Friday, November 20, 2009

Pugsley Tour and an Injury : Part I

Last weekend Nick and I went for a little ride on the Pugsleys. The plan was to cruise up to Cedar Falls, where I hoped to turn in my Trans Iowa VI postcard, camp at some park in the area (we weren't sure which, but I was thinking Blackhawk) and then ride back home. Our goal was to get in two full gravel centuries and test out some camping gear for the Arrowhead.

At a little after seven AM on Saturday we met at Nick's place and had some pancakes and coffee to start out our ride. Nick had photocopied the maps we'd need (we didn't have a pre-planned route, just an idea) and had a bag of Daddy Ray's fig bars ready for me (these things are the best [$2/lbs]). We left a little after eight and headed up through town to McFarland park, through the prairie along the interstate and on to the gravel.

There's not a lot out there. We rode through the wind farm north of Colo and then up to Clemons where we took a short break in the city park. On the downhill into town a deer ran along beside us before cutting in front of Nick forcing him to hit the brakes. Clemons is a nice little town that is pretty friendly without being in any way pretentious. After a few blocks of cheese and sausage (AHU food, not what I'd normally eat on a fall bike trip) we took off with the vague Northeast destination of Whitten.

We went north on Mormon Ridge road and then crossed the Iowa river on gravel. After that we were off of our Marshall county map. The photocopy had covered most of the county but left off in the North. I assumed we were only missing a few miles so we just continued North. Soon we came upon a town that matched where I assumed Whitten would be, but something didn't seem right. After consulting a large scale map of the state I had brought along (for the bike paths in Cedar Falls) and, more pointedly, the water tower we figured out that we were in Liscomb. After some locals expressed interest in our bikes ("those are the biggest tire's I've ever seen on a bicycle!") and we assured them that we knew where we were going ("Cedar Falls? That's up by Waterloo right?") we were once again on our way.

I started pushing a bit because I wanted to be in Cedar Falls before Europa Cycle & Ski closed so I could hand deliver my T.I. VI postcard, but at this point we started having to head more North than East which meant into the wind. The wind wasn't really all that bad, but when you factor in the Pug's tires and the camping gear we were carrying, it made for more of a slog than I really wanted. It was around this time that I noticed the first twinges in my Achilles tendon.

It was a little after two when we rolled into Grundy Center. The gas station had a nice sitting area and after having a Monster (I was trying to make it the whole two days on just the food I had brought, but I did make this exception) and refilling our Camelbaks we decided that it didn't make sense to try to get to Cedar Falls by five. We still had thirty miles to go in less than three hours. It would have been possible on our cross bikes, but on the Pugsleys we were thrilled to be averaging 11mph. It didn't make sense to push ourselves that hard. We took a longer break and then headed on to Dike.

At Dike the road that I had hoped to cross Highway 20 0n turned out to be a dead end. We had to detour through town adding a couple miles of unwanted pavement. Just outside of Dike we spotted a campground that looked about as boring as a campground can get. No trees and a view of the highway. I might have been tempted, but we weren't to our goal of 100 miles.

Just out of Dike the sun started setting and we turned on our lights and followed the gravel as it merged into University Ave and the last few miles into Cedar Falls. There was more traffic on University than I like riding at night, so we rode on the shoulders dodging pieces of metal and dead raccoons. This was actually one of the places where the Pug excelled. Anytime a car came past, pavement or gravel, we were able to get all the way over to the edge of the road. In fact the softer gravel at the edge of the road was often a smoother ride for us than in the "track", which often had larger rocks and potholes.

Once in town we started heading north on Hudson, following a bike path that was on my map. There was a lot of traffic in town that I hadn't anticipated and the cause was soon obvious as we approached the UNI Dome. There was a football game and everyone was just arriving at the stadium. At the Dome we found that, like several other bike paths in the state, this path ended in a staircase. Detouring around the staircase by a well worn dirt path we escaped the game day traffic and biked through Cedar Falls proper to get to our new camping destination, George Wyth park.

Navigating the bike paths was a bit tricky in the dark with an inadequate map, but we made it to the campground a little after six.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This is for you Cory.

It's been too long since I posted here and I need to keep you all, and my writing up to date. So here's what I've been up to (athletically at least) since last I posted:

-Late August: Rode a century on the Pugsley (see previous post). It is surprisingly fast even with tires at 15psi, but a pig on the hills. I was wishing for a lower gear than my 22x34 (and yes it's still faster than walking). The hands weren't 100% happy with the handlebar setup. I'll have to look for something different.

-Early September/Labor Day: 24 hour MTB race at Seven Oaks. Felt pretty good fitness wise, but had a few problems. Early on I knew that my Midge Bars on the Gary Fisher weren't the best idea, especially without a nice pair of cycling gloves to go along with them. But I persisted and paid the price for it. By 11:00pm my hands were toast. They were curled up into useless claws and I couldn't shift or brake anymore. I had trouble feeding myself for a week afterwards. I only just regained the use of chopsticks.

-October 1: I put my Arrowhead training plan into action. Five days of workouts per week focused on getting me to the finish line on skis. So far I've been keeping up with it well. I've only taken one weekend off and I seem to be getting better at rollerskiing. Hopefully it translates well onto the snow. Daily workout updates on Facebook.

-October 17-18: Paul's Gravel Ride Across Iowa in a Day (GRAID) is a success. I make it 240 miles from Minnesota to Missouri on gravel roads in under 24 hours. I feel great the whole way and have almost no pain. The course is flat for the first half with just a little tailwind. I crave and receive Chicken McNuggets in Iowa Falls. The second half, almost all in the dark, goes by quickly for me. I just drift off into a hypnotic state and pedal away. In Chariton I feel a little sleepy, but in no way sore or exhausted. The last 12 miles are the hilliest and windiest of the entire ride, but I'm ready to be done and I push it a little to the border. I figure that I must have broken the part of my brain that feels physical fatigue.

-October 25th: I run in my second marathon and finish in record time (for me, 4:38). This time I manage to run the whole way without walking. Beautiful course in and around Mason City. Architecture, gravel roads, rivers, creeks, limestone outcroppings, bike paths, dirt paths, parks, etc. all great. The first and last six miles seem to take forever, but the middle goes by quickly. Picked up the pace for the last three miles and sprinted the last few hundred yards. My legs were pretty tired and my knees are still a little sore, but I wasn't spent at all. I could have gone farther. I refused the mylar blanket at the finish line because I felt so good, but then regretted it because, hey, free mylar blanket. The showers and towels at the high school were a great treat.

