Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Trans Iowa V11

My 330 mile setup

                On the drive out to Iowa we had some pretty bad rainstorms, and I was pretty concerned about my setup as far as clothing goes.  15 miles from Grinnell I decided to pull over and ride to town while Christina drove, this way I could check out my rain gear in the rain and see how the gravel was holding up.

Turns out the roads were bad, really bad in fact.  Bad enough that I really didn’t feel like riding them anymore, and decided to hop on the black top instead.  About 30 yards into the black top, while all the mud was flying off the tires, something went wrong with my drivetrain.  The chain got sucked into the spokes, causing a predictable trend of bad things.  Ruined drive side spokes, pretzeled chain and pieces of derailleur were all that was left.  So I called Christina told her to cancel the hotel and come get me, she said she would come get me and we can decide about the hotel later.  She knows I get really antsy in the time before races, especially this one, so she didn’t take my upset throw in the towel attitude too seriously.

My Pouty Face
                While waiting for my ride, I quickly realized how much I underestimated the cold.  38 degrees and rain is no joke. I wish I hadn’t broken all those parts, but I am still thankful I went for that little ride; it showed me I needed to pack some extra layers for the race.  I hid from the wind behind a hay bale. 

                We drove straight to the bike shop and hoped for the best, and thankfully Bikes to You was able to save my day.  The All City does not have a replaceable dropout so I was worried we wouldn’t be able to bend it back without breaking it, but everything worked out.  He straightened the hanger, put on a new chain and derailleur, and trued the wheel.  I will still need to get those spokes replaced, but at least I was back on the road. I would also like to mention that he set everything in the stand and I didn’t have to make a single adjustment since. Now that’s impressive.

Photo from
          With that all figured out, it was time to head to the Meat Up and get signed in. We met up with Chris Schotz and Polly for dinner. It is nice to gather everyone up like that so we can all hang out in a somewhat relaxed setting, even though none of us are really relaxed.  Especially when we saw what was forecasted in the weather. After the pre-race meeting we headed back to the hotel to get everything settled for the next morning.

Usually I don’t have a problem sleeping before races, but hearing the rain coming down made for a pretty restless night.  I was so relieved to open the window in the morning and see the parking lot dry. Forecast said 35% chance of rain at 5am, so at least we would have a dry start.  The wind was coming from the East and since we had been given our cue sheets (directions) the night before, we knew the first 50 miles would be primarily head winds. 

                We left town with a lead off from Guitar Ted in his truck, once we hit the gravel it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We formed a lead group that was about 15 guys, then that group started to get smaller as guys dropped off.  It started to rain a bit so on one of the short tail wind sections I cranked it up and got out front a ways, then pulled over to put on my jacket.  I got back in with group, roughly 5 guys at this point, and we headed into the wind and rain for a particularly hard long stretch. We could see lightning around us and at that point I basically shut the brain off and just went with it.  It was a pretty horrible experience but there was nothing to do about it other than just go.

We stayed as a group for the whole stretch, but once we turned right and had a cross wind, the group fell apart completely. That was about mile 25; from there it was some hills, rain, wind, and quickly deteriorating roads.

Photo by Jason Boucher

                I never bothered to find out what time the cutoffs were for each checkpoint, because honestly I never thought I would need to know. I never would have guessed that I wouldn’t make it to the first checkpoint in time.  I assumed that if I maintained better than a 10 mph average, I would be fine.  I was wrong; to get to checkpoint 1 on time I would need a 12 mph average. I am sure you are thinking “you couldn’t keep a 12 mph average? What kinda bike rider are you?” The truth is though that on the good roads I could do 12-14 mph into the wind, but on the bad roads I had to walk.  Spend an hour walking at 2 mph and all of the sudden you are not averaging a very good speed anymore.  Riding on the bad roads was even slower than walking, the mud packs on so thick that your tire just stops turning.

Photo by Jason Boucher

                I got to the checkpoint with better than a 10 mph average, but it was not enough. I was cut off, along with every other rider, except for one. The one rider that made it through checkpoint 1 continued on toward checkpoint 2, but pulled the plug later in the day when he realized he would not make it in time. No finishers and the shortest Trans Iowa to date.

                So at least I am in shape for the rest of the season!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grumpy Grind Photos

Photo by Fred Johnson

SS 29er

So after riding Ragnarok up in Minnesota, I drove straight home. I went to bed, woke up early, and drove out to Milledgeville, IL for the Grumpy Grind. It is another gravel race, 80 miles in the Northwest of the state.   The hills were much smaller than Minnesota, which was nice, but the wind was a big factor.

Out to the check point at mile 37 we were primarily against the wind.  I found that with the single speed geared pretty low, it was not too bad.  I was able to get in a group and grind, but once we turned and had a tailwind the group left me.  My top speed on a flat was 20 mph, if I were on a bike with shifters I would have clicked up and cruised back in at 30 mph no problem. That was not the case though, so I just cruised along for a couple hours with a strong tailwind and an easy ride.

Then we turned back into the wind for the last 15 miles or so, luckily the hills got bigger as well toward the end and blocked some wind.

The Grumpy Grind is a very well put on event, with many volunteers.  I was really impressed with how well the race was ran.  The que sheets were the most accurate I have ever used, typically I take a wrong turn and mess up my mileage, but not that day.  The pulled pork was an awesome treat at the end!

David S

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ragnarok 105 Report

"Don't dress warm, there are lots of hills."

Thats what I heard at sign in on Friday night. I grabbed a beer from the Red Wing Brewery, which was so nice. I hung out for a little while then headed to a "real" grocery store.  You know, the ones that aren't walmart and have 3 checking lanes with only one person working. I was so excited I had to text someone to tell them I was at a "real" grocery store!

The race went really well, except for the flat tire at mile 10.  Oh and taking a wrong turn at mile 20.  Other than that I killed it!

When I finished Ragnarok, I tried to remember a tougher race of 105 miles. I honestly can't think of one. Sure some 12 hour single track mountain bike races are tougher, but those are short laps over and over. I am talking over 100 miles of never seen before roads and trails. There are races like Trans Iowa that are tougher because of distance and time. As far as linking together 100 miles of the toughest terrain possible, I believe Ragnarok takes the cake.

It was a fantastic spring training ride, I wish I could ride those hills on a regular basis. It was windy and I hate wind, but I could hardly notice the wind with the protection of the hills.

It is Wednesday now, and I am really missing Minnesota.  I cannot wait to revisit in May for Almanzo.

-David S