Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Team JTree rider Jon Roobol gives us the scoop on his race from earlier this month!

Michigan Mountain Mayhem Gravel Grinder – 45 Mile
October 3, 2015
After a long summer learning how to ride a bike with drop bars again, I was finally able to ride my new Trek Boone 9 in a timed setting (that wasn't Strava), and I had great weather and a fun course to do it on. The Gravel Grinder is in its second year and this is my first first time racing it. The turnout was fairly small, but the group start kept the roll-out engaging. The start to this race was unlike any I had done before. As a mountain biker, most races that I do are races of attrition; the first guy sets a hard pace and everyone holds his wheel as long as they can or until they think they have the legs to go around and stay ahead. This rollout was an easy 15-16 mph for the first 4-5 miles, on paved roads. Yes it was into the wind and yes having a tight group to draft in was nice, but it was excruciating to go that slow on a cross bike on paved roads. Chitchat in the group had many of us voicing our consideration to get out front and drive the pace. Well, I finally did.

As I came around the leader, I wasn't going much faster than the group, and I had it in my mind the leader would grab my wheel and the pace would pick up. Next thing I know, I look back and I have a 50 yard gap on the field. Well, shit...What do I do now? After hanging out on my own for a few miles, a few riders fortunately also decided they had had enough of the pace and joined me out front. We drove the pace and established a gap, but after the first of the big climbs all but one of us was back in the group.

I sat near the front until the next climb, glad to had shelter from the wind for a bit. And then the climb came. This is a 2 mile climb with an elevation gain of 500 ft. As you approach, the road is straight, and right in front of you is a scar through the forest of a 2-track logging road that looks like it goes straight up the hill at about a 30% grade. The guys that had done the race last year took the opportunity to tell the new guys that we go straight up that 2-track. Jackasses. Fortunately the road took a right-hand bend and we stayed on pavement. Not that it was all that much better. The leaders launched an explosive attack a mile into the climb and I jumped out and did what I could to stay near the front. Small groups formed and dissolved as we continued the climb before reformed as we crested the top and started into the rough roads that started to lead back toward the finish line.

It was mostly downhill now and the pace picked up. I was well back from the leaders at this point but still sitting well somewhere near 10th. The race took us down logging roads at this point but it felt like singletrack as you had to use the entire road to avoid sandpits, sticks and mud. More than once I had to jump of the bike and push or carry it through sand that was too deep to ride through. I found myself alone when the road opened up again, but I was able to catch limpets of the group in front of me when the road straightened out. I put my head down and pushed to try to close the gap …. and soon regretted it as a woman in an SUV pulled up beside me and told me I missed a turn at the top of a hill a mile back :(

Around I went and picked up the course again after watching rider after rider make the turn I had missed while I climbed back up the hill. Adrenaline does interesting things to the body, and I'm quite sure I had pints of it coursing through my body by this point. It was an all out effort for the last several miles as I did what I could to pass as many riders as I could.

I finished the race exhausted and on the verge of cramping, yet giddy and excited at the same time. What a fun race! The course was fun and challenging, my Boone performed great, y Infinit nutrition was dialed in, and the competition kept me on my toes. I ended up in 17th overall and 3rdin my age group and ready to come back again next year.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ore to Shore

Since 2010 Team JTree has represented at this classic summer race across the great north. The scenery, the trails, the beer... oh the beer... all make for a trip well worth the drive.

After crossing the finish line, we usually shuffle around the finish area dazed and exhausted, covered in a red dust, with a beer in hand, looking like we just returned from a mission to Mars. But this year was different. A slow steady rain Friday night kept the dust down and made for a fast, albeit slightly muddy, course. And left most of us splattered (or completely covered) with mud instead!

