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


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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Night Ride on Some B Roads

Headed out tonight right around sunset for a short ride.  There was some B road that I had driven past a few times and tonight seemed like a good time to check it out.  On the way I stopped and took a few pictures of the sunset, which I'm surprised came out as well as they did.  The one other time I tried using the Vomi-cam in the dark the pics didn't turn out so well.  Anyway...

I hopped on the B a couple miles outside of town.  It wasn't a road as much as it was some doubletrack that apparently was rarely used even by B road standards.  It went for about half a mile and dead ended at a spot next to a cornfield that looked like it hosted the occasional teen party.  Up ahead I could see the back of a barricade and what looked like it may have possibly been what was once another B road, but there was a creek dug ten feet into the earth between me and that barricade.  I wasn't ready to turn back though, so I rode the edge of the field around it until I found a spot where I could cross, jumped the creek, hopped over some barbed wire and was back on the "path" again.  By "path" I mean two deep ruts overgrown with snow-flattened grass that in the summer sits waist-high.  Convinced at this point that I was trespassing, I soldiered on.  I was surprised at how well the Surly handled it, considering my 26" hardtail would have struggled with it.  Eventually I saw the reflection of my light off a road sign ahead and headed towards it.  Turned out that yes, those grass buried ruts I had been riding on were actually part of a road, or at least what was once a road.  It was still technically level B, but for all intents and purposes it had been reclaimed by mother nature.

At this point I started heading back.  I'm heading up to Red Wing, MN this weekend for the Ragnarok 105 and I was just looking for a short, easy ride.  I didn't even bring any water bottles with me since I figured I wouldn't be out for more than an hour.  Unfortunately I'm cursed with a short attention span and a tendency to be distracted by shiny objects.  In this case, my shiny object was some more level B.

As I was heading back home I figured I take one short offshoot to see if I could find another section of B that I had seen before.  As luck would have it that offshoot actually turned into said B muck.  I figured it couldn't go on for more than half a mile so I hopped on for a quickie.  Well, the next road was only half a mile away but the B kept on going past it.  Naturally, so did I.  Another mile or two later, I came to another intersection.  The B...  She continued on, mocking me.  Of course I kept going.  Another couple more miles of dirt and slop and it had finally given up.  I jumped back on the gravel and enjoyed the rest of the ride back home.

Tonight ended up being one of those perfect rides you get every now and then.  No wind, clear skies, temps were prefect and no matter which way I went I felt like I was riding downhill.  Total ride time was around an hour and a half.  That's a little longer than I was planning on, but I felt great being out there tonight.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I cleared it the first time through.  No video of that though.

Here's a short clip of some level B on the outskirts of Mount Vernon that I hit on Sunday.  This was one of the B roads we skipped when Robb was out here riding with me.  We would have hit it at 5am in a thunderstorm.  As you can see, not a great Idea. 

Warning: Even with the image stabilization cranked up to 11 it's still pretty shaky.  By the time I was done with the editing I had a nice headache.  Anyway...  Enjoy.