Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A little bit of a diversion.

Today's post is going to be a bit different. I have a guest blogger here that just did something that I think deserves attention. Colin is a local to Prairie here. Grew up here, and is one of those talented individuals that many of us secretly fear. They're just too damned good. See, there's a race near here called the Triple D. It starts in Dubuque IA, and goes to Dyersville and back, following the Heritage trail. Total distance? About 60 miles. Sure. Not long you say. Add in snow and subfreezing temps. We'll see how YOU do. Colin not only finished on his first attempt, he was one of 9 finishers out of 31 starters. Not bad. This is a bit long, but the read is well worth it.

Alrighty, so yesterday I took part in the Triple D race, which is a race of about 60 miles that starts in Dubuque and runs on the Heritage Trail through Durango to Dyersville and back to Dubuque. I chose to do it on a bike, but there are running and CC skiing categories as well.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. I came a little over-packed with extra clothes, but I figure I would rather haul around an extra couple pounds than sag out because I got cold. I was getting myself situated for the briefing, and I see a guy dressed to race, in shorts, drinking a Sparks. I started to make guesses on how long I thought he would last.

At 10 AM, we rolled out along downtown Dubuque. Marty Larson kindly let me borrow the Prairie Peddler demonstration Pugsley, a photograph of which can be found at the bottom of the page. Its good on snow, but lousy on concrete. There were about 32 bikers I think, everyone riding around on some unique set-up. I'll see if I can dig up some photos, cuz I thought it looked pretty cool at least.

We reach the mouth of the heritage trail and endured a mile of untouched snow. I was able to ride through some of it and nailed down a spot in the middle of the pack. Lots of pushing the bike around, but we finally reached the snowmobile-packed section of the trail and we were off! It was nice and smooth, and I was able to cruise much faster than I originally anticipated. The snow was just hard enough that I found myself wishing I had used my mountain bike, which would have been a bit lighter and faster, but the conditions were still ideal. I ended up riding behind "Sparks-drinking shorts guy" for a little while to take a little bit of the drag off myself.

I was so excited! We were cruising at around 12mph, and I thought that I would be able to put this one in the bag by sundown. We were going strong for about maybe 1.5 hrs, when I look up and see a large machine coming towards us. It was the trail groomer. I pulled off and let it pass, and my heart sank as I began to ride again. The groomer took our wonderful high speed trail and crapped all over it. It was like riding through thick mashed potatoes it seemed. I spent the rest of the trip out to Dyersville slipping around and trying to find chunks of packed snow. Average speed slowed to 7 mph. I let a ton of air out of my big tires, which helped a bit with the sliding around.

I still wanted to make good time at this point. I was starving so I snarfed down a couple mini snickers and a clif bar while I rode. I was wearing my camelbak under my jacket to keep it from freezing, yet when I reached for that long-awaited refreshing blast of water, I realized that water had frozen in the tube. I tucked it under my arm and waited a while for it to thaw, slightly frustrated at the lingering taste of black cherry almond clif bar that remained the entire time.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and the trail was incredibly scenic, but by about 1 PM I was starting to get pretty worn out, and I had no idea how much longer I had to go to Dyersville. It was a never-ending uphill journey for the next 2 hours, but I managed to drag myself into Dyersville around 3 PM. I checked in at the BP halfway point and darted to purchase the strawberry soda I had been CRAVING for the last several hours. Never before has a strawberry Crush tasted so good:) I ate a muffin and shot the poo with a couple other riders who were taking a breather. After a nice 20 minutes of warmth, I switched out my soaked wick-away base shirt, filled my camelbak, threw on the toe warmers and the ski mask and hit the road. I had sweat through my jacket and it now weighed a ton, but I was still pretty warm and I had no other weather-resistant top layer. Plus, a bunch of guys sagged out at the BP in Dyersville----including "shorts Sparks guy", who made it farther than I thought he would----so my plan was to try to enjoy a little bit of a downhill ride on the way back and call it quits at a good point. I got back on the bipolar Heritage trail and rode for about 15 minutes.

The groomer was back. Coming right at me. I wish someone had a picture of my face at that point, it would have been a winner I'm sure. I just stood there and stared as it turned off. I wanted to quit. There was no way I was gonna argue with crazy uneven snow, in the dark, for 25 miles. Tyler, a rider I talked with at the BP, decided he was gonna give it a shot, so I reluctantly went along. The sun was just starting to set, so at least I would have something to look at. Plus I wanted to see if the downhill would be as pleasant as it was hyped up to be. It was, and I found my pace around maybe 8-10 mph until the sun disappeared. I tried to save my headlight, but I needed to see the grooves in the snow to have some point of reference, so I turned it on a little after 6.