Jeff Poirier
20th out of 68 (35-39)

Steve Poirier
23rd out of 51 (30-34)

RJ Meske
35th out of 68 (35-39)

Scott Walter
51st out of 116 (40-44)

Bruce Slowey
32nd out of 76 (50-54)
Chris Molnar
47th out of 68 (35-39)

Steve Butler
69th out of 103 (45-49)


O2S according to Steve:
2015, the year of the sheep. Also the year of my 5th Ore to Shore. It's been a strong year for me and having completed several races and many many training rides, I felt prepared for the race. The last time I raced here was 2013, and while it was a strong ride, I ended up on the side of the trail with 10 miles to go, trying in vain to fix my broken chain. I fixed it and carried on, but my time suffered. 

As I stood at the starting line with Jeff, Scott and RJ – listening to the national anthem and watching Jeff try to fix Greg's suddenly busted jersey zipper – I thought maybe, just maybe, I could break 3 hours this time. With the national anthem over, and Greg's zipper not fixed, the gun fired and we we're off. On and off Scott's wheel during the paved rollout, I was finally able to grab on and stick like glue once we hit the dirt. The usual red dust had been tempered by rain the night before, and we were moving fast. Jeff was gone – up ahead of us – and RJ had fallen behind. For now, It was just me and Scott.

Eight Miles in we were bombing down a rough road, dodging huge puddles and running through others like we were on slalom course. As I approached a puddle that was split down the middle by a 12 inch land bridge, I saw the tire in front of me take the middle, so I followed, as it seemed like the logical thing to do. Without a chance to react, I was sliding sideways.... aaaaaand I'm in the puddle. It was dark and sticky, like melted chocolate, and I was now covered in it. As I collected myself and got back in the saddle, Scott came running toward me yelling "Steve!" Now covered head to toe in mud, he didn't recognize me and kept running right past me!

Having been waylaid by my detour into the cesspool, RJ caught up to us and we got back into a grove, eventually making up ground that we'd lost. I couldn't wipe the sweat out of my eyes because my gloves were covered in mud. So as we trudged through the power line roads and up misery hill, I squinted, closed my eyes tight and used my camlebak tube to rinse things off so I could see. Because seeing is important. Adding insult to injury, I had lost a full bottle of Infinit Nutrition, and with only a 1/4 of a bottle left and some water in my camlebak, I needed to start rationing.

With me in survival mode, Scott, then RJ pulled away. I was forcing Bonk Breakers down my throat every 20 minutes to keep the electrolytes up and slowly sipping my Infinit custom blend like it was liquid gold. Thinking I was destined to ride the remainder of this thing on my own, I saw Scott up ahead of me. He'd slowed down for me and was now pulling my tired ass across the Dead River Basin on 510. We linked up with a group and started gaining on RJ. I could see him. We needed to catch him. Scott handed me his bottle of perpetuem and I took a big pull of it. I was recharged!

Thirty-three miles in, with RJ in our sights, Scott was looking tired. I asked if he wanted to make a run with me (he'd saved my ass this whole race!), but he declined. So I powered forward and caught RJ with about 9 miles to go. "Come-on RJ, you're slowing down!" I yelled. "I'msogksdljsfiafr dsfafd tired fdsafjk cramps" (or something) he replied. I was tired and cramping too. It was brutal. So I started to equate distance left to known trails. "Only a blue loop at Island to go." or "Almost there, just a Maybury without the twisties!". It was working, but the cramps got worse. I was pedaling squares. Up. Forward. Down. Backward. Repeat. 

Pavement. I'm so close. I think I can break 3 hours! Nope. I propelled myself across the finish line without an effort. I had nothing left in the tank. Three Hours. One Minute. Forty-Nine seconds. I was pumped about that. 34 Minutes better than my previous best. I'll take it.


Check out RJ's version of events:
While 2015 marked my first Ore to Shore experience, it has been a race that I have been wanting to complete for quite some time. The stars finally aligned this year and I was both excited and nervous to give the 48-mile, Hard Rock race a shot. Actually, I was a bit more nervous than excited. Before this race I had yet to race anything longer than the Barry Roubaix 36-miler and that doesn’t have anywhere near the same type of course challenges that the Ore to Shore Epic does. Sprinkle in a little downward trend in saddle time over the past couple of months, and you have a recipe for an extra bit of anxiety leading up to the race.

