Onward, to suffering.

…I hope.

I don’t doubt the fact that the start of a hard ride will be in 19 hours, I just hope that it ends up being a long one.

Physically and mentally preparing for the big dance called Trans-Iowa has gone great this year, and up until 3 days ago I was completely at ease with few butterflies. Not because I felt like it was in the bag or going to be easy, I am just very happy with my progress as a rider since last year. I am significantly stronger in the legs and heart then I was one year ago, my bike fits way better then it ever has, my gear is more dialed, my nutrition easier to swallow while riding, I know how to climb out of holes more confidently, and I have some solid uncomfortable weather training and multi day sleepless nights under my belt in the last 3 months.  I am really excited and pleased with my last year of training.

The thing that has me, and all the rest of the riders worried is the weather. Rain the day before, rain at the start, and temps hovering just barely above freezing both nights, and 20+ mph winds.

I am no too worried about my body in relation to the weather, I will have all the rain and cold gear I’ll need to stay cozy(Thanks Dean!). I am mostly worried about what the moisture does to the gravel and dirt we will be spending 331 miles on. Bikes getting caked with mud preventing wheels from spinning, derailleurs getting ripped off, cassettes getting packed to the point that the chain can’t sit on them, these are the worries running through my brain. I am worried about a short day on the bike due to mud.

Pic by the wonderful Jeremy Kershaw, of Heck of the North fame.

Pic by the wonderful Jeremy Kershaw, of Heck of the North fame.

The funny thing is, I am not worried as much about not finishing as I am about not getting the chance to battle the dark places. I am worried about not making it into the second night to fight the demons that only come out when you are on the bike for 24+ hours in a row. It takes a long time for the inoculation of Trans-Iowa to set in, that state of being entirely one with the dirt, where it seems there is no dividing line between the earth below and the rider above, and your mind becomes one with the darkness that surrounds you.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm  24 hours in is crushing.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm 24 hours in is crushing.

It’s a level of suffering you don’t get with single day events that start at sunrise and finish shortly after sunset. The sun is incredibly comforting mentally, and each time it comes up you get the sensation that everything is going to be ok. Riders get two such sunrises during this event, and I hope to be comforted by both.

The weather will start bad, and get easier after about 2pm, when the rain might let up. This will be a proverbial rabbit for us to chase, or oasis for us to look forward to, a literal bright spot on the horizon.  We will tell ourselves it will keep getting easier the deeper we go, that the best is yet to come, and we can look forward to a different set of challenges. Those are the challenges I am looking forward to, the notion of being on the bike for 24 hours, and knowing you only have another 10 hours to go.

Whatever happens, we will all have stories to tell, experiences we will never forget, friendships created and strengthened, and deep appreciation for the true privilege of finding out how deep our breaking points lay. Onward.

2014: The best cycling year ever

WARNING: PHOTO HEAVY SENTIMENTAL POST AHEAD. 

Lately it has been sinking in just how good 2014 was for me in regards to cycling. I accomplished some goals for sure, but I am most reminded of the new places explored, the new friends I made, the existing friends that I grew closer to, the intense suffering we shared, as well as the beers and laughs.

I am not going to recap all of the things that happened, but I am going to post some of my favorite photos and memories from last year. Thank you for sharing miles and smiles with me in 2014, and if you didn’t, hopefully I’ll run into you during a ride in 2015.

But really, I can not believe all of this happened in one single year.

Topanga Creek bicycles: In Janurary I spent a week  just outside L.A. in the mountains with our good friends at Topanga Creek Bicycles. Chris and the locals showed me some awesome riding, food, and people.

Topanga Creek bicycles: In Janurary I spent a week just outside L.A. in the mountains with our good friends at Topanga Creek Bicycles. Chris and the locals showed me some awesome riding, food, and people.

Topanga:

Topanga: Chris and I drove a few hours up a mountain to Idyllwild, where we visited The Hub cyclery, and went off roading in the hummer. Chris handed me the wheel off roading back down the mountain, and I was freaked. it was awesome.

Topanga: Chris and Rover, excellent hosts and companions.

