Wednesday Morning, Jan. 11, 2012. I woke up and asked my puppy if it had snowed yet. She looked back with sleepy puppy eyes as if to tell me she didn’t care at all. Well, I’d have to check for myself. I made my way up and out to the front window. Green and faded brown covered the ground. Damn. This was disappointing because this coming weekend would be my 3rd Triple D. A race that starts in snowy city streets, and leads out into snowmobile trails, open fields, cow pastures, unimproved roads, frozen streams, unfrozen creeks, and more snowmobile trails. It is an awesome event, spanning somewhere in the neighborhood of 64 miles. The bike route is from Dubuque, IA to Dyersville IA, back to Dubuque. The route out is not the same as the route back in. It was the first winter bike event that I had ever participated in. I had done it twice before on a Surly Karate Monkey with studded tires and an internal shifting hub. This year I went all out, I was riding a Surly Moonlander, regardless snow or no snow. I wanted snow.
I had checked the blogs, the forums and the Facebook discussions. People were beginning to wonder what bike they were going to ride. Mountain Bike, Cross Bike, or stick to the bike this race was born around – the Fat Bike. The Heritage Trail from Dubuque to Dyersville is a gravel/cinder type of trail in the summer months but I’ve never been on it or even interested in it when it wasn’t snow covered. The first part of the race course is a little more off road, probably not suited for anything less than a mountain bike. I had already ridden a snow free New Year’s Day ride in Decorah. I couldn’t even show my folks all the cool snow bike tricks I learned over Christmas. Now I was going to have to ride the Triple D with a bunch or skinny tire roadies, talking about tire weight and home-made protein bars and bonking… Ugh. That stuff is all well and good when it belongs, but I’m the kind of guy who would rather see a monster truck rally than the Indy 500, I prefer a back yard BBQ with rowdy friends over dinner in a fancy restaurant with the who’s who in town, and I prefer crunching snow and ice under big fat bad ass tires over spinning my pedals and skinny wheels in a straight narrow line. Well, at least there would be 4 bars along the route, maybe I’ll make it more of a rolling party…
Thursday Morning, Jan 12,2012. Snow. Sweet! The day had been saved. Now all I had to decide was it a Single Speed Pugsley kind of day, or my just out of the box and assembled Moonlander? Since it was a fairly lengthy route and there was a long flat stretch where I might be able to pound on a big gear, I went with the Moonlander.
Friday, I don’t remember.
When we hit the trail Drew took off. I stayed more or less with the group for a while, remembering it’s not a sprint and I wasn’t in “Drew Shape”. The course was a little different than I remember. As we made it through the snowmobile trails, I made my way up to the paved trail that would take us to and through a field. I honestly did not expect to be far enough ahead of anyone to need to know the route. I was maybe 5 miles in, Drew was no longer in sight, and the rest of the pack was a little behind me. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I was fine with hanging out and waiting until the next racers caught up and let them lead the way. A few took off in the field. I was running some fairly high pressure in my tires to be riding in that deep of snow, but I figured that the second ¾ of the race would be on harder packed snowmobile trails. I figured I’d rather have the 1st ¼ of the race suck more than the last ¾.
If you don’t focus on the race and just enjoy the ride, there is some beautiful scenery on this course. The majority of it is a snow filled valley with trees and streams and bridges and wildlife all around. We came across a few snowmobiles which were no problem. Lance and the Snow Hawk snowmobile club get along great and work together to make the Triple D happen. We got to see the marathoners and the half marathoners and the skiers as they were coming in. The Triple D is a 3 event…Event, if you want to run or ski the course, you get to start in Dyersville and make it a bike-less thing.
Once we cleared the valley, the wind hit but it was blowing the right way. A few miles out of Dyersville, the trail opened up into an open field. The snow had drifted across, but there were patches of open gravel. With the wind at my back and a few clicks into the big rings, I wound it up. I was glad I had saved the air in my tires, because I was flying into town. I passed the two people ahead of me and met Drew as he was just starting to head back. I had no idea I would actually be in second place when I reached the halfway point.
The check in was a little pizza place on the main drag in Dyersville. Part of the
deal is a free (not exactly but included in the entry fee)pizza buffet along with chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, powerade, pop, and it was just what I needed. I was a little stunned to see three people come in, fill their water bottles, and take off. I figured I’m going to sit here, enjoy my lunch, get my energy level back up and then go out there and catch those guys. I probably hung out for about 15 to 20 minutes until Fattie Lumpkin and crew made it in. By then I was full and happy and ready to get back to Dubuque since there is free beer at the finish line.
I would be by myself for the whole ride back. I figured I was in 5th place, behind Drew and the no-lunchers. That wind that carried me into town was now kicking me in the face. I had been making fun of Drew for putting aero bars on his fat bike but now I was wishing I had some. I can’t tell you how many miles it was until I was back in to wind covered territory, but it felt like a lot. I felt fast. Really fast. I had never actually finished this thing before. Partly because I never really cared to and partly because there is an open tab at the Handle Bar which is right on the trail. I had 30 miles or so to contemplate if I was going to stop and have a tall blonde (that’s a High Life bottle for those of you who don’t appreciate a good honest beer at a tasty price) or if I was actually going to make it into the finish. I decided if I caught the guys ahead of me, I would most likely head to the finish line. I got to see Mark Hirsch a few times shooting some great photos which are most of the ones you see included in this post. I had caught one rider before the Handle Bar, so I reluctantly made the decision to pass on Vivi’s favorite establishment and seek out the finish line.
As I cruised into town I saw 2 riders up ahead. I was still cruising pretty fast and
had plenty of room to catch them before the finish. Could I really catch them and get a 2nd place finish. I had a while to catch up and I went for it. We were still on a snow trail but there would be a couple miles of black top and sidewalks that I figured we would battle it out in the final stretch. When I finally caught up to them, I realized these were not the racers I was looking for. It was Lance and Traci Andre. It’s not that I wasn’t happy to see them, they just weren’t the two I was hoping to catch. A quick conversation and the assumption I was in 4th place, I cruised to the Grand Harbor Resort finish line. When I got there I saw only 1 bike, Drew’s bike. I set mine on top of his and made my way up to the finisher sign in. Drew was the only finisher so far. What had happened to the 2 guys in between? They had got lost somewhere on the trail. 2nd place finish.
I’ll go ahead and make up my own category here:
1st ever Moonlander finish. That’s something to celebrate, and celebrate we did. The prize table was a feast of fat bike tires and bar mits and winter gear and money and beer. I’ll be honest, the rest of the night gets a little foggy then cuts straight to black.
Can’t wait to do it all again next year. It’s a great event put on by good people in a fun and scenic town. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.
Lance Andre’s blog
Triple D Race blog
Mark Hirsch’s photography website
Drew Wilson’s Triple D recap