Thursday, August 31, 2017

Country Views: August Gold

These yellow flowers remind me of my Grandpa.
August is closing down, Summer is shot, but there was still one last decent August ride day to be enjoyed. Wednesday it was darn near perfect out for a bicycle ride.

August has been really tame this year when you think about it. We have had very few "dog days" of high humidity, heat, and barely any wind. Typically we get about two to three weeks straight of that, and Summer wears me out. I'm ready for Fall, and clearer, drier air with that crisp, fresh snap to it.

But this August has been so tolerable, nay- so awesome, that I don't want it to end. Perfect levels of, well......everything, have made this August the best one for riding that I can remember. At least here in Iowa, that has been the case. Obviously, it has been quite different elsewhere.

One of the things that I have taken note of since August 2013 are these yellow, leggy flowers that pop up in mid-August and are at their zenith by the end of the month. The irony is that previous to 2013 I never noted them. I know the reason why, and it is because my childhood hero, my "Grandpa", died on August 27th, 2013. I was asked to be a pall bearer at his funeral. There weren't many folks there that day in Lime Springs, mostly because my Grandpa outlived all his contemporaries. You probably don't have a lot of friends and acquaintances left when you are 102 years old. I know that most of the oldest folks at that ceremony were almost 30 years younger or more.

Anyway, when I left that service that sunny day in 2013, I saw all these yellow flowers in the ditches on the way home. They seemed to be connected to what happened somehow, so now I call them "Grandpa Flowers". There were a lot of them out there Wednesday once again.

Light winds, puffy clouds, and Sunshine. It doesn't get much better than this.
Silos for Rob- Rob from Lincoln told me he was fascinated by silos on the GTDRI ride. Well, here ya go, Brother!
The "wooly-bullies" are creeping across the roads now.
I didn't have all day to ride, and I wouldn't have if I did. I am still not 100% over Gravel Worlds. I have had some soreness, especially in the hamstrings, after the ride I put in. Wednesday I was stretching out the legs on the bike the entire ride. I felt slightly tight and sore, but other than that, I felt strong and I actually rode quite well, I thought. All that despite the soreness and my right calf muscle which was freaking out when I started.

Sage Road near the intersection with Gresham Road.
There was a lot of fresh gravel. It was pretty deep and in spots it hadn't been graded yet. That made for some rough going most of the way. I was running Soma Cazadero 50mm tires which were doing pretty well considering the  tough conditions. Interestingly, I think that they rarely "ping" rocks like many tires are wont to do. It was a rare ride which didn't feature rocks zooming off to the side or pinging off the frame and crank arms.

"Cheater Path"- On the bike trail East of HWY 63 near Denver, Iowa. Lots of "Grandpa Flowers" along the trail.
I took the bike trail from East of HWY 63 to just West of that 4 lane monstrosity and I must say, even though it isn't gravel, it is one of the most beautiful stretches of trail you can find. Too bad many folks don't see it. It is just too far removed from Waterloo for many to bother with finding out about it. That's a shame. This path stretches from Readlyn, Iowa all the way to Waverly. Check it out sometime if you are in the area.

Barns For Jason: A ceramic brick barn with a steel roof. Working dairy farms are now rare in this part of Iowa.
The smell of fresh cut alfalfa was strong here.
It's mostly all down hill from the Bremer County line to Waterloo on Burton Avenue. This view is actually from Bremer County!
Turning South I headed straight back to Waterloo on Kildeer and that turns in to Burton Avenue in Black Hawk County. The elevation in Bremer County is higher, so it is a mostly down hill run for almost ten miles from the bike path. Fun times! Lots of rollers in the North of that run too.

Rest stop on the way home.
I had a wonderful ride on another, final August day for 2017. I felt pretty good despite the soreness, and I think that the ride actually did me some good. The gravel was challenging all afternoon on the ride, but I didn't care. I was so glad to be able to be outside riding my bicycle.

Fall is here, basically, despite what the calendar says. September hopefully will be another stellar cycling month so I can get prepared for the Spotted Horse on October 7th, I believe it is. Anyway- lots to do before I get there.

My Food For Thought Concerning Nutrition

Everyone is different and has different needs for nutrition on the bike
I've been asked a few different times post-Gravel Worlds to write up a post about nutrition. This post was requested by folks wanting some direction and advice on what to eat, where to go for more advice, and what I do specifically. So, to begin with, I have to post the following disclaimer which I feel is really quite important to understand up front:

There is no "one way" in regard to nutrition on the bike for long distance efforts. Many folks have many needs, some of which may be commonly shared, but many which will not be. You will need to experiment to find what works best for your cycling nutritional needs. Finally- I am not an expert. I am not a nutritional guru, not a degree holder in this field, or even smart enough to know what I should be doing. Take anything I write here with a huge grain of salt. No........wait! Salt in huge grains is bad. I think....... Anyway.......

So, with that out of the way here are a few sundry thoughts on what I have observed and experienced in regard to nutrition for longer distance efforts on the bike.

