Monday, June 30, 2008

Truckin' (like the do-dah man)

Heading out tomorrow morning for a 3 day tour of Iowa and east central Illinois. Everything I need for shelter, clothing and relaxation is loaded on the bike and ready to go. This is the first time that I've toured by bike, so I've likely packed too much stuff and over prepared. Better safe than sorry I guess. The weather is looking decent, if a bit warm. 260 miles to my destination, with the final day being close to 100 miles. This trip will let me trim out my load for RAGBRAI at the end of July. I'm planning on a sedate but reasonable pace so I can stop and enjoy a meal or take photos along the way. The severe flooding in the eastern part of Iowa has required multiple adjustments to my original route. I'm expecting to have to make some additional changes as I head south towards Muscatine. I had planned on riding along the Mississippi once I rode into Illinois. That plan has changed as well. Better luck next time I guess

Hope everyone has a good week and a good 4th of July holiday weekend.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nights are dirty too

Made the decision mid-Friday afternoon to join in on Rob Versteegh's nighttime gravel ride. Came home from work and quickly cleaned the driveline up on the Karate Monkey and threw some light batteries on the charger quick. Pulled everything I needed for a quick "local" century into my camel back and snagged a quick dinner. I had been watching the storms build out west and head our direction since early afternoon and they hit about 6:30 PM or so. After about 30 minutes of rain I threw the bike in the back of the truck and headed to Kyle's Bikes in Ankeny to meet everyone else. After some ice cream cake to celebrate Chuck's birthday, we headed north out of Ankeny around 8:30 PM.

After a bit of pavement, we hit gravel and headed due north. Rob's route was flat and straight. Once we were outside of ankeny, we made no turns until we arrived in Ames about 90 minutes later. We took a quick food break at Jimmy John's and ran into Matt from Skunk River Cycles. He talked to Kyle (from Kyle's bikes) and sped home to grab his bike and join us. We headed back south of out of town on the same road we took in. When we reached a crossing with the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail, Sedore, Bruce, Kurt and Troy(?) decided to call it a night. The rest of us hopped on the HOINT and headed east to Cambridge, turned around and then took some more gravel back into Ames. After a 2 AM stop at the Flying Burrito on Lincoln Way, we parted ways with Matt and headed back south into Ankeny on the same road we had ridden earlier in the evening. We arrived in Ankeny around 3:45 or so. Scott Sumpter, Rob and I took a quick break at the Kum and Go next to Kyle's shop. I had decided that 80 miles was enough at this point so I packed up and headed home for a quick shower and crashed until about 9 AM. Sumpter and Rob were off cruising the streets of Ankeny for the next hour or so to hit their century for the day.

It was nice having a bigger group for a gravel ride for a change. The pace was solid but maintainable and riding with some different people kept the conversation fresh and made the time pass. Despite the rain earlier in the evening the roads were in really good shape. I did notice that the gravel in Story County is a lot different than around here and in Madison and Warren Counties. Our roads tend to have gravel, and with a layer of hard pack underneath. The roads in Story county were a lot sandier. It made maintaining pace a little more work, and it also meant that you had to move around a lot to find the faster line. Sometimes the tire track was not the best place to be.

We're thinking about doing another one of these in August. Hopefully we'll get some more hardy souls out to join us then.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finally a beautiful week

After all of this winter's cold, this spring's rain, and last weeks flooding, we've gotten a reprieve. Temps in the mid to upper 70s during the day and no rain. I finally went 5 for 5 on commuting this week, which was really nice. Four days on the LHT and 1 day on the Paramount. No jerks trying to run me off the road or cut me off on 86th this week. I wonder if they are getting used to the fact that I'm going to be there, and taking my lane? Got a bunch of other "utility" miles in as well. Rode to Sands and back for volleyball on Tuesday, and rode to El Bait Shop for drinks and dinner with the family, and then over to Court Avenue Brewery for dinner and drinks with a bunch of people from Rasmussen's. This was Greg's way of saying thank you for volunteering to help at the Hy-Vee Triathlon this weekend. The ride back from downtown starting at 10 was interesting. I'm not used to being out on a bike that late on a Friday night, especially downtown. I was extra careful about the route that I took home, and the proximity of other vehicles just to make sure nothing bad happened.