That's about it for me. How about you?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Pugsley Review / Ingawanis Race Report

Paul twisted my arm last weekend and got me to go with him and his fellow Gilbertite Tod to the Camp Ingawanis mountain bike race. I've done very little mountain biking outside the immediate Story and Boone county trails so it wasn't too hard to get me to go. I had to make a decision on which bike to take though. The Gary Fisher isn't in race condition right now. A bent derailleur hanger and a jury rigged front derailler make it iffy until I take some time to fix it properly. The 1x1 is a de facto fixed gear right now. The freewheel is completely frozen from last winter's road salt. The best option was to take the recently assembled Pugsley. Besides being in the best condition the Pug needed a good shakedown ride. How would 3.7" tires fare on a mountain bike course? How comfortable would it be? Would the heavy wheels be a liability or would the extra traction make it a great climber?

The Pugsley is not a subtle bike. The 3.7" tires, an inch and a half wider than your typical fat mountain bike tire, along with the offset wheels (for better chainline) and 135mm front hub (same as the rear) make sure of that. The bike turned a few heads, but really, how many times can you stand to hear "Those're fat tires." and respond "Yep." I really bought the bike for winter riding and racing along with the occasional summer trip down a sandy creekbed or along a river. It's not a cross-country race bike and it was totally inappropriate for going fast on hard packed dirt.

The sport class race (that'd be me) was three laps of the 4.5 mile twisty wooded course. There were a few hills, steep but short, and a few rocky (for Iowa) parts and some sandy corners, but nothing too technical or demanding. It's a pretty good course for Iowa, but I still prefer Seven Oaks tough climbs and tight switchbacks. Swerving around trees doesn't excite me much.

From the start I was at the back. I couldn't accelerate with the group, my heavy wheels and tires held me back, but neither did I want to be at the front. I am more of a slow and steady guy rather than a sprinter who can make good time on a course like this. The fewer people who have to pass me at the start the better. I hoped to catch a few people who had blown up sprinting too hard at the start. The first part of the course turned out to be very rough. The trails were newly cut through the woods and hadn't been smoothed out with constant riding. After the first half lap where I did try to keep up, the course smoothed out into older trail and I started to sit back, relax, and have fun on the course. With fewer people around I could pay attention to the trail and carry more momentum which was becoming essential with the Pug. Most of the short hills on the course were ridable with little more than a few standing pedal strokes,but a few were too long and steep or didn't allow me to carry momentum into the climb. On these I was lucky on the first lap and had someone who knew the course just ahead of me. When he geared down I did the same and on one particular hill I was able to pass two folks who were caught by surprise and walking it. With extremely fat tires and low gearing I could spin up loose steep slopes I would never have been able to climb so sloppily on a conventional bike. The same logic held for rocks. Just run 'em over. Why pick a line when the tires can roll over anything? Sandy corners? Sure, these tires won't bog down. Logs? Just a little loft of the front wheel and stand up. It really suited my sloppy xc style.

For the second two laps I rode alone. I just concentrated on maintaining my momentum through corners and on down/up gully crossings. As I rode the bike I was able to relax a bit and figure out when I needed to stand and when to stay seated. It may have fat tires, but it is no plush full suspension bike. It rides like the rigid frame that it is. Rough ground is still miserable in the saddle, but out of the saddle it doesn't really slow the bike down. For the first lap my hands were getting tired holding onto the bars, but as I settled in and relaxed this went away. The last lap was really enjoyable. I finished a respectable last. The race felt too short, I was just getting warmed up and then it was over. I'm still an endurance guy.

Overall I'm happy with how the Pugsley rode. I have some tweaking to do on the bike, but none of it is Surly's fault. I installed the zip-ties that hold the brake/derailleur cables/housing wrong so that they occasionally scraped my legs. Speaking of cables and housing, I would prefer that frame had cable stops as well as or rather than the zip-tie anchorages. I don't particularly care for full length housing, I'd rather be able to keep the cables clean and lubed through maintainance than just hoping that no water will get into the housing. The seatpost and saddle are old used bits I found around the shop and they really aren't suitable. In particular the seapost is a little too short. The Titec/Jones H-Bar handle bar is okay. Single-speeders love them and I can see why, they don't have enough room for shifters! I installed my Suntour XC Pro shifters on the bar-end section which is a little far from where I would really like them to be and takes up a lot of the space where my hands ought to be on the bar-ends. The bar-ends were useless during the race, too much turning and braking, but are nice on more open road/trail. The vintage Suntour shifters work marginally with current Shimano derailleurs and cassettes. Well enough for what I normally plan for the bike, but not precise enough for XC racing. And the big tires? They're no substitute for suspension on bumps or drops, but in loose gravel and sand (no snow yet) the float is amazing. There's no digging in or squirming around that you get with narrower tires. On very steep loose climbs it is great to be able to sit down and spin without worrying about lines or loosing traction. On the other hand they are heavy, though not bad considering the size, and I really needed the low gears to get the bike moving. I can't wait to get a legitimate adventure underway on this "adventure bike."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spectacular Crash on Y Camp

Nick and I did a gravel century last Sunday. We left Ames and headed to Ledges State Park then headed north along the river via some great hilly roads along the river. We rode down 224th, a dead end road I knew to have a great hill on it. Down was steep and loose, but we took it easy and, after a short break at the bottom, we turned around to ride up. I had ridden the road years ago in an adventure race and remembered that there had been a prize for those folks who managed to ride up the hill without walking. Either the hill has gotten easier or I have gotten stronger, because the hill was really pretty easy by Des Moines River standards.

We headed North through Boone where we scared some peafowl then continued on to the Y Camp road (166th). Here's where the fun happened. As we started down the steep grade the loose washboarded gravel got the best of Nick. He was about 10 yards ahead of me when I saw his rear tire break loose. First he swung to the right and I thought, "that's some loose gravel, I'd better watch out." Then he over corrected to the left and I thought, "he's not going to make it." I watched as he went down...hard. He fell to the left while his bike went more right. I saw a water bottle rocket out of it's cage and fly off the road to the right as a dust cloud rose from the impact. At this point, with Nick and his bike covering much of the road directly ahead of me I had to decide what to do. Ride over him or try to get around to the left where there was still some room. Riding over him was out of the question. I don't like to ride over my friends and I figured that it would just result in a bad header-type crash for me. I steered left and hit the brakes as hard as I could without locking them up. As it was there was no chance and I went down hard too. I slid down on my left arm and then rolled onto my back where I slid for a surprising distance on my Camelbak to a stop just a little downhill from Nick.

