Sunday, April 27, 2008


I wouldn't go back to change anything if I could. Despite the hours of anxiety and nervousness leading up to the event, I felt fully prepared to ride the full distance. I stepped up to the line this year with over 3,200 miles on the bike this calendar year. I felt in much better shape than I did last year.

35 degrees with strong winds out of the west. People were huddled together trying to find any shelter out of the wind waiting out the last few minutes before the 4am start. We had arrived at the start as instructed to be there at 3:30am.

The final announcement was over and we were on our way precisely at 4am. Having been sitting and cold to the point of shivering, it felt good to start off with the familiar climb up Quarry Hill Road.

Riding with my friend Scott, we followed the trail of red-blinkies for the first several miles until riders were stretched out enough to require the use of queue sheets. With the exception of a quick pause to change queue sheets now and then, we didn’t stop until we reached the first pass-through town of Cresco, IA at mile 40.

Having ridden for what was 3 ½ hours in low temperatures and howling wind, the idea of a sit-down hot breakfast sounded too good to resist. We stopped on the corner at Suzie-Q’s CafĂ©. The special was 2 homemade pancakes, 2 eggs, bacon, and a ½ order of hash browns for 4.79. Perfect, I ordered 2 of ‘em :)

It felt good to de-thaw for a bit, but were back on road by 8, meaning we only stopped for about 30 minutes. The winds were fierce, bringing us down to 4 or 5 miles per hour on climbs, and only about 12 on what were the few sections of level ground.

Gravel conditions were very good, but progress was slow. I was following my plan of playing things safe, riding a sustainable pace, eating right, and for the most part, I felt comfortable with the temperatures and cold wind. It wasn’t until after 11am with just over 70 miles covered that the thought even occurred to me that we might not make the time cutoff for the first checkpoint. Doing the quick calculations on the road, rolling along on the gravel, we knew we had about 40 miles to go in 3 hours. At our best, we were traveling about 12 miles per hour with the cross wind.

We rolled into West Union, approximately mile 85 around 12:30pm and lunch was in order. With the checkpoint still 25 miles away and only 1 ½ hours to get there, we resigned ourselves to the thoughts of how to approach our exit strategy.

Pulling out the map of Iowa, we found that we were pretty much straight south of Decorah. If we followed the balance of our queue sheets, we would have needed to continue south and east to reach the end of the first leg where we would have had to turn around and backtrack to where we were currently sitting.

We ate lunch and resigned ourselves to doing the ride straight back to Decorah. There was no desire to ride the extra 50 miles to and from the checkpoint. There would likely be no one there, and we would simply have to turn around and re-trace our route, so we headed back north to Decorah. Even on pavement, our progress was slow. At one point, we had a short 4 mile section where we had to travel west into a headwind. The best we could do was about 7 miles per hour. Our short 35 mile jaunt on pavement took nearly 3 ½ hours.

It was a somber ride home in the van. I am disappointed that I was unable to finish the event. I rode at what I thought was a pace that would have allowed me enough energy to finish the event. In hindsight, I could have ridden faster to make the time cutoff, but that would have likely left me lacking the physical energy to finish. Even the 120 miles we did ride left me feeling tired.

Strangely, I felt better when I got home and read that out of the nearly 60 people to start, only 23 made it to the checkpoint in time. Of those, only 17 elected to continue. The ride was cut short at mile 240 due to road conditions and safety concerns. Only 5 people completed those 240 miles. Perhaps next year?


Anonymous said...

Not that riding a fixte had anything to do with the outcome. With the wind, roads, and check point closes that has to be one of the more brutal physical contests I have ever heard of .

Reflector Collector said...

Really, I didn't feel like riding fixed was all that much of a liability. I had to pedal down most of the hills into the wind anyhow!

During the times when the cadence did get up there, it felt good to get some blood flowing in cold legs.

Paul said...

It was great hanging out Friday night and riding with you for a bit on Saturday!

Hopefully we can ride together again before V.5!


-d said...

all you missed at the checkpoint was laying in the grass, drinking beer, enjoying the sun, and everyone questioning everyone's sanity.

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