This was my spring break week (I'm a teacher), so I was hoping to get several long training rides in of this years Grumpy Grind route. I did manage to ride the entire course one time, and portions of it a couple of other times before a strong head splitting cold came my way. It seems like I only get sick when I have time to get sick, like whenever breaks or vacations occur. Or maybe I just put in too many long rides in cold weather (the weather this week was fairly dismal) and my body finally forced me to take a break. Regardless of which is the case, I did get in enough rides to provide an event update for those who like to think long and hard about what is coming their way three weeks from now.
Many of you will be thankful that this years ride won't have the killer hills in the middle of it like last years ride did. This years course is what I like to call "sneaky". Think of this years ride as an Illinois "Classic". About 12 of the first 40 miles will be paved. This might bum some of the gravel purists, but the darn road commissioners and wealthy farmers keep adding more paved roads. These early sections of "on again, off again", could be the undoing of those who become overconfident about their current speed and the eventual distance they will need to cover. Only 2 of the last 35 miles will be paved roads, and the purists snobs will likely forget the early paved sections. One nice thing about this years route is that it has almost an equal amount of riding that goes each direction. That doesn't mean the route is a square by any means, but it does mean that you won't suffer a headwind for more time than you'd like.
In almost every post I've written, I have mentioned that the ride is completely self sufficient. And I do mean this. Not myself, nor anyone else will be there to pick you up if you need help back to the start. I also mentioned that all riders must check in and be accounted for at the 43.5 mile checkpoint. Riders who don't feel like they are of the fitness to continue the full course will be given a cue card with a more direct 10.5 mile route back to the start finish. Food will still be there for unofficial finishers, and it will still be a solid day of riding. No finishers "mug" will be issued, but at least you made it back to your vehicle safe and sound. If you have ever organized a ride, you probably understand how truly concerned I am about each riders well being. A smart rider always knows their limits. Okay, enough preaching for now, the sun is finally shining on this beautiful Saturday, I'm going out to ride!
The weather of late hasn't been amazing, nor has it been dismal. This in-between weather provides for truly great training for gravel events to come. It makes one hardy. My fitness isn't as good as I'd like it to be leading into this years TransIowa, but I know that every time I struggle on an early spring ride that it will only make me more mentally and physically prepared for my upcoming rides. So I do my best to embrace it.
So far the gravel roads I've ridden this spring have been pretty kind. There has been no great upheaval of roads due to freeze/thaw conditions, and the county road crews have yet to throw down any fresh and hard to ride on new gravel. Knobby tires would still be my personal ride of choice for the GG, but those who like to live on the edge for 80 miles on something more suited for touring could probably make it to the finish just fine. But that could all change between the present and four weeks from now.
Latest Ride Updates:
Postcards are still trickling in for this years ride. Thanks to all who have pre-registered ahead of time. Here are a few quick thoughts for those who plan to ride.
*This ride is completely self supported. Bring a support crew if you think you can't finish this ride.
*Camping is available the night before at the barn where the start/finish is located.
*Sorry, no water bottles this year. Finishers will receive a Grumpy Grind 5 coffee mug. (Sorry, no pint glasses. We felt like mixing things up.)
*T-shirts are available if you would like to pre-order one. Please send me an email if you want one. $10.
*The ride will NOT be posted ahead of time anywhere. Cue cards will be given to riders at Sunday morning registration.
*The ride will be around 81 miles long. 80-85% of the roads are gravel.
*The mandatory check point is at mile 43 (could change by a mile).
*The ride will NOT pass by any gas stations, small towns, or convenience stores. The checkpoint is NOT a water stop/feed station. Bring enough food and water to make it to the finish.
*If you know you can't finish, I will offer a cheat sheet at the checkpoint to allow riders a more direct route back to the start/finish.
*Food will be provided at the finish. I'll only plan for the the amount pre-registered. (so be thoughtful and pre-register). If you are a vegetarian, you should plan to bring your own food. Sorry.
*Donations of any kind are appreciated in helping support this event.
These are just a few pre-ride thoughts. If you have any question please email me. Now get out and ride!
I feel like I've been a little silent about this years Grumpy Grind so far. But at the same time, I'm not sure there is a whole lot to say that the website doesn't cover. But with 5 1/2 weeks left until ride time, I'll start posting a little more frequently about small items that people new to this ride might want to know.
Last weekend was chilly, but I did get out for a couple of rides on sections of this years course. This led me to find a few roads I didn't anticipate, leading me to tweak the course (yet again). This caused the mileage for this years ride to shorten down to 81 miles, but that is fine with me. I'm not trying to break any distance records. And the roads I did find made it worth the changes.
