Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cheese Triangle Counterclockwise

Because apparently, twice in one twelve-month period wasn't enough (and one might have thought this abomination in particular would have cured me). It was good to get the yayas out after the Trans Iowa fiasco, but I won't be doing this ride on anything less than a 2.2" tire ever again. Ever.

Picture party here.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

With a Bang and a Whimper

Driving Rain
The third time was supposed to be the charm, but the weather had other ideas.

In a nutshell, Mother Nature won this one 94-1. The course started out generally northeast, and that morning there was a 20+mph ENE wind, it was maybe 42dF and it started raining about an hour into the race. I will remember this event as 4 Hours of Drowned Rat.


Neither of my fellow Madisonians signed up for Trans Iowa the Eleventh, but my postcards went in the mail at the appointed time and I got in. My dad agreed to be my support crew, and we drove down Friday morning by way of LeClaire (with a brief visit to Antique Archeology).

The Meatup on Friday night was great. Saw quite a few people I knew, and the pre-race was a little long but lots of fun. Back in the hotel room, everything was set bike-wise, so I laid out my kit, took a shower and laid down to pretend to sleep. There was a brief thunderstorm, followed by a wind that howled and moaned at the window all night.

Got up at 02:50 and looked at the radar on my tablet. A huge pinwheel of precipitation colors spun slowly over the state, complete with what looked like an eye on the Missouri border. East winds at 15, gusting to 22.

Ate a bit and dressed, putting a rain shell over my hydration pack. Rolled out of the hotel parking lot toward downtown and had trouble getting my body to follow my plans for a big ride. It wasn't raining yet, but it was cool and the crosswind was unmistakably strong.

There were 95 of us at the start out in front of Bikes To You, and the feel was tense compared to the previous two years. My dad had driven down and we said our goodbyes just as Mark stepped up to make the final announcements. A couple of minutes later he tooted the horn and we were off.

It was a real problem finding my rhythm that morning. I was just gassed for the first five or six miles (which were directly into the jaws of that wind) and fell mostly off the back. Distant flashes of lightning added to the consternation. Eventually we turned north and then west for a bit, so I was able to rally and get the diesel started somewhere around mile ten. Right about that time, droplets of water vapor began to swirl in the beam of my headlight, and by mile twelve it had begun to drizzle. The roads were already saturated from the previous night's rain, and I found myself pushing pretty hard even on the downhills. Maybe twenty minutes later, the rain began in ernest and a couple of bright flashes of lightning lit up the landscape. I stopped briefly to eat and put on my waterproof glove shells.

North again, then west, then north, and then there it was: the cue to turn directly into that headwind for eight miles. Though not visible, the sun was up and had turned the landscape into the storm at sea scene from many an old war movie. Recently graded, this road had a pretty good surface, but still required constant attention at the tiller. No eating, no photographs, no clothing adjustments. Just pedaling, cranking up the hills and rolling like a lumber wagon down the other side, as if waiting for the cold, sodden amber to harden.

A guy with a MPLS cap was on his phone in the lee of a couple of pines, so I pulled over to have a bite and touch base. My feet were soaked at this point because my rain pants turned out to not be impermeable. The rain had also run down my sleeves and gotten my inner gloves wet. I would find out back at the hotel that my dry pair had also gotten wet inside my frame bag. Eavesdropping on Edward's phone conversation revealed that he was dropping out and arranging for a ride.

This made me admit what had been obvious for at least the last hour—I was not going to make the checkpoint within the time limit. Not even close. I thought at that point that maybe the top third of the field would make it, but found out later that only one person would make 54 miles by 08:30. I got back on the bike and started up the next hill, starting to think about where I would drop out. I sort of wanted to see the B-level (dirt) road at mile 34, still ten miles away. I stopped to move my phone from my pants pocket to my jersey pocket (under my rain shell) to make sure it wouldn't drown. Edward passed me, wishing me safe travels.

Right about that time, two riders came over the hill in the opposite direction.

"You going home?" I yelled.

"Yup, all the way back to Madison!"

