Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's a go for 9 Mile

I signed up for 9 Mile today. It looks like it'll fit in my schedule and I guess I can put up with the crowds that are likely to show up. My major trepidation is that I'll get into trouble with passers like I did two years ago at 7 Oaks. Some speed demon tried to pass me too close while yelling "on your Right" too late. Sure enough, I panicked, swerved and nearly took us both out. He had a few choice words for me.

I accept some of the responsibility. I have to remain in control of my bike. I should have just kept riding straight and all would have been fine. However I think that much more of the blame goes to him. I think this guy was on a team and pretty fresh (otherwise he wouldn't have been going so fast), but he has to know that there are some solo guys out there who are taking their time and a little tired after 18 hours on the trail. I can't be expected to be especially quick and alert at that point. Second, he should have let me know he was coming a little earlier not when he was already beside me. Third, we were on a pretty narrow section of singletrack and I'm not sure there was really enough room to pass. There probably was, but it was close. In my opinion he should also have waited for some sort of confirmation from me before proceeding, something like moving over (which I had been happily doing all day) or saying "okay." At least that's what I try to do while riding paths in town.

I understand that it's a race and all. Maybe I'm the one out of line here. I'd hate to be the dumb guy who cost him 1st place, but I don't think that's the case. Whatever the case, I'll try to be more alert at 9 Mile where I'm bound to be passed dozens of times. I'll also bring a bell.

How'd tutoring go?
Glad you asked. It went okay I guess. It's tough to teach someone who isn't on board with the philosophy program. Sometimes I wanted to say: "read it again and pay attention this time." It's probably too late for his first exam, but what he really needs to do is improve his reading comprehension. He needs to not worry so much about the big words and try to figure them out from context. He also didn't seem to like it when I said things like "Well, you could argue this two ways." Really I figure the first session is more about finding the problems rather than quick solutions. Besides, reading Kant is always tough.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another weekend without internet access

I've been a little lax in my riding lately so the 40 mile road ride I did with Nick this morning was great. Not a big deal and we didn't try to race or anything (the heat wouldn't have allowed it anyway), but just some good miles. I seem to be pretty much recovered from Dirty Kansa. The saddle sores are about healed and my legs are just great. The unfortunate thing is the sunburn that I have from riding without sunscreen today. It's not hurting too much yet.

Seven Oaks was once again rained out. One of these days I'll make it out there on a dry day.

It looks like I'll be tutoring a student in ethics for the summer. I'm not really sure I'm up to the task, but I'll give it my best shot. The first assignment is Kant and Mill. Mill is easy enough, but Kant has to be the most difficult philosopher out there. I re-read some important works from both this weekend. Kant is certainly easier this time around (probably the 4th time). Not that he's easy, just easier. Ethics has never been my strong suit, but I think I can get the points across. I just hope that my tutee "gets" philosophy. Some people don't quite understand what the deal is: that there is no right or wrong answer (per se), just sound or poor argument. This guy seems smart enough. I think that he just isn't comfortable with how different a phil. class is from any other discipline.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dirty Kansa: Nutrition, Equipment, Strategy

There were two considerations in my nutrition strategy. The first was the heat. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't get dehydrated or low on electrolytes. In order to do this I filled both my Camelbak and waterbottle with Ultima replenisher drink mix (raspberry flavor). The stuff tastes good and works for me. It's supposed to contain B vitamins which are purported to improve endurance. Whatever it does I was happy with it. In the second half of the race I switched to Elete because the additive was easier for me to carry than the powder. It seemed to work okay, but I prefer the flavor of the Ultima to flavorless Elete. It's like that old dandruff shampoo commercial: "Both have effective dandruff fighting medicine, but only Selson has something extra that tingles." Ultima tingles with flavor. Ultimately I think I drank about 9 liters of liquid during the race. That seemed to be about the right amount. I just drank whenever I thought of it, whenever I felt tired, or felt a headache coming on. Unlike some other racers I did have to stop and relieve myself several times during the second half of the race. That's a good sign I think.

The second component was the food. I decided early on that I'd eat something every 10 miles of the race. Usually I ate one of the fig bars that I had stashed in my jersey pockets. Since I carried them unwrapped and loose they were easy to get to and stuff in my mouth. I can't stand having to open and dispose of wrappers while I'm trying to concentrate on riding. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of eating them without getting out of breath. The thing to do is chew as quickly as possible and then swallow. Follow quickly with a drink and everything's fine. If I try to chew on it for a while and take my time with it then I end up trying to breathe through my mouth while eating which is a bad idea. Sometimes I'd have an energy gel. Usually I had these when I was stopped or had just completed a hill or major milestone. I probably only had 5 of these during the race, but they were a welcome change from the fig bars. At Cottonwood Falls and Eureka I ate something like 2 fig bars and a gel. That seemed to work for this race, but for something longer like a 24 or TransIowa I think I'd need to eat some real food at some point.

I chose equipment pretty well for the race. The Surly Crosscheck with 42mm tires was about perfect. I had a mountain bike ready for this ride, but I decided not to take it based on course reports and the fit of the bike. Sure it was rough and my forearms and rear-end paid the price, but I don't think that the mountain bikers fared any better. I was expecting the downhills to feel sketchier on the cross bike, but I never felt out of control and rarely had to touch the brakes. I just had to watch where I was going.

The tires I chose were a pair of cheap Cheng Shin wire bead 42mm tires I found in the trash. There is absolutely nothing special about these tires. I wanted to run WTB Mutano Raptor 44mm tires, but I didn't manage to order them in time. They certainly would have been lighter, but I'm not sure that they would have been better in two other categories: durability and rolling resistance. The Cheng Shins have a lot of rubber on them. It would be tough to get a puncture type flat on a tough tire like this. Since punctures are what took down a number of competitors I'm glad I chose to go heavy. On the other hand Dave Simmons ran the course on Bontrager 32mm tires and didn't have any flats either. Maybe we were both just lucky. The Cheng Shins are also fast rollers on pavement. They don't hook up particularly well in the dirt, but that wasn't a real worry for this course. The knobs have an almost connected center tread and that's just what I needed on the 30 miles of pavement on the course.

As for clothing the only items of note were my gloves. I used Ironman Pro gloves by Spenco. I picked up these gloves after having had some carpal tunnel-like symptoms after 24 hour races. I didn't want to be unable to use a wrench for a week after long rides so I tried them out. They work very well for me. My hands did get sore and the gloves were uncomfortable during the second half of the ride, but I didn't have any numbness and that's what counts. The use of drop bars and Cane Creek brake levers might have contributed to my success here too.
My only equipment failure was my Jandd seat bag. At some time during the race the bag fell open and I lost my favorite Park tool kit on the backroads of Kansas. If anyone found my tool wallet let me know would you?

