Monday, June 28, 2010

Hammer Down in the Underdown

What I would do-

12 Team and 6 Hour: You've got a 10 mile test of your power production and flow-maintenance skills on a quite technical single-track course ahead of you. On a warm summer day a single bottle will leave you running on fumes by the end so be prepared, especially if you're going out for another lap right away. The Loop Road aid station will come up after about 6 miles and will have water, Heed, Hammer Gel, and Endurolytes to get you to the end. On a hot day you should have eaten Endurolytes before you even started, but keep drinking and eat a little as you race.

Enjoy the two long descents on trail LL after the aid station, then finish your eating and drinking on the snowmobile trail. Once you dig through trail L you will get back across Loop Road and put the hammer down because you are in the final two miles. Only you will know if you've gone as hard as you could, but ride like there's something stalking you just in case.

I saw a huge bear track there tonight in the fresh mud just past Underdown's homestead, and by a quarter past nine as it was getting hard to see I was cresting the gravel pit overlook on trail A and there was that bear, right in the trail. In these situations I like to think of myself as the baddest bear in the woods. That bear ran away, but I'm sure he will see you if you start doggin' it coming home on Saturday. If you get in by 9PM you should be OK.

12 Solo, 12 Duo, and 3 Hour: You will be riding a tough 21 miles that will keep you out there two to three hours or more. On a warm day like Saturday, two bottles will leave you running on fumes well before the end. I would wear a hydration pack even though I usually don't race with one. Take advantage of the 3 aid stations to get Heed or water even if you normally just blow by them. Eat something like a Hammer Gel or bar around every aid station even if you don't feel hungry yet. Endurolytes or electrolytes in some drinks should keep you from cramping on a hot day. I would have one to three per lap depending on how hot it was, but you could check their website if you were more curious. If my stomach tells me that I've had too much electrolyte I switch to drinking water and that usually settles things down.

Once you pass Dog Lake and the Relentless hill you will be near the first aid station on Mist Lake. This is the start of your only sustained double-track so take the time to eat and drink. After descending Oktoberfest you will reach the second aid station at Underdown Lake. Don't forget to take care of yourself even if you still feel great because you still have half of the lap left.

At some point between Underdown Lake and the Loop Road aid station you could start having your doubts. This usually happens right after the Yin Yang Yalcano, nine miles from the finish. You really start to wonder how much more trail there could be, and if you've got enough left. You might even think about bailing out, but you won't allow yourself that option. Just keep fueling and pedaling, taking one hill at a time. You won't be alone out there. Think about what you're doing - every turn you carve and bump you roll. Admire the view. Have fun. Enjoy Round Top and the Stumpjumper, and before you know it you'll be grabbing something at the last aid station and in the home stretch. You will get done and be glad that you didn't give in to all those reasons to quit you were thinking of . This was not just any lap. This was all the way around in the Underdown.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Animal Crossing

Today I had to wait on trail V for a pair of cranes with child to cross the trail. Grouse with chicks seem to be everywhere, and turkeys pop up once in a while around trail U. Earlier this week I stopped for a fawn curled up on trail KK until it popped up and went running to mama. Ted and I had to wait for a porcupine to get off the Oktoberfest trail Saturday night. I've seen an owl twice on Oktoberfest this year, and you can count on it talking to you there at dusk. The eagle and otter that were at Underdown Lake haven't been seen this year.
Bears seem to be more common around the east end of Horn Lake Road, but I haven't seen one for about a month. They mind their own business. It's been a good week to find garter, pine, and red-bellied snakes sunning on the trails in the morning.
Riley has been catching countless bluegill at Underdown Lake, plus a few bass at Mist Lake.

White Lightning Clear Cut

Due to conditions beyond our control, there will be a lot fewer trees on the White Lightning hill (trail I) by race time, but the trail will be cleaned up. Be careful out there until then. We should have a nice view from the top of the hill like Billy Goat Hill 5 years ago. Lincoln County loggers do go out of their way to work with trail users and deserve our thanks. Trail B is safe for now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thunderdown in the Underdown 2010

Saturday July 3rd, 2010

12 hour classes: 8am to 8pm
6 hour classes: 1pm to 7pm
3 hour : starts 3pm

You must complete your last lap before time expires with the exception of 3 hour racers on their first lap.

"20 mile" course*: 12 solo, 12 duo, 3 solo
"10 mile" course**: 12 team, 6 solo, 6 duo
Course description HERE.

Camping available on-site.

Group pre-ride June 27th at 10AM.

See the links on the left for events including the Thunderdown Cup, Bike Polo Tournament, and Poetry-Story-Photo contest.

$5 hills: There are a pair of short, steep hills that will probably only be in this year's race. Clean them both and get $5 on the spot while supplies last.