Topanga: Chris and Rover, excellent hosts and companions.

 

Grumpy Grind was a fun, rainy day in Milledgeville IL. Next one is this Sunday, see you there.  http://www.grumpygrind.com/

Grumpy Grind was a fun, rainy day in Milledgeville IL. Next one is this Sunday, see you there.
http://www.grumpygrind.com/

Grumpy Grind: Camped out in this barn the night before. Pretty sure there was a tornado, and a giant dog smelling us the entire night. W/Bailey.

Grumpy Grind: Camped out in this barn the night before. Pretty sure there was a tornado, and a giant dog smelling us the entire night. This was the first occasion I spent a good amount of time with Bailey, and I liked it.

Trans Iowa, the paradoxical best and worst thing ever. The depth of the lows just make the highs even higher.

Trans Iowa, the paradoxical best and worst thing ever. The depth of the lows just make the highs even higher.

I spent 24 hours with these gentlemen. Dave and Jerry are great guys.

I spent 24 hours with these gentlemen. Dave and Jerry are great guys.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm  24 hours in is crushing.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm 24 hours in is crushing.

 Matthiessen Mountain Madness: Getting that wet single speed racing in.

Matthiessen Mountain Madness: Getting that wet single speed racing in.

Dirty Kanza 200: This was my first year riding the event on a Single Speed, and it was very enjoyable.

Dirty Kanza 200: This was my first year riding the event on a Single Speed, and it was very enjoyable.

Dirty Kanza 200: I spent the last 110 miles to the finish with John Welsh, another single speed rider. I had met him at Trans-Iowa in 2013, and always look forward to riding with him. He is a really great guy.

Dirty Kanza 200:
I spent the last 110 miles to the finish with John Welsh, another single speed rider. I had met him at Trans-Iowa in 2013, and always look forward to riding with him. He is a really great guy.

Chequamegon 100: My first 100 mile race mountain bike on a single speed. I rode all day with Christopher Jensen, who I spent so many great summer weekends with. I wish I had more pics of the day, but I lost my nice camera during this race. This photo was taken by another friend and camera ninja, Craig Smith.

Chequamegon 100: My first 100 mile mountain bike race on a single speed. I rode all day with Christopher Jensen, who I spent so many great summer weekends with. I wish I had more pics of the day, but I lost my nice camera during this race. This photo was taken by another friend and camera ninja, Craig Smith.

Ten Thousand Recon: These dues went out to proof read the Ten Thousand course with me. Such a fun day.

Ten Thousand Recon: These dues went out to proof read the Ten Thousand course with me. Such a fun day.

Ten Thousand Recon: Looking back over Morseville road.

Ten Thousand Recon: Looking back over Morseville road.

Ten Thousand Recon: Apple River Canyon river soak.

Ten Thousand Recon: Apple River Canyon river soak.

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Ten Thousand Event Day: I did not ride the event I organized, but getting that many people out to explore those roads was a highlight of the year for me.

Ten Thousand Event Day: I did not ride the event I organized, but getting that many people out to explore those roads was a highlight of the year for me.

Driftless ride: Super fun day with friends Peter, Jon, and a really happy dog that chased us for many miles.

Driftless ride: Super fun day with friends Peter, Jon, and a really happy dog that chased us for many miles.

Driftless ride: The driftless is packed full of secret spots everywhere. If you have never been, come out on a ride with us sometime.

Driftless ride: The driftless is packed full of secret spots everywhere. If you have never been, come out on a ride with us sometime.

Single Speed USA: Copper Harbor is nuts. This was probably the best long weekend all year. We suffered climbing big hills for 4-5 hours each day, and relaxed harder each night. I love these guys.

Single Speed USA: Copper Harbor is nuts. This was probably the best long weekend all year. We suffered climbing big hills for 4-5 hours each day, and relaxed harder each night. I love these guys.

SSUSA: Copper Harbor

SSUSA: Copper Harbor

Moots and Colorado Experience:  Rocky Mountain N.P. This was surreal and serene. We went the the highest lake, way up there.

Moots and Colorado Experience: Rocky Mountain N.P. This was surreal and serene. We went to the highest lake, way up there.