Rode down the 62nd street hill to 86th with Kathy this morning. I took the '53 Schwinn so I wasn't tempted to go much faster than she was going. It's an old bike, and it's likely a bit small for me, but I like riding it. Stopped for coffee and a scone for breakfast and then we headed home.

Racing the Johnston Green Days Crit this afternoon. Headed out to cheer on the rest of the Rassy crew and the PRC girls during earlier races. Afterwards, headed to Ankeny to have some food and drinks. Tomorrow is relaxing on heckling hill in the morning and then working the wheel pit for the Pro races at the triathlon,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lazy Father's Day

Got up this morning at 6 AM, hopped on the Paramount and swung out for some coffee and a scone and a glance at the morning's flood headlines courtesy of my laptop. After failing to get a wireless signal, I finished my coffee and headed off to the office to reboot a server. After taking a quick pass through email, I rode back up 100th/Hwy 141 with a tailwind and then home. Sat on the back deck enjoying the breeze, a glass of cold OJ, and the morning air until it started raining. Took a quick shower and spent some quality time checking over the rack and fender bolts on the Long Haul Trucker. Snugged a couple of loose bolts down, cleaned the commuting dust off and then gave the chain a quick cleaning. Headed out for lunch at Rock Bottom and then cruised home. A nice relaxing Sunday. Back on the work train again tomorrow.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Of Wind and Hills

Left the house at 5:30 AM this morning, with a plan to ride to Winterset, ride the long loop of BRAMCO, eat, and then ride home. With the winds forecast to be out of the SW at 15 - 20, I opted to leave the LHT at home and hit the road with the Paramount underneath me. I took just about every major rode possible over to the south side of town since the trails were likely to be either flooded or filled with debris. 86th to Douglas to Hickman to 8th and then 63rd street to Army Post road. A couple of turns later and I met Sue, Pat and Gabrielle in Cumming for the rest of the ride to Winterset. We left Cumming at 7 and made good time to Winterset, in spite of the winds. Madison County roads G14 and G7R to Winterset are probably one of my favorite rides that I take throughout the year. The route starts with some really nice hills and ridgeline roads and ends with some nice flat sections that usually have a reasonable amount of headwind. You almost always see other bikers somewhere along the route. Saturday was no exception as we passed a couple of triathletes returning from a morning ride.

I arrived at the Winterset City Park with a little over 40 miles on my legs. I registered, snagged something to drink and chatted with people for about 30 minutes before the ride started. I rode with or leapfrogged Sue through East Peru. I rode a good portion after Truro with Tom Anderson, Sammy Lopez, and Jason. Rode up the East Peru hill with no issues, and I generally felt pretty good until we got to Macksburg. I started feeling some fairly localized soreness in the back of my left thigh and decided that I should probably call it quits once we got back into Winterset. Rolled from Macksburg with the tail wind helping us over the hills and rollers, topping out at around 42 MPH down one of the hills. We took a good 15 minute break at final rest stop just south of Hwy 92, talking to some other riders and the volunteers from the Madison County Bike Club. Rode the final 10 miles in on the big ring at around 22 - 23 MPH and pulled into the city park with Tom with 102 on the odometer. Ate a pork sandwich some pasta salad, and a brownie and then hopped in Jason's car with Tom and Sam for the trip back home.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't ride back home, but I didn't want to take a chance of hurting myself. I also wanted those last 40 miles to be good miles and not junk miles, so the ride home was likely the right decision.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Please turn off the faucet...

