The Dirty Apple Ride 2018

I am tardy on this write-up. Sorry! I’ve been busy planning my latest trail care projects. 

Gravel grinding is one of my most favorite things to do. Westchester County isn’t exactly known for its dirt roads – but we have them. Westchester Cycle Club has year-round dirt and gravel rides. Given the popularity of gravel these days, the Board decided to host a gravel event instead of the usual road ride, The Golden Apple Ride.

I was super happy to be able to be the co-Event Director for The Dirty Apple Ride.

My summer was spent developing routes that were both beautiful and challenging – but not so much that a novice gravel rider would feel they were in over their head. I came up with four roughly-concentric routes, ranging from 30 to 60 miles. My co-Event Director Christine was busy getting permits filed and posters to the various bike shops in the area. I managed our communications, online registration, and marketing. She solicited volunteers and coordinated our rest stops and food. We met up monthly, then weekly, as the date got closer.

Event Directing is a full-time job and even with most of the tasks split between us, it was still a challenge. We had a few other volunteers to help us make decisions, complete day-prior tasks, and fund the event – Bob, Bill, Rich, and Steve – as well as a slew of club members who volunteered the day of the event. We couldn’t have done this without them!

A few weeks before the ride our photographer, Dave from Kraus Grafik Services, came down to do a photo shoot of various locations along the route.

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all photos by Kraus Grafik Services

My personal favorite part of the longest route is through a county park. The gravel is chunkier and the climb is a little over 2 miles long, but you feel a million miles away from civilization (even though NYC is about 30 miles south).

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Pass between two ponds and the climb begins

The day of the ride went as well as any event can go – a few hiccups but mostly awesome. The weather was overcast but warm and it had rained the night before – perfect dirt road conditions. The general consensus, confirmed by our rider survey, was the routes were beautiful; the food plentiful; the beer deserved.

The official photo album can be found here.

I’m looking forward to Event Directing the ride again in 2019 – even though it means not getting to ride the event myself! Seeing the happy, muddy faces come back to the start was such a reward for all the time and energy Christine and I put into this event.

Watch the Dirty Apple Ride page for updates as to when the ride will be scheduled next year.

 

As always – see you on the road!

Muddy Onion Spring Classic 2018

Last year I did my first gravel grinder, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Dirt and gravel roads are some of the quietest, most scenic ways to see an area by bicycle. And yes, they often have hills that challenge your mind and body to just. Get. To. The. Top. one pedal stroke at a time.

When Onion River Sports closed last year, the fate of the event was in limbo – but fortunately, a group of former employees decided the show must go on! If you’ve ever doubted what a small band of committed people can accomplish, look no further than this year’s Muddy Onion.

The route was revamped. The rest stops streamlined. The hospitality still off the charts.

Whereas last year we had perfect sunny, dry conditions – this year was almost the total opposite. Winter didn’t start relinquishing control until just a few weeks before the ride. It has been raining more than it’s been dry and sunny, and the roads and trails are in a nearly perpetual state of mud. Lots of people opted for mountain bikes and fat bikes this year over gravel or cross bikes.

Tire Selection

Let’s take a moment to talk about what everyone seemed to be talking about leading up to the event: tire choice.

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Mud2 clearance is “tight”

Last year I threw on 30mm Michelin Mud2s, which are excellent mud tires but sadly do not provide enough clearance on my Salsa Colossal to be used in truly muddy conditions.

After extensive online research (because apparently, no one makes mud tires narrower than 32mm generally), I asked my local shop to order Panaracer GravelKing SK 26s for me.

This was a flawless choice for this year’s conditions, ranging from wet sand to wet hardpack to full-on mud-pits conveniently located at the bottom of every really nice descent. The tires tracked beautifully in suboptimal conditions and were fast-rolling on paved sections.

 

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26mm tires and traction for days

To be sure though – no tire will save you if you can’t handle your bike when it’s sliding in a few different directions. Pro tip: mountain biking on a hardtail will give you the skills needed to improve handling on the road too.

The Ride

Vermont is blessed with an abundance of dirt roads and beautiful scenery – and the Muddy Onion gives you an opportunity to experience both. The first 5 miles still trend up, and by the rest stop at mile 10, we had climbed over 1,300′ while passing family farms, open fields, and taking in views of the Green Mountains.

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the better conditions encountered

The middle 17 miles looped us up to Mirror Lake and the tiny towns that dot Vermont. Screaming downhill to flat lake-side roads that provide an air conditioning effect – not much needed when it’s barely 60*F out! I had pulled off my arm warmers sometime in the first 10 miles, and I certainly wished I had them on as we passed the lake. We passed through beautifully dense pine forest, the scent of pine filling the air. Coming into the final rest stop with around 3,000′ of climbing under our legs.

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Class 4 means Quality

The final 10 miles feature that last few hundred feet of climbing and the last 4 miles trending DOWN and the welcome sight of getting back to Montpelier after 37 miles, 3,650′ of climbing, and a whole lot of dirty fun.

