Monday, September 23, 2013

TIV9 equipment report

A number of people had posted about their bike setups before TransIowa. I wasn't able to due to time and other commitments. I also thought it would be more useful to discuss the equipment and how well it worked after the event.

My trusty, disc based Salsa La Cruz carried me to the finish with no issues. It's easily the most comfortable bike I own. I've had the fit dialed in by Adam Thompson at Rasmussen Bike Shop twice, pre and post aero bars, and I wouldn't change a thing. 
  • Shimano 105 brifters
  • Salsa Bell Lap bar
  • Profile T2+ aero bars
  • Specialized cork tape
  • Ultegra front mech
  • Dura-Ace rear mech
  • Stronglight Pulsion carbon crankset with 34/46 rings
  • 12-27 10 speed 105 cassette
  • Shimano 10 speed chain
  • BB7 road brakes
Everything worked as expected. The only issue I noted at the end was a slight softness in the rear brake due to wear. I used a Specialized Phenom saddle that I purchased a number of years ago. It was comfortable for the entire race and I noticed no numbness beyond what you would expect for riding for over 28 hours. Some people might scoff at the aero bars, but they gave me another hand position to use and allowed me to stretch out my back and legs by changing my hip position on the seat. They were also quite helpful riding into the headwinds I encountered from mid-afternoon until sunset on Saturday.

I used a Revelate Designs Tangle bag as my immediate food storage, a Revelate Designs Feedbag as miscellaneous storage, and a medium sized seatbag (similar to a Revelate Designs Pika) for storing clothes, tools, spare tubes, and any other food). Other than some issues getting into the feedbag due to the aero bars, everything worked as expected. I carried four waterbottles, two in the main triangle and two hose clamped to my fork. I have used a Profile aero cage holder in the past, but it wouldn't work in conjunction with the seatbag. The bottles all stayed in place, and, I generally had enough fluids to get me between refuel points. Would it have been hotter, I might have had to consider additional bottles in jersey pockets, or something else to carry more fluids.

My lighting system was made of a Schmidt disc dyno hub paired with B&M IQ Cyo-R LED headlight, a Planet Bike Superflash taillight and a generic, 175 lumen, AAA powered LED headlamp I bought at Lowes. All worked as expected. I ran the taillight in non-stop blink mode, and the head lamp as needed using AAA lithium batteries. I carried spare batteries for the headlamp, but didn't need to use them. I had some people tell me that I would notice the drag of the Schmidt as the race wore on. I've ridden with mine enough, and the drag is low enough that I never really noticed it. The light pattern was bright and right where I needed it to be. It was really nice not worrying about if my main light was going to run long enough. The weight of the hub was the same as the two battery packs that it replaced. I would not hesitate to run the same system again. I liked the headlamp, but a model with a adjustable brightness would have been nice to have.

I used a Garmin 800 with an external battery pack as my main bike computer. I had a Cateye Micro wireless computer mounted as a backup in case I had issues with my Garmin. I disabled all of the maps in the GPS, including the basemap, before the race started. I hit the power button on the external battery pack around hour 10 of the race, and then every few hours thereafter to make sure the gps stayed running. I would definitely use this set up again.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

TIV9 Race Recap - All good things must come to an end

As I pulled into the the Kwik Star I noticed two other bikes leaning against the building, but I don't recall seeing the riders as I entered. I grabbed a basket and aimlessly wandered the aisles of the truck stop for quite a while. I really wanted a bottle of Muscle Milk, but couldn't find any, so I settled for chocolate milk, two donuts, beef jerky, and a warm sausage and cheese sandwich.  I found a spot in the dark of the trucker's lounge, and sat down at a table with Charles and Chris refuel. I finished the first round of food off and was still feeling hungry, and I was starting to get chilled. I wandered around a bit more and, being chilled, I grabbed a can of Coke and another bottle of chocolate milk and went to the counter to pay. I must have looked horrible, as the overnight clerk, who was really chipper, asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee. It didn't sound good, so I turned him down. Sleep deprivation causes you to do stupid things sometimes. I sat back down in the lounge and made a quick FB post about my position while finishing chocolate milk and Coke off. We spent about 45 minutes at the truck stop before the call to leave was announced. I quickly filled my bottles, dropped some Nuun tablets in, and followed the group out the door sometime around 5:00 AM.

We headed east for a mile, looking at the morning twilight and then dropped south into a valley for what seemed like a long time. The cold, damp air that settled in the valley really made me want to finish soon. Finally, we turned west, and Mark's route continued to pound at our legs with more loose gravel and a miles of constant rolling hills. Around mile 304, we came off of a jog and on to a flat straight section of road. It was covered in big, chunky gravel, with the "smooth line" barely discernable from the rest of the road. Jay Barre led us onto the rock. As the smooth line Jay was following ended, I jumped to the opposite side and pushed the pace a bit. It was easier for me to ride at speed and let the bike bounce a bit. I slid even further into the dirt at the edge as Paul Errington and Jay dropped in behind. We rode like this for just over a mile until we hit a stop sign at the intersection with a paved road. We were out of breath, but the last mile of our own little "Paris Roubaix" helped wake up our heads and legs a bit. I recall our group starting to break up a bit around this point of the race. Tim Ek had told us he was going to cruise in because his knee wasn't feeling good. Mike, Ben and Chris were content to hold the pace we had been riding the entire night. With the finish feeling close and the sun warming us up, Charles, Jay, both Paul's and I were slowly picking up the pace the further we rode along.

