Sunday, May 26, 2013

Riding Down Sweet Rd.

Sweet Rd

Asparagus Picking

         I have just been riding around, enjoying the weather.  I haven' t been doing many long rides lately just shorter hard ones, more frequently.  Trying to get some speed back in my legs, preparing for trans iowa required slow endurance muscles.  Now I need my sprinting legs back for the WemSeries.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nice Warm Weather!

This rocky, rooty, and washed out hill used to be impossible two years ago, now its easy.  Does that mean I need a single speed?

The cold has finally broken and I have been enjoying it!  I haven't made any new blog posts lately because I've been out riding instead of writing.  I had to skip out on the first WEMS race because my legs were still pretty fried.  The next round is June 8th at Stump Farm in Suamico, WI, and I plan on attending.  I'm really looking forward to the WEMS series this year especially the Southern Kettles race, because that is where I do much of my training.

I may also be doing the Gravel Metric in Dekalb, IL in a couple weeks.  After that is my annual tradition the Harvard Milk Run.  Also the Run For Randy in Spring Grove, IL.  

Summer is here and its getting busy, FINALLY!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What attracts you to cycling?

Today someone asked me "what attracts you to cycling?"  

           I would have to say its the adventure.  In the winter of last year I decided I was going to try my hand at the long course solo male class at the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain bike Series(WEMS).  I didn't really know how hard it was going to be or what was going to happen during those races, but I knew it was something I wanted to do.
           In my first WEMS race I pretty much failed, I went out hard and ran out of energy fast.  A lack of training and knowledge of nutrition caused me to spend much of the race on the side of the trail with my head down.  Toward the end of that race, when I was feeling my worst, I decided to quit.  I came into the pits, sat down, ate some food, went to check the results....  and that is when it happened.  I saw that if I went back out and did one more 10 mile lap I would move from 12th to 10th place.  That last lap was one of my slowest of the day, but I knew all I had to do was complete it and I would beat two more guys.  I ended up only doing 80 miles out of  a 100 mile race, but I came in 10th.  I was hooked.
           With these races I can push my self harder than I have ever imagined.  I would have never thought that I would go from finishing short of a 100 miles, to riding 28 hours straight in TransIowa.  It makes me wonder how far I can go, and where my bike will take me.  I still feel like I am improving so if I keep at it who knows where the limit is.
           The adventure is what gets makes me keep going.  I was riding to work the other day, and as the sun was rising over the horizon I thought to myself, "I could just ride all day long." Yeah my legs were still sore from Trans Iowa and my butt was hurting from not being healed yet, but that is just pain.  When I look back at the 28 hours of Trans Iowa I don't remember my abs screaming or my legs exploding with pain, I remember how much fun it was to get to the first check point.  Then the second checkpoint, then ride through the night and see the sun rise.  Then finally reach the finish.  That's what attracts me to cycling.

-David Swanson

Friday, May 3, 2013

Trans Iowa the Part 3

The night

The gravel roads make it hard to hold a camera steady
            I made the second checkpoint around 5, I'm not exactly sure on the time but it was well before the 9:45 cut off time.  I rode from the checkpoint until 10pm alone it was nice for awhile to be able to just ride my own pace but I really wasn't looking forward to riding all night by myself with nothing to look at but my lights in front of me.  Luckily a group of two guys and a girl from Lincoln, caught up to me.  It was nice to have company for the night.

            We rode all night long fighting to stay awake and 90 miles after the checkpoint was supposed to be a gas station.  We made it to a town at 90 miles and saw only a closed gas station… we started to get worried.  We had 60 miles to go still and we were getting cold, hungry, and my bottles were empty.  Luckily someone noticed 24 hour convenience store another 15 miles down the route.  We kept on trucking.  We were about 7 miles away and you could see it lit up like an airport.  We kept zig zagging down different roads slowly making our way toward it while following the race course and finally made it.  It was a truck stop on the side of the highway, I had a breakfast burrito and it was amazing!  So I bought another burrito and a gallon of water.  Half way through the second burrito a large group of riders pulled in, so I tossed my half eaten burrito and gunned it to the finish.  I was worried one of these guys that I kept behind me for the last 24 hours might try to sneak by.

