Archive for June, 2010

Crawling In The Deep End Of The Pool

So apparantly training all spring, doing some crits, taking a two week taper, riding 211 miles in one day, and then taking a whole week off does not equal success on mid-June Iowa City College Green Park A rides.

Damn it!

Really enjoyed my week off, by the way.  Got back on the bike on Sunday, a couple hours of gravel with the usual folks.  Then many fine homebrews at Joe’s Garage as the rain poured down outside.  Had a great 90 minute morning ride on Monday on the townie.  Tuesday night I went to the park, I was heading for the B ride, but intersected the A on the way so I just went with it.  Felt pretty good, actually, rotated for a bit, and made the decision to pull the plug halfway through so as not to damage myself too quickly.

Yesterday morning I had another good 90 minute ride in the morning, I even did 4 little intervals to try and get my legs back into go fast mode, and after I was looking forward to tonights ride.  Until tonight!  It was a small group, it was hot, and it was windy.  We did the classicist of all the classic IC rides, the Edens Loop.  All was well for a while, I took some pulls, but then I got tired, and then I did something that was either ambitious or stupid or both, and then I was alone.  Not even halfway through the loop, but almost.  So I suffered along, got my tailwind, kept the pedal to the metal, and still made it back in well under 2 hours.  Them rides are hard.  Hope I peak soon…

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The Dirty Kanza Adventure

Another Kanza in the books!  The 30¢ Squad of me went down on Friday in the company of Steve McGuire and Adam Blake for the Dirty Kanza 200.  There had been much logistical contention this year, with lots of people from the area going, so we had to work out hotel rooms and cars and such.  A last minute subtraction from our group, Dave Pals got sick the night before and was unable to come with us.  Sad news and we missed his company.  I will spare the travel details, other than every stop as we neared Emporia it seemed to be hotter out.

Saturday morning we rode to the start for a bonus 3 miles.  I was on my usual rig, the Poprad.  Funny that I can’t even remember who rode over, but I know Blake and Steve Fuller, I think Paul Jacobsen? Others?  I dunno.  We got to the start line and it was hopping with lots of racers this year, have not heard an exact number but 150+ seems like a good enough estimate for blog purposes.  I had nothing to do, everything was set, so I hung out until they said go at 6am.

Photo borrowed from Corey through the wonders of the internet

It was forecast to be a hot and windy one, and it was already nice and warm as we rode out of town.  The gravel began and we all settled into the smooth spots, which made us two long lines.  Just 5 miles in I had my first challenge.  The bottle cage I had mounted under my downtube and subjected to rigorous testing slipped under the pounding of the Kansas countryside, and my 28oz bottle started rubbing on my front tire.  Not good!  I was not about to stop and mess with it at this point, so I pulled it, slammed it, and tossed the bottle.  Sorry Kansas ecosystem, but my pockets were full – there was nothing I could do.

6 miles in and a bottle down already, I was feeling pretty good.  We were trucking along at a fine pace, and the group was thinning.  This was a new to me course, but the first leg was mostly over familiar terrain, and I even found myself anticipating some turns.  We encountered a loose cow that loped along in the ditch for awhile.  We hit some climbs, I spent some time at the front, and the group thinned out.

22 miles in I had moved back a bit and was enjoying some draft when someone ahead caught the lip of a rut in the road and went down.  The guy in front of me, who I now know as Troy Krause, ate it and I got to run over his nice ti Serrotta, which I did until I lost momentum and fell over.  I got up cursing, there were five or six of us on the deck.  I asked around if folks were okay, Dennis Grelk had taken it on the chin but was up and picking up his bike, people mostly agreed that this sucked but that they were alright.  I jumped on and was pissed to see that the 9 riders who had made it through the crash were not waiting.

A look around showed that a few of us were up and moving, so I wanted to catch on to tell them to wait for 1 minute and we would all be together.  I tried for 5 miles, I got to a point where I was at the bottom of a hill they were just cresting, but by the time I reached the top they were way out there and lined out.  I knew it was over for chasing so I let it go and went to my own pace, still stewing that they had not waited.