Went out for a ride with Rick and Tom yesterday morning. Plan was to head to Carlisle and points south, then rendezvous with the folks at the Farm Boys Burrito booth down at the Farmer's Market for some post ride nutrition. I left home on the LHT and met Rick and Tom on the south side and we rode out from there. It was about 17 miles to Rick's into a solid south wind. The 200 miles of Dirty Kanza, plus 3 days of painkillers and antibiotics and I could tell it was going to be a long day. We left Rick's and rolled south towards Carlisle turning towards town, we were faced with what you can see in the photo above. We tried another road and ran into the same thing. At this point, my legs were looking at a max of a 50 mile day, and I was already close to 30. I told Rick and Tom I was done for the day and headed back to the Farmer's Market for some food. After a break and some shopping, I stopped in at the Bike Collective and helped bring some bikes in, assemble some work stands, and sort some tool sets. Rode home, ending up with about 50 miles for the day. Definitely lower on energy than I expected to be. Headed to Madison County for BRAMCO next weekend. Normal plan is to ride down, ride the long route and ride back. This year that will mean 150 miles of riding for the day. Have to see what the legs feel like and how the weather holds out. 150 miles in the rain is not my idea of a good time.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Dirty Kanza 200

This was a long race. The report is long as well.

"The Dirty Kanza 200 is a 200 mile gravel road race in the Flint Hills area of eastern Kansas." After reading this sentence, most people would have found something else to do on the last day of May. After noting that a compass, front and rear lights, and two spare inner tubes are required equipment to start the event, any sane cyclist would have decided to attend the IORCA/Psycowpath race at Lake Manawa instead. Not being a member of either of these groups meant that I was one of 75 people signed up to take part in the 3rd running of the Dirty Kanza 200.

I left Des Moines at noon on Friday after a quick stop at Rasmussens to boost my spare tube count and nutritional choices. The drive to Emporia, KS was uneventful as all 5 hour solo trips on the freeway are. After unloading my stuff, I spent the next hour or so talking to the other riders and going over my bike, camelback, and mid-race drop back to make sure I hadn't missed anything important. A quick trip to the hardware store netted me some bungee cords to mount my the spare tire I brought, and everything was in order. Event registration was quick and efficient, a common theme for the race organizers the remainder of the weekend. A number of us took a short walk over to the Centinela Mexican restaurant for some pre-ride carb loading. After dinner we snagged our event shirt (brown is the new black) and hung around for the prize drawing. I was one of the lucky winners and received with a Blackburn X6 lighting system. Fellow endurance racer Dennis Grelk set the alarm for 5:15 AM and we crawled into our beds around 10 PM for a few precious hours of sleep.

Saturday morning greeted us with gray skies, comfortable temps and some extra humidity in the air. I rode to the parking lot, put my drop bag in the pile. I spend the next few minutes chatting with other riders, watching the lightning in the southern sky, and waiting for the race meeting to start. The meeting started off with the announcement that the storms to the south contained tennis ball sized hail and the race start could be delayed until 8 AM. A few minutes later, with the storm tracking away from our route, we were off. The first couple of miles were a comfortable 16 MPH cruise through town with a police escort leading the way. Though, with morning traffic levels being what they were, it was a symbolic gesture at best. A half mile or so south of Emporia, we turned west onto the first section of gravel and dirt, which ran along a low lying field. As we kicked up a large cloud of dust, the starting group of 70 riders quickly split into distinct sections as people settled in on a pace. The first group of 25 or so riders was moving along around 18 - 19 MPH. The second group of 20 or so, which I moved up into which was running around 16 MPH. The third group was moving around 14 or 15 MPH, with a few riders strung out of the back. As I was talking with another rider, I heard a noise coming from my back wheel. Barely 5 miles into the race and I had gotten my first flat. I pulled over, inspected the tire for debris and replaced the tube as the last two riders asked if I had everything I needed and then rode on. The infamous flint of eastern Kansas had claimed it's first victim of the day.

