1200 Miles & a Cup O' Dirt & a little Mississippi Mud!

Take the year long challenge of completing a dozen or half a dozen dirty centuries and join the fun in December! Everybody who completes this challenge will be rewarded with a custom hand-made stoneware mug as well as be in a drawing for other prizes. Read the FAQ for details, and welcome to the fun!

I've increased the fun to give some more folks a shot at the cup - a bit 'watered down' - We'll have the 1200 Mile Cup O' Dirt and a 600 Mile Cup O' Mississippi Mud and new in 2008 is the 1/2 Liter O' Dirt - earned by completing 12 metric centuries in the year! A special award will be presented to anyone completing either a dirty century or metric century in each month of the year.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Time Is Here!

First of all, thanks to Brian Duffy, Cup chaser, Leadville hopefull and artist! He is the editorial cartoonist for the Des Moines Register and RAGBRAI host. He was kind enough to design the Cup logo - of course it was in his best intrest to do so, as a Cup O' Dirt was used as a bribe to get us all into Leadville... whether it was what got us in or not, we'll never know, but we do intend to present said 'bribe' to Ken and Marilee when we are at Leadville!

Secondly, I am off to Lake Tahoe to bag my first century of the year - fat tires and all. "Climb the high mountains and get thier good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms thier energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves." John Muir wrote this of his experience in the Sierra Nevada... I look forward to my weekend there - working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to raise money to fight cancer through Team In Training. A good day will be had by all.

I leave you with another message from Muir;

"These beautiful days must enrich all my life. They do not exist as mere pictues... but they saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hot Dog Rx?

Four of us headed out 7:00 a.m. on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend:
me, Mike Johnson, Ron Saul and Rob Walters. The sky was overcast and
the forecast called for rain. With the weather as it was, it may not
have been smart to head out for a century, but our goal was a hundred
miles, not a Nobel Prize. We pedaled west out of Cedar Falls with no
second thoughts. 12th Street turns to gravel at the city limits.
About 6 miles out, a dog that I?ve never seen before charged out from
a farm that I ride by at least once a week. And then again about 11
miles into the route, dogs charged out from two consecutive farms. If
this had continued, our laid-back hundy would have turned into a
sprint workout. 22 miles down the road we rolled into Parkersburg,
for food and restrooms and noted a darkening sky. The rain started
shortly after leaving P-burg. We were heading north and east toward
Shell Rock, making up the route as we went along, turning when we
reached T-intersections and avoiding pavement. Some of the roads were
familiar to us and some weren?t. The rain continued to fall, but as
long as we kept moving, we stayed warm, and didn?t stop to put on
jackets. As long as we were riding north, the wind was at our back.
At Shell Rock we stopped again for more food. Figs ?n? bananas made
sense, but the triple chocolate bismark was irresistible. The
convenience store?s AC was running in its big ring so we finally had
to don our rain apparel just to stay warm while eating. Rob got a
couple of hot dogs and pressed them against his knees. They were a
little sore, and he said the heat felt good. Riding again, we hit
some short stretches of pretty soft gravel. It was still raining and
we were wet, but not suffering from it. Somewhere in this part of the
ride Rob announced that this was his longest ride - not just of the
year, but ever. Our intention was to get around the north side of
Waverly, but we hadn?t gone far enough north, and we had to cross US
Hwy 218 where an overpass was available. Our gravel road ran into a
piece of pavement that went straight into town. Rob opted to head on
in, having set a new personal distance record and needing to rest his
sore knees. Ron, Mike and I turned onto a gravel crossroad that
appeared to go where we wanted, but in about a mile and a half we were
stuck at a railroad crossing with a train parked on it. We could see
one end of the train about a quarter mile to the right. The other end
of the train disappeared to the left. We had no idea if there was a
locomotive attached, or not. The rail right-of-way was not suitable
for riding around the end of the train. The train was dead-quiet and
showed no sign of moving, so even though it completely creeped me out
and violated every sense of safety and intelligence, Mike crawled
under, we passed the bikes over a coupling, and then Ron and I crawled
under, too. In the four seconds it took for me to crawl under the
train, if there had been a horn honk, or if one of the other guys had
even clapped their hands, I would have filled my pants. Shortly, the
gravel we were on Tee?d into another road that went straight in to
town. We just were not going to be able to avoid Waverly, so we rode
right through without stopping and sought the first dirt on the east
side. The sky was still gray, but the rain finally stopped. We were
working our way toward Denver, again making up the route as we went
along. Some of the roads were familiar and some were new. We found
some nice gravel rollers that will be great Chequamegon training. On
this stretch, we were able to take off the rain jackets and start to
dry out. By the time we got to Denver, the sun was trying to burn a
hole in the clouds. We stopped again for food, then pedaled east out
of town. We didn?t really have a next destination. We were headed
east and south toward, but not necessarily to, Dunkerton. While the
sun was trying to shine above us, there was a line of really dark
clouds approaching from the west. The south wind was strengthening,
the roads were soft, and for the first time of the day it was becoming
work to ride the bike. We quit jogging to the east to concentrate on
a southerly course, hoping the dark clouds would pass behind us, which
they ultimately did. Our gravel Tee?d into pavement by the big John
Deere tractor plant east of Waterloo. We turned west, spun through
town, and by the time I hit my driveway in CF, I had a hundred miles
on the odo and just short of 8 hours of ride time on the clock.

