Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Donkey Bombs

That's not a B road.  That's the nature trail.

 I was going to be working late today so I decided to take an extended lunch and hit the nature trail for a while.  It's been pretty mushy up until now, largely due (I believe) to the extensive damage from the heavy equipment they sent out on it to clear brush last month.  With those ruts running down either side of the trail, there's nowhere for the water to go but down so it just sits there.  Hard to say why they thought the spring thaw was the best time to do this, but this is what we have now.  In any case, it was looking like it had dried out a bit so I headed out down the best line I could find.  

While I'm annoyed that it's in this kind of shape, it was still a fun and challenging ride.  This one was definitely about bike handling skills.  I went down once on the edge of a rut, but stayed upright the rest of the time.  Dodged ruts, debris, a dog, and this...

Someone's been riding their horse on the trail, and they haven't been bringing a baggie.  This wasn't the only steamer out there either.  In fact, I lost count after a while.  I'm pretty sure horses aren't allowed on this trail, but I wouldn't have a problem with them if they showed some respect for the other folks who use this path.  As a secondary, they tore the hell out of the only really rideable areas of the trail, but since it was already in nasty shape I wasn't as irritated about that grievance.  It just made for a rougher ride.

All whining aside, it was nice out there today.  Trudged through 15 miles in 90 minutes and got a decent workout.  I was going to lift weights at lunch tomorrow but it's looking like another nice one so I'll probably head out again.  Friday is looking nastier, so that'll be a better day to stay inside. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Excitement of Exploring

 Totally not suspicious...

It's Saturday afternoon and I'm standing at a four-way on some Level B.  I've ridden through this intersection once before, but that was at 3 in the morning and I wasn't paying a lot of attention to my surroundings at that point.  Now that I had some daylight I could see the camper with what looked like a boarded up window nestled back in the trees.  As I stood there contemplating the still smoldering bonfire, a couple thoughts started bouncing around in the 'ol brainpan:

A)  Is that a meth lab?
B)  Am I going to get shot at?
C)  Given the reasonable probability of both A and B, why am I standing here taking pictures?

Common sense kicked in, and I decided to head out again.  There was a bridge to the north that I wanted to check out and depending on what mapping site you used the road either crossed the Iowa river or it didn't.  I knew the bridge existed since I checked it out on Google Earth, but the road leading up to it looked pretty iffy.  The signs littering the roadside didn't make me any more confident.  Only one way to find out for sure, so I made the turn.

I count four signs warning of impending danger.  I ignore them all.

Looks good so far.

Pfft...  This isn't so bad.


 I had this road on my route last weekend, and if we had kept on mushing I probably would have crossed it since I was already soaked anyway.  But this time I was dry, and the temps were only in the mid 30's.  I still thought about it for a bit, though, since I didn't really have a good alternative route planned out.  I could have taken off  my shoes and leg warmers, but I didn't know how deep it was and I could see another crossing further ahead.  Ultimately I turned back the way I came.  When I got back to the crossroads I took stock of my situation.  I was on unfamiliar roads and my cue sheets were now pretty much worthless.  I had to get to Cedar Rapids so I couldn't just retrace my entire route.  I knew I could head east and eventually hit HWY 965, but beyond that I was semi-lost.  East it was.  A few miles later I was heading north on 965.

As luck would have it I found one of the crossing roads listed on my cue sheet a little while later.  I hopped back on my original course and made my way to Cedar Rapids.  I stopped at the airport to take one last picture and then headed off into town.  6ish hours, 78 miles, 50/50 gravel/pavement mix and no cramping.  Good day...  Good day...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brownie Points

I was semi-lost at this point.  More on that later...

Well, I got one good ride in at least.  Saturday I rode down to Iowa City to run an errand and then headed up to Cedar Rapids to meet up with Deb.  Got about 80 windy miles in, half gravel and half pavement.  Felt good, had another cramp-free ride. Took a lot of new roads and ended up with a few stories to tell, but they'll have to wait for another day or two.

