Friday, December 30, 2011

Seven Sisters


Slideshow from last night's ride.  Charles and I did 35 miles of mostly gravel in a little under three hours, with the highlights being a horror movie B road I knew existed but had never ridden, comfy weather and maybe a little trespassing.  No one in that truck bothered to yell at us though, so I'm guessing we were ok.

Edit: Click here for the direct link to the photo album.  I've had a couple people tell me the slideshow wasn't working for them

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lessons Learned

Now that I've had some time to decompress from and reflect on Tuscobia, it's time to get down to what's important.  What went well?  What didn't?  What did I learn?


What went well:
  • I had my best result of the year, 6th out of 18 starters.  I went in to this without any real expectations since it was mostly just training for Arrowhead.  I ended up "racing" most of it after getting myself caught up in a cat-and-mouse game with a couple other guys, which left me feeling like crap for the second half.  Still, I was pretty damn proud of that result since I'm usually in the back half of the field.  In fact, sometimes the only thing separating me from DFL is alphabetical order.
  • My tires. Sweet baby Jesus, those Nates were awesome!  Up til now I'd been second guessing my decision to buy those over a pair of Larrys because the Nates suuuuuck on gravel and hard pack.  My opinion, I know, but without anything to dig in to you end up riding on top of some very rubbery knobs which add a lot of rolling resistance as well as give you the feeling that you're pulling a sled on a bungee cord.  Not so in the snow (or sand for that matter).  This is a tire that feels so much better when the knobs are digging in and doing what they're supposed to do.  Out on the trail I found they rolled slow on the hardpack and ice, but they rolled solid and true.  There was absolutely no sliding whatsoever.  I studded the front with 1/2" #6 pan head sheet metal screws, but I'm not sure I needed to.  I left the rear unstudded with the tread reversed and didn't have a single issue over 15 miles of patchy ice.  Once I hit the soft, crusty snow they floated a lot better than I thought they would (with the right air pressure) and rolled great.  When I did break through, the knobs did their job and I had absolutely no squirm.  Where you point these tires is where you go.
  • This was my first time riding snow on a fatbike, so the Stormtrooper finally got to show me what it could do.  I loved being able to float over snow that I barely would have been able to plow through on my old hardtail.  Once the snow got soft, I actually found it much easier and faster to ride on the untouched sections than in the packed tracks of others.
  • My clothing and pack gear did it's job well.  I'll need to move stuff around a bit before Arrowhead in order to optimize, but I was expecting that.  I was dressed a little on the warm side, so when I left Winter I was cold for a bit longer due to my base layers being pretty wet from the sweat.  Still, I didn't get all that cold the couple times I had to stop for mechanicals in the dark, so I wasn't too far off optimal.  Boots/socks worked well and kept my feet toasty.  The couple hills I had to walk were no problem and I had plenty of traction.
What didn't go well:
  • Obviously, the mechanicals were an issue.  My bottom bracket kept unthreading throughout the race, first on one side, then the other and back again.  I had to stop three times on the trail to fix it, plus once on the roadside when Deb brought me my tool.  Chalk this one up to me not using the right tool to install it when I built the bike.  I didn't want to get the special tool for the bottom bracket that I was expecting to ditch at the end of snow season, so I worked with what I had.  This meant I probably wasn't able to get the proper torque on it, leading to the issue in question.  
  • I bonked halfway through the race and was never really able to recover.  Part of this was me riding at a higher intensity level than I typically train for, part was me trying out new foods (it was a training race after all), and part was how I physically placed my food in my pack.  I had fats and proteins in a much more accessible part of my pack, so I kept grabbing those over the carb rich foods.  I switched it up after I bonked, but by then it was too late.
  • Once again, cramping legs were an issue.  They were a minor issue that I was able to control on such a flat course, but they were an issue nonetheless.  I attribute this to the level of intensity as well as poor pre-race nutrition and hydration.  I'll work on this for Arrowhead since it'd be a much bigger problem there.
  • My bike position wasn't great, and during the race I had some back, hand and wrist soreness.  After the race I had sore knees for a couple days.  The knees were caused by the lack of float in the pedals.  The back could be fixed with a higher rise stem and the wrists/hands could be taken care of with a handlebar that has more than a 5 degree sweep.
  • Speaking of pedals, I'm still getting used to the platforms.  This is just going to come down to practice.
What I learned:
  • Food placement is going to be an important part of setting up my equipment.  I added string cheese and summer sausage to my race diet, which tasted great out on the trail, but I need to make sure I have carbs readily available as well.  I also need to make sure I alternate between the different foods.
  • That 6-8 hours total that I spent riding my bike before the race wasn't enough.  I had planned to do a four hour ride the weekend before, but ended up having a little too much fun the night before and skipped it to nurse my hangover.  A good, long ride may have flushed out the bottom bracket issue.
  • Use the proper tool for the job.  I know...  Duh, right?  Chalk this one up to me being a cheap ass where I shouldn't have been.  The sad thing is I usually jump at the chance to add a new tool to my arsenal.
  • Two straps on my sleeping bag.  TWO!
  • Dial in that bike position.  This is another "Duh" item, but I knew what I had was good enough for this length.  I will need to address the cockpit before Arrowhead, but the pedal are just going to come down to practice.  Well, I may be able to adjust the pins somewhat to help with the knee soreness.
  • I should load the bulkier stuff in the drive side pannier and try to keep the other side slim.  When I had to push my bike my leg would sometimes hit the bag, which was slightly annoying.  It'll be a lot more annoying at Arrowhead.
  • Arrowhead needs to be ridden and not raced.  If I race it, I'm going to spend a lot of time being miserable.  I'm going to have to practice telling myself "I'm in this for the experience".
  • I had the option of riding with others.  In a gravel race I would have, but on the snow I prefer to be alone with my thoughts.  It's just a different world on the white.
  • I'm going to have to really think about what I want to carry for tools at Arrowhead.  I don't want to bear the weight of an entire toolbox, but if I hadn't gotten my hands on that bottom bracket tool then I would have had a very long walk ahead of me.
  • Strap that bike down good when it's on the rack.  Thankfully (for me, anyway) I had Matt Maxwell there to really burn that one into the brainpan.  His bike fell off the rack on the way to the start and ruined his front tire.  He had to wait two hours for a new wheel to be delivered.  He still came in just a half hour behind me...
There's probably more stuff I could add to this list, but I think that covers the important stuff for now.  With that, Tuscobia is now in the books.

I'm Guessing Not A Lot of Work is Getting Done Today

I was peer pressured into it...
  
It's the day before our holiday shutdown.  Nobody seems all that productive today.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tuscobia Post Race

Gearing up...