We hit a small section of B road around mile 306, rode through it, and then an energetic Tim Ek passed Charles and I while we stopped for a bio break. He settled in with Jay and "the Pauls" as Charles and I rejoined them. Tim had made some seat post adjustments after he had dropped back and his knee wasn't bothering him any more. The pace picked up a bit more and then we turned north onto a set of rollers and things really started heating up. Tim passed me on the first uphill and for some reason my legs woke up a bit, and I decided to jump on his wheel. We cruised on the downhill together and he passed me on the next uphill. I got onto his wheel again and this time I decided to drive the pace on the downhill until I had built a bit of a gap between the two of us. I looked down at my cue sheets and realized we still had a ways to go, so I backed off to get my heart rate down and give my legs a rest. Not too long after this, I hear a bike behind me and turn to see Charles Parsons. He flashed a smile and said "I couldn't let my good friend Dog Chow just ride off", then rode ahead. I wouldn't see Charles again until the end of the race. Tim pulled up next to me as we were getting closer to town, and I told him I hoped he was done riding hard, as I was feeling pretty spent. He glanced over, picked up the pace a bit more, and then rode off ahead of me. I still felt pretty good, and I wanted to finish strong, so, knowing that there were just a few miles left, I picked up the pace a bit more as I crossed under I-80. I could almost smell the finish now, and my body and legs responded with just a bit more power. I turned the corner and headed west towards the finish. As I looked up I saw Tim just 3/4 of a mile ahead of me. The pressure on the hills over the last few miles had kind of blown the "overnighters finish together" mantra that I assumed was an unspoken rule, and I thought about sitting up at this point. But, knowing what Tim had accomplished as a rider over the the years, it was a big deal to me to finish with or ahead of him to set a personal benchmark. With that in mind, I rolled forward on to my aero bars and picked up the pace. It took a mile or two, but I caught up with Tim, kept rolling past and took a left turn onto the B road and into the home stretch. I got out of the saddle and sprinted, then sat and sprinted one more time, turning down a small driveway, expecting to see the barn at any minute. Instead, I found myself in a private driveway. I turned around a couple of times and rode back out, looking for the turn to the barn I must have missed. I turned back around and rode to the end of the driveway again, and as I was circled once more to go out, Tim pulled up. I'm not sure if he had followed me, or if had made the same mistake that I did, and turned down the wrong road. Karma always comes around, and I was paying for not finishing with the group. Tim and I talked on our way back to the finish, and he suggested that I go in first. A big thanks to him for allowing me to do so.

I rolled down the final hill towards the finish, turned into the driveway, sprinted towards, and past Mark and the small crowd of people gathered around the finish area, skidded to a stop and let my bike drop I was finally done. I had finished 323.3 miles of TransIowa V9 in just over 28.5 hours - far faster than I had ever imagined finishing. I got a bit lost with all of the people gathering to congratulate me, but the best thing was turning around and seeing that my wife Kathy had made it to the finish and was there to give me a hug and congratulate me. She had been completely supportive of my training and weird schedule over the last 4 months, so it was absolutely perfect to share the moment with her.

Lots of things happend in quick succession. I gave Mark a long hug, partly out of exhaustion, but partly because it was the only way I could say thank you to him without breaking down in tears. Photos ensued. Kyle Sedore handed me a bomber of cold tasty Double IPA. I took a huge swig. It was ice cold and so satisfying. Rob Versteegh and Kyle were both handing me dry clothes and food. Julie Goodman scrubbed my dog bite out with Everclear, and bandaged it. Sarah Russell held me up after the bomber  and exhaustion got to me. I honestly felt like Cancellara at the end of Paris Roubaix - Through the crucible, out the other side intact, and into the hands and arms of an incredible support crew to make sure I looked good on the podium, or in this case, a log by the fire. Having everyone there at the end meant a lot to me, and I want to thank each and every one of the people that I mentioned for making my finish just that much more special.

This is pretty much the end of my race recap (Gee, only 4 long posts?) If you've made it through this far, congratulations. :) I'll have one final post coming with some miscellaneous thoughts, and some discussion about my bike and setup for those that are curious.

TIV9 Race Recap - Light and darkness.

I left CP2 with just half bottle of water, and 10 miles to the next convenience store. I dropped in behind Jana Vavra and (I believe) Paul Chapman. I tried keeping pace with them, but I was still in survival mode, so I ended up about 10 - 12 bike lengths behind them all the way into Gladbrook. After 50 minutes and a bit of pavement through town, I pulled into a Casey's parking lot and found a number of other riders sitting there refueling. This was the last convenience store for nearly 100 miles and everyone was taking time to fuel their bodies as well as stock up for the next leg. It also appeared that a number of the overnight groups were being worked out while people ate and rested. I parked my bike on the west side of the building, said hi to a few people and stumbled into the store to get some food and drink. Mark hadn't warned the store that there might be a group coming in, and the staff appeared a bit flustered with the sudden rush of traffic. Cornbread spied my leg and suggested that I should clean the wound out while I was there. It didn't really hurt, so I politely shrugged off his suggestion. After two more mentions of the need to  clean the wound up, I finally gave in. He grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from the shelf and got in line behind me. I grabbed the bottle from him, paid the cashier, and pulled up a slice of curb outside so I could eat and clean up.

