Thursday, May 26, 2016

Salsa Cycles Bike Demo Thursday May 26th @ The Woolly

Hey Woolly Fans!

You might notice that our trail conditions sign in the upper right says special event.  What's up with that you may ask.  Well, Cyclova XC has Salsa coming out with their fleet of demo bikes and letting you all rip it up on the trails.

We've had some rain so the trails are a bit damp, but should be drying out nicely by this afternoon.  Even so we've decided to close most of the trails except for our most sustainable trails for the demo loop just to be sure.  Specifically the demo loop will be Big Oak and Erratic Rock.

So come on out and check out the bikes and trails.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 2016 Woolly Board Meeting

Hey Folks,

Tonight, Thursday May 19th, is our monthly board meeting.  This is where the club board and any and all interested members gather to discuss Woolly business including but not limited to races/events, trails, outreach, and bikes.

You will find us in the St. Croix Falls Library meeting room at 7:00pm.  You can enter the meeting room directly from the south end of the library.

If you are curious what goes on to run the club I encourage you to join us.

Tonight's proposed agenda:

1.  Financial recap (Dallas)

2.  Race recap and discussion (Matt)

3.  Trailhead discussion 
--Sign Update (Dallas)
--Other upgrades: pump/workstation, etc...

4.  Vice Chair discussion
--We need one.
--anyone interested?
--vote tonight or wait until June?

5.  Trail discussion

6.  Website/Social Media discussion (Ben)

7.  Purchases
--Storage Shed/Rental Unit

8.  Probably a few other things that I can't think of right now (Sorry).

9.  Go home (no later than 8:15...unless people just want to hang out)

Maybe see you tonight,


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Royal 162 2016 - A Woolly "Race" Report

Grab a Woolly approved beverage, this was a long ride, and therefore a long report.

At the end of the Strada Fango report I mentioned that Woolly Nate and I were planning on doing something that scared me a little, but I wasn't going to say anything more until we actually accomplished it.  That thing was the Royal 162, the middle child in the Wilderfest trio of siblings, the Almanzo 100 being the favorite child.

My attempt at the Royal started last year when Herr Woolly Starr rode Almanzo for the first time.  She rode it on her mountain bike as her first century of any kind, let alone on gravel.  At the end of it she said she was coming back next year, but if she was going to be on her bike for 11 hours, I had to be as well and I therefore had to do the Royal.

Now a few things.  One, I was positive she wasn't going to be on her bike for 11 hours again with all the riding she did over the last year.  Two, I was positive there was no way I was going to finish the Royal in 11 hours.

But, why let details stand in between me and a new challenge.  Honestly I was intrigued with a new challenge.  While a gravel century is never easy, outside of inclement weather or catastrophic mechanical failure, I don't have any doubts about my ability to complete one.  Since I haven't quite caught the bike racing bug yet to just try doing something faster than before, the idea of challenging myself to complete something I wasn't sure I was capable of definitely caught my interest.


Being signed up for something that scared me, you would think I would prepare a little more.  As far as riding goes it was a slow and steady increase in volume since the very abrupt end of ski season in early March.  Had ski season lingered on I might have been in real trouble.  A couple of gravel 50 milers, a jump to the Mammoth 100 a few weeks back, Strada Fango the weekend after that.  At the end of the Mammoth I was worked over but not dead.  Its pretty dang flat though.  At the end of the Strada Fango I was also worked, but again, not dead, and it was very hilly.  Moral of the story was I wasn't super prepared, but I hadn't seen any signs that it was going to be impossible yet.

Originally I thought was going to be riding alone.  That also gave things a bit of a me against everything, what have I gotten myself into kind of vibe.  After riding the Mammoth with Nate though he indicated he might be game.  Then after Strada he was still game.  We have matched up really well riding fitness this spring so I was pretty excited to have a good riding partner to share the adventure with.  Someone to pull for a while when I was not feeling it and someone I could pull for a while when I was.

The week leading up to the event was one of gear prep.  First up was rider clothing.  As it turned out, the start of the Royal was colder than the start of the Birkie ski race.  Isn't that something?  I wore my Woolly jersey all day, but it never saw the sun since I never took my jacket off.  Everything seen in the picture was worn all day except the thin arm warmers and the short fingered bike gloves.  Instead of the arm warmers I threw on a thin wool base layer.  Yes, I had sunscreen on.  Nope, it never saw the sun either.

