Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Triple D Winter Race: Race Report Part II

Part II:

In the last part, I left off with the entrance on to the Heritage Trail section of the event. Heritage Trail is a converted railway that is paved with pea gravel, but in Winter it is snowmobile trail, as long as there is enough snow. Of course, we had enough snow for a time, but with all the warm days previous to Triple D, that changed the landscape dramatically.

There were plenty of sections of open, clear trail at first, and this was coming West toward Graf. That is a bit further east than where we dumped out onto the trail going out last year. At first I was thinking this would be easy, and event director, Lance Andre's words were remembered again when he had said that there was no more ice on this trail. That was pretty much true here, at first, but there were ruts from previous cyclists with skinny tires who decided they just had to "pizza cutter" up the trail while it was soft. Of course, these ruts went helter-skelter across the trail, and those played havoc with the fat tires by pulling the bike left and right.

Well, that didn't last long, as we made a slight right hander, the ice encroached all the way across the trail in long patches. I had caught Steve F. by this time, and as we chatted, I could see his tire squirming back and forth on the ice. I came around him as he slowed up, and he slid a bit more severely, almost taking us both down. Then I concentrated on my line, and by the time I felt comfortable looking back, Steve had slipped off my wheel a considerable distance. So, I trucked onward.

Image credit: K. O'Connor-Leigh
There were runners from Triple D's running events coming back at us, and I tried to give an encouraging word to each of them as I passed by them. This also served to distract me from the icy trail a bit, which at that time was a good thing. I ended up figuring out that if there were strips of snow at the sides of the trail, these were good places for smooth rolling and traction. Sometimes I'd even drop off to the edge of the trail, where the ground was showing through. Whatever line looked cleanest and free of ice. It was somewhat comical watching riders ahead of me zig-zagging back and forth looking for traction.

Eventually I came upon the two bridges that were out, and these demanded dismounts and careful picking of your way so as not to fall on the copious amounts of ice, or into ice cold running water. I ran up on a few other guys as we traversed a thin shelf which was too rough to walk on our right hand and fell off into the cold running water on our left. Then there was a sketchy rocky crossing where one could get their feet wet, but I managed to get out of there with pretty dry boots.

The rest of the miles into the Dyersville checkpoint ticked off without much drama. I ended up coming in at about 1:37pm to Chad's Pizza where we had the luxury of eating, changing out clothing, and re-supplying on water. I had come in with a few others, but they all escaped ahead of me. While at Chad's, I consumed a small amount of pizza, cottage cheese, and drank some of my special sauce I concocted. I didn't pay much mind to the time, but I suppose it was onwards of about 2:00pm when I left. There was a couple guys right in front of me, but I didn't come in contact with them until well into the final leg.

So it was that I found myself pretty much alone, dangling far enough off the back of at least two guys that I couldn't see them after a short while. Alone with the now completely icy trail. Even the once safe snow sidings were treacherous now. I was bewildered a bit, it all seemed so different coming back, and the handle I had on riding on ice seemed to have flown away from me back in Dyersville.

Bridge out, looking back West.

Somewhere in this part I made a small, corrective steering move while riding near the right edge of the trail, and the Snow Dog took off to the right, sliding out of control. I saw that the ditch was pretty steep and about ten to fifteen feet down into some rough looking bracken. In a split second, I made a twisting move to make myself fall to the left of my bike instead of high siding it off to the right and a sure trip to the bottom of the ditch. The move worked. I landed splayed out, face down into some crusty snow, but I only knocked some of the wind out of myself. I also found that my left leg was pinned between the top tube and handle bar of the Snow Dog. I was in a tiny bit of a pickle, since I was on a downward facing slope with my legs up higher than my head, but I finally disentangled myself. After calming down from scaring myself half to death, I took off again.  From now on I was sticking to the middle of the trail!

I somehow was better off for it as well. I was calmer, had my mind back into it, and I suppose I was a bit angry for having such a silly crash. (Later I would find out lots of folks were doing similar things!) No ice? Pah! This course was riddled with "death ice", as I like to refer to super smooth, slick ice. It was almost like riding rollers, in a way, since you needed to really concentrate and focus.

And looking ahead to the East.
I was drawing nigh to Graf when I spotted two riders in front of me, I thought it was Scott and Ron, two locals to me that I had been seeing off and on all day long. It wasn't those two. I drew up within about 30 yards of them, then I just couldn't seem to catch them, and actually drifted back a piece since I was unwilling to traverse the ice in spots as fast as they were doing it. Despite the conditions, I was really stoked at this point because I was still using up daylight, where by this point last year it was fully dark for me.

The pair ahead of me split up, and the follower was coming back to me, when all of a sudden the lead guy pulled off the trail, I suppose to relieve himself. I passed them by, and then came up upon Scott and Ron looking at some markers trying to decide whether or not to climb up the embankment to follow the trail. I quickly reminded them that this was a turn off for the poker riders, not for the Ultra-Cyclists, and bade them follow me to Durango, which I knew was maybe a few miles up the trail. It was there we were to check in so the event organizers would have a better handle on who was still on course.