Thanks for keeping track of our rides, Dave.

Chris Congdon

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Good Day For The Bike Tech Gang!

Here's a description of a hard day. A 25m TT followed by 90 miles of fat tire fun on gravel roads! That is exactly how John Adamson, Chris Congdon and James Warnke spent their day on Saturday, May 12 - maybe not so much for the Cup O' Dirt, but I know John is building his mileage for his assault on the Leadville Trail 100 in August. Chris and James? Well, they must just be nuts! The day began for the trio in Lisbon Iowa for the 25mile Lisbon Time Trial, hosted by Conn Day. Once they all completed that, they traded their TT machines for their 'Cross bikes and headed home to Cedar Falls, arriving some 90 miles later! They're all on the list, and it would be an honor to present these three with their Cup O' Dirt at the end of the year!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Todd Escweiler Joins The Chase on Trans-Iowa!

As with any race we do, I learned a lot from this race as well. Definitely things I can carry forward to future races.

The pre-race prep went really smooth. I was stressing over it a bit but was packed well ahead of time and incorporated a detailed-list strategy that worked really well. Basically I had several lists I worked from:

· Packing list of required gear needed before leaving DSM

· Everything that needed done the night before

· Everything that needed done in the a.m. before going to the start

· Everything that needed to happen at the start

After my lists were done all the thinking was out of the way and it was easier to relax. I felt very comfortable that if I followed the checklists, I would have everything I needed, when I needed it, and wouldn't waste time or energy trying to remember a bunch of stuff or worse yet, risk forgetting something as basic as my helmet. :)

I still hate the early am starts but we got there with plenty of time to spare and once I cleared the fourth and final checklist I was all set for the start. It was rather chilly and I was wearing a t-shirt. I knew I'd warm up after the start but I did decide to change into a heavier long-sleeve shirt. I think it helped but the sleeves got pulled up on the 2nd hill so I may have been fine either way.

A brief announcement from the race director about not outrunning your headlights (big down hills with hairpin turns at the bottom) and we were ready to go.

The 1st queue sheet (10 in total for the 1st half) only took us to the 7 mile point. To avoid having to switch queue sheets so early in the race I started with page 2 opting to follow the pack the 1st seven miles...the 2nd queue sheet took us to mile 25 and I figured that'd be a good time for a break anyway. Right away up the 1st hill I had to shift into my small ring, in doing so my chain jammed and I came to an abrupt stop. Of course I panicked thinking how can this be, I'm 5 minutes into this thing and I'm out of the race! A little finagling in the dark (more than usually required for dropped chains) and an up-shift to the middle ring corrected the situation and I was off again from the back of the pack. I was afraid to use my small ring after that so I probably expended some extra energy on the early hills. In retrospect, I think I was just cross-chained as the gears worked fine when I got the nerve back to try them a few hours later. Ultimately, I passed several riders and ended up mid-pack where I stayed for the rest of the day.

With a course that big I wondered how often I'd see other riders. As it turns out, I could always see someone in front of me and often times behind as well. That kept my spirits up as I knew I was never alone and by the numbers of riders I saw in town I knew I was right where I should be in terms of time/distance. I leapfrogged Kyle and Mark (from Irwins) all day long. They caught me, I pulled away, I stopped they passed, they stopped, I passed.

Other than throwing my chain in a panic at the start, the rest of the 1st half went like clockwork. We hit LOTS of hills of course but the pain was offset by the views you got rolling over the tops of some. I didn't take many pictures and swear I saw more gravel (heads down biking) than anything but both the "ridge" roads & "river" roads provided the occasional stretch of relatively flat terrain to move over. Transitioning from one to the other was a bear though!

No "B" roads the 1st half. Gravel was dry and hard. Almost like pavement for a lot of the ride.

My nutrition plan worked very well for me. I broke the cardinal rule of never trying anything new on race day. After realizing my training regimen of Propel, ham sandwiches and Mike&Ikes wasn't going to cut it in a 34 hour race, I decided to go with a powder supplement...Hammer Sustained Energy (unflavored). I mixed it up thick (pancake batter consistency) which gave me four hours fuel in one water bottle. I had pre-measured 4-hour bags in my pack so I could quickly mix up more when needed. I kept plain water in my Camelbak and between the two that's mainly what kept me going. I also brought along electrolyte tablets and took 2-3 every hour so I replaced what was lost due to sweat.