As far as gear and food goes, my plan was to bring some stuff I knew I wanted, and then refuel at the gas station in Harmony around mile 60 and then if I needed anything else, hope they had it mile 120 or 130.  I'll cover the gas station food shortly, but in this picture I had: Cue sheets (never used them, the course on my watch was fine), 5 200 cal servings of Tailwind (2 Raspberry Buzz, one lemon, and two Green Tea Buzz) and I consumed all but one and they were great from start to finish, a small first aid kit (didn't need it), small multi tool with pliers (didn't need it), bottle of chain lube in an old sock, a bag of trail mix with cashews and caramel (awesome), electrolyte tab (didn't use), fig newtons (usually good but I only had a couple), dark chocolate and nut bars (had one), some gus (didn't have any thankfully), and some vitamin I, excedrine, and tums of which I only used the vitamin I.  Not pictured is the contents of my saddle bag which contained a patch kit, spare tube, bike tool, a couple of quick links, CO2, and tire levers.  I also had a small pump mounted to a bottle cage.

I also carried two large water bottles and two small ones.  I ended up never needing the 4th bottle, but had it been warmer I almost certainly would have.  In the end, over prepared, but that is better than under prepared.  These are self-supported races and I try to live by the Boy Scout Motto of Be Prepared.

I was riding my trusty Salsa Warbird.  I was going to bring some clip-on aerobars and decide if I was going to put them on Friday night or not.  As it turns out I forgot them at home so just the stock Cowbell drop bars.  I did change out my small chain ring early on in my ownership to a 33.  I just needed a little lower gear for climbing than the stock 36 gave me.


Bundled up standing in the sun on main street Spring Valley at 6:55 waiting for the start with about 30 others.
Nate and I rolled into a very sedate Spring Valley compared to the start of the 100 the last two years.  As we gathered at the start there were only roughly 30 of us ready to take on the miles, cold, and wind.

My plan for the day was to ride at an all day pace from the start.  It was going to take me all day so no need to go too fast on the gun.  With the howling wind and the generally northerly direction for the first 15 miles Nate and I opted to try to hang with the pack.  It was a hot pace though.  Too many watts to hang with a pack to save a few watts isn't a good plan.  My legs were definitely talking to me and we had only been riding for 20 minutes so this was a concern.  Not alarming as I tend to warm-up slowly but still.

I eventually slid off the back with a few others by mile 10.  Eventually Nate had to ditch his jacket and I caught him and we settled into our all day pace as the riders around us disappeared.  Riding the 100 you can go a few hours before you find yourself alone on the road.  We saw a few riders occasionally, but generally we had the road to ourselves within an hour or so.

We took two very short bio breaks with second just before Preston.  I took a quick video to give folks a sense of the wind and countryside.  In this case we were riding with the wind so it was kind of nice.  We are at mile 36 here.  Just down in the valley to the right of the road is where we will be a mere 81 miles later.  The wind sound is actually pretty realistic and isn't just the microphone on the phone being noisy, that is what it was like all day long.

After our quick stop we rolled on.  Later, for the 100 riders, there would be a check point with water etc in Preston.  For us, just empty road so we kept moving.  Eventually we reached the point where we diverged from the 100 course and entered new territory for me.  We took a left while the 100 riders would go another 500 feet and turn right.  The same place we would reenter the 100 course some 55 miles later.

After the first 15 miles or so bucking the wind with a pack, we had been riding generally south and east for the last 3 hours.  It was time to take our first foray into a north bound segment.  Ouch.  Eventually we got into a cool sheltered valley, but the exposed roads were a lot work to not go very fast.  It was only a few miles though and then we were cruising south and east again to our final sign of civilization until we were going to get to Forestville at mile 122.

We rolled into Harmony and the Kwik Trip for a short break and refueling before getting on the road again.  We found a few other folks also stopped and a few others stopped while we were there.  I went endurance athlete purist here and ate 2 egg rolls while stopped, bought a cheese burger I stuffed in my jacket pocket for sometime later, some meat and cheese sticks, and a king sized salted nut roll.  We were in and out of Harmony in about 12 minutes.

Endurance Fuel
The nut roll didn't make it more than a dozen miles after Harmony.  The cheeseburger got eaten some 40 miles later.  It was just as good as you might think a gas station cheese burger stuffed in a jersey pocket for 3 hours might be after riding 100 miles.  It was delicious!

From Harmony we rolled south into Iowa.  The border is poorly marked basically being when you cross State Line Road.  A few miles south into Iowa and then we were as far away from Spring Valley as we were going to get for the day and also as far downwind as we were going to get.  The majority of the rest of the 84 miles were going to be into the wind.

