Monday, February 28, 2011

CIRREM 2011 Race Report

The 2011 version of CIRREM, (Central Iowa Rock Road Endurance Metric), is a "metric" century gravel road event. For those of you still mired in the standard measurements of the King, that makes it about 62.14 miles. (The "century" part refers to the 100 kilometer distance) This event starts outside the Cumming Tap in Cumming, Iowa.

<===The Cumming Tap in Cumming, Iowa

The day started very early at 4:30 AM so I could get up to eat a little something, pack up the final bits of gear, and be ready for the pick up by Mike Johnson and his wife, Amy. We made great time to Cumming and were there by 8AM.  Just in time for bacon, egg, and sausage burritos.

Many friends were either already there, or showed up. If nothing else, these gravel road events are a blast for the social end of things and for checking out everyone's rides. My ride for the event was determined by the weather.

I had gotten a tip from a fellow CIRREM rider on Facebook that the Des Moines area was receiving snow and maybe up to three inches. Since I haven't ridden the Black Mountain Cycles rig enough, and never in snow, to have a feel for what it would do in those conditions, I opted for a bike whose handling I fully understand in snow and mud. That would be the Badger drop bar 29"er.

Not only were those bigger tires a welcomed advantage, the gears on the bike would end up being the biggest advantage of all. I fully intend to "gear up" the BMC, but I still am in parts acquisition mode there, so it still is a single speed, and will be for some time yet.

The snow predicted did come. Probably somewhere between an inch and two inches of the brilliant white stuff had blanketed the hills surrounding Cumming and it's quiet, rustic streets were not plowed. It was also cold. Temperatures were in the mid-teens at the start, a wee bit of wind, but not much, was also wending its way through the pack of riders. We stood shivering in the street in front of the bar listening to organizer, Jed Gammell's final instructions. At 10AM we were off and rolling into the Iowa countryside.

The first thing I noticed was that I was colder than I would want to be at the start of a ride, especially my hands. I had my trusty old red Therma-fleece gloves on, so I was a bit worried if they weren't going to work in keeping my fingers toasty.  Everything else was fine for the time being.

The next think I noticed was all the mechanicals and flat tires within the first five miles. Odd that.

Then I noticed something more important- freezing rain. Or should I say "mist"? I guess mist is better. It really was a mix of snow, sleet, and frozen crystals of ice that would accumulate on any hard surface, including your eyewear. With the higher down hill speeds, the lack of vision was not appreciated. I took off the glasses several times only to get a "fork-in-the-eye" sensation from all the ice crystals stabbing my eyes as I sped down hill. Danged if I do, danged if I don't. It was just one of the things I had to deal with the entire ride. In the end, I opted for the no-eyewear route. It was just a less frustrating way to ride.

I rode with Paul Jacobson for a bit. He's been in Trans Iowa and volunteered at last year's event. We chatted for a bit before we stopped to aid a rider with a flat and I headed off for a "nature break". Paul ended up motoring onward to a 4th place single speed finish.

The course was easy to navigate, what with all the tracks of those ahead to follow by.  I never looked at the cues sheet until after the first checkpoint.

Then after a break at the top of a particularly steep grade, I ran into Steve Fuller, who will be the T.I.V7 photographer this time. We bombed a few down hills before I could see that his speed was faster than mine, and I let him ride off. It wasn't too much later that I came across the one and only check point at about 30 miles in. I was actually about a half an hour ahead of my goal so far. Bonus!

I scarfed down some of the cookies available and a Fat Tire Ale. I didn't want to stick around too long, so I was out of there in about ten minutes, which probably was still too long, given how chilled I was after I took off.

Speaking of "chilled", my left foot was practically a block of ice at this point in the ride. I stamped it back into some semblance of feeling, but not long after I took off, it was back to being a real problem. I wanted to wait to stop again until I had about an hour behind me from the checkpoint, and when that time was up, I opted for the emergency plan.

That plan was chemical warming packets that I threw in my saddle bag early that morning. I stopped and installed them, one in each shoe, and took off. Since there weren't any instructions on the packets, just a bunch of warning, I wasn't sure if they would work. I'd heard they needed to be exposed to air for a bit to activate, so I did that, but the meager warmth being produced wasn't very impressive. Hey! At least it was something.

Thirty minutes later, my foot was frozen again, and I had just under 20 miles left to go. The ride since the checkpoint was pretty much on my own. I pulled away from a smaller group I passed just after the checkpoint, but one guy on a Redline cross bike was trading places with me off and on every so many miles. Finally, I dropped a chain on a shift going into a climb and he rode away from me. It was all good. I was getting into a tough place anyway, what with my feet, (both of which were frozen by now), and I was getting really tired and hungry from all the work.

<===Matt Gersib stylin' with the Oakley's he won from the prize table at CIRREM. 

 The course had been slightly rolling to start out with, but it quickly turned into a steep climb followed by another, then another, for 64 miles. (There were a couple more miles than a metric century, apparently.) I was pleased with the way I climbed and the descending was fun, albeit sketchy with the snow covering and masking the good lines. Jed Gammell told us up front that there would be a "few sections of fresh gravel". (Translation: Mile and miles of fresh gravel that were big, chunky, and loose.) The gravel conditions and snow were reason enough for being glad I was on the Badger, but the gears that it had versus the single speed cross bike were even better, and I know I would not have done as well on a single speed on this course with the gearing I have on that bike.