6th Place in the 75 mile race nets me my best result of the year.  Total time was 12 hours and 30 minutes.  All together there were 18 cyclists that started and 15 finished.  I wasn't all that fast on the hard pack and ice, but made up a lot of ground on the soft and crusty (there was plenty of soft and crusty).  I had three mechanicals on the trail and probably skirted a fourth by a few miles (bottom bracket kept unthreading).  I bonked about half way through and was never able to really recover from it, regardless of how much I ate.  Oh, and just for the hell of it I dropped my sunglasses in the toilet in Winter (pre-flush, of course).  But hey, I'm pretty happy with how things turned out in the end.

Also gotta say I'm very impressed with how well this event was organized, especially when you consider it was cancelled by the original director and picked up by another pair about a month or so ago.  Big thanks to Helen and Chris for taking over and doing an excellent job!

I'll get some more pics up in the next couple days, and may go into more detail on the race at that time.

Edit:  Corrected the number of starters and finishers

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ready for Tuscobia


Well, there's my setup.  Studded the front tire last night but I'm leaving the rear au naturale, with the exception of reversing the tread direction for more grip.  It's looking like it's going to be pretty icy up there, but I have a lot of confidence in the Nates I'm rolling on.  Rim strip was swapped out for a more festive red velvet while I was messing with the wheels, and she's freshly scrubbed down...  Mostly.  Bags are packed with everything but some clothing that's still in the wash and a couple minor odds and ends.  I've done a few test rides with this setup, so everything should be good.  I hope, anyway...

I probably shouldn't have said that last part.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Three Nights, Three Rides

Midnight, clear skies, moon almost full.  No lights needed to follow the white ribbon of gravel as it wound through the hills.  Seven degrees and I couldn't be more comfortable.

When was the last time you chased your shadow in the moonlight?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Good Hurt

 The landing zone from my perfectly executed Flying-Squirrel to Inverted-Turtle

Last night I went out for a two hour night ride with my new training partner, Charles.  I've done three rides with him in the last week and a half and I've left each one beat up for a different reason.  The first one was a 70 mile gravel ride two weekends ago that had us in a good headwind for the first half.  I fought cramps for the last 40 miles and was ruined for the next couple days.  The next weekend we planned a route around a long section of continuous B roads and stuck to it even though it rained the entire day before.  We walked at least three miles of the six mile stretch of B road muck, our bikes slung over our backs.  Once again, I was ruined for the next couple days.

So anyway,  back to last night.  The highlight of the trip was a frozen B road.  Lesson of the day: don't outrun your lights on sketchy terrain.  I hit an iced over puddle, my front wheel broke through, and I went ass-over-handlebars for the first time this year, landing on my back in the icy puddle.  My entire back side soaked in the sub-freezing weather, we figured this would be a good time to head back.  Luckily most of my gear stayed warm even when wet, the exception being my bibs.  My right sleeve even froze stiff within a couple miles, but for the most part I was ok.  Surprisingly, this was the ride that didn't leave me hurting...  Much.

It sounds like we'll be doing a weekly gravel night ride throughout the winter from now on, and we even talked about opening this up as a social thing that extends beyond gravel after the first of the year.  Think longer distance cyclocross type action...  Gravel, pavement, snow, etc.  Other than that, it's time to start shifting my focus over to the Stormtrooper and the snow.  Tuscobia is only a week away...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Crap I Send

This was my arrowhead resume.

When you're begging for stuff, you might as well be creative about it.  This is actual email I've actually sent.

To Twin Six, last month:

Four hours into the sale and the Blood Moon men’s T is already sold out.  NOOOOOO!!!1

There’s gotta be a way I can still get one in large.  So…

a)      Is there anyone there who can be bribed?  I can offer a coupon for one free back massage.

b)      If not, what about blackmail?  I’m very good with photoshop.  Is there anyone there you don’t like?  Do they have pics available online?

c)       What about charity?  Did I mention I was a one legged orphan with a bum spleen and a terminal case of head lice?

Any bending of the rules would be rewarded with great admiration and a promise of secrecy carrying the bond of the Pinky Swear.  Thanks.


I'd like to note that since there was no actual bending of the rules, I declare the pinky swear bond null and void.  Moving on...

To Revelate Designs, last week: 

Hold your hand up.  A little bit higher.  Ok, ready?  Here goes...

Did you feel that?  That ripple coming at you through the air?  The shockwave from the general direction of Iowa?  That's right, brother...  I just invented the wireless high-five.

What lead to this stunningly manly innovation?  The announcement on your site that frame bags are once again available for the Pugs.  So now I gotta know...  Do you have one in small?  Such a revelation (see what I did there?) would surely be cause for celebration the likes of which would flatten all trees in a ten mile radius, so I promise to find the most remote corn field to read your response in.

Don't worry, I'll evacuate all small animals first.

But not the deer.

Fuck the deer.

Thanks.
- Craig  


Now... What to do for that Trans Iowa postcard? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

PBR email

Doing some behind the scenes updates on Project Backroads.  Any email sent to craig@projectbackroads.com might be delayed for up to 48 hours. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sufferfest

I've started doing the Sufferfest videos as part of my laughable effort to get faster.  I did (most of) Angels the other night and Fight Club tonight (minus the attacks).  Yep, even with the minor wussing out I'm feeling it.  Weight lifting tomorrow, 5-6 hours on the gravel Saturday and the Revolver video on Sunday. 

I'm gonna go ahead and call Monday a rest day...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

American Gothic Race Report

Sunday I took part in the American Gothic Gravel Race, a gravel metric out of Marion, IA.  I was originally planning on taking the Pugs for this one, but after a short test ride on Saturday I decided to stick with with the single speed for this one.  In the end I'm glad I did, since for the first time this year I actually ended up racing a race instead of just riding it.  More on that later.

I learned about this race from one of the guys who did my ride a couple weeks ago and figured I couldn't pass up a gravel metric that was only 20 miles from my front door.  I passed the word to a couple friends of mine who have been looking to get into racing.  Ultimately one of them (Mel) was able to make the start and slightly after noon we rolled out of the parking lot with about 15-20 other racers.  Since I was single speeding it I took my usual starting position of near the back and rolled out at a controlled tempo while I watched Mel shoot on ahead.  I hung out doing my thing for a bit until catching up to her and another woman shortly before we hit the first "B road" of the day.  Ok, less "B road" and more "trespassing", four of use hit the chained gate across the road.  I held the gates to keep them from swinging around while the others tosses their bikes over and started climbing.  I came over last and jumped on my ride for some overgrown and rutted goodness.  Pretty soon I had jumped in front of the others and was making up ground when I heard one of my bottles drop.  Not wanting to lose a bottle this early (especially my DK bottle), I stopped and went back to grab it.  Unfortunately, it wasn't just my bottle that I lost.  Half my seat mounted cage went with it.  Luckily I had a spare bottle cage open on my frame so I stuck the bottle there and threw the remainder of the busted cage in my jersey pocket.  I had to stop at the end of the road to readjust the remaining seat cage and take a nature break, allowing Mel and the others to get back in front of me.  Everything in place, I took off to catch back up.