Nick spoke first, "Are you okay?" I figured he was hurt worse than I was so I said, "Yeah, I'm okay," and then stood up to prove it to myself. It hurt to stand, but I knew that there wasn't anything seriously wrong. We were both shaky from adrenaline and headed to a shady spot a little ways down the hill. There we sat down calmed down while irrigating our wounds with water bottles. Both of us had scrapes down our left sides, arms, and legs. His jersey was torn, while my Camelbak seemed to have taken the blow without damage. Both our bikes were okay except for misaligned brake levers. Nick said something like, "Bikes are tough." To which I thought, but did not say, "So are we."

At first as we rested I was wondering what the fastest way to end the ride was. Actually I started thinking about exit strategies even before I crashed. Do we ride back into Boone, continue up to Stratford and complete the ride, or call for a ride home? Pretty quickly we decided that we were okay to go on and carefully descended the rest of the way down into the valley. I cut a few miles off the route where I had planned to go back south and pick up a few more hills and we headed off along the river valley north to Pilot Mound. The hills were a little tougher than usual due to our injuries and I started to notice that my ribs hurt on my left side. It really only hurt when I breathed hard or pulled up on the handlebars. In other words only on the uphills. As we got past Dayton and climbed the last steep hill out of the river valley on River Road we started to hear small engine noises. I figured somebody was out on their ATVs and we'd see them soon enough, but as we got closer I started to hear the sounds of an announcer on a PA system. We had stumbled upon the Dayton Hare Scramble. We thought about trying to find some people who we knew would be there, but decided against it and headed on to Stratford. On the paved hill into Stratford my front tire started to go flat. Since I was only a couple of miles out of town and it seemed like a slow leak, I aired up the tire without changing the tube. I knew it wasn't the right thing to do, but I figured I'd feel more like working on it after I had rested and had something to eat and drink. I made it into town without any more problems.

After a Monster Pop (it is pop) and a bag of chips, we were good to go. I pumped some more air into my tire and we headed for home. About five miles out of town my laziness caught up with me when my tire blew. No slow leak this, I had to fix it. That done we rode along more dusty, washboarded roads into Gilbert and then back home to Ames. It ended up being a pretty tough ride. My legs don't hurt from riding, but my back, neck, ribs, and left arm are all pretty beat up from the crash. But hey, if you don't crash occasionally you don't know what your limits are.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Worst Journey in the World

By now I'm sure you've all heard about how I didn't finish at Dirty Kansa and had one of the worst races of my life as far as aftermath goes. That's true, but I suppose you'd like to hear the whole story. Here it is:

Friday night I slept fitfully. I'm not sure why. I knew that I was overconfident going in. I had done two previous 200 mile rides and both had gone very well. I knew that I could finish, but I also knew that 200 miles and 16+ hours in the saddle holds a lot of unpredictability. There are too many things that can go wrong. One guy I know has tried to do a double century on the road several times only to be thwarted by t-storms every time. That was one possible obstacle for the race, but others I was concerned about were flat tires, crashes, and the heat of the day. I was to have a couple of these problems, but I can now add a few more items to my list of concerns.

As I was saying, I slept poorly the night before and I didn't feel all that great in the morning, but that's not really a cause for concern on these rides. I rarely feel good in the morning and the best way to deal with it is to get on the bike and start riding. With a few miles under me I usually start to feel better. I can almost always make a good day out of a bad one. I drank a bottle of Boost and rode to the start line.

As we rolled out through town I felt like the pace was too fast. I wanted to take it easy while the rest of the field was pushing 20 mph on the streets of Emporia. It wasn't much of a problem to keep up though and I kept with the pack. I figured that the group would break up as soon as we hit the gravel and I could find my own pace. That wasn't to be. The first miles of gravel were flat and fast and the peloton (if I may) stayed tight. It wouldn't be until we hit the first hills about fifteen miles in that the group really started to break up and I could try to find my pace.

As soon as we got out of town the wind hit us. It was at least 20 mph or harder out of the WSW. The course steered us directly into it as we made our way to the Flint Hills rangeland. I am a good hill rider, I have a pretty good strength to weight ratio, but I am not a good wind rider, I have a poor strength to area ratio. Big guys with big legs are usually better at that. Still I was doing okay. When we got to the hills I would pass folks on the way up and I could usually keep them behind me. Still I knew that today wasn't going to be a fast one for me. I wasn't feeling real strong on the hills like I knew I should.

I passed a lot of people with flat tires, especially after water crossings. It seemed to me that people were shooting through the rocky crossings too fast and finding sharp chert to puncture tires or else pinch flatting on the rocks. I would slow down before the crossings, not wanting to crash on a hidden rock or get a flat this early in the race. Still, I was hoping that the tough new tires I had just put on the bike would protect me, even if I did make a bad decision. I rode with a fellow (sorry, I'm terrible with names) from Cedar Falls on a Salsa Fargo for quite a few miles through this first 60 mile section. He said something about how riding with someone makes the time go faster. I didn't say anything, but I know the opposite to be true for me. Riding alone is when I can "zone out" and ride hard for miles without noticing any time passing, my favorite part of any ride.

Most of the first section was through open range with huge stone slabs creating terraces across the hills. Few signs of civilization were evident outside of the road. The exceptions were radio towers on hilltops, oil wells, and one gigantic mansion in the middle of nowhere. Signs of cattle however were everywhere.

By the time I made it to the first checkpoint at mile 61 in the town of Cottonwood Falls I was spent. I hadn't managed to wake up and start feeling better like I usually do and the ride was already the hardest sixty miles of gravel I had ever done. It wasn't shaping up to be a good day. I thought about calling it quits, but I thought about Charlie and decided to take a nap before deciding. I slept for about twenty minutes under a tree and it felt great. After the nap I wasn't feeling good, but I knew I could make it another 42 miles to the next checkpoint. Knowing that the next section was more sheltered from the wind and flatter I opted not to fill my Camelbak to full. I left with 1.5 liters in the bag and a 20 oz. water bottle on the bike. I was using Ultima Replenisher in my Camelbak which has served me well on long hot rides in the past (including a previous DK), but it didn't seem to be doing its job as well on this ride.