As I ate, more riders showed up and I struggled figuring out why I had to arrived ahead of this many people. Many of them were people I considered favorites to win, some of them with multiple TI finishes under their belts. Cornbread and one of the other people from Lincoln cleaned my leg off, for which I was very grateful. The H202 had a bit of a sting and foamed a lot, but it was good to know that we were taking a swipe at the germs sooner rather than later. Riders continued to come in to the parking lot, some, like Jim Cummins, looking completely spent. I hoped that they were able to rest, recover, and finish the race. While I ate and talked, I noticed a number of the favorites getting their stuff together and leave. I used that as my cue to get going, and quickly grabbed a can of coke for the road, packed my stuff up and headed out. As my friend and TI finisher Paul Jacobson said, "Get back on the bike." I'd spent just over an hour recovering and felt loads better as I headed north out of town. As I rode down the pavement I could see a good sized group of riders forming in the hills ahead of me. I really wanted to catch them, but I wanted to take a cautious approach to how much energy I used to bridge up to them. I rode at a steady pace, slowly closing the gap between me and the group. Near mile 195, I pulled in behind them as they slowed to change cue sheets. I quickly took stock of who was here.  First, was Charles Parsons, Tim Ek, Mike Johnson and Jay Barre. All of them had finished on one or more occasions, and were well poised to finish again. Next, Paul Errington and Ben Oney. Both super strong riders with lots of ultra-distance experience. Paul had finished the Dirty Kanza 200 last summer, and Ben had finished 13th in the 2011 Tour Divide. Both brought more firepower to the group. Finally, Chris Wells and Paul Carpenter. I had not met either of them before today, but if they had made it this far, then they had to be strong, and feeling pretty good. After about 30 seconds, I felt that all of these riders were likely to finish, so I decided to sit in with them for the rest of the race.

Spirits in the group were high, considering that we were not even two-thirds of the way through the race. The sunset and susequent twilight were gorgeous and there was a lot of talking and joking going on when the roads were good. On the hills and loose rock, things quieted down and it became obvious that TCoB was the order of the day at those points. Jay was doing a bang up job as navigator and Charles was moving around in the group, talking to people and keeping things organized. Being the "FNG" of this group, I made sure I took long pulls at the front and tried not to do anything to jeopardize being allowed to stay in the group. I was still not sure how I had arrived in a position to ride with this particular group overnight, and I was waiting for the proverbial hammer to fall on my personal race at any time. The next few hours were routine. We pedaled, and we stopped every hour or so for food or a bio break, as long as the majority of the group needed to do so. There were times where we didn't stop if only one person needed to stop. I was having issues holding my line as twilight turned to dark. It was obvious I was starting to get fatigued. At one point, I started getting whiny and negative about the road conditions, and Charles Parsons dropped back from the front of the group, quietly told me "Say nothing but positive words from here on out." and then proceeded to ride back up front. I took the kindly worded hint and kept quiet, unless spoken to for quite a while. During the night, the talk died down other than the announcement of milestones ("only 100 miles left") or warnings about dangerous road surfaces. I had a number of instances of paranoia hit me, especially if I was by myself. I was convinced that there were people in the group that didn't want me there, and they were plotting out a way to get rid of me. Close to midnight, the fatigue really set in and I started cat napping for a few seconds while riding, even on the steep downhills. This went on for at least 30 minutes until I realized what a danger I was becoming, and told the group I needed to stop for a bit. Charles stopped with me for a few seconds to make sure I was OK and then took off to catch up with the group. I broke into my seatbag and drank one of the two bottles of 5 Hour Energy I had bought just in case something like this happened. I had used it for the same reason during my first ultra distance event, the Metamora 4x50, in 2006, and knew that it worked for me when the chips were down. Drinking that, and some water,  made me feel quite a bit better, and soon I was alert, back on the bike, and making contact with the group after a steep hill or two.

As I looked around, I realized that we were on a portion of TIV7 course again, as we were descending towards the Iowa River a bit north of Montour. I was happy that Mark had opted to not use the particularly hilly section of B-road on our route this year, and soon we crossed Highway 30 and cruised on pavement into Montour. As the evening wore on, we exited a B road and everyone stopped to make sense of a huge mileage jump between two cues. After confirmation by all nine riders, it was decided that this really was a long push in one direction, and we had not all lost the same sheet. After this big push, thoughts started turning to the next convenience store stop. We were all ready for a break at this point, and the thought of the 24 hour oasis was increasingly appealing to everyone. Cresting, a short steep hill, we could see a glow only a mile or two away. Surely we would be there soon!  However, road signs and cue sheets indicated otherwise. We turned away from the warm glow, and towards the town of Brooklyn. Again, knowing the area you are in can be a good and a bad thing. After the first disappointment, I was convinced that the promised convenience store would be in Brooklyn, and near the freeway. However, the cue sheets turned us away from the freeway, and I became really confused. It was now about 2:30 AM, and we all stopped in the middle of Brooklyn and took stock of the situation. Reading the cues, we still had another 10 - 15 miles to get to the c-store. At this point, everyone deflated a bit. The temperature had dipped into the mid 30s, and fatigue was really starting to set in. Most people were prepared for mid 40s as a low. Some where chilled and were looking for more layers, while others were resigned to their fate, and tried to push the cold out of their thoughts. We took a few minutes to pass extra layers to people in need and refueled. In silence, we all remounted our bikes and left Brooklyn behind us. For the next 12 miles, the pop of rock against the tires was the only sound we heard. The roads were hilly, littered with fresh rock, and no one in the group made a sound. Mentally, this was the lowest point for me on the entire ride. I was tired, none of the food I had with me sounded appetizing, and I could see the light of the c-store off in the distance, calling me like a siren. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally pulled into the Kwik Star near the intersection of Hwy 21 and I-80. It had been nearly 100 miles of riding by this point, and it had taken us about 9.5 hours to get here. I was, once again, behind on fluids and not feeling well, with only 3 large bottles and a can of coke since we left Gladbrook. But, we only had 40 miles left to go and a finish was looking more like a "when", rather than an "if" as long as nothing out of the ordinary happened. I parked my bike and stumbled into the warmth of the store, knowing that we would soon be seeing the sun rise a second time.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