I've received a few postcard entries stating they were seeking redemption from last years ride. The 2016 Grumpy Grind did have a some challenging roads, but the weather become unseasonably warm and people unexpectedly fatigued from heat. This years ride will have a nice flow to it in terms of open roads and tight roads, long stretches of gravel, and patches broken up with pavement. For those who have ridden the previous four Grumpy Grinds, you'll probably experience a few familiar roads, but also be pleased to know there will be some new roads on this years route too.
In the next couple of weeks I'll be putting up more frequent postings. I'll cover topics like camping the night before, reading cue cards, checkpoints, etc. So check in every now and again to see what is posted. For now, keep the postcard entries coming so I know how to plan accordingly. And get training, it's a long ride for those who come unprepared.
It has been an abnormal late fall-winter for me this year. Normally I'm out riding in all kinds of weather until my toes and fingers can handle it no more, and by then spring arrives. But last November, just before Thanksgiving, my wife and I purchased a fixer-upper that has become my primary focus (so we can get moved in asap), meaning my normal riding time has gotten sucked up. This includes my recon riding of the route for this years Grumpy Grind. Instead of long rides, I've had to opt for the driving option for this years Grumpy Grind recon, which isn't nearly as fun, and doesn't help with my TransIowa training. But I have mapped out what I feel like will be the final route for this years ride. The total mileage... 86 miles. Yes, it's a little longer than in the past, but not by much. There will be 15 miles of pavement, which is longer than I'd like, but for an early spring ride, pavement can be a bit of a respite. So unless otherwise posted, plan on an 86 mile "fun ride".
I know some people like to have t-shirts for the events they participate in, so once again I'll be taking t-shirt orders for anyone interested. T-shirts will be charcoal grey, unisex, 50/50 blend, with a white printed graphic. Cost is $10. I'll take orders up to a week before the event. This shirt is pre-order only, and I will not be printing extras. Send me a message on my contact page and I'll get you one on order. I do things on the honor system, so just bring cash on the day of the event.
In years past, I had aspirations for the Grumpy Grind ride to grow in numbers and have people mark the GG as one of their target rides. I had the "If you build it they will come attitude." But this never really happened. Maybe it's the distance of the ride early in the spring that turned people off. Maybe its the remote location or the unpredictable weather that comes upon Illinois in the spring. But for whatever reason, the number of riders that have attended the Grumpy Grind were always about the same.
Last year, after having the most beautiful weather an event could offer, and still having a similar rider turnout, I contemplated allowing the Grumpy Grind to retire as a ride. After doing a little soul searching and talking with a few friends, I decided to keep it going. The feedback I have always gotten from riders has always been positive, and I personally love riding gravel. So rather than pouting about the GG not turning into something bigger than it is, and probably ever will be, I decided to just keep doing my thing, and be happy with whoever shows up. That being said, I am pleasantly surprised, and a little bit humbled by those who have chosen to send me postcard entries already for this years ride.
The postcards I have received have been a lot of fun this year. There have been many custom postcards, some of the "gas station" variety, and some pretty darn creative and silly. Some people have contacted me about why they have to send in a postcard? The answer is because that is how I wish for you to submit entry into the event. Every event has some form of entry, right? And I like getting postcards. Life is full of impersonal and technological communication. It's nice to get a postcard in the mail sometimes. Even though it's just a postcard, there is something just a little more human about it.
I apologize to those who would like to know the concrete mileage for this years ride. I have my route in mind for this year, but every spring when I go out and ride it, I run into new roads that catch my attention, and then the route and mileage change. So just plan on it being somewhere between 70 and 85 miles. That should be just enough to either satisfy you are scare you away.
As someone told me yesterday, "there will be nothing grumpy about this years Grumpy Grind." They were referring to the weather. It's supposed to be absolutely beautiful for tomorrow's ride!
I have a few last minute thoughts that I would like to share. These are more for rookies than veterans, so my apologies if my posts might seem repetitive.
*You are responsible for yourself. This is a self supportive event. Please come prepared.
*If you feel like you are driving to the middle of nowhere for this event, then you are headed in the right direction.
*Please check in for registration in "The Barn".
*The ride will begin promptly at 9:00.
*Please pin a Grumpy Grind bib on you somewhere (backpack, jersey, bike) so that we know you are part of the ride.
*Temperatures will be in the 70's. Please be prepared to hydrate yourself properly. This heat will be something we haven't yet experienced this year.
*The ride does NOT pass by any convenience stores or gas stations.
*The mandatory checkpoint is at mile 46. My volunteers will have some water, but if they run out, you are on your own. Please bring enough food and water.
*The checkpoint is outside of a local bar (The Slurp and Burp, in Loran). You can purchase a meal and beverages there. If you are unable to finish, it's a great place to bail out.