Moots / Colorado: The riding was so good. I need more of that in my life. ASAP.

Moots / Colorado: The riding was so good. I need more of that in my life. ASAP.

Moots / Colorado: This picture always reminds me how much non stop fun we had. So many stories.

Moots / Colorado: This picture always reminds me how much non stop fun we had. So many stories.

Moots / Colorado: Speechless

Moots / Colorado: Speechless

Cyclocross: I raced the majority of our local CX series this last fall, and had a ton of fun. It stretched me in ways I haven't been before.

Cyclocross: I raced the majority of our local CX series this last fall, and had a ton of fun. It stretched me in ways I haven’t been before.

Cyclocross: I accidentally won a race.

Cyclocross: I accidentally won a race.

Georgia: I closed out my year with the holiday trip to the in-laws in Georgia, where I got some relaxed road miles in.  Always a chill, lazy time.

Georgia: I closed out my year with the holiday trip to the in-laws in Georgia, where I got some relaxed road miles in. Always a chill, lazy time.

I don’t know if it’s possible to outdo that year, but I am going to try my best. I have to keep exploring.

Dirty Kanza 2014

Ok, so this event was 8 months ago, and I failed to write about it because I was sad when I lost my camera with all of my full quality photos of Kanza while riding Chequamagon 100(I did have some low res ones on Facebook I pulled for this post). Recently however the buzz around registration got me jazzed to pound keyboards with fingers before spinning circles with legs again this year, which I am quite excited for. So anyway, into the time machine set to 8 months ago…

The week leading up to Kanza was a whirlwind, and I ended up having to find both ride down and place to sleep a few days prior to the event. My friend Jeff invited my buddy Derek and I into his car for the drive down, and we ended up sleeping at Eric Benjamin’s house.  Eric is also known as Adventure Monkey, the guy that takes all the incredible Kanza photos you see.

Going into the event I already had one Kanza finish under my belt in 2012, so I figured I would ride this one single speed.
I’ve always loved single speed rides, because it makes you hurt on the hills, relax on the downhills, and think about what is around you instead of cadence and what gear you should be in. Not to sound cliche, but you really do become more intimate with the roads underneath you in a way that gears make you numb to.  I setup my Warbird Ti with a 36×17 gearing, thanks to input from Don Daly and Mark Stevenson.

Salsa Warbird Ti Single Speed

Salsa Warbird Ti Single Speed, sans bags.

Derek and I rode a few miles from Eric’s house to the start and lined up. Once the 1,000+ group of riders was rolling I wasn’t in a hurry, and was finding friends here and there in the crowd I was chatting with. I found a species of snake I had never found before, and a whole lot of turtles, which I stopped to set off the road to keep them safe.  We rolled at a pretty casual pace, enjoying some pretty great fog along the roads during the early morning sunrise.
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These cute little mobile road mines were everywhere.

These cute little mobile road mines were everywhere.

People always talk about how bad the Flint Hills are for flat tires, and I have never had that experience personally. In 2012 I had zero flats, and then this year I got a single flat. The flat this year was from a metal nail, through my tire, twice.
My Bontrager tire was setup tubeless, so I pulled the nail out, popped a tube in, and finished. No more flats.
I love these things. Tough, supple, and light.

Bontrager CX-0 38c

Bontrager CX-0 38c, with a nail through it, twice.

One of the big reasons I go down to the flint hills is because I love the terrain and scenery. I live in a corn industrial district, so to get out into a remote area with nothing but nature around is pretty special.  Having my single speed set to auto pilot I was able to zone out into relaxing and enjoying everything that was around me, stopping to take a few hundred photos.

See that rock in the bottom of the frame? That is why all of this land was never tilled into corn for cattle and destroyed. Those rocks are HEROS.

See that rock in the bottom of the frame? That is why all of this land was never tilled into corn for cattle and destroyed. Those rocks are HEROS.

