Exiting Chad’s pizza and getting back on the bike alerted me that there were a lot of people who were going to AT LEAST make it to the halfway point. In a previous year this was enough to win the race, and for some had been unattainable in numerous attempts. I was happy to see a lot of my fellow fatties from the Iowa City area, every person that came up from our group set a personal best this year, and I’ll send a congrats to them. Leaving town and hitting the Heritage trail it was brutally apparent that the quick pace had little to do with the exposed gravel we were riding on in the last three or so miles; there was was a tailwind picking up behind us and turning 180 degrees put it directly into our face. My wonderfully refueled stomach that once contained pizza, chicken, and Gatorade now felt as if it was housing boat anchors. My speed dropped as I struggled alone against the gusting wind in no cover. The trail was entirely exposed to the wind and if I had been a better planner I would have made sure to leave with a group and try to take some coverage. I was alone though, and battling with the wind, which was growing stronger. I did my best to try and yell words of encouragement as I doubled back on the race field. I made a decision that struggling to ride at eight mph was not worth it. I sat up and shifted to an easier gear. I watched my chances of a top ten finish vanish, but I felt more comfortable, and had 32 miles to go. Luckily there were a few sporadic sections of coverage to alleviate the agony. I knew there would be serenity under an underpass just north of Farley- about five miles outside of Dyersville. I set my focus to that point as a regroup spot. Taking almost an hour to get there was disheartening so I stopped and took a breath. I drank some water, stretched a bit, and gathered myself before departing. I saw that in front of me the tree coverage began to grow significantly more dense. There was a good chance that once I got into the tree’s shelter the pace would pick up and I would be cruising.
Thankfully the scenario played out just as I had hoped. Once into the trees the wind virtually died and my pace doubled from the previous hour. The trail had seen a lot of traffic and the sun was shining bright which was melting the trail. In some sections it completely cleared itself of snow, but left a muddy gravely under layer. I settled into a gear and just tried to keep a good pace hoping to finish in the daylight for the first time. I rode solo for an hour or so, and finally in the distance I saw a dark spot that had to be another rider. My legs started spinning a bit faster, and I continued to gain on the rider in front. I caught up to the gentleman (I forgot his name) and made sure he was doing ok. He was struggling a bit, but said he had everything he needed. I understood and continued on my way putting him out of sight before I knew it. That was the start of a trend for me. I caught and then passed a rider approximately every 30 minutes for the next three hours. The Heritage trail from Dyersville to Dubuque is one percent average grade downhill and basically straight as an arrow. I just made sure to drink water from my Camelback insulated bottles and after the first 90 minutes of riding back I tried to snack on something every hour. I packed sausage bits, yogurt covered cranberries, and two types of Pop-tarts for the journey. I love the bits for the little bit of salt, protein, and needed fat during a long effort. The cranberries give me a bit of natural sugars for energy. I love the Pop-tarts for carbs, sugar, and just personal enjoyment. For me, a lot of what I pack for long fat-bike days involves things that serve a function, but also are things that makes me feel good when I eat them.
I rolled past the bar in Durango earlier than I had expected. My morale was very high as I kept cruising into Dubuque. Things got a little sketchy as I missed an entrance into the trails off the highway. I guess I was used to seeing it in the dark so I was caught off guard. I rolled through the golf course, and back along the snow covered trail. Finally I was back into town and it was just dusk. I turned my light on as a precaution and began to navigate the Dubuque maze. Low and behold I faintly saw a group of red lights in the distance. I felt good enough to pick up the pace and try and chase them down before the hotel. I knew that if they took one wrong turn I had a chance to catch them and maybe still break the top ten after my twenty minute break at Chad’s. I got within 100 feet of them and decided to take the back way into the hotel. I didn’t really want to try and out-sprint four guys, and then have to run up hotel stairs. I arrived at the hotel alone and walked up the stairs. I didn’t know whether or not my plan had worked until I walked into the check-in room and saw a group of guys at the table. Oh well, I finished 12th in my best effort to date- beating my previous time by over an hour. I packed my clothes, extra foot warmers, and a tube in a Revelate Viscacha saddlebag, my tools in a Jandd framebag, sausage and yogurt cranberries in a Epic Ride Research feedbag, and Pop-tarts in a pair of Madden pogies. I had a Camelback bottle on each leg of my Moonlander and they were both in gnome-crested wool socks.
Post-ride saw a prize giveaway disguised as an award ceremony give away over 2000 dollars worth of prizes including a bunch of tires, money, beer, and loads of other fat-inspired tokens. As the night progressed many people made their way out to a local bar called The Busted Lift. Its dark and downstairs and a perfect place to pour back a few cold ones post ride. In the midst of the gathering Queen Gabi, and one of the racers: Zzzz, snuck outside and brought back 30 cheeseburgers from a dive across the street! The burgers arrived in four big paper bags, and were poured out onto two tables. Racers who were less thirsty, but still hungry, dove in along with wives, girlfriends, and other friends who all dined on the perfect food at that moment. Triple D was a great success this year and I thank Lance Andre for continually putting it on year after year. I’m 2-2 so it looks like I’ll be back next year for best 3/5…You Damn Right. (Bill and Ted bogus journey reference- love the Reaper)