*When there is an unmarked intersection (no signage), look for a stake with a pink flag attached it. This will signal you need to turn the direction notes on the cue sheets.
*There will be one spot of "intersect" on the course. Most of you won't notice this at all, but if you do, please don't cut the course at all. Why would you?
*There is one point on the course where you might see riders in the distance seemingly coming toward you. Please follow your cues and don't necessarily follow those riders. They will actually be on a return road. (most of you won't notice this)
*There will be food and beverages provided in the barn at the finish. Please help yourself. I prepared for 100 participants. I don't anticipate running out, but do be prepared with some post race snack just in case provisions run low late in the day. There is pasta salad and beans, but I didn't do well preparing for vegetarian.
*All finishers will get a Grumpy Grind pint glass at the finish.
Other than going over my mental checklists, things are pretty well in order for me right now. Because of the weather, I expect there will be the biggest turnout of riders the Grumpy Grind has seen. There will be some kinks in the day I'm sure, but I'm really looking forward to the event and I hope everyone who comes has a great experience.
Grumpy Grind 4 is less than a week away. This will be a busy week of finishing up last minute ride details. Doing things like quadruple checking the cue cards, printing off waivers, double checking my volunteers, sweeping barns, picking up pint glasses (for finishers only), printing off custom bibs, etc. This is one of the few weeks of my life that I actually make a list. I'm bound to forget something if I don't. The list-maker in my house, my wife, would probably love it if I acted this organized all the time. I guess I save my organizational skill (or lack of) for special events like this.
I've had a couple of people already contact me to let me know they will be unable to come (for various reasons). If you know you can't make it, please contact me via the "contact" page and let me know so I can plan accordingly. With that in mind, please know that registration is not transferable to another person.
The forecast for this weekend looks to be the about the nicest it has been all spring. I'll cross my fingers that the weather holds true. The ride will take place rain or shine. Regardless of what the weather does, please remember to pack everything you might need to support yourself on the ride. You are responsible for yourself. There will be no ride support from myself or any of the volunteers. The only support I will provide you is the support of refueling you at the finish with a tasty bbq sandwich and some beverages. If you have any questions about anything, please contact me and let me know your thoughts. I'm getting a little excited about the weekend. Hopefully you are too.
For the rest of my posts leading up to the Grumpy Grind, I'll be reminding you that you are responsible for yourself and that there will be no ride support along the course. Unfortunately, some riders will find themselves in a mechanical or physical bind, so please ride prepared for these situations, and have some sort of back-up plan in place to help get you back to your car . If you are not bringing a support crew to hang out at the start/finish area (or somewhere), you may want to try and find someone who does have a support person who would be willing to help you just in case (maybe offer them a monetary donation?)
When you arrive at "the farm" in Milledgeville, make sure you head to the barn to check in. I have a list of registered riders, but you still need to check in with my registration volunteers to let them know you are there. You'll also need to sign an event waiver, pick up your cue cards, grab a free water bottle, and get your event bib (this will need to be pinned to your jersey or attached to your bike). Please don't come late and expect everyone to wait for you at the start.
There will be only one checkpoint on the course, and it is mandatory that you stop and check in at that checkpoint. You can stop for 5 seconds or 15 minutes, I don't care. The checkpoint is at mile 46, so if you make it that far, and you should, you are a little over half way done. There will be some coolers of water and Gatorade at the checkpoint, along with some bananas, cookies, and gummie bears. I can't guarantee there will be enough water and provisions for everyone. When they are gone, they are gone. Sorry. So please be prepared to bring enough food and water to sustain you for an 82 mile ride.
The checkpoint will be located in the parking lot of a bar called the Slurp and Burp. The Slurp and Burp is not in any way associated with the event, but they will be open when you are passing through, and they have been kind enough to let us use their parking lot and port-a-potties. It's not a fancy place, but it's clean and they serve delicious burgers and other sandwiches. The "Loran Fries" alone would be enough to serve as a meal! So if you are the type of rider who likes to take a long refreshing break, and mingle with the locals, perhaps you might stop in for a meal.
The Slurp and Burp (I do love saying that name!) will be the only form of rest stop along the entire course. The course does not ride by any convenience stores or gas stations. For those people who feel like they do not have the energy to make it back to the start, the Slurp and Burp checkpoint might mark a good spot to call it quits for the day. How you get back to the barn and your vehicle is up to you. I don't like to offer up any details about the course, but I feel it wise to provide riders the address for this checkpoint. The Slurp and Burp, 4319 S. Loran Rd., Pearl City IL.