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It was around mile 85 at this point, and after getting the flat, stopping to take pictures, and my buddy Jeff crashing hard on a downhill, I had been riding by myself mostly the whole ride thus far. At this point I looked over and saw my friend John Welsh grinding his single speed past me up Texico Hill. I spent some dark hours with John at Trans-Iowa in 2013, and reconnected a few months earlier, and was happy to see him now. I ended up riding with John the rest of the day, and I really enjoyed the miles. Both of us on single speed worked out well, and we seemed to be on the same page pace wise.  John was getting support from the DDRP crew of Don Daly, Charles Showater, and Craig Irving, and they helped me out as well since I was riding without support.  Those are some great guys, and some strong riders also.

We avoided cows on the roads(literally bovine, not a euphemism for slow riders), and ran into more riders we knew. I looked over and saw Wendy Davis, whom I finished my first Kanza with back in 2012. It was great to see her, she was riding strong.
One thing about these events, is after you do a handful of them and met people, you keep seeing them over and over. It becomes a big family gathering at various places around the country. It’s one big gypsy gravel ramble. It is the best, so I’d encourage you to met the people around you on these rides.

Some of the hills on the single speeds were a challenge, and one or two we simply walked, knowing it would gain us less time then energy we would expend. Even on the geared bike I walk some hills on rides this long, it’s efficient and stretches the legs in ways spinning circles doesn’t.  The hardest part is getting over the pride to prove to someone you can climb anything and everything.

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The last 30 miles we set the pace a little higher, simply because the finish was near, and ended up catching and dropping group after group. It was nice to feel that we still had energy left in us that late in the day. We rolled into the finish, relieved, satisfied, and hungry.  The finish festivities are simply incredible. If you do the ride plan on hanging around and eating and drinking hours after the ride. I think I ended up getting three beers handed to me by friends before I had a chance to eat anything, and then I went back to Adventure Monkey HQ and sleeping a few hours. I then woke up at 7am, hoped on the bike again, and went on the prowl for a big, well deserved, breakfast.

Can’t wait for Kanza 2015. I see a ton of friends names on the roster.

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Pushing yourself out of the nest in order to fly.

Pretty often I will get asked about an event, like Dirty Kanza, or Ten Thousand, and any advice for riding them.  I love helping riders with bike setup,  technique, logistics, and the mental aspect of all day or longer rides.  Helping people get out there and push their boundaries and see new places is probably the single best part of doing what I do, for both work and play.

Not uncommonly though after these conversations the person will say something along the lines of “I might be able to do it, but I will probably wait a year or two and train more first so I am totally prepared”.

This kills me.

First of all, only doing events that you feel confident with is the best way to progress and learn as a rider, really, really slowly.

You know that old adage about learning from your mistakes? Well it shouldn’t just be treated as advice for after the fact of misfortune, it should be treated as encouragement to get your hands dirty in the first place. Making mistakes and getting in over your head will make you progress ten times faster then doing the same thing you have already done dozens of times.

When I made the mistake of eating 400 calories in 100 miles.  I passed out cold, woke up 40 minutes later, learned from my mistakes, and finished. I eat more now and am structured about it.

When I made the mistake of eating 400 calories in 100 miles.
I passed out cold, woke up 40 minutes later, learned from my mistakes, and finished all 200 miles. I eat more now and am structured about it.

When you get into a situation that you are unprepared for you learn quickly either what works, what doesn’t work, and what changes you can make the next time you are in that situation.  It teaches you problem solving skills, and it teaches you how your body and mind react when pushed in ways that they will be pushed again in the future. Reduced to the simplest level, it is practicing. It makes you resistant to future mistakes and misfortunes that without experience would derail your entire effort.

Now, this is not saying come to events unprepared, it is just saying come as prepared as you can, and expect the unexpected.

Second of all – and those of you that found the fountain of youth can ignore this section – you are getting older.

There are so many places to see, and so much to experience, and putting things off year after year just checks item after item off your list of things you wont have time to do before you are forever bound to your memories and experiences accumulated.

Thankfully, cycling adventures are one of the best activities to enjoy even late into your life. That said, the world is immeasurably larger then our lifetimes ability to take it all in.  Make a bucket list, set goals, but instead of saying “I want to do this someday, before I die”, change the verbiage to “I want to do this in the next 3 years”. Set goals for the next year, next 3 years, and decade. This is what smart business do to keep themselves on track to achieve goals, and it’s what we should do to achieve more. That said, stay flexible, and don’t pass up a good opportunity because you have a rigid list to obey.