The next forty-two miles took me along Diamond Creek road past ploughed fields and farm houses. The gravel would occasionally turn to asphalt for no apparent reason for a few hundred yards and then go back to gravel. As I figured this section was much easier than the first, but the heat was far worse. I wasn't visibly sweating, but I knew I was going to regret not having filled up all the way on water at Cottonwood Falls. I was still seeing riders stopped along the road with flats every few miles and a few times just lying in the shade taking a break. I was surprised since these 40 miles were so much easier and the roads so much better maintained. I was looking forward to breaking out of the valley and heading East so I could take advantage of the strong winds that had dogged us all morning. By the time I got there though I was disappointed to find that the winds had shifted to the North and were once again fighting me. As I made it to the second checkpoint at mile 103 at Council Grove I was pretty sure I was done. I had made a full century ride and knew I wasn't going to make the finish without some kind of miracle.

I mulled the options over and decided to call it quits when Dustin from Great Bend Kansas made me an offer. If I would ride with him to Alma, the third checkpoint at mile 142, his girlfriend would drive us back to Emporia (the start/finish). I accepted. Another 39 miles was possible. My knees hurt and I was tired, I wasn't really feeling like myself, but 39 miles is an easy ride, short almost.

We headed out in the heat and headed almost straight North into the wind. The wind wasn't strong, maybe 8-12 mph, but it was there and it was slowing us down. About 10 miles down the road we hooked up with Jim (?) from Lawrence Kansas and took our first break. I had planned to go 20 before stopping, but I wasn't going to argue. I felt like I needed one too. The next stop was about 7 miles down the road, and then about 5. We were getting worn down.

About that time, some twenty miles into the section we hit a road called, variously, "'Lil Egypt" or "Little Egypt." The smallest gravel was the size of a hen's egg and it was all the sharp edged chert that had been chewing up folks tires all day. Sure enough about half a mile along Jim got a flat. We all stopped and waited. Dustin helped Jim out a bit with a CO2 cartridge while I sat on a flat rock and put my head down to rest. After a few minutes we got back on the road again. Not a hundred yards down the road I flatted. I called out to the guys ahead of me, but they were already headed down a steep hill into a creek valley and likely didn't hear. I inspected the tire and found an inch long gash where a rock had gotten me. I first tried to boot the tire with a GU package, but it wouldn't stay in place with the undersized tube I had brought as a spare. Luckily the glueless patches I had were particularly tough plastic and about an inch square. I stuck one to the inside of the tire, only about a half inch slice showed on the inside, and hoped for the best. I pumped until I was tired of pumping, then pumped some more and called it good. I figured I only had about 35 psi or so in the tire (I had started the morning with 65), but I was concerned about the tube bursting through the gash in the tire. I would just have to ride carefully. I headed down the hill which was covered in fist size rocks and washed out from recent rains. I expected either a crash or another flat at any time. As I was riding up the other side of the tiny creek valley I came upon my two companions walking down towards me. I dismounted and we all walked back up to their bikes at the top. 'Lil Egypt road had several more steep washes to ride through and all were sketchy with their sharp and loose rocks. We walked most of the uphills and luckily we had no more flats.

We only had about fifteen more miles to Alma, but we came across at least two maybe three riders sitting alongside the road, cell phones out, waiting for rescue and a ride back to town. I was confident we'd make it without help. The course indicated for us to ride pavement for a couple of miles then turn off and ride another five or so miles of gravel before getting to the checkpoint, but according to the map we could cut off all of that gravel and just ride straight into town on pavement. I didn't want to be the first to suggest it, but someone did and the decision was made. We took the shortcut and called it quits at Alma. It felt a little odd to be giving up after only 140 miles, but I knew I didn't have it in me. I was done...or so I thought.

About 10 minutes after we stopped the gurgling in my stomach started. I hit the convenience store bathroom just in time. That taken care of Dustin handed me a Gatorade and we hopped in the truck for the hour long drive back to Emporia. We started with the windows down in the 90 degree heat, but just a few minutes down the road I was shivering with cold. I also became nauseous and I couldn't force myself to drink the Gatorade. With the windows rolled up Dustin and Jim were sweltering, but I was still cold. I knew this wasn't good. The only thing I could think was that a warm shower might cure me. By the time we got to the hotel I had to jump out and run for the toilet again. Still shivering, I found the warmest room in the hotel, a hallway with vending machines, and curled up to rest and try to find the strength to find a shower. Joel, one of the race directors found me there and ushered me to his room where he kindly offered his shower and found my finish line bag with my clothes in it. The shower felt good and took care of the shivering. I don't know how long I sat there, warm water running over me, I knew something was more seriously wrong than I had ever been through at a race. When I didn't think the shower was doing me any more good I got out, wrapped a towel around me and passed out on the floor. I don't know how long it was. Probably only fifteen minutes or so, but I was feeling well enough to walk around. I dressed and made my way outside to the finish area. Someone had kindly unloaded my bike and I laid down next to it and slept for a while. When I woke, Joel offered me some pizza and I forced down a slice, but couldn't do much more. I had just expended more than 10,000 calories on a hot day and I was having trouble eating and drinking. Not good. I got up and biked across the street to my hotel where I laid down in bed and once again had a bad night of sleep. I was afraid that the ride home would make me car-sick, but I just slept the whole way.

Since then I've been shivering, achy, and having gut pains on and off. I get a little better every day, but I don't seem to get better. I initially wrote it off as dehydration, but now I think maybe I got some contaminated food or water. It couldn't have come at a worse time. Now I'm weak and the idea of doing a long ride has absolutely no appeal for me. I couldn't make it more than ten or fifteen miles right now anyway. This is by far the worst I have ever felt after a race and I hope it never happens again. I enjoy being sore from exercise, but this is too much like being sick. Hopefully within the next few days I'll make a full recovery and I can get back to biking and more hopefully roller-skiing in anticipation of this winter's Arrrowhead.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Marathon Matt

After last winter's Arrowhead race I knew that I needed to do more cross-training for skiing. It's too easy to bike during the summer and then when the snow falls get a few miles of skiing in in an attempt to get ready for the big dance (as Charlie would say). It's too little too late though. It's impossible to get those skiing muscles in shape in just a few weeks and expect to be able to gut out 135 miles. 70? Sure, that's do-able, but really I need to be doing more, different sorts of workouts all through the year. With that in mind I decided that I needed to run a marathon this summer.

