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It’s All Mental

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageClear Water, WI : 10 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections

1. The purpose of the ride was threefold :

Pt. A – Reconnaissance of the first seventy-or-so miles of the complete Wisconsin Attempt. A 400mi, self-supported attempt to cross the state of Wisconsin in 48 hours.

Pt. B – To see a sunrise while pedaling a bicycle.

Pt. C – To see what riding with little rest, during the middle of the night feels like (hint : not the greatest).

2. Birds begin chirping around 4 AM along the Mississippi River Valley.

3. Truth – Alexander

4. Things Google Maps Should Take Into Account :

a – The aerodynamic ramifications of the Swift Industries Ozette Rando Bag

b – The proliferation of the Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll in local gas stations

c – ‘Fun’

d – The aggression of the local bird populace

5. Walking into the Handy Mart in Bay City, WI shortly before the Bay City Church Climb. Upon entering and making my way towards the restroom, three truckers and one woman (who I assume was the waitress) stopped talking and stared as I made my way past. Once in the restroom, I could make out what they said about this ‘intruder’ quite easily. It was entertaining to say the least.

6. The decision to have that ice cream sandwich in Plum City, WI was the right one.

7. If you see a ‘Fresh-Picked Strawberries’ sign and think to yourself that it’d be a good idea to pick up a quart, it’s not.

8. The joy and speed that Big Coulee Rd. brought to the ride was most certainly worth all of the hell that was US Route 10.

9. The Mississippi has it’s own sound. It is deep and goes on the length of the river. It’s reaches across the valley and holds the night in it’s grasp. Although you are on dry land, it is the River that captures your imagination and carries you along. The undulations of the road mimic the current and lead you on through the morning. It comforts and welcomes. I can only imagine how it must have felt to discover this beast in the heart of such a wild land.

10. What sounds like rain but is super gross? Black gnats.

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The Stay Classy Classic : 10 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections

1. Four teams of approximately four individuals gathered at the top of Mounds View Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota around the hour of 9 AM. These individuals came by choice, coercion or because there was nothing better to do with their Saturday.

2. Late August in Minnesota. (See : Uffda)

3. The four members of #TeamMusette were as follows :

1(a) : David Peterson

1(b) : David Bucklin

1(c) : Jeff Christenson 

1(d) : Myself

4. There’s just something about a Cue Sheet soaked through that is both terribly disgusting and endearing.

5. To the Wedding Party taking photos in scenic Vermillion Falls Park, we are forever in your debt for the three bottles of Ice Mountain Bottled Water. We also apologize for perhaps ruining a few shots with our sweaty, disgusting, worn-out bodies.

6*. Never pass up a well-placed Public Water Access.

*Bib Shorts can, in a pinch, double as swimming trunks.

7. That time when David Bucklin’s water bottle decided to release itself from its cage and land perfectly on junction of his bottom bracket, seattube and downtube.

8. Summer Home – Typhoon

9. Jeff Christenson’s gift of a Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll right around mile 86. On the Pearson’s Quality Confections Website it is described as follows : “In an ever-changing confectionery marketplace, Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll continues to represent the highest standards of quality and excellence.” in addition – “Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll is a good source of protein and carbohydrate energy.”

10. Rolling up to the finish at the Black Dog Cafe with the official time of 08:44:58 and only one other member of #TeamMusette left. This arrival was met with mostly heckles, a lot of sitting down and some well and truly deserved pizza.

Bravo, Spencer Haugh! Bravo, Stay Classy! Till next year, say we, the members of #TeamMusette. Till next year, indeed.

Click Clack

Walking up the banking is never something I’ve enjoyed. I usually slip. This time is no different, and I take a little moment to get my footing again.

Looking up to the crowd while I clip in my right, then looking down to make sure I’ve got the right footing. I balance and loosen my grip on the Rail. I love this thing, so smooth. So consistent. I could sit up there and steep in the nerves for days. But all good things must end, and soon enough the Official walks up and tells us how it is. He emphasizes looking over your shoulder while passing. I make note he didn’t tell the Cat 1/2/3’s this.

Ah, to be a novice.

The whistle goes and we make our way down. I snap down quick, playing on the fears of the first time or nearly first time racers. Doesn’t matter where you line up, just have the balls to take the position you need. I’ll admit, I didn’t always feel this flippant about starting from the Rail.

12 Lap Point-A-Lap means position is everything. There isn’t time to let things ‘Shake Out’. I like these type of races the most. Visceral, I think, might be the term.

Fifth. I’m pretty okay with that. The rest file in behind. So much potential energy. So many nerves. Growing every meter we go. I can see it in the faces of those who want something out of this race. I can see it in the faces of those who said they didn’t care about this race. We’ve 50 meters to go, the start line beckoning like a Siren. The Official is raising his orange gun. All eyes on us.