Another rule to follow though when jumping in over your head, have a good life guard on hand.

When on a long event, you are all alone. The only people you have are the riders around you for mental support, and the person you have arranged to pick you up, should you quit.

Believe it or not, this is a good thing for you. There has been at least a time or two that the only reason I kept pedaling was because I was too proud to make a phone call. Had there been a bailout point, I would have taken it. Sometimes the fact that the bailout has to come to me is what gets more miles out of my body. But none the less, a friend on stand-by is as crucial to getting in over your head as an extra tube is, if not more. Don’t show up to an event without knowing how you will get home should you taco a wheel, hit a deer, fall alseep, etc.

Lastly, and most importantly, there is nothing wrong with failing an event.

You know that person you ride with that has never failed to make the finish line of an event? They are sandbagging life.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.~ J.K. Rowling

Failure is not in any way an indication that you suffer from inadequacy as a rider. Failure can be an indication that you are striving for more, pushing your boundaries out, and working hard.

If there is one thing more successful people in all walks of life will tell you about achieving success, it’s about building off of failure and using it as a teacher and as motivation.
In a similar lemonade making style, adversity is always the best breeding ground for stories and memories. Talk to people at the past Gravel Metrics, and the year of the flash flooding and almost tornadoes is treated as legend.

The new year is coming up, the thing to do is set New years resolutions, and coincidentally many of the summers events open registration around the first of the year.

Pick an event or two, register so there is no backing out, work hard until the day arrives, and learn a bunch regardless of the outcome. Make 2015 a year you accomplish something you never thought you could, or at least lays the foundation for it.

Dirty Kanza 200

Dirty Kanza 200, 2012

 

Trans-Iowa V10 (2014)

When you fail you learn from the mistakes you made and it motivates you to work even harder.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/fail.html#FueudLBLDzATI went into Trans-Iowa this year with a prior years experience, which both helped me prepare logistically, and motivated me to no end.

This has been put off for long enough. Partially because I wanted to settle into my myriad of emotions, and partially because I needed a good bottle of beer to write with.

I went into Trans-Iowa this year with a years experience in the event, which both helped me prepare logistically, and was great motivation. After making it 240 miles the prior year, and having to bail due to mistakes made with insufficient calorie intake, I had a bonfire under me to defeat my demon.
I restructured my sleep patterns, riding lifestyle, thought process,  my food, coffee, and alcohol consumption in order to optimize myself for this event.
Equipment was detailed and over thought. I rode every single day in the hardest winter in half a century. Two great nights of sleep were achieved the prior nights, and it was 4am Saturday downtown Grinnell. Game on.

This year entailed 336 miles of gravel, and Mark had said that there would be a considerable amount of hills and 10 B-roads. What Mark did not predict was the 30mph winds from the east all day.

Riding out in total darkness from the start with 103 other riders, my plan was simply to ride whatever pace my body was most comfortable with, and see who was around me an hour or two into the ride. I had numerous friends participating in the event, but I felt that getting into my personal pace was most essential at this stage of the event.  After fifteen or twenty miles I was grouped up with two guys by the names of Dave Weis and Jerry Bilek.  We chatted and got to know each other as we cruised over rollers at a reasonable speed to checkpoint #1 at mile 55 in Lynnville. The winds were starting to pick up from the east, and we rolled into the gas station to grab calories while some strong riders like Matt Gersib, Paul Carpenter, Mark Johnson, and others were hopping back on their bikes. If I recall correctly, we put about about 1.5 hours in the bank this leg, finishing in about 4 hours, about 8am.

This is about where we figured out the tempo for the rest of the day. We had previously been riding east to get to Lynnville, but while the winds had been substantial, we had no idea how long we would be riding into them. Turns out it would be just about all day until sunset.

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The first of two sunrises.