  • Convenience: First off, and this is something I find hugely important, you need to be able to eat whatever you choose without a ton of effort to get at it or to chew it up. This is something a lot of folks don't talk about or even consider. It is quite obvious though, and when you think about these things, they become "duh!" moments which you would think most folks would have covered. Ease of unwrapping/opening food items for consumption is one thing. I would say that anything you have on the bike that you are going to eat has to pass the "One Hand Test". If you cannot open, remove, and consume an item with one hand, it is not good for "on the bike" consumption. Secondly, if you cannot eat what you have without great effort, or without things gumming up your mouth, or without crumbs that get sucked down your windpipe, it isn't good "on the bike" food. 
  • Compact Calories: Here's another thing you might think is obvious, but food and water can take up a ton of space. Especially with the way modern day packaging is. So, and this may help with the point above, you may want to consider repackaging food for on the bike consumption and storage to make it easier to get at, eat, and maybe most importantly, store so that it doesn't take up a lot of room in your feed bag or wherever it is that you stash your food. For instance, you may want to pre-open wrapped energy bars, or even cut them up into smaller bits. I have heard of guys even going so far as to crush potato chips into "dust" so it can be carted in a smaller container. I cut up the flattened bananas pictured here into strips and put them in a sandwich bag. Use your imagination. Anything to make it easier and/or more compact is game as long as it doesn't cause things to spoil. 
  • Whatever You Do, Don't Eat_____: You'll hear a lot of advice that starts off with "Whatever you do, don't eat (fill in the blank)" Well, I am here to say that for every one of those you will find someone who lives off that for their long distance nutritional needs. For instance, I learned long ago that eating a hamburger during a long ride is the worst idea ever......for me. Conversely, I watched Ira Ryan gulp down two cheapo convenience store cheeseburgers and go on to win T.I.v3.  Casey's pizza? I know many a Trans Iowa finisher that credits the greasy convenience store offering for getting them across the line. Me? There is no way I am touching the stuff on a long ride. Pickles and pickle juice is a sworn by savior for many cramping riders, but I tried it once and it made my gut go South quicker than a Robin in Fall. 

Maybe a "King Kong" burger will make you go the distance or make you puke. Only one way to find out.
Testing: So, what I usually tell folks that are looking for advice or want to know what I do is that you need to do your own testing. There are some general rules of thumb that work for all human beings, for the most part. You'll need water. You will need to replenish electrolytes, and you will need to fuel your body with food of some sort. Again- those are very obvious things, but you would be surprised to find out how many of us ultra distance, "longer event ride" types don't remember to drink regularly, or eat regularly, all through an effort. Once you get behind on drinking and eating, it is very difficult to recover from it and make a decent finish for yourself. I actually had a regular eating and drinking regimen for the 2015 DK200 attempt which I doggedly stuck to and it made a big difference in my ride that day. When I forget and fall behind on drinking or eating it has a devastating effect on my ride.

I've tried the gels, drink mixes, bars, and little chews. Most of it makes me end up not wanting to eat or makes my gut shut down.That's me. Again, ya gotta try it for yourself. I know one very successful gravel rider that lives on Hammer Perpetuem.  Me? It makes me so gassy I feel like the Goodyear blimp.

Whatever you use, there is one piece of advice that Yuri Hauswald gave riders at the pre-race meeting at the DK200 in 2016. It is, once again, so obvious, but such a good piece of advice. He said something to the effect that the event was to be looked at as an eating and drinking contest, and as a bicycle race secondary to that. I like that because it brings focus to what you have to do to get to the end. Miss that and you won't get there. Like they say in NASCAR, "To finish first, first you must finish." Ya ain't gonna finish unless you look at the event as a game of eating and drinking at regular intervals.

Experiment, test, change things up. Make it easy to drink and eat. Always eat and fuel throughout a ride. That's my advice. Hopefully it helps get you on your way to a successful long ride someday.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Maintenance Time

Click to enlarge and be enlightened.
With Gravel Worlds done and behind me it was time to swap back parts and do some maintenance. You know.....that activity that more and more people are neglecting everyday.? I know this to be true with bicycles because I work on them for a living.

But many people don't maintain things anymore because we have made it so our society, culture, and education is mostly maintenance free. You don't have to lift a finger to maintain your car anymore, for instance, and the time between visits to the mechanic is measured in years in some cases and most certainly many months for most now. Houses are not as maintenance intensive as they once were, and many younger people don't own their dwelling anyway. It's "someone else's job to maintain stuff". Not the realm of everyday folks anymore, maintenance has been shuffled off on "those other people", service providers, if you will, that do the dirty work these days.

My, how our society has become, and is becoming, more spoiled. The most we have to do is charge our devices and we think that is an inconvenience.


Maintenance subject #1- The Twin Six Standard Rando
I swapped the Redshift Sports Shock Stop stem back to the Standard Rando for now. I also re-upped the sealant in the tires as it had mostly dried up. Then it got a wipe down and inspection. This bike needs a new cassette due to a nuisance issue where the rivets that hold the separate cogs on place have worked loose and the cassette "bangs" when it is shifted from gear to gear. I'll upgrade to a better cassette when I do this. I'm also going to get a B-Rad system for this bike as well.

I test rode it after working on it and the way it is set up is super comfortable. I wish Twin Six would have put double water bottle mounts on the down tube like they did on the Ti Standard Rando, but otherwise this bike is very nice.

Maintenance subject #2- The Tamland Two
I switched out a lot of the parts from the Gravel Worlds set up. The aforementioned stem, the Body Float seat post, and the Bar-Yak cue sheet holder all came off. The seat post is now a Salsa Shaft, the saddle is now a WTB SST, and the stem is a Bontrager Race XX white stem.

Mechanically the Tamland is in remarkable shape. I do not need to do anything in that realm to keep it working as it should be. On my test ride after looking it over I noted the lack of smoothness right away which the suspended bits provided. But that's par for the course. I knew it wouldn't feel super smooth anymore.

