Thursday, January 22, 2015

62 Miles of Mud and Snowpack

Triple D 2015
Mostly mud.

Utah Steve, PhD and I drove down to Dubuque on Saturday for the eighth running of the Triple D Winter Race. The weather had been warm, and the worry was that we'd be riding 62 miles of mashed potatoes. Turned out on the pre-ride that most of the snow was gone, but thankfully the ground was still frozen. We also attended the pre-race the night before and got some valuable insight into the course. Had dinner at an Italian place downtown and turned in for a long but somewhat restless night's sleep.
(Utah Steve and I at the start, photo courtesy of Utah Steve)

It was just below freezing and sunny at the start. race director Lance had wanted to say a few words, but the natives were restless and a couple of long-time vets sounded the rollout gun at 10:00 sharp. We were supposed to stage and sort into groups by speed at the actual start line, but the field just took off.

The ground was frozen and the trail pretty fast through the first couple miles of singletrack. Even the water crossings and farm fields didn't slow us down much. In the time since last year's race, I had adopted a more conservative and aerobic training style, but at this stage I was mostly ignoring my heart rate alarm—not burning all the matches, but definitely putting my shoulder to the proverbial wheel. The arm warmers, beanie and gloves came off, and I rode the rest of the race with my jacket unzipped.

(yours truly, rocking a cornfield, photo courtesy of Rob McK)

Tough climbs were to be had between the fun downhills, and the Humke B road (but really ice and rock chute, complete with downed tree blocking the main line) did not disappoint. We found a cold west wind up in the highlands, so the gloves went back on. I hit the Heritage trail before noon and grouped up with a couple guys. Drafting on the now-wet trail, we rolled into Chad's looking like Roubaix riders at about 13:30.

Fifteen minutes was longer than I had wanted to stay, but it was busy and I wanted to stick with newfound company Duane. Refilled water, crotch creamed, ate a little, and were well out of Dyersville before 14:00. It was still sunny and the trail was pretty soft all the way to the Holy Cross tunnel, where we found a few substantial, fast stretches of hard-packed snow.

Duane was good company and we rolled along not stopping much and picking up a few places as the trail continued downhill. We caught up to his pal Drew and became 3 for a while before getting another pulse of energy. The checkpoint in Durango had a lot of bikes out front, and Duane decided it was time to change his sweat-soaked base layer. He was cold enough, and his hands weak enough from his handlebars' bad ergonomics that I had to help him zip up his jacket. Riding again, he was chilled at first but warmed back up quickly.

We finished off Heritage and turned onto the Dubuque bike path along the Northwest Arterial, uphill and into the wind and setting sun. Pavement, road, grass, ditch, pavement and then onto the final section of singletrack before the gentleman's finish line. The course markings in the last section were really sparse, and Duane said he would have gotten lost repeatedly had he been by himself.

We cleaned the last few creek crossings and mucky hills, crossing the railroad tracks just a couple minutes before a long Norfolk Western freight rolled through. Ever the gentleman, Duane ceded me a place, I guess for serving as tour guide. We humped it back up to the hotel and put our names on the list at 16:58 for 32nd and 33rd places, respectively.

Tyler U. from Madison won it, Utah Steve, PhD took fifth, and Nick took 18th—so Wisco represented. There was some confusion about the final leg of the course (not surprising, given some ambiguity at the pre-race and less than ideal marking) and a bit of a dispute about the top placements.

The bikes and our clothes were well and truly a mess, covered in limestone from the Heritage trail. We left a trail of it in Chad's and back at the hotel. We ended up not taking our bikes inside and just locked them up on the hitch rack for the overnight.

So overall, a success for me. Not great time or placement, but I felt good for the vast majority of the race and recovered quickly afterward.

Now, a couple of weeks off before training commences for the Race That Shall Not Be Named.

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