Race Strategy:
My race strategy was simply, "going is faster than stopping." Rather than stopping for breaks in every town I picked the ones that I needed to stop in and ignored the rest. Thus I didn't stop in Council Grove or Olpe. I didn't generally stop and rest when others did so alongside the road either. Whenever I did have to stop I made it as quick as possible and got right back on the bike. By doing this I think I kept up with a lot of riders faster than I am.

I didn't really intend to go out as hard as I did at the beginning. Like in TransIowa I was at the front for a while, but unlike TI I wasn't feeling up to it. I'm glad that I stopped trying to keep up pretty quick, but I should have fallen back earlier. During the first half of the race I averaged just over 15 mph, but for the second half I averaged just under 11. Sure some of that was the wind and the fact that all of the stopping I did was counted in the second half, but I don't like that I slowed down so much. I'd like to even it out more next time. I started to notice that I was slowing down around mile 120. Perhaps it's that I'd never done a continuous ride longer than 130 miles (I did 150 once, but had a 2 hour break in the middle). I wonder if I didn't pace myself well enough for the first half. It's something to work on I guess.

That about wraps it up for Dirty Kansa. I look forward to next year. It was a great, well organized race and there wasn't much to dislike. I personally liked the course markings and maps. I thought that they were great. Much easier to navigate than TransIowa. I know a few people got lost, but that, I suppose, is part of the race. I don't want these long gravel races to turn into orienteering tests. Leave that to the adventure racers.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

To 9 Mile or not to 9 Mile

The question of the day is: Should I compete in the 24 hour race this July in Wausau? No, I won't be national champ, but it might be fun. I've got to decide soon so as to save some money on my registration and start training right away.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dirty Kansa: Cottonwood Falls to Finish

At Cottonwood Falls I tried to get everything done as quickly as possible. I wanted to get moving again. In the past, at 24 hour races, I've stopped for too long and stiffened up or fallen asleep. I didn't want that to happen here. I was surprised at who was still waiting around at the checkpoint. Paddy was still there, along with Dave Simmons. There were about 6 people overall who had gotten there before me. I was pretty happy about that. I refilled my Camelbak and bottle, ate a couple of fig bars and a gel and was ready to go.

Dave and I decided to ride together for a while. We rode together for a while and chatted about the Arrowhead race and TI2. It was pretty flat with good roads for a while. About mile 100 things started to get hilly and the gravel got rougher. We crossed over our first cattle grate and into open range territory. I seem to be a pretty good climber and so the hills didn't phase me, but rather gave me energy. At times I gained some distance on Dave, but I couldn't keep it. It wasn't really my intention to drop him so I was okay with it. Soon we crossed over Interstate 35. It was interesting to think of people speeding through the area at 70+ mph, not noticing anything, while we were crawling along at barely 10 mph and enjoying it immensely.

We caught sight of someone ahead of us. I thought it was Paddy. He had left shortly before us and whomever was ahead was riding some kind of mountain bike and was climbing like a singlespeeder (or so I thought). Before we could catch him though we saw someone coming up from behind. I had no idea whom this could be, but Dave thought it was Paddy. (Can Paddy be in two places at once? A question for Paul.)

Around this point we started up a long incline. Actually we had been climbing more than descending for some time, but now it started to get serious. It was never super steep, but it went on for longer than anything around central Iowa (not too hard to find I guess). As we got to the top the rider behind caught up with us. It was Paddy. Dave was right. He said that he had gotten lost and wasted about 45 minutes. Considering that he had only left 15 minutes or so before us he must really have been moving. He passed us as we got to the top of the hill and began to ride along the ridge. Dave chased him and I tried, but my body wouldn't let me. I knew that if I chased I'd be cooked for sure. We also caught the rider ahead of us here. It was a guy on a Salsa Dos Niner, geared too. I guess my intuitions about the single speed thing were wrong. I rode just behind him for a while, but he was a little faster on the rough roads and he soon dropped me.

This ridge was the highlight of the ride. It was more like being above treeline in Colorado than being in Kansas. There was just grass and rocks, lots of rocks. The bedrock poked through in many places and it made it seem almost like a moonscape to me. Very different from what I'm used to back in Iowa. The area was studded with oil rigs, some operating. That sort of added to the mystique. I saw a few pickups with trailers alongside the road, but didn't see anyone around. It took me a while to figure out that the trailers were for horses and that whomever was up here was going around on horseback. Some terrains really are impassable by motorized vehicle. I wonder if a Pugsley would do.

After riding on the ridge for a while we hit the downhill. This was a terrific downhill: fast, rocky, long, somewhat twisty, but there was never any need to brake. I felt really confident descending, but was convinced that I'd soon have a flat tire. I didn't have that flat and soon I was back pedaling along in the flatter valleys. Soon it seemed, I was out of the open range and back in civilization. The roads widened, became smoother and I was able to pick up speed a little and not get beaten up by the rocks.

It didn't seem like long and I was in Eureka. I thought I was home free on pavement all the way through town , but I was wrong. The race organizers had routed us down the (seemingly) only gravel road in town. It was rough and had some double track if I recall correctly. At the Casey's I caught up with everyone else. Paddy, Simmons, the guy on the Dos Niner along with a few others. I refilled my Camelbak and since I was out of Ultima powder I had to use the Elete capsule that I had with me. It didn't taste as good, but I think it got the job done. Dave gave me some of his Sun Chips and I was soon on my way.

Paddy had left just before me and I knew that Simmons was right behind. Soon though Simmons passed me and then, not long after, a rider on a black Crosscheck passed me. I felt like I was losing ground, but there was nothing to be done. I knew that if I started to push hard here I'd never make it the remaining 50 miles. I rode alone for a while. There was a long 8 mile stretch into the wind, but once I started I hardly noticed the wind. I just kept chugging along. About halfway through the 8 mile stretch I caught the guy on the Dos Niner. He was standing in the middle of the road talking on his cell phone. I asked him if he was okay and he said he was. I wonder what he was doing. I thought at the time that he might be dropping out.

Towards the end of the 8 miles was the worst water crossing of the ride. A short steep downhill into a rough, rocky stream. I was forced to brake and slow down for fear of losing control or pinch-flatting. Right afterwards though was a super-steep uphill. I had to stand and grind and still I barely made it. From the tire tracks it looked like others had had problems too. Some tracks weaved side to side more than I'd think was efficient.

As I reached mile 170 the hills started up again. There were some nice views and I saw some bird that was small, black and white, had a long tail, and liked sitting on fences. Kansas sure does have a lot of interesting birds. I was getting pretty tired of riding a bike so it was nice when Joe Partridge caught up with me and said he wanted to ride together. He said he was happy with his placing (2nd single speed) and just wanted someone to talk with and make the time go faster. I guess I'm not much of a talker, but it was more company than I'd had for about 50 miles.