The Body Float went back on the Ti Mukluk and it will stay there for Winter. Speaking of which, I have three fat bikes to service before Winter hits. I better get busy, eh? I don't think anyone else is going to be taking care of that for me, ya know?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What's Next

Route elevation profile and some info on the Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra course
Last Sunday I talked about my gear used at Gravel Worlds and mentioned that I had some training for my next big event coming up. Well, that would be the 200 mile Spotted Horse Ultra in early October.

I'll likely use the Fargo for this one since the event has a lot of dirt roads, is pretty remote, and there are a lot of hills to deal with. I won't have water available readily, as in Gravel Worlds, so I'll likely set up the Fargo like I did for my Kansas century ride earlier this year.

Obviously hot and humid won't be an issue, so I think as long as the weather is dry-ish, I'll be good to finish this one. But, you never know until it happens. I'm looking forward to seeing this course up close and personal.

Before I get to that event I want to do another century ride. I was thinking about this most of August and then right after Gravel Worlds on the way to work one day the thought just made a ton of sense. ( my twisted mind it did. ) I am going to do a gravel century on a single speed. I've done it a few times in the past, so this is not unprecedented, but it has been a while since I have pulled off a 100+ miles with one gear.

I'll probably dust off the Pofahl for this one and I've been thinking about doing the Fat Bike Century route for the mileage. That is a gently rolling affair for the most part with the exception of the Iowa River Valley part which will be right smack dab in the middle of the ride.

Some version of this will be the rig used for the Single Speed Century Ride.
So, speaking of the Fat Bike Century, I want to do that again this Fall as well. Whether that comes before Spotted Horse or after, I haven't figured out yet. But that is a fun ride idea and I will do that again.

Then as far as events go I have something I may or may not do in Missouri in late October then I am done. I want to do a few "Whiskey Gravel Rides" where we ride out to somewhere, have a few pulls of whiskey, then ride back again and maybe do 40-50 miles there. I haven't scheduled a Geezer Ride for this Fall, and I may not do one depending on how much fun I want to have versus organizing things for others. Stay tuned there....

So, anyway, the next big deal is the Single Speed Century. I'll be setting up to get that done real soon, then it will be on to training for the Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Road Riding Moved To Different Roads.

So, it is dirt, tell me this isn't road riding. Go ahead......
Last week I read a story posted on the Outside Mag's website written by Eben Weiss, better known as the "Bike Snob". It was entitled, "The Death of Road Riding". You can click that title to go check it out if you want to.

First off, road riding isn't dead. it merely moved. Might I add that this was for several reasons, not the least of which is the roadie culture which the "Snob" has made his reputation on. But that aside, gravel riding and racing, (which is commonly put down by many in the established cycling media), has siphoned off a lot of road racers and potential road racers with its grassroots appeal of just "riding whatcha brung", lack of "rules", and open armed welcoming of anyone to the fold. So what if your skewers are on the wrong side and so what if you run a fannypack and a seat bag under the saddle. Whatevs'. Bring it on and let's have some fun.

Then there are the obvious things. Some of which the Snob alludes to. Like the family friendly vacuum that has always been an issue with criterium and road racing in the US. That definitely is not the case with the gravel riding scene. Heck, I saw a mother with her two children meeting a rider at a convenience store to watch him come in and out at Gravel Worlds a week ago, and they did that happily all day, as far as I knew. Many families come out to these events to do things in the communities the gravel events pass through or are hosted in. Family friendly? I'd say yes, it is. Gravel rides are definitely welcoming to all.

The roads, at least the paved ones, are rife with distracted drivers, so, heck yeah, why not go ride gravel? Or a back road? Or a Forest Service road? (NOTE: The word "road" is part of all of these places to ride.)

Okay, so let's get to the heart of this. A veiled swing at gravel grinding is what is going on here.  Gravel bikes are poo-pooed, but for stupid reasons. I've covered the minutiae that various permutations of road disciplines use to justify better performance often described in millimeters and half degrees. Saying that gravel bikes are silly because they vary so little is the pot calling the kettle black at best. At worst it is definitely bitter hypocrisy.  

The lament that road cycling teaches things you cannot learn anywhere else is pure BS. Obviously the draft lines at Dirty Kanza, Trans Iowa, and Gravel Worlds have gone unnoticed or were ignored by the Snob, and a lot of those riders learned how to do that on gravel. not being yelled at by some crusty old patron of some cycling club. He claims road riding on pavement is accessible. Well, thank you, Captain Obvious. No kidding. But saying that "gravel can be difficult or even impossible" to find doesn't include other types of roads like dirt, Forest Service, or even long forgotten trails and byways which are waiting to be explored everywhere. Oh, and by the way, there are gravel events in almost all of the 50 states and internationally many countries have gravel road events. It isn't all just here in the Mid-West. Far from it.

So check it out. Road riding is not dead, it just moved to a more fun, less restrictive, and more welcoming set of roads. And that's a good thing. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017; Gear Review

Coming up over the top of a hill at GW2017: Image by Kyle Hansen
The 2017 Gravel Worlds attempt ended at Mile 116 after my intestinal tract/stomach decided it wasn't going to allow anything to pass. Ya know? "You shall not pass!!" Ha ha! Yeah........