A couple miles later and I had rejoined with Mel.  The wind had really started picking up and I could tell she was suffering, so I told her to jump in my draft.  There were a couple riders ahead of us and I told her if we could catch up to them we'd have a better draft.  She soldiered on and we were finally able to latch on to them in a cross wind.  By the time we hit 7 Hills Road, we were five or six strong and rolling well.

Unfortunately that didn't last.  At the end of that section of hills most of our group was up ahead of us and Mel was ready to drop out.  I tried talking her into continuing to the next town 10 miles down the road, and she gave a good effort, but in the end she decided to call it a day about half way through the race.  I tried once again to talk her into continuing on, but her mind was made up and she sent me ahead to join up with the others.  I shot off to catch up to them.

By the time I latched back on, the group was six or seven strong and I was feeling good.  Riding the first half of the race at a conservative pace left me with a lot in the tank, so when I found myself in no-man's land between the group and a lone rider, I knew who I wanted to be riding with.  I caught up to him and we struck up some friendly banter as a herd of cattle ran along the fence next to us.  For the next 20 miles we rode together, pushing each other and playing cat and mouse with a third rider.  On we went, until we found ourselves back at the gated B (C?) road.  We walked the first bit of sandiness and hopped back on our steeds.  I rolled out first and almost immediately found myself in a rhythm that was so close to that feeling you get on flowy singletrack that I lost myself in a zenlike trance as I tore through the grass, dirt and sand.  At the end of the road, I looked back to see where my riding buddy was at.  I was all alone.  I saw another rider about a half mile or so up the road and made up my mind.  I had six miles left to catch him.

Head down, hammer on.  Creeping closer ever so slowly I pushed myself to the verge of cramping.  My stomach was growling from lack of food, but I knew I had enough in the reserve tank to make it to the end.  I took a few healthy chugs from the water bottle.  Head down, hammer on.  We turned into the wind.  I figured this was where I had to catch him.  In a couple miles the road was going to turn south and hit pavement and at that point I figured I'd have no chance given my choice of gearing.  Head down, hammer on.  I watched him cross HWY 13, just ahead of me.  I timed the traffic and shot through the gap that presented itself.  We were almost to the turn.  I wasn't going to catch him before the pavement.  Damn!  Head down, hammer on.  I made the turn and hit the pavement.  I was within 200 yards now, and about a mile and a half  remained before the finish.  Shoulders rocking, I humped it past a bystander.  He said something to me, but I didn't catch it.  I smiled and waved.  Head down, hammer on.  Almost there.  Two chunks of road construction stood between us and the finish.  One of them required a dismount.  I was almost on him.  Head down, hammer on.  We hit the first chunk of construction together.  I had caught him with less than 1/2 mile left!  We exchanged pleasantries and he commented about running the last 50 miles alone.  Sorry, can't stay and chat.  We hit the second section of construction.  I dismounted and did my best cyclocross impression.  Back on the bike.  Head down, hammer on.  As I pulled around the last turn back into the parking lot, I snuck a glance back.  He didn't chase.  I had pulled it out in the last 1/4 mile.  I logged my time, checked my placing and I was done.  8th place, if I remember correctly.  It felt great to really push my limits.

Later on I apologized to the guy I passed at the end.  To some that would have been a dick move when you're not fighting for the win, but I had the fire in my belly and a goal in my head.    I hung out for a bit chatting with the other racers, reliving the day and talking about future races before finally taking off.  Good day, great race.

Thanks to Charles for telling me about the race, the organizers for putting it on, Matt Maxwell for some Arrowhead gear advice, my second half riding buddy (sorry, forgot your name), and the guy I passed at the end for being cool about it.  Also, even though she pulled the plug half way through I still think Mel did a good job for her first race ever.  That's it for now. 

- Lord Nibbles ;-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Precioussss...


The Stormtrooper is ready for action.   Now let's see some snow...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moonshine Metric Photos



Courtesy of Kurt Stephens.  Now you get to see how un-photogenic I am when I'm not picking and choosing the pics I post...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Moonshine Metric Wrapup


The inaugural Moonshine Metric is in the books.  Eight of us took the start and five of us finished.  Three folks decided to call it a night at Sutliff while the rest of us rode on into the dark.  Turned out to be the best conditions I've had all year for an organized race/ride.  Other than being a little chilly, we had mostly clear skies, a near full moon and virtually no wind.  The gravel and B roads were in great shape despite heavy rains earlier in the week, and a little bit of rogue bridgework tamed a wheel-eating beast.  We did underestimate the chill, though, and all that finished ended up with cold hands and/or feet.  That brings us to our tip of the day:  Apparently rubber gloves make for a decent makeshift toe cover.

By the time we got back my lady and her son had the fire going, the food warm and the beer cold.  Gluttony ensued, drink was had and the last of us hung out around the fire til 3am.  Thanks to all that came out.  I had a good time out there and I hope everyone else did as well.  Big thanks to Deb and Josh for helping with the setup and dinner, and Courtney for helping me undo my bridge mods the next day.  I'm looking forward to doing this again next year.

Now, pics...




  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Moonshine Metric Update: Food, Start Location, Etc.

Couple small updates regarding the Moonshine Metric...

First off, where are we all going to meet?  Good question.  The short answer is my house.  However, since I don't want my home address floating around the wild and untamed internets (any more than it already is) I'll be sending an email out this week to everyone who has signed up telling you all where we're starting from. 

Next item of business, lodging.  I've had a couple people ask about hotels in the area.  There are two in town, and both are about a mile from my house.  Here's the links for those that are interested.  As mentioned before, you're also welcome to camp out at my place.
- Sleep Inn
- Mount Vernon Motel

Alright, on to food.  Pre and post ride food will be available.  Not sure what I'll have brewing for you yet, but the post ride food will be something warm.  I'm leaning towards taco/burrito/fajita type stuff but that's not a guarantee. I know there's at least one vegan on the list so I'll have a vegan alternative as well. 

Lastly, I should probably come up with a deadline for those that are on the fence about signing up.  Let's make it noon on the 14th.  Of course, earlier is always better...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Getting Lost

Enjoying the fall colors.

Yesterday I decided to head out and explore some new roads that I'd never ridden before.  I had two goals on the day:  
1)  Rack up another century for the Cup O' Dirt
2)  Get lost and find my way back without the aid of maps or outside help.

Mission accomplished on both counts.  Along the way I found a handful of new B roads, rolled through some towns I hadn't been in before, passed the bar I once watched midget wrestling at, got a little bit of night riding in, and all around just enjoyed some great fall weather.

Pictures?  You betcha!

Wasn't sure if I was trespassing at this point.  That's a park on the left.


Abbe Hills road.  This is the first B road we hit on the Moonshine Metric.




 Working on the winter beard.  BTW, that helmet used to be red.











Winding down.


That's it, folks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Project: Stormtrooper


Rims are at the powder-coat shop and most of the parts that aren't getting yoinked from another bike have been ordered.  I'm trying to have this built up in time for the Moonshine Metric. It's gonna be close.