The morning of the race was beautiful, nothing like the overcast skies and steady rain most of the day prior. Unfortunately a combination of nerves and tent camping left me with a lack of sleep from the previous night and I was already feeling tired during our warm-up ride.  Once we were in the corral, anxiously awaiting the start of the race, things started to change. While still anxious, I started to get more excited surrounded by my fellow JTree teammates: Scott, Jeff and Steve and several hundred other racers. 

The rollout was fast, faster than I expected. I saw Scott trying to catch Jeff’s wheel, but Jeff was on a mission and nobody on our team was catching him that day. About a mile in I finally got on Scott’s wheel, but soon lost it as we left the pavement and hit the infamous red dirt. Actually, it was more mud than dirt for the first mile or so, the rain from the day prior sure would be a presence throughout the race. For the next several miles I was doing my best to keep my heart rate and pace in check. My tendency to go out strong and struggle towards the finish was at the forefront of my mind throughout the first half of the race and I was doing everything I can to make sure that didn’t happen.

After losing my teammates in the first couple miles I was sure I would not see them until the finish line. To my surprise, Steve’s bad luck and Scott’s sportsmanship invalidated my assumption. Around mile 8 or so, Steve took a spill and Scott stopped and turned around to make sure Steve was ok. That’s when I caught up to the two of them and was able to keep them in sight for the middle half of the race. They stayed in front of me for quite some time, but Misery Hill and a fair amount of hike-a-bike kept me close behind and feeling ready to start the second half push.

The second half of the race is a tale of two experiences. Miles 24-36 were great, I felt strong and the general downhill course profile was exactly what I needed. I managed to get out in front of Scott and Steve by attaching myself to a large group of 10 or more riders. At this point I really thought I was going to break 3 hours and have a very successful first Ore to Shore. Unfortunately my legs did not share the same sentiment and started the slightest twinges of cramps around mile 36 and went to full-blown, leg-lock at mile 42. I actually had to get off my bike and attempt to stretch, unfortunately when I tried to stretch my quads, my hamstrings would seize. Standing on the side of the trail with only 4 miles to go, I actually thought I might not finish. Then, two bikers came roaring by and one shouted, “suck the fucker up!” This gave me just enough motivation to hop back on the bike, polish off my remaining Infinit Nutrition bottle and push through to the end.

Crossing the finish in 3:05 was bitter sweet. My time was respectable, but I felt horrible and was disappointed that I did not break three hours. It was a good learning experience and I will definitely change a few things next time, because there will most certainly be a next time.


Here's what Scott had to say:
This was my 2nd time racing at Ore to Shore. I flatted last year so I expected a much better result this time around. Shooting for under three hours, I took a wrong turn at mile 37 and lost 5-6 minutes. After that I lost my motivation. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Spring/Summer Races

Team JTree riders have been racing all across the state this year, and with race season now in full swing, there's plenty more to come. So far we've flown the team colors at:
 • Barry Roubaix
 • Yankee Springs TT
 • Pontiac Lake Tailwind Race
 • Fort Custer Stampede
 • Mud, Sweat and Beers
 • Mohican 100K (check out the writeup by JTree rider Marsita MacDonald)
 • Sweat Shaker
 • Island Lake Tailwind Race
 • Tree Farm Relay
 • Ore to Shore
 • Maybury TT
 • Glacial Hills Tailwind Race

We've picked up a little hardware along the way, and we've had a blast doing it!

Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 Barry Roubaix

Barry Roubaix always kicks the race season off with a bang. Or is it a punch to the gut? Whatever the case, the frigid temperatures numbed us up like an anesthesiologist. Team JTree was there in force to put all those trainer hours to the test. We think it was a pretty good start to the season.