The first battle was the 15 mile stretch straight west through Iowa and into the wind.  At first it wasn't so bad, you got used to it.  Then in combination with the hills it just got old.  We eventually took a few minute rest stop in the "shade" of a few trees just a mile shy of making the turn to go north again.  Here is another short video of us riding west into the wind in Iowa.

When we finally made that turn to go north it wasn't really any better.  The north west wind was still in our face, it was just blowing in the other ear.  So just different.  When we finally hit the next stretch to go east for a little while that was fun.  We had a 15 minute stretch where we averaged over 18 mph.

Eventually after going through Granger/Florenceville we made the turn to go north and we were only a few miles from reentering the 100 course.  Unfortunately it turns out there was a 2 mile 2% grade hill that was either super fresh gravel or straight into the wind or both.  We did have an Amish carriage come flying down the hill towards us during this stretch.  They slowed way down and pulled way over and waved as we rode past.  Nice folk.

An accidental picture, but a good idea of what the gravel was generally like.  Usually plenty of very firm riding to be had with marble sized aggregate on most of the road.  In the fresh gravel sections picture a few inches of the aggregate across the whole road.
Eventually we made it back to the 100 course.  I had been wondering what we might find when we got there.  While we got a two hour head start, we had also covered an extra 55 miles.  The conditions this year being somewhat more extreme I figured we might find some carnage on the road.  We immediately started passing little knots of 100 riders.  Some of them just plugging away, some of them clearly struggling.  We said hi to most of them, sometimes getting a response, sometimes not so much.

Things generally start blurring together at this point.  I was still feeling surprisingly good despite being solidly into longest ride ever territory.  While the wind was definitely annoying it wasn't getting in my head making me think I wasn't going to be able to finish.  I just sort of went into keep pedaling mode until we finally reached Forestville.

Rolling through Iowa.
We made our longest stop of the day here at about 15 minutes.  I ate a few more mini salted nut rolls and chatted with a few of the aid station workers while filling my bottles.  Pretty quick we were back on the road to bang out the remaining 34 miles.

I was mentally preparing myself for the remaining climbing.  You get punched in the gut pretty good leaving Forestville with the paved climb and then two pretty gnarly climbs on Maple in the next 5 miles.  We got through them without much issue though and pretty soon found ourselves rolling into Cherry Grove for the final aid station.

It was cool to meet Ben from Riding Gravel/Mountain Bike Radio.  He and Guitar Ted of Trans Iowa stepped in at the last minute with the Challenge Tire folks to keep the Cherry Grove Oasis going.  I continued to surprise myself with feeling good and wasn't really in need of anything, but helped myself to some water and peanut M&Ms anyhow.

The climb out of the water crossing.
And then we were on the road again to the water crossing.  Which was dry.  Lame.  Actually that was probably a good thing because I really wouldn't have wanted wet feet.  They were cold most of the day as it was.

We were almost in the home stretch now.  Less than 20 miles to go seems like you are almost there anyhow.  We had been on the bikes for 11 hours so less than 2 to go seems like nothing.  We were passing more and more 100 mile riders on this windy stretch.  All on our way to Oriole.

In my past two Almanzo experiences I've ridden every hill including Oriole.  Early on in the day as I was struggling up some of the hills I was worried about being able to climb at the end of the day.  As we approached Oriole though I was kind of excited to climb.  I knew we had Oriole and then the climb by Deer Creek and we were basically home free.

I'm not sure how Nate felt but I could definitely smell the hay in the barn and once we were over the last two hills I was on the gas pushing for the finish.  I definitely thought we could finish under 12.5 hours so I was pushing for that.  Don't get me wrong, I was definitely tired and my pushing was interspersed with some really tired stretches.

Nate climbing away from the water crossing.
And then we were done.  It was semi anti-climactic.  We had ridden 156 miles in just under 12.5 hours and we were just done.  It felt good to be off the bike, but it was just sort of done.  We joined Woolly Micah and Herr Woolly Starr for dinner and Woolly approved beverages at Rack's Bar and Grill before poaching a shower at Forestville State Park and crawling into sleeping bags at Maple Springs Campground.  By the time I got up the next morning Nate and Micah were both gone.  I must have been more tired than they were.


Awesome.  It was a challenge that we met head (wind) on.  I'm honestly surprised with how well I came through the ride.  I'm definitely interested in trying it again next year.  Maybe with a whole herd of Woolly?  Maybe something bigger someday too (Dirty Kanza anyone)?