C'mon, winter...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moonshine Metric Course Profile

The route for the Moonshine Metric has been finalized and posted here.  Distance is a hair under 65 miles with the first 10 being about 50% B roads to jump start the awesomeness.  I'll have a backup route planned in case of rain that will bypass the first two miles of level B since I'm sure no one wants to start this ride off with an hour long mud slog.  The rest of the B roads on this route should still be fairly rideable unless we get some major downpours, so count on them staying in.

The rest of the course I'll leave up to everybody to explore, but I do want to call out one thing in particular.  At about mile 50 we'll be hitting some steep rollers and at the bottom of the first one sits this wheel eating wood plank bridge.


As you can see, my 45mm tires fit nicely in the groove, and this isn't even the biggest gap.  It's sketchy enough in daylight and we'll be hitting it in the middle of the night.  Add to that the speed you'll be carrying from the hill and this thing has the potential to really ruin your weekend.  So, that being said...  BE CAREFUL!  I'll mark this bridge on the cues so you'll all know it's coming.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Moonshine Metric Gravel Ride


***Update 10/3/2011:  Misc info including start location, food, lodging and deadline posted here.***

***Update 9/13/2011:  Course map and additional details posted here.***

That's right, folks...  We're doing this.

Behold...  The Moonshine Metric!  60+ miles of gravel, B roads, buddies and beverages.  The best part?  It's taking place entirely at night!  Here's the details:

The date: Saturday, Oct. 15th.  Ride will start at 7pm and will probably end for most people in the neighborhood of midnight.
 
The place: Mount Vernon, IA.  Exact location is TBD but we will start from somewhere in town.

The ride:  First of all, this is a gentleman's ride.  This is not a race.  I don't want to be stuck manning checkpoints and watching the finish line while you guys get to have all the fun, so this is where we be.  That being said, I'll have cue sheets available to all if you want to take off on your own.  No one is going to be keeping track of what time you come in though.  If want to make a race of it, guess what?  First place is you get to start the fire.  Have fun waiting for us.

Alright, second order of business...  The exact course is still swirling in the aether, but expect around 65 miles with 5% being B roads and 10-15% pavement.  We'll roll out on the north side of town and head east for a bit before turning south for a while, skimming Sutliff and rolling though Solon.  We'll finish up at my place back in Mount Vernon, where we'll get a fire going, break into the cooler and tell ghost stories and whatnot.  There will be two opportunities to restock along the way, one at a bar in Sutliff and another at a Casey's in Solon (assuming they're open).


Registration:  If you want to do the ride, send me an email at craig@projectbackroads.com.  All I'm really looking for is an idea of how many people might show up.  Parking could be an issue if we have a lot of people, so please don't come unannounced.  I'll be posting the roster on this site as people sign up.  If you're shy or in witness protection, I'll keep your real name private upon request.  I still get to come up with a pseudonym of my choosing for you though.

Lodging:  There's a hotel and a motel in town if that's your cup o' butter, but you're also welcome to pitch a tent in my backyard.  Just be aware that I have limited space back there so make sure you let me know ahead of time that you'll be camping out.  BTW, I live close to a busy set of railroad tracks.  Keep that in mind when reserving your spot.

Misc. details:
- Once again, this is a night ride.  We'll be a few days past a full moon, but lights are still mandatory.  To start this ride you will need (at the very least) a decent headlight and a flashing rear red taillight.
- Whatever route we end up taking, there will be dogs.  So far I haven't come across any that were more than just intimidating, but still...  Be cautious.  I'll mark the rough locations of known dogs on the cue sheets.
- The golden rule is in place for this ride.  Let's hear you all repeat it in your grumpiest Guitar Ted voice...  YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!

The Roster (as of 10/2/11):
- Me
- Guitar Ted
- Don Daly
- Zach Lamb
- Tim Ellsworth
- Robb Sandle
- Lee Ellis
- Kurt Stephens
- Courtney Hilton
- Charles Showalter
- Mike Baggio

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sunday Hunday

Does anyone want to come out to my playground and do a gravel hundy on Sunday?  I'm going to ride from Mount Vernon to Amana and back.  I'm single speeding it so ride time will be 8ish hours with a few chances to hit convenience stores to restock.  Ride will be about 80-85% gravel with a couple B roads, at least one water crossing and 4-5 miles of DK-rough access roads.

If you're in, let's plan on leaving from my house around 8 or 9am. Email me at craig@projectbackroads.com for more details.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Midnight Metric

Lately I've been thinking about hosting some type of gravel event and the leading idea at the moment is a gravel metric run entirely at night.  The idea comes from the Night Nonsense race I did last October and since it's not looking like they'll be running that one again I though maybe I'd pick up on the format to keep it alive.  I don't know at this time whether it'd be a race or just an organized ride, but it would probably be run sometime around the second or third Saturday of October.  It would likely leave from Mount Vernon, IA at 8pm and hit the roads to the south.  One could expect a few miles of B roads, including a one mile stretch within the first few miles of the race.  This is all preliminary right now and may not happen, but if there's enough interest and I can work out the details over the next week, then I may just go ahead with it.  So, that being said...

Whaddya think?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back From Colorado

 Sugar Loaf summit

I ended up taking my first real vacation in two years last week and headed out for Leadville, CO. First off, no I didn't race. I had a couple friends that were racing (Don and Zach) and I was wanting to get out there this summer anyway so I figured I'd head out there the same week to get a little training and BS time in with them. Ended up being a good trip overall. Here's the breakdown, with a photo dump to follow within the next couple days.

Saturday (Aug. 6th):
Left the house around 7am and spent the whole day driving. Ended up making it all the way to Dillon, CO before stopping for the night. We could have kept on going until Leadville, which was another 45 minutes away, but our campsite reservation wasn't until the next day so it seemed like a good place to stop. We wandered around for a bit looking for a sushi place I had seen advertised, but ended up settling for a Chipotle. Good burrito, bad margarita.

Sunday:
Arrived in Leadville in time to catch a train ride through the mountains and some of Boom Days, which was going on that weekend. Hit the store, set up camp and then went out for my first ride around Turquoise Lake. I kept it short since I really didn't know how I was going to do with the altitude and the climbs. Other than a significant drop in power output and some gasping right at the base of the climbs, it actually wasn't that bad. The first real climb was pretty easy (450ft over 2 miles) while the second one was a bit tougher (800ft over 3 miles). Total ride was about 17 miles at a little over an hour. I find that I like longer climbs that let you get into a rhythm, unfortunately we don't have a lot of those in Iowa though.