By the numbers
14 Degrees at go-time

16 Team JTree racers
1 62 miler
3 Sub 2-hour finishers (36 mile)
2 top ten finishers (in their age group)
3 Racers rolling fatties
602 Total miles ridden
15th place in the team competition
0 Injuries
1:59:34 – Average time in the team competition

Steve Poirier – 7th out of 52 (36 mile – 32-34)
2015 was my 4th time racing Barry Roubaix, and after putting in a molasses-like time in 2014, I was determined to make this my best one, shooting for a finish of two hours. I had three things working in my favor this year:
1. Great conditions
2. Strong off-season training (Thanks Chris!)
3. New Bike (Cross bike FTW!)

How it all went down
I started in wave 9, because people my age are slow (it’s true). The roll-out was fast and sooooooo cold. Once we caught up to the waves in front of us it was hard to tell who was who. I fell off the lead train about a mile in and ended up working alone for much of the race. Rolling into town near finish, it seemed like no one was going fast enough. I pushed myself past everyone in sight, and even though there wasn't a sprint finish, hitting my goal with just one second to spare. Cheers to Barry roubaix 2015!

Along the way
Feeling strong, the only thing that could stand between me and my goal were frozen water bottles! Just as I started to feel the burn, I hit the aid station. I locked eyes on a banana, swing and a miss. – There’s no dexterity wearing ski gloves!

Scott Walter – 39th out of 135 (36 mile – 40-42)
This year marked my 3rd Barry Roubaix....and slowest. 2013 I managed 1:57, 2014 was 2:04 (in peanut butter conditions) and 2015 was 2:05. Although I was battling health issues the entire off season that kept me out of the saddle a chuck of the winter, plus I had the start of a upper respiratory infection going on that day.....basically the perfect storm for a poor performance. My expectations were not sky high, but honestly given the conditions I thought I had something better in me than what I gave.....apparently not.

How it all went down
Nothing of note happened during the race other that getting harassed by buddies on competing teams as they passed me (they thought I should have been going faster). The rollout was OK....but as usual, I found myself pinned in the middle of the pack and watch my team mate Chris Molnar bounce to the outside and pull away. I wanted to ride with him, but was stuck in pack with no escape. By the time the pack broke up, Chris was out of sight. I didn't crash, which is good. About the only highlight was the last couple miles of pavement. I found new life and a couple of guys I was riding with broke away from the pack and had a nice sprint finish. Looking at Strava after the fact, my splits those last few miles were significantly faster than the past two years. So really that was only silver lining on the race itself.

Along the way
Aside from an overall feeling of being outta shape and struggling to hold a 2 hour-race pace, there was little interesting or 'amusing' about that race. Although, one thing lightened the mood a little. At roughly the 20 mile point (give or take a few miles) I rolled up on JTree teammate Jeff Poirier. Me: "Hey Jeff, how you doin'?". Jeff: "F#*K!!!" Clearly Jeff was struggling as much as I, so we worked together the remainder of the race....but his response to my question of how he was doing made me smile.

Jon Roobol – 82nd out of 163 (62 mile Killer, Men's Open Class)
This is my second year doing Barry-Roubaix and both time I've done the 62 mile "Killer" length. Last year I didn't know what to expect and the combination of the early season race and the soft road conditions had me suffering like a fool for much of the 62 miles. This year was different in every way.

The day started with me scared. The temperature was 17F when we pulled into the parking lot at the start. I changed jerseys and base layers 3 times before settling on something I hoped would keep me from freezing while I waited for the start and yet keep me from overheating in the last hour of the race as the temperature rose. I had also planned on bringing hot water to fill my water bottles with to keep them from freezing, but I had forgotten my thermos at home. I felt good about my bike, a steel mountain bike that I used for just about everything, but worried the 1x10 drivetrain might not give me the gears I would want while out on the gravel roads. My gut was churning with anxiety about the day as I stood shivering in the starting corral with the rest of wave one.

