Sunday, April 19, 2009

This weekend I had the opportunity to join the Chocolay Ace Hardware Cycling Team for a team training camp. Matt Colligan graciously hosted us guests at Camp Wounded Knee, located just north of Felch, MI. Matt, Dave, Tony and I arrived Friday afternoon and were treated to seventy degree temps as we toured gorgeous backroads on knobby-tired bikes.

We left the woods and returned to pavement about 20 miles into the ride. Dave made a cheeky move, pulling his teammates up the road and leaving me off the back.

We regrouped a ways up the road and the tour continued through Matt's hunting property. We scared up 3 deer and a turkey and 3 turkeys.

Later in the evening, as we enjoyed a can of sparkling water and a game of euchre, we were joined by Andy, Wes and Mike. At about 9:30 pm, Andy received a call from Ace team Director Sportif, Tom Mahaney. Mahaney reminded the team that their curfew was quickly approaching. Pillows were promptly fluffed and "lights out" was called at 9:45 after everyone was tucked in.

Sharing a room and a pillow, Wes and Andy sighed with a sense of relief in not having purchased Powertaps and discusssed an article they read explaining how many pro cyclists are moving away from power-based training in favor of a new RPE scale. The RPE scale ranges from "easy" to "done".

Everyone slept well, except Dave, who was tormented by nightmares of drowning in a sea of not-so-fresh chamois.

The morning ritual of fueling up for the day was almost comical. Scoops, calories, bars and ounces were carefully measured as the men attempted to find the balance of optimal nutrition. We departed Camp wounded Knee to meet the rest of Team Ace at the Moose Jackson Cafe in Iron Mountain prior to the 10:00 am departure. The departure time was to be strictly enforced so as not to enable any would-be late-arrivers. Derek, Tom and Jeff arrived just in time for a group photo. The Ace/SISU team rivalry made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable at many times throughout the weekend. I just tried to be as friendly as I could so as not to make any enemies.

Andy attacked from kilometer zero as we climbed Millie Mill out of the parking lot. He led us on a scenic ride all around Iron Mountain. The pace was sometimes comfortable, sometimes not. Mahaney always seemed to be on the attack and Lackey went for all the sprints. I tried to suppress my competitive streak and save my legs. Despite a few attempts, the team was not able to form a paceline that lasted for more than about a minute.

Our first stop was at 2 hours into the ride--we stopped at Norway Spring. Here we learned that the water bubbling out of this roadside pipe is the best water in the world and that it is just loaded with minerals. In fact, the son of one passerby works at the DEQ and owns his own business. This business-owning, DEQ employee has previously indicated to his mother that the water bubbling from the roadside pipe in Norway is so loaded with minerals that it should be called "mineral water". This revelation was overwhelming to several of the Ace guys who just exploded off the front after drinking the "mineral water".

I had a similar reaction to the water. About 30 minutes after consuming 16 oz of the mineral-laden water, I was effortlessley cranking out 1400 watts going up a hill when I blew a spoke in my Reynolds wheel. Given that this was the second time I'd popped a spoke in 8 days, I knew just what to do: hitchhike! I walked about a mile barefoot (because you just can't walk in road cleats) and hitched two rides back to the Moose Jackson. Thank you for picking up barefoot bike-carrying hitchhikers!

Apparently, the ride changed considerably after I left. The report was that the team immediately formed a paceline that averaged 30 mph for the next 50 miles. The roads from there on out were as smooth as Buffalo Road and I missed the best part of the ride, and was reminded of this fact repeatedly.

We arrived back at Camp Wounded Knee at 4:30 and fired up the grill. DS Mahaney measured and distributed portions of vegetable shish-kabobs to each athlete. The portions varied depending on body weight, calories burned during the workout and deviation from target body weight. Anderson was permitted only two mushroom caps and three florets of broccoli, while Colligan was offered an entire bell pepper and an onion. The way these guys eat, its no wonder they're all so svelte.

Team soigneur, Mike Brunet, arrived just in time to give Team Ace their bedtime massages. The team had hoped he would bring with him a couple of assistants to speed up the process, but their disappointment wore off quickly when they learned that the Tour of Flanders would be preceded by 2 hours of Formula racing, compliments of Lackey's remoteless DVR.

Looking forward to another big day of riding, everyone retired to their respective corners of the cabin for another good night's rest.

Anxious to ride no matter the weather conditions, we woke early and prepared a light breakfast. Then the call came. Dawn was on the phone to let us know that not only did Maya have a fever of 103 degrees, but one of the Lackey's East Side neighbors had fallen ill and would need all of us to respond immediately. We broke camp and were on the road in the blink of an eye.

Thank you, Matt, for hosting a wonderful weekend!

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