Our group of Dave, Jerry, and I worked well together. Both Dave and Jerry were rookies, but both were quite strong and optimistic. I think one of the defining qualities of being able to ride your bike for a long duration is persistent optimism. All day long, we would talk about how many miles of tail wind we were putting in the bank for later. This type of thinking gets you through the day, and over the challenges that you are enduring. If you have to walk a B-road, that is simply a chance to eat some calories and stretch your legs.  If you are in the middle of a 20% hill, well that one is a hard one.

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1 of 11 B-roads. Some were ridable for me, some had to be walked, depending on if you were in a rain storm or not.

It was 120 miles to the next checkpoint, and during this time we saw a lot of riders. Sometimes they joined our group for a bit before falling off, and sometimes we joined their group before falling off.  One instance was when we stopped to recruit a rider sitting on the side of the road hoping to increase our wind blocking numbers, and the Jeremy Kershaw train rolled up behind us. Jeremy had Andrea Cohen and another rider in tow, and apparently he had been the locomotive on the train for numerous miles. We figured we could boost our numbers to 8 and save some leg into the wind. Turned out Jeremy was pretty nonchalant about continuing to block the wind for everyone else as long as he could.  And so the Kershaw Express continued into the 30mph winds.

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Kershaw Express. Choo Choo.

After ten or fifteen miles our original group fell off of the train, feeling as if we couldn’t keep that pace and be fresh for the 220 miles to come. Dave was the only other one in the group that took a pull for the train and he was the first to fall back. I could tell him and I were in the same spot and needed a few calories, and Jerry had the same pacing feeling as us. The Kershaw Express roared into the distance as we sat up and ate some food.

We found a wild Doge.

We found a wild Doge.

A gas station came at mile 120 or so. During the stop I inhaled two pieces of Caseys Pizza. I noticed on the second slice that there was canadian bacon under the cheese, only notable because I haven’t ate (non-fish)meat in 11 years, and because I thought it was just cheese pizza. I removed the ham and ate the rest. Yum, calories.  I also had another pepsi this stop, which while I rarely drink soda, the sugar and concentrated calories taste so good when you are trying to eat 300-400 calories every hour. I’ve heard sports nutritionists say the high fructose corn syrup is only bad if you are overweight, and is really good at packing on calories. Sounds like perfect fuel for a 34 hour long race, although they usually say to serve it flat to athletes.  Dang Casey’s, you taste soooo good. I wonder how much Trans-Iowa helps the Casey’s economy? I probably created an entire gas station job personally. We devoured said food and about 15 minutes later we were pedaling again. About 11 hours of riding and 35-40 minutes of total unclipped time. Back into the wind.

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Even if you were riding alone, you would always find a group of riders at the gas stations. Circa mile 120.

To give a quick spoiler, Dave, Jerry and I ended up riding together about 26 hours total. I couldn’t have had better guys to ride with. Dave was from Milwaukee and had been down to one of our shops gravel events before and was carrying our water bottle paraphernalia. Jerry owned a book store and was a multiple time Arrowhead 135 competitor. It was obvious that both these guys were very strong, and all of us being on the same page as far as speed and efficiency was amazing. If I was honest I would say both these guys were a bit stronger then I, but they seemed to appreciate the fact that I had experience from the year prior. Riding together never felt like anyone was off pace or being held back, and this is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  Riding alone at my own honest pace the first hour or two was a good strategy.

Jerry Bilek is a good riding partner. He is tough as nails.

Jerry Bilek is a good riding partner. He is tough as nails.

 

Fast B-road, shortly before checkpoint #2.

Fast B-road, shortly before checkpoint #2.

Rolling the rest of the way to Checkpoint #2 the hills continued. Dave would routinely mention the last hill hit 18% grade, and then we would be on the downhill and pedaling  to keep our speed into the wind. It was relentless in a way that can only be endured if you remember that you are putting tailwind in the bank.  Even when the wind was at our side, it was a struggle to keep the bikes vertical, but as a whole we never seemed to end paying into our savings. We finally rolled into the mile 176 checkpoint #2 at about 8pm, shortly before sunset. We had the last set of cue sheets in our hands now, there was only 160 miles to go!