I had been looking at doing Grandma's Marathon in Duluth (June 20th) or the Des Moines Marathon (October 18th), but when I heard about TIMTAM, a marathon in a park that I ride through literally every day and with no entry fee it was too good to pass up. The down side was that I only had a week and a half to prepare and was still recovering from a nasty bout of the flu.

How did I train with those constraints? I didn't. I rested. I knew that if I tried to run more than a couple of miles I risked blisters and soreness that would haunt me in the marathon. No, I needed to count on my base of biking miles and what little running I had done in the previous months. My last run had been a 5k about three weeks previous and my longest run had been about 7 miles. Not much to go on.

As I arrived to sign in on Sunday morning I was confident that I would finish. I have done tougher, longer events. Mentally I was prepared for the pain and tedium, but I wasn't confident that I would finish running, or with my knees intact. At 7am we were off. Five laps around a 5.25 mile course for the marathon. Some people were doing the 10.5 mile, two lap race, and many, if not most were doing the whole 50k, 6 lap race. I was hoping at the start to be able to do the 50k, but I had my doubts.

For the first lap and a half I was doing great. I found a pace that worked well for me and fell in with a group that included some runners from Grinnell and a man working on his second time around the 50 states. The experienced 5o stater said that we were on pace for a 4 hour finish. Faster than I had hoped, but I was still optimistic. About nine miles in though I had to fall back. Their pace remained steady while mine just wasn't up to the challenge.

The third lap I ran at a slow pace, with short steps to keep my knees from giving out. I was sore, but still felt that I would finsh running. I was on my own at this point. No one near me was going near the same pace. That suited me fine though, I've done many bike rides of 10 hours or more with only myself for company. It's easy to zone out and think about anything or nothing. The race leader passed by me and called out "Nice job, one fourty nine." 1:49, I thought, I'm halfway through and I'm still under two hours, maybe I can finish in a little over 4! It wasn't until a lap later that I realized my race number was 149.

About 18 miles in or 2 miles into the fourth lap my legs gave out on me. There was no way I could pretend to run anymore. I swallowed my pride and started walking. I would walk for a mile or so jog for half a mile, walk some more. I'd guess I walked about half of the fourth lap. I was considering quitting, but I knew I'd be disappointed in myself. Besides, I have walked 50 miles through the mountains with no food in less than 36 hours (long story). I knew I could always walk that last lap. Maybe it wouldn't make for a good story, but I'd have finished the marathon.

I formed a plan in my mind. The loop of the course was broken up into four sections by the aid stations along the way. If I walked two of them then I'd run the other two. I would end running. I started walking the last lap and didn't worry about what other people thought of this youngish skinny guy walking with a race number on. As I got to the first aid station I drank some Gatorade and started into a painful slow run. It hurt, but I didn't feel like I had to stop. When I got to the second aid station I slowed to a walk even though I felt like I could run a few more yards. It wouldn't be worth it in the long haul I thought. At the last aid station I started up running again. I was going to make it. As I got within sight of the finish line I started striding out, just a little, and finished in the slowest sprint I have ever been party to.

My finishing time was an unrespectable 5:41. A testament to my stubborness if nothing else. My knees and calves ached and the blisters on my heels had already popped. Feeling kind of ambivalent about my finish I thought about going out and walking another lap for the 50k, but I stopped myself. I wanted to do a 200 mile bike race in another three weeks and while I knew the sore muscles and blisters would heal in that time I wasn't sure about the knees.

Since then I've been walking stiff legged and going down stairs backwards because of the pain in my calves, but my knees seem to be getting better. I'll take it easy and spin on the bike for the next week to work my knees. Next time I'll train a little more diligently, but I'll have a better base for the Big Dance.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

LeGrand trip

I rode out to LeGrand this weekend to volunteer and take some pictures for Trans-Iowa V. LeGrand was the second checkpoint in the race, 151 miles of gravel in and 163 to go for the racers.

I left home at 7:30 AM and headed south out of town and then east along gravel roads. Passing south of Nevada I explored some beautiful roads I had never been on before. Hilly, twisty, and wooded I don't know why I had missed these great roads so close to home. As I passed into Marshall county I stopped, ate some breakfast, and took a couple of photos.

The scenery:

The Bike:

As I approached LeGrand my planned turn to the north on a B road looked a little odd. All the street signs were there, but the first thirty yards or so of the road were ploughed under.

The road continued on for about half a mile.

Then ended. I walked through the field and up to where the road continued near the farmhouse.

I arrived in LeGrand in plenty of time, and took a lot of pictures of all the racers coming through the checkpoint, but that's another story.

After the race went through I planned on biking up to Union Grove State Park to camp, but two miles down the road the bridge over the Iowa river was out, presumably from last year's floods.

After a five mile detour I arrived at the campground just after dark, set up camp, and promptly fell asleep.

In the morning I took a short walk through the park. I wish I'd had more time to explore, but I wanted to get back home. I rode part of the route I took to Cedar Rapids in April. I stopped for a break at the city park in Clemons.

Then rode through the wind farm north of Colo.

It was rough going, the gravel was loose and I had a headwind much of the way. I arrived home two hours later than I had hoped and suffering from a pretty bad sunburn. All together I did two metric centuries over the weekend and my first multi-day "tour" of the year. A pretty good weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saturday's ride was a 130 mile trip to Cedar Rapids to see family for Easter. I left at 4am after getting about two hours of sleep. That's the way I usually do these things. For the first few hours I was in the dark. Highlights of this section were seeing the horizon to the east covered in the flashing lights from the tops of windmills and getting chased by a dog I could barely see.

Around sunrise I was crossing the Iowa River at Albion and on to the straight flat section from there to south of Vinton. As the sun rose the winds picked up. There wasn't a lot of wind, just 5mph or so, but it was constant and in my face for the whole ride. The wind took its toll on my by the end of the ride making me much more sore than I would normally be after a ride of this length.

There isn't much to say about Marshall county, but as I entered Tama county I was expecting a B road section, but instead got a dead end. I know that I rode on that road two years ago, but now it's a plowed field. I detoured north a mile and continued on. I shouldn't say that it's all flat between Albion and Vinton. There was a long section in Tama county that was rolling hills. I didn't remember it from the last time I had been there.

