Monday, January 24, 2011

Triple D 2011, Part the Second

Continued from Part the First.

The Journey Home
Chad's Pizza is a quaint little joint housed in an older storefront in downtown Dyersville. I walked in with a really huge beardfull of ice and asked where to sign in. I was number 7 on the sheet and put the time down as 1:47. Frank was there and (jokingly) pointed out that I had a little something on my chin. I handed over one of my water bottles (I started out with two 24-ounce insulated bottles of Accellerade) to the staff, asking for a lukewarm fill-up of water and for the location of the restroom. Answered the call again and changed into a dry base layer and added arm warmers. Said goodbye to Frank as he headed back out. I collected my water bottle, added some water to my Camelbak, and headed out myself.

Chad's Pizza
Stopping had let me cool off a bit. I went out to the bike and mixed the bottle of Accellerade from powder I had brought along (note to self: take the powder inside with you next time) and downed a Gu gel and a couple of fig bars. Then I decided that if a little bit higher tire pressure is good, then even more must be better. So I set about pumping the tires to 12 and 14 psi. This took a little while, and my fingers got pretty cold. Another strategic mistake—I lost at least 5 minutes, and my speed didn't improve except maybe on pavement.

As I rolled out onto the street, my fingers were painfully cold, bordering on numb. Passed an arriving cyclist right away, and more as I turned back onto the main highway leading back to the trail. Arriving at the trailhead, I decided that the headwind I was now encountering required the use of one of my homemade face masks. I stopped and put it on (fingers still really, really cold) and called my wife to check in.

Back on the trail, I encountered the same icy, drifty obstacles in reverse order. Passed still more cyclists headed toward Dyersville. Maybe 20 minutes out, I passed a Canadian National freight train headed in the other direction—six huge diesel locomotives pulling well over a hundred black tank cars. It's no secret that I love trains, so this was a considerable boost (you takes them where you can gets them out on the trail.)

Rolling through this section, I could have sworn I heard someone chopping wood. Just the occasional, sharp report of a splitting maul hitting a good-sized block of oak. Okay, after a couple of miles, I figured out that it was the Tyvek number bib pinned to my jacket, blowing in the wind and making a snapping sound. Sheesh.

Just as I was arriving at the Tarley Funnel, I passed Piera, the Triple D's first female finisher. I remembered to go slow on the ice in the tunnel, and was soon rolling downgrade.

Alone With My Inadequacies
Had to stop and answer the call again, meaning that my hydration plan was working like a charm. Everything seemed fine, except that my butt hurt. As soon as I got back on the bike, it was confirmed—my ass hurt like hell, and I wasn't sure exactly why. After all, I had ridden over 4000 miles this year on similar saddles without a problem. Not my sit bones really, but the inner hamstrings where they contacted the middle of the saddle. I had a couple of theories about why this was happening. First, I think I had raised my saddle a little too high way back in Epworth when I pumped up my tires the first time. Second, all of the pushing and climbing early in the race had hit some muscles that weren't properly trained for that much effort. Third, and worst of all, it could be that after all those years of faithful service, a Brooks saddle had finally turned on me.

Thoughts of dropping out crossed my mind now, and I was standing more and looking for the smoothest parts of the trail. I soon stopped and lowered the saddle a bit, which helped some. I also used my clipless pedals to great effect by pulling up on the back side of the pedal stroke, enlisting lots more help from the front group of leg muscles. I finally settled into a decent pace somewhere around 10 mph. Slower, owing to the headwind, pain, and in the 20-degree temps, slightly softer snow. In retrospect, I think I should have gone back to 10/12, or maybe even 8/10 psi tire pressure.

Heritage Trail
Fortunately, the trail got much more scenic, and the distraction helped a little more. I kept a zombie-like rhythm, standing occasionally but not stopping. Finish I kept telling myself.

I hadn't seen a soul in a long time, when I rounded a bend just before Graf and saw someone pushing a bike. I asked, at some distance, whether everything was okay, but couldn't hear the reply clearly. I rolled up and got off, walking now with one of the female bike racers. She was clearly not having a good time at that moment and told me that her ride was over and that she had called to sag out of the race. She told me her fingers were really cold and hurt and that her hand warmers weren't really helping. Deciding at that point that she was coherent and not in danger, wished her good luck and continued on. I later tried to call the sag number to confirm that she was getting a ride out, but I wouldn't get cell reception again for a long time.