Riding the ten or so miles from the checkpoint to the gas station at Norway the sun had set, and we arrived to find a plethora of riders looking shelled and waiting for rides. 185 miles of 30mph winds on hilly gravel will do that to anyone. I have to admit, sitting in an actual chair, eating “real” food, and being out of the wind felt incredible. I could just hear the sirens off in the distance, promising more. While taking oasis I proceeded to consume another pepsi, a quart of chocolate milk, mozzarella sticks, a fish sandwich, some trail mix, and another gel.  The prior year my critical mistake was not eating enough and falling victim to sleeping on the bike, so I had been extra careful to eat a lot this year. As such I had been eating tons of food all day and hitting my 300 calories/hr goal, so I was feeling strong, but gas stations are always an uplifting oasis. Warm food tastes so good 200 miles into an event.

Rolling out into the night we were excited to cash in on the tailwinds we had been banking away, while also conscious of the 120 miles till the next gas station resupply. We made good time this stretch, but our pace was brought back down a bit by a flat tire, and trepidation from an imposing lightning storm. We caught Charlie Farrow(SS), and then Jay Barre(Fixed) along the road, and then went on ahead into the storm, which got nasty quick. It rained here and there, propelled by 30mph winds, and you kept looking at the cue sheet hoping you weren’t turning east into it, but sometimes you were.
During one particularly heavy rain fit we took shelter behind a barn, probably around 2am or so. During this respite I decided to satisfy an urge I had for the prior few miles, one that I was hoping would be a one hit wonder. Something had happened in my stomach during the 4 hours since we were at the last gas station, and it wanted out fast. Thankfully, I always pack wet wipes.

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Something like 23 hours of riding at this point. Raining, windy, walking a B-road.

Bibs shorts are the best. I mean they really are better then any other option out there when it comes to comfort. Perhaps the only exception is when they require you to strip down completely naked in the middle of a cold 2am April thunderstorm, with varying amounts of shelter.  Perhaps the only time they are even worse is when it’s not just a 2am thunderstorm, but also a 3am thunderstorm, and a 4am thunder storm, and a 5 am thunderstorm.

I don’t know where I went wrong. Most people think it was trusting a fish sandwich from Casey’s. Some people think it was eating 20-30 gels over the days course(recent study backs this up). Others think it was that tiny bit of Canadian Bacon hidden in the pizza. Jerry gave me some pepto bismol and we kept riding. Those guys were so good, they stopped and waited for me as I hid behind middle school garbage bins doing terrible things to the areas that janitors would see the coming days.  Dear janitors, I am sorry. Love, anonymous.

I pressed on. I had told myself I was going to ride until I was passed out in a ditch, and had an emergency bivy in my bag to prove it.  So I kept eating as much as I could, putting miles behind me, and waiting for the second sunrise of a long day on the bike. During the night, as we had made our numerous  stops, we had been leap frogging a few riders for a while.  We eventually formed a group of 7 riders as the sun rose over the horizon, for the second time. The group consisted of Dave, Jerry, and myself, plus Jay Barre, Jake Kruse, Agatha, and Peter. Jay, Jake, and Agatha have been riding friends for years, so to be with them this late into the event was pretty special for me. I was really pleased to see how strong and steady they were riding. We rode on, up more big hills, some hills walked for efficiency and some hills rode for pride. Into the growing sunlight we rolled.

After a while, the inevitable happened. Somewhere around mile 265-270, I did the one man wrestling match with my bibs behind a tree again while the others briefly changed clothing before remounting. I hopped back on my bike and pedaled off to catch the group a bit up the road, and it took effort to catch them.  I had been getting mentally tired the last hour or two, and I was constantly thirsty despite drinking a large quantity of liquid.  I could tell that my body was simply not absorbing any water or calories, and just spitting it out the back each hour. I had tried to push through the inconvenience until the end, but with seventy something miles left and no possibility of my body letting me refuel, I knew it was too far.  I told Dave and Jerry, whom I had spent the last 26 straight hours with, to keep going without me. I crawled in a ditch for a few hours and waited for a ride. This was heartbreaking, as my legs felt strong, my bike was still comfortable, and all my prep had worked well. I need to be more cautious with what I eat apparently. There is always more to learn.