TIV9 Race Recap - Good Times and Bad

Mark gave us the opportunity to climb a nice, steep hill right after leaving CP1. I clawed my way to the top, and tried to not over-exert myself in the process. A few miles down the road, the course turned north, and it became apparent that the winds were a bit stronger than forecast. The sun was out, the gravel had gotten a bit nicer, and I had a tailwind - it was really a good time to be riding. I caught up to a few riders as I closed in on Melbourne, including Aaron Gammel and one of his Moose's Tooth teammates. We rode together through Melbourne until we arrived at the turn for the bike path near Highway 330. Mark had mentioned there was a convenience store around mile 75 or so, and seeing a small one a half mile up the bike path, I turned right, and off course, while everyone else turned left and followed the route. I had promised myself early on that I would visit any convenience store I saw to get something to eat and top off fluids, and this was the first opportunity to do so. I met Matt Maxwell at this store as well, so I felt better about my decision to go a bit off route. I downed some chocolate milk, a fruit pie, refilled all of my bottles, and bought a Snickers Almond Bar to go, then rode back on course. I met more riders at this point, and as we crossed under Hwy 330 and exited the tunnel, the photographers were camped out waiting for us. After four or five miles of pedaling, we were in State Center and riding right by a Casey's. Judging by the pile of bikes outside, this was supposed to be our first convenience store. Since I had just filled up about 3 miles earlier, I opted to enjoy the tailwind and keep motoring on by myself. Exiting town, I passed by a pheasant farm. I certainly had never seen one of those before. A few miles outside of State Center, I pulled up next to Jay Barre, Ben Oney and Chris Mills. Jay was looking strong on his Gunnar single speed, and Ben and Chris were both quite comfortable with the pace they were riding. Since I had been riding by myself for a good portion of the morning, I decided to settle in, chat a bit, and just enjoy being on the bike in such great weather. I rarely get to ride with Jay or Ben, so this was was a good chance to catch up with them by something other than Facebook posts.

This was an interesting part of the course. We hit some soft sandy sections as we passed by Marietta Sand Prairie Preserve, and soon found ourselves turning on to Mormon Ridge Road, which was the first long climb of the day. Everyone found their own pace up the hill and, upon cresting the climb, we found ourselves on a gently curving road, with trees on our right and a gorgeous valley view our left. We passed a small historical site with a log cabin on it, as well as a giant robins egg blue house with red doors. We dropped off of the ridge, stopped for a short food and bio break at a bridge, then kept moving on. After passing over a washed out section of gravel, we passed Paul Errington and Tim Ek along the side of the road. Tim was working on fixing a flat tire and Paul appeared to be providing moral support and high fives to anyone that passed by. A short time later, we pulled up on two more riders out of the race just outside of Union. One was sitting near a fence line and waiting for ride, and the other was Lance Andre, who had shred a tubular. He was walking into Union in search of a beer and to wait for a ride. Suddenly I was feeling lucky about not having any suffered any flats or mechanicals, even though it was early in the race. A short way after we passed Union, I found myself alone again as my "brain off" pace was different from that of either Jay, Ben and Chris. The tailwind and the sun continued to boost my spirits and keep me moving on. 

Around mile 120, the route turned on to pavement and through the town of Eldora. For some reason, this section was a little confusing to me, even though we went straight through town. As I rode through town, I didn't see a convenience store or anywhere I felt like stopping it, so I made the decision to keep rolling north. This decision would be both a good and bad thing for me further up the road. The route continued to follow pavement north of Eldora, crossing a crumbling, but still functioning bridge before sending us back on to Hardin County gravel roads 124 miles in to the race. At mile 127, I pulled over to allow a large tractor and harrow get past me, only to have to hit the brakes as we both descended into the Iowa River valley. I followed the tractor left and breathed a sigh of relief as he turned off into a farm just as the next long climb started. I had no issues with the climb, which was, once again, tree lined and gorgeous, despite the lack of leaves on the trees. 

After I crested the climb, I took a drink and was preparing to get back in to my over-the-road rhythm, when I noticed a white dog running out from the farm I was passing. Before I knew it, I had two dogs running after me. The smaller of the two was on my left, and dodging dangerously close to my front tire. The larger one opted to take a longer route and chase from behind. In perfect pack hunt mode, the smaller one herded me along and distracted me, while the larger one continued to build speed. Both dogs were much more aggressive than any I had previously encountered while riding and I was becoming concerned. Neither my sharp commands of "no" and "bad dog", nor the shouts from the people at the farm were having their any effect. Suddenly I felt a hard tap on my right heel, and then things quickly went silent as the larger dog sank it's mouth into the meat of my right calf. Shock quickly morphed into fight or flight response as I wasn't sure that this was actually happening. I stopped pedaling, locked the brakes up and the dog immediately let go and ran across the street and sat at the edge of an unplowed field. I was in a state of panic at this point. I recall screaming at the dog, at the people at the farm, and, silently at myself. I was afraid to look at my calf. I was sure my race was over. I needed to get the owners info, but I wanted to get away as fast as I could. I started to throw a leg over my bike, but noticed the dog tensing up as soon as my foot left the ground, so I stood still, my bike between me and the dog, and waited for the owners to come out. I looked away from the dog to see two women running toward me, while an older man in an electric wheelchair cruised out of the driveway, swung left, and rolled up behind them. I looked at my calf, and was relieved to see mostly scratches. However, the dog had sunk one of his lower canines in solidly, and that hole was pumping blood out at what seemed like a rapid rate. One of the women handed me a damp paper towel to clean the blood off, and one to dry my leg with. After assurances that the dog had never done this before, and that he was up to date on his shots, I found out that the people helping me were just watching the dog for a friend. After a failed call to the dog's owner, I emailed both the old guy's and the owners contact info to myself, and made a mental note of the location. After what was the longest 10 minutes I've ever spent stopped during a bike race, I got back on my bike and continued up the course.