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at the rest stop

Racked the bikes and enjoyed the post-ride BBQ and beverages before getting cleaned up and heading back into town for a coffee at Capitol Grounds Cafe/802 Coffee and purchases at the state store. Sadly, no one at the store knew the whereabouts of Richard. Richard was our superlative Southern Gentleman/MOT clerk last year, and we were hoping to see him again this year.

(I’d love to know how much the Muddy Onion, a smaller gravel event, brings Montpelier in tourism dollars: in accommodations, food, and other purchases. I drive 5 hours each way and purchase gas, stay in a hotel, eat at local restaurants, and make purchases while visiting. Bikes Mean Business!)

Conclusion

The Muddy Onion has once again proven gravel grinders don’t have to be gratuitous sufferfests or hike-a-bike. With an enjoyable route that features stunning scenery and quiet backroads, none of the hills were insurmountable despite providing a truly meaningful challenge (although let’s be real, this year’s peanut butter-like conditions made the steepest of hills that much more challenging).

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this. all. day.

MO18 Elevation

Thank you Onion River Outdoors for another spectacular event. See you next year!!

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See you on the muddy roads!

 

 

Stream of Consciousness

It’s going to be cold.

It’s early. The sun will barely be up.

I don’t know anyone going.

Why am I driving half an hour to run for half an hour just to drive back home in a half an hour? See? Not even worth the effort to get there.

My head feels congested. Maybe I should stay home and sleep.

These pajamas feel so cozy and warm. Why am I going out? It’s going to be cold.

I have to take my son to his school event around the time I need to leave so might as well at least get dressed for the run.

I already laid out all my clothes and my bib is already pinned on. Might as well make the effort.

Forgot my athletic sunglasses – guess I’ll stop by at home before I head out.

The sun is up and it’s not too terrible out. I’ll drive there, see how I feel.

Oh look  – there’s no traffic getting to the race location.

I’m so early. What am I going to do for 45 minutes? At least I got decent parking. 

Pee break, then banana time.

It’s so cold in the shade. Where’s a sunny spot I can stand in?

I guess I should pick a song to kick off the run.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Maybe. Nope. This could be good. Wait, this one already came up.

Is it time to line up yet?

Wow, that guy is stretching like he’s doing a marathon. Maybe I should stretch a bit. But not like I’m a crazy serious runner or anything.

I bet he’s fast.

I should start my app now.

This song is good. (play)

I’m restarting the app. I haven’t moved in three minutes.

This kid standing next to me with her dad is cute. He’s giving her good pointers to not be anxious. She’s clearly not buying it.

Oh – that’s the gun. Time to run. Glad I already started my music and app.

Holy crap why am I doing this? I rode my bike 33 miles yesterday and haven’t run in two weeks. I have no business doing this.

Don’t worry about all the younger folks passing you. Or the older folks. Run your own race, Laura. It’s not about them.

Ug I feel like a slug. Slow and slimy.

I wish running had etiquette like DON’T PASS ME ON MY RIGHT. I’m just trying to stay out of the faster runner’s way.

HOUSE OF PAIN!

Oh sweet – the platoon of military guys is about to pass. How awesome is it that they can run, yell, and carry a flag at the same time?

So many people walking now … gotta keep one foot in front of the other. You got this.

Girl Scouts handing out water at the mid-point? What a great service idea. Note to self for my troop.

Two miles down. One to go. This isn’t so bad.

One more curve, then the homestretch.

Why is it the last quarter-mile straight-away takes forever to actually finish?

Wait, does the official time clock say 30:something? Holy crap, I think I just PR’d!

Finisher medal (cute!) and water bottle acquired.

Walk it out … check your app. Yup, new personal best for a 5k. And actually ran a sub-10 minute mile the whole way.

And to think I felt so slow and sluggish! This is incredible! I am so happy I showed up to run today.

Click to see the bling

 

Disappointment

This morning I was supposed to run my first five-mile event/race but I didn’t go.

 

My reasons:

* I feel terrible today. Some combination of intense seasonal allergies and camping Friday night and most of the day Saturday has rendered me exhausted. I ended up sleeping over 12 hours last night.

* It was 35* when I got up and while my cycling wardrobe extends into cold weather gear – my running gear does not.

(I’m not even talking about technical clothing – I do not own sweatpants or long underwear to layer under my fitness gear.  This will need to be remedied.)

 

While I do not regret my decision, I am disappointed in my apparent inability to keep up with everything I want to do. When I was ten years younger, I would have easily been able to plow through the allergies and exhaustion. But I’m not 25 any more and the reality is I need more down time than I did back then.

 

This brings me back to the yogic philosophy of honoring your body wherever it is. Some days you will be able to go further than you ever thought possible, others you won’t. And you need to accept where you are in this moment. So today will be a day of rest and being present with my family.

 

A five-mile run will still be there when I am ready.

 

See you on the road.