The ride did not suffer from any of my other choices though. I thought I would comment a bit on how my choices stood the test here in case anyone was wondering about what I used. So, a brief comment or three regarding some of the highlights. I will not say anything about the Tamland, because that bike is well documented here and the reasons why it works are discussed in other posts.

Suspended Bits: I guess the big thing here for me was my experience from 2016's successful Gravel Worlds ride.  The Body Float seat post did wonders to smooth out that famous washboard that the gravel roads around Lincoln are known for. This year I added the Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem as another weapon against those washboard sections. It worked great. I had a super smooth experience. One example....

Early on when it was still dark and I could not discern where the washboard was, I steered into a section of it on a fast downhill. My calf muscles were shaking violently, but the rest of my body, being shielded by the suspended contact points, was calm. That was all the proof I needed that the idea to use the stem and seat post was justified.

One negative aspect- The frequency at which I had to absorb energy with my neck was changed from the higher frequency rattling to a much lower one. The bobbing of the stem was barely noticeable, but that motion caused my upper shoulders and the base of my neck to have to try and keep my head level through those oscillations. Think how a bobble head toy works. Anyway, that resulted in a post event soreness in the upper back/neck area that was pretty painful. Something to consider for later.

Another image of me captured by Kyle Hansen
Ritchey VentureMax Bar: This was a risk, but after a couple of test rides and a successful tweak, that bar made sense to me. I gave it a pretty glowing review on, so I won't get into details here. I will say that the Bio-bend bit wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That was a big surprise.

The VentureMax was designed by someone, or group of folks, that "gets it" when it comes to flared drop bars. The brake lever must be reachable from the drop position, and Ritchey got that right. The drop is shallow, again, spot on. The radius of the drop is also spot on. Every critical dimension was nailed in this design. The flare and sweep things are an area, in my opinion, where there is some latitude in choices. The only way that I think the VentureMax could be improved upon is if Ritchey would go with a 31.8mm diameter across the entire bar top, ala the Luxy Bar and the new Thompson flared  drop bar. Otherwise, two thumbs up here.

Saddle: I waffled between going with the WTB Pure V or a Brooks Cambium. I really like both saddles, but in the end I opted for the Pure V. No regrets and I don't remember hating on the saddle at any point during my 11 plus hours of ride time. That may be a factor that was influenced to a great degree by the Body Float post though. I have to try that Brooks saddle out on a long, multi-hour ride to compare. Like a century ride at the least.

Me again! Image by Luke Meduna
Resolute Tires: I just posted up a review on these at as well, so again- I won't go on and on here about them. I will add that the sandier, deeper gravel at Gravel Worlds was no match for these tires. They cut right through and held a line very well.

The tires are some of the best you can get for any gravel I've tried them on so far. They aren't coming off these wheels anytime soon, I'll say that much.

Wearables: I wore the Riding Gravel kit made by Podiumwear. I used my Bontrager base layer under the jersey and I was very comfortable throughout the event. I never got overheated, despite what the guy at the Casey's thought in Bennet. I was pretty happy with the performance of the pad as well. Long wool socks made of a thinner wool and the always reliable Shimano 3 strap mtb shoes were on the feet. On the head I had my cycling hat I got at the 1996 Chequamegon 40 and my Bontrager helmet with Spy Optic amber lensed glasses. No issues whatsoever with anything I wore.

Conclusions: So, all the gear worked well. The nutrition was good, it just wasn't getting through. I have a plan to try for that in training for my next big event. More on that later. If I get that squared away, I think I'll be good to go. Questions or comments? Hit the comments section and I'll gladly answer those.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 34

Trek World '07: I really miss the visionary bikes you could actually buy from Fisher
Ten years ago on the blog this week I gave a visual report on some of the cool new 2008 models from Trek and Gary Fisher. You remember Fisher Bikes? Man! I miss the brand and its vision.

Gary Fisher infused his brand with style and a look forward to a day when bicycles could be everyday transpo for all. I know people at Trek still believe in this concept, but it isn't pushed forward like it was with Fisher Bikes. Now it is all electric assist, blah,blah,blah.... Stuff folks cannot really aspire to, nor is there anyone in the company that figures in to embodying the concept of the "everyman cyclist" like there was when Gary Fisher was at the helm of Fisher Bikes.

 It is just hard to get behind the corporate image of Trek, or Specialized and Giant, for that matter, when their visions and philosophies are so hard to relate to. I mean, what is Trek? It used to mean "touring", or "adventure" in the late 70's. It was a concept that embodied everything the company stood for. Now it is what? Heck, I don't know. Same goes for Specialized and Giant and several other companies. Unrelateable corporate entities with faceless persona. Sad. The loss of the Fisher brand is regrettable in that light.

Fisher Superfly. Image by Carl Buchannan
Consider that Fisher Bikes was the brand which championed 29"ers since 2001. In early 2005, the lack of sales almost cost the brand the big wheelers, but then in 2005 Dual Sport bikes, and The Rig brought back 29"ers from the brink of extinction. By 2007 Fisher Bikes were showing the new carbon hardtail dubbed the Superfly, and 29"ers were outselling 26"ers at Fisher Bikes. This all well before many brands had a single 29"er in their line at all.

Had the 29"er been left in Trek's hands without a person like Gary Fisher, what would have happened? I bet something very different would have happened and we'd be looking at a very different landscape for cycling now. Not just in mountain bikes either.