I didn't eat anything else and other than the expected fatigue, I felt fresh all day long. Never had a sign of cramping. Had to pull off the side of the road frequently so knew I was staying hydrated. I was very impressed since I'd never used any of this stuff before. The unflavored Sustained Energy was bland but not at all dissatisfying. I brought individual flavor packets made by Propel to spruce things up a bit if necessary but I never felt the need to use them.

Also along for the ride were Peanut butter rollups (Tortilla shell style) and about 15 PowerGels. I didn't touch either of these. If anybody wants some Tangerine Power Gel I got tons to give away.

Contrary to past years, the weather was perfect. Temps were a little warmer than desired but the electrolytes helped me out there. Winds were a little heaver than desired but that also helped keep the heat away. Winds were from the NW and other than the 1st 3 hrs we were moving SW most the day. Later in the day the Westward sections sucked pretty bad but by then we were mostly heading South.

What really got to me in this race were the hills. For the distance I was really expecting to come out of the hills of NE Iowa around mile 60. As it turns out, we didn't open up to the flats of Iowa until just after mile 90. Even then, with the monster hills out of the way they were able to find some pretty good rolling hills to route us over.

I made it to the checkpoint (131.7) in 12 hours...two hours before the cut-off time so I was well within my initial goal of just making it to the check point on time. I still felt fresh and if I had to estimate I figured I had 20% left. Considering 20% was not the 55% required to finish, I was able to do a lot of soul searching the last 30-40 miles to the CP. I came to the realization that:

1) While I still felt good, there was absolutely no way I was going to complete this race. Considering the CP at 131 miles was still not even half way.

2) Given an imminent DNF, I had absolutely no desire to push on to the point of complete exhaustion. I was ok with this. At that point I knew I could call it, get a nice meal, a good nights sleep, and still be able to enjoy the rest of my weekend.

3) I was having a BLAST! Good weather, good riders, feeling good, hitting some awesome terrain. Since a finish wasn't anywhere in sight I didn't see a problem with taking a good day for what it was and being happy with it.

I knew for sure I wanted to leave CP1 and at least enter the 2nd half of the route. Sarah brought up what was also going through my mind about looking for a different kind of goal. Leave it to Sarah to keep pushing me on. With 322 out of reach, what other milestone was in sight? I settled on 150. Seemed a nice round number and anything beyond that point was going to be West and North (into the wind). At this point Sarah headed back to DSM and I headed off down the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

It took me just under 2.5 hrs to go another 20.6 miles to where I agreed to meet up with Amy. I knew quickly I'd made the right decision to drop out. The first 10 miles were along a dirt trail that used to be a railroad bed. Other than a lot of debris it was smooth, flat and somewhat sheltered from the wind. Regardless, at that stage, it was still a tough 10 miles and it drug on. Now imagine feeling that way in those prestine conditions and still needing to push on yet another 120 miles just to be in the hills of NE Iowa with 70 additional miles to get to the finish. No thanks.

After the trail the route took us for another easy mile through town and then back on fresh gravel for the remaining 9 miles (I hate fresh gravel...bumpy!). More hills and considering my pickup point was actually 152.3 miles (I had time to do the math) I stopped biking, took off my pack, came very close to calling Amy and having her back up 2.3 miles figuring that was really my goal. Given everything else that'd gone on that day, I finally yelled at myself for being a wuss and pushed on to meet Amy at the designated pickup point. It was the perfect place to stop...on the heels of a right turn straight into the West wind. I couldn't have been happier. The next day at the awards ceremony I talked to one of the other racers that dropped out in Traer...13 miles from where I dropped. He just looked at me, smiled and said, "You made a wise choice." There are hills in Iowa and Guitar Ted knows how to find them.

While Amy was waiting for me to finish the last few miles she received the call from the Irwin guys. They were calling it a day also. Like me, they felt like they had some fuel in the tank but with the end-goal out of reach, decided to call in the reinforcements while they still could.

Kudos to Amy...she put in a longer day than the rest of us. While we called it quits and ended our day, she drove us all back to Decorah to drop off Kyle and Mark (That's a long drive by the way), then got me back home safe to New Hampton. When all was said and done, she looked about as cooked as many of the racers.

WOULD I do it again? Definitely!

WILL I do it again? Not a chance!

I think any future endeavor like this is going to need to be in the 150-200 mile range. Something completeable by sensible human standards. If this was a 200 mile race, I think I could have pushed on, suffered if not hurt myself, and drug myself across the finish riding on borrowed time. When the finish is unbelievably out of reach, however, it really takes away any motivation to continue.

Here's a summary of the data my GPS gathered: http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/activity/2620573# .