Disaster was avoided and on subsequent laps my line choices proved immensely safer.

Fell Swoop showed up with five riders total. We were all in on working for our designated leader, Z-Dog. Our job was to help him facilitate his best possible finish. Sticking to our race plan I followed a couple moves during the race. But nothing threatening ever came together. It was especially nice seeing other Fell Swoopers ready to patrol the front after I made these efforts and needed a few minutes catching my breath.

At about nine laps to go I finished a short effort to close a gap and realized my heart rate was higher than I hoped. For the next six laps I shrunk myself as best I could and hid within the wheels.

My job, for the finish, was to assemble three Swoopers on my wheel and then take them to the the front.  At the end of the 'three to go' lap I found Z-Dog. I then yelled up to Juaquin, who was ahead of me, to slow down. At that moment the fifteen riders in front of me seemed to sit up and I was able to move Z-dog and myself forward within the peleton.

As we started the flat finish straight I could see the gap I needed to lead us through. It was tight and I may have bumped another rider. He certainly wasn't happy about my proximity and I felt a big shove forward. I yelled 'thanks' and put down a steady effort that took me forward. I yelled at Juaquin to assemble behind me as I took over the front.

In the moment I was quite pleased with putting myself and my team mates exactly where we planned to be. This same lap was also a $20 Taco Time gift card prime lap and I accidently won that too.

For the next three quarters of a lap I lead the race and put in just enough effort to keep the field strung out. I checked over my should down the hill and could see Juaquin's Fell Swoop jersey on my wheel. I just hoped there were two more Swoopers on his wheel. At the base of the climb I put down some real power, burnt all the matches, and flicked my elbow before reaching the flat. The peleton stormed by and I smiled knowing my domestique duties were well fulfilled.

The results will show me DFL. The results will not show how much fun this race was. Nor will it show how well we raced as a team. Not a single rider got off the front without a Fell Swooper in tow. An admittedly partial spectator, Z-Dog's girlfriend KT, complimented our team tactics.

And how did our team do on that last lap? In the moment I was so far back I couldn't even see the finish. I had to wait to hear the stories from the other Swoopers to learn how the final lap turned out. Juaquin put in a big effort on that final lap but it was no good. Jonas and Z-Dog had gotten separated from Juaquin at some point and Z-Dog was only able to sprint to about tenth place.

In summary, except for the final lap, it was a near perfect day of racing with my Fell Swoop teammates.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

2023-05-21 Gran Fondo Leavenworth (Dwaine's Account)

Author:  Dwaine Trummert

Gran Fondo Leavenworth 2023

Leavenworth was my 'A' race for this Spring. My training was tailored for this event, and I had a strong desire 
to right the wrong that I created last year at this race. My racing team "Fell Swoop" was well represented with
five riders of varying abilities.

The weather was warm, and I started in my summer kit. A third water bottle containing three scoops of Tailwind 
drink powder - but no water - was tucked into my back pocket. The neutral roll out seemed slower than usual this 
year, and I planned to stick next to team mates Thomas and Josh. That plan ended when I needed to stop and 
dismount after my chain dropped on the first shift of the day. I spent the next four miles inching my way forward 
in the slowly crawling peleton.

As we approached Eagle Creek road, I advised Josh on how the race promoter Jake would honk the horn on 
his big BMW motorcycle to release us. I was rewarded for my helpful advice. The right shoulder opened up 
before me, and I glided up to the front row just as we were let loose. I waited for two riders to take charge and 
then I latched on. This excellent position allowed me to sag climb the first few rolling hills.

The pace started hotter than previous years. I was spending too much time over threshold and dropped myself before the road turned to gravel. After the race Thomas informed me why the pace started so high. Pro cyclist Cole Paton was setting pace on the front. He eventually broke free, rode solo, and finished first by 24 minutes. Letting that go was the right choice for me!

Anthony gave me a wheel to ride until the road turned to dirt and then he wished me good luck. Like Anthony, I set my own pace on the climb and it was taken without drama. On the first half of the climb, I lost a few positions. On the second half, I made up some positions.


The steep part of the descent also unfolded without drama. My forearms felt like I found every stutter bump in the road, but the rubber side stayed down. A new rattle, coming from the back end of my Hakka MX, made itself known. I chose not to stop but did give the rear thru axle a look to make sure it wasn't backing out. Once the road flattened a bit I started putting down some power. Moving up the field on the dirt would allow me to lock into a faster group on the pavement.