So, what else was going on ten years ago here? Well, I was talking about how 29"ers had brought back steel frames as a viable alternative frame material to aluminum and carbon fiber. I also was yakking about Trans Iowa v4 planning with my new co-director, David Pals. Also, the odd "News And Views" post found a home on Friday, finally, after several random appearances on different days of the week prior to that. I also hinted in that "Friday News And Views" that a "spicy" new 29"er was about to be announced, which was easy to figure out. It was a Salsa model, of course. Stay tuned for what that was in an upcoming "Minus Ten Review" post.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017: Dirt Nap

Barns For Jason- Gravel Worlds Version
Leaving the village of Roca I knew I was in survival mode. The digestive system was, well.......effed. I couldn't even drink anything at this point without feeling that it would come right back out. I felt like I had two dwarves fighting in my intestines and pain was increasing with every mile.

The worst part was that I had no juice left for climbs. I was fading fast and getting passed by more and more riders as the miles slowly, painfully went by. I reached Wittstruck Road and it was nothing but rollers. One after another. Of course it would be like that. Why wouldn't it be?

I wanted to rest. I wanted to get relief from pain. Curiously, the day before I was talking with Scott Bigelow of the Cycle Works/Moose's Tooth team. He works in orthopedics in some capacity and we were discussung my old shoulder injury. He said something that resonated with me to the effect that cyclists can bear a lot of pain. So when they tell him as patients that something is hurting them, it probably is really pretty painful. I was thinking about this on Wittstruck Road and how I felt pain in my abdomen like I never had before. I decided I needed to act on my thoughts to take a rest stop.

Just then, Warren Weibe rides up next to me on his single speed. He didn't say a word, and he probably knew I was hurting badly by the way I was riding. He sidled along next to me and paced me silently, without even looking at me. It's funny, but that made me want to keep going. I probably rode a mile or so like that with him before a hill dictated that he needed to ride faster than my walking pace. I saw his wheel fade from my down turned view, and I looked up.

I saw a grove of trees with a small opening from the road. An implement byway to a field, I suppose it was, but whatever it was, it afforded me the chance to dart off the road and get out of sight. I looked behind me and I saw no one. Ahead was only Warren and his back was bent over his bike as he toiled away at his single gear. I darted to the left for the opening and just as I went off the road Warren turned and our eyes met.

I supposed he might come back to see what was the matter, but he left me to my own devices, which is the way I wanted it, to be honest. I was in pain, and all I wanted was rest at this point. I flung my bike into the grass, sat down, and laid back into a soft tuft of tall grass.........

The road to Bennet where I ended my Gravel Worlds attempt.
A car went by and the sound of the gravel on the tires awoke me with a start. I sat straight up in sudden start and looked at my watch. Over an hour had passed since I had sat down! I had thoughts racing through my head. Should I or shouldn't I? I felt pretty weak yet. The prudent thing would be to call in the cavalry, I thought, so I texted my good buddy MG and sent him the following message:

"Hey Brother! If you get this hit me back. I am not going to finish and need to get a message through to Tony."

I had no idea if MG was done, home, still riding, or what. I just sent the message and started riding. Somehow I felt greatly relieved and was feeling good. MG hit me back with a message five minutes later and said he had dropped at 105 miles and was home, but he'd make it out in about half an hour to forty five minutes to get me. I was five miles from Bennet. We decided he'd pick me up at the Casey's there. Tony then hit me with a text from the Casey's saying he was with Warren and heard I was doing poorly. I told him MG was picking me up and to go on without me.

End of the line.....
It was funny. I thought I was riding really well, and despite having to stop a couple of times to answer text messages from MG and Tony, I figured I'd sail right in to Bennet feeling pretty great, actually. I second guessed my decision. Hey, maybe I could piece together a finish after all? But after the fact I analyzed the time from my message to MG till I got to Bennet. Five-ish miles in 45 minutes? In reality, I was still crawling. It would have taken me seven hours to finish at that rate without any stops. Yeah.....

So, I made it to Casey's and another rider was just pulling out. He offered encouragement, but I stated I was done and getting picked up. I waved and wished him well. Then a fellow in a truck pulled up and started in on me how he had finished and that I should get some ice to cool down and do such-and-such with it.... "Thank you, but overheating isn't my problem.", I said. He didn't hear me and kept right on as if he wasn't having any of these excuses and I should go get the ice and follow his instructions. Another rider rolled up, Aaron Schnee, and his attention went toward him with the same advice. Nice that he wanted to help, but a nice "Hello! How are you? My name is....." goes a long ways toward a polite conversation instead of assuming what was wrong with me and not even saying who he was. Anyway, he left and then Aaron's wife and two little girls were there and we had a little fun talking about gummy worms. Then Rob Evans, who was on my GTDRI ride two weeks prior, rolls up with another rider.

I chatted him up and it seemed that another rider named Pablo was feeling ill but might be coming in behind he and his riding companion. Then MG showed up and we loaded up the Tamland. Just as we were about to pull out of Casey's Pablo rolls up and decided he was done as well. MG gave him a lift and the three of us rolled back to Lincoln together. MG deposited me back at the hotel where I promptly showered and fell asleep for 12 hours!

On the road out from Lincoln on Sunday morning.
Despite my failure, I felt I left it all out there at Gravel Worlds. What did me in? I am pretty sure I have a good idea why my digestive tract quit on me, and I will be trying a new tactic next time I have a big training ride before the Spotted Horse to prove my theory. But be that as it may, Gravel Worlds was another great time for me. I really enjoyed the trip, the ride, and most of all, the people.