A few B roads broke up the monotony and were a relief from the often new, soft, and loose gravel I encountered for much of the trip. I wished that I had brought a camera for a few of these classic sections of road. By the time I got near Vinton I was ready for a change of pace.

A few miles north I found myself riding along the Cedar River on a road that I think is one of the best in the state. Not only does it go right along the banks of the Cedar, but it is a minimum maintenance road that has flood warning signs along it. It doesn't hurt that there is a nice park there, the Benton City Fry Access, and it includes a hill to rival those on the Des Moines river. I stopped at the park for my first rest of the trip at mile 107 and drank a Boost and a Monster along with a few Daddy Ray's fig bars.

The food and caffeine woke me up and let me ride the last 20 or so miles into Cedar Rapids. I crossed the river on the Lewis Bottoms bridge and then rode along some fast smooth gravel south into Cedar Rapids. I felt great and the winding roads were just the kind of road that I like. I even managed to find a few B roads in the last few miles before being dumped out onto the pavement.

It always feels weird arriving at my parents' house after biking there. Almost as though I've passed through some sort of space/time warp and gotten somewhere that I shouldn't be able to by bike. I hope to do it again this year, hopefully exploring some new roads along the way.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Savoir c'est pouvoir

"Knowledge is power," I had always taken this phrase to be about the nature of power. As in, if you have more knowledge then you will be more powerful. In this construction the emphasis seemed to be on book learning and smarts. If you are more educated and read a lot then you will be able to press your agenda on others. If you are not educated then you are weak.

But a few years ago, in college I had a TA who appended the French phrase "Savoir c'est pouvoir," to an e-mail. Another student asked her in class what it meant and she replied that it meant, to know is to be able. This I took to be a statement about the nature of knowledge. That is, if you are able to do something then you know it. Or to take the inverse (assuming a biconditional), if you are not able to do something then you don't know it. This takes the emphasis away from book learning and puts it on practical experience and technical skill.

"To know is to be able," has a similar flavor to Pragmatist statements like "Meaning just is use," (Wittgenstein) and "the true is only the expedient in our way of thinking" (James). According to some (pretty unreliable) sources the pragmatists were inspired by the phrase "knowledge is power" (attributed to Francis Bacon). The proverb has the look of a Pragmatist theory of knowledge. As a sometime Pragmatist myself, I am attracted to this idea of knowledge as something which gets its value through practical use.

I hadn't realized that the two phrases were supposedly equivalent until today. The English phrase I had always disliked, because it implied that well educated people were the best able to effect change, while the French version I had liked because of the implication that if you couldn't actually do something then you didn't know it after all.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Thoughts on "I am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter

I really wanted to read Hofstadter's "Goedel, Escher, Bach" but it was checked out at the library so I went for this one instead. I had just read Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" and was curious about references to the loops, logic, and the source of consciousness. I figured that Stephenson had used GEB as a reference (it was obvious that he was using references) and wanted to see what he had drawn from it. (It turns out that he hadn't, see, but he does reference Goedel.) Anathem was interesting in a sci-fi kind of way. You know that there's some science there for inspiration, but you doubt that it's portrayed accurately. In this case rather than science it was philosophy that was being used, and I could tell when the arguments broke down, but you get the picture. Accuracy has to be sacrificed for the good of the story. I'm okay with that.
Hofstadter's book, so far as I gather, is a re-hashing of his old ideas from GEB. Apparently he wasn't happy with the results of GEB. Nobody "got" it. Rather than focusing on the examples, the math, the logic, the Escher, the Bach Hofstadter wants readers to focus on the consciousness argument. "I am a Strange Loop" is his attempt to rectify that. He fails.
The parts of this book that are easy to focus on and caught my interest are the chapters on logic, math, and proofs. I am sure that to someone with more experience in math most of what he has to say would be trivial, but to me it was an education. It was the first time I had seen Euclid's proof of the infinitude of prime numbers and it was good to be reminded just what Fermat's last theorem was.
I had studied Bertrand Russell's philosophy before, but I had a poor understanding of what his project was in "Principia Mathematica." And as far as Goedel's proof of the incompleteness of PM I was fascinated. More by his method than by the fact of it. I had always wondered what it meant to say that something was "true but unprovable." Now at least I sort of get it. Hofstadter's examples of loops, both contradictory logic loops and other types were fun as well. I've always wondered who shaves the barber.
Early on I thought that he did a good job avoiding reductionism (even explicitly rejecting it). It's too easy to think that the smaller levels (neurons, molecules, atoms, etc.) are the "True" ones. The places where the work really gets done. But in just a few examples he shows that it is just as useful, usually more so, to think on levels of symbols, ideas, and thoughts when we are examining consciousness. Unfortunately though he claims this sort of anti-reductionist position he shows his true reductionist colors later in the book as he combats dualisms (which I generally also reject). He wants there to be a "really real world" down there somewhere and he's willing to sacrifice higher level functions to get it.
He dismisses qualia quickly and without much argument. While I think that the question of "what it feels like to be an X" is metaphysically interesting, like most metaphysics it doesn't get you anywhere. Still I don't think he should dismiss the idea as simply silly.
One controversial subject that he fearlessly dives into is levels of consciousness. He proposes that different beings have different levels of consciousness. A spectrum of sorts with rocks on one end, moving through single celled animals, to insects, fish, chickens, dogs, babies, and adult humans on top. It's a spectrum that most of us believe in to one degree or another and can lead us to some interesting conclusions. Especially in conjunction with his belief that consciousness is equal to moral value.
As far as that goes Hofstadter believes that the more conscious something is the more ethically valuable it is. Therefore something more conscious, like a dog, or adult human, should not be mistreated, killed, etc.. While something less conscious, like a rock, (or Hofstadter's favorite example) a mosquito, is less deserving of respect. Given this we can ascertain his beliefs on a number of ethical quandaries. Obviously he's a vegetarian and a pro-choicer, but one wonders about the ethical status of babies and comatose people. To give a literal lifeboat scenario, think of yourself on a lifeboat with a comatose person and a live dog. Which one would you eat first? What if the person were dead?
Of course it doesn't automatically follow that Hofstadter would eat the human rather than the dog. There is clearly more going on in ethics than just consciousness, but what role does it really play? Hofstadter also makes remarks about war, criminals, and the de-humanizing of enemies as an example of our beliefs about certain peoples' level of consciousness.
More bizarrely he links levels of consciousness with musical aptitude. Musically minded people he believes are more attuned (no pun intended) to emotions, therefore more conscious themselves and thus more moral people. He cites Bach and Albert Schweitzer to support his thesis. I hope it's just a quirk of his. I'm not much of a music person, but then maybe I'm not very ethical either.
The irony of the book is that Hofstadter's heroes are dualists and would likely have disagreed with him vehemently. Goedel was a Platonist who believed that mathematics was a real thing, discovered not created. Schweitzer was religious and his beliefs were the basis for his acts. Moreover Hofstadter would have disagreed with the whole premise Neal Stephenson's novel that started me reading his book in the first place.