The rest of my weekend was spend at Deb's daughters house getting it ready to sell.  I was starting to feel guilty about not pitching in so I figured it was time to be a good boyfriend and help out "a bit".  "A bit" ended up killing my plans of a back to back metric or more, but I hate housework so I'm chalking it up as some mental endurance training. 

Since my ride plans were derailed today, I'll try to get in a 2-4 hour night ride tomorrow if I don't get stuck at the house again.  If I can I'll get more into detail on the Saturday ride tomorrow night, otherwise check back on Tuesday. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trans Iowa Training Session

That's Robb.  He's faster than I am.

It was nice having a training partner for a change.  It sure makes long miles and lousy weather a little easier.  This weekend Robb drove in from Wisconsin and we spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning touring the local gravel.  Here's the breakdown.

We headed out around 4pm into some strong winds.  I had a loop with a couple miles of level B road that I wanted to hit before dark so we jumped on this one first.  I've only ridden it once or twice and didn't have all the dogs mapped out yet, but Robb was kind enough to flush out the most aggressive ones and give them some good exercise.  One bristling dog in particular gave him one hell of a chase and he barely had a chance to catch his breath before another one took off after us.  Robb is faster than I am so they focused on him, but it still got my adrenaline flowing.  I don't usually worry too much about most dogs, but I'll have to pay attention next time I ride through that area. 

We finished out the rest of that loop without any more real issues.  The first part of the level B was in decent shape while the second part was rutted out but rideable.  We came out just beyond the spot we encountered the first set of dogs and headed on to the main loop.  From there we rode on into the evening, catching up,  small talking and deer spotting. About a mile outside of town at the end of the ride we rolled up on some more B road.  I had originally planned on taking this back into town, but in the dark it was looking pretty nasty and we decided to skip it.  Instead, we finished off the gravel road we were on and headed over to Subway for dinner.  A quick meal and a short ride back to the house and we were done for the night. 

Sunday morning we were up early and on the roads by 5am.  We rolled out into rain and more of the high winds we saw the day before.  The weather report had me optimistic that the rain wouldn't last, but we wouldn't be so lucky.  The original plan was to hit some level B right from the start and then take some back roads until we were on the Night Nonsense course.  That plan changed significantly by the time we were done.  Since the level B was probably unrideable we decided to skip it and head straight for the gravel.  The first half of our loop had us alternating between south and west, with 15-20MPH winds coming from the southeast.  Not an ideal way to start the ride since we'd be coming back into the wind.  13 miles in and we were now riding off a cue sheet (in the dark still) and the wind and rain really hadn't let up.  This was starting to look like it was going to be a lousy day. 

So on we went, switching between tailwinds and headwinds as we made our way towards Amana.  We had a few short breaks from the rain, but not many, and of course there was the occasional thunderstorm just to keep it interesting.  It was becoming clear the earlier B road wasn't the only part of this course we would be skipping.  We bypassed an 8 mile loop that would have taken us south into the wind and by the time we reached Amana we had pretty much decided to skip the second half of the loop and head back the way we came.  The second half would have taken us through a couple miles of B road that may or may not have been rideable, a water crossing, 5 miles or so of rocky river road and a bridge that we may or may not have been able to get to.  On a day like that it just didn't seem like a good idea to ride that route.

So...  Back to Amana.  We stopped at a Casey's to resupply and catch a break from the rain.  Robb, being the more experienced endurance cyclist, was smart enough to bring along some spare clothing.  Me, being the over confident and somewhat naive cyclist, sat there shivering over a slice of breakfast pizza while he was in the bathroom changing.  When he was done I floated our options to him.  This was where I first mentioned the possibility of bailing in Cedar Rapids instead of riding back to Mount Vernon.  I knew Deb was probably going to be there and we'd be able to catch a ride back to Mount Vernon.  Of course, Cedar Rapids was still a couple hours away...

As much as I wasn't looking forward to going back outside, I was starting to get the chills and needed to get moving again.  I filled up an empty bottle and we headed out back the way we came.  We had a short trip north with the wind at out back before heading east to meet it face on.  We ground on, not even averaging 10MPH.  While Robb seemed hesitant to bail in CR when I first brought it up, he could tell that I was fried and had pretty much made up my mind.  I probably would have pressed on if this were a race, but it's a bit harder to find the motivation when you're five hours into a training ride.  We rode until we were sitting behind the airport and I made the call to Deb.  It was still an hour ride to get there, but at least the wind was at our back for that chunk.