Thank you to Tony for the ride down and back, and for putting up with me all weekend. Thanks to MG for rescuing me. Thanks to all the Gravel Worlds folks- Schmidty, Cornbread, all the volunteers, and Cycle Works. Thanks to, and congratulations to, all the riders- finishers and non-finishers. You all are great folks to hang with and ride alongside of.

Thanks also to you for reading this.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017: The Nut Gets Turned

Barns For Jason: Gravel Worlds Edition
Leaving Malcom I felt pretty good. I told Tony I would be getting a slow start due to all the Coke and food eaten in Malcom. He headed off and I slowly followed along until I managed to tack myself back within eyesight of him part of the way to Checkpoint #1 which was the Reinkordt Farm.

It wasn't cool anymore by this time. During the morning each climb I would generate heat and then cool down nicely during the descents, but now the air was too warm for that. We didn't have far to go to get to the Checkpoint and the hills were not terrible through here either. Just long miles of rollers and Sun beating down. It was only about ten miles to get to the Checkpoint, but I managed to suck down a couple of water bottles during this stretch.

When we turned onto the pavement which signaled the approach to the Reinkordt Farm, we saw a volunteer in the road waving wildly, hooting for us, and giving us a dramatic gesture to pull in to the driveway. It was a great uplift to my psyche at the time and I enjoyed the stop immensely. Here I only re-upped my water and snacked a bit from my food, staying away from the pickles. I tried that two years ago with poor results! I wasn't about to go down that road again!

With our pipe cleaners wrapped around our bars to signify that we had actually been there, we were off down the road to Roca Tavern which would be our next stop, approximately 20 miles down the road.

This VW Micro Bus was the checkpoint volunteers shelter for the Reinkordt Farm Checkpoint. Cool!
Once back out on the incessant rolling hills South of Lincoln we were subjected to the greatest heat of the day thus far in to the event. It was positively cooking now. I recall cresting a hill and talking to myself to stay calm and enjoy the heat and scenery as much as possible. I throttled back on speed a bit to keep from cooking myself going up hills and I concentrated on spinning as much as I could.

Garmin devices and my GPS are not known for super-accurate temperature readings, but I have a few data points from myself and other riders that suggest that at some point during this stretch the temperatures were at or above 100°F. The "official high temperature" for Lincoln this day was 88°F, but I know it was much warmer than that out there Southeast of the city. Added to this was the fact that the wind got up and for a time, it was quite breezy through this section as well. Wind, heat, and all that Sun conspired to wreck a lot of folks day, and it was "Bad Sign #2" for me.

A bench made from an old pick-up truck tail gate at Roca Tavern.
I never got overheated.I was hydrated well, as I was urinating throughout the event, but maybe the stress of the heat was something. Maybe. Hard to say, but by the time I rolled in to Roca my sips of water made me feel "urpy" and I was feeling really drained on energy.

I sat down in a chair outside the tavern in the shade and tried to stay awake, which was difficult. I downed a bottle and a half of water sitting there, which stayed down, but eating seemed to not be a possibility. Frankly, at this point all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep. It was everything I could do to get back on that bike and roll out of town.

The Roca Tavern came at Mile 103 or so. I had gotten there in 8.5 hours, which was my fastest gravel century ever, to my knowledge, and that over the hilliest part of the course. Now there was less than fifty miles to go, but that seemed about like a 150 to me at that point.

Next: Dirt Nap

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017: Nebraska's 14'ers

Josh Lederman riding single speed. He would go on to finish.
One note before I get on with the story. In the scrum at the start, I thought I set my Lezyne Super GPS to record, but I must have not hit the button good enough, because about seven miles out I looked down and the dang thing wasn't recording any distance. "0.00" it read. BAH! The thing is, a wired or wireless computer records without any input but the wheel turning. WHY can't we figure it out on the GPS side folks? I mean, record all the damn things and let me decide later what to keep, instead of making me start a recording and then asking me later if I want to keep it. Ya know? Sheesh! How hard does this have to be?

So, I hatched a plan while riding. I determined approximately where ten miles would fall on course and hit the damn record button as I passed the spot. I was really close to being right, like two tenths off. So I did well to get it so I only had to add ten to whatever my read out was. But that still ticks me off. GPS computers are still a step backward in user interface compared to an old styled computer.

Okay, rant mode off. 

Checkpoints are always kind of interesting at these longer gravel events. Valparaiso was no different, but it wasn't really a checkpoint. It was a third of the way in and the first opportunity to resupply, so almost everyone was stopping. I saw a lot of folks there. The local Boy Scout Troop was selling water and eats outside, which was nice and convenient. A "den mother" and a small boy politely asked me if I needed anything and I had them fill my water up. They were very helpful.

Meanwhile I had found Tony who had been up ahead of me most of the ride so far. I had caught him coming in to Valparaiso, but he made it there ahead of me. I saw Janna Vavre, the first women finisher of a Trans Iowa, and she high fived me. I told her my toes were frozen, (and they really were!), but she scoffed and said it wasn't that cold! 

I ate and used the restroom and we were off in search of Nebraska's 14"ers. Not 14,000 footers, but 1,400 footers! There would be plenty and a few higher coming our way in the next section of the course.

