2016 Tatanka

2016 Tatanka
2016 Tatanka Startline Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back Roads to Ponca


“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all have our reasons we love riding our bikes. It’s fun. Makes you feel like a kid again. If you ride enough you can eat (and drink) more of things you enjoy. It cleanses the stresses of the day. Exercise. Transportation. Community. And many more. And when you combine biking with an adventure like riding to a new place your brain reacts by rewarding you with dopamine. Dopamine produces a feeling of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria. With this basic understanding of your body’s chemistry it is easy to understand why bikepacking is one of the hottest growth segments in the cycling community. When you allow yourself to explore, you start to break the cycle of routine in your life. Everything is new like when you were young and your body rewards you with a happy pill with the added benefit of better health and well-being.


South Eastern South Dakota
When I started riding many years ago it was to improve my weight and overall health. Once my health was in hand I started meeting people that inspired me to go further, eventually leading me to discover and watch a documentary “Ride the Divide” by Mike Dion. After watching the documentary for the third time, I made the decision to embark on the Great Divide race when I turn 50. Ever since that moment I have created mini adventures to test my physical and mental abilities and test the gear I want to use during the race. Spring in the upper Midwest consists of cool, windy and freezing nights which mimic conditions at altitude (with the exception of the thin air, no way to test that on the prairie.) 

Once winter had finally loosened its grip, I embarked on my first 2016 mini adventure loading my Garmin with a back road route to Ponca State Park just across the South Dakota border into Nebraska. This being my first adventure in these conditions, I spent a lot of time analyzing and over-analyzing what extra gear to pack on my Salsa Spearfish to stay comfortable along the way. I wanted to make sure to pack the right clothes to keep warm during the cold night along with the proper sleeping bag and tent to be nice and cozy overnight. Of course I have read about what gear works for others, but I consider that just a starting point. I need to know what works for me. My super-light setup was probably heavier than others’, but I wanted to be safe and somewhat comfortable. Finally, with the bike all loaded it was time to get started.

Grand departure
Spring time gravel can be as unpredictable as the weather, so planning a couple hundred-mile bikepacking trip can be tricky. It is usually very soft and loose as the winter thaw begins and counties send out the road graders to start working the gravel. New gear, new route, and Spring weather are a perfect recipe for learning and adventure and I learned many good things on my first solo 200-mile bike-packing weekend.
Freshly grated gravel south of Sioux Falls, SD
The first thing I noticed was the bike was very heavy so it handled very differently than if it was not fully loaded. I never weighed the fully loaded bike, but it was challenging to control and climbing was quite a bit more work. The wind was picking up to 30+ mph gusts so keeping the bike on the gravel in the cross winds and head winds was a struggle. The conditions were starting to challenge my goal of making the 125-mile journey to my camping spot with a couple hours to spare before dark. I started doing the math to make sure I left myself time to set camp up in the daylight. Shortening my resupply stops and pushing the pace on the tail wind sections helped me make up time, arriving a Ponca State Park Nebraska with only a single hour of daylight to set up camp.
Unexpected paths with a bridge out during the journey.

Riding gravel selfie
Ponca State Park entrance


Ponca State Park map
Ponca State Park my home for the night sits on the south shoreline of the Missouri River and offers 75 primitive camping sites.

Ponca State Park primitive camp site.
With camp all set I started a camp fire to get dinner ready and to keep me warm as the sun set.

Food experiment trying freeze dried food to see if I liked the taste and consistency.
The fire was perfect and warm creating the ideal campsite setting as I ate my meal. I had never tried a freeze dried meal in the Jetboil before, but found it to be pretty tasty so maybe I’ll try another in the future. Closing in on 9:30 pm I was beginning to feel the effects of the difficult 125 mile ride earlier in the day, so it was time to test out the tent setup. Temperatures were forecasted to be in the 20’s making for great conditions to test my 19-degree down sleeping bag with an added fleece sleeping insert. I also brought a Big Agnes pillow for additional comfort. All bundled up I was ready to hit the hay.

Ready for bed.

After getting a whopping 8 hours of sleep (That doesn’t even happen most nights at home in my bed!) I was well rested and ready to pack up for my journey home. My Ponca mini-adventure had taught me what I needed to know to plan for my next adventure, the Black Hill Expedition, a 430-mile bike packing route in the Black Hills of South Dakota. More on that adventure soon!