What's Next

I gotta get on my mountain bike and ride some single track.  The Woolly is in awesome shape right now and I've got about 5 miles on single track this year.  Tatanka 100 is coming up in July and I'm honestly just as concerned about riding that as I was about doing this so time to get comfortable on my mountain bike.

May Woolly Update - Gear, Board Meeting, Herr Ride & Wine

Monday, May 9, 2016

Strada Fango 2016 - A Woolly "Race" Report

A few years ago I did the Strada Fango as my very first major gravel ride with fellow Woollies Frank, Keith, and Dallas.  That event was a little earlier in the year, or winter hung around a little longer, or a combination of both.  That year we had a 3 mile stretch completely covered in snow, and the frost was still coming out of the road.  That was a huge effort for me at the time.

Just last week I was looking at my calendar and realized that this year's edition fell on a day I was available to go again.  I was excited to give this another go and see how my bike fitness stacks up against a few years ago.  I was also excited to ride with fellow Woollies Nate and Dallas as well as Herr Woolly, Starr.


Nate and I rode the Mammoth Classic 100 together 3 weeks ago.  This was "only" 75 miles, but I knew it was not an easy 75 miles.  I've been doing weekly Park Repeats though so I've done more structured cycling workouts this spring than in any previous so I was fairly confident I was more fit.

There is a new bike in our family which required a new framebag to carry gravel adventure goodies.  With good planning I decided to start that project at 6:00 on Saturday prior to packing myself for the ride.  So while I was sewing in the dining room, Starr was in the garage wrenching on her bike.
From bike, to template, to fabric.
It's not perfect, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out.
We finally finished packing and were in bed by 1:00 am on Sunday morning.  Totally fine prep for a ride that starts 1.5 hours away at 11:00 am.


Continuing the excellent preparation theme, I was rolling back in the parking lot to drop another bottle of water in the support truck when the race started and everyone was riding the other direction.
Moments before the start.  Those riders were about to go towards the camera and I was about to go away from the camera. Photo Credit: Noah Michaelsen
That's OK, I needed a little extra hard warm-up right?  The 3/4 of a mile or so is paved and all uphill and then it dives into the gravel.  The gravel in the first part of the course was pretty soft and loose this year.  It made chasing the lead group down a little more exciting and hard work.

No sooner had I caught the lead group and I came off the back.  My HR was well above 75 mile pace.  Thankfully fellow Woolly Nate eased off with me.  We were a good match for fitness a few weeks ago.  The pace was definitely still higher than 75 mile pace, but the lead group hadn't quite gotten out of sight yet.  They were about to get out of sight and I would have let up a little more when Friend of Woolly Tim came off the back of the lead group.  Sadly that meant we had to keep chasing to catch him which we finally did as we hit the first stretch of pavement.

Finally relaxed enough to finally get the phone out and take a picture.  Promptly followed by almost crashing so I had to stop to put it away again.

Nate and I settled into more of an all day pace finally and spent the next two hours rolling through the hills.  Nate spun out on one of the steepest pitches that also had some of the loosest gravel on it.  So I had to take a picture to commemorate it.

I'll admit to pushing the pace in the final few miles before meeting up with Noah at the truck to refill bottles.  I'm not really sure why other than thinking it was taking me longer than I expected and thinking Starr might not make it before the 2:45 cut off as it was already 2:00 when we got there after some not so easy riding.  Turns out she didn't make it along with a few other people, but Noah back tracked the course to check on folks.  She would have been fine anyhow, but I can worry a little even if she's never given me any reason to.

Back to the aid station.  Nate and I rolled in to find Adam, Jon, and Nathan all still there.  We refilled bottles, got a pretty obfuscated message about a bridge out at mile 57, and were off with the trio ahead of us.  They gapped us pretty much off the line and I was fine letting them ride away from us.

Jon, Noah, Nate, and Adam at the aid station.

Choose your own adventure.  Like any good gravel ride is.
The next stretch of roads I do not remember fondly from my ride in 2013.  That year I also left with a group and had them all ride away from me until I hit Imalone Rd and definitely felt like I was all alone.  This year, other than not being able to hang with the other three guys, I was feeling fine and Nate and I continued to roll along.

Unfortunately on Imalone Nate flatted.  Unlike the road name would indicate, I did not abandon Nate and instead tossed him my spare tube and pump (so he didn't have to patch and use CO2) and stretched for a few minutes while he got going again.

Next we climbed the stair steps on Sentinel Ash Rd.  I definitely remember those from a few years ago as well.  This year the leaves were coming out providing a nice shady canopy over the road both keeping us a little cooler and obscuring the size and number of steps yet to go to the top.