I took the right turn onto the paved Mad River road at full tilt. While the riders around me sat up to look around, I got into the drops. I saw two strong looking riders up the road and put in some work to bridge up to them. I made the catch, and the three of us quickly dropped into rotation. This group grew to about ten by the time we reached the Entiat aid station.

I'm never the strongest pedaler in a bicycle race. So I have to be crafty and make FAST pit stops. At the Entiat aid station, I needed to fill the two bottles on my bike and the third in my back pocket. As we approached, I moved to the front of our group and rode straight to the water jugs. While nine other riders waited in the water line, I was already soft pedalling toward Swakane Canyon.

Entiat to Swakane Canyon is ideal for working together in a paceline. I rode slowly letting riders catch me until we had three. My team mate Josh was one of the riders to join me. He took the first pull, and it was long. Thanks man!

What hasn't been written about the Swakane Canyon climb? It is THE defining feature of Gran Fondo Leavenworth. It is hot and dusty and rocky at the bottom. The climbs pitch up and then down. No rhythm can be found. I let the riders around me go up the road. As with most years, I walked the steepest pitch and do not regret that decision. My long hours of training this Winter and Spring started to pay near the top. I was able to maintain my modest power output despite the fatigue. Riders were finally coming back to me.

The final mile of the climb is prime time for cramping. Somehow, I crested just as my cramps arrived. Each time I used my legs to absorb the bumps on the descent, I could feel the cramp twinges coming on - but this I could manage. My descending speed was impacted at first but at least I was still moving. By this point the rattle on my bike was near constant, but everything was working so I raced on.


When the descent turned from winding to straight, it was time to find a dance partner. Richard Beukema passed me, and he looked like a good wheel to follow. Once on the pavement, Richard started working. I took a few turns on the front but was clearly not at his level. Our group eventually grew to four. By the time we passed the Old Mill Tavern before the final right turn under the railroad tracks, we had agreed not to sprint to the finish line. We took our positions based on who did the most work. Richard was in front. I assumed third wheel in the group and was scored 23rd.

After I crossed the line, I waited for Josh to finish. I was pleased to be ahead of Josh, but that was enabled only by the MTB race he completed the previous day. I also took a moment to find my rattle. My cassette was coming loose!

Over the next 24 hours, I looked back at my day. On one hand, I was pleased with my performance. I had certain tools available. My bike, my knowledge of the course, and my fitness. On race day, I think I put those tools to work as well as was possible. On the other hand, I wasn't that pleased with my performance. I took a pretty big swing at increasing my training this year without measurable improvement. This year's finish time ranked third of the four times I've completed this course.

Overall, Gran Fondo Leavenworth was a spectacular day. Fell Swoopers rode strong and placed well. We had great weather, great organization by Jake and his team, and a course that never fails to challenge. I'd like to write more, but I need to get to the garage and tighten up some drivetrain parts...

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

2023 Cascadia Super Gravel - by Dwaine

Last Saturday with Tom and my Fell Swoop teammate Josh and I raced the 100 mile Cascadia Super Gravel. We started at 7 a.m. under clear skies and not too chilly temperatures. Josh was racing with his friend Jason and they wanted to start a little faster than I did. I let them go early and hoped to eventually work my way back up to them. Tom and I were about the same speed and stayed within a minute of each other for the first hour.

Josh and Dwaine _before_ the long suffer.

My plan to eventually reel in Josh was foiled at mile fifteen when my rear tire went soft after I nicked the sidewall. I stopped to add air a couple times hoping the sealant might eventually clog the hole but on my third stop I knew I needed to invest the time to install a tube.

Once back underway I figured my race was over. I had lost over twenty minutes with the multiple stops. I resigned myself to the fact I was on a really long training ride. To motiviate myself I started counting how many riders I could catch and pass.

At mile 29 I crested the highest climb of the day and was still feeling great. I was concerned that the steep final pitches of this climb might push me into the red but my legs were taking the effort in stride.

There was a navigational problem at mile 37. My Garmin instructed me to make a hard right onto a climb. But there were 'wrong way' signs on this climb. A few other riders were also confused at these signs. After a quick survey of the situation I announced I was going to trust my Garmin and I started up the climb. I quickly came to course markers showing I was on course. As I climbed I thought through the situation and came to the conclusion that some prankster had rearranged the signs just to create mayhem.

The next ten miles were lonely. From mile 15 to 37 I had caught 15 riders. From mile 37 to 50 I caught zero.

