See Part 1 HERE
Before The Rains Came
Leaving CP1 I was only a few minutes down on a few groups of riders. Since we were headed north into the wind I figured a little push to find a group wouldn’t be a bad idea. Within a few miles I had bridged up and asked to join a pair of riders. We rode together for a few miles before the little group fell apart. It seemed a bit early in the day to show solidarity with a group so I pushed on.
I’m reasonably certain it was somewhere in here that Trent and I joined forces. I think Trent bridged up to me and asked to work together to track down some of the riders ahead of us. We did that but never really found a group that stuck. Eventually we did a goofy little loop around Melbourne that gave us an opportunity to stop for resupply if we needed. I took a little gamble here and skipped it.
I was a little concerned at this point that I might be pushing a tad too hard to make the pace work with other riders. I was never on the limit. It didn’t seem like I was always going what I figured might be 24 hour pace though. Being only 5 hours and not quite 60 miles into a 330 mile ride I didn’t want to get too caught up.
We hit our second B road around mile 63. This was a nice B road. The mud still stuck like we were rolling our 40’s into fattires like you make a snowman. The up side was it was pancake flat and had enough of a grassy shoulder/ditch that you could sometimes roll the bike.
It was on this second B road that karma paid me back. If you’ll remember on the first B road I picked up someones cue sheets and was able to return them. I was maybe 3/4 of the way down the road when I set my bike down and saw that I was missing a bottle. I looked back down the road and couldn’t see it and momentarily panicked trying to decide if I needed to walk back to find it or risk proceeding without it. Thankfully Trent was walking behind me and had picked it up. Thank you!
After the B road we took a turn and started heading west. Looking ahead on the cue sheets and making some educated guesses it really appeared that we were going to be heading generally west for a good period of time. Numbered road names generally indicated the straight roads and with 5+ mile cracks at a time it looked like it might be smooth sailing for a while.
Trent and I fell into what seemed like a pretty natural rhythm of trading pulls and just clicking off the miles as we were blown westward further from Grinnell. About mile 93, just about noon on day 1, the rain that had been so prevalent in the forecasts and on the minds of all of the races finally decided to make its appearance. Trent and I made it to the corner of 290th St and 520th Ave in the middle of nowhere and I suggested it might be time to consider rain gear. No sooner had we suited up and the rains came.
The Dangers of the Store
We finally pulled into the Git n Go in Madrid to refuel. This was 105 miles and almost 1pm. I had come through a little rough patch in the last 20 miles or so. Nothing terrible, just a bit of mild concern over the level of effort required to do my share of pace setting. I obviously didn’t know it at the time, but that was the worst I was going to feel the whole event. Considering what I was originally anticipating about a slow progression into misery, I’m amazed.
Our stop time was about 15 minutes. Maybe slightly longer than I would have hoped for, but I spent a lot of time fumbling with getting lights plugged in to charge and stuffing food in my face and refilling bottles. And that was all despite having thought through everything I wanted to do before getting there.
Back onto the bike trail we had been on just before getting into town we practically flew across the Des Moines River on the High Trestle Trail Bridge. It was a pretty impressive trail all together and a really neat bridge. I just wish I wasn’t getting so chilled while riding it. Temps continued to hover around 40 and with the wet and wind if you weren’t working hard you could get pretty cold.
It wasn’t long and we were back onto gravel roads again. Just south of Woodward, we got a little preview of what was going to come later when we finally turned east again. Guitar Ted found this little loopty route to get us across 141 with minimal paved riding. It took us right into the teeth of the ENE wind and the fairly steady rain at the time. As the shirt this year says, talk about a kick in the junk.
From there we continued on generally south west for another 20 miles or so. The last few miles as we rolled into Adel (about mile 136) I was getting pretty cold. We had a few good downhills and then easy rolling on pavement that just didn’t allow me to keep my body heat up. By the time we reached Adel I was in need of some warming up and some re-situating.