We stopped in Madison to top-off our bottles. I only put in about a quart. I figured I could make it the 25 miles to the finish with two quarts in the Camelbak and my 20oz. waterbottle. On the pavement around Madison I dropped Joe for a while, but I never seriously entertained the idea of leaving him behind. First, I knew he could catch me, second, why should I get rid of the only company I'd had in hours. Joe and I helped each other (he helped me more than I helped him) stay on course for the rest of the ride.

Just after mile 180 somebody on a full-suspension bike screamed past us. I hadn't even known he was behind us. I wanted to chase him, but once again, knew I couldn't. The idea did cross my mind though. I had intended to start pushing my pace with 20 miles to go, but now it didn't seem possible. It was getting dark as we rode into Olpe, the last town before Emporia and the finish. There were some huge stadium lights across town. It looked like a baseball game might have been going on. Baseball still seems to be popular in Kansas which I think is pretty cool even though I don't care for it.

We almost missed the last turn at mile 190. We couldn't see any of the markers we were expecting, but the map and our mileage said it had to be the one. The last 10 miles were daunting. I know I ride 10 miles every day; sick or well, awake or tired, every day, but thinking about 10 miles was just too much for me. Luckily Joe saw some fireworks in Emporia (I never did see them) and started talking about his time seeing a meteor shower on TI1. The talking helped to keep me from thinking about how far we had to go and before I knew it we were rolling into Emporia on pavement.

It almost seemed too short. We rode through town and found the hotel and finish line where we had started in the morning without a problem. There were quite a few people there to greet us and someone took our bikes for us. I was disappointed for Cory and Guitar Ted. As soon as I saw them I knew that they must have dropped out. I really wanted to see those two finish.

I know that I could have kept riding, but I was happy to be done. I showered and joined in the finish line festivities.

Tomorrow: analysis of my equipment, nutrition, and race strategy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dirty Kansa: Emporia to Cottonwood Falls

Sometimes, if nothing goes wrong there's not much of a story to tell. A story needs drama. It needs triumph and tragedy. Nothing went wrong for me at Dirty Kansa. I'll tell you the facts as I remember them (please correct me if I'm wrong and forgive my failure to remember names), but since there's not much drama in it , it may be boring.

Paul, Cory, and I had gone out to breakfast at 4:30am and were all well fed and ready to go. In spite of what Paul's pictures may show I was perfectly awake at the start. The weather was just about perfect. Warm but not hot and with some light cloud cover to keep the sun off. The wind was light out of the East and South and would continue like that all day, though wind speed would vary a lot. I was feeling okay. Not super confident, but not down either. There wasn't much nervousness at the start for me, although it looked like some others were very jumpy.

We started the roll-out at 6 and first light. Right away things were different than at TransIowa. The heavier tires I had selected for the conditions were slower to get up to speed and harder to keep there. I was with the front group (where I sort of wanted to be), but was having to put forth more effort to stay there than I would be able to sustain. It seemed like some people really wanted to push the pace, even before the pace car had pulled aside.

When we hit the gravel I knew almost immediately that this wasn't going to be like riding gravel in Iowa. The roads were narrower and had larger, looser gravel to contend with. I was happy to have my 42mm tires, but I knew they were more tiring as well. For a while I hung with the leaders, but after about 10 miles of rolling hills and rough gravel (sometimes there were chunks as big as a fist or larger in the road) I knew I couldn't keep up and I started riding my own pace.

At this point I started to implement my nutrition strategy for the race. Every 10 miles, I had decided, I would eat something. I had fig bars in my jersey pockets and gel packets as well. The first fig bar was tough to eat, as I was pushing to hard while trying to chew and breath at the same time. As I settled into my own pace though it got easier to efficiently stuff the bars down and not get out of breath.

Shortly after I was dropped, but still riding with a few stragglers I witnessed my first flat. The guy just behind me was riding along and all of a sudden "pssssh," his tube went. That got my attention. I started looking out for the rocks even more than before and hoped my heavy treaded tires would get me through. Soon after, I rolled past Cory while he was fixing a flat. I asked him if he needed anything and he said he was okay and I kept moving. This would be the first of 6 flats he was to have that day. I had thought that his tires would be good for the race, but I guess they were just too thin and lightweight. If I had thought that he would have had problems I would have suggested switching back to his older, thicker tires.

After about 25 miles a group formed with myself and three other riders. I don't clearly remember who they were, but I think that two of them were race organizers. I chatted with them a bit about the area and what I could expect later on in the course. Soon we arrived at the Northernmost part of the course a 6 mile stretch West with the wind. This was a pretty fast section and broke up our group. The guys I had been riding with sped up and left me in the dust. Soon I caught an older guy on a Salsa cross bike. He was riding strong and I remember thinking that he would be a finisher. He looked tough. I certainly hope that he made it, but I didn't catch his name so I don't know for sure. He seemed to be having trouble with some hills, but as soon as it flattened out again he dropped me. Once I settle into a rhythm I can't seem to push it any harder, especially on the flats, but then in a race like this, why should I?

When I hit the pavement nearing Council Grove at about mile 43 or so, I was able to speed up and I managed to catch Matt Wills, a single speed rider. Parts of this course were unfriendly to the SSers. There were a number of flat, paved sections where the gearies could make the most of it and the SSers had to sit and spin.

I rode straight through Council Grove and didn't stop. This was a calculated risk on my part. I had 40 miles left until the midway checkpoint at Cottonwood Falls and thought I had enough liquids left to get me there. I also knew that most riders would stop, rest, eat, and refill waterbottles. I figured that I'd gain at least 10 minutes on those who stopped. This was a race after all.

Just outside of Council Grove I caught a couple of guys on Trek mountain bikes with aerobars. I rode with them for a while, but as would happen many times in this race, they dropped me again. After a few miles we reached the first "B" road of the race. This was a very rocky, rutted, double track with a creek crossing. I just love riding sections like this on my Surly Crosscheck and it gave my legs a boost. I passed one guy and caught up with the two guys whom I think were race organizers, along with the guy on the Salsa cross bike. I rode with them for quite a while and they saved me from some stupid navigation errors. We wound through a river valley and passed by a few farms. At two of the farms people were out watching the race and had water jugs for us. We didn't need to refill and we kept riding (some others would make good use of these though). One of the farms we passed had a very sandy road in front of it. After a steep downhill we ploughed right into it and fought to keep control. I have quite a bit of sand (and snow which is similar) riding experience so I didn't have much trouble, but the Salsa crosser went down. We stopped to make sure he was okay and then kept moving. Soon after we came to some paved sections and when the rest of the guys stopped for a break with a couple of other riders already stopped I started to put some distance on them.