A pretty smooth and fast MMR just after leaving Valparaiso gave us a taste of dirt.
Part of my way to get up climbs faster and without focusing on my misery is to watch the altimeter function on my Lezyne and try to guess how high it will end up reading. I saw several 1400 plus readings after Valparaiso, and the spectacular views affirmed that we were indeed up pretty high. Pro Tip: If you climb a hill and see a communication tower or water tower on the top, you can bet that elevation is some of the highest around.

We came across Josh Lederman, a sponsor and friend to Trans Iowa over the years, and he was toiling away on a single speed with some really skinny tires that he wasn't real impressed with. Still, he did get a finish, so it couldn't have been too bad! Josh was riding strong and we didn't easily leave him behind.

You could see a looooong ways from up there! The perfect conditions only enhanced the view.
I kept seeing the elevation creep up. The highest I observed while riding was 1452 feet, but after analyzing my data afterward I saw that 1551 feet was the max. You know, Iowa's highest point is only about 100 foot higher! So, it was fun hunting Nebraska's 14"ers on the Gravel Worlds course. It kept my mind off things and we were cruising fast! This course was tough, but with little wind, it wasn't as hard as it could have been, and it wasn't super hot. Not yet...... That would come later! 

Not sure what the purpose of this building is/was, but it said "District 73" on the sign. I believe it did, anyway!
A farmer making wind rows the old fashioned way just North of Malcom.
The big hills wouldn't last though, and we were heading down a bit towards Malcom. That quaint little village that is my friend, MG's, home town and the place where the Malcom General Store is. I was looking forward to eating more and getting a Coke here. Back in Valparaiso I bought a sack of gummy bears to keep me alert when the sleepies hit me, and two at a time when I needed them was working well for me. The Coke I was hoping would be a shot in the arm to keep me awake as well.

While not a checkpoint, Malcom was a busy place while we were there.
We parked ourselves across from the General Store by the Post Office, and we munched food and took a well deserved rest. Dan Buettner was there and chatted for a bit. He has a great looking Rohloff equipped Soulcraft in red that is just a sweet ride. Anyway, we hung out for a bit and then headed out for the short-ish ride to get to the first "real" checkpoint, The Reinkordt Farm. It was getting warmer out by now, and I was feeling the effort, but still doing well. Getting to the farm shouldn't be too tough, I thought.......

Next: The Nut Gets Turned

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017: Beautiful Sunrise

Riders gathering at the start.
The weather for Gravel Worlds was about what I would have expected- Humid, hot, and not a cloud in the sky. The one thing that was missing for much of the day was wind, but it did not stay away all day. I was prepared to be calm, structured, and resolute in my approach to this event. Despite all the concerns I have in terms of dealing with the heat, I felt I was going to do okay. Oddly enough, it was cool and clammy at the start. That suited me just fine.

We got up at 4:00am only to find out that the hotel's breakfast for the riders didn't start until 4:30am. That seems like it is cutting things close, but at least they had the basics for food and I got a decent breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and a little bacon. A cup of coffee topped it all off and I was hoping to have a "morning constitutional", but it never happened. Bad sign number one right there......

So we piled in to Tony's truck, which we drove to the start and parked in the "VIP" lot, thanks to the kindness of Cornbread who helped check us in the night before. That meant we were a very short bike ride from the start. The parking lot was jammed with vehicles of the "Bike Nerd Tribe". You can easily spy these tribal members by the folding bike rack, or on occasion, the roof rack. The vehicle also must have bicycle company related stickers and/or event stickers on the back. True dedication to the sport of cycling is shown by such vehicular manifestations. (I joke, of course, but check it out sometime. Many of us do drive cars like this!)

Tony attends to final details just prior to the start of Gravel Worlds. He went on to have a nice finish.
So anticipation grew as the time drew nearer to 6:00am, the "official" starting time. Either Schmidty was using a winder watch which was slow or Cornbread was just too busy chattering over the loud speaker, I don't know, but 6:00am came and went. We finally heard a faint "beep beep beep" of some car. Off we went at a couple minutes past. Not a big deal from my standpoint, although I will say I missed the big blue Ford truck rumbling away in front of us.

It's never really totally dark at the start, if the sky is clear, at Gravel Worlds. This year the sky was clear as could be.
The start was calmer than some I've experienced here and after the few roundabouts and paved roads we were off on to the gravel. The course headed mostly North and East to start out with. The gravel wasn't as washed out and deep as I remembered it to be two years ago when we left in a similar fashion to this year. I wasn't swanning around and neither were the riders around me. Another surprise was how quickly the field strung out. I don't remember being passed by a lot of folks like last year nor passing a ton of folks as I did two years ago. Calm. Nice. Not too nervous. It was a good start.

A spectacular Sunrise greeted the riders of Gravel Worlds.
The hills weren't bad here, but it was rolling countryside. The hill tops afforded fantastic views of foggy valleys and the encroaching pinks and oranges promised to give all those up early enough to notice a spectacular Sunrise. I suppose about half the field was snapping away with digital devices out there, and I do not blame them one bit. It was a great morning to be a cyclist and be alive. So, pardon me the indulgence, but I took not a few images during this part of the ride!

I processed this in Photoscape to allow you to see the condition of the gravel. Note the washboard.
So, I have a few more of these Sunrise time frame images, but those should give you an idea of what it was like. Beautiful with a capital "B". No wind. It was cool. Just perfect riding conditions. The one thing I think shows up really well in the last image above is the way that the gravel is around Lincoln, Nebraska.

