Viewing entries tagged
John Muir

3 Days, 3 Trails, 3 Words Each

A Memorial Day weekend ride report.

  • Alpine Valley - Elkhorn, WI
    • turns, chipmunks, climbing
  • John Muir, Kettle Moraine - Whitewater, WI
    • rocks, hikers, flying insects
  • Palos Forest Preserve - Willow Springs, IL
    • roots, two-way traffic, bbq's

Side notes:  Rode with several rad ladies, I'm always learning.  Copious amounts of ice cream enjoyed after each ride, as it should be.

~Erica C.


What's 1 minute in 6 hours?

(Al) Hemme and I rolled into the John Muir trailhead to tackle the WEMS 6 hour duo with plenty of time to warm up.  We got a spot in the shade, got-in a decent warmup, then found Julie P., Ben and Molly in the lot.  Ben was gonna ride with us while we raced while Julie P. took Molly for a hike.  We ran into Gerred coming off a lap at the start line and he said conditions pretty sloppy but improving, but still a lot of slick spots.  Mike was going to start for us to set the pace.  The officials told us that the best lap time thus-far was about 1:04, so we had an idea of what to expect.

Lap 1 (Mike) WEMS races begin with a LeMans start, I got a good jump and made it to the bike first, but got hung up a bit trying to get around the bikes in front of me so I ended up starting 4th wheel.  Maciej on team Polska took the lead and I set out to try and grab his wheel.  The other three solo riders in front of me were pretty intent on blocking so when I finally got around I set out on the chase.  The first half of the trail was real slick in the turns so it was a ton of accelerations out of corners. which I was figuring was at least a good workout for cross.  Things dried up on the second half so I just kept a steady pace and tried to catch Maciej. I ended up a little short at 59 min, but put us in the lead for the 6 Hour Duo class.

Lap 2 (Al) Ben and I took off, and got a good run into the woods.  The course was slick in spots, but still fast.  It took us on a combination lap of the Blue loop connecting with the new Orange climb and back to the Blue loop a very interesting layout and not without challenge.  The new Orange section is a very technical, rocky, rooty, twisty constant climb that offers little reward other than making it through without crashing.  I made a couple of root/rock bobbles, but kept it up.  I was passing politely, but not being passed for most of the lap, till a couple guys caught and passed me just before the last climb out of the blue.  I stepped-it-up and hung with them as well as I could, but they are clearly a bit faster.  Came in for the handoff to Mike at a 1:05-- nowhere near Mikes pace, but still pretty fast.  Turns out the guys that passed me were rider 2 of the guys we had to beat, being led by his riding buddy.  I soon figured out that the other team was turning laps in the 1:00-1:02 range, so w/Hemme at :59 and me at 1:05, we have our work cut out for us.

Lap 3 (Mike) I started a few minutes behind the 3 hour which meant I was going to be hanging out in a lot of traffic.  The 6 hour lead rider went down in a corner while trying to squeeze between two 3 hour riders so I made the pass and set out to try and pick up some time.  Trails were in much better shape and I was riding a lot smoother, but there was so much traffic out there it was hard to keep a rhythm. As soon as I started making up time I was slamming on the brakes so I wasn't able to get too much time on the rider behind me.  Despite the traffic, the trail conditions were a lot faster so I had a good lap time, but not much of a cushion on 2nd.

Lap 4 (Al)  I bust out again to see if I can improve.  Before I left, I see my competitor and his buddy and I realize that when they passed me on lap one, the unregistered buddy was leading, so I look over at them both and say, "No pacing guys, OK?" and take off.  The conditions continue to improve, and I feel quicker, but I feel the pain on the climbs too.  So I am pushing along as fast as I got it with another 3hr guy that is really quick, till he drops his chain, then I pass till he fights back only to drop his chain again.  We go into the Orange loop together and I hear two more guys catching up to us and as I look back, I see the riding buddy leading my competitor again - nice.  I try to put me head down and stay ahead, but the guy has more leg on me in the climbs and passes while his buddy sits behind me.  I stay with him pretty well coming down out of the Orange till I drop my chain on a downshift on a climb and lose about 10-12 seconds getting it going again, and I lose sight of them.  I pushed as hard as I could, but felt bad that the hard work was going back to Mike to try and regain the lead, as I knew we could only get one more lap in.

Lap 5 (Mike) Final lap and I had about a minute and a half to close so I went out fast.  About the time I hit the orange climb I realized I was pretty worked over.  I kept trying to close gaps, but unfortunately it was never the lead rider.  The course was perfect, and even though I was tired I rode a lot smoother so I brought the lap time down to 58.  I took 30 second out of the lead group, but they still had us by a minute.

