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.


  1. Great training. Those freak'n dawgs. Was bit twice last year. Gotta always be on the watch when your on the gravel.

  2. I've been pretty lucky with the dogs and have never been bitten, but I'm sure my time will come. I'm usually more worried that they'll get in the way and cause a crash.