I left the wife and child behind at the homestead, loaded up the CRV and headed out into the darkness Saturday night. My destination, Dubuque, IA for the Triple D race. I had wanted to attempt this last year but didn't feel I was prepared enough. This year I had spent quite a bit of time tweaking gear, clothing, riding position and anything else that might effect my chances of finishing. That and my ever faithful Gumby challenged me to it so there was no way I was backing out. The wind on the way to Iowa was insane. At one point, I pulled over in Rockford, to take my pugsley off the rack on the rear of my car to throw it in the back. I was afraid the wind would tear it off. Driving 70mph straight into 30+mph winds at night is always fun.
I arrived in Dubuque around 11 to howling winds and bitter cold temps. Unloading my bags and bike from the car without freezing was a challenge. I got everything into my room and spent the next few hours obsessing over everything I was going to wear, carry with me and figuring out how to pack it all. I now feel like I slightly understand the obsession that goes into packing for Trans Iowa. At the last moment, I chose to leave my tube, levers and pump behind. The Surly Toob is pretty heavy and I didn't think I would want to attempt inflating one of those with a hand pump. Besides, if I flat I have my cell phone with me and can call for SAG right?
Sunday morning dawned clear and cold. If you've never been to Dubuque or anywhere along the Illinois/Iowa border it is HILLY. After the pre-race final details meeting given by Lance Andre we all congregated in the parking lot until it was time to roll out. Due to the lack of snow, we had to take some paved roads to the start of the race but it was nice getting to see that many fatbikes rumbling down the road. At the bottom of a paved hill the route abruptly turned off road and the race was on. Lance, you are one sadistic bastard. 50 feet from the start, there's a creek crossing, 50 feet after that, is a monster hill. One of my decisions during the past few weeks was to run platform pedals and hiking boots instead of cycling shoes. This decision proved to be a fantastic one as I had almost no problem dragging my bike up that hill. And considering how much walking I did that day, I am very happy with my decision. Others that I made...not so much. So anyway, considering I was in this for the long haul, I made the early decision not to push too hard. If the hill was "holy shit" steep I chose to walk it. Most of the others around me were doing the same so I didn't feel too bad about it. I stopped every now and then to snap a photo with my phone, take a swig from a bottle (or flask) and admire the scenery. There was pavement, hills, grass, hills, corn fields, hills, some snow (it was on hills) and all sorts of fun things to pedal on. Eventually I caught up with a couple of guys (sorry I can't remember your names) and we rode together for a while. Some of the descents were amazing, all of them were fun. Most of the larger climbs had me sucking lungfulls of wind (the ones with the manure spreader upwind were hilarious) or walking the really slippery ones. I stopped at the bottom of one descent to pick up a waterbottle someone had dropped. It went in my jacket pocket. Later in the day, I found a set of sunglasses and those also went in my pocket. I even gave out a few of my zipties to someone with a broken hydration pack. I always carry stuff like that just in case.
At one point, I was bombing down a hill with a little bump at the bottom, I cleared it no problem and heard one of the guys behind me shouting. I stopped to find that the mount for my Topeak dynapack had snapped due (probably) to the cold and the ever present bumping and jostling on the bike. There was no repairing it, so using my handy-dandy Surly junk strap, I lashed it to the aero bars on the front of my bike and took off again. Now as most people will realize, I have just moved weight from the back of the bike to the far front of it. Which meant the next time I attempted to surmount one of those snowmobile bridges over a fence, my front wheel didn't want to lift and down I went....fall 1 for the day. Eventually I climbed out of this section to find a car at the top of the hill. He asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. I asked if he was heading back to the hotel and could he take some stuff. After transferring stuff out of the tailbag and into my framebag and pockets, I headed down the next hill to the heritage trail. I was looking forward to this part due to the fact that I had run fairly high pressure in my tires to make this section as smooth as possible. Unfortunately due to the weather the previous day being 45 degrees and today it was 20 before the wind chill, the trail was covered in large sections of patchy glare ice. So my hope of settling into a rhythm for the next ten miles and making up some time wasn't going to happen. I try to avoid ice as much as possible and in this case it wasn't always an option so cue fall #2. After that one, I got back on the bike and as I was pedaling started to notice my handling was "squishy". Remember that tube and pump sitting in my nice warm hotelroom? Yup, I had a flat.
I walked to the next road crossing and pulled out my phone. As I was doing this, a rider came by and asked if I needed a hand. I explained my situation and he asked if I was willing to continue on. I realized I was only about 10 miles from Dyersville and admitted I was determined to make it at least there. He handed me a patched tube, a lever, and a pump before heading off. So I sat on the side of the trail and swapped a tube in a fatbike with a hand pump. Turns out during one of my falls, the valve had gotten pulled partway out of the tube and had started to leak. At around this point, Gumby caught back up with me and we decided to ride together for a while.
