See Part 1 HERE
See Part 2 HERE
Editorial Note: By the time I got to writing this… it is suddenly September. And I haven’t written a single other race or event report. You might say this one kinda clogged up the pipeline of reporting. Time to finish this thing out. Especially since Guitar Ted just announced he is in for TI V14… am I going to do it?
The Cumming Tap
The invitation to head into the bar for warm food and drink was very inviting. My first instinct was to ride away from it as fast as I could. I did NOT want that to be the end of my TI and I could feel the gravity of that black hole distinctly from the parking lot.
I really needed to get warmed-up though and rearrange some things. And some warm food and drink did sound really nice… Plus, according to the check point workers it was the only place around or on course for quite some distance. Decision made, it was bar time. I headed in and promptly started making a complete and utter mess of the place throwing wet and muddy clothes everywhere.
Everyone there was fantastic. I wasn’t allowed to pay for anything (pizza, sandwich, and hot chocolate), I was told to stop cleaning up after myself, they let me change in a spare room rather than the little men’s room, I got plenty of words of encouragement. In all I spent almost an hour there. I put a dry base layer on, changed my socks, and got a bunch of fresh hand and toe warmers going. I ate a bunch.
Coming into CP2, I had been a little concerned that Trent might be calling it a ride. I gave him some space while at the bar to sort himself while I sorted myself. As I was getting ready to go I let him know I was about ready. To my surprise he said he was getting ready too. Excellent, I didn’t really want to spend the whole night alone!
So about 11:15 pm, Trent and I headed back out into the elements. Talk about a rude awakening. It was cold, raining, and the wind was picking up again. That was quite the shock to the system coming from an hour of the calm and warm indoors. As we rolled across the road we got a little cheer from the check point workers and a small crowd of riders that appeared to have rolled in after the cutoff. And then it was into the darkness…
Still On Track
As we left Cumming around 11:15 pm, we had only 138 miles to go and we had almost 15 hours to do it in. Finishing still seemed within the realm of possibility. I honestly don’t remember much about the next two hours of riding. I know about 10 miles out from Cumming we ran across Scott Sumpter again. He was calling the bartender back at the Tap to come get him. Tapping out. Trent and I rolled on in silence other than the sound of the wind in our ears and the growl of our drive trains and disk brakes.
As we rolled into the outskirts of Indianola we encountered a series of largish paved hills. I quickly came to dread the downhills. I was much in preference to climbing the hills at 5 mph and getting warm than bombing down the other side at 25 mph and freezing. Eventually we hit one block off main street and then the cue sheets had the “turn left, go one block, turn right, go one block, turn right, go one block, turn left” that was a sure indication that Guitar Ted did still care about his riders.
Trent and I spent the next almost 30 minutes refueling and warming up in the Casey’s General Store. We found out we were several hours behind the last group ahead of us to pass through. The guy running the place in the middle of the night was really friendly and I enjoyed a nice conversation and appreciated that he didn’t mind that we were making an awful mess of his store. The 30 minutes here were a bit of a surprise in the post event analysis. This was probably the start of our downfall eating up more time than either of us realized.
As we rolled out of Indianola I was shivering pretty hard. I had to pedal kinda hard for a while to fire the engines back up again and warm-up. For the next hour the sky continued to spit and the wind continued to blow as we rolled right into the teeth of it in the darkness. 12 miles later we were dealt strike two.
Guitar Ted Hates Us
At mile 225, which was 23 hours and change into this crazy thing, Trent found me dismounting my bike. He asked me what was wrong. I just shined my light on the B Road sign and asked him if he had seen it…
This was the worst B road yet. It had been raining pretty steadily for the last 14 hours now and it was nothing but 6″ deep mud and puddles. It descended a moderate decline to a little creek crossing at the bottom and then climbed back up the other side to the next turn about a mile later. The ditches were STEEP and slippery. At one point I realized that if I slipped I was going to slide a good 20 feet down into a raging little creek at the bottom. I opted to slop down the middle of the road at that point. On the climb back up to the corner my arm was getting tired from carrying my bike so I just put my head down and huffed it out.