Photo borrowed from Corey through the wonders of the internet

This section of road I last traveled in 2007 and I declared it was the coolest gravel road I had ever ridden.  It is still pretty cool.  The open range, lots of climbing, loose fire road style rocks, cows on the move, and water crossing a plenty.  I was happy to have my rear fender on to keep my shorts dry.  The ride was beautiful, by the way, it was  a hot day but the sky was clear and the countryside was green and I tried to remember to look around as much as I could to take it in.

I passed a rider who had a flat, he said he was all good, and I kept on trucking solo until the big hill (you know the one) where he caught up.  He went right by and I was content to let him.  After the climb we finally turned out of the wind and maybe 40 miles in (I gave up my maps) we turned North and got tailwind.  I was feeling good so I put it in the big ring and let it roll.

Photo Jed Sampsel

Got into the 60 mile checkpoint, got my maps, asked how many were in front.  About 10 was the word.  Headed to the Casey’s to do some resupply.  My missing water bottle was a concern, but it was nicely replaced with a smaller bottled water.  Filled the mammoth bottles and tossed in some Nuun, put 2 more small bottles in my pockets (not messing around!) and slammed almost all of a 32 oz Powerade.  There were a couple of guys in who had ridden the DK Lite in the morning but had kept on wandering around until they got to Cottonwood Falls and they wished me luck.  I said thanks and took off, still rolling solo.

Out of town on pavement, past the huge courthouse, and out on the road that had brought me into town and the last checkpoint in previous Kanzas.  Riding the road I recognized a few things, like that my rear wheel had a decent hop in it, and also the store Bummies, which I had stopped at during both other Kanzas I had ridden.  Not today, I waved and kept on.  Very excited that I needed to pee, hydration was working even as the day continued to heat up.  I took care of it on the fly and kept rolling until about mile 70 when I had to stop and check on the rear wheel.  It was out of true, yes, hitting a Serotta will do that to a wheel.  A quick crank of 3 spokes set it right and I was off again.

Shortly I was caught by another rider aboard a fine Ira Ryan rig!  His name was Joe Fox, I complimented him on his bike and we chatted Ira for a bit.  We kept talking and found out we not only both owned Ira Ryan bicycles but bike shops as well, so that gave us plenty more to chat about.  We got back on gravel at some point and rode smooth and steady.  We encountered a few other riders, a Sunflower guy who had no lights, and then a couple of High Gear guys, one I remembered was Tim Mohn.  We talked over old times, got a dust bath from a passing pickup truck and rolled into checkpoint 2 at about Noon, 100 miles down in 6 hours.

I was excited to see the support car there, I was out of all liquid but for the emergency store under the downtube, so I tore into my cooler, dumped my trash, and loaded up my fresh bottles.  I had an organic bottled coffee that was awesome, and I replenished my pocket food.  The first half I had eaten 1 Clif Bar (impressive, eh?), 1 package of Clif Bloks, 2 cheesy crackers (crackers, not packs of crackers), and 1 king size Salted Nut Roll.  As I recall I had also drank something like 190 ounces of Nuun while in motion, plus most of a 32 ounce Powerade at the previous check.  Done with the cooler I headed to the local C Store for some serious lunch food.

Rolling up I saw a couple of racers out front and we said howdy before I went inside.  Pizza never fails at these moments and they had 2 slices for me.  I also drank a Gatorade and got 2 more bottles for my pockets.  I went out to eat and met Salsa guys Joe Meiser and Tim Ek.  I complained of the folks not stopping at the crash and Tim said not to look at him, he had just been barely hanging on.  Oh well.  He also said it looked like I had only ridden 10 miles.  I dunno if he was being serious or trying to mess with my head, but I felt pretty good just the same.  They took off a few minutes before me, I chatted with a woman who was running support for her husband and then I rolled.