After completing the tire change, I got back on the bike, and missed the next turn by misinterpreting my location on the map. This mistake cost me about 30 minutes and added about 8 miles to my route. One back on course, I proceeded to pick up the pace and dig in for the remainder of the section. My mistake had eaten into my time cushion and I wanted to get some of that back in case I ran into issues later on. I settled into a quick but maintainable pace for the remainder of the first 50 miles. There were a number of shorter, punchy climbs in the early part of the course due to the topography and how the water drains off the limestone and flint hills. The flint hills do not bend to your will, your will bends to them. After three crossings of the Kansas turnpike, the course entered the first of many sections of open range area. I crossed the first cattle grate carefully, not knowing what to expect. For the remainder of the day, they weren't a factor. I rode onto the streets of Madison with a couple of other riders and arrived at the first checkpoint shortly after 10 AM. A floor pump at this checkpoint allowed me to vent all CO2 out of my back tire and pump it back up to proper pressure. I had a quick chat with Thad Hoffman and some of the other Lincoln riders as we took a break. Thad had put a good wobble in his front rim going through a water crossing, and was forced to use his bike as a shield against a charging bull in one of the open range areas soon after. I snagged some PowerAde from the Casey's, and rolled out just behind Thad and the rest of his group around 10:45 for the start of the second leg.

About 2 miles outside of Madison, we turned south onto what the county road crews had optimistically labeled a "minimum maintenance road". At the bottom of a somewhat rough hill was a 4' deep drainage area with a steep water chiseled rock hill on the other side. After walking the bikes across and up the hill, we got continued our ride. We had been informed that the reroute on this section and might not be marked that well. Some misreading of the map detoured us off course for a couple of miles, but the decision was driven by the group so we had no one to blame but ourselves. After getting back on course we found the reason for the redirect. 5 feet of water rushing across one of the many concrete high water crossings that dot the landscape in this part of country. Soon we entered another open range area and started a long multi-mile climb to the top of what the locals call Texaco Hill. With the single speeders needing to stay on top of their pedal strokes, the pace was a bit higher than I wanted to maintain so I sit back and find a comfortable pace for the long climb, passing one lone rider about 1/3 of the way up. With 75% of the climb beneath me, I felt something striking my right ankle. I looked down to see that my seat tube water bottle cage had fatigued and snap off. I removed the cage, stowed the water bottle in my camelback and finished off the climb. Turning a corner at the top of the hill, I noticed a dead cow laying next to the road. About 40 feet further along was where the stench and the route intersected. I picked up the pace to minimize my misery, and then stopped to snap some souvenir photos along the ridge. I was told this was a stage coach route in years past. With a view like this, I can understand why. Leaving the reroute, my energy was waning slightly, so I ate a package of Clif Shot Blocks. I'm not sure what they put into them, but it didn't take long for my energy levels to return to normal. Another rider and I passed Thad's group not too soon afterwards. One of them had rolled a tire going around a corner. With everything under control, we rolled on. Not too far up the road my riding companion appeared to have a broken spoke. It turned out to be a piece of fence sticking out of his rear tire. He pulled out his cell to call for help and told me to keep rolling on as he was stopping at mile 100 anyway. The rest of this section was uneventful, other than a short standoff with some cows, and another flat tire courtesy of the Kansas flint. Thankfully, I was able to change it standing under a nice shade tree. The Lincoln crew rolled by as I was finishing up, and we rolled into checkpoint 2 around 2:30 PM.