After a few easy pedal strokes, I was amazed that the bite area only felt slightly bruised. I bumped the effort up a bit and, noticing no sharp pain, quickly got back into what I thought was race pace. I passed two riders that received the sharp end of my tongue earlier when they inquired about my condition. I slowed up a bit, explained what happened, and apologized for being so rude. I descended into the river valley again, climbed out, and then bounced across a freshly rocked section of road near the Hardin County Conservation headquarters. Finally, the road smoothed out and I was able to sit on my aero bars, ride a bit of tempo and try to catch up on my nutrition. Up to now I had been running on adrenaline and rage, and it took me a while to get settled down and get things back to normal. This also meant that my nutrition and fluid intake was off, and I had wasted a lot of energy. The next 10 miles went by without incident and soon I was turning south and riding down North Willow Road. I had driven over this road a number of times on trips to Waterloo and Dubuque, but always wanted to ride along on it just to ride by this cool church just to the south of Highway 20.

As I approached  the highway, I saw a rider stopped and was surprised to see Dennis Grelk cleaning dirt out of his cleats. I stopped to chat quickly and then continued on, but it didn't take Dennis long to catch up to me. We worked together for quite a few miles, taking turns pulling into the headwind. I finally had to stop and eat. Dennis pulled over with me and soon we saw a good sized group of riders roll by, including Aaron Gammel, Monika Sattler, and Jana Vavra. We buttoned up and took off after them but they were already quite a ways ahead of us. It was at this point I watched Dennis ride ahead and I decided to switch to survival mode, as I had 3/4 of a bottle of water left, and at least another 15 miles to the checkpoint. An hour later (around 4:30 PM or so) I was rolling down a B-Road, past the photographers and into CP2. As I pulled up to Jeremy and Robert, the stress of the last 3 hours finally caught up to me and I broke down. I was bleeding, dehydrated, under-nourished, and exhausted. All I could do was stand over my bike, let the tears flow and hope to pull myself back together. Jeremy's news that I was 12th coming into the checkpoint actually made me feel worse, as I felt I had no business being in that spot at this point in the event. After a few minutes, and some words with Jeremy, I got myself under control and proceeded to work through  my normal check point procedure. I swapped out cue sheets, ate some food, and drained every last ounce of fluid out of my other three bottles. I had just under a half bottle of water left, 150 miles to go, and it was 10 miles to Gladbrook, and the next convenience store.

Monday, May 6, 2013

TIV9 Race Recap - The Hills of Jasper County

My alarm went off around 2:30 or 2:45 AM - I can't really remember when. I had placed all of my bottles and kit in the bathroom the night before, so that's where I went to prepare myself for the day's events. I moved my bike into the hall while eating a breakfast cookie, set my tire pressures, then knocked on Paul and Vin's door to see how they were getting along. They were mostly set to go, but Paul was getting more beauty shots taken of him by the photographer that Salsa had sent to document his day. It was like being in the middle of a Rapha Continental shoot in some ways ;)

After transferring Paul and Vin's belongings to my room, the three of us rode down Hwy 146 into Grinnell and rolled in to downtown and in front of Bikes to You. The mood around the starting line was much lighter than in past years. The morning's relatively warm, humid, temperature and the forecast for the rest of the race weekend surely was the cause for this. Despite being there for the better part of 30 minutes, I really don't remember too many details. Knowing that I wouldn't see many of these people until Sunday, if at all, I tried to wish the riders I knew good luck. I recall lots of camera flashes going off, and a few people shouting my name. Mostly, I was trying to keep my nerves under control and silently hoping that nothing unexpected would derail the last four months worth of training. The Trans Iowa can deal cruel twists, even when you have prepared properly. Guitar Ted gave some last minute instructions, hopped in the Truck with No Name, and allowed us 5 minutes to our own thoughts before honking his horn and heading south on Broad Street.

The horn startled me out of my thoughts and I found myself clipping in and following everyone else down Broad. Since I opted to not look at the cue sheets the night before, I wasn't really sure where we were headed and just settled in behind everyone else. It wasn't too long before we took a right hand turn, and I realized we were right crossing Hwy 146 close to our hotel. A small group of people were at the controlled intersection cheering for us. Suddenly, Guitar Ted sped away into the morning darkness and it was just us and the gravel.

At the pre-race meeting, Mark mentioned that the first 12 miles were going to be shoulder to shoulder fresh gravel. He wasn't lying. My heart rate jumped from a fairly sedate 125 to 150 bpm as I tried to get my legs and bike beneath me and settle into some sort of reasonable pace. The next few minutes were hectic as our cluster of 90 riders quickly strung out into lines and worked to find the smoothest lines we could. As the fast guys worked their way to the front, I settled into maintainable pace and picked my way around other riders as the hills and the gravel allowed. It was going to be a long day and I was not going to end it early by forcing a pass when it wasn't safe for me or the other riders. During this first few miles, the eyeglasses I was wearing were fogging up to the point they were useless. So much for reading any road signs from a distance. There was a group up ahead, but their pace was faster than what I was comfortable running, and I opted to let them ride away. Soon, the sun was up, and I found myself alone.  I settled into a schedule of drinking every 15 minutes and eating at the top of every hour. I felt that this would be an easy schedule to remember, even as the race wore on and I started to tire. I recall passing the Wittenberg Grange building near Clay Street and Holly Avenue, viewing numerous foggy valleys from above, and seeing photographers at various points on course as we passed by. These things, and the seemingly unending rollers of Jasper County, were what stick out most in my mind from the first section. Parts of the course were used as part of TIV5, as I rode by some of the same spots I sat at to take photos of riders early on. Mark was taking us almost straight east across a good portion of Jasper county, and in the process showing riders just how flat Iowa was.

