Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TIv6.1

I’ve failed in years past writing my TransIowa reports.  I’ve attempted to capture every detail, every last errant rock on the roadway.  This year’s ride was simple, keep moving forward.  The drudgery of the rain set the tone.  As Tim Ek said “You don’t decide, TransIowa decides”.  Decide it did.

I’ve never been more confident, more excited for TransIowa than this year.  Mark Stevenson (Guitar Ted) noted it the minute I met him at the hotel door.  I was excited about connecting with the friends and acquaintances that I’ve met riding in these peculiar events.  I was excited to get out on the bike, pedal out some miles, and test myself, and my strategies.

Confidence can be dangerous.  When channeled inappropriately it often leads to massive failure, much like my failed attempt at TransIowa V4.  After V4 I made some changes to my approach for V5.  TransIowa was a focused effort for me.  I wanted to finish and use it as a test of my fitness for Tour Divide.  I came in to the race in better shape than years passed having put on many miles on the loaded Fargo and the then super secret Ti La Cruz.  My effort paid out when Tim Ek and Dave Pramann handed me the victory in the early morning hours of our ride.

This year TransIowa was another focused effort.  I had a goal.  I wanted a sub-24 hour finish.  A win was irrelevant, breaking the 24 hour barrier was the only thing I wanted.  I vocalized that goal.  I planned physically and mentally for that goal.  I made spreadsheets (yeah I know) for that goal. 

The weather is always a factor.  When Tim Ek says “TransIowa decides,” I believe he means, Iowa and its relationship with the weather patterns.  The forecast was looking grim.  A storm was developing in the south west and being pushed across the plains.  A low pressure cycle was sitting over Iowa.  Early Friday morning it began to rain. 

The forecast called for rain Friday, clearing up into Saturday morning and a possibility of rain over Saturday night.  It left room for optimism, the chance that it wouldn’t rain or would only rain enough to make the course faster.  I continued to believe in my hypothesized reality until a new reality was created.  It would soon be created. 

I once focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on the pre-ride preparations once at the event.  It is comforting to have all of this on auto-pilot after a few years of trial and error, trial and success.  Saturday morning will always come quickly, but with much anticipation.  I relish in the prologue ride to the start line, usually a quiet gentle spin, lights dancing in the darkness.  It is a time when I get inside of my head, spin through my goals again, and enjoy being.

At the start line, the excitement begins.  We all stage ourselves accordingly.  Our friends and loved ones take photos to document that moment in time when we all believe we’ll finish the 300+ mile/500k ride.  Mark says a few words then he and Dave Pals, his co-promoter, climb in the lead out vehicle and pace us out of town and onto the gravel.

It was at that very moment that my front tire hit the soft surface of the wet gravel road that my goals began to transition.  Thick, chunky soup and crunchy, oily peanut butter come to mind as phrases one might use in describing the surface of the roads.  I focused on spinning easy and staying near the front.  Partially for position should someone make an early break as Ira Ryan and Brian Hannon did in TransIowa V3.  Mostly, to minimize the amount of road spray sent my way.  With the roads this soft and wet paceline efforts would only lead to a face full of fine silt mixed with the feces of a thousand pigs.

Charly Tri led the pace into checkpoint one.  He was often out front 20-30 yards, ad-libbing lyrics to the tune of The Proclaimers 1988 hit song “500 Miles”.  By pace I mean plod, the plod to checkpoint one.  We averaged a respectful 15 mph/25kph into the checkpoint.  It was respectful given the pre-dawn lightning show, rain, and B-Road hike-a-bike.

It has been reported that there were nine of us that came into the checkpoint together.  I wouldn’t know. I never looked behind me.  With conditions as they were it was impossible to look around and see who was still there.  It was near impossible to do typically simple things like eat on the bike.  To do so meant even more grit in the mouth and a high risk of crashing.  Left in the lead group after the checkpoint were Charly Tri, Charlie Farrow, Tim Ek, Sean Mailen, John Gorilla, and Jeremy Fry.  The sky was clearing up and the roads seemed to be improving.  Well, at least the skies were clearing up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It will make a man whole.


Look at this man.  He is whole.  All of his desires have been fullfilled.  To what does this man owe his fulfillment?  To TransIowa.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Wilson, gracious volunteer and observer of the grotesque.

Look for a full report when the sand and grit are washed away.  Until then ponder the great unknowns, the questions of your life, while knowing that this man no longer needs to.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ragnarok

This weekend kicked off the 2010 spring classics with the Ragnarok 105 in Red Wing, MN. Last year with my focus on Tour Divide I decided to ride loaded to the race, camp, and then take in the event. It was an opportunity to test out my gear and the skills required to deploy it as well as train with a load. My setup looked something like this.

The Ship

This year I decided to take in the race in a similar manner, this time testing my TransIowa setup. I'm not ready to divulge the full setup, too much needs refining. It did however, look something like this.

Testing

Kits were a marked change from 2009 to 2010, but I still decided to ride down to Red Wing for the race. Friday afternoon I put in the 80 miles to Red Wing, weaving my way through the farms and state land, eventually finding the descent into Welch Village where I stopped for ice cream and coke. This being a training race my plan was to ride straight through the week, no rest before the race, determine what my limits were and how my fitness is trending. Thursday was a 'work' day at the trails, we've got lots of prototypes to be riding and they just have to be ridden. So I made the sacrifice and put in 50 miles on Thursday. Total miles for the week were 260-270 before the 105 mile race.