Monday:
Headed out with Don and his friend Bob for a short trip around Turquoise Lake, up Sugar Loaf and down Powerline.  Climbing was about the same as before for me, but with the added humility of having Don steadily ride away from me.  Bob hung with us until the turn to Sugar Loaf where he started having some pains and had to bail.  We sent some faster riders up the climb in the hopes they'd be able to get better phone reception and call a ride in for him, but when Don and I got to the top they said they'd only been able to leave a message on my girlfriends voice mail.  Don and I then made the frightening invigorating decent down Powerline and rode to the fish hatchery to meet our ride.  We drove back to pick up Bob, who had made it down to the base of Hagerman Pass by the time we got there.  With Bob and Don done for the day and me wanting some extra miles, I left them and headed off to climb Hagerman.  This was a personal goal of mine anyway since I tried to drive my old Saturn SC2 (The Saturn of Power) up it four years ago.  Back then I had to turn around a couple miles from the top when it got too rocky, but this time I was able to make the climb on the bike.    Most of the climb went well, but the last couple miles of it turn pretty steep and rocky and I had to take a few short breaks to catch my breath in the increasingly thinning air.  I got to the top, snapped a few pics and then headed back to camp to clean up for dinner with the boys.  The rest of the night was delicious fajitas, a Ride the Divide viewing and general BSing.

Tuesday:
Monday night Bob and I had made plans to ride Columbine together but unfortunately those plans never materialized.  Instead, I decided to knock another big climb off my checklist and headed out to Twin Lakes to tackle Independence Pass.  Deb came with and rode her own ride while I headed off to the sufferfest.  I had no idea what to expect from myself here and figured I'd have to stop a few times to rest and catch my breath, just like the day before.  Instead, I was pretty happy that I only stopped once early on, and that was to take a picture of a mountain goat (ran off before I could).  I was tackling the eastern approach and found the first 10 miles or so to be easier than I was expecting.  There were a lot of 5-7% grades, but they were usually followed up by a relatively flat spot to allow for some recovery.  The last five miles...  Not so much.  As I came through mile nine I saw the road ahead of me that was cut into the near cliff and thought to myself "Damn...  I bet I have to climb that".  Sure enough, I hit the first switchback and it was 5-7% from there to the summit.  I dropped into my granny gear (thank you brand new 11-28 cassette) and spun my way up.  40ish minutes later I was at the top, cuz I'm slow and all, and I snapped off a couple pics before my butt clenching descent back down at scary speeds a few feet away from 300+ foot drops (guard rails... denied). 

Wednesday:
I was going to tackle Columbine but opted for a day of shopping around Leadville instead.  Had a nice lazy day and our first campfire of the trip.

Thursday:
We rented a Jeep from a place that I won't name right now for reasons to be revealed later.  When I set up the reservation I wanted an automatic in case Deb wanted to drive, but apparently in the world of Jeep rentals this also gets you a shamefully underpowered 4 cylinder as well.  Whatever, it'd work for the novice trails that we were going to take it on.  After a quick description of the local trails by the owner and a run-through of our Jeep (in which he didn't start the motor) we were ready to go.  The first thing we notices was how friggin' loud the thing was.  I'm talking no muffler loud.  Again... Whatever.  I figured there was a reason for this and didn't go back inside to question it.  This would bite me later...

Off we went in our Jeep (the all-bark-no-bite-mobile) and hit the trails he suggested.  One of them included a  short hike up to a waterfall as well as a trip to an old mining site and ghost town.  Another took us up through Lost Canyon, which I believe might be part of the Columbine climb.  If so, I missed out by skipping it.  It was beautiful.  The third trip wasn't a planned route but I wanted to head back up Hagerman Pass, this time with a motor.  We made our way back down and headed back to Copper for dinner with the boys (and their ladies) again.  This time there was less BSing since everyone seemed more worn out, but we still got in a viewing of the latest Race Across The Sky movie.  Afterwords we returned the Jeep and headed back to camp.

Friday:
We had reservations for a full day rafting trip through Browns Canyon, but before we went there I stopped by the Jeep rental place because I thought I had left my sunglasses behind.  When I went in to talk to the owner I was a bit shocked when he asked me what I did to the Jeep.  He was trying to tell me that it didn't sound like that when we had taken off with it the previous morning.  After a bit of arguing, nothing was resolved and now I'm waiting to hear back from him after his mechanic goes through it.  I'm going to leave it at that until I hear more.

So with my morning already off to a bad start we headed on the the rafting place.  Waivers, equipment rentals, safety checks, orientation, blah blah blah... And we were on our way.  Six hour trip with a steak and corn on the cob lunch in the middle of it, class 3 rapids, jumping off a rock into the river, Deb getting dunked...  It ended up being a lot of fun.  Our guide was great and even though I'm not much of a steak eater I thought lunch was excellent.  One of the other rafters was telling us that this was the only rafting company there who grilled steak for lunch.  If you're up in Buena Vista for some rafting, I'd definitely recommend Buffalo Joes for your trip.

Saturday:
Race day!  I was sore and tired from rafting and didn't feel like getting up early for the start of the LT100.  Unfortunately, I also didn't get up in time to stake out a spot on Powerline or Columbine like I had originally planned.  Instead I waited until about an hour before I thought the leaders would hit the top of Carter Summit and then rode up there.  I staked out a spot about 1/4 mile from the summit with the intention of watching the leaders come through, taking off for a while and then coming back to cheer on the fellas.  That plan evolved into me spending five hours running up and down the climb, dancing, hooting, hollering and generally making an ass out of myself for the amusement and encouragement of the racers.  Highlights of my day included:
- Making Tinker Juarez smile with my "Levers" dance
- Getting a fist bump from Ricky McDonald
- Probably annoying Rebecca Rusch with my sideline antics (I didn't cause problems or get in anyone's way, so no scolding)
- Getting numerous fist bumps and high fives from the racers
- Getting thanked by so many racers for the encouragement and laughs
- Having Deb stop by with some desperately needed water
- "Bringing the party" to Zach and my camping neighbor who's name I forgot.
- Finding out Zach earned his belt buckle on a rigid singlespeed
- Getting some help for an hour or so from another pair of "cheerleaders" (I was the only one there for a large portion of the day)
- Just making so many racers smile at the end of a grueling day

After Zach went by and we found out Don had pulled the plug, we made our way back to the campsite, finished packing and started back home.  Stayed overnight at a hotel in Nebraska.

Sunday:
Hit the road around 10am, got home around 7 or 8, cleaned up, vacation over.

Again, it was a good trip overall.  Got to see Zach and Don again, which is always good.  Got to meet more of their friends and family, which is also good.  Rides and rafting went well and I ended up having a lot of fun cheering at the race.  I'll try to get in next year, but if I don't you can count on me being in the same spot next year, trying to lift spirits and generally make an ass out of myself.

One final note:  I have a new found respect for competitive cheerleaders.  I was more sore the following day than I have been after any race I've done this year.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The first "R" is for "ride"

On R&R, will post pics when the interwebs are available. Now to enjoy this train ride through the mountains.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My spoon is too big

My coworker calls this comedic diamond encrusted gold.  I say it's all that plus smothered in gravy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Race Report: Farmhouse Classic


This weekend I headed down to Lathrop, MO to take part in the Farmhouse Classic gravel race.  Or it could have been the clear cut jungles of Guam.  Or possibly the outer lip of a volcano at high noon.  I don't know for sure.  My point is it was friggin' hot.

