Sunday, January 20, 2008

Intro to snowbike racing

I competed in the Triple D snowbike "adventure" race this past Saturday. It was just like any other mtb race I do. The adventure part comes with numerous mechanical issues, a couple physical aillments, and top it off by getting lost. There would have been pictures, but I was pretty busy trying to ride in a straight line and keep from freezing.

The race itself was pretty well run for a first go around of it. Just a couple spots could have used better marking, otherwise it was all good. Well done Lance Andre.

This was a 60mile race from Dubuque to Dyersville and back. It started out on a plowed bike path through town where I drafted the pugsley paceline. That lead to a badly foot traffic-ed section that had refroze into a minefield for all who tried to ride it. This is where I had to stop the first time to air up my front tire, it took me awhile to figure out I was riding on the rim on the icy potholed snowpack. Pumping it up cost me a good 10 places, I was in third.

After the pothole hell we turned off the trail onto another plowed path that did nothing but go up. At this point I started noticing this funky frozen red red stuff on my top tube, and my jacket, and my gloves....crap, nosebleed. Anyway, I was being distracted from my leaking fluids by the fact that with every petal stroke it felt like my crank arms were falling off. Oh... well it's just my bottom bracket cups loose in the eccentric. Seems I forgot to pack my crank extractor and bb tools so there's not much I could do about this. Spinning more helps, spin more. Then came some cross town snowmobile trail that was entertaining and partially ride-able. I stopped again to air up my front tire just before heading out of town. Had I been thinking I should had stopped at Free Flight and fixed my mechanicals, but what fun would that be?

From there was a whole load of climbing on pavement. I found I prefer snow to pavement when I running ~20psi in my Weirwolves, it just sucks riding 7mph on pavement. By this point the race leader were well out of sight, but not for long. As I rolled up to the end of the pavement, with no obvious clue as to which way to go, I spotted the whole group of Pugseys, Ben Shockey, and Cully coming back out of the field. They did a little side trip. Turns out we were supposed to go straight down an unmarked, and untracked level B, which we then did. No-one was certain this was the right way, but I remembered Lance mentioning a level B that he had not pre-ridden, and that we might have to push. This turned out to be correct, and soon enough we were back to the Heritage trail where the rest of the distance would be ridden.

The heritage trail was snowpacked and lightly tracked by snowmobiles. As long as I stayed in the middle of the track it went fairly well. I was cranking along on the front and looked back to see no-one other than Ben, and I was riding away from him as well. Eventually he disappeared too. Then I had to stop and air up my tire again. Ben passed and rode away, Pugsleys passed, Cully stopped and asked where he was. I think he may have come to his senses and turned around somewhere near here.

I caught and passed the Pugsleys once more only to have my tire go flat again and be repassed. This time I had to swap a tube in. Stans apparently doesn't work at -7deg. My pump was starting to give me fits as I believe the seals were frozen, I had to alot of pumping to get that tube aired up. This stop cost me a ton of time and I was a major factor in the impeding doom I was facing.

I pressed on and tried to make up time, but my extremeties just kept getting colder. The section from outside Farley to Dyersville was really wide open and straight into the wind. Temp with windchill was estimated to be around negative 32deg. I stopped on the trail and put in chemical warmer footbeds and glove warmers. My hands felt better, but my feet were still numb. I got into Dyersville in time to see Ben rolling back out, the Pugsleys were still at the gas station. I checked into the halfway point at about 4:30, twenty minutes behind Ben. I warmed up a bit, added a dry baselayer, socks and vaporbarrier(though I reused my liner socks, didn't have a spare pair. Strike#2), swapped into dry gloves, thicker balava, goggles, lights, new chemical warmers. I should have packed liner socks and stayed to warm up longer here. For the first half of the ride I ended up riding without glasses because they fogged/frosted up too much, I should have used goggled on the way up. As it was I spent a fair bit of time thawing condensation off my eyelashes so they wouldn't freeze together when I blinked.