I crossed US 50 and rode through the town of Elmdale. Funny story: I've only been to Kansas (other than KC) once before. We drove through on our way to Santa Fe last spring. On our way back, late at night, we stopped in a little town, pulled off the road behind a berm in some farmers field and stealth camped. This little town happened to be Elmdale. Small world.

After Elmdale it was paved all the way to Cottonwood Falls. This didn't mean that it was easy though. There was a long, steep hill into the increasingly strong East wind. The sun had come out and was making things pretty miserable. As I cranked up the hill I saw up ahead of me a buzzard eating some roadkill along the side of the road. It made the perfect symbol for the ride.

I made it to Cottonwood Falls right at noon with an empty Camelbak and only an inch left in my waterbottle. Perfect timing.

That's all I have time for today. Second half of the race in tomorrows installment.

NW Nebraska = MT

Oi, I got home too late to do a real DK post. Hopefully tomorrow.

Today's concern is the next big race: the Endurosnob Epic. Sure it's in November, but that doesn't mean I can't be excited. Valentine to Chadron and back. Hmm, Valentine is a town of 2800 and Chadron is 5500. These are the biggest towns for hundreds of miles. The nearest "big" town is Rapid City, SD. Where exactly are we going to stop for water in the middle of the night? Endurosnob, do you know what you're getting us into? Are you familiar with this area? Mind you I'm still up for it. I might have to tow a gear trailer, but I'm up for it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Free Range Grass Fed Beef

Well, I managed to finish Dirty Kansa, 200 miles of Kansan gravel. Gravel roads in Kansas aren't like the ones in Iowa. What they call gravel I call rocks, big ones. And when they say Flint Hills they mean that there are arrowheads sticking out of the ground waiting, hoping, to puncture your tires. I'm not going to say too much now. I'll wait until I'm more rested and fed to do that. Suffice to say that I'm pretty worn out, but feeling pretty good. I want to go back and do it again. Oh and all the cattle we ran into out on the range were steers, no bull.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What did I forget?

Well, I just finished packing for Dirty Kansa. I'm packing a lot lighter for this one than for TI. Everything except the sleeping bag fits inside my Camelbak Mule. Not having to worry so much about weather is a big contributor to the volume of gear I'm bringing. The only things I need to remember to bring now are a cell phone from work and some tape. I even remembered the cog cleaning brush I forgot on TI.

I finished up reading Salman Rushdie's Shame today. It'll be a few days before I have enough to say on it though. Other reviews I want to write up are for Stanislav Lem's One Human Minute and the film Network. Hopefully I'll feel up to it soon.

Another Zen biking essay (probably the same as all the others).
Cory noted on his blog today that in all the TI pictures I seem to be smiling. The pictures from the Arrowhead race show the same thing. Well, it's true and I'm not just posing. Why though? I think it's because I'm actually having a good time. A good time for me is a little different from a good time for other people. A good time is when my mind shuts down and my body takes over. It's not an easy thing for me to achieve. Long distance biking does it. Long distance kayaking does it. To a lesser extent kayak rolling and surfing and the martial art Hapkido (which I used to do) do the same things. All of these activities are primarily physical and focus on immediate trained reactions, muscle memory.

I remember that the first time I combat rolled a kayak I didn't even think about it. I just rolled up because I needed to and had trained for it. It was great because I did the right thing in the right circumstance because my reactions told me to. My mind was empty.

Similarly the exertion of endurance sports takes all of my thoughts and puts them aside. I'm not really thinking about anything while I'm riding. If I start to think about things I start to make mistakes, crash, run into things, and get tired. If I just ride the time passes and I don't even notice it. I feel great. I don't get tired. It's one of the reasons I like biking to and from work. Half an hour each day of meditative work.

The second day of the Arrowhead race was like that. I just said to myself, "you are doing what you wanted to do," and my body took over. Even though I biked for over 13 hours without a break in sub 0 weather I wasn't really all that tired. I was ready to finish sure, I had a headache, and some minor frostbite, but my mind was in the moment.

It's sort a Zen thing, as they say. There are no worries, no desires on the trail. There is only me, the bike, and the trail. Anything not related to that is thrown out. I don't even get songs stuck in my head. It's like in I (heart) Huckabee's where they hit each other in the face with the balloon. For a moment there is nothing. That's what it's like, only longer.

Sometimes it's a bit of a problem to describe to someone what happened during a ride, especially a solo ride. What is there to say? I was there and I rode. That's it.

Now this description doesn't apply to every ride. Group rides, especially talkative ones are very different. Sometimes even solo rides aren't like that. I'm probably exaggerating somewhat too. It's tough to tell. It seems like I had a lot to say on both the Arrowhead and TransIowa experiences. In my defense though, one of the criticisms of my write-ups has been that they are too technical and not human enough. I don't describe the beauty of the scenery or how I felt. I don't even say how tough the ride was. Largely that's because I don't seem to have those experiences in the same way that someone else might.

Perhaps this is all a bit pretentious. I don't know. I'll see what happens this weekend at Dirty Kansa and let you know. I'll just try not to think about it too much while I'm there.

Banana Loading

Highs in the 90s predicted for Kanas this weekend. That should make things interesting. TransIowa was in the 40s and now this. Truth be told I do better in cold weather. My results in the Arrowhead should bear me out here. The last time I did an endurance ride in 90+ weather I bonked pretty hard about 10 miles from my goal. I had to sit down in the shade by the convenience store in Palo, IA, drink a Gatorade, suck down a Carboom gel, and recover a bit before moving on. That day (my first century) was 130 miles of paved road in 11 hours on one of the hottest days of the year. I ran out of water at about mile 60 and since it was the 4th of July all the stores in the small towns I was passing through were closed. I had to go about 15 miles without water before I found an open convenience store in Keystone.

I'm a little more experienced than I was then so I don't intend to repeat the performance, but I will be sucking down more water than I have been recently. I did 130 miles of gravel and B road last summer on an 80+ day and felt pretty good at the end of it. My legs were cramping and twitching at the end, but the rest of me was okay. More electrolytes is the lesson I suppose. Not only am I carb-loading for this one, I'm banana loading.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Historical Novel

Inspired by Salman Rushdie's book Shame, I've been reading up on the history of Pakistan and Bangladesh on Wikipedia. It's a pretty crazy history, war, corruption, religion, language, Cold War politics, etc. all had a hand in it.

Admittedly most of my knowledge of this area's history (including India) comes from reading Rushdie's novels. I don't know exactly how I should feel about this. It seems a little wrong to get your history from reading fiction. It seems like it would be better if I got my information from 'impartial' non-fictive sources. The thing is though that the history books don't give the facts in an easily digestible form and they tend to ignore the human element. I guess that since I'd rather know what people went through than what Bhutto said on what day the novel might not be such a bad source of information.