Volunteers needed! This includes not-too-tough jobs close to the action like temporary course marshalls, short term timers, and polo refs. I'm also looking for some 12 duo teams who would like to camp out and run an aid station at Mist Lake or Underdown Lake (free camping and entry, start with everyone but exchange at your lake) . 715-873-4113 or e-mail using the link in the profile

*The record for the "20 mile" course is 2:13. I predict that someone will get close to breaking 2 hours, but not quite do it. More times will go past 3 hours than under 2 hours. I also predict that when someone gets an odometer out there we'll find that it's a few miles more than 20. (It was just measured at 21 miles.) This is the ultimate Thunderdown experience after all - all the way around in the Underdown.
**Riding hard, the "10 mile" course took 1:03. Someone will break one hour on race day. The loop is probably a little under 10 miles, but there are few breaks in the hills and single-track.

The Life of Bill Underdown

The Underdown Recreation Area got its name from all-around tough guy, William Underdown. In 1855 he was born into a family of English sheep herders near Dekalb, Illinois. He headed off to Mt. Edna, Iowa to become a prize winning farmer of sheep, Angora goats, and Guernsey cattle. There he caught the eye of 27-year-old Louisa, and they were married in 1881. The couple lived in Lincoln County for 13 years before returning to Illinois. Louisa died there of a long term illness in 1918 after 37 years with Bill. They had no children.

Underdown came back to Wisconsin to homestead the 170 acres that are part of the county forest today. At this point it gets hard to separate the Underdown legend from reality. Many stories tell of Underdown staying busy with customers who came for miles to buy his Underdown Moonshine. Other stories depict him as a hermit who rarely went to town and had various tricks for keeping strangers away such as fake trip-wired gun positions and naked berry picking. He was known by most as a kind man who wouldn't harm anyone including the mosquitoes that he allowed to swarm around him. He was well-liked and well-remembered so much so that the area around his homestead was already starting to be known as "Underdown Country."

Underdown was above all, a tough guy. He baked his own bread and farmed that hilly terrain around his homestead. Anyone who has found the huge rock piles in the pine plantation where his gardens used to be will know that his was not an easy place to be a farmer. Underdown also earned a living as a cook in lumber camps and a logger himself. An article found tucked in his Bible tells of the year that he alone put 330,000 feet of logs into the Prairie River.

As Underdown aged, his health did not always allow him to survive on the homestead. At one point he became so sick that he returned to Iowa to die. Underdown survived Iowa and returned by train. The friend who finally got him home was surprised to find the house with leftovers on the table just as Underdown had left them before his trip. On the 4th of July, 1943, Underdown did die in Lincoln County from complications following a hip fracture. He was 88. He had spent his later years in the care of the county, and in the end he lost his land to the county to pay bills.

Sometimes when you attempt something extremely hard like a 12-hour mountain bike race, it's good to think of Bill Underdown and remind yourself how easy we have it in the 21st Century.

Join me July 24th for Bill Underdown's Roubaix-style Group Ride. The BURGR is a semi-formal 90-100 mile dirt road ride through Underdown Country on roads similar to Horn Lake Road. Cue sheet coming.

Bill Underdown

Bill Underdown at the Iowa State Fair (second from left) and later in life. Thanks to the Merrill Historical Society.

Underdown homestead and burned out old-growth stump by Jordan Schotz.

The railroad in Underdown's time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Logging Finished

The loggers have finished thinning the plantation at the homestead, and they were rather gentle considering the size of logging machines these days.

Trail LL has gotten a good polishing and is ready to ride. Hopefully the road going in will dry out soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lost and Found

I've been finding some nice tool kits out on the trail lately. Let me know.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Logging the Homestead

There is a thinning job going on in the Red Pine plantation near Bill Underdown's homestead. Since logging is how Underdown got his homestead in the first place, I think we'll have to learn to live with it.

They've got 3 harvesters running so this job should be done really fast - a week or two - so the trail should easily be all better by race day. They could be done with the trail J part in a day or two. The trail LL portion in the plantation could be done soon after that.

If you see the machines working, give them plenty of distance. Remember they are out there earning a living, and they are doing what they can to minimize their impact on the trail.

Lessons from a 12 Solo

Also, don't forget Charly Tri's race strategy: "Go out hard, hard in the middle, hard coming home."

Bike Polo Tournament

Need something to do while you wait for your friends to finish? Try a little bike polo.
We'll have a small field set up to just play around, and start a little tournament at 10AM race day with tournament games starting every half hour. I'll have gear there, but if you have your own, that's good too.

We'll play by the general rules of bike polo, with a few modifications:
Two 8-minute halves
3 on 3 with unlimited roster size, but no double rostering
Polo wins earn your town 5 bonus Thunderdown Cup miles
Officials may be present or not
Free with waiver