2nd annual BALLS (Big Ass Long Loop Shindig) mtn bike ride. A 102 mile ride on 95% rails to trails and ATV trail. Everything from nice hard pack granite to loose sand and mud.
A good way to start the year.
1st BALLS is documented earlier in this blog....it was an amazing story and we hoped to not repeat the same conditions.
A core group of 10 riders. 5 kinda moved on toward the end, leaving 5 of us that kinda hung together. This is our story.
A Look at BALLS from the Rear (not that anyone really wants to, yuch!)
We consisted of the following:
Garett, a friend of Richard that started mtn. biking 2 years ago.
Tim, a friend of mine that started moderate rode biking a year ago and BALLS was his first time on a real mtn. bike (if ya wanna call my 29er GF x-cal a real mtn. bike, which I do!)
Jin-sore knees, but good experienced rider. (biked from FL to AK a couple years ago, stated during last years BALLS run it was the hardest single day of biking he ever did)
Richard- coulda easily been in the "fast group" but stayed back, thankfully
Me- more on that later
The whole BALLS group all hung together pretty good till we got to Mineral Point and things got backed up buying trail passes and from using the only bathroom there. Jin bought some refreshment for the guys and Tim was thinking of his first beer he'd down at Brodhead once we got done.
Mike, Nate's friend dropped out here as I guess he got sick.
We kinda regrouped at Darlington, our first food stop, and from there to Gratiot we yo-yoed back and forth as a group. Stops were made for various and assorted reasons. (see pic)
It was tough to really stop and wait too long for others due to being soaking wet most of the time and as the temps were dropping fast, it made the most sense to keep riding if you found a pace you were comfortable with otherwise ya just started to freeze up.
At Darlington, an ATVer noticed Brian shivering and he stated that that's the first sign of hypothermia, but Rich replied back he was sure there were 2-3 others we weren't even aware of!
When we started at Bear's it was 68 and by the time we finished it was around 45, I believe. Didn't count how many downpours we got caught in. Just a mile or so out of Mineral Point I waited back for Garett, Jin and Rich to make sure they found the trail from town and lightning and thunder made their first, and luckily their only, presence known.
About 2 miles from Brownstown, I lost a screw to my left cleat and couldn't lock in. We figured we'd limp in to Monroe to a bike shop, but then about a mile later, the whole cleat went missing and I couldn't keep my left foot on the pedal anymore. Everything being covered in sand a totally wet didn't help. I let the guys take off and I went back a 1/4 of a mile or so moving slow to try to find the cleat. No luck, so I decided to turn back and just do without it and hopefully find one at a bike shop in Monroe. Just on pure chance I decided to look in the pedal and there it was, with one screw still caught between the cleat and the pedal. Note to self, next time, look in the pedal first before turning back to search for it!
4 of the not so fast guys had waited at the picnic table for me and we then started to perform surgery on the cleat/shoe. For some odd reason, we couldn't find any allen wrenches that would fit. Luckily, Rich had a screwdriver that fit in well enough to get purchase and we got the cleat setup with one screw. We had to use our water bottle water to wash the zippers of our seat bags to just get into them from so much sand and mud buildup.
I still babied the last 6 miles into Monroe, with Rich taking off the last 2 miles to find a bike shop to get another screw so we wouldn't have to wait any longer than necessary once we got to town.
Jin, Tim and Garett were further back, but Tim came up and we met Butch, as he came back from the fast group to guide us into town and things got a little confusing from there. Butch and I were waiting for Jin and Garett, I sent Tim on to try to find the fast guys to catch some lunch and warm up.
Rich came back from the ACE Hardware with 2 screws and once we got Jin and Garett, we headed in to town for food and warmth.
We met the fast guys coming out as they were finished up, but no Tim. Tim never found them and had kept on going down the trail, but we weren't 100% sure of that. The fast guys took off to find Tim and the rest of us headed to warm food and coffee and to put my cleat on properly.
Well, since the unbalanced pedaling started, my right knee was beginning to bother some. Not too bad, but still noticeable.
I took off from McDonalds in front of Jin, Garett and Rich to try to hookup with Tim, somewhere.
27 miles to go to get to Brodhead.
I saw 6 distinct bike tracks on the much improved trail from the ATV trail we left. Figured Tim was up ahead somewhere and not roaming aimlessly back in Monroe, still looking for us or eating someplace other than the McDonalds we were at.
I never did catch Tim, but got into Brodhead within minutes of him. He said the last 27 miles were some of the best. We got back on a good trail and he got to set his own pace and not feel he had to keep up nor hold anyone back. He stopped to rest when he wanted and enjoyed the last stretch a lot. Mentally, he knew he'd made it and that helped him to just enjoy the rest of ride, as well he should have.
My right knee started to get real sore soon after leaving Monroe. The more I pedaled the worse it got. I started to pedal with only my left leg with the right sticking straight out. After that got old an idea came to me about the folks that use those tight bands around their joints and reached down with my right hand and squeezed applying tight pressure on the outside of the knee where I could feel the ligaments.
Presto! the pain decreased considerably, so for the last 10 miles I rode in one handed.
Luckily, the trail was nice, crushed limestone and flat.
After talking to some folks, it appears I had a IT Band injury. Normally this is caused by running on an uneven surface, like a crowned road. Bikers have been known to get it from too long a distance from seat to pedal and over extending the knee, but in my case, it was most probably caused from the uneven pedal stroke due to the cleat issue. The cold weather sure didn't help as the IT Band wasn't able to really get nor stay warmed up. I wore biking shorts, no leggings.
As of right now, Monday AM I'm back to 90-95% of full knee use and no pain....but I may wait a few more days to try to bike.
BALLS 3 awaits us all again next year!
Some pix provided by fellow rider, Richard Schick, thanks!