Checkpoints 2 and 3 were at the same location, the city park in the town of Cottonwood Falls. The race organizers had erected a tent underneath some excellent shade trees. I took some extra time here to get gear out of my drop bag, clean the accumulated salt and dust off of my face and neck, and just generally relax for a bit before starting the 3rd leg. Ten minutes after I arrived, eventual record setting winner (and national 24 hour mountain bike champion) Cameron Chambers rolled back in to start his final leg. He was in the checkpoint about 10 minutes before he took off. A sobering look at the performance gap between national caliber athletes like Cameron and normal guys like me. My legs were feeling very good at this point, with no real aches or pains. My lower back, on the other hand, was making it's distaste for the day's activity known so I took some extra time before leaving to stretch. The RD's warned us that someone might be altering the course markers on this section, and that we should pay extra attention to the map. I left around 3:30, riding by myself, again. I had not even made it to the edge of town when I saw three riders coming back towards me. Afraid I had made a wrong turn, I asked them what was going on. They had turned around and decided to call it a day. I soldiered on, wondering what might lay ahead on the route.

The first 10 miles or so alternated between west and south, allowing the southwest wind to make its presence known. About mile 112, I ran into Thad's group along with David Pals discussing if they were on the right road. I offered my opinion that they were, and we moved ahead. The road quickly changed from gravel to parallel dirt paths in grass. To the right, a crow and a buzzard hungrily stared down at us from the top of a ranch gate, A few yards further down a hill would see us riding through the worst section of road of the ride. We went from dirt to mud and rock. Then the hill became steeper and the surface became water ruts filled a combination of dirt and hunks of 2" - 3" fill rock. At the bottom we were greeted some well water worn ground rock and a water crossing with more water worn rock on the other side. Two more water crossings later, and we were out of the worst of it. A couple of long climbs were next and Thad's group would be off again. About mile 126 I stopped and talked with Steve (also from Lincoln), whom I had briefly chatted with just as the race started. I was feeling pretty down at this point and let him go on his way even though he was encouraging me to get on the bike and pedal. I was standing next to a highway, staring at another long climb and finally snapped. I called home to get a bit of encouragement from my wife only to find that she neither home nor answering her cell phone. I left a very haggard sounding message on the answering machine, ate three more Shot blocks and soldiered on. I had no one to come and get me, and if I had to ride back to Emporia, I figured I might as well follow the route. Again, I don't know what is in those Clif Shot blocks, but it works. After the climb up the hill, I got into a good rhythm and I could see Steve up ahead. At mile 138, the road turned back east towards Emporia and the surface turned into well smoothed chipseal. After almost 140 miles of gravel, it was a welcome sight. After catching up to Steve, we chatted for a bit, and he told me not to slow down on his account. While I appreciated the gesture, I was definitely tired of riding with and talking to myself. We soldiered on at a reasonable pace, cruising the river valley and asking ourselves if we were going to make the time cut off, and would we continue on if we did. At the end of the valley we came to another big stair stepped climb with some radio towers on top. I rode about a third of the way up before my back and butt had both said enough, and I climbed out of the saddle and proceeded to walk the next half mile of the climb. Steve joined me in the "walk of shame". However you want to look at it, it provided me a much needed mental and physical break. Steve and I rolled back into Cottonwood Falls with no further incidents, reaching the checkpoint at 8:30 PM, 30 minutes before close.

At this time, I seriously considered calling it quits. I was tired, my butt hurt, and I just didn't see how I could carry on to the finish. I pulled my phone out to call my wife and let her know that I had made it in OK and to apologize for the message I left. I had no cell signal in Cottonwood Falls thanks to AT&T's fabulous "5 bars of coverage", but I happened to notice my text message count had increased dramatically since I had left Cottonwood Falls 5 hours earlier. I was fortunate enough to have had some fellow Iowa riders send me some words of encouragement while I was out suffering. Paul, Squirrel, and Tom, I cannot thank you guys enough for taking the time to send those. They were a huge factor in my decision to finish the race. Having made the decision to continue, I went to Casey's, grabbed some PowerAde, two bottles of water for my camelback, and a slice of pizza. In retrospect, I should have had two slices because their pizza is also a wonder fuel for long rides. However, I wasn't sure how my stomach was going to handle pizza, so I took the cautious approach. A liberal application of chamois butter, a quick purge of everything unnecessary from my camelback and I was out final checkpoint (by myself) at 9:05 PM. I caught up with a group of three riders at about mile 160 and quickly decided that I was riding with them the rest of the way in. I'm not sure if it was the food, the companionship, or the cool night air, but my legs started getting their snap back and I found myself quickly ticking off the miles and feeling better the longer we went on. For the rest of this segment we were treated to a wonderful light show from the storms southeast of Emporia, as well as some beautiful star filled skies I have viewed in a long time. We crossed a dam at the end of a small lake, proceeded to finish off the one last long climb on the route and turned east. We passed through Americus and soldiered on through one last challenging road section about a mile or so in length. Think of a wet mud road torn up by off-roaders and tractors and you'll have a good idea of what we rode through.