Friday night Sean "The Mailman" Mailen and Ryan "Fryn Porky" Horkey drove down and met me at the hotel. After dinner and pre-race prep we were lights out by 10pm. Saturday morning came quickly, but I felt better rested than last year, where I camped in Jake's backyard and was kept awake by the neighbors dog. After a granola and fruit breakfast we made our way to Colvill Park for the start of the race. The mood was mellow and good hearted, one of the reasons I keep coming back to these events.

Sean, Ryan, and I lined up for the start taking our places with others we knew would be in the lead group. The Duluth boys were there (Sir Eki and Charlie Farrow) Charly Tri, Dave Pramann on a Pugsley, and many others. These people are the second reason I come back to these types of events. If you're going to spend hours on a bike with someone, it ought to be someone you like.

The rollout was paced until we hit the dirt, giving everyone time to settle in and relax. Once we hit gravel the pace car pulled off and our speed hastened. We approached KOM #1 and the climber's race was on. I sat in and watched it all play out. Between KOM climbs there was a ton of chatter between racers. Many of us haven't seen each other in several months and it was our opportunity to share our 2010 plans and ask how the winter was.

KOM climb #2 approached, we encouraged Sean "The Mailman" Mailen to attack and take the win. Having trained with the Mailman I knew that he could deliver and take the KOM's should he want to. At the top of KOM #2, he missed a turn and corrected quickly. Sir Tim Eki corrected quickly but slipped up on the gravel and ended up on the floor. He quickly recovered and was back on the bike.

KOM climb #3. I had noticed the field spreading on #2 and planned for an attack off the front. I knew that if I attacked Ryan, Sean, Ek, Tri, and Farrow would come with. I didn't know who else would come with, but I knew a group of 5-10 could work together to gap the field. Quickly the group formed and we turned onto pavement, giving us greater opportunity to attack. We worked together for several miles and our gap to the chase field widened. We continued working together, albeit a bit sloppily.

On the final KOM climb a B-Road that we had descended last year I bottomed out my front wheel on a rock. I knew what was coming and pedaled on until it had gone flat. I unpacked my kit and quickly changed my tube. As I was inflating the chase group approached. They passed and I wrapped up my kit, repacked, and chased them down. I rested with the group for a few minutes and then tried to put together a chase. Several of the group attempted and worked for a few minutes together, but it quickly fell apart. I found myself off the front working solo to reel back in the lead. I soon realized that it would not be so and fell back in with the chase group, hoping to catch them at the checkpoint.

As we approached the checkpoint I made the decision to get in and out quickly in hopes of catching the lead. I found myself riding solo along the Zumbro River, dreaming of fish and peering around every corner for the sight of their wheels. For 30 miles I chased into the headwind catching glimpses of the leaders periodically, but never closing that original gap. I fantasized that they would see me and allow me to get back on this being a gentlemen's race. It would not be so.

Twenty miles out I turned onto 350th and began a climb that would have me rethinking my chase. At the top I made the decision to pedal in at a rest pace. I had accomplished what I came to do and had chased hard enough to know what would transpire if I kept chasing through the climbs. So I stopped for a nature break and put a bit more pressure in my front tire. The chase group caught me quickly and I fell in with them resting and happy to have riding partners again.

Together we approached the climbs, stringing out and rejoining at the top. I was spent, my legs exhausted, I struggled to do any work in the group around the 10 mile mark. I sat in and rested for the final climbs, taking in as much nutrition as I could, hoping to regain an ounce of the energy lost and get an advance on the post race recovery.

Once back on pavement and in town we rested through the traffic and stop signs. On the final approach back into Colvill the attack began. Larry Sauber took a long pull and I chased, being passed by Ted Loosen for an 8th place finish. I was fine with this finish. Confident that I would have been in the lead group without the flat. Happy with how my body and mind responded to the chase.

The Ragnarok 105 crew put on an incredible event. The dirt roads and terrain that the course traverses are absolutely beautiful. These guys work hard to bring us this experience and for that I want to say Thank You!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Scouting.

Friday night I loaded up the camping gear in a borrowed truck for a drive east to Levis-Trow Mounds. The plan was to scout some trail for TransWisconsin and do a bit of riding on some singletrack I hadn't ridden before.

Saturday Morning I woke up at first light after a windy night and sleep that was less than ideal. So, I made it all better with a bit of breakfast.

IMG_1350

After breakfast I hopped in the truck and began my drive. There was alot of this.

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and this.

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The more I scouted the more excited I became about the TransWisconsin this June.

My day ended in Viroqua, WI with a stop by Bluedog Cycles for a chat with Pete about the local trails. Ten minutes into our conversation a friend from Minneapolis walks in and offers me a place to stay. He and his wife own a century old farmhouse south of town in a little valley. We spent the evening talking about organic gardening, sampling early spring greens in the garden, listening to the frogs, burning last year's wildgrass growth so this year's will thrive, sipping wine, and enjoying great conversation.

Our Sunday morning ride took us down the Rush Creek Valley.

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My chance meeting with Mark and the resulting experience were completely unexpected, somewhat random, and incredibly enjoyable.

After my ride with Mark I hit the local singletrack to scout some more.

IMG_1388

On the way home I recounted the weekends activities and began the mental download. At one point It thought to myself "I think this thing is going to turn out alright."