Another 40 mile section ahead, still lots of tailwind for it.  I was rolling well, not pushing the pace, just keeping it steady.  Saw Joe and Tim stopped with a flat, they said they were good.  Saw Jeremy Fry from Iowa also stopped with a flat and he too said he was fine.  I saw lots of folks with flats over the course of the day but overall I think I heard less about them than in years past.  Maybe folks are starting to figure it out down there?  Anyways, I rode this entire section alone.  I almost missed a turn where a guy with a horse trailer had parked and obscured the course marker, but I caught it out of the corner of my eye and barely went past it.  The clouds moved in for awhile, which was perfect, and for a minute it even rained small drops on me!

This section contained Little Egypt Road, which had quite the reputation after last years ride so I gave it due respect and took it easy on the downhills.  It was rough, but it was a neat section, some tough climbs for sure, and some big rocks through there.  One of the best sections of the route, though, this is why you do gravel road races!

Rolling into Alma at mile 140 I was astounded to realize that I had yet to cramp all day, or even feel like I might.  I had again drank all my liquid save the emergeny bottle under the downtube and it seemed that the Nuun and the Salted Nut Roll were working to beat the heat perfectly.  Into the 3rd checkpoint, 140 miles down, and I was the 5th rider in.  I had good appetite so I went into the C Store and filled the bottles, ate some food, chatted with some locals.  They were impressed / stunned / pitying when they heard we had ridden our bikes over Little Egypt.  Joe Meiser and Tim Ek came in, a rider named James was there, and as we understood the 3 leaders had left 30 minutes before.

There were no more checkpoints for the race, just a last chance C Store in 25 miles.  I cut down on water for this section, figuring it was not worth carrying the weight.  I rolled over to the checkpoint to chat with Joel, co-promoter, and he gave me the skinny on what was to come.  I needed the fat…

Joe and Tim were rolling out, and I saw Joe Fox come in.  We talked for a minute and he said he would see me in Emporia.  I laughed and said I would see him up the road.  Out I went, and just as Joel had told me there were big climbs coming up.  He described it as 3 climbs, all 2 miles long.  I describe it as hell.  The first climb was no trouble, though it did go on forever.  I was coming up on Tim and Joe near the top and was still feeling fine as I began the descent when my tire blew.  I was sad, I thought I was immune to Dirty Kanza flats after 2 clean down there, but now I knew the truth.  I stopped and went to work.  The tire had a few nicks in it and I located the hole in the tube and lined it up with the tire and booted it there.  After reinflating I looked the tire over again and saw I had missed a sidewall tear that was showing tube, so I had to do it all over again and boot that, too.  James rolled by, and a big pickup truck stopped and the driver asked if I needed help, I declined, and he said oookaaay with a roll of his eyes as his drove off.

Tire inflated, wheel back on and off again I was.  I had no interest in trying to make up time on the three I knew were just ahead, so I just rode my pace.  The climbs were relentless, the sun was back out, and it was from Alma that the course turned back to the South some to get us going back to Emporia.  That put us back into the wind some, and also put the Sun right in our faces.  It was hot, as hot as it got all day.  Then, on another descent, a rock kicked up and hit the emergency waterbottle under my downtube and just blew that bottle apart.  Uh oh…

I kept on my way but things were turning for the worse, and I was feeling it.  I saw James laying in the shade and stopped to check on him.  He said he felt fine, just hot and was going to drink a full bottle before continuing.  He seemed good so I kept on.  At mile 155 or so I came across Joe and Tim walking back at me.  Joe’s rear shift lever had imploded and would not work, they were going to try and figure it out.  I told them I was hurting and Tim said there was a nice breezy shady spot just ahead.  I rolled on and there it was so I stopped and just stood there.  I drank the last of my Nuun.  I ate the last of my Salted Nut Roll.  I got attacked by flies and bees.  I got moving.

Later I was caught by Joe Fox and he said he and Meiser and Ek had just had a hose down in somebodys front yard.  And I missed it!  I should have just turned around right then, but I did not.  Joe told me we were just 4 miles from Eskridge and the last C Store, it might as well have been 400 miles for how I felt.  As Joe rode away I thought I saw him get off his bike and walk a little section, I wondered what was up there.  When I got where he was it looked like nothing so I kept on, but it planted a little seed in my head, why not get off and walk a bit?  So rather than stand in the hot shade with the breeze and the bugs I decided to walk up a hill.  It did not help, but it was nice to be off the bike and the bugs left me alone.  Cyclocomputer showed 2.5 mph!  I got back on and rolled to the next climb which I also walked.