Enjoying a cup of morning coffee in my favorite titanium mug.
“Knowledge without application is simply knowledge. Applying the knowledge to one’s life is wisdom — and that is the ultimate virtue” - Kasi Kaye Iliopoulos

Lessons learned:

  • A heavily-packed bike will make negotiating my next trek of single-track trails in the Black Hills very difficult. Need to pack as light as possible but stay safe.
  • I don’t need a tent if I’m racing or needing to go fast.
  • Jetboil is nice but not needed unless it’s a winter race.
  • Pack real food but items that don’t need to be cooked.
  • Put as much of your pack weight on the back or center of the bike so controlling the bike is easier, especially in very windy conditions.
  • Plan lots of convenience stores on your route so you can carry less. • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Adventure by Bike = Routine buster
  • Push yourself. Be Epic.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A lesson on how to have a perfect day

Commute home on the Salsa Beargrease ending with a beautiful South Dakota sunset.
Many of us outdoor types consider a perfect day starting with a good cup of coffee, watching the sun rise between the trees of a rolling hill meadow, watching the wildlife slowly walking towards its next nibble of grass, smiling while greeting a friendly person in crossing paths, watching the flow of a river rushing over rocks, maybe having a moment of tranquility while listening the sounds surrounding you, or even time to think just think, enjoying a feeling of freedom, spending time outside enjoying a gentle breeze brush your face, sweating while burning some unneeded calories, or even just having the time to let it all go, feeling the stress of your day leaving your body.  All these moments during a day orchestrate what might just be something each of us would consider to be ‘perfect’.

First tracks on morning commute on freshly fallen snow.
My perfection starts and ends with the simplicity of riding my bike to and from work.  I’m a year round bike commuter.  During my daily commutes I experience many of these simple moments that when all strung together create what you might consider the perfect day.  My favorite moment is when I let go of all the things going on around me I feel the stress leaving my body and I just feel free!  Moments like this happen often so I would have to admit I’m addicted to recreating the experience.
If you commute by bike today, you know what I’m talking about but if you do not I challenge you to give it a try.  ‘Adventures by Bike’ don’t have to take you on a mountain trail but can be made up of simple rides around town or even to your place of work.

Salsa Warbird afternoon commute home lean.
Salsa Warbird morning commute stop.
A subzero commute home adding weight to the beard.
Here is a short list of the benefits of commuting by bike:
·       Exercise – I burn over 1200 calories a day commuting and get an hour and half of cardio.
·       Clearing mind – Focus on the simplicity of riding.
·       Prepping for day – This can be your time to gear up for work or to decompress from the  busy day.
·       Scenery - Enjoy being outside and all the beauty surrounding you.
·       Feeling of freedom - Let go, just ride.
·       Peaceful – Just you and your bike no other worries.
·       Reflective – This is your time to Think no interruptions.
·       Stress reduction – Just by being active you reduce stress.
·       Good for the environment – I have changed the oil in my car once in the last two years.
·       No traffic Jams – Ride around all of it or pick flexible routes that avoid the busy areas.
·       Live longer – Studies show cyclist live longer.
·       Fewer medical expenses – Fewer sick days and overall health improves just by cycling a few hours a week.

Here are some things you are going to want to know to get started:
·       Bike - Pick a bike that can handle diverse terrain like a touring bike, fat bike, cyclocross bike or mountain bike you never know what you might encounter on your route and these type of bikes allow for a lot of diversification in your daily routes.
·       Gear – Helmet, fenders, lights, backpack, tool repair kit with tube, multi tool, patch kit, tire levers and mini pump.
·       Clothing – Clothing is seasonal and this will take some practice so I would recommend over dressing to start by adding layers.  Jacket, jersey, base layer, etc., shoe covers and always carry a rain jacket just in case the forecast changes.  Pack extra’s on days with varying start and finish temps.
·       Route – Pre plan your routes to and from work.  Maybe pre ride your route on the weekend to make sure everything flows the way you intended and so you get a feel for the time needed to complete the route (you don’t want to be late to anything).  I like to have several routes laid out so I can mix things up day to day but also so I can enjoy more of the nicer days.  You also plan a training for your commute home.
·       Weather – Always look at the forecast for the day so you wear the proper clothing but also to plan your route and amount of time needed to get to and from work.
·       Storage – Make sure you have a safe secure place to store your bike at work.  If you have to leave it outside, make sure you have a nice lock to keep your bike safe.

