Category Archives: Race Reports

Calvin’s Crosswinds

The long winter and the long time since the last race left me, and surely most of my fellow racers, uncertain at the start of Calvin’s.  The familiarity of the race soon returned though, as the hiss of tires being inflated filled the parking lot and coolers began lining the bus circle.

The wind was already strong at the start of the race and promised only to get stronger as the day went on. After catching up with a few friends I hadn’t seen since the year before, I started working my way to the start of the race, pushing through the big blob of riders. I was next to Jay Yost, second place last year, and a good friend. With about five minutes to the start, I realized that I didn’t have my timing chip on my helmet. I rushed back to my car, hoping I hadn’t left it at the hotel, found it, slapped it on my helmet, and made it back to the start before the race got underway, though I did lose my position near the front.

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Trying To Be A Fountain

Fires burned through the tobacco fields, in my imagination. The smell was like the hand-rolled cigarettes my uncle used to smoke. I could feel the tar building up on my lungs, coating them, blackening them, leaving them the consistency of putrid yogurt. A bee sting on my inner thigh snapped me from my reverie, but the smell of damp, growing tobacco, something I had never seen before, lingered in the air. With scarcely more than two laps completed, I continued pedaling.

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No Mora!

The corn was taller this year, lurking at the edge of the softball fields surrounding the parking lot, where the hissing of bike pumps and the clicking of waddling cyclists announced the imminent start of a bike race. I was one of them, lubing my already dirty chain (I’ll clean it tomorrow), topping off my tire pressure to 120psi (wait, is that a slow leak?), and lugging my cooler full of bottles to the start line (“did hurt yourself carrying that thing?”, thanks Jay).

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Make It So, Number One

“You must be Dave, I’m Collin,” I said to the red-kitted racer bearing #307 that flew by me as I exited the service road to the school for the first of 27 times over the next 24 hours.  Who was Dave? David Haase, three-time RAAM first American finisher, someone far more experienced in ultras than myself, and who I was hoping to simply hang on to for the race.

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Havin’ a Ball(Town)

Waking my legs up for an early morning race is similar to waking my sister up when we were kids — violence and aggression are necessary. In much the same way that I would simply throw her on the floor to wake her up, I have to attack a hill to snap my legs out of their unfortunate slumber. At Balltown, like Calvin’s, my legs felt stiff and petulant for the first hour or two and only a real hard effort snapped them to life.

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Windsurfing with Calvin

Silence often hides in tailwinds, providing a respite from WHOOSH of air streaming past your ears. This past Saturday at Calvin’s Challenge, the road provided no reprieve from the aural assault of a strong wind. Even when ticking happily along at 30+mph with the tailwind, some flapping, spinning, whistling, or otherwise flailing feature of world inevitably found a way to remind me of the physical assault I’d face the next time I turned left. And so it was for the full 12 hours of the race. Murmurs during the post-race gorging placed the winds somewhere between 16 and 20mph with gusts up to 30mph; they certainly felt it.

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The Thrill of the Chase

I was uncertain. I had done my hardest ever 5-day training block earlier in the week — 440 miles, 37,000ft of climbing — and then taken one day for rest. A day that found me eating ravenously — nothing could fill me up — and napping/lounging after a few morning hikes because I was fried. I had no idea how this “race” — technically it was an organized and supported ride, but it is timed and everyone in the first wave is out to hammer each other, which means race to me– would go. Would I be sufficiently recovered after a lazy day? Or would the mounting fatigue I had felt all week continue and make for a long day in the saddle?

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