Sunday, April 09, 2006

trip report: gravel in the dark

some (one) of you out there are wondering how the gravel ride i did friday/saturday went. well, it went pretty well all considering.

i rode down to dsm with the intention of doing an overnight gravel century with Dave Mable and then riding back home. when i intially formed this plan i figured it was a mere 25 miles to dsm and so, all told, i'd be doing 150 miles. a lot of miles no doubt, but not much more than the 130 miler i did to cedar rapids last summer. luckilly, before leaving on friday i found that the trip from ames to dsm was more like 40 miles. still, i figured i could do it.
i budgeted 4 hours for the trip down and left at 3pm. 16 miles of gravel, 20 miles of the saylorville bike trail, and 5 miles across dsm got me to Dave's house at about 5:45pm. the saylorville trail always fools me. i think that it's just a bike path and should be no trouble. the trouble is that it is hilly, twisty, and circituitous. it does in 20 miles what a good road would do in 10. plus, it is so tight and twisty that you can't maintain any speed. great for an afternoon ramble, but not so good for getting someplace. but hey, i wanted a challenge, didn't i?

Dave and his wife were very kind and gave me some dinner (pasta, what else) while we chatted and waited for 7pm and the ride to begin. the plan was to ride 58 miles to jefferson and back on gravel starting at 7pm and getting back at 4am, for a total of 116 miles in 9 hours. i was a little suprised that we were planning on going that far. i didn't think that given the finish time we'd be able to do it (i usually plan my rides for 10mph including rest stops, etc.).

we met up with the other riders (7 in all) and rolled out at 7:30. the sun was setting and as soon as we got out onto gravel the scenery was nice. in town no one seemed to be in a hurry, just what i wanted, but as we got into the country people started doing strange things like trying to make breaks and sprinting for stop signs (i am not a roadie). hey guys, i thought, this isn't a race, this is a 100+ mile ride, on mountain bikes, on gravel. what are you, crazy? but i didn't say anything and we kept going. at about 20 miles in Ward from decorah bikes and another rider dropped out to ride to granger and then back to dsm on the saylorville trail. i'm not sure if they intended this from the beginning or just decided the pace wasn't to their liking. i for one was sorry to lose them.

as the 5 of us approached perry somebody started to push the pace. i started to breathe hard and my legs felt a little burn. i knew that if we kept doing things like that i wasn't going to make the ride home. we stopped at a casey's store in perry for food and a short break i was warm enough when we got there so i decided not to put on my jacket, big mistake. as we left perry i started to shiver pretty violently, but i kept it under control and rode on knowing that as soon as i warmed up it would stop. i was right. after about 10 minutes i was back to normal, but i knew that shivering was a bad sign. i was using up too much energy just keeping warm. not a good way to do an endurance ride.

about 10 miles out of perry, Scott, the only other guy on a cross bike, decided to call it quits and turn back for dsm. i can't blame him. he took off and we stopped, rested, ate, and talked about whether or not to go on. initially i wanted to continue, but i knew that if we kept our pace and stopped for food in jefferson as planned we wouldn't be back until 6am. too late. we turned back, phone calls were placed to let wives know what was up, and 1 of the 4 of us left arranged for his ride home, originally to meet him in jefferson to meet him instead at perry. when we arrived in perry the guy who was getting picked up left us and so did another rider who had had enough.

then it was 2 of us. Dave and i were the only ones left. we stopped at a bar, Dave refilled water bottles and i put on my jacket, then we headed out. we spotted Scott's taillight flashing about a mile ahead, but soon lost it. we maintained a reasonable pace from here. it seemed that all of Dave's competitive friends had left us and i sure wasn't going to push the pace. for a long time we played tag with Scott's taillight. eventually we caught him while he was taking a break and eating.

Dave described a shortcut back to the saylorville trail for me and i thought about it as we rode. i kept having visions of myself sitting alongside the trail somewhere shivering and trying in vain to get my cold, numb hands to open an energy bar wrapper. that decided it. i told Dave i was going to have to crash on his couch for a few hours and call a friend to give me a ride home. he said it was the smartest thing he had heard all day.
as we got near dsm Scott started to push the pace. he knew he was almost home and he wanted to be done. it was all i could do to hang on. i wanted to slow down, but i too knew that i'd soon be done and didn't really have any reason to hold back anymore.

we got back to Dave's house around 3am where he gave me a blanket and a couch. i was grateful, he had been super kind to let me have dinner and now a place to sleep. i laid down, but as soon as i did i started shivering again. if i had been at home i would have taken a warm shower, but as it was i just suffered with it for a while and then fell asleep. at about 6:45 i woke up and called my friend Alice for a ride home. i am lucky to be surrounded by such helpful people.

so yeah, it was a pretty good ride, but i learned some lessons:
1. i would have been better off much of the time to keep my own pace.
2. i was colder on this ride than in the arrowhead race, even though it was no colder than 32 degrees. even though i got away with it i should dress more appropriately.
3. gravel in the dark isn't too bad, but it is tough to see street signs with only a handlebar mounted light. i'll have to use a supplementary helmet light on transiowa.

i'm sure there were more lessons, but i can't think of them just now. i'm glad i did the ride. i'll be more comfortable on the overnight sections on ti. and to answer Paul's question i'm feeling pretty good. i was pretty exhausted at work on saturday and very hungry, but i am only a little sore. my knees feel good. my only complaint is my achilles tendon which hurts a little when i ride. i plan on taking the next few weeks for rest though so i should be ready when ti rolls around on april 29th.

that was too long,


Paul said...

It is great to hear your ride report! Thanks for that Matt. Reading your report made me VERY happy that I didn't go along. I would have never been able to stay with you guys!

Was Dave the only other TI participant on the trip?

It sounds like you did very well considering the cold. You only confirmed my decision to take an extra shirt and lightweight coat. Thanks for that!

See you soon

Paddy Humenny said...

good read. good ride.

Simmons said...

Nice write up Matt. See you in a few weeks.

Matt Maxwell said...

There were a couple of other TI participants on the trip; Scott on his Cannondale cross bike and a couple of other guys whose names I didn't catch. Crazy to think that 2 days ago I was almost hypothermic and today I was sweating in shorts.

flyingwedge said...

Matt, I just found this, fun to read! Thanks for your kind words! Those guys were pushing the pace and I enjoyed our ride from Perry the most, then it kind of became a ride "in the zone" if you know what I mean! I'm bummed you were cold, I have some wicked warm sleeping bags you could've snuggled in! Great ride in the TI- what an epic! Peace - Dave