Before I knew it, I found myself on a long, paved descent and a short section of bike path, rolling into CP1. One of the volunteers took my number, and I remember Ryan Clutter and Chad Quigley asking me how I felt. At this point, I didn't feel like I had ridden 10 miles, let alone 50. I was very happy with my pacing and my nutrition to this point and didn't feel like I had over extended myself in any way. After a few minutes to swap cue sheets and quick restroom break, I turned south and scaled a steep climb to start the second leg, which would take us over 120 miles to an unknown location.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

TIV9 Race recap - Pre-Race events

My TransIowa experience started early Thursday with a number of morning errands, a chiropractic adjustment, a stop at Rasmussen Bike Shop, and a pre-race leg massage at Hands on Sports Massage. Afterwards, I went to the airport and awaited the arrival of my of two British guests for the weekend - Salsa team rider Paul Errington and Vin Cox, former holder of the Guinness World Record for biking around  the world. After some initial contact an exchange of emails and messages, they both accepted my offer of both race weekend support, and a cheap place to stay while they were in town. Vin's plane arrived about 90 minutes late due to some mechanical issues, so we opted to hang out at the airport, grab a snack, chat, and wait for Paul. After Paul's flight arrived around 7:30 PM, we picked up his bike in baggage claim, loaded it up on the Explorer next to Vin's, and headed to my house.

Once we arrived home, Paul's anxiousness to get his bike built led to Vin changing his mind and building his too. After opening his case, Vin discovered that American Airlines had damaged his front wheel beyond use. Two minutes later, he had moved his tire and tube over to one of my spare rims, and he was set to go for the race. While they built their bikes, my close friend and our support driver, Scot, cooked a dinner of NY strips, baked potatoes and grilled asparagus. We spent an hour or so eating and talking, until it was time for Paul and Vin to try and get some sleep. My sleep came in short, fitful bursts that night, as my subconscious ran through all of the things I needed to get done before and during the race.

I expected the next morning to be stressful with three of us trying to get things ready for the weekend, but it was quite relaxed. After some coffee, final packing and finishing up the bike builds, we had time to head out to Hy-Vee for breakfast and food supplies for the weekend. We loaded up the bikes around noon and picked up Scot at his house. Next we made a made a quick stop at Rasmussen Bike Shop so I could say thanks to everyone, and so we could snag some last minute bike parts. After a stop at Abelardo's for a delicious burrito, we were on our way. By 4:30, we had arrived, checked-in, secured a 2 PM check-out for Sunday, replaced Paul's MIA bottle lid, and started walking to the Meat-Up. As we started signing the race and media wavers, the day's calmness quickly gave way to anxiety. I suddenly felt 50 pounds heavier and about 3 feet tall. I ordered a beer to help take the tension off and spent the quite a bit of time saying hi to riders, friends and support crew as I saw them. I hadn't seen many of them since last year, so it was good to spend a few minutes catching up with them and wishing them the best for tomorrow. I finally decided that I needed to eat, whether I was hungry or not, so I did the grill thing, and ended up stuffing myself with what appeared to be a 2 pound chicken breast.

After dinner, we all moved to to another room for the pre-race meeting. After introducing the sponsors and volunteers, a raffle was conducted. Then, Mark went over the rules and details for TIV9. I was fortunate enough to win a nice prize package made up of a signed cycling poster, pound of coffee, and pair of socks courtesy of North Central Cyclery. We were each called up by name, and given the first set of cue sheets and nutritional items from, one of the sponsors, Gu Energy. Once all of the names were called, our group headed back to the hotel. I took a few minutes to drive down to Bikes To You and hang out with Coop and bunch of other people for a bit. It was a good opportunity for me to relax and clear my head with friends and fellow riders just a bit more before Saturday morning arrived. Mark arrived a few minutes after me, and Coop presented him with a certificate of appreciation from the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce for bringing TransIowa there. After half an hour or so, I headed back to the hotel. I laid out my kit, prepped bottles, mounted cues, and gave my faithful Salsa La Cruz a final once over. I finally went to bed around 9 PM.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TIV9 - Thoughts and Thanks


Well, TransIowa happens this weekend. It's been a long 4(!!) months leading up to this point. I can't really do anything now but make sure the bike is prepped, pack food and supplies, and enjoy the weekend.

Since I'm a bit of a nerd, there's been lots of numbers for me to track leading up to now.

  • 194 hours of saddle time
  • 3156 total miles (Monthly totals of 845, 597, 980 and 735)
  • 182 miles per week average
  • 68000+ calories burned
For whatever reason, I'm not as nervous going into the event as I was for V5 and V6. I still have a very healthy respect for the event. However, I feel that I'm prepared physically, I'm mentally ready to ride hard, and I expect to have a good result as long as I stay on top of my nutrition and can avoid accidents. In the end, it's just a bike race, and whatever happens, happens. 

I wanted to take a moment and mention some people that have or are going to make this whole weekend possible for me.

My wife Kathy, who has once again tolerated the amount of time I spent getting ready for a big race. She hasn't seen a lot of me the last few months, unless she was sitting in the basement with me or, waited for me to get home from an after work ride. She's been incredibly supportive, and she's ready to have her husband back in a few days. 

My coach, JJ Bailey from Zoom Performance. I started talking to JJ back in December and he was excited to help me reach my goal of finishing TransIowa. His coaching and workout schedule allowed me to beat my target finish time at the Dirty Kanza 200 in 2012, so it was only natural to choose him to help me prepare for this. Between these two races, he's taken me to a physical and performance level I wouldn't have imagined I would be at.

Greg, Sterling, Matt, Adam and the rest of the gang at Rasmussen Bike Shop. Always supportive, always friendly, and they have handled my parts requests and questions time and time again this year. I'm incredibly grateful for their continued support, and proud to wear their logo on my back. If you need mechanical work done, a bike fit. or a bike or bike parts, these are the guys to see in central Iowa.

Cindy McGuire at Hands on Sports Massage. I've been a customer of Hands On Sports Massage and Cindy since my first Dirty Kanza 200 5 years ago. Cindy is an active multisport athlete who takes the time know her clients, their training schedules, and how their bodies react to the stresses of training and racing. Cindy has done a great job of keeping me injury free, physically and mentally, this year. If you need sports or injury recovery massage of any type, I highly recommend paying her a visit.

