Friday, January 15, 2010
After doing Arrowhead last year and the Tuscobia Ultra just a few weeks before, Triple D looked to me more like a sprint event. No matter how bad the conditions, it would still be much, much easier than either of those two.
As usual, Lance announced super fast conditions the weekend prior, which properly sets the scene for freak weather phenomena. Hence Thursday before the race, 8" of snow. Good. My specialty is attrition racing, not rail-trail time trialing. The intranets composed of much whining and talk of course re-route.
By the time race day rolled around snowmobile traffic had compacted most of the trail back to super fast condition. Re-routes were minimized to staying on the Heritage trail for all but the first and last 2-3 miles of the course to minimize the amount of hike-a-bike.
Competition was much the same as the previous years. No Pramann this year, but I knew I'd still have to work to stay ahead of Cory, Lance, Adam, Trevor, Ben, and Nick.
I made sure to pay close attention to the roads as we rolled through town on the way to the pavetrail. I could see how I got off track the first year. The pavetrail was 8" of un-packed snow over iced over footprints, pretty much unrideable for 90% of us. Cory got off the front early here. Sometimes breaking trail is easier than following, I believe this was one of those times, as he rode away on a 29er as the rest us were left to flail and walk in the tracks left behind. Trevor ran close behind Cory, and soon enough Ben and Lance rode away as well.
The trail eventually popped out into a bar parking lot where I found no trail markers or riders in sight. Great, 2 miles into the race and not only have I let the lead pack get away, but I've lost the trail. I was hearing a whistle tho. Lance was on the edge of the woods behind the bar blowing his emergency whistle. Turns out one of the key trail markers was missing. As soon as I hit the snowmobile trail behind the bar I knew I was going to have to hammer to catch the leaders and keep the rest of the 29ers behind me, the trail was indeed very fast. It didn't take long and I'd caught Lance, then Ben, then Trevor. Cory was way out there though.
Ten minutes of hammering brought him back, but then I couldn't get rid of him. I would punch it and he'd drift back a bit, but as soon as I let up he was right there again. The trail was too fast for the snowbike to have any sort of advantage. So I towed Cory for a couple hours, never really letting up, as I knew if I let up at all the rest of my competition would be rolling right back up to me. Then I saw the strangest thing coming down the trail at us, a trail groomer.
I had no idea they groomed the snowmobile trails here. My first thought was, "sweet, fresh packed trail". Then after actually getting on the groomed trail I found it slightly harder to ride than the snowmobile pack. Stopped and dropped tire pressure here after zig zagging a few times, and then it was much better. Well, for me anyways. A few minutes later and I could no longer see Cory behind me, sweet. Still wasn't going to let up as I knew Lance would be rolling faster on the groomed stuff with his wider rims and lighter weight.
The trail between Farley and Dyersville is always windblown and this year was no different. There was a fair amount of gravel showing, but there were also lightly drifted sections that could have used some increased floatation. I cranked into Dyersville with no one in site. Checked in, swapped water bottles, downed a chocolate milk, grabbed a hamburger, and started heading for the door just as Lance came in. Crap, he closed that gap way too fast. I jumped back on the bike, burger in hand and started cranking back down the trail.
I passed the rest of the crew still struggling their way into Dyersville, many of them making more progress sideways than forward. Keeping the bike heading straight while riding across their ruts was a challenge. Lance was only a hundred yards back or so. Every time I dabbed or zig zagged the distance between us halved. He caught me by the overpass at Farley. I tried to stay on his wheel, but he was floating where I was not. A couple more flails and he was out of site. I got back on the bike and rode tempo, taking my time finishing off the burger and hydrating.
The ruts kept me from getting too much speed built back up. It would start to roll pretty good, then I'd catch someones zig zag rut and have to catch myself from falling. Rewind, repeat, a dozen times or so. Then the groomer came back, how strange. Sweet, no more ruts. But it was soft. after awhile I could see where Lance had floated across the top where I was still punching through. I stopped and dropped my pressure some more. Back to rideable again, why didn't I do that sooner?
Back to hammering. New goals:A)keep Lances split to less than an hour ahead of me B)finish in the daylight. Unlike the previous two years where it was getting dark by the halfway point, I was now nearly 3/4 of the way finished and the orange ball was still above the horizon. It was nice to ride past the Sundown resort in the cold shadow of the bluff during daylight hours, I still remembered those chilling miles from the first year. Step into Durango, make sure I'm seen, step out, continue hammering. Even if I had caught Lance in this section, I'm sure he would have dropped me on the foot pocketed pavetrail massacre on the way back into town. It was like trying to do a trials competition on a loaded touring bike, not pretty. I finally escaped the pavetrail and managed to find the ribbons guiding me back to the finish. I was happy to be doing this in the daylight and not completely drained like last time.
I finished in 6:59, Lance finished 11 minutes ahead of me, in the daylight, no mechanical issues, and I learned a thing or two. Arrowhead is now less than a week and a half away. I've dropped about 20lbs off the total weight of bike and gear I'm hauling this year. I'm not entirely happy with my fitness. The competition for Arrowhead is the most stacked I've ever seen it, but I guess I just don't know how it will go until it's happened. I only hope to learn as much as I did last year.