After a few hours of laying in the ditch, Gumby found me and took me back to the hotel to shower. I then ate some food and headed down to the finish line party.
I walked up the drive and gave Mark a hug, a tad bit moist in the face as I was hopping to do so under different circumstances. I gave a brief ride synopsis, he got me up to date on finishers, I walked briskly to an outhouse, and then we waited for more riders. Soon enough Josh Brown, Steve Fuller, Pat Lackey, and Mike Johnson all rolled in within minutes of each other. Steve Fuller won the race to empty his beer first, and exchanged words with Mark about how hard the course was.

After another half hour we realized there was less then an hour till the 34 hour time limit, and our friends were still battling the wind out there. The suspense was palpable, and we discussed how we thought they were doing. Ironically, just after we finished this conversation, another rider rolled down the last hill, it was Jerry Bilek. It was amazing to see Jerry roll into the finish, knowing that we helped each other get as far as we did. It made all of my expended energy valuable for a purpose other then my own memories and gratification. I shook his hand, retrieved my gore pants off his legs, and while I was talking to him another herd appeared over the hills crest. It was Jay, Jake, Agatha, Sarah Cooper, and another rider. We went nuts, and got quite emotional. It was an incredible experience to see our friends across the line, and intensified both my joy and heartbreak of sharing miles with them for so long, yet falling down short. We hugged, laughed, and did our best to look composed as everyone told stories. It was one of those grandiose moments that had it been a movie would have played in slow motion, with booming music, just before the credits rolled.

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I drove home immediately following this. It was hard, and those 43 hours beginning at 1:40am Saturday were the longest I have ever stayed awake consecutively. So many thoughts. Probably why I haven’t put anything into words until now.
Trans-Iowa is an emotional experience. It is not a small investment of ones time and commitment if taken seriously, and I did.
Coming out the other side of this one, two weeks after the fact, I do find some solace in how well my preparations and training went. A lot of things went very well, and while the heartbreak is still there, I can look forward and know that what I learned getting ready for Trans-Iowa V10 will help me in what else is coming up.

I wouldn’t trade the memories and experience of April 26th-27th for anything. Thanks to Dave and Jerry for being the best guys I could have possibly rode so long with, all the other riders I shared smiles and miles with, everyone who helped volunteer, all of Grinnell, Salsa and Ergon for making bike stuff that I can ride forever and still smile, Wally and George for taking awesome photos, Slender Fungus for their work and for picking me up from a cold ditch, Ari for inspiring this madness in me years ago,  North Central Cyclery for letting me go on so many adventures, and Mark Stevenson, for all the hard work in putting on the high water mark of all gravel events, ever.
I deeply love all of you.

2014

Every year I get all these big ideas in my head. I guess that is what happens when you have all winter to look at maps  and dream of places that are not here. I feel like this year I have a ton of plans. I really just need to scratch that itch of being in new places, and seeing new things.   I hope to get them all  crossed off the list this year, and maybe more. There are still some months toward the end of the year I want to fill up with more trips, and I have a million ideas.  Let me know if you want to share a passenger seat or carpool or something. Lets make this a good year of new trails and hard challenges.

Janurary
-Week in L.A.

Feburary
-Can burn in hell. Maybe a small trip a few hours south to get some gravel training miles in for Trans-Iowa. It’s amazing how warm Carbondale usually is. Carbondale has some killer roads too.

March
– Landrun 100 in Oklahoma, with stops in Missouri and Arkansas for epic single track pre/post.

April
-Trans-Iowa

May
-Gravel Metric(volunteer)
-Dirty Kanza 200 (Single Speed)

June
-Chequamegon 100 (Single Speed)
-Trans-Iowa Masters Program (June or July)

July
-To be named 200k Axletree event

August
-Single Speed USA
-(MAYBE)Trans-northern Georgia

And then comes a big open space of time I need to fill. Between a Bro-Co trip, and a ton of over nighters around IL, we will see what trips we plan. Bikes.

Bikes.

Bikes.

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