About to climb Sentinel Ash Rd.
The left off the top of Sentinel Ash bombs you down a quick descent followed by another steep climb.  On the 2013 version of the Strada this was the final big hill of the day.  I thought it was going to be again.  Nate was pretty sure there was some Norwegian still to come, but I wasn't so sure.  A quick check of my sweaty cue sheets once we hit pavement again confirmed that Nate was right, we weren't done climbing yet.

But first was the choose your own adventure part of the course.  I'm for a little adventure in my ride so I was all for the bouncy extension ladder like bridge across the stream.  Oh, and that big hill too.

Yup, that looks like road closed.

What is on the other side of the crane?

Not anything suitable for vehicle traffic that is for sure.
Nate successfully made it across the very bouncy "bridge".
After the bridge crossing we progressed our way to Norwegian Rd.  Its a bit like Oriole for those familiar with Almanzo.  You have about 10 miles to go, and a big, steep, ugly hill in front of you.  Nate, myself, and one other gentleman I can't remember his name all managed to grunt our way to the top of that sucker.

In post ride analysis, climbing Norwegian was basically a Park Repeat for me at mile 65.  Here in the valley the climb in Interstate Park from the North Campground to the visitor center is a go to interval workout.  A good hard repeat will take me about 4 minutes and will have my HR above 170.  That was about what this was.

Why don't we do an interval in the last 15% of a ride?
After that I was back on the gas for the remaining 10 miles or so.  I'm not sure exactly why I was in a hurry to finish, as that wasn't going to get me off the bike any sooner as I'll explain in a minute.  But with a little final push through a little nausea in the last couple of miles I was able to ride into Murphy Flowage Park after 5:25:26 of riding and the sixth finisher of the full course.

After a quick chat with fellow Salsa Warbird Squadron members and second, third, and seventh finishers respectively Dustin, Nathan, and Nate I reloaded all of my water bottles, applied some more sunscreen and headed back out on course.  See I'm kind of fond of the Herr Woolly rider still out on course and I told her I would come back out and ride the rest of the course back in with her.  What a guy will do for love...

I was pretty tired and was hoping she wasn't too far away.  I was really concerned that if I got all the way to Norwegian and hadn't run into her yet I was going to have to climb that hill again.  Thankfully I was still on the fire road when I came across her.  She was of course completely fine, but it was nice to share 45 minutes of riding together.

So in the end I was pretty pleased with the official Strada Fango ride, but I also got a bonus 16 miles of riding in for the day.  Not too shabby at all.  The BBQ in Rice Lake on the way home definitely hit the spot though and I slept well.

Two happy Woollies at the end of the day.
Refueling at Old Southern BBQ in Rice Lake.

What's Next

My typical report ends with a preview of what events I've got coming up.  Fellow Woolly Nate and I are teaming up to do something that definitely is a stretch and slightly scary this coming weekend.  I won't commit it in writing here just yet, I'll wait to make sure we accomplish it before that.  Then I really need to hit some single track as I have the Tatanka 100 coming up in July and that is also scaring me.  So hopefully I'll be out on the Woolly Trails soon and hopefully I'll see you there.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Woolly 2016 Race Stories

I always enjoy reading people's race reports.  Sometimes they are inspiring front of the pack and going for the win stories, sometimes they are feelgood stories, sometimes they are racers just like me and I can learn something, and sometimes they are funny.

Just like we did for the Mammoth Gravel Classic, as we find race reports from the Woolly we will link them here.  If you have a story you would like to share, but don't have a home on the internet to put it, you can send it to us (check out the contact page) and we can publish something for you.

So here are three reports I've seen so far.

First up is Jay Richard's weekly Midwest MTB Report including a first hand report on the Woolly.

Next we have Frank Stanton's report from the marathon race.

Last but certainly not least, we have Woolly's own Alica Fisk.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Woolly Race Results

What an incredible weekend!  The Woolly members and volunteers are truly grateful and completely exhausted after the weekend.  And not just our dirt kings Jason and Nate who tackled the Marathon class.  560 riders was a better turnout than we could have hoped for.

As we recover this week we will share some of our thoughts and impressions of the weekend.  In the meantime, be sure to check out the RESULTS over at the series page.  And as always find yourself in the Todd Bauer Images race photos.

The trails are still in great condition and the weather is gorgeous so we encourage you to come back and see the trails again.  The St. Croix Valley is alive with the sights, sounds, and smells of spring.  You might even notice the wildflowers blooming if you aren't racing.

Woolly riding the Woolly