Trans Iowa 13: Soggy Bottoms

I am not on Trans Iowa today, dropped out for non-weather related reasons, but part of me wishes I was out there getting wet and cold and smiling through it with those that are still on course. Good Speed to those still out there slogging away towards CP2, and great job to those that toed the line but made the choice to pull the plug before things went really bad for them. It’s very tough mentally to know when to say when, as part of you will always want to drive on, but you have to shut that side up when it comes to safety. I’ve seen friends go well past when they should have stopped, and it hurt them (nerve damage, hypothermia, etc). It’s no joke. Dropping out isn’t a dishonorable thing, especially when you are slated to ride 300 miles of gravel.

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My Salsa Vaya on Trans Iowa 8

Riders should start rolling into CP2 sometime tonight, then it’s on to the finish line in Grinnell. What a crazy, shitty day to be having fun on bikes. I am speculating that there will be very few people to make CP2 and even fewer finishers.  There were 48 racers left after CP1, and as of 1:30 pm all 48 were still around, but the field is coming to a point where the tail winds will be turning into head winds for the rest of the race.  That, the rain, the muck, the cold, and the hills will be kicking the field’s ass even more.

Dan Hughes and Greg Gleason are in the lead as of this writing, and they have been maintaining a 15mph average (?!?!?!) in this weather.  There are another three who have fallen back from the original leaders group, but are chasing. That group is evidently stopping for some dinner in (town redacted).

Thanks to some approved inside info, I will be seeing you at CP2!

Sam

CNB

First Milestone Reached!

Less than two months ago I was in horrible condition.  I was the heaviest I have ever been in my entire life, I was eating like an asshole, I just didn’t give a hoot about what shape I was in.  I would just complain about how I was fat and didn’t feel good after eating, and inside I could feel that there were more things going wrong than right.  I decided to make a change, to begin a new journey to a place where I felt well, where I didn’t have to think things like “if only I lost some weight maybe I would be faster.” I was so beyond having to worry about how fast I was on a bike.  I would get out of breath trying to buckle my Sidi’s. You can read all about that here.

 

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These bikes have been getting me to and from where I need to go, while providing a pretty solid workout. All grocery shopping, errands, and even playing a show, have been done by bike in the last few months. 

 

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I’m happy to report that thanks to my Vegan eating, and to switching back to living almost entirely by bike, I have gone from over 300 lbs (it has been estimated that I was around 315 when I first started this change), to under 280 since the first week of March.  That’s over 30 lbs of weight gone from my body, the equivalent of losing an entire loaded gravel rig.  I’ve gone down about 3 inches in waist size, and I can finally zip my old rain jacket up. My energy level/attitude/motivation is way up, and I feel like life isn’t just a constant suck hole of feeling like shit with an added shitty attitude.  It’s refreshing.

 

There is still a long way to go, I have some pretty big goals ahead.  There are things I have always wanted to do and I’m headed in the direction of realizing some of my cycling daydreams.  Time and perseverance will tell, but I have confidence enough to at least embark on the journey towards these goals.

What are these goals I speak of?  My main goal is 225 lbs. That’s roughly 90 lbs of loss, which could be tough to reach as I am training and gaining back muscle mass. If my training goals and weight goals meet up together, I will be a pretty lean mean machine. But for now I will  celebrate my first milestone (with a salad), and focus on making it to the top of this climb. Maybe a few of you out there would like to join in?

Sam

CNB

Trans Iowa 13: The Soggy Bottom Toys

TransIowa is nothing to sneeze at.  It’s a huge undertaking from planning and preparation to execution, for the riders, volunteers, and especially for race co-founder and director/mastermind Guitar Ted.  Some years it pays off in some great finishes, some years there are no finishers, but it’s a great gathering of like minded individuals who work tirelessly to take part in this humongous event.  I’ve toed the line twice, and have not finished yet. This year I am on the roster, but will not be starting.  Life has gotten in the way and I need to be in Des Moines during this weekend, so after talking extensively about TI on the JustGoBike podcast I regrettably had to make the call to Guitar Ted.