Rob Versteegh at Oakley has been a constance source of support and positive words throughout the past few months. He also keeps all of the local shops and riders supplied with the best eyewear on the planet. I'm very lucky and really happy to be using a pair of Oakley Radar Lock Path eyewear for TransIowa this weekend.

A special thanks to Scot Hoffman, whom I've known, lived with or worked with since 1988. Scot has volunteered to be support crew for me, and two visitors from the UK this weekend. Hopefully this involves nothing more than chauffeuring us to the start, and picking us up from the finish line. Scot went with me to Kansas three years ago during my only unsuccessful attempt at finishing the DK, and it was great having him around for support that weekend. Thanks for giving up your weekend to hang out in Grinnell with us Scot.

Guitar Ted, and all of the volunteers. We wouldn't be out wandering around this weekend if it wasn't for GT. He puts a lot of time, energy, and thought into the route each year to make it challenging and interesting for the riders. I can't thank him enough for doing it again this year. The volunteers at each of the checkpoints make his job a little easier by keeping track of us, handing us cue sheets, and letting him know when people are finished. They have all given up one or more weekends so we can have fun. Thanks to all of them for helping us have fun as well.

Last, but not least, thank you to all of my friends in the Des Moines and IA bike communities for your support this year. Whether it's been a kind word, a suggestion, or coming out and suffering with me for a ride, it's made this entire experience much more enjoyable for me. I am looking forward to some warmer weather soon so we can turn the pedals with a little less anger, while in search of a frosty beverage. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

State of Instability

I started my last build period for TI this week. Much of the confidence I had in my progress has been slowly replaced by shreds of doubt. A tough workout on Thursday left my legs feeling crushed just following my wife on the bike trails on Friday evening. Today's 5 hour ride was barely longer than yesterday's 4 hour ride. Yes, the wind was a lot stronger and there was more climbing today, but any thing other than steady state efforts really felt like crawling. In absence of any power data TrainingPeaks tells me it was a recovery effort based on my HR. It certainly didn't feel like it. It might be time to quit looking at the numbers.  I'm nervous about not having had any truly big, century plus long rides yet. I'm sure they are coming, but I'm fearing them instead of looking forward to them.

I put the La Cruz in race mode this weekend, mounting the Schwalbe 40c tires, my Schmidt dyno hub, and light, along with a medium sized seatbag for holding a rain coat, some spare clothes, and other things. The bike is heavy and feels like a pig compared to what it was, so I'm rethinking a number of things on that front as well.  

A month out and too many things are unsettled or not right. Not really where I wanted to be at this point.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


A month+ since my last posting. There hasn't been a lot to talk about, thus the lack of posts. Come home from work, hit the trainer for an hour or two and then eat. That, and some longer rides on the weekends have been one of the constants in my life the last month. I took advantage of the warm weather a few weeks back to take my La Cruz out on a pavement ride for 4 hours or so. Ended up with 70+ miles and a beautiful ride to Ames and back. I took the HTT to Sheldahl where the trail was still covered with snow, and then jumped out on R38 and rode the bike lane on the shoulder to Ames. Sunny day, slight crosswind, and some Joe Satriani in the headphones made for a great day.

CIRREM was last weekend (Feb 23rd). We had a big dump of snow the Thursday before so I opted to strip down my Fargo and use it for the race instead of my La Cruz. I pulled the original Vulpines off of the wheels and mounted a set of Bontrager XR1's I had bought from a friend last summer. I really wanted to set them up tubeless, but I didn't want to do a tubeless conversion and test it during a race. The Bonty's do have a nice bead on them, so I know they will convert once I get the rims taped properly. CIRREM itself went pretty well. Earlier in the year I had set a fairly aggressive goal of 4 hours for the race, with a minimum of stops. With the switch to the Fargo, I considered that an extremely aggressive goal. The "neutral roll" out moved along at a 16 MPH average until we hit Adams Road. I managed to stick with the main group of riders for the first 6 miles or so. After that I needed to settle in to a pace I knew I could maintain for the rest of the race. A group of about 6 of us formed, although we were a group due to being able to see each other, rather than riding together. I was fine with that, as I really wanted to use this as a bit of a mid-prep fitness test. The big hills were slow going, but I felt like I had good power on the climbs. I never shifted down to the granny on any climb and didn't walk any hills throughout the race. I made the halfway checkpoint in just under 2 hours. I slowed down long enough to hear my number called and then kept moving as I had enough fuel on my bike to get me through the race. The second half of the race hillier than I had remembered, but it consisted of mostly long grinders with some small kicks at the end. I rode a solid pace for the second half of the course, and didn't worry about what anyone else was doing. While stopped at mile 40 to swap a bottle and stretch a bit, I was passed by Dee Mable and three other riders that made up her protective cocoon. Not soon after, Abbie Durkee came along by herself chasing Dee down. Abbie would end up catching Dee, but losing her after taking a wrong turn. Dee won the women's race by a minute. I struggled a bit more than I was expected for the last 10 - 15 miles of the race. I'd ridden hard for the last 3 hours or so and pairing that effort with sub-optimal food intake didn't make for a good experience. I ended up finishing with a time of 4 hours and 22 minutes, which was good for 40th overall. I followed that up with another 3.5 hours and about 45 miles of paved trail riding on the Fargo the next day just to let me body know that I wasn't done with it yet.

