Thursday, January 23, 2014

Triple D 2014: Race Report Part 4

Purveyors of the "finest" convenience store light beer trailside.
Wanna Beer? This road crossing was an amusing break from the treacherous snow on the Heritage Trail that I had been wrestling with since leaving the Dyersville checkpoint. There was a pickup truck and two gents offering free beers to any passersby. Keystone Light may not even be on my "beer radar", but I obliged their offer and quafed one while we chatted briefly. Suddenly the whine and whirr of snowmachines came into my hearing, and looking toward the East, I saw several machines headed our way.

The two beer wielding young men were dismayed that their freshly spray painted sign on the trail would be churned up by the snowmobiles, but I quickly whipped out my camera and saved their work for posterity! (See the bottom of yesterday's post) Hey.....I'm only trying to help out a couple of generous fellows, ya know! 

The snowmachines approach. Angels or Devils? I wasn't sure at this point.
 As I watched the snowmachines approach, I was gauging whether they would perhaps do me any good. I was doubtful, having seen the way this snow had turned into a frozen water version of wheat flour. There was almost no lateral support and the only way to make any headway without struggling with your bike mightily was to find the tracks of those ahead of you and stay in them as best you could. Of course, with my slightly narrower than average tires, I found it easier to do this. Getting out of the beaten path was death to my forward motion though. I feared the snownachines would not provide that packed down track I needed.

I vocalized my fears to the two gents and one of them assured me that the next section of the Heritage Trail would be packed in and faster. He said, "....you'll really be able to lay down the power." I took his assessment under advisement and rolled off, thanking them for the barly pop.

Well, much to my dismay, the fellow couldn't have been more wrong. I was correct in my fears that the snowmachines were not my friend on this day. I was hoping that this would be only a mere oddity and no more of these two cycle, oil burning apparati would be encountered. But I was further dismayed to find that another "train" of these machines was headed my way, and again I was obliged to pull aside and wait to avoid any accidents with these things.

This hiker called out a welcome and called me "Boss". I liked that, it was a much needed lift in a bad stretch for me.
The Westering Sun called out the end of a beautiful day and marked the beginning of a firmer trail.

The church overlooking the intersection of the Heritage Trail with Girl Scout Road

The trail begins to firm up again, and no more snowmachines! Yay!
Bad JuJu: Okay- here's where I went into a "dark period" for a while. After having to dismount for the fourth time for snowmachines to pass, and having to deal with the aftermath they left behind, which was almost impossible to ride on quickly, I began to vent my frustrations out loud. Of course, I had been riding alone since the Dyersville turnaround and had not yet seen another rider for several miles. I guess I thought I was the only guy out there. I let loose a curse of snowmachines and then looked up to see another rider ahead kneeling besides his Surly. I saw that he was repairing a chain. I felt kind of silly at this point, because I knew he had heard my outburst.

I apologized for that and asked if he needed anything. He was okay, but also agreed that the snowmachines were a curse upon the fat bikers on this particular day. I could see he too was outraged by the conditions at the time. I put my head down and settled on just pushing through without being so outwardly negative.

I think I underestimated the anger of the Surly rider, because not long after I had passed him he came around me at such a high rate of speed it caught me off guard. He pronounced a further malediction upon the snowmobilers and sped away as if he were sprinting for the finish line. He made me sit up and I thought to myself that he was really holding a nice line through the inconsistent snow. I felt maybe he was on to something, so I clicked down a couple gears and gave pursuit. 

Into the bluffs and limestone outcroppings before the light of the Sun faded away.
It Gets Better: It was working, but it was taxing my reserves a bit too much this far out yet. I backed down a hair and was content to follow his tire tracks. Only they got obliterated twice more by the dratted snowmobiles! I finally started to see signs of more tire tracks further on up the trail afterward, and the trail firmed up with the steadily dropping temperatures to a point where I was hauling the mail once again. It felt good to be back up to speed and heading toward Durango, which had a bar that hosted the final checkpoint for the event.

I was still stopping regularly to eat and drink. I also snarfed down that brownie I got at the Dyersville turnaround, which was a highlight of this stretch for me. Man! Something about really pushing yourself on a bike makes the simplest foods taste like gourmet fare. Anyway, a couple of chocolates and pieces of beef jerky later and I was in the Durango checkpoint before I had to switch on the lights. Inside, Traci Andre, one of the event directors, gave me a fist bump and I was stoked to finish out the final 8 miles of this grueling event. I drew another poker card. An 8 of something.....Bah!

I pulled out of Durango just ahead of two other riders and I pushed up the speed to a point where I gapped them off and held them there. Once the gap formed, I couldn't make anymore headway against the two, but I pushed on as hard as I could, because I knew the last section after we left the Heritage Trail was going to be brutal. I crossed the new Highway 52 Overpass bridge and immediately found a man by a snowmachine who waved me over. He asked if I had gotten any directions for the end of the event at the Durango checkpoint, and I said no, but that Lance Andre had told us at the start to watch out for this turn. He said, "I am Lance!" Ha! I didn't recognize him, but I had probably been pushing so hard that I was a bit out of sorts.

Pushing the bike more than riding it marked the last four miles of Triple D
Lance gave me some final directions and I was off for the last four miles. Lance said it would probably take me all of an hour and a half to get through it! That was a hammer blow to my brain, but there was nothing for it, and I wasn't about to quit now so close to the end.

The End Game: The two chasers caught me here, of course, and with the change to the off-road snowmobile tracks, my tire/wheel choice really became a burden for me. I was relegated to walking where these other two were easily riding stuff. The snow was horrible. I let the two guys go and sank into a dark place, pushing feebly up a dark, long, steep climb which gained almost 800 feet in elevation. I could hardly step further than six inches at a crack, and it was slow going.

There were downhills that I coasted down, but otherwise I walked probably 80% of the last four miles and finally got back to the race headquarters at 7:17pm in 33rd place overall. But not before I crashed on one last run out after a down hill. That was four for the day! I was super glad to see the folks that were kind enough to clap for me and offer congratulations. My wife and daughter were there, (my son was off on an adventure in the motel somewhere else), and it was a great relief to have that over with and behind me. It was the slowest time for any of the now three Triple D races I have done, but it was by far and away the toughest.

Unfortunately we were unable to stay later, and I had to bug out right away afterward so my wife and I could be at work the following day, but I need to thank a few folks:

Thank You: Lance and Traci Andre: You guys and your volunteers put on a great event and this year was tougher than I have experienced here. Thanks for the opportunity to test myself. To The Land Owners: Thanks for letting us cross your land and enjoy some beautiful Iowa backcountry! 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 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.

4 comments:

MG said...

Great tale of triumph over adversity... And a solid ride, overall, my Brother!

It was great to be able to hang with you and your family for a couple days. And thanks for inspiring me to try my first Triple D. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have found out what it's all about.

Happy Birthday!!

Cheers,
MG

Guitar Ted said...

@MG: Thanks my Brother! And congrats on the awesome ride you had as well.

Talk to you again soon!

MrDaveyGie said...

an epic journey....

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Congratulations!

I very much agree that it was a tough day. The toughest Triple D I've finished so far...