But daydreaming while riding was not wise. The promoter of this event had created a route using many of the less frequently ridden roads. I learned it was best to keep a very close eye on the Garmin map for unexpected turns.

I finally caught sight of another rider as we approached the long hike-a-bike section at mile 50. I was surprised at the length of the hike-a-bike. Strava reports I was at walking speed for about 14 minutes. The hike-a-bike was good for my catch score. I passed two at the beginning, one of which was Tom, and three more as we emerged from the woods onto the A-line climb.

As I approached the aid station at mile 67 I was really pleased that my legs were still putting out decent power. My stomach wasn't so happy with how many carbs I was shoving down my throat. My catch count had climbed into the low twenties. And it was getting warm.

Miles 67 to 75 were lovely. It was generally downhill. I couldn't add to my catch count as the course was shared with riders racing the 50 mile event. But I could at least say 'Hi' every once in a while.

At mile 75 the 100 mile course turned West onto the paved D-line road and I was riding solo again. My stomach was really starting to grumble. I kept stuffing the food in anyway.

The fatigue finally caught up with me at mile 85. After almost eight hours I started to loose steam. I chose to walk a couple of the steepest pitches. I cut my final food ration by half hoping to make a truce with my angry gut.

I wasn't the only rider suffering in these final miles. I managed to put three more riders behind me between mile 85 and 95 bringing my total to 26.

At mile 95 we were back on a short stretch of pavement that lead to one more gravel climb and the single track finish. I had only a thirty second gap on my previous catch which provided the motivation to keep pushing all the way to the finish line. I crossed that line after 8 hours 57 minutes. I was pleased as punch with this time.

After finding fresh clothes I sat down and chatted with Josh and Jason. I hadn't seen them since the start but it sounded like they had a great race. Josh even admitted to accepting some of the Bacon that was being cooked at the mile 67 aid station. They finished four seconds apart in 8 hours 42 minutes. Josh was scored eleventh and Jason twelfth. I was not scored at all but my time would have put me in thirteenth.

I waited for quite a while for Tom to finish only to find out he took a nasty fall and then a trip to the hospital. So while I had a good day on the bike, as a whole, the Cyclopaths did not.

Monday, March 27, 2023

03-19-2023 - Ephrata Gran Fondo Race Recap

 Author:  Dwaine Trummert

I had a good day at Ephreta this year. My race recap will not cover
every detail but instead the key moments.

I positioned myself near the front as the neutral roll out ended so that I
could sag the climb a bit. I chose to push the climb a little harder
than previous years and was flirting with blowing up at times. I
maintained a respectable pace but could see many riders floating up the
road without me. I finished the final climb with my heart rate pegged
hoping I could hide in the wheels of the good sized group I was with.
Nope. I dropped myself from these riders to get my heart rate under
control and latched onto the next wheel that came by.

The downhill Baird Springs Road gravel was fast and dry. My group had
grown to four, and we took turns pulling down the hill and were making
good time.  Along the highway, our group eventually doubled in size as we picked up a
few more riders including my teammate Alan.

No one in our group pulled off for the rest stop at the base of
Palisades Road. Another group latched on and we were soon numbering
nearly 20. Our paceline was long as we took turns pulling into the
slight headwind up the false flat of Palisades road.

Our group of 20 gentlemen was blown to bits on the first pitch of the
Three Devils. Some riders dropped anchor, and some flew off the front. I
ended up near two riders who had shown they were strong and consistent,
and the three of us ground our way to the top. We chatted a bit once we
were back to flattish ground. I introduced myself to Lindsay and Graham,
and we took turns into the wind for the next ten miles or so. We also
agreed on a one bottle stop at the "mile 60" aid station.

About 20 miles from the finish and just as we turned back onto gravel, my
legs started barking. I told the guys I had to skip a turn - then
another. Soon, it was all I could do to hold the wheel. The next 45
minutes, I was head down and full suffer.

Amazingly I didn't get dropped on the final climb. We had picked up two
more riders, and all five of us shared the work back to the finish line.
We crossed the line in a group, and I was scored 27th out of over 200

With the help of many strong riders in good sized groups, I was able to
lower my personal best finish time by about 10 minutes. I set many
Strava segment PRs along the way including up the first set of climbs. I
also felt that this event was the most work I've ever done. There were
no lulls in the pace. It felt like it was 'Go, Go, Go' all day long. My
legs were rubber.