Got back on and stayed on.  The last climb into Eskridge I was passed by the Salsa guys and Tim told me to hang in there.  Cyclocomputer showed 6 mph, they must have been going at least 7!  Followed them in to town and the last supply point.  Joe Fox was outside and gave me some potato chips and water he had left.  We talked, he was feeling good and decided he should roll or he thought he might lock up.  He assured me that the last 40 to town was much flatter, but I could not believe it, I needed to get it back together.  Joe took off, only 2 were still on the road ahead of us, go Joe!

I went inside, got an ice cream cone and some water and a Gatorade and set to work.  While I was there lots of exciting stuff happened.  People puked.  A rider gave me half a bag of ice which I rubbed all over my arms.  That was nice!  There was some good storytelling and joking.  A few of us discussed the desire to suffer a major mechanical so we could retire with dignity.  Tim said the last section had made him want to cry but when he closed his eyes just some dust puffed out.  Lots of riders came in, I was sitting outside a lot so I cheered them in.

The first time I paid for my stuff at the C Store the nice lady at the register told me to have a good day.  When I went up at 7:30 and she told me to have a good evening I knew it was time to leave.  Not only was I feeling recovered, I was feeling fresh!  Out of town alone again, the gravel was plush and I was moving.  The sun was low in the sky, the wind had switched a bit and was pushing me in!!

Then the course turned and it was some overgrown doubletrack for a few miles, with a narsty stream crossing in it.  It was no pushover, this race, even the flat roads at the end that were taking us back to Emporia were rough and you had to pay attention.  I stopped a few times, to change my glasses, to get my headlight set, to eat potato chips.  I saw a fox run across the road in front of me as the sun was setting.  Off to the Southeast there was a huge thunderhead that started flashing lightening.  The wind was really whipping on occasion, too, and I was wondering if I was going to go from roasting to freezing through a thunderstorm during this race.

About 12 miles out it went dark, and I turned on the lights.  The headlight I had was brand new, I had pulled it off the shelf and out of the package as I was packing for the race.  I had used this very type of light before, but this one had a short in it.  It would flicker, and go completely black, and turn back on, and go to flashing mode, and I had to whack it everytime it misbehaved and it would go back to solid high beam for 30 seconds and would then repeat.  I was sad.  Then I saw a gravel ends sign and a big white dog chased me and I had to sprint and yell at it in the dark and I dropped it and then the gravel did end and it was a B Road and someone had driven their car down it when it was wet and weaved back and forth and left nice sweeping ruts now that it was dry and I hit one and my bike went one way and I started to go the other but I clipped out my left foot and slammed it down and about broke my toe but I stopped and stayed upright, too.

So I kept going, the lightenting above me and the wind whipping around and the lights of Emporia growing steadily brighter.  The navigation was easy, not a lot of turns and the course was so well marked I could just roll.  When I crossed the Interstate and was back in town I saw a blinky light on a stick off to the left and was thinking, “What the hell is that?”, when I realized it was a course marker so I turned a 180 and followed it, they were all the way through town to the finish line.  Folks were clapping and cheering and ringing bells and I was done.  16 hours, 11 minutes and 13th place.  Jim and Joel, the co-promoters, were there and they gave congratulations and we had some good laughs.  I had ridden another Dirty Kanza!  I keep getting slower!!  But this time I did not puke afterwards!!!

Photo by Michael K. Dakota

They had quite the party going on downtown and I hung out for a couple of hours and watched racers finish, watched the podium ceremony, talked to people, and ate some food.  It was a good time.  At 12:30 am or some such time I rode back to the hotel for more bonus miles, and took a well earned shower, and went to bed.  211 miles behind me, and one hell of an adventure in the books.

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