It was then that I started calling Guitar Ted some pretty nasty names. Previous to this, all of the B roads had been about a mile long. You’d trudge the mile to the next cue turn, scrape stuff off, mount your bike and you were off again. This time, I made it to the corner, walked out into the road… only to find it was still a B road. Fu…… I quick check of the cue sheet showed that the next turn was another MILE up the road. Without looking back I just threw my bike back up on my shoulders and started stomping down the road again.
About 17 minutes and 2/3 of a mile later I reached firmer ground again. I turned around and Trent was GONE. Not a sign of a headlamp or anything. I set my bike down and got to scraping mud off of everything. I finished that and went to find a little shelter in the ditch. There was a nice high bank on the other side that afforded me a little protection from the wind. I proceeded to dance and do jumping jacks while looking back up the road for any signs of Trent. Thankfully a headlight eventually emerged over the last hill and slowly made its way towards me.
When Trent arrived it looked like he had traded in his gravel bike for a fat tire bike somewhere along the way. He told me he had gotten too tired to carry his bike and had to push it. His bike must have been 30 pounds heavier by the time he reached the end of the B road and the tires certainly didn’t roll any more. That B road really took it out of him. He got things scraped up the best he could and we rolled on again. 1.5 miles in 55 minutes.
We both knew we were in trouble at this point. 103 miles to go and about 10 hours to do it in. I mean it was ONLY a century, but we had been riding for a full 24 hours now. We were still continuing generally east and heading generally into the wind. It was going to be tough. I was still feeling surprisingly good. Or maybe it was more of a feeling not bad. I told Trent that we had another two hours or so until the sun came up and I wanted to stick together until then.
I had fallen into doing the bulk of the navigation at this point. 24 hours, 235 miles and not a single missed turn. I fixed that with “42.1 >> On 35th Ave”.
My befuddled brain either saw the “>>” which means “Straight” or “Continue On” and instead saw a right arrow, or I got my cue lines crossed and saw the R on the next cue. Either way, we took a right onto some unknown road that wasn’t on course. Shortly after the turn I realized I hadn’t looked closely at the street sign for confirmation. I spotted at least one set of tire tracks in the mud ahead though so I felt safe. Turns out I was in good company as a post ride Strava inspection shows that it was race winner Dan Hughes who also took the wrong turn. Anyhow, about a mile and a half later when not encountering a right on Newbold I realized I had made a mistake. Three miles and almost 20 minutes later we were back on course, but that much more tired and that much more behind schedule.
Solo To A Slow End
A few miles further on and the sun was finally starting to rise. Or I presume so. The sky was getting a lighter shade of gray anyhow. We had about 90 miles to go and 8 hours to do it in. Very few words were exchanged, but Trent told me to push on ahead. I hit lap on my GPS so I could get a better gauge for my current pace. My poor mental math was telling me I needed to average something like 11 mph for the next 8 hours. Sounds totally doable right?
I put my head down and “hammered” for about 10 miles. Post ride analysis shows that “hammering” after 26 hours results in heart rates maxing our around 150. Otherwise known as somewhere well within the aerobic zone. After that ten miles and I was averaging 10mph. This wasn’t fast enough to make the cut off. Worse yet it wasn’t a pace I thought I could sustain for another 7 hours.
Going into the event I had two “process goals”. The first was to maintain a positive attitude. Former TI finisher Ben Oney told me that was critical to success. I think I nailed that goal. In our catch-up call a week after the event Trent told me he really appreciated my positivity. Sounds like external validation of my self assessment. Thanks Trent!
The other process goal was to keep eating and keep pedaling. I wanted to tell myself that no matter how poorly I felt in the moment, it was likely to be temporary and if I could just keep calories going in and the wheels spinning it would probably get better. If I have any disappointment in my TI experience, it is that I decided to call it an end at a low point instead of a high point.
Somewhere a few miles outside of Attica I had to walk up a hill. Then I was soft pedaling and trying to eat some more. Then I stood at the bottom of a hill and looked at it for a little while. Finally I decided to pull over to the side of the road and pull out my phone. It was time to find the next reasonable stopping point and call in the extraction team. Attica looked good and was about five miles away. I made the call to wake up my support team and then just kept pedaling watching the miles tick of agonizingly slowly.