Monday, April 06, 2009

April Snow

I decided, rather than sit around all day, to enjoy the snowstorm yesterday. I got out the skis for one last trip around the arboretum. I had to use klister of course, and the stuff is way too sticky for it's own good. It gets on everything and doesn't come off. Most of the time the skiing was slow but okay. Occasionally though the snow would pack up under my ski and stick there. It was like skiing with muddy boots on. It felt pretty good to get out though. It seems as though biking isn't as much fun as it used to be. I rarely go for long rides alone anymore. But skiing is still fun all by itself with no goals or company.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Short Ride

The ever ambitious Nick had a vision of a double century today, but it wasn't to be. The original plan was to ride down to Pella and Lake Red Rock, but due to Saturday's snow and rain down there Nick, Paul, and I compromised and decided on a route north and east to Eldora and Iowa Falls for about 140 miles. Initial conditions weren't what we were hoping for. A strong wind from the NNW dogged us from the first. Combined with sub-freezing temps that had our Camelbak hoses frozen solid at points and numbed our fingers and toes we were in for a rough one.

Going east, roughly with the wind, was a treat and I thought we might finish the ride feeling pretty fresh, but I should have known better. At about mile 40 when we turned north we had to fight not just the wind, but some pretty tough rollers of hills. By the time we hit Eldora at mile 60 we were ready to turn around and after a brief discussion we decided on a route that would put right at 100 miles and Nick and me at about 113. Going south with the wind was a treat, but east was still a chore.

Our revised route had us riding along 270th Street in Hardin county all the way through Hubbard and Radcliffe, but that was a lie. 270th doesn't go straight there at all. After that it was dead reckoning as we zigzagged SW. We found some pretty nice B roads that curved through scenic hills. Unfortunatley we also found several miles of pavement that were pretty much unavoidable. At Roland we took a bike path for a mile that was far worse than the B roads we had been on. By the time we crossed I35 and the Skunk River we were more than ready to be done. The last few miles into Gilbert Nick and I sprinted for the tops of hills, but niether of us had much left in our legs.

We were all pretty satisfied with the distance we went today given the conditions. That double century will have to wait for later in the season when we have some nice weather for once.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First post on new computer.

Last weekend's ride was a gravel century with Nick and Wade. We rode over to Frasier on the Des Moines river and rode north along the valley to Stratford then turned around and came back the same way. As usuall the hills along the route were challenging. They are steep and pretty long for the Midwest, but there aren't as many as I had remembered. We rode more flat river bottom miles than it seemed like we did last year along here.

All along the way I was dreading the last hill out of the valley, Y Camp Hill (166th Ave). It isn't the longest, but it sure seems to be the steepest and most of the hill is hidden from the bottom so you don't know just how far you have to go. I wasn't sure, but I thought I could make it up without walking. As I started up the gravel was looser than I was hoping. That meant that I wouldn't be able to stand up and pedal without my wheels slipping, not to mention that it is a lot harder to ride through loose gravel. About half way up I went over to the left side of the road. Not where I wanted to be given the possiblity of traffic, but it was much smoother than the right side. After I got onto the harder surface it was no problem to finish the climb. It almost seemed too easy.

All in all a pretty good ride for the first century of the year.

Monday, March 09, 2009


On Sunday I decided to do CIRREM, a 62 mile gravel race, at the last minute. Paul, Nick, and I drove down to the start in Cumming where, not to our surprise, the weather had scared away a lot of people. Rain, snow, and temps in the mid thirties were forecast.

It was raining as we rolled out of town and on to the gravel. I started at the back, but soon found myself passing riders and moving up to the front. The hard packed gravel was hardly affected by the rain. Just a couple of miles in Nick and I broke off the front, everyone else seemed to be going too slow for our taste. I have the feeling that if we hadn't done that this wouldn't have been much of a race. People just weren't feeling good in the rain and didn't want to try and push themselves.

Pretty soon though a group of seven or so riders had caught us. We went rode together for a while until five of us broke off the front for good. I was really surprised that I was with that group and that Nick wasn't. He has been riding really well this year and already has two full gravel centuries under his belt.

I rode with this group through some pretty hilly terrain towards Winterset. The rain and snow that were forecast were always present and I didn't mind them. I was perfectly comfortable for the first fifteen miles or so until water started wicking down into my cycling boots. My hands were became too warm too so I stripped them off and rode without for the rest of the race. What wasn't comfortable was the sleet that hit us for a few minutes in the first half of the race. It stung my face and hands, especially on downhills and going into the wind.

After Winterset (which I only recognized because I had ridden some of the same gravel in Paul's GRAID ride last spring) I lost contact with the lead four riders and was on my own for the rest of the race. It was a beautiful ride. Lots of hills, wind, fast gravel, and not a few dogs.

I would pull the cue sheet out of my pocket, memorize the next two turns, put it back and enjoy the ride. It was tough to remember much more than that. After five miles of spacing off it is tough to remember whether the next turn is a right or a left. With five miles to go I put away the cue sheet for good and sprinted for the finsh. I was sure that someone would catch me so every so often I'd glance over my shoulder and see if anyone was back there. No one was.

With three miles to go there was a bridge with lengthwise boards spaced about an inch and a half apart. The same width as my tires. As I came up to it I thought to myself that if I got caught in one it could be a pretty nasty crash. Sure enough, with nearly sixty miles of hard riding behind me it was tough to steer a straight course and I ended up with one tire in the gap. Luckily I managed to ride out without incident. Don't ask me how.