You've got to be careful though. Some books that purport to be historical fiction or use actual people or organizations as characters can be misleading. For instance, Dan Brown's popular books Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, purport to be truthful, but are in fact very misleading. Brown may use actual organizations, but he takes some pretty big liberties with the structure, cannon, and facts of the Catholic Church. Great for a thriller sure, but don't pretend that you learned anything.

Other authors' books however I feel that I can trust. Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose takes place in a historical context and appears to be pretty representative of the facts and controversies of the time. James Michner's books (of which I've read none) might fall into this category too.

Some authors such as Neal Stephenson in his Baroque Cycle are harder to parse. From what I can tell he's got most of his facts straight, but he inserts characters who never existed into pretty significant roles and that could be misleading. Luckily for the reader Stephenson inserts a glossary of names dividing up the real from the imagined characters of his books. It can be tough to keep straight, but at least he's honest.

I guess the lesson here would be that history is a list of facts, but the human experience is not so easily broken down into dates and places. Novels exist to convey things that are too difficult to put into simple terms. Sure we could say that the Bangladesh Liberation War had elements of genocide, but what do those terms really tell us about what it looked like. The novelist's (in this case Rushdie's) job is to move us away from the cleanliness of the word "genocide" and make us feel it. We can forgive some liberties with particulars so long as the mood is carried over and no truth is destroyed.

Reading Rushdie

Okay, so the ride this morning fell through. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I had two beers and sat around in a smoky bar the night before, plus my alarm seems to have malfunctioned. I must be getting old as I seem to remember when I could drink more yet feel less, hang out with smokers, then wake up the next morning feeling fine. Not hung-over and smelling like an ashtray. Anyway, welcome back Nick (bastard).

I'm ordering some WTB Mutano Raptors for the race. Hopefully they show up on time. If they don't it's okay, I've still got my Cheng Shins.

I played another game of Go with Pinky tonight. I lost (as usual), but I'm improving. He also had me read a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I recommend it heartily, plus it's really short. Read it here.

I've been tearing through books pretty fast lately and the blog just hasn't had time to catch up. Here's one that I read last week. This isn't the best review I've written (maybe 8th grade level).

Book Review: East, West, by Salman Rushdie

East, West, unlike most of Rushdie's works, is a collection of short stories. Of the nine stories, three are East, three are West, and three are Eastwest.

The East stories are essentially morality tales. Simple folktales warning us not to get our hopes up. I really wish I had more to say about these, but the only one that seems to warrant any attention is the third story, The Prophet's Hair. This story alone treats us to Rushdie's usual spiraling supernatural storytelling, but even it can be reduced to, "you get what you deserve."

The West stories read like a bad copy of Milan Kundera (admittedly an influence on Rushdie's writing). The three stories certainly delve into more complex realms, but leave us short of meaning or real world grounding that we have come to expect. Yorick and At the Auction of the Ruby Slipper, are certainly complex and ethereal, but where is the depth or substance? Columbus and Isabella is more like a sketch by Italo Calvino than the down to earth Rushdie.

Of all the stories only the Eastwest ones really seem to give us the depth and complexity along with the moral message that Rushdie represents. The Harmony of the Spheres gives us a glimpse into the supernatural world that Rushdie uses to such devastating effect in his novels, while Chekov and Zulu, along with it's pop-culture references, brings us some of the moral ambiguity that lurks under the surface. Finally, The Courter is the only top-notch Salman Rushdie in the collection. This story of an Indian family's Ayah living in London, this story gets us up close and personal with the everyday living of human beings. From the language barrier and sexual frustration to Flintstones references this is the real Rushdie.

None of these stories even comes close to Rushdie's novels, such as Midnight's Children or Shalimar the Clown. He is no short story writer. His craft relies too much on foreshadowing and lifetimes of patience to be presented in such a terse manner. East, West is best thought of as showing us Rushdie's place in literature. He is not East and not West, but as he would put it in one word, Eastwest.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Nick is back

Thanks to Alice I made it out for a ride today. We rode out to Peterson's Pits and then up the greenbelt trail most of the way to Story City. It was a bit of a confidence builder to ride off road on the cross bike in preparation for Dirty Kansa. I had forgotten that it isn't that bad. Along with the pictures that Paul has on his blog I feel like I might even finish the race.

Nick is back in town and it looks like we'll be riding early tomorrow morning. I guess I'd better get to bed.

Here's what I'll be riding for Dirty Kansa. Dave was right about the dress code.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Which bike now?

I got rid of the BMX saddle...and replaced it with a better saddle (jokers). The Mag 21 is great too. I love having the bike in action, but now I've got a real dilemma. C-Hog, one of the race promoters said today that a cross bike with 42mm tires would be the way to go for the Dirty Kansa. This is what I had in mind at the beginning, but changed my mind because of the reports of rocks. Now I've got two Dirty Kansa bikes. The one that I built up specifically for the race and put hours of blood, sweat, and tears (well, a little blood anyway) into or the Surly Crosscheck, my favorite bike ever, the bike that fits me perfectly, the bike that'll probably be faster. Looks like I'll be riding the Crosscheck and my tanky 42s will come out of the closet for the first time in years.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Epic News

Eric signed up for the Endurosnob Epic today. When Nick gets back into the country on Sunday we'll try to talk him into it as well. Ah, the old gang back together again. Have faith Endurosnob. Your race will fill up. People will get the bug. I'm looking forward to this late season race.

The Dirty Kansa bike is finally rideable. I like it. It's fast and handles really well off-road and on downhills. Confidence inspiring I'd say. The short chainstays might take some getting used to. I keep thinking I'm going to slide out around corners on gravel. It feels almost as fast as the cross bike. Just a few changes left to make. I've decided to put double chainrings up front rather than the single I'd planned on. The suspension fork that I'm using currently is the worst ever. It doesn't absorb bumps, improve handling, or reduce the shock to my hands but still bobs and sucks up energy while standing. I have a line on a Mag 21 with a canti hanger. That might be my ticket. When I change out the fork I'll also go with a shorter, high rise stem. The stem it came with is original and probably about 130mm or so. Kind of like a boat tiller. The plastic BMX saddle has to go too.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Can you hear it? It's the world's smallest violin.

I've noticed on other people's blogs that they are out riding their bikes. Not me. I haven't ridden for fun for about a week and that was a short one. It's one of the paradoxes of working in the bike industry that when the weather is best and you'd really like to be out riding, that's just the time when you're busiest and can't possibly spare a moment for your own bike. I'm looking at another 6 day week and my day off is already spoken for. I'd like to be able to ride in the mornings, but I'm just not a morning person. After work is okay sometimes, but really, after a long day I just want to sit down and be away from bikes for a few minutes. That's all for today, I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A History of Munich

Ahh, my internet is back. Or should I say the internet that is not mine but that I'm borrowing is back. Anyway, I'm a little embarrassed about the rant I went on yesterday. That really should have been four or five essays, one on each topic, and a whole lot more thought out. The thing is I was at the library and only had an hour to perform all of my internet antics. I can surf all I want in half an hour, but writing well takes longer. Perhaps I'll write them up proper someday.