I will not be riding in TIV13

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This would have been my TIV13 Rig

 

I know, it is the exact rig from CIRREM 9. I mean, it was kind of overkill for a metric century during daylight. It has Whiskey & Carbon wheels, Son28 thru axle generator hub, the wonderful K-Lite system, Garmin E-trex 35t, and currently a Selle Anatomica saddle.  The Clement MSO 40’s are back for one more run, even after I have sworn off them. I had a brand new set sitting in my shop, so why not shred them as a sacrifice to the gravel gods?  I already know what to expect, so I won’t hit any curbs, and I have packed two patch kits and two tire boots. That’s some trust, right there. I can’t wait to start testing out new tires…hint hint hint.  I’ve opted out of frame bags on the Bird, and instead I’m wearing an older model of the Camelbak Octane XCT 100l on my back, leaving the frame open for those over the shoulder bike portage moments that will happen often this weekend. It’s already 40 and a raining, sloppy mess.  I know what that translates to on the gravel.  A bunch of crap, mud scraping, and carrying your bike. I think this may be the year to go single speed if you have it in you, as TI has destroyed a LOT of drivetrains when the weather has been similar in the past.

Brian and I had talked* about tackling events like TI as a Vegan, and I let the some nutrition secrets out (you will have to listen to the podcast for that).  I have a ton of Almond Butter packets and fake jerky, Scratch Labs hydration packets (to be used in the Braap Sabbath bottles), a couple hummus wraps, so that’s covered. Rain gear that would normally be in a frame bag well…that would probably have to be worn all weekend so no need for the extra storage.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because I’m not toeing the line. I will be working. I’m not happy about it, because for some reason I would like nothing more than to be out in 40 degree rains attempting to ride bikes for 330 miles.

Safe travels and speedy finish to Coop, MG, Brett, Gleason, Sumpter, and all the other wild folk who are still in the mix for this weekend of biking “fun”

GO RIDE YOUR BIKE

Sam

CNB

*Upcoming Just Go Bike podcast episode will feature my rambling on various subjects and a huge confession about my dislike for sweets. Whoops, that’s out there now.

In Review: Clement Xplor MSO 40

I’ve burnt through some gravel tires in my time. LOTS of them. Back before “gravel tire” was a thing, we rode cyclocross tires. I fell in love with the Michelin Mud, a light, fast tire with minimal tread and a decent line of gripping knobs on the side. These tires were made for doing laps around a closed course for an hour, not for riding 10-12 hours straight on rock roads. They lasted accordingly, aka not very long at all. I caused many dead Muds, but man did they roll. I, along with many of my dirt riding compatriots, needed something that would last and not break the bank.

As time meandered on, companies started introducing more durable tires that were gravel specific like the Kenda Small Block 8, and Clement’s Xplor Series. Clement caught my eye. I started of with their smaller offerings, but soon the MSO 40 was in my sights. I got a pair. It was mildly life changing. Here was a voluminous tire that wasn’t TOO heavy, rolled fast, and felt supple on the dirt roads. It performed well on pavement. I felt that it looked pretty sexy. My first pair of these adorned my Salsa Fargo for training and ultimately riding Trans Iowa 10 (TIV10), I fell in love with their performance in the racing realm, and riding 40’s on a MTB allowed for zipping through muddy B-level roads with ease, giggling to myself as others were off to the side with their various “scrapin sticks” trying to get their wheels free of their muddy bonds.  Gotta love a little extra clearance, Clarence.

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POOR BIRDY

All was well through miles and miles of riding, then the MSO’s were transferred to another bike, my Warbird. The Bird was the new kid on the block, and took over the brunt of my mileage.  I finally got a flat. A flat that thwarted a perfectly good sunny century day at mile 35. Now, I will admit that checking my tire condition before riding is not really on my list. It should be, I keep a close watch on tire inflation (which is subject for another post for another day), but don’t think about inspecting the outer casing. Noted: will change this. I didn’t just flat, the casing of my tire either split or was cut. The tread was also just chewed up, all the way around, which lead me to believe is was more the tire than some errant object in the road which made cause for this pause. I was close to a town, so I booted the tire, got it rolling, stopped for lunch, then limped another 20 miles in to Des Moines to Rasmussen Bike Shop for a replacement. I was so burnt out that I just handed them the bike and said “go for it.”  They got me back on the road and disposed of the tire accordingly.

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POOR BIRDY PT 2

I rode the new rear tire for another 500 miles or so (not in a row) before encountering any more problems. I had another flat, this time a pinch flat that you can read about here, which I quickly fixed and got home for lunch.  A few days later I was on the Gent’s Race, you can read my race report here, having fought through some difficulties in the beginning I was well on my way to finishing with my team, and BOOM flat. Fixed it. We rode another mile or so, within 2 miles of the finish, and BOOOOOM a total blowout. Upon inspection, the kevlar bead and sidewall had separated. Race Over. Good Day.

