I and my house guest, rochester resident Drew Wilson, headed out to the Cumming Tap around 8 AM. We signed in, snagged a plate full of breakfast and socialized before the race started. It was great to see and talk to some folks in person for the first time in almost a year. After a bit of time, I realized that I left both of my water bottles at home. Another racer offered me one of his spare bottles, so I opted to start with one instead of driving back home. The 10 AM start time was nice, if a bit unusual. Typically these events start between 6 and 8 AM. As we were standing around and talking, the little voice in the back of my mind kept saying "You're wasting time. Get out there and ride." The temps were in the mid teens at when arrived, and were slowly climbing every minute that we stood around, making it more and more likely that we were going to end up in some slop along the route.
After some pre-race announcements and thank you's, we took off around 10. I planned to use this race as an early season fitness test, so I opted to stay near the front as long as possible. I pushed it a bit harder than I should have early on, despite knowing that it takes about 8-10 miles of riding for my body to adjust and settle in. I managed to hang with the lead group for the first 5 miles until I decided that I needed to slow down if I expected to finish. I spent the next couple of hours just checking out the scenery and the roads. I had a general idea where we were riding, but I hadn't actually been on any of the roads before. Nothing too eventful, other than spotting Jed a C02 cartridge at the top of one hill. There is a lot of good scenery and roads in this part of the state. Both deserve some additional exploring later this year. After 30 miles of riding, I found my bearings as we rode by near Cedar Bridge County Park north of Winterset. Turning north, I looked at the cue sheet and knew that the toughest part of the ride was about to hit us. Despite that, I shouted out my number as I approached the half way checkpoint and kept riding on.
A mile or so beyond the checkpoint the route started to work it's way up, and my decision to not stop was haunting me. As I climbed out of the saddle, my quads cramped, forcing me back into the saddle to continue the climb. At the top of the first hill, I decided to stop and eat. I realized that I hadn't taken in any food for the first half of the race and it was catching up with me. The food that I had brought with me was either frozen solid or extremely thick. For anyone wondering, Clif Shot Bloks take 10 minutes to go from frozen to chewable once they are in your mouth. By this time a number of the riders I had passed at the checkpoint were also starting to pass me back, so I soldiered on, walking the big hills on both North River Trail and Old Portland Road to give my legs a break. I had a brief exchange with a fellow La Cruz rider that that read my DK 200 account from last year. My 15 minutes of fame I guess.
As we turned back east, the roads were quickly becoming softer and it was obvious that I needed to switch over to survival mode to finish the race. I was out of water as of mile 45 and starting to have issues with changing gears. I finally looked down and noticed the thick layer of frozen crud that had built up on my top tube and seized up my deraileur cables. Stopping briefly to chip that off, I managed to reset my odometer. This wasn't a huge deal as I was on relatively familiar roads by now. The stretch of riding from mile 45 to 54 was agonizing. I couldn't generate any power on the east/west flats to make up time and the sloppy north/south roads were sapping any power I might have had. After what seemed like hours, I finally emerged onto the familiar south half of the Booneville loop. I was finally able to cruise comfortably along this stretch. At mile 60, I saw the rider in front of me continue east. I looked at my cue sheet, and the color of the arrow painted on the snow, and opted to follow the cue sheet and turn south. This turned out to be the right choice as someone not involved with the race had painted an arrow in the snow to mess with the riders. The final 3 miles were spent just hoping the race would end. Jed and Kent did a good job of keeping the finish line in sight, but out of reach for this stretch. I finally arrived back in Cumming 5 hours and 15 minutes after the start, stumbling through the bar to record my arrival. I quickly made my way to the food table and snagged a plate full of beans, chips and a pork loin sandwich in order to fill the deep pit I had dug during the race. After a plate full of food and a couple of beers, I was feeling a lot more human.
The day's suffering was a direct result of my (lack of) nutrition and fluid intake. Had I managed those better, I likely would have felt and performed better. The positive spin was that I made those mistakes early in the race season, and in a shorter race that was closer to home. The price for making the same errors later in the year will be a lot higher.
I have to give a big shout out to Jed and Kent for organizing the event. The location and the route were great, as were the awards, food and swag. Big thank you to The Cumming Tap for everything they did to support the event as well. An extra special thank you to the volunteers at both The Tap and the checkpoint. Events like this only go off with the help of a number of people. The volunteers were top notch and extremely helpful.
On the equipment front, my Salsa La Cruz was solid for the entire event. No mechanicals, no flats and extremely comfortable. My Oakley sunglasses worked great. The new Hydrophobic lenses are everything they claim to be. Thanks, as always, to Rasmussen Bike Shop. They order in the weird stuff I request with no question and never fail to do a great job supporting me, despite the fact that I'm not entering mainstream events.
I'm headed off to Decorah for some training on the 11th - 13th of March. My next event will be TransIowa v6. I have a lot of preparations to complete between now and then if I expect to finish TI.