If you are unable to finish by completely navigating the course, I ask that you contact me via text. My number will be provided at registration on the day of the event. This lets me know you are safe, but will be a DNF. My volunteers will be running the show during the day so I can ride, so I won't be responding to calls. Hopefully everyone will have a great ride and safely make it to the finish. It will be a challenging, but very satisfying ride.
Today I made the final recon ride for this years Grumpy Grind route. It gives me peace of mind to check and double check the mileage and cues for turns, making sure they are all spot on. The weather forecast called for strong winds once again, so I set sail early in the morning in hope that I could avoid some of the fury that was sure to come in strong southern winds. I began my ride in 28 degree weather, occasionally finding a layer of ice on the nozzles of my water bottles. By 11:00 I found myself shedding layers as temperatures climbed to 50 degrees. The warmer the temps became, the more furious the winds blew. The last 20 miles were a chore to be certain. But that is often the trade off in the spring... when the weather warms, the winds usually come with it. By the time I made it back to my starting point, the thermometer read 60 degrees. Crazy!
This years field of riders has many driving from several hours away. So if you are planning to drive up a day in advance and are looking for a place to stay, here are your options.
Camping at the farm: If you are into pitching a tent, there is plenty of space at the farm to do so. It's not a national park, but there is plenty of space for more than a few campers. The cost is free. Brent, the owner of the farm, usually brings out some firewood and creates a bonfire for those who camp out. He's a great guy and very welcoming. If a storm pops up, you are more than welcome to find shelter in the barn. If you do plan to sleep in the barn, please know I'll be there early Sunday morning to set up registration, so you might get an early wake-up call from me there. Also, for those concerned, Port-a-potties will be on premises (and you get to be the first to use them!). If you are planning to run into town for dinner, there isn't a lot to choose from (Casey's Pizza?), so be prepared to bring your own food along with you.
If you go to the Grumpy Grind 4 Facebook site, a couple of other local lodging options are also posted. They are "Roberts Roost Country Roost" in Savanna, and "Hickory Hideaway Cabins in Shannon". I have been to neither of these, but based on the websites, they look like nice places.
The closest hotels would be found in Rock Falls or Dixon. I don't believe Sterling has any hotels available any more.
Regardless of where you stay or when you travel to get to Milledgeville, please note that the towns along the way are small, and speeding tickets in those towns are a good source of local revenue, so pay attention to the speed limit.
The Grumpy Grind is less than 3 weeks away. I'll try to put up more frequent posts with relevant information that will answer questions about the event and give riders peace of mind regarding what the event has in store.
Today's post is about cue cards for the ride. I personally think they are pretty simple, but there are new people out there who might not think so, and veterans who might need a refresher. So here an example sheet of some of the cues from last years card (it is not the same route this year).
R- turn Right.
L- turn Left.
QL- Quick Left. (a turn that will come within 1/4 mile of a previous turn)
QR- Quick Right. (see above)
CL- Curve Left. (when the road curves and becomes another road by name, or when there is not a right angle turn where roads intersect)
CR- Curve Right. (see above)
ST- Stay Straight. (noted when there may be some confusion of road transitions. so just stay the course)
CP- Checkpoint. This is a mandatory stop. For safety sake, respect the event and please stop.
Cue Card Sizing- Cue cards are approximately 4 1/4 x 4 3/4. They will be printed front to back and standard sheets of paper. The print is not waterproof. I will issue cue cards in Ziploc baggies. You can use the baggies or transfer the to whatever cue card holder you might have.
I like to think to keep my cue cards are pretty simple to understand. You really do need to have a cycling computer to keep track of your miles as you progress. If you have a good mental odometer, well good luck with that. You always need to trust your cue cards, and not always the rider in front of you. Some riders are simply "cue dumb". Sorry, but it's true. Try to work together to help each other if you have any confusion. Do not take any turns unless the cues indicate that you should do such. I even try to add extra little details, such as telling you when a road T's, to help you know that you are on the right path.
There will be road intersections that have no signage at all. The cues will be marked as "unmarked". There will also be a stake with pink ribbon/tape at those corners to let you know that you actually are at a corner of some significance to your cues. The "unmarked" road cues will also list the actual road in parentheses on the cue sheet. For those of you that will insist on using some sort of mapping technology on your phones, this will serve as a back up plan for not getting off track.
This mileage on the cues has been measured by myself, from actual training rides I've done. The mileage should be very close to being accurate and obvious in terms of making turns. If you are someone who can't ride a straight line up a hill, you will eventually find your mileage slightly off as time goes on. Just know I did the best I could to be accurate.
The course is an even Steven 82 miles. Please trust your cues so that you don't make it any longer.
Rider of bikes, teacher of art, husband of a beautiful wife, and father of two awesome boys.