Riding my bike to work all year round has changed my life.  I find myself searching every day for pieces of perfection.  And no matter what the day throws my way I always find perfection on my bike!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In Search of Inspiration


Trans Iowa v.11 Checkpoint #1 - Photo Credit: Jason Boucher
I believe we all hunger for Inspiration.  My proof is Social Media.  We watch each other every day liking pictures of someone doing something we only wish we could do.  I figure this is why Instagram and Facebook are so popular.  Me, I try to find Inspiration from the individual people that touch my life.  I would say I started looking for inspirational nuggets at a very early age. 

The first time I can remember being truly inspired was when I was eight. One of the neighbor kids would fly by my house on his skateboard and from the very first time he flew by I knew I needed to learn how to skateboard just like him!  

Part of the reason I'm where I'm at today is the inspiration of many others in my life. People like Mike Dunlap RAAM Qualifier.  He inspired me to enjoy riding my bike forever, long hard controlled riding.  We would be done and Mike would always go for another 80 miles.  He does all the riding because he loves it. 

I'm sure anyone that follows JayP finds inspiration because he knows no bounds.  He has proven us as individuals have no limits, we can do anything and go anywhere.  If you ever have read any of JayP's blogs, you know you have no limits but your own mind.

Even riding with your local leisurely club, you find examples of inspiration.  The local Sioux Falls club has regular donut-run rides. The really cool part is they all meet early and ride 30 mile to have a Zebra donut from Centerville, SD.  They work together as a group down and back even though they are all of different abilities.  Watching the teamwork and patience is impressive plus they all have an amazing time!

There is nothing like the energy of a new cyclist.  When you take that new energy and put it with a work ethic that likes to push themselves to be better, you have something truly amazing.  I experience this each and every ride I do with my local race team.  They push, encourage, and support me.  They are part of my bike family.  Their energy inspires me to want to go harder and faster.

Several years ago, I was on an early spring 40 mile ride with my friends Joe Stiller and Dean Kusler.  They were both kicking my butt!  If I have to be honest, I don't like being dropped on rides, who does? :-)  I asked both Joe and Dean what they had been doing over the winter for riding.  Joe said spinning inside and riding his fat bike outside as much as possible.  Dean said he was just bike commuting to work every day. That day changed my life indefinitely.  I always took winter pretty easy thinking I needed too but they both inspired me to change how I looked training and riding my bike.  The next winter I started bike commuting to work and training outside as much as the icy conditions will allow.  I no longer look at temperature as a barrier.  I look at the temperature as an opportunity to test gear and my mental toughness.

The source of most my cycling inspiration has been my best friend Joe Stiller. Together we have done the Triple Bypass and Leadville events. Joe inspired me to do my first gravel race, snow race, winter training, ultra-racing, riding centuries, counting centuries I do in a year, ride 200+ miles and to ride my first 10,000 mile year.  Joe has done what really good friends should do; he has helped me discover my fullest potential and inner confidence.  He's still working on me even today. ;-)

Joe and I after the 2015 Leadville Silver Rush 50 - Photo Credit: Tina Stiller
Together Joe and I will compete in the 2017 Race across the Divide.  I turn 50 that year so I wanted to celebrate 50 years of life by doing something epic.  My moment of inspiration came to me three years ago while watching "Ride The Divide" a movie about the longest mountain bike route in the world traversing over 2700 miles along the Rocky Mountains from Banff, Canada to the Mexican border.  One thing to note is the thought of doing this event terrifies me but I love thinking into the future and the all the prepping I will be doing to do this amazing journey.  

Remember, we are all family, we all share things that inspire others.  I guess what I'm trying to say is surround yourself with inspirational people and feed off their drive! I always will.  


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Discovering your playground – my personal journey

Welcome to Gleaso's Playground's very first blog post!  I hope you find my thoughts helpful in your journey to discover your playground.

Growing up in Rapid City, SD I spent all my days riding my bike, wandering the open prairie and Ponderosa pine forests.  I loved wandering, discovering, being free...I guess today we would say I loved adventure!  As I've grown older, it's become easier to lose my sense of adventure, I've become more serious about my career path, rearing children, and getting so caught up in everyday life. Along the way, I forgot one of the most important things in life... ME, MYSELF, and I.

I am proud of my years finding my place in the working world, being a very involved dad, and a loving husband.  We all should be.  One thing we all need to remember is that your physical being needs to be part of the equation.  Through the years, I forgot.  I gained a lot of weight. Weighing in at 243 lbs!  I had a torn ACL that I had never repaired.  With the bad knee and all the added weight, my quality of life was starting to change, as I would discover one day in the attic of my newly built house.  In the attic, my knee buckled so I fell part way through the ceiling. Yep. Not good!  Time for some changes.