(Mike) 6 hours later losing by a minute stings a little, and I kept wondering where in the laps I could have picked up some more time.  There were some opportunities, and mostly in these endurance races it seems to be a mental challenge to push a little harder when no other riders are around, but in the end Al and I both put in really strong laps.  It was a lot of fun to keep it close and made us push a little harder every lap.  The event itself was a blast, and a great Saturday.

(Al) I was a bit disappointed, but considering this was my first ride on the Titus all year,  there were 8 teams in the duo, the payout for 2nd was some cash back, we had a great time with our friends and team mates, and I just found out my Garmin (lost on my first lap) was found... not to mention we had FUN. I guess Ill take it!

!!  (photo: <a href="">Amy Dykema</a>)

 -Al Thom & Mike Hemme

Congrats Julie, 1st place 12 hour solo at WEMS!

!! (photo: <a href="">Amy Dykema</a>)

Congrats to Julie Abrams for her first place finish at the WEMS 12 Hours at John Muir!  Though weather forced the race to shorten to 10 hours, Julie battled a strong field of women, holding steady through some slick trail conditions in the morning and a hot, sticky afternoon to take the top of the podium.

Also hitting the podium, Mike Hemme and Al Thom battled it out for a close 2nd place in the 6 hour duo category, finishing within a minute of first but putting in a great effort and doing the team proud.

Congrats also to Gerrerd Abrams for a strong finish in the men's 12 hour solo, and to Jason Henry who crashed badly enough to need a replacement helmet (and nearly hit a deer) in the 36 mile race but still managed to make it to the finish with good results.  Hopefully there's a race report coming...


Miscues and Rebounds at John Muir

The John Muir trials at South Kettle Moraine have always been a favorite, and knowing they cut-in some stuff, I was anxious to get away from the swamp they call Palos. Got there just before the kids race and got my son prepped. (Jacob won the kids race!) I suited up for a good warmup, but I ended taking my other son Evan for a slow loop of the red trail instead. The rest of the HAC crew, Julie, Jason, Erica, Adrian and Ronit all got there with no time for warmup either, but we found the HAC tent (Soupy and Bob were well underway for the 6hr) and dropped our stuff. My sons were prepped on the handup drill, and off we go.

No Le Mans start this time, they simply said “if you know you’re fast, line up here, if not, spread out. I went to the front, as I knew I wanted a clean break in the first super-fast, super-fun section. Slotted-in in the top ten and kept the burn on as long as I could to get a gap on guys, then made a wrong turn 3/4’s of the way through lap one, had to turn around, then lost two spots – damn!

Lap two starts, good handup from the boys, and seeing nobody close behind, I go into recovery mode. I miss another turn after the fast-and-fun section and lose two more slots – damn! Another guy miscued as well, and he and I start fighting back, while chatting a bit. He knows the course better, but I have him covered on the climbs, so we trade pulls till we catch the two guys ahead. I pulled a nice late-breaking pass on both guys into the 90 left after the sandy fire road.

So the pace is back up, and as we go through the damp and rocky “ledge” section, I miscue again, lose balance, unclip, and as I point my toe down to catch myself my right calf knots up! I stop and try to massage it, and the three guys pass me back. Arrgh! I get going again, hook up with the dude that I traded pulls with and put our heads down for lap three.

Another pro handup from Jacob and Evan and I start pushing. I pass my helper early on, and he is out of gas. Halfway round I catch the first, then the second guys, and keep pushing. I don’t know if I can get anymore, but I am feeling good so I keep pushing all the while jonesing on what a great trail system these guys have built. I make a hard dash to the line hearing the cheers of the HAC camp and I am greeted at the tent with a cold one from Soupy Mike. Does it get any better?

It is great to be part of such a diverse and supportive team! Also, getting kinda hooked on these WEMS enduros. Fun! Ended up 15th out of 60. Considering the number of Cat1 ass kickers in the field, I am happy.


-Al Thom

Playin' hooky

Ronit, Julie, Adrian, Bob, Paul-Brian, Jason, and Tim all stuck it to the man (or the sucky economy, or to themselves for the lucky self-employed) on Thursday to attempt a pre-ride of the "WEMS": 3-hour course.  Leaving behind a fifty degree and rainy Chicago, the clouds parted at the state border for our crew who enjoyed the rewards of a sunny warm day on the trail.  Attempts to ride the course were foiled by downed trees and other nonsense on the trail connecting orange back to blue, but pre-ride or not, it was an awesome day.  Half Acre's expecting to make a big showing at Saturday's race.  See y'all at Muir tomorrow!