Michael Lemberger offers congrats- Image by S. Wasmund
By the time we got to the bar in Durango where we were to check in, we had become a group of five, as the two guys I had passed came up to overtake us just before getting into Durango. I had been pushing the pace into the small town a bit, not wanting the two guys that caught us to get away before the checkpoint. We all piled in together and the locals at the bar seemed amused by our entrance. Much to my surprise, Jesse R, who typically does well at this event, was checking us in! Apparently he had a mechanical which put him out of the event a few miles before reaching Durango.

I ate a piece of pizza, guzzled some more of my secret sauce, and dug out my head lights for the remaining miles of Triple D. Another rider asked if he could join me on the ride back, and I agreed. It was Steve, a Trans Iowa vet, (Steve says he's not been in a T.I. Whoops!), and we made hay and got back to Dubuque on some really icy stretches of the Heritage Trail before dark. Once we reached town, we ran into a barricade that had not been there the day before. About 30 yards on the other side of this, we saw the markings for the course. We decided to jump the barricades and we took off to the right, leaving the Heritage trail for some bumpy, hilly, scrabbling over the last bits of the Triple D course of 2013.

These were actually the opening miles of the course from the previous year. Steve mentioned he was from Dubuque, but had no idea where he was at. I said it was all the opening stuff from last year, and I told him where the ATV trail we were on would come out. There at the top of that climb Steve got his bearings and then he was taking off, and I could not reel him back in at all.

L-R Myself, L. Andre, Steve S, : Image by S. Wasmund
 My legs were shot by now and I was really needing to stop, rest, and eat something, but being so close to finishing, I kept trying to ride back to Steve. Fortunately, he would stop and let me catch him at navigational conundrums and at the tops of hills. It was slowly getting dark all this time and the temperature was dumping fast. I was beginning to feel pretty chilled, but again, we were almost there.

We got a tag a long near to the end who was on a white Salsa Mukluk, but after a bit, he disappeared and Steve and I were at a corner trying to ferret out where we should be going. Finally I suggested we just plow straight on to Highway 20 and reconnoiter where we were at there, since fumbling around the streets in the dark was no good. I think our brains were addled by too much riding, cold, and lack of nutrition now anyway. We finally made our way back to the Best Western Plus, and I was really glad to see the front door of the place! Steve and I finished about fifteen minutes to six, and he disappeared while I stood chatting with a few folks in the lobby, legs a shambles, mind splattered, and tired as all get out.

Mrs. Guitar Ted showed up about then, and she chaperoned me back to our room where I got cleaned up, and we had a great time eating and hanging out at the restaurant there. About 10pm, the awards ceremony cranked up, and we had a great time celebrating everyone's accomplishments, and Irv's 70th birthday. He turned 70 the day of the event, and finished the Ultra-Cyclist course that evening. We all sang Happy Birthday to him, which he seemed to relish, and then we ate a cake Lance and crew had brought in just for the occasion. It was a lot of fun hanging out with the racers afterward. Then I stuck around in the lobby gabbing and drinking until 1:30am, after which time I finally hit the hay. The following day, we had one more free breakfast and we headed back to home. 

The Triple D may not have been the snow event we all wished for, but it was great none the less. I hope Lance and his crew can manage to keep the new stuff in, and perhaps we can have a crack at that course with some snow on it next year. It would be truly the best type of course for a fat bike's capabilities then. I was really happy to have cut off some major time from last year's effort and get into Dubuque before dark. I had a great ride, but it definitely whooped me with the rough trail, fields, and the stress of the ice riding.

Thanks To: Lance Andre and all the Triple D volunteers and staff. You guys and gals did a great job! To The Land Owners: Thanks for letting us cross your land and enjoy some beautiful Iowa backcountry! We all raved about it and we hope to do this sort of thing again next year. To the Asbury Snowhawks Snowmobile Club: Thanks for working with Triple D to give us the chance to ride off bike trails in Iowa! To the Best Western Plus: What a great venue and the rooms were ace! Thanks for the special deal. Thanks to Steve for hauling my sorry butt back into Dubuque and for having my back, (literally!), while we were in traffic. Thanks to all the racers and accompanying friends and family for making Triple D a friendly, fun time. Thanks to Salsa Cycles for not only supporting Triple D, but for making my Snow Dog, the first fat bike I've owned and it did me well again. Thanks to Mrs. Guitar Ted and my two wonderful kids who let me do this nutty stuff and even come along occasionally with me on my adventures. Thanks for all of the above since today is my birthday and this was an awesome pre-celebration for my 52nd trip round the sun! 

1 comment:

MrDaveyGie said...

Great write, great ride Mark. Always nice to see all you guys at DDD. Someday I will find out what is that secret sauce and ride like a rocket.. :-)