The Dirty Kansa bike is assembled. It is not in it's final form yet, but I have pedaled it around the parking lot at work. There are a few kinks to work out. The suspension fork that I have isn't suspending. That's what you get from a secondhand 10 year old fork. I'm going to go to a rigid fork. Second, the chainring is too small. I'm running out of gears on the high end. That's pretty rare for a spinner like me so the gearing must really be too small. I'm going to move up from a 34 to a 40-42. Third the seatpost is too short and the stem is too long. I'll probably be tweaking this thing until race day. Pictures to come when I get my hands on a camera.

Movie Reviews: A History of Violence and Munich
Without any internet to entertain me over the weekend I ended up watching three movies. Two of them seemed to complement each other really well.

A History of Violence is the story of a small town man who in the process of foiling a robbery winds up killing two men and becoming a local celebrity. His celebrity however brings more unwholesome characters to town who seem to think they have some unfinished business with the man. The man then has to fess up to some long held secrets and defend his family from those who would want to harm them. The movie boils down to a story about man who has to do wrong (kill and lie) in order to do right (help out those whom he loves). The director has done an incredible job making the audience see that the protagonist is forced to do these things while showing that these things he is doing are ultimately destructive and wrong. A well crafted side plot about the man's high school age son helps us understand what he is going through. The son, picked on by bullies, a circumstance we can relate to, stands up for himself and lashes out physically at the bullies who have done him no physical harm. We understand that what the son has done is wrong, but at the same time we can sympathize with him. This emotion is carried over to the father who is in a similar (though not identical) situation and feels that it is necessary to lash out. Through the son we can understand the helpless feelings of the father. The director has also wisely left the ending somewhat ambiguous. With all of the lies revealed and killings perpetrated no family could go on as if nothing had happened. Many filmmakers would have tried to wrap the movie up with a happy ending, but that would have felt false. In the end we understand that the family has been destroyed and will have to be built again from the ground up, if at all.

Munich is the truish story of the aftermath of the 1972 killings of Israeli athletes by Palestinian gunmen at the Munich Olympics. Israel decides that, in order to show the world that they have had enough and to exact revenge, they must hunt down and kill the planners of the massacre. In doing so however the Israelis must become terrorists much like the Palestinians they loathe. The movie fails however because it does not bring the Israelis down to the Palestinians' level, but rather tries to bring the Palestinians up to the Israelis' level. Spielberg, the director, attempts to humanize all of the characters in order to make their deaths or their acts more horrific, but instead makes everyone too likeable. No one in the movie seems capable of the rage or fanaticism necessary for the acts they are committing. After a while the audience has to wonder: "Why are all these nice people killing each other?"
In order to have been a really great movie Spielberg would have to have made all of the characters, both Israeli and Palestinian, sinister and frightening as well as understandable. That way we would believe the things that they are doing as well as seeing where they are coming from.

Both of these movies address the problems of doing wrong in the name of right and revenge, rather than being the end, begetting further violence. One film however shows us the very real hurt that can be caused by someone close and understandable while the other confuses us by trying to cleanse the evil from every soul. A history of Violence certainly doesn't have the broad reaching goals that Spielberg set for Munich, but it seems to have achieved them better. Strangely the fictional movie portrays truth better than the true life one.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I haven't had regular internet access for the last few days so please excuse the lack of posts. I did manage to steal 5 minutes on a friend's computer yesterday and sign up for the Endurosnob Epic. Should be fun. I don't know if my friend Eric signed up or not. I'll try and make sure that he does.

No progress on the Dirty Kanza bike to report. I wanted to have it done by today so I could go for a ride, but events conspired against me. I didn't really feel like riding today anyway. I've been working a lot lately. Six days this week and I stayed late several of those nights. Plus, I had plans every night except Thursday. I'm going to take today off and just sit around, drink tea and enjoy myself.

Speaking of sitting around leads me to the "lifestyle choices" essay I talked about Thursday. As some of you know I don't have a car, don't have a credit card, no loans, etc. I do all these things not out of some protest against "the Man" or environmental statement or something like that, but rather out of a desire for simplicity. Without a car I don't have to make car payments, worry about gas, parking, etc. Lots of people worry about these things too much in my opinion. It is simply easier for me to bike everywhere, or get a ride, or take the bus than it is for me to own a car. It helps that I like riding a bike, no doubt about it, but some days I don't feel like it. Some days I'd be tempted to use a car if I had one, but if I started to do this I think I might start to drive even on days when I didn't have to. This brings me to another point: addiction. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to call the way we behave towards cars as addictive behavior. People really do think that they need a car to get by. Perhaps in a sense they do. To live in the way people are accustomed to people need to drive. We are in a hurry to do everything. Driving allows us to pack our schedules full and do several things every night. I, by contrast can only do one or at the outside two things per night. I really like to keep it at one. If I don't have at least four hours free for each activity (even reading or hanging out) I start to feel rushed and try to cut something out. This keeps my schedule as well as my mind relatively uncluttered. As far as credit cards and loans go I feel much better staying within my financial limits. I may decide to buy a house some day and for that I guess I'll need to get a loan, but I can't see many other reasons for doing so. I don't really think it makes sense to buy many things that you can't pay for all at once. Especially cars. I'm sure it helps that I'm single and don't have kids. I know that some of these opinions have more to do with my personal preferences (biking) and ethics (loans), but simplicity is probably the biggest factor. This essay has been more of a rant than anything else, but I guess I'm in a bit of a hurry, I'm off to do some heavy duty relaxing at the coffee shop.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dirty Kansa on a Frankenbike

I have a couple of longer more philosophical posts percolating at the moment. One on lifestyle choices and another on what to do when you're dead. Hopefully I'll have some time to do these up proper this weekend. As for now, just the teaser.

I started putting together my Dirty Kansa ride today. I've got a steel Gary Fischer HooKooEKoo frame, Midge bars, and some beautiful Suntour Power Ratchet shifters. The sticking points are the wheels (robbed them off an old Hardrock) and the broken down Rockshox fork I've got on it. I might borrow some wheels from another bike, or maybe build some up from parts I've got lying around. The fork however is a bigger problem. I'd like some suspension, but I also want to use canti brakes. Something cheap would be good too as this is an experiment of sorts. I get an RST Capa as it'd be cheap and I can get a cable hanger for it, but I don't know if it's quite up to my standards. If I like it a lot maybe I'll do it right later on. Or maybe I'll just stick with the Rockshox until I figure out if I really want to do anything with this bike.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Aeon Flux: Not the worst movie ever

We have a running contest at the shop to see who can come up with the worst movie ever. There are a few rules: 1) It has to be a big budget film. Not some homebrew thing. 2) It has to be unintentionally bad. Ernest movies don't count. 3) Whatever other rules we say there are. Simple enough. In any case I watched Aeon Flux on the off chance that it might be a contender. Nope, it wasn't, but it was pretty bad. The current leader is Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, which I haven't yet had the guts to see.