So that's how it ended.  We finished up around 11am, grabbed her car and headed home to clean up.  By the time we got home it had stopped raining.  We showered, changed and went out to grab lunch.  Walking out of the restaurant it was sunny and the winds had died down.  Yeah....  Well, we got a good dose of Trans Iowa weather so I'm calling it a blessing in disguise.

Final notes:
We ended up with 58 miles in just under 4-1/2 hours on Saturday night.  Sunday we had 73 miles in just over six hours.  Total climbing for the two days was around 5000ft.  Winds were pretty much always 10-20MPH on both days.  In spite of all that I didn't cramp at all during either ride.  Gotta be happy about that.

Robb, thanks for coming out.  It was good riding with you again and I look forward to meeting up with you again at Trans Iowa.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm Sure Someday I'll Regret This

Check out the newest member of the Cup O' Dirt challenge.  It took a lot of cupcakes to earn that doughy physique.  Donations of tanning minutes are currently being accepted.

Later on, a recap of my Trans Iowa training weekend.  In short, I partnered up with an old team mate from Wisconsin for 130 miles of gravel, wind and rain between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.  Now...  I'm beat.  I was going to do some weight lifting at lunch but my body says "rest day".  Instead, a quick post and I'm back to work.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Magazine and a segue

I'm a little disappointed.  There should be a space between "Von" and "Porpoise".

Got the first issue of my new Bicycle Times subscription today.  Ended up going with a name that I could crash a fancy party with.   Go go gadget gold digger!

Flipped through the pages as I was walking back inside and saw a pic of what I immediately recognized as some sweet Iowa level B mud suckage.  It was tied to a Trans-Iowa article, so double bonus.  I am so excited for this race...

Speaking of which, and old teammate of mine from way back when I was sorta-kinda-fast-but-not-really recently got a hold of me.  He's also doing T.I. and saw my name on the roster.  He's driving in from Wisconsin this weekend and we'll be doing a two day training session.  Oughta be fun.  I'm thinking part of it will cover a section of the Night Nonsense course I did back in October.  There was some pretty sweet level B followed up with a water crossing and a few miles of rocky river road.  That's going to be a "must" for this ride.  Think I may bring the GoPro for this one since it's waterproof.  I may even try to rig up a fork mount so I can get some underwater footage.

We'll see...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Andre the Giant

 Someday I will host a gravel race.  It will be known as the 100 Miles of Regret.  It will be brutal...

... And there will an award given to the toughest mofo out on the rocks, and it will be named the Lance Andre award.

350 miles of frigid Alaska wilderness.  On a bike.  On the snow.

With a concussion...

And a broken arm...

And a broken leg...

He finished in 8th place.

Read about it.

Then go ride...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

One of these days I'm going to bite it on that bridge.

Hills.  Lots of hills.  3200 feet of climbing over 40 miles today.  There's a 4 mile section of short but steep rollers on my regular endurance route and today I spent a little over two hours riding back and forth on them.  I'll be doing this twice a week at least through Trans Iowa in an effort to better control my leg cramps.  Well that, and also for the +3 bonus to my climbing stats.  I really suck at climbing.

So anyway I took off a little after 2pm today and rode the rollers until it got too late to do anymore.  I'm wishing now that I had left earlier or brought some lighting with me, because I really didn't feel as worked over as I thought I would.  I was hoping to ride into some cramps and then battle through them for a little while longer.  Instead, I didn't even get the early cramp-twinges until I had already pulled back into town and was climbing my last hill.  Another hour out on the rollers would have been perfect.  At least I established something of a baseline.  I can work with that.

Other news:  I signed up for the Cup O' Dirt challenge.  Jared from CIRREM told me about it, so I sent off the email this week.  I asked about hazing, since I have my own paddle.  He declined the spankdown, but now I have to ride my next full century in a speedo and a clown wig.  I made a counter offer.  We'll see if he accepts...