I met up with my buddy Don and a couple of his friends (DK co-winner Barbie and DK finisher John) for 90+ miles of rolling hills and gravel.  This was my first race since my conversion to single speed and I was planning on just taking it easy, having fun and meeting some new people.  After some pre-race preparation and breakfast (graciously provided by race organizer Joe Fox) we started our neutral roll out at 9am.  Before long we settled into a nice sustainable pace near the back of the pack.  After 5-10 miles we were getting spread out enough that I picked up navigation duties for our group.  Back at DK I had been the navigator for about 100 miles and it worked out well, so I dug right into it here.  Unfortunately, it seems like it's not a gravel race unless we get lost and 17 miles in I made our first wrong turn.  Up to that point the cues and my GPS were off my 3/10ths of a mile and I had been correcting for that.  However, they chose just the right spot to synch back up and we made two wrong turns (that lined up with the corrected mileage) before we noticed that there were no tire tracks in front of us.  We checked the map and found a reroute, screwed that up, corrected again, missed our turn and finally backtracked to the proper road.  Yup, my nav skills are rockin'.

Six wasted miles later, we were back on course and cruising again.  We ended up going back to our DK navigation formula where Don reset his computer after every cue and I calculated mileage between points.  With two of us involved it worked a lot better.  Well, three really since John was also verifying our call outs. From there things were pretty uneventful for a while.  We were cruising along the gently rolling hills, trying to keep cool and avoid the ever present dogs, one of which took out Don at one point (he was ok, but mad).  Barbie had a bee sting, I crashed on a rut, and John felt like a "petrified slug" for a while.  Otherwise things were going well and we were having a good time.

Until around mile 75 anyway.  That's about the time the heat started getting to me.  We pulled into the final service town a few miles later and spent some extra time inside to cool off.  There we met up with another racer (Kevin, maybe?) and the five of us took off 15-20 minutes later.  It didn't take long before I was suffering again.  I was more than happy to hand off navigation duties to our new member so I could just focus on keeping the pedals moving.  It didn't help that the hills got considerably steeper and more frequent at this point and I was really having a hard time.  I fought off a few bouts of cramps and had to walk a pair of hills.  I dumped two bottles of water over my head in a desperate attempt to cool off.  I questioned whether my (frequent) goosebumps were a sign of heat exhaustion or an impending bonk.  I secretly hoped that goat that was chasing after us was not a hallucination. 

With 8 or 9 miles to go, we met up with another rider who had already finished and was back out on the course getting some extra miles.  He rode the rest of the way with us, taking over navigation duties.  A little less than nine hours after taking off, the six of us finally rolled in to the finish.  Don and John called me up to the front and us three single speeders lead our group up the driveway and to the finish.  Damn I was happy to be done with that. At the finish someone kindly pointed me to the water faucet and I spent the next partial eternity filling my bottle and dumping it over my head.

I'm pretty sure we were the last group in, but that doesn't bother me.  In spite of the heat and last chunk of suffering it was a good ride and a lot of fun.  It was a very informal race with no entry fee, a free breakfast and a potluck post race meal.  If they didn't record the final results, you'd have thought it was just a large group ride and I liked that.  We hung out and chitted the chat for a while before it was time to pack it in.  99.2 miles on the day, plus at least point eight worth of warmup to qualify this for the Cup O' Dirt.  More friends made, more people met.  A good day all in all.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's new?

Lunch ride to Club Deli.  I was on the Huffy cruiser with the coaster brake.  Those steel rims didn't handle my powerslides all that well...

It's been a while since I've really posted much.  Here's a little bit of what I've been up to since Dirty Kanza.

  • A couple months ago I started organizing group rides with my coworkers for fun and RAGBRAI training and it's had a much better turnout than I had expected.  We do a lunch ride (2-4 miles) every week to a different restaurant and an evening ride (10-25 miles) to a pub for dinner.  These rides have been pretty casual and usually have 4-6 riders, many of which just started riding within the last few months.
  • I've also been organizing bi-weekly weekend rides for those that want a longer, more serious ride.  The intention has been RAGBRAI training and the rides have run 25-40 miles over rolling terrain.  We have breakfast before the ride while I wrench on anyone's bike who needs it, and we have lunch afterwards while we relax and recuperate.
  • I've been wanting to do some high intensity group rides that would really push my limits, so lately I've been doing a Thursday night ride hosted by a local race team.  It basically involves me getting run through the wringer until I'm ready to pull over and start crying in a ditch.  I've done it four times now and last week was the first time I didn't get dropped or pull out early.  I even managed to chase down some attacks and contest a few sprints.  I hope that means I'm getting stronger.
  • Project Backroads has seen some updates, but I'm working behind the scenes to improve the mapping and media.  Sadly my Script Fu is weak, so it's taking me longer than I'd like.  Taking a look at my schedule over the next month, it might make more sense for me to job out the coding to someone else.  We'll see how it goes.
  • I'm now riding gravel single speed.  I converted the Cross Check after Dirty Kanza and have since done a full century and two metrics.  I've got a (near) century coming up this weekend in Missouri, The Farmhouse Classic, so we'll see how I perform at a race pace.  Beyond that I haven't done much gravel since DK.  I've been pretty much sticking to the road for the last month or so.  The change of pace actually isn't that bad.
  • I've got two new projects in the pipeline.  Project Thunderbutt is currently in progress and Project Stormtrooper will follow up in late August.  More info on those as they unfold.  It's gonna be exciting...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

More B roads

Posted 20 new roads tonight on Project Backroads.  Looks like a couple of the roads aren't showing up though, so I'll check that out later.

Other than that, I'll have some general updates soon.  Things have been awfully busy for me the last few weeks and I'm still trying to get caught up.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why?

Because it was there...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

"We should have an awesome-off.  It would be a ten stage competition and the first stage would be dancing the robot."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quick Dirty Kanza Report

Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!

Just a quick summary for now since I'm pretty bitter about how things turned out for me this weekend.  The first 135 miles or so went great.  I was feeling good, nutrition was spot on, cramps were almost non-existent and we were on pace to pull into the last checkpoint with a two hour buffer.  We had just ridden the last 30-45 minutes in a thunderstorm that cooled us off nicely and things were looking great...  Until we hit the mud.  The next 3-1/2 miles was almost all hike-a-bike through the grass and insanely sticky mud.  By the time we got through it we had burned through all of our banked time and rumor was there were a few more sections of mud ahead of us.  After sitting around for a bit mulling our options Don and I decided to head out with some other riders.  I made it about 30 feet when I head the sickening crunch of my derailleur tearing itself apart.  Ultimately, Don went on to finish with a group of around 7-8 other riders while I got on the phone and called Deb to come get me.  As I watched them ride away I immediately regretted making the call and not converting my bike to a singlespeed.

