Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend Recap

It's really hard to recap something that lasted over the period of a weekend. I'm sure that it doesn't really make for a very interesting read either.

Packed up all of my stuff in the minivan and headed out the door on Friday around 1pm. Arrived in Decorah around 4 or so and found a place at the campground to park the van. I had things set up in the back of the van with the seats removed so that I could simply just lay down and sleep for the night. I did not want to plan on wrestling with a tent at 2:30 in the morning to make it to the start by 3:45am.

I rode around town and found the place where we were going to meet for dinner and for the pre-race meeting. Dinner was an unusual event for me. It seemed like quite a few people were familiar with one another. There was a general feel of nervousness, excitement, and fear. I think there was a fair amount of people checking out their potential competition.

The actual pre-race meeting was a rather short ordeal. Mark read off names and people collected their bags. Only 64 people actually showed up to participate. In our race packet was the first 130+ miles worth of the cue sheets. Turn by turn navigational instructions of the path to how we could get to the point where if (by the cutoff time) we could pick up the instructions for the 2nd half. I scanned through the sheets to see that there were towns approximately every 25 or so miles. This was good news as to me it confirmed the fact that I should be okay with only 2 water bottles. (I'd planned on using a 3rd in my panniers if needed.) I could have opted to use my handlebar mounted coffee cup to hold something other than coffee too, but with the cup in place it made viewing the cue sheets difficult to see.

I rode back to camp and attempted to sleep somewhere around 9pm. I know that I couldn't sleep for at least an hour before donning some headphones and listening to some music in an attempt to take my mind off the non-stop wondering about preparedness thought process. I listened through the entire album, tried to sleep some more and then finally fell asleep. I woke up at 1:30am by somebody pulling into the parking lot. I laid there some more thinking through the ideas of how I could still get almost another hour's sleep, then 45, then 30, then screw it. I got up and packed up the bike. Breakfast, 3 packets of instant oatmeal mixed with regular oatmeal for extra texture and to dilute the sugar of the packets. Mad a pot of press-pot coffee and filled up my cup to go. Rolled off to the starting line across town with a group of about 6 other riders.

Lined up at 3:45am and nervously waited.

There was a neutral roll out start at 4 for the first 1/2 mile or so. For the early hours of the start it was easy to navigate. Started a brief conversation with Cale on one of the first climbs. He was riding a singlespeed at almost the exact same gearing as I was. Our pace was similar and we chatted while riding which made the miles go by quickly and took the edge off the nervousness... after all, we were in it. Too late now. Navigating early in the race before sunrise was easy. Follow the blinkies... for a while. Riders stretched out fast.

As the sky began to brighten it was easier to see at least the silhouette of landscape. There were lots of climbs and descents. Once it was a brighter outside, the beauty of the ride revealed itself. The north east corner of Iowa is hilly. Up one valley, ride along a ridge for a bit, down into the next valley. Up and down. The little group of people that we had going with Cale and me picked up a rider here and a rider there.

At about the 80 mile mark, our little group was up to 5 people; Cale, Matt, Tim, and Dan. I think that we were all struggling to keep our legs moving on some of the climbs. I thought I might be in serious jeopardy of finishing.

I pushed on and on. The hours sometimes passed quickly, other times slow. I'm not thinking that I could go back and recap each piece of road. Like I said, 32 hours is a lot to cover.

I found the mileage queue sheets to be off by a couple of miles. This was a little frustrating at times when trying to navigate or determine where to go. Part of it was simply a matter of calculating how much farther it was going to be to the finish. It was one thing to think about doing 320, but then again... How far WAS it going to be.

Rolled across the finish line with 349.49 miles on the odometer. I rode with a couple of other people who had mileage within 100ths of a mile to what I had, I think we were about as accurate as one can be, we'd all had measured out rolling calibration on our computers. Dan had previously compared the results of his training rides with his GPS system and found them to be within a VERY small margin for error. We did miss a few turns in the middle of the night and had to do some back-tracking on the course. That may have added a bit to our overall mileage too. I feel pretty confident in simply rounding it off to 350 miles. (I actually had 354 by the time I had ridden back to where I left my car parked.)

If I recall the numbers correctly, 64 (just over half of the original entrants) started. Only 21 people finished. My finish time was 32 hours, 15 minutes. I was the only person to have finished on a fixed gear bike, finished 12th overall. Average speed on the bike was 13.3 mph. 26+ hours on the saddle. 368,xxx crank arm revolutions. My maximum speed was pre-sunrise on Saturday at 29mph, 160+ cadence. On most of the descents I was able to ride at about 23mph comfortably. Much faster than that and it felt like riding on marbles.

Conditions were wonderful; gravel was dry, even the B roads were in good shape. There was lots of climbing! It'll be interesting to see if anyone did any real data-collection. There were some just brutal hills toward the end that I just couldn't ride. The route was fantastic.Somewhere in the middle of the night we had to take our shoes off and wade through a stream that overflowed the banks and was covering the road. Just after sunrise there was another. Thinking that this second crossing was as shallow as the first, I made the stupid decision to try to ride through. The water was up to my knees. So, I rode the last 90 miles in wet shoes. I have one blister on the bottom of my left toe. Other than general sleep deprivation, I feel pretty good.

I'm thrilled to have participated and super happy to have completed it.

8 comments:

Guitar Ted said...

Congrats again on your excellent ride. You were looking pretty good at the end to me!

That mileage thing is always going to be a problem until I can afford a GPS system. The thing is, I'm a bike mechanic, so it's rather tough to justify the expense.

Anyway, I'm glad you had a good time and again: what a fantastic job of riding!

Reflector Collector said...

NO PROBLEM on the mileage in hindsight. It makes having finished it all that much more to tuck under the belt. Over such a long period of time while out there, the mind plays ALL kinds of games. One of those games was always the recalculation of where we might finish. As soon as we got the second half of cue sheets, I had it pegged as being somewhere around 345. Add to that the fact that we missed a few turns and ... Oh well.

I cannot explain enough just how cool of an event TI was. Thanks SO MUCH to Guitar Ted and others that helped out.

this verdant country said...

I'm impressed. This story should be plenty to keep the one-uppers at bay.

Taugimba said...

Awesome ride. Inspiring! I am still coasting thru life (at least for now).

Paul said...

Ken,

It was great running into you. I wish we had had more time to chat though.

I am very impressed with your ride! Great work!

KM said...

Congrats Ken.

Cornbread said...

Impressive ride. I love the chapstick holder. Need to get one.

billc said...

Glad to find your blog, a nice writeup. Makes me want to jump in on one of these races - i'd better start ramping up the miles now :-)

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