I rode the last couple of miles as fast as I could. Not all that fast really. I arrived at the Cumming Tap in fifth place overall. Not bad. I was happy to get into dry clothes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Arrowhead '09

Everything falls apart at 4am. Parties wind down, cramming for exams becomes intolerable, sleepless nights become restless mornings. In this year's Arrowhead 4am is when the cold set in, the shelter was full, and wax wouldn't stick to my skis.
The first eight miles to the turnaround had gone well enough. As usual the flat terrain was trying my patience, but I knew that I'd have more than enough hills once I was past the Gateway Store at mile 35, not to mention if I made it past the halfway checkpoint at Melgeorges. Ten miles in I had re-waxed my skis to accomodate the warmer than expected snow. The temp at the start had been about 4f, but now the sun was melting the ice out of my beard (though only on the south side) and my skis weren't sticking like I wanted.
This year's mantra was 'fix it now, before it becomes a problem.' The year before I hadn't stopped to wax, or eat, or drink, figuring that I could make it just a little farther before I took a break. That hadn't worked. I had ended up effectively poling myself along for nearly 70 miles. By the time I had stopped I couldn't raise my arms above shoulder level. I couldn't let that happen again so I waxed. Much better.
The one thing that I couldn't fix now was my boots. I knew that they didn't fit well. They gave me blisters on my toes and beat up my ankles leaving them bruised and swollen. Unfortunatley I didn't have time before the race to get a new pair and break them in. I was just going to have to suffer with them (I found out later that the boots, though I had been using them for nearly four years, were actually two sizes too big).
At the Hagerman trail shelter, about 20 miles in I once again waxed (carefully, taking my time), ate, and drank. My feet were already in pain so I took some painkillers for it. Within minutes the pain was under control and after a short chat with runners Lara and Tim I was on the move.
As I skied on, feeling okay but slow, I met up with volunteer Ron Kadera. He told me I was looking good and had an efficient stride. At first I thought he was being too generous with his praise, but after thinking about it I changed my mind. As one of the few (four?) ski finishers of the Arrowhead I respect his opinion. He has always been accurate with milages, unlike some snowmobile volunteers, and gives good advice in general.
I arrived at the Gateway store around 6pm or so. It's easy to spend too much time at the store so I set a goal of being out again in an hour. After eating some chili and a hot dog, drinking a Monster energy dring and refilling my water bottles (including 16oz of coffee). I put up my feet for a few minutes while I waxed once again. This time I layered a softer wax over cold in the expectation that the temperature would drop. It was my first time experimenting with layered waxes, but it worked out pretty well. I was off again in just over an hour.
Mike Stattelman and I left about the same time and leapfrogged on to the Ash River shelter. The trail starts to show some terrain around here and I was pleased to find that both my skills and the snow were better than the previous year. Since I had the right wax on I could climb most of the hills without trouble and on the downhills I could both turn and control my speed. In fact over all of the 70 miles I did this year I only crashed three times and once was intentional (to avoid a worse crash), a big improvement over last year.
It didn't seem like too long and we were at the shelter. It was about midnight and the shelter was already overflowing with sleeping competitors. Mike and I were both ready for a break so we skied a short way down the trail and sat down on our sleds to eat and don warmer clothes. Before long we were chilled and ready to get moving again.
Skiing through the night I found that I lost track of time. It seemed like forever to the next turn or the top of the next hill, but it once again seemed like no time and we were at Black Duck shelter, 56 miles and a two fifths of the way through the whole Arrowhead trail. Here's where the race came apart for me. I was tired and cold, it was 4am, and I could tell that my feet were in bad shape from my boots. I told Mike that I was going to take a nap and he went on without me. But the shelter was full here too. I decided to put on some warmer clothes, eat, wax the skis, then make a decision.
The first problem I had was that I couldn't open the tin of wax. I tugged and tugged but the lid was frozen on. With a final yank the lid popped off, sort of, the pins that hold the lid on had broken off in the wax. I knew that the pin would probably scratch up my skis, but at this point I didn't care. I pressed down and tried to crayon the wax on to the ski. It wouldn't happen. The wax was just too cold to go on. After pressing down harder and scrubbing the wax back and forth I got some of it down on the ski, but I knew it was clumpy. I tried to cork it in, but it didn't want to smooth out. I did my best given the tempereature, but it wasn't good. I knew it would only work for a few miles before I had worn most of it off. Thinking back I should have started up my stove and used a pot of hot water to iron in the wax. But I wasn't thinking like that. I didn't want to take the time. I had forgotten my mantra of 'fix it now.'
By now I was awake and reasonably warm so I decided to go on. Lara had caught up to me as well and I really wanted to be faster than at least one runner this year (I really shouldn't have worried, I had passed at least ten sleeping racers). I was comfortable starting off, but in short order my down coat and snowpants were making me sweat. I thought I could slow down a bit to regulate my temperature, but I was already going my slowest. After just a few minutes of skiing my vision started to swim and I thought I might pass out. Finally remembering my mantra, I took off the coat, though not the pants, and continued on.
I was counting on the dawn, only a few hours away, to wake me up and get me in to Melgeorges in good tim, but I knew that that with my feet as bad as they were I wouldn't be continuing on. I caught up with Mike and we skied together through some big hills, that I'm sure seemed bigger because we were tired. I started having to walk up quite a few of them. When dawn arrived it didn't energize me and it didn't seem to warm the air either. I had been right about my wax not lasting and I had to stop again. I tried to use a softer wax in anticipation of the warmer day, and hopes that it would cork in better, but I had most of the same problems I had had at Black Duck shelter. All the softer wax did was take away what little glide I had. It didn't matter much though as I was virtually walking already.
Because of the sun in the sky I had a better sense of time passing, but that wasn't a good thing. I felt like I was making little progress. I caught up with Mike sitting on the trail and leaning up against his sled. He looked pretty comfortable and he admitted to almost drifing off. We talked a little about how much further we had to go to Melgeorges and I estimated three miles. After our short break we found a sign just around the next bend that said five miles to Melgeorges. I wasn't suprised, but I was dissapointed.
When we finally made it to Elephant lake it seemed to take forever to cross. By the time we could see Melgeorges we could see a big group of runners catching up to us. As we skied up to the checkpoint cabin I said to Mike that I was going to wait one hour before throwing in the towel. I probably had the energy to keep going, I really wanted to, but once I took off my boots I made up my mind. I had bloody blisters on most of my toes and red swollen ankles. I might have made it another ten miles, but I didn't want to be evacuated by snomobile as I had been two years before. I made up my mind and have been satisfied with the decision. If anything it has made me more certain that I can finish...with my new boots.