The weekend was capped off with an unofficial Fell Swoop team dinner in
Ephreta where five of us told our stories and filled our bellies with
Mexican food. Good times.

Race Photo (Dwaine second from right)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Disappointment, Redemption, Cyclocross Celebration

 Author:  Dwaine Trummert

This blog post ends with the the grandest Cyclocross event on the Pacific Northwest calendar - but the month leading into that event was anything but grand.

A month ago, I competed at Fort Steilacoom Park. My on-the-bike performance was on par for me. My performance on the extended length run up could not have been more poor. Lap two was my worst.  I lost seven positions at the top of the run. My nearly DFL finish forced me to ask the question 'What went wrong?' I sat on the floor of my van and pondered my preparation.

This year's training plan for pedaling strength was solid. Yet, I forgot to add any running work into my schedule. For most of the year, I was able to hide my weakness when the run up was short or rideable. Fort Steilacoom Park showed my running legs for what they were. 

It wa snot my best day at the run up. I suffered. And still earned an 'F'.

In the moment, sulking on the van floor, I knew it was too late in the season to add much running fitness. I felt sad to have spent so much effort on a training plan that was flawed and did not, and would not, allow me to race at my full potential. Disappointment.

My teammate Jonas shows proper composure and pace on the run up.

Going into the next race, I pivoted my approach. There was little point in sticking to a flawed training plan. I introduced variety into my training. Instead of structured threshold intervals, I would participate in a Zwift indoor cycling race. Out were the 30/30 intervals. In were the even more painful run up intervals. The Fort Steilacoom Park run up broke me on race day. I returned to the park to complete my intervals on the very same soil. I did not believe I could become a runner in two weeks. I did intend, however, to overcome the mental challenge that the run up posed.

Two weeks ago we raced near Graham. Frontier Park is not well liked in the cross community. It is often cold. The layout is uninspiring, but it's the rocks that create the negative vibes.

Despite this poor reputation, most everyone I chatted with said this was the best Frontier Park course in memory. The soil had the perfect amount of moisture. The rocks were less prominent. It was warm enough to feel our fingers and toes.

My consistent attendance earned me a front row callup. I lined up next to Doug Graver. Without knowing it, two racers were intent on leading into the first corner and the subsequent single track sections. My jump off the line was perfect, and I pressed hard towards the first corner intent on the "hole shot". Doug knew the risk of being behind traffic in the single track and challenged me at corner one.

We squeaked safely through corner, one and I latched onto Doug's wheel entering corner two. We had a small gap into the tight single track and were able to choose our own lines.

I maintained this extraordinary effort for just the first 90 seconds of the race. When I dialed back down to a pace I could sustain for an hour, riders began to trickle past. 

Riding my own pace. Hitting my lines. Keeping my good luck leaf at hand.

The remainder of the race was uneventful. Eventually, I faded back to mid pack. I kept my head down. For most of every lap, I was racing against the clock and my own fitness. For fifteen seconds of every lap, I was racing against the run up.

The Frontier Park run up was short and steep. On every lap, I gave everything I had. My choice was not tactical. I needed to experience run up success. I was clearing out the emotional residue from my previous run up defeat.

I finished well enough in tenth of twenty-three. More importantly, I didn't roll over at the run up; and my lap times were a bit ahead of my expectations. Redemption.

My teammate Jonas had a good race and didn't even looked haggard in the process.

One week later, I raced at Woodland Park. MFG Cyclocross brought this party/race/event back after a one year hiatus, and it was highly billed. It was crazy how many fans and racers were in attendance. The single speed race had 120 starters. Other races included riders in costumes. There were even three tandem teams taking on the course.

This link to some photos of the day might help communicate the atmosphere:

I enjoyed the festive scene until my race time rolled around - and, then, I got to business.

The Woodland Park dichotomy ensured I would experience both joy and anguish. I understood the need to burn the matches on the 'climbing up' half of the course. I relished the opportunity to rail the corners and rest on the 'descending down' half.

My expectations were not high as I lined up on the third of three rows for the men's 50+ cat 1/2 start.  I knew the start was already half way up the hard part of the course and recovery was near, so I chose to start burning matches from the whistle.

I found myself about sixth into the first corner and held that position till the second of the camel humps at the top of the course. I was out of the saddle and feeling humiliated as the second hump humbled me for the first of many laps. After letting a handful of riders slip by, I completed the lap in eleventh position and just seven seconds behind the leader.