With all the messing around with my feet, the dropped chain, and checking the cue sheet a couple times, I was off schedule by a bit. I finished in just over six hours, but at least I finished. I wanted to finish in six hours or less, but it wasn't meant to be this time. Still, I was pretty pleased with being able to pull off that ride in those conditions.

<===Good times with old friends and new.

I was starving coming into the finish, and by the time my sorry carcass hit the door of the Cumming Tap, (which was the official finish line, by the way), all the food for the post race had mostly been devoured. A few meager white bread rolls remained, which I snatched a couple of just to get me by. Free beer was also pouring for racers and I availed myself of this "carb replacement fluid" as well. You know you are in a nutritional deficit when three glasses of beer don't even phase you one bit!

The prizes were handed out then, (I got a sweet Planet Bike 1watt Blaze commuter light), and then Steve Fuller and his family, Matt Gersib, and my company on the ride down and back, Mike and Amy, all went to a local restaurant for grub where we had a great time. Then the long ride home, unloading the gear, and walking into my home at about 9PM in the evening. What a long, wonderful day!

I hadn't even had a chance to remove my booties in all this time since the event. As I took them off, the chemical warming packets fell to the floor. I picked them up and what do you know?

The dang things were hot! 

So much for the timing on that! Oh well, I had a successful ride, the first one I've finished in a long time. Now it's onward to working on the Dirty Kanza 200, and finishing that beast off once and for all.


Steve Fuller said...

GT, based on your ending paragraph, I have to ask, did you have the packets between your foot and the shoe, or did you have them between the shoe and your outside shoe cover? I always put them inside of the shoe.

Guitar Ted said...

@Steve Fuller: I had them inside the shoe and in between the cover and shoe. (I stopped and moved them once in a last ditch effort to make them work.) It might also be worth noting that the packets were ice cold when I moved them the second time. Granted, this was the first time I'd ever used heating packets and I probably screwed up somehow, but the lack of directions didn't help me out there!

Buckshot77 said...

GT- the heating packets take a good 10-15 minutes to heat up and stay heated. They work with oxygen circulation and when they get stuffed in shoes or even gloves, if they aren't fully activated, they go back cold. I learned the hard way a couple years back on my first gravel century. I threw them on the table disgusted while we were eating lunch and when I went to toss them out afterwards they were hot to the touch.

Glad the tips helped on bike choice!

MG said...

That was a heck of a good time... We were cold. We were absolutely wrecked. But we had a lot of fun. And honestly, that's what it's all about. Thanks for reminding me that, at the end of the day, it really isn't about anything more than riding bikes, hangin' with friends and drinkin' beers. If I can have 2011 include more of that, it's going be an awesome season.

Thanks again, G-T, Steve, Kathy, Courtney, Mike and Amy, and to all who made the CIRREM a reality. Oh, and to Rob Versteeth at Oakley for donating those awesome custom Straight Jacket sunglasses. Holy cow did I feel fortunate when KC called my number second, and Fuller was stuck on the Continental tires. Thanks just as much to Steve!! ;-)

Did I mention how much fun that was... Thanks again. You guys are awesome. True Brothers.

Oh, and I have absolutely no experience with those heat packet thingies... Never use 'em. I just freeze when it gets really cold. Makes you tough. Maybe I'm stupid?

Tom Scott said...

I have to ditto what Buckshot77 said, those warmers need 10 minutes of air to activate. I had a pair in each shoe, one above the toes and one below and they were still warm at the end of the ride. A real foot saver.

Great write-up. While it was a brutal ride it sure beat being inside.

At about mile 20 I was thinking I shouldn't have had you swap up my chainring last week, and then when I was walking up a lot of hills I was sure of it :^) You made the right equipment call. It definitely would have been a better ride on a bike with gears. Lesson learned.

I, like you was hoping for a 6 hour finish - didn't roll into Cumming until 6:00. But we lived to ride another day.

Thanks again for the great ride report!

Guitar Ted said...

@Buckshot77: Thanks again for the weather warning and also for the heat packet advice! I'll definitely do better next time.

@MG: Thanks man! It was a lot of fun.

@ScottsHighland: Way to stick to it! Many would have given up, but you persevered! Stick that knowledge in the brain file and you'll do even better next time out.

Joe Mann said...

Great write-up. It was my first CIRREM and I had a blast. The chemical HAND warmers get hotter then the TOE warmers but don't fit inside the shoe as well. I have been using them for years and it makes for a much more enjoyable winter ride. I put them inside my oversized winter riding boots but have also used them between the shoe and shoe cover. Either way they do need a few minutes to get going. I opened mine about 9:30 when I got to Cumming and they were still warm at 7:00 when I got home. Hopefully we son't need them on TI.

rideonpurpose said...

nice ride.

When it's really cold I like to use the chemical footbeds. I expose them to air and place them between layers of smartwool socks.
You will NOT be cold if you do that.