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Triple D is over. I’m done. I did it. Well, I started doing it, and then after awhile I stopped. My sisters, both Ironman finishers, pointed out to me once that something doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun. I don’t think I truly understood that until now.

Rewind two days: my chances of finishing were looking up the day before the race; because of trail conditions there was a possibility that the race would be run on gravel roads for much of the 62 miles. My narrow studded tires might even give me a slight advantage over some of the tractor tires that everyone else would be running. Upon checking in at nine a.m. I learned that the trail was in pretty good shape, and we would be running the entire 23 miles of it twice (out and back).

I showed up at the start, and saw exactly what I expected: everybody was running way more tire than I was. I didn’t blame them; if I could have fit more on my rims, I would have too…

We started at the Star Brewery in downtown Dubuque. We rolled out in a paced start at 10:00 a.m., heading north through town. We crossed 32nd street and the race began just as the walking began. The route traversed 1.2 miles of bike path that was not opened to snowmobile traffic, but was not shoveled or plowed either. I think I saw maybe one or two tire tracks that didn’t have evidence of footsteps next to them. So we all marched along, single file, for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, once we crossed under a road, we reached rideable terrain. This was a relief, because I was planning on being able make pretty good time in the early sections of the race, and the walking had killed that idea so far. Several weeks ago I had pre-ridden the same path that we just walked, and it was mostly just ice. I was able to roll right down it pretty easily. I knew as the race went on I would be at a disadvantage with such a narrow tire, so losing out on even a mile of paved roadway was disheartening.

We rode through a parking lot, crossed a highway, and rolled down some snowmobile trails to get to the start of Heritage Trail. I had my first highlight of the day upon seeing my family waiting there, cheering me on. Everyone else in the race may have had better equipment, better fitness, and much more experience, but I had ‘Go Fast Daddy!’ signs. Try to top that, you losers! I’m speaking, of course, to all of those people who were now very far ahead of me. So I was pretty sure I was last, but I really didn’t care. It was a beautiful day, warmer than expected at 6 degrees or so. I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t thirsty, I wasn’t hungry, and I was finally moving right along. So long as I stayed in the middle eight inches of the trail on the hardest packed snow, I could keep pedaling along with pretty little effort. Maybe these tires weren’t such a bad idea at all.

I rolled through the first few road crossings of the trail, and even passed a couple of people. I stopped at Budd Road to change foot warmers and talk to my family again. My sisters had even joined in, ensuring that I had the largest following of any of the racers out there. Either that, or their cheering sections didn’t stick around for the guy who was a half-hour behind everyone else.

Everything was going pretty well, until I came around a slight bend and something large and ominous moving toward me…

Do you know what the apocalypse looks like? It looks like a large Snow-Cat dragging a snowmobile trail groomer behind it. It slowly walks toward you, plowing soft snow all over the nice packed trails you’ve been riding. It quietly walks by with no realization that it is raining shit all over the parades of the people it passes.

I cannot even begin to convey how much this felt like getting kicked in the stomach. Seriously. Before I even tried to ride, I knew that my day was going to end much sooner than I expected or wanted. I got back on the bike, and gave it a shot. For the first half-mile or so I could just barely keep moving by staying in the eight inches nearest to the right edge of the groomer’s pathway, but it was taking a ton of effort. Eventually, that turned out to be too much work. I would find short sections that looked rideable, but after 200 or 300 feet I would run into soft mush that would cause my heart rate to spike and my legs to burn. I could just barely ride through some parts, and I could not ride through others.

I made it to Graf, which was the 16 miles or so from the start and roughly halfway to the turning point of Dyersville. I stopped and talked to my family again, and learned that it sounded like nearly everyone else was having issues with the freshly groomed trails. I figured as much, judging by the amount of 29er tire tracks that were wandering back and forth from side to side, searching for some snow that was solid enough to ride on, instead of through. I got back on and tried to ride again. I made it about 500 feet, and started walking again, figuring there was a chance that conditions would improve. Shortly after that I met the two leaders on snow bikes coming toward me. These guys are three quarters of the way done, and I’m meeting them a quarter of the way in. I’m not a winter bike racing expert, but I was starting to think that maybe these wide tires were some sort of a slight advantage…

Long story short, I kept on walking, and trying to ride. Five miles later, my legs started cramping up; left quad, right hamstring. I was in Epworth, 21.2 miles from the start. It took me a few minutes more than five hours to get there. I called my wife, and asked her if she was bored and wanted to come pick me up. She’s wonderful, so she said she would, even though I don’t think she was bored at the time.

Looking back, I’m pretty satisfied with how it went. I did everything I could in preparation, short of buying a completely different bike. Everything I planned about food, water, and clothing worked. In the end, it was a nice sunny day, and I spent it with my bike. I was even riding for some of it. The only downside is that I plan on doing it next year, and I know I’m going to be using a different bike to do it. Anyone want to sell a lightly used Pugsley for cheap?

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4 Comments

  1. Yay Troy! See, things don’t have to be fun to be fun, but cheering for you that day was fun. The fun kind of fun.

    • It was nice to do something once that warranted cheering. Thanks for being there for me. And I’ll see you in Madison in September. Can we have decent weather this time?

  2. I’m so proud of you Troy! Biking healsey! And you did have the best cheering section of all. Trail groomers can suck it.

  3. You really did have the best cheering section, by far. Saw them out with the signs. Pretty cool.

    I know it’s been said before, but trail groomers really can suck it. Through a garden hose.


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