That's what I'm most bitter about.  Mechanicals happen in gravel racing and you have to be prepared for them, but I basically threw in the towel when I lost my derailleur.  The last two days I've been beating myself up for not at least trying to continue on, even though I would have missed the cutoff.  This one's gonna sting for a while, but I suppose it needs to.  I'll call it future motivation.

On another note, I'm getting pretty sick of derailleur problems so I'm converting this bike to singlespeed for the rest of the summer.  I don't have any more gravel races until September, so I've got time to see if it works for me. 

That's it for now.  I might post more race details later this week, assuming I feel better about it by then.  Right now I just want to forget about it for a while.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kansas Awaits


With the exception of the cold stuff, the car is packed and I'm ready for DK.  I'll be heading out for Emporia first thing in the morn to meet up with Don, Zach and 300 other slightly south of sane folks.  It's gonna be a hot one, so we'll see what effect that has on me.  I haven't had much of a chance to acclimate myself to the heat yet this summer, so I suffered quite a bit on my Memorial Day ride earlier this week.  Here's me hoping this Saturday is better.  If not, I'll just load my jersey pockets with ice.  There's always a workaround...

To those of you riding DK, good luck!  To everyone else, enjoy the weather and the riding this weekend.  I'll have a race report and more updates to Project: Backroads when I get back.  Til then...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Project: Backroads Map Posted

The map is now up on the Project: Backroads site (projectbackroads.com).  It only has a handful of roads logged at the moment while I iron things out.  I'll be updating the map and the site over the next week or so and I'm looking for any input you may have.  Keep in mind this is my newborn wallaby and it's going to need some growing-up time.  In other words, it's a clean slate right now.  I'll fancy it up as we go.

You can leave your feedback in the comments section here or on the site, or you can email me at craig@projectbackroads.com.  Thanks, all!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Must Be The End Of The World

Alright folks, Project: Backroads is up!  Ok, so there's not a map posted yet.  It'll be up there soon.  What I do have however is a shiny new domain name and website for it.  Predictably enough its:

projectbackroads.com

I'll start working on that map tonight.  Right now I have to go clean some Royal residue off the Cross Check.  I need it tip top for the rapture...

Monday, May 16, 2011

By Sheer Will And Determination

Don, me and Zack at the finish of the Royal 162 gravel race.  The time was 2am. 

Three guys, 19 hours, 167 miles, 10k feet of climbing, self supported.  Together we fought rain, wind, grit, grime and hypothermia.  We had some incredible highs and we battled devastating lows.  We got lost twice and nearly packed it in 25 miles from the finish.  Individually I don't know that any one of us would have made it, but together we pulled through.  Three guys determined to finish this race, regardless of what it took.  None of us made it past the first check point at Trans Iowa.  None of us was going to let that happen here.  Soaked and shivering, we finished four hours past the cutoff.  But we finished and that's all that mattered to us.  This was the most meaningful race of my life.

The next morning I read that they cancelled the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California.  Apparently there was some snow on the course.  Nice...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Project Backroads update



This weekend I logged another B road along with a water crossing and a road that doesn't exist according to Google Maps.  I had two more B roads and water crossings that I wanted to get to, but I had a pretty busy weekend and this was all I could get last night before the sun went down.  The rest of this week will be pretty busy and I'm racing Almonzo this weekend so I doubt I'll get a chance to work on this any more until next week.  When I do jump back on it I'll likely create a custom Google map with the info, pics and videos I've gathered so far and make them available.  It's going to be crude at first, but it'll be something.  Deb's son told me about a few other sites that might work for this project, so I'll check into those later.  Until then, enjoy the teaser video.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Project Backroads

That tree...  It's in the middle of the "road".

Two things.  First, I'm an idea guy.  I have a ton of what I think are good ideas, a few of which might actually be.  Only a handful usually ever see the light of day though since I'm easily distracted and the next shiny object is never far from sight.  It's different when I'm on the job, but my time is my time and I feel I'm free to do what I want with it and leave as many projects half completed as I see fit.  That being said, this one might have some staying power.  For a while now I've thought about how cool it would be to map out and take pictures of all the B roads in Iowa and make them publicly accessible.  It's not something I've found yet in my half-assed Google searches.  I've found bits and pieces of info, but that's about it.  Well, this weekend I finally got off my butt and started working on this project.  Over two days I mapped out and took pictures of more that a dozen B roads across four counties.  I rode a good chunk of them and will write up some descriptions as well.  Right now I'm looking for a way to integrate them into Google Earth and make them publicly accessible, but that may not end up being the best way to do this so some research will go into it.  Once I figure out at least a good starting point for this project, I'll start posting updates here.  Ultimately I'm hoping this picks up traction and ends up being a community project.  Still...  Baby steps.  Check back later this week for more on this endeavor. 

Second, a quick ride update.  Got in almost 100 miles of gravel and B roads this weekend.  Logged another metric for the Cup O' Dirt, bringing my total up to 1 full and four metrics.  Once I get a photo prepped, look for that on the COD site.  Rides were your standard fare with extra B roads, although I was ignoring my nutrition today and paid the price with two good bonks.  As anyone who does distance riding knows, there's a couple ways you can bonk.  Sometimes they creep up on you and give you fair warning, and sometimes they jump out of the shadows and take you down ninja style.  Today, the first one hit me like a shuriken to the jugular.  As I started sucking down an emergency Gu I went back and counted my calories.  The ride started off as a short trip to Dairy Queen with the lady and her son, but the next four hours after that saw me take in a grand total of 300 calories.  Oops.  Add to that the strong winds and an above average effort, and I'm surprised it didn't hit me sooner.  That's the power of the chocolate dipped cone, I guess.  The second one came near the end of my ride, but wasn't as bad.  I recovered and finished off my ride a few miles later.

Next weekend I'm planning on hitting some more B roads around the Amanas.  I know of a few good ones out there with some water crossings mixed in.  I know of a few other areas to check out, but after that I'll start doing this adventure style.  Should make for a good summer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I shoulda brung the Hammerstache


Well, that didn't end how I thought it would.  I figured I'd take a decent shot at making at least halfway through the race.  Instead, Trans Iowa beat me up and stole my lunch money.  It tied me to a chair and made me watch reruns of Full House.  It dressed me up in a polka-dot pink sun dress and forced me to hum Celene Dion songs through a plastic kazoo.  And once it was finally done with me, Trans Iowa rolled up to CP1 and tossed me out of it's still moving windowless van, a half hour behind the time cut.

Yup, seven months obsessing about this race and it ends 50 miles in.  Damn.

I have plenty of excuses.  Want to hear them?  Too bad.  Here goes...

