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.


Kate Geisen said...

That dog bite thing...yikes. We've come across some super aggressive dogs riding in Mid-MO, but so far all bark no bite. I'm also lucky in that the guys I ride with typically get between me and any dogs. Glad you were ok after. Scary.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

The dog just had an empty stomach... and then it got a little Fuller. ;-)

(The sad thing is, I thought of that joke several days ago and was just waiting for you to post this portion of the ride report so I could use it.)

Steve Fuller said...

Jason - Ouch. I'm glad you waited ;)

Mauricio Babilonia said...

You're a mensch, continuing on with a dog bite...I think that would have ended my day.