I broke out the GT track bike today. Rode it to work and then went for a short ride after work. My fixed riding skills seem as good as ever, but the gearing is too high (86.2 gear inches according to Sheldon Brown), and the seat is too low. I'll take care of the saddle height before I ride it again. My knees are important to me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Back in the saddle again

I went riding with Eric at Seven Oaks today. It was probably still too wet and I hope we didn't mess up the trails. The riding was tough and technical as always and made tougher by the wet clay that forms the trails. We did a fair number of two wheel slides around corners and had more than one good crash. I whacked my knee on the handlebars when my shoe pulled out of the pedal on steep climb and Eric managed to hit his ankle on his stem (no clue how, but he did it). It was good to get out on the Rocket 88 and remember what it's like to ride a dual suspension bike with wide, flat handlebars. Sometimes I forget that there really is a place for a mountain bike. We probably only got 5 or 6 miles in before dark and since neither of us had lights we had to stop. It is amazing what they've done with the course. I remember when it was a 3.5 mile loop and now, just 4 years later it's about 10 miles. There are still sections I haven't seen. I plan to go back sometime soon, perhaps this Sunday and check out the whole thing (more than once I hope).

My body is almost totally recovered from TransIowa. The soreness in my legs is gone and my back and knees which had been aching are just fine again. I remember when a 50 mile road ride would put me down for a week. I'm glad I'm in better shape now. Oh, and if you ever use soymilk in your Camelbak clean it out immediatley. Curdled soymilk doesn't just taste bad, it tastes way-bad. You never know until you try.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Race Report: TransIowa V.2

Much has already been said about the race so I'll try not to repeat too much that you've already heard, but rather give the race from my point of view. Everybody out there was very kind to me and I met so many great people I can't even begin to list them (you) here (besides, I'm terrible with names). Here it is:

Sleep was hard to come by Friday night. After the meet & greet at Pizza Ranch I went home with Ron & Millie Sorlye, my host family to get some rest. I had decided that I'd be in bed by 10pm. That left 5 hours to sleep before my 3am planned wake-up. Ron & Millie were great. To open up your home like that to a total stranger is more incredible than I can say. We sat up and talked for a while which was nice. I thought it would help me wind down. I also found out that Matt Chester was supposed to have stayed with the Sorlyes' as well. It's really too bad he couldn't make it down, but I can understand with work and all. It would have been fun to meet and talk with him. I took a shower around 10 and was in bed by 10:15. Not bad. Then the fun came. I couldn't stop thinking about the race. I'm normally nervous the night before a big ride and don't sleep too well, but this was ridiculous. I lay there with my thoughts until 1am or so without a wink of sleep. Finally I started getting full half-hours of sleep. At 2:55am I decided that I might as well get up rather than try to squeeze out that last five minutes before the alarm went off. I had been offered yoghurt, orange juice, and bananas for breakfast and I had planned to take advantage of all of them, but my stomach wasn't cooperating. I had a banana and a glass of orange juice and headed out to the high school for the start.

It was drizzling as I arrived at the high school and dropped off my drop bag. I circled around, talked to a few people and checked out bike setups. At this point I was feeling pretty good. The rain and wind were light and Decorah seemed possible. As we lined up at the start I found myself at the front. I turned to Cory Heintz and Dave Simmons and mentioned that I felt a little silly being at the front. I wouldn't be there for long I thought. Guitar Ted led us out of the parking lot at 4am and we rolled along on the pavement for the first 3.5 miles of the race. I was still at the front, but wasn't thinking much of it since it was still the neutral roll-out. I concentrated on taking it easy, but found myself out rolling others on the downhills (that's what tires at 75 psi will do for ya'). G-Ted pulled off onto the side of the road as we turned onto the first gravel section. I yelled out boldly "See you in Decorah." Yeah, I guess I was feeling good.

The gravel for the next 20 miles was the best of the race; smooth, with hard packed "lanes" where we could line up and cruise. The terrain was rolling hills, pretty nice. After a few miles I was still in the front group and expecting the real racers to start passing me any time. Eventually I looked back to see where everyone else was and to my surprise didn't see a single headlight. Shocked, I realized that I was stuck with the lead group where I figured I did not belong. I thought about dropping back and cruising at a slower pace, but I was feeling pretty good and didn't want to lose the advantage of having someone to draft. Occasionally I took my turn at the front, but things were pretty low key and I took plenty of time riding someone else's wheel.

At 20 or so miles in we hit the first B road. I had been looking forward to this. I have ridden a fair number of Iowa B roads and every single one is different. Some are reasonably maintained gravel, some dirt double track, some badly rutted and others perfectly smooth. This was the worst B road I have ever seen (no exaggeration). About 20 feet in I realized that it was unrideable muck. Now, I've seen this before and so I started to head for the grassy ditch to get around the "bad spot," but there was no grassy ditch. The fields were ploughed right up to the road. There was hardly any difference. And what I thought was just a bad spot was the whole mile of road. Well, there was nothing to do but shoulder the bike and walk. I knew it would hurt our average speed, but I couldn't worry about that. Everyone was in the same boat (how I wish we had had a boat) and would have to suffer through the same B road. Average speed be damned (it was here that I started whistling the Bridge on the River Kwai theme song). After much squelching through the mud for some time we spotted the flashing lights of a vehicle. I figured it was the end of the B road section, that or some fool was stuck. As I had figured, Jeff Kerkove was waiting for us at the end of the mile. A couple of guys stopped to clean out their bikes, but from previous experience I knew my tires and brakes would clear themselves pretty quickly by themselves (this isn't always the case if there is grass or other stuff in the mud, but pure mud cleans out well). I just kept riding. A few miles more and we made it to Alton.