The Grind
After passing Graf, I settled into a good rhythm, with my butt feeling considerably better. Somewhere between Asbury and Budd roads, I had a brief out-of-body experience, feeling like I was floating above the trail. Gonna have to chalk this one up to some sort of runner's high, and soon I began to get concerned that I had missed the mandatory checkpoint at Durango.

Heritage Trail
It's strange how much my memory had compressed the route from previous years. Sundown ski area came into view, and I thought Durango must be right around the corner. Turns out that it's almost five miles away.

During this period, the sky was pretty overcast and I decided to switch from sunglasses to clear safety glasses. Took a brief break and did just that, ate and drank a little and got back underway. I was still having a little trouble seeing clearly, and it sure looked like my contacts were getting cloudy. The weak but persistent headwind seemed to be getting the best of them, and chilling my feet and torso a bit besides.

Finally, around the next bend, Durango came into view.

Durango, Iowa
Crossed the last bridge and staggered into the Handle Bar to sign in. Traci (one of the race directors) checked me off on the list and told me I was free to go. I got back on the bike and called my wife to let her know I was about 45 minutes out.

Last Leg
The remaining bit of Heritage was pretty easy, but flat.

Last Section Before Dubuque
Passed some locals out on cross-country skis with their dogs. Rolled through the trailhead parking lot and onto a rough, narrow section to the crossing at Highway 52. It was almost dark, so I turned on my lights, but still managed to get off-trail at the crossing and onto someone's took a short detour over a really rickety-looking bridge got things back on course. Made it through the golf course parking lot and found the course directional markings to the tunnel with the last few minutes of sunlight. I was surprised how narrow the track back through the tunnel was, and not surprised later to find out that others had missed it in the dark.

Now came the absolute worst part of the race. It was twilight, I was having a difficult time seeing through my now-translucent contact lenses, my butt hurt, I was tired, my tires were inflated too much and now Ruby and I were facing mile and a quarter of the same stupid, frozen posthole moonscape from way back at the beginning of the race. I couldn't find a decent line to save my life, so I just grinned and bore it for what seemed like an eternity. Sure, I could have let air out of my tires, but I just didn't have the patience. Never thought I'd be so happy to come to a stretch of clear, dry pavement. Called my wife one last time, giving her an ETA and asking for a bottle of electrolyte water at the finish line.

The return route through Dubuque was firmly committed to memory. Cleaned it in under 15 minutes. Rolled into the hotel parking lot and waved to the spectators looking down from the second-floor windows. Met my daughter in the lobby and my wife upstairs...hugs and kisses all around.

Official time in: 5:24, for a total of 7 hours, 24 minutes out. Time elapsed on bicycle computer: 6:57 for 67 miles. Sixth place right behind another Madisonian, Frank Hassler, who finished just 5 minutes ahead of me.

In retrospect, I could have eliminated several blocks of wasted time and picked up at least one place, but that's the kind of stuff you learn in an event like this. It's intended to serve as a training ground for those looking to break into winter bike racing. I just had no idea that I was that close to Frank. Never saw him once we had parted ways in Dyersville.

Wasn't moving too fast after the race, but felt pretty good. Seems as though my food and hydration plans had worked out well. My eyes were so dry that my vision was cloudy even after I had removed my contacts. Took a long shower, ate some real people food and went down to watch other racers come in. Shot the breeze with the other snow geeks and got a medal and $20 at the award ceremony.

Heading Home in a Snowstorm
Slept pretty well that night, packed up early the next day and drove home in a snowstorm.

The End.


Anonymous said...

great job Mau!
seems like with some strategy changes you could make a podium next year!
which Brooks do you have? I've rode my flyer a lot and when everything hurts, my butt stay fine

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Thank you, Martin!

Podium? Maybe, but the leaders finished over an hour ahead of me. We'll see.

I was running a B.17...the same saddle I did both centuries and numerous 60-mile rides on this year. As good as I feel now, I think it was mainly muscle soreness during the race.

MrDaveyGie said...

Quite a write up. Great finish. Your sticktoitness is encouragement.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Thanks Dave. I'm no Charlie Farrow, but I do try to spin a yarn.

Tex69 said...

Great job and great write-up. I particularly like the wood chopping part.