I had seen a few riders pass me heading the other way, so I knew I was way behind. Each time someone came up, they shouted encouragement. I love fatbike events. It's like slower cross races with more drinking. So at some point I remember crossing a river with no (or not completed yet) bridge and falling a 3rd time heading back up to the path. Unfortunately I tend to not spread out the pain so I had fallen on my left knee and wrist each time. Also somewhere along this time I pulled out my phone to take another picture and it was powered off. Strange. Push power button. There is a brief period of activity then off. Uh oh. Phone is dead. It had been trying to upload photos to my google account all day and had killed my battery.
Eventually Gumby and I saw a person up ahead of us walking in the same direction we were travelling! We caught up to Peter and he said he was turning back for Dyersville. He had fallen one too many times and had a rather large melon growing out of his hip. We rode with him back to Dyersville, through the now constant headwind and slight uphill. Pulling into Dyersville all I could think of was hot food and Chad's Pizza didn't disappoint. Peter and I had pulled away from Gumby earlier and he arrived a few minutes later. Between the two of us, I think we demolished a couple of pizzas and a chicken or two. Also a few bowls of chili. So at that point we started thinking about the return trip. I went through my stuff and realized a few things.
1) I had no tube, pump or levers (I had given them back to the rider when I got to Dyersville)
2) I had transferred my headlight from my tailbag, but not the mount for it.
3) I only had a headlamp for illumination.
4) It had taken 5.5 hours to get to Dyersville. I signed in right around 3:30.
5) It was going to start getting dark in about 15 minutes.
6) The temperature was dropping.
7) My phone was dead.
8) I had 12 miles of that damn glare ice covered trail to go back on, this time downhill and with a tailwind (normally a good thing but not with the ice)
9) My knee was starting to hurt pretty good.So I reluctantly made the decision to hitch a ride with Gumby as his wife was coming to get him. My legs felt good, I was staying fairly warm (Thanks GORE Bike Wear), and with a full stomach, I had fuel for hours but I felt the risks outweighed the rewards. I like to think if not for the phone, I would have continued on. We loaded our bikes (and Peter's) into the Gumby-mobile and headed back to Dubuque. We found out the lead rider had finished an hour before we got to Dyersville.
So that water bottle I picked up. It was Peter's. He had a OTB moment during one of the descents and had a yard sale. I told him he could find it at the registration desk when we got back. As for the sunglasses I turned those in as well and someone was very happy to get them back. I did get my Topeak bag back and they were nice enough to send me out a new mount for free.
So what worked?
My Farm & Fleet $10 barmitts were flawless.
Boots with 2 pairs of socks and plastic platform pedals were wonderful.
Clothing choices worked perfectly. I was comfortable all day even while walking.
Fitness. I was happy with how I felt most of the day.
Topeak bag mount. I think for a winter race or even a bumpy one, a hard mount for a bag is a bad idea. I have a few products from Revelate Designs and I think a Pika would be a better fit.
Velcro adhesive. On long rides I like to carry music with me. I had used industrial velcro to attach a small speaker to the top of my Revelate gastank. In the cold, the adhesive gave way and I had to make a grab for the speaker once. Someday I will figure out a better way of carrying that thing.
Aero Bars - good idea, but if you have gloves that are comfortable in your bar mitts, your hands freeze as soon as they get out into the wind. They were useful as a place to lash stuff though.
Bike Computer: Almost totally useless. A garmin is a much better idea.Things I would change for next year:
Studded tires. Dillingers are expensive but I would have given vital body parts for a pair. Riders that had studs said it was like riding on asphalt most of the day.
Soft bag mounts. Less chance of breakage that way.
Carry everything you think you might need.
Don't use your phone for anything except emergencies - buy a camera. Preferably a water/shock proof one.
Lighter Wheelset. From a long conversation with Lance at the end of the event, there is no reason not to run a lightweight wheelset and tubeless.
My pugsley and I didn't speak to each other for a few days after the race. We were both disappointed in how things turned out. We have made amends now and have both committed to having another go at it next year. The SFCA will return to tackle the DDD.
|1st hill - the hill 100 feet from the start.|
|bag - my bag lashed to my aero bars.|
|broken mount - the mount on my seatpost that broke|
|hotel - my hotel room as I was trying to pack|
|ice - the ice we encountered.|
|hill - the hill my mount broke on as I was coming down|
|tj - my face right before my phone battery died.|
|tj gumby - us at the start|
|The trail T.J and Gumby were on.|
|vista - some stuff we climbed and a general view|