It is sandier gravel. There is a hardpack base, which when exposed looks like an aggregate that you sometimes see in concrete or blacktop roads. It was harder, but it wasn't always "there". Most of the time it was like riding on coarse sand/dirt with a lot of "ripples" or washboard, as we call it in the Mid-West. Get into that washboard and your bicycle starts bucking and pitching you into an uncontrollable mess. Not to mention the jarring sensations to every part of your body. Out of the washboard was generally deeper, looser sand/gravel which would suck the life out of your legs and cause your bike to wash out. Much of the course was like the image above.

Barns for Jason- Gravel Worlds Version
I ended up riding with a few people here in this section. A nice young woman from Chicago who was a native Washingtonian. It was her first go at a gravel event. I also had the honor of riding a bit with Lee Buel from Des Moines. It was a great section and I felt very good through this first part of Gravel Worlds.

I was a bit amused by a section where the County had closed the road, (but the signs were pushed aside. For us?), and there was a load of what the Nebraskans were calling "white rock", or in Iowan's reckoning, "just plain gravel". It is vastly different than Nebraska gravel though and this short patch, which was about four inches deep in fresh gravel, had folks dismounting to walk through it. I rode right on by. Of course, I knew how my bike would handle it and I knew I could do that.

Then the hills rolled on, we went Eastward a fair bit, and the elevation gain was piling up. My altimeter was grinding upwards toward 1350 feet many times through here. I know you mountain folks scoff, but Gravel Worlds had 11.000 feet of elevation gain, so it ain't no joke. Nebraska is definitely not flat!

Valparaiso Nebraska at about 50 miles in.
 Soon I crested a big hill and then came the fast descent into Valparaiso, Nebraska. This was about one third of the way in to the course and my first stop of the day. Only about a 100-ish miles to go!

Next: Nebraska's 14'ers.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017: Wacky Lodgings

Gear pile ready to load out and go.
Well, I had a plan, but it fell apart in the end. How did I get there? Well, first of all, I had to get there. You know, to Lincoln, Nebraska to ride in Gravel Worlds.

My friend Tony and I had planned on going to this for months. I had tweaked and trained and tried to refine my ideas for this year's ride. I felt really confident in how it was all going to result in a finish again at the Fallbrook area of North Lincoln.

I decided to take the Tamland. Last year I had been dealing with a damaged rotator cuff injury incurred when I body slammed myself on a slick patch of ice. Pretty much the only thing I could stand riding for hours was my Fargo Gen I with the discontinued Luxy Bar. But this year the shoulder has shown a lot of improvement and riding a different, lighter bike was a real possibility. I got some Ritchey Venturemax bars to try out so I decided to use them. The bike was also kitted out with the Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem and Cirrus Cycles Body Float titanium post. Besides that I had the Gevenalle HYDRAULIC system which utilizes the hydraulic brakes by TRP. The bike rode like a Cadillac, worked perfectly, and oh by the way, I used the WTB Resolute tires which were perfect. So, my rig was dialed. You'll hear more about that as the report goes along. Also- my shoulder did not bother me one iota. Bonus!

Anyway, the host hotel for Gravel Worlds changed hands over the course of the last year. It had been a Holiday Inn, but it was now called "The Graduate". I thought the Holiday Inn was more than adequate for our needs, so this change was met with some skepticism by myself. However; I was not prepared for what we found when we walked into the lobby and when we saw the room. It wasn't worse, it may have been better, but it was certainly weird. 

It was supposedly a take on college dormitory life but it came off as a Vegas stunt.
 Now, you'll have to forgive me this indulgence in to a description of a motel, but this was so odd, it bears a paragraph or two. First I will admit to not being all that well traveled. That said, I've stayed in many motel/hotel rooms in my day and I have been to Las Vegas numerous times. So, with that said.....

Motels and hotels are usually somewhat similar. There are basic, no frills places all the way up to the hoity-toity joints with saunas and what not. I've seen all that plus the crazy theme motel/hotel stuff in Vegas. The Graduate is a college life/dormitory based theme motel, which, on the surface of it, makes sense since it is within sight of the University of Nebraska's stadium. I'm sure Husker football weekends pack the place out. But college buildings and dormitories would never pass for a hotel experience. Those of you that have been to college know that.

So, the place was trying to be a kitschy, campy take on college life with upscale amenities. It was extremely well done. No detail was too fine for the remodel. Tony and I were constantly amazed by the details which ranged from relic'ed doors, mirrors, and picture frames which looked as though they might have been dinged, handled, and worn over 60 years of use. Heck, even the lobby's brick walls were painted white with faux chips and flaking! Anyway, it ain't cheap to stay there but the staff was exemplary and the experience is like going to a Vegas theme hotel without the Vegas part.

A Cosmic Stallion in the flesh!
Once we had everything settled in at the hotel we scurried off to Cycle Works to get checked in and join in on the "gravel family reunion" and cycle expo which always takes place there. Once again, I saw so many people that I really like and don't get to see often enough. Warren Wiebe gave me an Iowa atlas to enable my future route findings and that was well appreciated. I got a great hug from Matt Wills, saw MG, and even met some folks again from years ago that I met at other events. Good times!

But all good times must come to an end and we needed to eat and then head for The Graduate to try to sleep a bit before the alarm went off at 4am. It was not a good night of sleep for me. I tossed and turned most of the night and basically only ended up getting a few hours of quality sleep. Oh well! I still felt confident of a finish despite a poor night's sleep.

Next: Beautiful Sunrise