Turned out to be Chris and Adam, a couple of past Trans Iowa finishers, on their way back to Grinnell via 16 miles of pavements. It took me all of five seconds to decide to drop out right there at mile 24 and join them. Chris was cruising along in good spirits, but Adam was on a mission. He gapped us off within the first five miles and disappeared over the horizon soon after. Chris and I had a pleasant conversation about his recent move to Madison and hope to meet up for a bit of riding soon.

Disappointment? Yes and no. No, I was not disappointed to miss the cutoff. So it was a whole springtime of training—so what? If you aren't enjoying your Trans Iowa training for its own sake, you're probably doing it wrong or should just find something else to do. Yes, I was disappointed to not be able to ride all day, shooting the breeze with friends and meeting challenges out in the boonies. That seems to be Trans Iowa though. You just don't know what's going to happen, and that's part of the attraction.

Next year? Yeah, probably. If it happens.

(2014 report, 2013 report)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sunup to Sundown Three, Last of the TI Training

Illinois Woodlot
Saturday was my final long training ride for TIv.11, and a beautiful day out. The start was chilly, but still and quiet. Tyler, Jacob and I met at the Jenifer St. Market, rolling out at 05:00 on the dot to collect Utah Steve and Harald as we crossed Commonwealth at 05:20.

The cruise down the Badger was pretty easy, and the sun broke over the horizon just about the time we reached Belleville. We rode around the ice stalagmite in the tunnel and Utah Steve peeled off at Monticello to hit New Glarus and points west on his way back to Madison.

After hitting the Kwik Trip in Monroe for some eats, we turned off onto the roads headed west and mostly south into Illinois. The wind wasn't much of a factor at this point, coming out of the west-southwest, but made us hopeful for a tailwind on the way home.

I lagged quite a bit for the remainder of the ride. I knew I was riding a heavy (TI-equipped) bike with people who were faster than me, but I think I also wasn't fully recovered from the Hall of Elms ride.  I could definitely feel it in my legs. Though I may have been a little frustrated at first, I hadn't advertised this as a no-drop ride, so I hold no ill will. It also occurred to me that it was good practice for resisting the temptation to push outside of my pace and take the long view.

We all stopped in Freeport and Brodhead for resupply. Somewhere north of Brodhead, Harald and Tyler pulled away for good, and Jacob and I were left to finish it off. The anticipated tailwind made matters easier, with one more stop at the KwikTrip in Oregon for a slice of pizza, which really hit the spot!

Finally, this was probably the last of the Trans Iowa training for good, since I'm pretty sure this will be my last Trans Iowa. Barring some unanticipated turn of events, I think a third one will do me.

So begins the taper; next weekend is the Dairy Roubaix, and the following week it's on to TIv.11!

More photos? Over here.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Hall of Elms C+X

No, not cyclocross, 100+10. More training for TI, this time solo. Started out about 07:35 with almost the full setup, bound for New Glarus, Evansville and the Hall of Elms. The goal was the whole distance at an overall average speed of 12 mph.

Starting out was great with sunshine and a light wind out of the southwest, but it would not remain so. Just about the time I hit the highlands west of town, it had kicked up into a substantial headwind. Combined with driftless hills, the pace ground down to about 10 miles per hour for a while. The crosswind was a little better down near New Glarus, though it leaned the bike sideways and threatened to blow me into traffic.

Turning east was fantastic, and I definitely got back on pace by the time I had reached Evansville. Did a 15-minute stop at the Quickie Mart and continued on to the Hall of Elms.

Hall of Elms
I had suspected while riding, and later confirmed, that the wind shifted around to the west-northwest and then the northwest as I made my way home. The last 20 miles or so were a real character builder. I was pretty shelled for the Badger game and honestly, for most of the day on Sunday.

Weather data:

Time Temp WindDir Speed Gust
7:53 AM 36° SW 5.8 -
8:53 AM 39° WSW 10.4 17.3
9:53 AM 43° WSW 11.5 17.3
10:53 AM 48° SW 13.8 -
11:53 AM 52° West 12.7 19.6
12:53 PM 54° West 12.7 25.3
1:53 PM 55° WNW 15.0 27.6
2:53 PM 56 ° NW 16.1 29.9
3:53 PM 57° WNW 11.5 27.6
4:53 PM 57° WNW 12.7 21.9

Photos over on that other site.