Once I finally reached Attica and found exactly ZERO places to get in out of the elements. I checked how far it was back to Grinnell and was horrified to find out that it was over an hour away! I ended up huddling in the corner of the local church hoping that it was eventually going to open on a Sunday morning… it never did.
So I ended my first TI with 262.47 miles of riding (258.8 on course) in 28 hours and 10 minutes.
My extraction arrived and helped me load up the bike and throw the wet and dirty junk in the backseat. She then drove me back to the hotel where I was able to take a nice hot shower. As she finished packing up I just about fell asleep on the bed.
We took a quick trip over to the finish area. I apologized to Guitar Ted for swearing at him at 4 in the morning on that 2 mile B road. We hung around long enough to see Greg Gleason finish looking tired, but unharried. Then off to Prairie Canary for brunch where we ran into and shared a table with a couple of TI volunteers. Then I slept pretty much all the way back to St. Paul where we had dinner at Cossettas.
But What About The Bike and Gear?
I figured I had probably trashed an entire new drivetrain and every other thing on that poor bike that could get worn out. I did my best job at cleaning it off later that week and then brought it in to CyclovaXC and the capable hands of Brad. Turns out after a much more thorough deep cleaning where Brad dumped out a fair quantity of Iowa on the floor of the shop from the bottom bracket and a few other places he was able to confirm that there wasn’t anything completely trashed. A couple of new jockey wheels was about it. Definitely some wear on the rest of the drivetrain, but the chain wasn’t even toast.
Overall my Warbird performed admirably. It would have been nice to have some additional mud clearance such as you might find on a Cutthroat. Then again, I wouldn’t really have been riding any of that muddy junk anyhow so it probably wouldn’t have made a substantial difference.
I was pretty happy with the rest of my stuff too. My TI Shank™ was critical to my success. That B road mud is crazy. Lots of layer. A little bit of wool. Sweet Woolly kit from Podiumwear. Wasn’t super happy with the gloves, but my fingers didn’t fall off so that was something. I sure made a damn mess when I got home though.
And What Did I Learn?
I can ride my bike a lot longer than I figured I could. Going in I was really concerned about being up for 24+ hours. I was obviously tired at the end, but I didn’t suffer from any of the ill effects that I thought I would. No falling a sleep on the bike, no massive headaches, and no hallucinations.
The power of positive thinking is real. Ben Oney made sure to emphasize that to me over any other gear or training advice. I spent the weeks leading up to the event practicing that in all of my rides. Something not going right? Well what is going right? Does it seem just plain stupid to be out here right now? Yeah, well you are kinda dumb so you might as well enjoy your poor life choices. Other than the collection on f-bombs I tossed Guitar Ted’s way on that 2 mile B road at 4am, I made a concerted effort to just smile and think about how crazy the whole thing was.
Nearly five months later the pride in my accomplishment is fading some. No, I didn’t finish, but 262 miles in those conditions isn’t anything to sniff at. I have had a few opportunities to remind myself that overconfidence is a thing too. I DNF’d a couple of mountain bike races this summer. What, the race is ONLY 100 miles of single track? Phhfft. I rode my bike 262 miles…. Turns out that those two things are substantially different challenges.
- Guitar Ted – He pours himself into this event. It’s his and has its own unique quirks and oddities. A one of a kind for sure just like he is. Thank you for providing the opportunity for self exploration.
- Volunteers – I know Guitar can’t do this without numerous folks helping out. I don’t know who all of you are, but thank you for everything you do to make this event happen.
- Sponsors – WTB, Riding Gravel, Velocity, Grinnell Steak House
- My Support Crew – She agreed to marry me last week, definitely a keeper
- All my bike peeps who do stupid stuff with me
Will I Do It Again?
Shortly after finishing I was pretty sure I would attempt it again if Guitar Ted decided to have TI v14. That was far from a sure thing at the time. But, just a week or so ago he announced TI v14. Registration won’t be open for a bit yet, but I’m 99% committed to applying again. I mean, it can’t be worse conditions than this year right? Right?