On the way back I ended up drafting one of the Pugsleys. Josh, for some time. Staying in his tracks made riding pretty easy and he was keeping a good pace. He let me by at the Farley intersection and I kept cranking. Eventually I caught up to another Pugsley. This one was going a bit slower, but I drafted it awhile anyway. Since I was riding by moonlight to conserve my headlamp he didn't notice I was behind him till I blew my nose. It turned out to be Bruce Grell. He had turned around at Farley. I rode along with Bruce till we got to Graf, where the rest of the Pugsley group had stopped. Bruce and one other Puglsey continued on with me.

Eventually Josh caught back up and I followed him for awhile till I eventually passed and pulled away again. Somewhere along the line I passed another Puglsey, but Ben was nowhere in sight. My feet were past cold. For once in my life the neon signs of a trailside bar we actually appealing, I stopped to warm up. The contents of said bar were beyond happy hour, but kind and well meaning. A couple minutes passed and the two Pugseys pulled in. Josh ordered a sandwhich and I figured that was a good idea and followed suit, only to find they didn't take credit cards. Thankfully Josh loaned me a ten, thanks buddy! Unfortunately ordering food made for a bad tactical move. They were both on the trail a good five minutes before my food was out. I swapped socks and chemical warmers while I was waiting.

They rest of the ride back into town was lonely and cold. My feet felt like blocks of ice. The ride back through pothole hell was somehow easier, yet more painful. It's a good thing I saved my headlamp for the last leg of the ride as it was already low. I rode back down the plowed path and took a wrong turn somewhere. I'm not sure where the arrows were, but I sure didn't see any. I ended up riding across a bridge and finding myself on hwy 20. I rode that back to hwy 151 and rode back up and across again, finally finishing up the ride at about 9:30.

I finished in fourth place and was the last person to finish the whole course. At the start no-one was expected to finish the whole course in these conditions. Ben Shockey finished about an hour ahead of me I believe, on a single speed mtb to boot. Joel and Josh finished up 2nd and 3rd on Pugsleys. Arrowhead racers.

As I was sitting there warming up I started to have some pain in my right foot. Turns out I've got frost bite on my big toe and frost nip on the rest of my right toes. They're tingley, numb, swollen, and painfull at the moment. I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to get a professional opinion and make sure I don't need antibiotics or further attention. Not much I can do otherwise. Grin and bear it. Spd sandals and trainer work on the Bacchetta will be this week's riding. Not sure I'll be up for next weekend's hundy, we'll see how my recovery goes and what the weather does.

Final impressions: great race, I hope Lance puts this on again next year. You should keep the atv trails and level b in, 60 miles of Heritage trail would be kinda monatonous. I want a snowbike now. I might have to build one. I have to figure out a better way to keep my feet warm, but I think I've got the rest down pretty good. Aside from the frostbite this was really fun.



Jerome said...

Sounds like a crazy race.

On another note, I sure dig your blog. Keep it up!


Squirrel said...

Its gonna feel like Hell this weekend....gonna be so warm you won't even need liner socks:) Way to finish Dennis..hope you can make it up:)


mattonne said...

I prostrate myself before thee, I am not worthy...I'm also a big pussy, there is NO WAY anyone can imagine how terrible the conditions were. YOU SIR, are the man!

Jeff Kerkove said...

Jesus man!

Paul said...

Great job Dennis! I hope your toes heal up soon!

BTW, been to Wisconsin lately? %^)


Paul Varnum said...

Nice work DG! Hope the toes heal up soon.

Have you tried Lake winter riding boots? I throw a pair of hand warmer packets between pairs of wool sock and I'm good to go. I haven't had frosty toes since I started using them. Of course I usually quit after 2-3 hours. You should also try that!

Jill said...

Wow ... that's awesome! It's great to see all these endurance snow bike races cropping up across the country. Crazy too about the frostbite. I'm terrified of frostbite. I've discovered that the things that work great for 2-3 hours usually don't cut it for 10+. But for the long-term, I've had a lot of success with vapor barrier socks.

You asked me what I have in my set-up that you may be forgetting in yours ... it's probably the ~16,000 calories of food in the frame bag. :-)