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Mark Showing me the exposed Kevlar bead, AKA POOR BIRDY PT 3

I talked over the life of these tires with a good friend and team mate, who has a very keen knowledge of gravel tires. We came up with the hypothesis that the Clement MSO is not durable or reliable enough to be pulling long miles on gravel, at least not for someone my size (read:large).  He told me other people have had similar issues with these tires, and I’m not surprised. This is the only tire since I started riding “gravel specific” tires that have done such things. I’ve gone years and thousands of miles without flats. This all leads me to…

My final thoughts on the Clement Xplor MSO 40mm: Fast, Light-ish tire that is best suited for equally light-ish riders that ride low mileage, or for shorter circuit-style lapped gravel races that won’t leave you stranded out in the middle of nowhere. I absolutely would not used these again for any type of distance or “adventuring” as they are more volatile than most other gravel tires I’ve had the chance to ride.  In fact, they kind of remind me of the good old days of ripping through tire after tire on those Michelin Muds.

Sam, CNB

Gents Race 7: A Most Epic Drop Out

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The Moots and the Bird

As most of you whom have had the experience of reading this blog know, I like to make a grand exit when dropping out of gravel races.  I’ve thrown my bike into a field then chugged Jim Beam (CIRREM 5), shotgunned a PBR pounder and grifted a sag from the checkpoint personnel (CIRREM 9), I’ve found the only bar in North English, IA, drank many PBR’s and Wild Turkeys,  then ended up at a Pizza Ranch after buffet hours and convinced them to make me my own buffet at my table (TIV10), taken a tailwind back into Grinnell to a Cafe for breakfast where I convinced them to let me stand next to their cooking equipment because I couln’t get my body temperature up, then ended up in the middle of a college dance party at the Rabbit at 8am, then day drank with the locals until my ride home showed up (TIV8), and so on and so forth.  My point is, when I ditch an adventure race/ride, I like to make it a completely different adventure.  Gent’s 7 was no departure from my modus operandi, but there was a twist. We will get to that a little later.

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Mark’s Steed, a total classic.

Let’s get back to the start, though. The Bike Iowa Gent’s Race is a 60-some mile gravel race held north of the Des Moines metro starting/ending at the Nighthawk Bar & Grill in Slater, IA. You assemble a team of 5 folks, you’re assigned a start time based on some secret algorithm developed by Kyle and Bruce, main organizers of this madness, and you line up and enjoy some mostly flat rock roads.  The staggered start has the fast teams going off the start later in the morning, and the slower teams at the beginning so that everyone can get to the finish around the same time. It’s pretty cool, IMO. The course is deceptively easy, as in you look at the elevation and say “easy peasy.” This is not true.  My team, the Careless Whispers, have done this race every year, and between the unforgiving wind from which you have no escape (last year we had 25+ mph sustained winds), and the sudden appearance of tens of miles of fresh chunky rocks, it’s always been a challenge. Some years almost comically challenging.

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K-Corn had a Top 5 beard.

This year as we gathered the Whispers, sans D-Corn and plus K-Corn, everyone was feeling pretty good about things. Mark, Steve, Bob, Kathy, Kathy’s amazing yarn beard, and myself took off at 9:04 with smiles and hope.  There was zero wind. In April. In Iowa. What a rare treat!  The first gravel was in impeccable condition, packed and fast, and we were off to a great start.  We were cruising along at a good clip, enjoying the scene, everyone was joking around and smiling. Except for me.  From the first few pedal strokes I just didn’t feel right, and within the first 5 miles I started experiencing the same shortness of breath and erratic heart beat that plagued my CIRREM attempt this year.  I’ve been on the road to recovery from a few years of bad habits taking their toll, and even after 5 weeks and almost 30 lbs of weight gone I just could not get it together. I sucked wind for a while, staying silent as I didn’t want the others to hear how bad off I was. I felt like a weight was on my chest, which was incorrect. It was my still-existing gut mass that was pressing up into my diaphragm that was causing some of the breathing problems. Super fucking cool.