Unfortunately, I could not sustain the effort and paid a large price. My second lap was one of my slowest. It was during the second lap that Greg Kauper found my wheel.

We rode the next two laps nose to tail. As we refined our knowledge of the course, we were also learning about each other.

Greg was getting out of the saddle more frequently. Every time I saw his saddle sway, he pulled ahead by a second or two. My mostly seated style seemed to favor the more technical corners. Instead of trying to match his power, I waited until the next set of twisties and was able to get those seconds back.

The nuances of the course were also coming into play. I was finding corners where I could roll without touching the brakes. I fell in love with the winding descent section near the food trucks where I could usually approach with speed, whip it side to side between the tapes, and make up a second or two on my rival. Through the 'most dangerous' corner, I found some grippy soil way inside and rode it motocross style with my inside foot unclipped and the rear tire stepped out. I carried crazy speed into the run up and, usually, coasted up and over the first log; but I could not time my dismount well. Hodala corner, with the huge fan presence, was a favorite. I preferred the outside line and usually responded to the roar of the fans by carrying as much speed as possible around the outside.

After four laps and 28 minutes of racing we crossed the half way point of the race. We had been locked together for over two laps. There were no riders close ahead or behind. It looked a lot like this battle was going all the way to the finish.

After four laps, we had found our roles. Almost every lap, we followed a script. Greg led over the start/finish line. I stuck to his wheel looking for the tiniest protection from the wind. At the first camel hump, I pulled out of his draft and started my climbing effort early only to sag back into line as we approached the top. At the second camel hump, he popped out of the saddle and powered away from me. I railed the winding 'S' corners finding recovery and earning back my lost seconds. We would remain nose to tail until the short climb after the tennis courts where I would slingshot past into the single track. His dismount at the bottom of the run up was superior every lap, and it was 50/50 who would would remount first. As we approached the twisties at Hodala corner, he would open a gap. I carried more momentum around the Hodala soap feature and was back on his wheel to finish the lap.

Dwaine races his Cyclocross bike
Lap Six was tough. This photo was taken just after Greg pulled ahead by five seconds.

On lap five, I was at my limit at the top of the run up. Greg sensed my weakness and kept his foot on the throttle. At the end of the lap, he had opened a gap of five seconds. This was the largest gap between us the race had seen.

Lap six started hard. I didn't want to hurt anymore, but I had invested too much to give in. I stayed the course. Every corner was open, and I hit my lines and carried maximum speed. At the top of the run up, as we neared the end of the lap; I measured a smaller gap. I carried my momentum around Hodala and found myself right back on Greg's wheel. It took an entire lap, but I had closed the gap.

Starting lap seven, we heard '2 to go'. We stayed on script - until we didn't.

Half way through the last lap (#8), I
 was thinking towards the finish; and I liked my situation. At the top of the run up, we were still close. Greg had been stronger leaving the run up, and I let him lead me into the Hodala twisties. 

Woodland Park run up
Finishing the run up with no clear leader.

The twisties were a series of four corners included the soap feature. The grass was grippy. I let Greg have a small gap going into the twisties. Like previous laps, I wanted full view of the corners and freedom to pick my line. Just as I had practiced all race, I exited the third twist with just a skosh more speed. I carried that speed the long way around the soap feature and passed Greg on the outside. With just two corners to go, the battle was mine to lose!

At the second to last corner, I became all ass and elbows in an attempt to fill the racing line and make a pass as challenging as possible.

At the final corner, I took an inside line that allowed me to get on the power first. If Greg wanted to pass, I forced him to go the long way around. The final paved sprint to the line was uphill, and I started a bike length ahead - but Greg didn't roll over. He had the legs to power past me and win the battle. After 56 minutes of racing, Greg secured eleventh by two tenths of a second.

From my saddle, Woodland Park was a spectacular race. The course was fun and fast and fantastic. My battle with Greg was the most competitive in memory and having a large turnout of fans was the icing on the cake. Celebration.

I need to give a shout out to my Fell Swoop friends. Kudos to Z-Dog for pushing us all to get off the couch and race or spectate. I also appreciate the time Jonas took to write the great course description. Finally, a big thanks to all the other Swoopers that were course side heckling and yelling and encouraging us to keep spinning the pedals.

Much appreciation also needs to go out to my wife, Deanne, for supporting me in person at Woodland Park. She cheered me up the run up. She carried my wheels to the pits. She handed me a burrito after the race. She supported me all season. Thank you.