It was crystal clear night sky, and there was a sense of serenity for a while. I found it pretty enjoyable, even though my ski mask was frozen to my face and my goggles were beginning to fog. At about 7:30 my hands began to burn, so I stopped for about 5 minutes. I shut off my lights, enjoyed the night scenery, ate, watered, bathroomed, chewed some instant coffee, warmed up some hot-hands, and put on my last-resort mittens. Much better:) I flipped on my light and continued on. 2 minutes later, my light died. I shouted at it. I now wanted to quit again. I got to a road and called in my Sag, but changed my mind when I was told I only had about 8-10 miles to go. I dug out my little princeton tec headlamp and ran it on low, and talked to myself all the way to Durango. I had to forfeit my goggles, so I found my eyelashes beginning to freeze to my ski mask from time to time. My jacket had begun to freeze as well, but my base-layer was still plenty warm, so I pressed on.

I rode past a fully-lit Sundown Mountain, and it was magnificent in many ways. I knew I was getting close, and I had something cool to look at besides snow. In the dark, I found my light playing tricks on me. I kept seeing things, and therefore every sound started to set me on edge. I began to imagine how I would react if i spotted one of those cave-crawler things from "The Descent". I was growing bored, so I was willing to entertain any thought at this point.

I finally reached Durango! Wait, Durango? Are you kidding me? I thought I had passed the Durango entrance already for some reason. I thought Sundown Mountain was my welcome mat for Dubuque. Its 9 pm now, but the folks at base camp tell me I only have 45 minutes to go. Why not finish it out?

I was humping along, and my legs were beginning to lock. My jacket sounded like brown packing paper every time I moved. My base layer was still surprisingly warm considering I could see my jacket turning white. I went for about 30 minutes, and I saw a fork that looked just like the one we took to enter the trail almost 11 hours ago, so I took the turn.

I was imagining the excitement I would feel when I would get to the road crossing.
I was dreaming about sitting in the conference room stuffing my face with pizza and getting a massage.
I was making a mental list of every delicious item of food I would buy at various fast food restaurants.

I soon realized that I was not where I thought I was. I had gotten lost. I called in, and I think there was a miscommunication somewhere. Perhaps they thought I was at another point. I wanted to get to the final crossing. I was told to ride a half a mile and jump back on the trail with the blue reflectors. Half a mile turned into 2 miles uphill, on concrete, on a slow, low-pressure Pugsley. I was getting more confused and more lost. Now, I discovered today that there had been stolen and moved course markings. That sucks that someone would go out of there way to take an orange arrow and put it somewhere else, or whatever. I don't know how that's funny. At 10:15 pm, I somehow ended up in Sageville, with a big dumb sign taunting me, shouting at me: "Dubuque - 5 miles". Did I backtrack or something? How did I possibly end up there? I reluctantly called in for a ride. I had been riding for over 12 hours, and 5 miles on concrete sounded like a nightmare. I couldn't feel my feet anymore, and my fingers kept going numb from the handlebars and the constant vibration and bad circulation.
I was covered in frost. It was fascinating.

I got to the hotel, and I stumbled upstairs to the conference room. I could almost taste the pizza. I had to wait for my ski mask to thaw out before I could take it off without removing my beard. I was greeted with so many levels of warmth, and I received a medal, some cash, and I won the "Frozen Seat" award for being out the longest! I was told that I technically came in 8th place, being the last biker out there.

The pizza was gone.
The pizza was gone!
There was no more pizza to be eaten!
And the masseuse had left as well!
That's ok, I decided priority 1 was to get into some dry clothes. I went and changed and came back and began to drink whatever soda I could find. Oh the sweet sugar, it was perfect. The carbonation was attacking my nose, but I needed that sugar like it was the anti-venom that would save my life. Then I started to shiver. I couldn't stop.

This is the kicker.

This very kind and talkative inebriated girl saw me shivering and said I needed to get into some hot water somehow. She asked if I was staying at the hotel.

Once I managed to control my clicking teeth, I told her I was planning on driving all the way back to PdC.

She walked out and came back with a room key. She had bought me my own room! From what I understand, she worked for Budweiser, and she found a way to put it on the company card. I didn't even get her name, so I have no way to send her a formal note of thanks, but that room was a life-saver. I immediately ordered 3 mediums from Dominos and kicked back with some Chris Rock and talked with Kristin for a while, and once the food arrived I was immediately flown to cloud nine. It felt pretty cool having the Pugsley in the room. It looked like such a workhorse, and I couldn't believe that I just spent the whole day on that bicycle. I took a nice hot bath, and hit the hay. It was a perfect end to an interesting day:)

Thanks to:

Marty for lending me the bike and misc gear, the cool job, and the good advice
Kristin for the last-resort mittens and support
Kate for giving me the Princeton tec headlamp last year
Kayla for putting me up the night before
Talkative Inebriated Girl for being so kind to get me a bed
Lance and all the volunteers who put this on and hooked me up with the tight schwag and prizes

Now, to get the feeling back into my fingers.....

Listening to: Sweet golden sounds of Silence.