I look forward and all I see is clear boards, clear sky. I don’t hear anything except that gunshot as my front wheel passes over the white and black. A million electrical signals are released as my ass moves a centimeter off my saddle. Every muscle in my leg tightens. My heart beats just one last time, forcing as much oxygenated blood down, down into the legs who aren’t even aware yet. My pupils start to dilate, my knuckles turn white.

And if it’s a good night – a smile comes to my face.

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‘Roll with a good crew.’

– Jeremy Dunn

We’re moving along at a good clip, the five other riders and myself. Two x Two – the form a good group tends to fall into when riding for any distance of note. My front wheel spins a few inches behind Mr. Mattio’s, and my left shoulder hovers next to Mr. Easton who speaks easily about his latest retirement project. As we spin by a town sign I give a little bike throw, just to see if anyone else was thinking about how to come around at the last second.

No one notices and I smile a bit.

Josh always has something good to say, something with a bit of truth. We talk about the Musette. We talk about Three Stars. The conversation invariably winds it’s way to how gorgeous of a ride it is. How spectacular that we’ve found ourselves with this Friday off – a day removed from the traditional weekend rest. It’s hard to ignore the change of Seasons so apparent around us. I stare at Mattio’s front hub, through his bike. Practicing something that’s already second nature. Using fitness that’s meant for something else. Maybe something more serious.

It’s funny that this is the real pay out. Podiums, medals, accolades: I’m not so sure you can keep it up with that alone. There’ll always be someone better, someone faster, someone smarter. I’ve seen a lot of friends try and sustain their love of cycling on arbitrary numbers. I’ve seen a lot of them fail (but not all).

Sitting at Leo’s in Stillwater, feeling the sun on a new jersey. Adjusting my old cap to keep it out of my eyes. Stories being told. Fries being shared. This, it feels to me, is the real secret. The way you keep going. Despite the cold. Despite the doubt. Despite the pain. These rides, these hours spent in the saddle on gorgeous Fall days, are more than enough. A harvest meant for those who’ve toiled all season.

A chance to spin easy and smile.

Wake up.

Convince yourself it’s worth leaving the sheets. Fail. Continue to try and convince yourself. Eventually succeed. Leave the warm bed and make your way to the bathroom. Shower. Scrub. Shave (preferably the night before). Brush teeth. Rub eyes. Yawn.

Just a little granola with some milk. Less than before. An apple. Yogurt? Take it out but you won’t eat it. Just let it sit while you plan your route. Pick East. Heart Rate strap under bibs. Warmers? The Weatherman says yes. Jersey over the top. Vest for now. Your favorite hat. Your dinged helmet. The only pair of sunglasses without mud caked on them. The socks. The shoes. Clip. Clop.

Keys, Wallet, Phone. One bud in, the other out. Fill your bottles. Lock the door. Zip the vest. Clip. Clop. Open the garage. There She sits.

Lube the chain. Pump the tires. Take it down from the peg. Throw a leg over. Check the Heart Rate Monitor and click the button. 00:00:01.

Breathe.

Ride.

“I feel like I’m my purest sense of myself when I’m riding…”

I know in Internet time, this has long since been dead. It’s more than dead even, it’s ancient history.

The Rapha Continental Film, released just this past year, was a revelation for me. Here I was, trying to type, photograph and capture just what it meant to be on a bike, and in a seventeen minute and fifty second film it was over. There it was.

The day after it was released online I went for what was quintessentially my best ride of 2011. I left early on a Saturday morning with two of my best friends, Tom and Amy and headed out for a century. We’d end up doing just under twenty miles an hour for the whole thing (19.9 to be precise) which bothered Tom to no end. Hills, plains, a coke and some salted almonds. In short, it was perfect.

Just two days later I would crash in the Memorial Criterium, causing me to break my first bone and dislocate my shoulder. My first ‘real’ crash of racing/riding my bicycle since starting in 2008. Needless to say the physical was one thing, but the time off the bike was another. I fell from the form I had and fell into my old habits. Weight came back and speed left – nothing too surprising – depressing just the same.

I watched that film what must have been a million times afterwards. I wanted that feeling again and would do anything for it. I’ve long felt like I was a patient man, I now realized I had no idea what patience was.

Slowly I got back up and on the bike (about five weeks earlier than I was told to) and started riding again. One handed for hours and hours, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to ride. And ride I did. T-County, Theo Wirth, Southside Sprint, Cuyuna, I devoured them all. A dent on my bicycle’s top tube (not structural I’ve been assured) and a sore shoulder all that was left from my season.

2012 holds many things. A new Birchwood RR, the second year of the Ox Yoke and Red Wing, my first trip to Colorado, etc…

But more than anything I’m looking forward to those perfect Saturday rides with friends. That’s what the Rapha Continental is all about, and that’s why I just can’t stop watching it.

Even if the internet says it’s dead.