We all know that it's easy to say "I need to change" but actually knowing how to change is hard.  I liked eating everything in sight and watching endless amounts of television.  In addition, it was easy to do as my waistline indicated.  What I needed was a plan.  I needed to find my thing.  I needed a lifestyle change. 

The Plan

Eat less, do more cardio.  Easy, right?  Atkin's - fail, Weight-Watchers - fail, Lifting weights - fail, Run - fail (had to figure with bad knee but I tried), Swimming - fail.  I was now a couple years into this with marginal success.  I was getting very frustrated.  I still needed a plan, a thing to call my own.

One day cleaning out the garage I looked up to realize I still had my old college mountain bike.  A flood of memories of riding my bike everywhere while I went at college rushed through my head.  I remembered a race I did in college called the Chequamegon 40, a 40 mile mountain bike race in Hayward, WI.  At that instance, I realized my new thing to try.  I would train to do the Chequamegon 40!  

Doing a little research I discovered the Chequamegon 40 was a lottery that filled very quickly every year so I had to send in my application to gain an entry. With app in hand, I filled it out sent it in and waited for my entry post card to arrive in the mail.  May rolls around and no post card.  I didn't get in.  It was a very emotional moment for me because I thought it was going to be my goal, my thing.  Fail.  This was a setback for me.  I actually took a few steps back in my progress.

Several months pass, I'm still lifting weights and swimming because I didn't know what else to do with myself.  In the spring it was time to try one more time, so sent my entry in but this time I had the luckiest friend I knew at the time kiss the entry envelope with red lipstick for luck.  May rolls around again, I checked the bank account to see if the check cleared and it had.  A few days later the card came in the mail - I WAS IN!!!  Complete panic rushed through my body because I hadn't actual started riding my bike yet.  I needed to learn how to mountain bike again and build enough bike endurance to finish a 40 mile race!

Training

So the training begins.  I started riding “training” late May 2006 with a race date mid-September.  I needed to ride enough to finish 40 miles of rolling nasty off road hills.  I started riding 2-3 times a week, short rides at first.  Slowly increasing the distance and each time I did it was painful my lower back would start hurting 10 mile into the ride, every time.  By mid-July I finally could ride 23 miles non-stop so it was time to celebrate.  I was pumped.  Still a long ways from 40 off road miles but I started to believe I was going to be able to finish.  And yes I was not confident I could finish, I was terrified that I might not be able to finish.  A couple weeks before the 40 was to begin I finally rode 40 miles for the first time, it was hard but it gave me the confidence I needed to make the drive to the Birkie ski trails in the Chequamegon National forest.

Race Week

Time to do a weigh in to see if this silly goal of mine was working.  225 pounds.  Success!  Now it’s time to start planning the trip so I started asking others what do you wear in a race like this to stay comfortable.  Everyone told me that it depended on the weather.  I thought to myself….oh yeah…the weather.  Now I’m panicking.  I forgot to check the weather.  I checked the forecast and you would never guess, yes there was a chance of rain…RAIN!  Starting race temperature of 34 degrees.  RAIN and almost freezing….WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!!!  I’ve never ridden in rain, mud or the cold.  So I called a buddy of mine in Butte, MT that was a year round bike commuter to get some advice on clothing and how to ride in those conditions.  He was awesome, he told me what to get and told me to never give up.  It was all I needed to hear because I had worked way to hard to give up now.

2006 Chequamegon fat tire festival - Left to Right: 
My daughter Sawyer, my son TJ, Me, and Trevor a friend's son.

Race Day

Finally!  I get my bike to the starting and I’m ready to go.  The rain that I was worried about had cleared and the temp was hanging around 37 degrees so I was feeling a little less freaked out but just a little. Gary the race director started the traditional countdown 10…9….8… to get the race started and then I hear crack the sound of the gun and I was off.  I was racing again!  It had been years and it felt great, I felt free, relaxed.  This was the start of my Adventure!  

I was 39 weighing in at 225 lbs.  I owned a 1998 Schwinn KOM S9 mountain bike.  My Chequamegon finishing time was 3 hours 17 minutes and 22.1 seconds.  I finished 193rd out of 340 in the 35 to 39 age group and 876th out of 1677 finishers.  And when I finished I could hardly walk or talk.  I had given that race every ounce of energy I had.

My 2006 Chequamegon fat tire festival finish!