Once we were moving, I didn't have time to think about being anxious any more. The rollout was fast! I was able to settle into a large group holding a good pace and took turns pushing the pace on the front and recovering in the oh so sweet draft at the back. The pack was demolished as we went through Sanger Rd (road...Ha...what a disservice to the word), but I came out ok, just narrowly missing getting caught up in a crash. Another group swept me up several miles down the road that I worked with until a particularly steep hill several miles from the finish. My legs decided the pace going up was too much finally and they cramped up in a particularly painful synchronous fashion that left me watching the group ride away as we crested the hill. The 30 foot gap quickly turned to 50, then 80, then they were gone up the road. I was exhausted from trying to catch back up to the group and still several miles from the finish line, but I was ecstatic! The pace I had ridden thus far was faster than I had dreamed and I was on track for a great personal best. I buckled down, ate another few energy chews and settled into the hardest pace I could maintain to the finish.

I had been hoping to take a few minutes off of last year's time, I ended up taking off over 30! The conditions were perfect, my chosen jersey kept me comfortable in the changing temperatures and I never had to deal with a frozen bottle. I finished so far ahead of my anticipated time that I rolled up to the team tent at the finish line before folks were even starting to think about wandering over to the line to cheer me on as I finished. It was a great feeling surprising everyone and as we exchanged high-fives and stories from the gravel I couldn't stop grinning through my exhaustion. Already looking forward to next year, but Lumberjack is up next.

TJ Tyrrell - 58 of 91 (36 mile – Men's open Fat Bike)
This was my 3rd consecutive Barry-Roubaix and best time ever. The 2013 B-R was my first-ever bike race and furthest I have ever ridden a bike in my life. This B-R marks two years of MTB racing and I really enjoy it. This was the second time I raced on my Fat Bike and I was hoping for a finish in under 2.5 hrs. Thanks to firm and dry conditions, I achieved my goal and beat my prior time by 15 minutes.

How it all went down
I rolled out in the Fat Bike Wave 12 with a couple friends but we found it difficult to stay together and separated after a few miles. My Camelbak tube quickly froze up and I was unable to hydrate for the 1st half of the race. I thought about stopping off track and try to get it working like some other riders but finally thought to tuck my tube inside my jacket which warmed it up enough to get things flowing again after a few minutes.

I pretty much rode alone until the last few miles when I noticed another Fatty on my wheel. We worked together a couple miles, caught up to a couple more riders on fats who were all motivated to try to stay with us. The last couple miles I said c’mon let’s go! and started to break away from the other 4. I was passed by a big guy riding fat one of the last downhills but passed him as things flattened out again and stayed ahead of the group to the finish.

It was my first time on the Sager Road section that had been closed the last two years due to conditions. I really enjoyed that section but was slowed down a bit as a large group of riders had difficulty navigating the ruts and rocks. There are too many young bucks riding fat bikes now so I think I’ll be riding in my age group next year. ;)

Brandon Thielen - 16 out of 86 (36 Mile – 35-37)
Things got interesting before the race even started. I had a work event before the race and only got a few hours of sleep the night before. While staying at some sketchy motel (to remain nameless) some guy came in to my room. Apparently they give the same key to everyone and despite having the swing bar door lock set, he was still able to get in. I arrived in the morning just in time to pick up my packet (The line was SO LONG!) and 'warm up' on the rush to make it to the start.

2015 was my 2nd time racing Barry. Last year I was happy to finish the race on my tricked out MTB. This year I wasn't sure what to expect having only a few short rides in on my new Boone 5 disc.
2014 - 2:07:032015 - 1:57:04 

This year I was hoping to 
1. be able to participate in the race.  (see work event, above) 
2. exceed last years time/get close to an avg 18 mph
3. have some good Bell's beer after the race

How it all went down
The start was tame – no one seemed to get overly out of control and blast off too fast. I was hoping to hang up with Jeff and RJ but they started to drift back. The excitement of the new bike made it hard to pace myself. No self control! During the early push there were a lot of large stones flying up in my face. The group I was hoping to hang with blew away from me at right at the turn on to Sager, that was a bit of a mental setback. I had decent finish but wasn't as comfortable as I wanted to be. The last couple bends I made a mental note due to my noob comfort level with the new bike to not get too excited and do something dumb and crash. No crashes. Solid race.