At mile 195 we turned onto the last section of gravel. At this point, the fact we were in a race took over, even though I had well over 200 miles on my legs. I picked the pace up from 14 to 18 mph to see if anyone else had anything left in their legs. Our group went from 4 to 3 fairly quickly. I upped it a bit more to around 20 and that whittled the group down to me and Oliver from Lincoln. We slowed briefly to see the remainder of Thad's group changing a last mile flat. After learning they were on top of it, we went back to the task at hand. The last small rise to climb over I-35 broke me. I was unable to keep my speed up over the crest and Oliver opened got a gap on me that I just wasn't able to close in the final 3 blocks. I yelled "great sprint" to him and eased up, rolling across the finish line just behind Oliver. Just over 19 hours after my first pedal stroke Saturday morning, I had finished the Dirty Kanza 200, and beat my private time goal of 20 hours.

UPDATE: Results have been posted. I was 36th out of 42 finishers with a total time of 19:06:48. There were 24 DNF's this year.

I put my bike down, grabbed a cold drink from the cooler and waited for other riders to come in. A Burger King run on the bike for some hard earned greasy food, some additional chatting with Matt Gersib and the race promoters, and a shower put me into bed around 2:30 AM.

Since this was my first shot at an event like this, I had counted on this being a learning experience.

Things that worked:

My bike fit by Donny Quixote at Rasmussen Bike Shop. I had no hamstring or quad tightness issues for the entire ride. The bike fit is really spot on right now. I have no one to thank for this other than Donny. Anyone riding events like this that hasn't had a fit done is really missing something important.

Dinotte LED lights. I used a 200L on my handle bars and a second 200L on my helmet as a spot, both powered by Lithium ion batteries. Lightweight, excellent battery life (4+ hours on high for both head lamps with no signs of fading), and a kick ass tail light. These worked every bit as well as I had hoped they would. Someone on the last leg commented that it was like having a car behind him.

WTB Nanoraptor tires. For a MTB, I think this was one of the best tire choices for this race and these conditions. There was enough bite to feel comfortable in the sand, and on the rocks, and the center ridge line really helped with the speed on the packed sections.

Clif Shot Blocks. Whatever is in them, they worked magic for me multiple times during the race.

Things that didn't:

Nutrition. I ate and drank, but I know that I need to improve in this area if I do more of these events. My lack of
discipline really caused me issues on the 3rd leg of the race.

Storage. You can eat better if your food is easy to get to. Jersey pockets under a camelback are not easy to get to. A frame bag is. One will be on the way shortly.

I have to give a hearty congratulations and thank you to the people from the Heartland Race Series that put this event on. The course was well marked, the event ran smoothly, and even though this was a self supported event, their concern for everyone's safety and well being was very apparent.

A big thank you to the rest of the racers I competed against and the people that I have trained with leading up to this event. You are what make the long hours in the saddle and events like this enjoyable.

Other DK Race reports
Cameron Chambers (1st place overall)
Joshua Stamper (1st Place SS)
Matt Gersib (5th overall)
Steve Goetzelman
Mike Beck (4th Place SS)

More to come...