            The day before I had planned on finishing around 10-11am, but the rate I was riding put me at the finish line at 8 am.  I knew Christina wouldn't be expecting me that early so I was hopeful she would be there anyway.  I know she wanted to see me finish.

The finish

            The last 40 miles to the finish were very hilly with lots of fresh gravel but I was motivated by knowing all the guys behind me were still there.  I kept looking back thinking someone was coming but no one ever did.  I followed the course into Grinnell, Iowa, past our hotel and back out of town to the area of the finish line.

           I was so happy to finish that I wanted to jump for joy but I was so exhausted that even thinking of jumping for joy was a chore.  At the last corner I nearly burst into tears with happiness but luckily I was able to contain myself.  I will never be able to explain the feelings I had when I heard that I had finished 6th overall (officially 5th overall because they count ties as one position), my goal for this race was simply to finish.  And to place so well was a dream come true.  Christina luckily did get up early just in case I finished early and was able to see me finish.  I couldn't believe how many strong riders dropped out and didn’t make it.  Chris Schotz's advice had paid off, "just finish and you will have a good finish."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trans Iowa V.9 Part 2

The First Check Point

The first check point was a little less than 55 miles into the race and with 5 miles left to get there Schotz and Brunt took off.  They were still in sight, but they had a big gap.  I was jealous, but I had no reason to be riding the way they were.  They were giving it hard and only a couple hours into a 28 hour race.  But I was feeling good, and something inside me said… "Go!"  So I went!  I pushed hard and caught them.  Once I got there Chris looked back to see where everyone was and it was just me, the rest of the group was just barely in sight.  He was shocked to see me on a mountain bike keeping up with them, and said something along the lines of "atta boy" or "holy shit!" I wasn’t really listening to be honest.  I could hardly breathe!  Then as we came to town and the checkpoint, the road switched to pavement, a major disadvantage to my knobby tired mountain bike.  I refused to let them drop me, no matter what I was not falling back into the big group of riders.


I was able to hold on until the checkpoint and I felt pretty good, then all that hard work went right out the window as we grabbed our new set of directions and headed down the bike path.  The sheet said in .03 miles turn left, the three of us were .2 miles down the wrong road before we realized something wasn’t right.  "Well maybe its supposed to say .3 not .03," someone said, so we went on further.  We all were in denial about what we had just done but the fact was we messed up.  So we turned around and gunned it some more.  All that hard work and we instantly went from first second third to 20ish spots back.  Oh well its just 5 minutes out of a 28 hour race. "stay positive."

We caught back up to the group, Brunt stayed back and Chris took off.  I stuck with the group never to see either rider again.  Brunt would later run out of water and stop at someone's house to try and refill, then get attacked by the owners dog and have to pull out of the race.  Schotz kept pushing like a man possessed long into the night, leading much of the race and being the first to the second checkpoint, only to drop out at 1am from cold and dehydration with 60 miles to go.

I had a long battle with this tractor, he would pull away on long up hills then I would catch up on the down hill.  Eventually he turned.

The first gas station

Me on the other hand got to the first gas station at mile 70 and knew I had to stop and refill.  I bought two paydays, a salty nut roll, a package of sour gummy worms, 2 gatorades, and a gallon of water.  I didn't waste any time and got back on the bike asap.  The sour gummy worms didn’t go down so well but for some reason later in the night they were great.  I left that gas station with a triathlete named Nick from MN.  He was a good companion but come to find out he was just using me because he lost his directions. 


Later in the afternoon he and I came to the second gas stop and he had the great idea to go to the grocery store instead of the gas station.  That ended up being an awesome idea because the grocery store had a restaurant inside.  He ordered one hot dog, while I ordered a burger and fries.  We sat down for about 15 minutes and caught our breath and stuffed our stomachs.


Later that night I made a quick stop at another grocery store to fill up for the long night ahead.  Also at the store was the winner of the female category.  Her diet was a little different than mine, she ate cinnamon rolls, a pepsi and two 5 hour energys.  She bought two more 5 hour energy for her back pocket.  I was pretty sure she would have a heart attack with all that energy but I was wrong as she ended up beating me by almost an hour and a half.  I ate some more junk food and packed my pockets with snacks.