At Alton there were several vehicles waiting for us at the Hwy 10 overpass. I nearly missed the turn as we sped on past Tom (with whom I'd ridden up) and Jeff Kerkove. A couple of miles down the road I noticed that my computer had been reading 30.91 miles for quite some time. Sure enough my computer had died. On Friday I had dropped my bike and broken the computer wire. Late that night at the Sorlyes' I had made a partial fix with my pocket knife, but I knew my electricians work was suspect. I'm happy that it lasted as long as it did, but was secretly glad that it was dead. As those who rode with me the know I don't care for bike computers (I think I said this about 10 times) and it was only for navigation purposes that I had put one on the bike. I had also taped over the speed display so that I could be free to ride according to my body and not according to some numbers. Actually it probably helped my navigation to lose the odometer. I started paying better attention to roadsigns, distances, and the cuesheets. About this time I also noticed that the roadsigns in the northwest part of the state are different from those in the central and eastern parts. In the areas of Iowa that I know well roads are named, west to east, A Ave, B Ave, C Ave, etc. or, more creatively Albert Ave, Broom Ave, Card Ave, etc. In the NW there are three A names before a B name. It made it a little harder to estimate distances, but I got the hang of it.
After Paulina there were a couple of more B roads, but nothing so bad as the first one. The roads were still unrideable, but at least we could walk in the ditch. We all knew that we could have been riding in the ditch rather than walking, but nobody wanted to be the first to do it. Once we started we realized that we really weren't much better off riding than walking. It was more tiring and rougher on the body than walking (at least for the cyclocrossers, an MTB might have been better here) so mostly we walked.

When we reached Paulina it was my intention to keep riding and not stop, but some confusing directions stopped me. I was looking for Logan Ave, which I knew couldn't be far (.3 miles), but I didn't see it after some distance. I turned around and headed back thinking that I must have missed it. The cue sheet said to turn on "L48 (Logan Ave)" and I found L48, but it was called Maple. I headed back to the convenience store to check with Jeff and Mark and make sure I was going the right way. I was, but by stopping I lost some of my mental momentum and got a little colder than I would have liked.

The next stretch seemed like it would be a breeze. Twelve miles to Sutherland. What we didn't count on was 4.5 miles of the most demoralizing B roads yet. This section was soggier than the previous ones and though we rode the ditches for much of it there were many parts where the ditches were flooded and there was no way around. Some places the road was flooded and not draining into the "ditches" and in others the "ditches" were draining onto the road. I've seen B roads like this in dry weather and they're totally cool to ride down, but I hadn't imagined they'd look this bad in wet conditions. Around here I also started to notice some intestinal distress. I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it to the next town before I had to drop my drawers. This was when the first inkling that I wasn't going to make Algona came to me. I said something like, "lets call it quits in Primghar." Not realizing that Primghar wasn't on the course and we had already passed it. Reaching the paved road into Sutherland was a treat. I felt like I could fly after all that slogging. Not only that, but I was in a real hurry to get to a toilet. I booked it into town.

I arrived at the Sutherland Car-Go and hit the bathroom first thing. Feeling much better I bought a Pepsi and sat down to think over my situation. I was shivering and my back and feet ached from grinding and walking through ditches, but I promised myself that I'd wait 15 minutes to see if I started feeling better before bailing. When G-Ted first asked who was dropping out I didn't raise my hand, still deciding, but just a few minutes later as my bowels began to shift again I told him I was out. Mike Beck's wife and brother were waiting in the store and graciously offered (with very little pleading on my part) to give me a lift to Algona and from there on to Ames if necessary. It was great to just sit and chat with these folks along with Paddy and the LaLondes.

I had never expected to be in the lead of TransIowa for so long. I'm disappointed that I didn't go any further, but I really think I made the right decision. If I'd had to I could have slogged it out for some more miles, but by that time I was pretty worn out and still happy with my performance. I look forward to the Dirty Kanza and my chance for redemption.

What worked well:
At the starting line several people commented on my minimal setup, but to me it didn't look minimal. I was carrying what I usually carry for a gravel century plus some extra food. I figured I'd refill the Camelbak in Algona and if necessary at some convenience store along the way. Otherwise I was pretty self sufficient. The food I carried was pretty good. Lots of fig bars mostly. I had some gels and bars, but never really got a chance to use them. The soymilk in my camelbak was pretty good and supplied me with plenty of nutrition as well as hydration, but may have had a drawback I'll speak of later. As for bike selection, this is a totally personal choice for a race like this as we saw, but I think I chose well. My Michelin tires worked well for the most part and the Surly Crosscheck was a great choice for some serious speed when I needed it. It did everything I asked of it and wasn't too bad for riding in the ditches. If the B roads had been at all passable I think it would have been the perfect choice, but as it was the mud was too deep for anything. The lights I used, a CatEye EL510 and a Planet Bike headlamp worked awesome. The EL510 threw enough light to pick lines in the gravel with and the headlamp made it possible to read the computer, cue sheets, and streetsigns. My training was also great. I do about 15 miles a day of commuting and there's a short section of gravel that I often throw in for some fun. On the weekends I did a lot of 30-40 mile rides on the 1x1 in preparation for the Arrowhead and just switched over to the Crosscheck and extended the miles to 60+ (same times though). I did a century and a sesqicentury one week a part to make sure I was in good shape and it seems to have worked. The real standout though was the Chamois Butter that I used. Wow, what a difference that made. On any other wet, rainy ride that I've done my bottom suffered afterwards, but with this stuff I felt good as new. It was the first time I've ever used the stuff and now I'm a believer.

What could have been better:
I'm not totally sure, but I think my soymilk secret weapon may have backfired. It is just possible that it caused the gut problems that I had on the ride. I'm not totally convinced though since I used the same thing last summer and didn't have any problems. It could be nerves from the night before, or something totally unrelated. I very rarely have any digestive problems. In other food concerns: I had a pretty nasty cramp that covered most of both legs and my buttocks and lower back all at once. I think I hadn't been getting enough fruits, vegetables, and especially bananas leading up to the race. The fig bars I carried were a bit dry and it was tough to breathe while eating them. Something more moist would have been better. Speaking of moist, they did get pretty soggy sitting in my jersey pockets, but I didn't want to have to unwrap anything. For clothing I see two ways of approaching an wet event like this: Dress to stay dry or dress to get wet. Either one works and I chose to dress to get wet. I think that dressing to stay dry may have been impossible, but staying dryer might have kept me from getting chilled when the wind picked up. Next time I'll have some sort of rain jacket rather than just a longsleeve jersey. I could have trained a little better by doing one more long ride on Easter weekend 3 weeks before the race, but time-wise it didn't work out. The other, more important, training item might be to do some running. In both the Arrowhead and TI I did a lot of walking and some strength in that area could have helped me out. I don't know which bike would have been the best for the conditions, but I can take a guess. I think the best bike would have been a 29er with drop bars, 45-50mm (1.8-2.0) tires, triple crank and a suspension fork with lockout. The wider tires seemed to be a slight advantage on the gravel as they seemed to coast better on the downhills than my 34s. The triple crank and front suspension would have been great in the ditches along the gravel roads. The lower gears would have allowed me to churn along more easily and the fork along with the higher handlebars of the 29er would have made things much more comfortable through the rough grass. On better gravel the bike wouldn't have been much less efficient than mine. I think one of the guys from Dubuque had this sort of setup and he did very well. The only bike that would have had a chance at actually riding on the B roads would have been the Surly Pugsley, but I'm not sure on that one. I'll give it a shot later this summer when I get one of my very own.