- Despite being described as "hero gravel", it was anything but for the first few hours of the race.  Instead, it was a sloppy mess.  It had been raining most of the week and we started out in a heavy mist.  I ate plenty of mud those first 10 miles as it was being flung in my face by whoever was in front of me at the time.  It started to dry up once the sun came out, but along with the sun came...
- The wind.  15-20MPH, in my face (edit: found out it was closer to 25MPH).  Good lord, that didn't help.  Of course, that would have been manageable if it wasn't for...
- Those damn hills.  Yarrgh, so many hills.  Not big enough to block the wind, but definitely enough to curse.  Still, in spite of all that I still probably could have made it if it wasn't for the off-course trek down...
- The B road from Hell.  Ok, so almost all B roads are "from Hell" when they're that wet.  What made this one worse was that it wasn't even on the route!  UGH!  A good half hour wasted tromping through the mud and grass.

So, coming out of the B road I was running behind the time cut.  It looked like my original plan of pacing myself and taking it easy was not looking good, so I started pushing it.  I knew it meant I'd eventually cramp, but I figured I didn't have much choice at that point.  I sucked every wheel I could and rode harder then I had in quite a while.  Of course, I'm me and me hasn't trained as hard as I should have over the winter.  Eventually the cramps forced me off the bike.  As I stood near the top of a hill, tearing into a package of Clif Shot Blocks, I heard someone calling my name.  It was Robb.  "How did you get in front of me?"  Uhh...  Good question.  He urged me back on the bike as he went by, telling me to jump on his wheel.  I did the best I could, but it wasn't happening.  I watched him ride off as I limped up the next hill.

And that's how the rest of the ride went for me.  I'd limp on, stop every now and then, try to grab the occasional wheel, etc etc painful disappointing etc.  The checkpoint almost came as a mercy killing.  I was just happy to be done. 

In all, almost half the racers missed the first cut.  I tied off my flag to a tree and sat down next to a couple other racers.  I chatted with a few and got to meet Nick Wethington, who runs the Cup O' Dirt challenge.  Eventually I imposed myself on four other racers and we all started the long ride back to Grinnell.  Turned out to be a good trip back as the guys were pretty entertaining.  Unfortunately the only name I remember was Ari.  Glad I rode with them.  It made the ride a lot better.

Alright, so all whining aside I still had a good time.  Yeah, it's my first DNF since I returned to racing last year but I went in expecting not to finish.  I'm disappointed in myself, but it's still ok.  Besides, there were plenty of bright spots...

- Both Robb and I were interviewed for a TI documentary that was being filmed.  It'll be interesting to see if either of us end up in the final product.
- By the time the day was done, I had 80 miles in.  Good enough for Cup O' Dirt and a decent day of training if nothing else.
- Lance Andre signed my Chuck Norris poster (see pic below).  If you're wondering why I'm so geeked about this, here's why
- Got to meet some new people.  It takes me a while to get comfortable around new people or in new situations, but I'm starting to warm up.
- Robb made the time cut at CP2 before pulling out.  Congrats, Robb!
- Most of all, I'm now a TI vet.  Looking forward to V8, if they have it.

Alright that's enough for now.  Enjoy some pics in random order.







Saturday, April 23, 2011

Trans Iowa Stole My Mojo

Apparently we weren't supposed to take that B road.  This is what I get for playing Follow the Leader.
 
Full race report to come.  Well, detailed race report anyway.  Hard to call it a "full" race report when you only do 50 miles out of 320.  Just another victim of the time cut...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Well, Here We Go...


I'm all packed up and ready to hit the road.  Today's understatement:  "This should be interesting".  Good luck to all the other Trans Iowa guys out there.  Should be a sloppy one.

I'm going to make an attempt to occasionally post a Twitter update while I'm out there.  No promises, but you can follow me at @10ftmidget.

Have a good Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mudwrestling

The muck that ended my ride.
 
Went out for a short one after work today to check on the gravel conditions.  We've had a few days of rain and I wanted to see how things were looking on the final run up to Trans Iowa.  I had planned on checking out three local B roads to see if there was any chance they'd be ridable.  Long story short, no.  The road shown above is the first and last one I hit.  No riding this one, so I tried to walk some of it.  Bad idea.  I ended up clogging up my already filthy bike with some peanut butter mud and grass/straw.  Great if I was building a hut, not so much when you're riding a bike.  I turned around, got back on the gravel and made for the next section of B.  The Surly had other ideas though.

In an apparent act of rebellion, it decided to go on strike and firmly wedged it's derailleur into the brand new rear wheel.  Ok, so maybe I had that coming.  Weeks worth of grime have been building up, all the while with me promising a wash "as soon as we get home".  I yanked it back out, hobbled home and lived up to my promise.  A quick wheel truing and it's looking a lot happier now.  I'll be sure to give it a thorough tune up and proper detailing before Trans Iowa.

As for the gravel, that's not so bad.  The section I hit was pretty well packed down so the road wasn't spongy.  Hopefully that will be the norm this weekend, not the exception.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ragnarok 105 Summary

 This weekend I was up in Red Wing, MN for the 4th running of the Ragnarok 105.  I'll just be covering a couple key points in this update and then I'll let the pictures tell the story.
  • I went into this one with the intention of it being my final Trans Iowa tuneup.  I had three goals:
    • Finish (check)
    • Control my cramps (Felt a couple minor twinges that were easily controlled, otherwise a cramp free race - check)
    • Finish with a 12MPH average (Actual average: 11.4MPH including stops, 12MPH moving.  Good enough for TI)
  • My legs were burning from the start, even though I was controlling my pace.  Not sure why since I'd been going easy leading up to this race.  Eventually they started playing nice.  I actually felt a lot better the second half of the race than the first.
  • I finished this race feeling like I had a lot of miles left in my legs.  Even with the crazy hilliness of the course I wasn't too beat at the end.  This has me feeling a lot better about TI than I was before the race.  My main goal for TI is to make the second checkpoint at 170-180 miles.  I would have been able to meet that goal on Saturday, even on that course.
  • I walked two hills in this race.  The first one was a little more than halfway in.  I felt a slight twinge in my groin and it was a fairly steep hill, so I decided to walk most of it.  The second was Heath's Hill, which was a steep minimum maintenance road around 90 miles in.  I got stuck in the mud at the beginning, tried once more to ride it after clearing that patch, then gave up and hoofed it.
  • Nutrition and hydration were good, but I'll have to plan on more solid foods for TI.  Gu's alone just aren't going to cut it beyond 10-12 hours.
  • Caught a couple minor quirks that you only find on these really long rides.  Found out that the way I have my Garmin set up could have got me lost at TI.  It's only set up to show three digits on the distance so once I hit 100 miles it stopped showing 10ths of a mile.  Not a big deal most of the time, but when you're relying on cue sheets it's critical.  I should be able to change my display configuration so that's not an issue.
On to the pictures..








Checkpoint 1

Heading back out




 

100 mile photo op
Mission accomplished

Let's get outta here...
Race stats.  Click to Viagrify.