The local Iowan

Just before dark I pulled off to the side of the road to get my lights ready, add more diaper rash ointment, and put my jacket on.  While I was stopped a large pickup with a car hauler trailer on the back flew by and slammed on the brakes.  They started to back up toward me so I rode up to see "what's up". 

Iowan: You need some help?
Me:      No I'm fine but I appreciate you stopping and checking.
Iowan: Oh you looked broke down, What are you doing anyway? Getting ready for RAGBRAI?
Me:  No, We are racing back to Grinnell.
Iowan: Grinnell? That’s like two hours by car from here.
Me:  Yeah it'll be a long night.
Iowan:  Well you must be doing pretty good because there are about 20 riders back in town and I aint seen no one since we left town till I saw you.
Me:  Well that’s good news
Iowan:  Yeah, But I think those riders are gay!
Me:  Probably, I mean they are all running around in tights like a bunch of those damn football players. (This obviously upset the local Iowan)
Iowan:  Yeah, well I think I'll stick to my four wheeler.  You have a good night.
Me:  You too thanks for stopping.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Trans Iowa v9 part 1

I wanted to get the whole race into one post, but the problem with a 28 hour race is that now I have 28 hours worth of stories.  So, in order to keep you from getting bored and allow me more time to write, I am making it into a series.  Here is part 1...

The Meat up

Got to the pre race meeting Friday night, at the grinnell steakhouse feeling really anxious and antsy.  I was worried about my bike weighing a ton and if I had packed everything.  Then when I went to sign up, my name wasn't on the list… I signed up I swear!  I know I'm on the roster!  Then a familiar voice came from behind "yep thats definitely Dave Swanson."  It was Chris Schotz  a Wisconsin native and Wisconsin Endurance Mountain-bike Series Champ.  So good to see him, we ate dinner with Chris and he offered his experience from finishing 3rd in this race the year before.  His calmness and confidence wore off on me and I went back to the hotel feeling good about what was to come.

The Start

The start of the race was 4am sharp and the starting line about 5 minutes drive from the hotel.  I set my alarm for 330 and set everything out so I could be ready quickly.  Woke up ate a bowl of corn flakes and hit the door.  Got to the starting line as Guitar Ted (promoter) was on the speaker saying something about roads being closed but go through them anyway.   I lined up in back and just waited.  Before I knew it we were off, I slowly zigzagged through the pack of riders and wanted to find some guys that were going the same pace that I wanted to ride.  I saw Ari, then his friend K, then a little further up I saw Jay he was very worried that everyone was making a wrong turn.  I confirmed to him that it was in fact left on 20th street or something like that and then kept going.

Before I even realized it I was up in the lead group.  Schotz was up front blocking the wind and everyone was tucked in behind him.  He was riding like a crazy person, accelerating on the climbs, with his rear tire spitting out rocks with every pedal stroke.  I thought about telling him to calm down, but he has been racing a long time and knew what he was doing.  Unfortunately for him there were some very strong riders hiding in the pack a few guys back, resting and waiting.  Anytime Chris would get a 30 yard gap or more Eric Brunt would fly from somewhere in the back and instantly be on Chris just in case he was getting a gap.  Then the group would pull the two back in.

It was wild riding up front with these guys.  They are far stronger riders than myself and I had a front row seat at the different race tactics they were using.  Most of these guys were also on cross bikes, where I instead was on a mountain bike.  Which in most cases would be a disadvantage but with the condition of  the roads it made a huge advantage for me.  On the down hills the skinny tired cross bikes could hardly hold a straight line and would often catch a rut, causing them to shoot across the road into the other lane or toward the ditch.  With my mountain bike I was able to just lean back and pedal hard down the hills often passing the whole group, then I would coast half way up the next hill and everyone would catch up while pushing hard up the hill and me coasting.  In one long stretch of rolling hills this tactic actually let me pull away and I led the race for a mile or so.  I didn't really want to push that hard, but I also wanted to be able to say that "I led Trans Iowa!"

Next up... Getting lost after the first checkpoint.