Other than that, I've been following the training plan that's being laid out for me. Longer rides are starting to become a regular occurrence. Now that the days are longer, and the weather is getting warmer, I'm looking forward to getting outside and spending less time in my basement, tied to the gopher wheel. 4 and 5 hour endurance paced rides on tap this weekend. Will try and do both of those on the La Cruz rather than the Fargo. I need to start spending more time on the race bike and getting it dialed in.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Paying my dues

Miles, hours, and quarts of sweat continue to pile up as I end the first month of my prep for TransIowa. I've been putting in between 10 and 12 hours a week on average this month, almost all of it on my Tacx trainer, other than a couple of outdoor rides when the weather was decent, as well as the Triple D Adventure race last weekend in Dubuque.

I wasn't really too concerned with Triple D this year for some reason. Not sure if it was due to the weather, or just more confidence in my fitness levels. The one thing that I was not prepared for was all of the ice that covered the course due to the unseasonably warm temps the day before the race. I felt really good physically coming into Dyersville, but I was absolutely petrified by the thought of having an accident on the ice somewhere on the course. I already had a couple of close calls on the way out, one of which almost took out my friend Guitar Ted. Plenty of other riders were able to break through their fear and just turn loose, some on cross bikes, but I was among their ranks. The chance of not showing up in Grinnell in April due to a broken wrist or collarbone wasn't worth the risk to me this year. I still ended up with a good hard 30 mile training ride across a bunch of new terrain, and I got to spend some time with friends during the weekend, so it was far from a loss. Standing around drinking water and the occasional soda while everyone else was drinking beer was an interesting twist to the weekend. My self imposed alcohol fast lasted until this weekend, when I allowed myself one beer during a friend's birthday outing. I have to admit it tasted quite good, and I'll be happy to have a few more once TI is done. 

From a fitness standpoint, I think things are sitting good right now. I'm started to get in some longer rides this weekend, albeit on the trainer. Saturday was a bit rough, maybe due to the Tacx course I chose. Today was a lot better, again maybe due to the course I chose, but I really felt like I was riding outside of my body today. I had no issues with generating power, unlike yesterday. *Shrug* The human body is a weird thing sometimes.

I'm still thinking over light setups for TI. I have been giving serious thought to moving my Schmidt hub over the the La Cruz and going with a dyno light instead of using my Dinotte battery powered lights, figuring that not having worry about battery charge or carrying the batteries would be nice. A couple of people that I trust seemed to think that might backfire on me, figuring that I would pay more than I expected for the extra watts of resistance. I'm still not sure, and I'm happy to take any suggestions or opinions into account. 

Mileage for this month is going to be well into the 800's. *shaking head*

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Trainer time

Two hours of tempo was on tap today. With the temps dropping steadily throughout the day, I decided to use this evening's workout to test out the Real Video portion of my Tacx Bushido trainer. In a nutshell, you load up a course, tell the trainer to use that, and it displays a filmed video of the course and adjusts the trainers resistance based on the course topography. I loaded the The Dordogne course, which is an easy 75km course through the French countryside and set out to pedal for a while. While the overall course profile was rolling, there were plenty of sections of 4 - 7% for short periods that made me get out of the saddle and change gears. I was amazed at how quickly the two hours went. Watching the video (on a big LCD TV), keeping an eye on my wattage, and adjusting to the terrain really made it seem like I was riding (or as close as I was going to get in my basement) It's hard to say this, but if I'm not actually looking forward to using the trainer a bit more this winter, I'm at least not fearing a couple of hours on it if weather dictates. Summary - 2:04:13 at an average power output of 202 watts.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Turnin' the cranks

Gave up on the idea of completing the Festive 500. Too damn cold and just too many thing scheduled at the wrong times to get the miles in. More crushing of the legs has ensued through New Years Day via the Salsa Mukluk.

I rode from my house down to Rasmussen's on the 27th and then met up with some folks for a forward and back through Denmans, plus some trail packing in Squirrels nest and a climb up to the top of Hillside. I rode back to the shop to warm up before limping down to Mullets for dinner with my lovely wife. The week had caught up to me by that point, so I sent the bike home and arranged for a ride back from El Bait shop where we were saying good-bye to Sean Noonan before he shipped off for basic training. 24 miles for the day.

I took Friday off for some family stuff and then met some people over at Sycamore for some more fatbiking. Good times, some hard riding, and introduced my friend Lacey to riding fatbikes in the snow. She was a trooper the whole day, despite us taking her on a trailbusting expedition on Sycamore's south side. She was wiped by the time we got back to the north end, and I'm happy she decided to not run me over with her truck as payback on the way out of the parking lot. 14.5 miles for the day.

Sunday the 30th was warm, but I had scheduled a movie watching day, so no riding. Our small group of 4 watched Truth in 24 and Senna, both excellent documentaries. I made a couple of pots of chicken noodle soup, and others brought stromboli and some prosciutto wrapped pears for food.

New Year's Day meant skipping the Nth Degree ride and meeting up with mates at 9 AM for another lap of Sycamore. I think the temp was somewhere around -1 or 0 when we started out and it had barely climbed into the + range by the time we were done at 11:00 or so. As soon as I got on the bike I could tell it was going to be a bad day. No snap to the legs, bike felt weird and I just could not push the pace very hard, despite the well packed trail. I opted to just sit in and enjoy the day, even if it meant riding by myself for a good part of the time. We had a couple of guys that suffered some tire issues, but nothing major. A LOT of guys out on fatbikes that morning. We had 6 or 7 in our group and we ran into four others at various points on the trail. Another 14.5 in the books, despite the frigid temps.

Tonight, I settled back into training mode for TIV9. An hour and ten minutes on the trainer riding tempo, along with some one legged pedaling drills and some cadence ladders to break things up a bit. Legs are feeling a little tired, but that feeling will pass as the hours start adding up over the weeks. I upgraded from a standard magnetic trainer to a Tacx Bushido this summer, so I have power to train with as well as heart rate. It will be interesting to see how that works out as the sessions progress this winter. Tomrrow's workout is supposed to be two hours of tempo, so I might take the opportunity to try out some of the VR or video features of the software.