Sunday, December 23, 2012

Triple D Winter Race: Training Log 4- Humble Pie

Last time I posted concerning the training I was nursing a bruised knee back to health. Well, that has not been an issue again, thankfully, so the riding continues unabated. Since that last entry we also have finally received some snow. Well....saying "some snow" is a bit misleading. We got dumped on, and a blizzard came along with that.

I'm not sure what the "official" totals were for our area, but I do know that I shoveled a good ten inches of white stuff off my sidewalk. I also know that it blew like the Dickens and when it was all said and done, we had gone from late fall to deep winter in 24 hours. It's all good for fat biking, and especially for getting a heads up on what to run for Triple D. This time I took out The Snow Dog.

I also have By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk, but he is a single speed rig these days. I wasn't sure I wanted to hit the, (what would most likely be), loose trails with only one gear. I was right not to do the single speed, as it turned out, but then again, it wouldn't have made all that much difference in the end due to the conditions.

The blessing of the snow was great, but there are several different kinds of snow, and we got a whole lot of the not so great type. This snow is really broken down by the crazy winds we had, which in turn has made for a very loose, almost hour glass sand-like consistency for this snow which is very difficult to pack down or get a grip in. Top this off with the oddity of the front end of the storm, which brought wet, heavy, very packable snow in, but the water content sure dropped off in a hurry after the initial three inches or so!

Gettin' started.
The first bit of my training ride had me on some bike path. This turned out to be a quick lesson on how the entire ride would go for me. It wasn't the best to follow snowmobile tracks, human tracks, or even dog tracks! Busting my own line worked best everywhere. Secondly, getting any lateral motion under the tires was going to doom your forward motion. Lean over a bit too much, hit a sudden harder patch or softer patch, or turn the bars too much and it was over. This made for really slow, technical going. Finally, there were a lot of drifts, and they were too deep to ride through 80% of the time.

I ended up getting as far down the bike path along Sergeant Road as the Martin Road turn off to the little lake over there. I thought maybe there may be a way to ride around that. Well, I was wrong, and this proved to be a frustrating bit for me. The snow had been beaten down by snow shoers, but the base was still unconsolidated, and I couldn't even begin to ride on this. That ended up in a lame attempt at riding on the shoreline, which met with some success, but eventually I abandoned the loop for the near by dike.

I had already been pushing as much as I had been riding. The dike top was clear though, and here I got a stretch of ,(mostly), rideable terrain that was very demanding. The old lessons were coming back to mind, and as I rode, I was able to practice getting better at these deep, loose snow techniques.

But still I was getting stymied by the very deep drifts and there I would be back to hike-a-bike for a bit. Then back at it with just a slow, steady pace.

It's funny, but if you learn not to react too quickly, this actually helps you ride more difficult snow conditions. The bike might start to go into a mini-slide/turning off line, and if you just let it roll, and meet that with a very subtle, gentle correction, you stay on top of the bike and keep on truckin'. The thing is though, we're conditioned as mountain bikers to react quickly before we lose control, and that doesn't often work on a fat bike in the loose stuff.

Snowplow scree.
I continued riding the dike top until I reached University Avenue, then down, back up, then down, under a bridge, and back up. Each ascent was walking/pushing/post holing which is great training. The Triple D will start out with a salvo of just this sort of terrain along highways going out of Dubuque. Getting used to pushing and ramping up the heart rate will be good. I was thinking along about this point!

Well, as I worked my way along Black Hawk Creek, I came up to the downtown area of Waterloo. Here I turned back west along the buried bike path along the Cedar River, which was mostly rideable. It was a rough ride though since most of the way it was covered in nuggets of semi-rock hard snow which had been flung up off the snowplow's blade. Missing here was the deeper snow, since the wicked winds had seemingly pushed off the top layers of snow leaving the now frozen solid first three inches which were very wet when they fell.   I figured I'd cross back over the river and hit the bike path on the other side going back the way I came along the opposite bank of the Cedar.

Cutting a deep slot.
I was feeling pretty stoked when I descended the embankment, turned onto the path on the North side of the river, and was cruising almost effortlessly through a pretty deep drifted in section of snow. Then it got too deep and that was that.

I had to walk almost all of a mile if it wasn't a mile. This was the worst part for me. I could have bailed off at any of several points to clear pavement, but I said, "no". I had to crush the desire to take the easier way out and learn to suffer the hardship of slogging it out in calf high to knee high drifted snow and just push. Why? Because Triple D will have something like this at some point. There will be that section that totally sucks the mental lifeblood out of your mind and you'll want to stop. But......

I ended up gutting it out till I got to another dike and ascended it to clear riding. Man! It felt great to just be pedaling again, and the efficiency of that activity was awesome to feel at that point. Now it was on to the last bit of urban traversing and up the hill into my neighborhood.

I don't know how far I went, (it wasn't all that much in terms of mileage), but the level of difficulty was high, and I was out for 3.5 hours, which was awesome. I felt pretty okay afterward too, which is amazing since I was totally beat down the previous day from all the shoveling required from the blizzard.

Hopefully this is something I can build on. I was using some clothing as a test, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was. Then it was only in the low 20's too, with little wind. More to contemplate there. More on all the Triple D training soon. Room is reserved for the weekend of the race and all systems are go now....


Lance H Andre said...

The pictures reaffirm that those were just about the worst conditions imaginable for a fat-tire ride... conditions could have been worse, but then there wouldn’t have been ANY riding at all. Things are quickly improving in Triple D land and some of the trails now look like the Indi 500 has taken place on them.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Oh, the Triple D memories. And the memories! Good times.

Guitar Ted said...

@Lance H Andre: Well, if that is almost as bad as it gets, that's awesome. I'm trying to look at this from a worst case scenario and working backward from that.

If the snow lasts, this should be a ton of fun.

Max said...

Looks fun! Very similar conditions down here in Cedar Rapids. Been riding my SS Karate Monkey with 22x20 SS gearing through all kinds of snow on the local trail. Very technical, slow going for sure. Thinking about doing triple D myself, but haven't committed to the idea yet. I'd definitely want gears on the bike even more than I do now.