As we neared the ten-mile mark, it became apparent that I was done.  Mark had spent some time hanging back with me, and had started discussing guitar gear.  It was a great device to help work through the pain I was in. If there is one thing that will take my mind off of just about anything, it’s discussing guitars. Lungs, Heart, Legs, all were gone, though, and I felt that it was time to stop before I hurt myself. It was embarrassing to say the least.  Ten miles. No wind. Fast roads. I had finally resigned to the fact that my day was over.  I crept back up to Mark, quietly stating “Mark, I’m done.” Now, my team mates are all great folks. I’m honored to be able to ride with them every year, and this is usually the only time we are actually able to get together in the same place at the same time. Mark lobs back calmly, “Ok, Sam. It was great to see you and ride with you for a little bit today.” I accepted his acknowledgment then started formulating a plan for extraction.  We were close enough to Slater at that point that I could just soft pedal it in then call for a ride, but I needed to find the right place to do so.  We rode for a bit longer.

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The King Of Drop Bags

The Whispers kept on whispering, I tagged along still plotting my exit. The miles kept ticking away, and as I swiped my Garmin screen to see how far we had gone.  nearly 20 miles had passed.  I had caught up to the group at that point,  then told them that I had quit like ten miles ago. I was doing a really bad job of dropping out. At this point, it made more sense just to ride the next ten to the checkpoint at Snus Hill Winery and have a few beers with the team before hanging a right and riding the mile back to the start.  We ended up being the last team out of the half way point, but when you have as sweet of a drop bag as the Whispers, you stay until you have only enough leftovers that you can pack on the bike.

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Half Way Checkpoint Time! Still quitting!


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Remnants of our “Drop Bag”

Our three beer stop was over, we packed it in and headed back out on the dusty trail.  I was planning on hitting that right turn and booking back to the Nighthawk.  I was still cooked. So I turned left with the rest of the team. Bob says “Come on, it’s just three tens!” so we embarked on that first of three.  At this point everybody had loosened up, and the train was rolling.  Bob was setting the pace, the FullerKeg was rolling strong, and Mark was crushing it as well.  I settled in behind the tandem and ticked off miles staring at that rear Nano, eating a shit ton of rocks along the way.  Our pace had picked up, and my legs finally found a cadence that worked. Fucking incredible. Mile 38 came, and we stopped for a little whiskey and whatnot.  I was at drop out mile 32, and still dropping out.  I don’t think I have ever dropped out for so long in my life. It was incredible.

We stopped again at mile 48 to finish what was left of our liquid lunch.  I got a text. The Stoker was at the Nighthawk and was ready for me when I got back.  I didn’t expect her so early!  We finished up and set to burning through those last 13 miles.  The dropping out got exciting. We were moving at a great pace, my body was cooperating, although a few times I had to call time out and back er down a notch to get re-situated.

“Hey, Mark, does my rear tire look ok?”

We were just a few miles from finishing, and my rear end was a little more wiggly than it normally feels.  Hissssssss. Shit. Fuck. Flatting at the end of a race is so disheartening.  After all these miles of quitting, there was finally a mechanical. THIS BIKE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FAIL.  Alas, the team assembled to disassemble and reassemble my rear tire situation. Thanks, Steve, for doing all the pumping. You are a hero.  Also thank you, Mark, for being the best human bike stand in the history of humans and bike stands coexisting. The Warbird was back up and running in a few short minutes, and the Whispers were once again screaming towards a solid near-DFL finish. Hell yes. A few more miles passed and BOOM!!!!!!! My rear tire blew out at mile 59. We all searched for another tube, but it seems that the sidewall had blown away from the kevlar bead. FUCK.

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Steve standing by as Mark discovers the root of the problem. Shredded Tire. The High Trestle Trail is about 50 yards up in the distance.

I had almost finished dropping out of the race, and here I was with a major mechanical within sight of the finish line. The silos stood off in the distance mocking us as the team formulated a plan of attack. The Fullers rode back and were going to drive their truck to pick me up.  They ended up sending Meg (thank you one million, Meg!!!!) to  the rescue.  We had some visitors come by and Fireball was distributed, thank you Jess and Michelle, we waited a bit longer, and finally it was time for yours truly to be done with the quitting.

The Stoker and Mini Stoker were waiting for me patiently, my hour estimate for return was about an hour past. I said my goodbyes, packed it up, and headed back to the DSM for some dinner and rest.

It was a great day for epic quitting, but not the best for stopping.  Thank you to all that put on the race, the volunteers, the Nighthawk (a regular summer stop for me), Meg for the rescue, The Stoker for the ride home, and Mark, Steve, Kathy, and Bob for being the best team mates (and substitute team mate) I could imagine having.  It was an honor to spend the day with the Whispers, I can’t wait until next year.

Sam, CNB