We rolled up to the Kum & Go to find what was my first real evidence of the toll that TI was going to take on the field. Prior to this point I had no knowledge of how many people had or hadn’t made the first check point or who may have found a place to stop and call it a day along the way. Inside we met one fellow rider with the thousand yard stare. I asked him how his day was going and he was pretty non-commital. A few other riders rolled in about the same time and somewhat to my surprise they declared they were calling it a day.
I made use of the hand drier in the bathroom to get a little moisture out of my baselayer. I also then put some hand warmers in each jersey pocket and toe warmers in my shoes. My windbreaker went back on beneath the rain jacket. I’m not certain, but I think the jersey pocket hand warmers were the winning ticket. I also finally covered my legs like everyone else and put on my (ok, my girlfriends) Bontrager pants.
Between all the gear changes and actually getting some food (gas station egg roll for the win!) our stop in Adel was a hair over 30 minutes. Again, perhaps a bit longer than I originally would have hoped, but given my condition arriving in Adel and the renewed comfort and energy leaving again I think it was a key to continued forward progress. The fellow rider we found at the gas station when we arrived was still there upon our departure. I asked him again if he was getting ready to head back out. He replied he was thinking about it. I have the suspicion that may have been the end of his TI.
Covered Bridges/Uncovered Roads
As we left Adel the roads continued to get soggier as the rain kept on coming down fairly steadily. We were still heading generally south and even a little more west. It was hard to fathom at that point how far away from Grinnell we were and the fact that we continued to put more headwind between ourselves and the finish. Of course there was nothing to do but keep pedaling and let that sort itself out later.
Details begin to blur in this middle stretch of the ride. Somewhere around here though we had a chance to ride past a couple of the famed Covered Bridges of Madison County. First we passed the Hogback bridge and then after passing through Winterset we passed the Holliwell Bridge.
Sadly, while the bridges where covered, the roads, and the riders on the road were NOT covered. The rain continued steadily and the roads continued to become more saturated. I guess I wouldn’t say that they really became very soft or squishy, but there was lots of wet and grimy spray everywhere. Our drive trains were making all sorts of protests.
Between bridges we also took a 20 minute stop at grocery store in Winterset. This gave Trent a chance to warm up and try to get some food down since he was having issues with lack of appetite. We certainly got some interesting looks and some questions about our sanity as we traipsed around the store all soggy and dirty.
Resolute in our goal of reaching CP2 where we could reevaluate and at least have the choice of continuing or not we pushed on. We finally started heading back east at this point. Perhaps I am having selective memories, or perhaps the wind really did die down for a while. Or maybe I had become numb to the elements being soaked to the skin.
As the sun began to set we approached one of Guitar Ted’s Jig-A-Jogs on the cue sheet. It seemed innocent enough. As we approached the first turn there was a large pole building on the side with a dog barking loudly. As we made the turn I heard someone yell out, “have fun on the dirt road!”
It was at this point that we got to learn what a days worth of steady rain did to an Iowa B road. Let me assure you, it isn’t pretty.
What earlier in the day had been sticky mud that clung to the bottom of anything that rolled on it had been transformed into lakes of murky water and inches of shoe sucking muck. There was no escaping it, the best you could hope for was to find a firmer patch of ground along the side to increase traction.
At the end of this lovely stretch of road, Trent and I caught up with Bike Iowa’s Scott Sumpter. We were at mile 179 so we only had about 14 miles to go to reach CP2. Our trio rolled a pretty quiet and uneventful final 14 miles in the dark, wind, and rain up to a nearly deserted trail head parking lot that denoted CP2. We had made it by 10:15 with about 45 minutes to spare.
Apparently Scott is a local hero, because the Cumming Tap, which was immediately adjacent to the parking lot, erupted into cheers and a handful of folks came pouring out to welcome him in. There were offers of hot chocolate and to throw a pizza in for all of us.
Should we enter the warm and festive atmosphere of the local watering hole, or push on into the night?