By : Andrea Cohen
After patiently waiting 364 days finally Triple D 2015 had arrived. After my first ride in 2014 I knew I would be back this year. Triple D is a 100k fat-bike race filled with fun and adventure. Lance Andre is the mad-man behind the organized chaos and really knows what it takes to put on a banging race. There are open bar tabs at stops, pizza galore, and a great award/closing ceremony. To top it all off the race is by no means easy, and believe me I have attempted so pretty hairbrained things on bicycles.
Let’s set the scene. It January 18th in Dubuque, IA. The sun is shining, birds singing, the snow is melting and I am worried about overheating. That is not how you want to start a fat-bike race. The previous year there was nearly 9 inches of snow. This year we would be presented with 40 degree weather and mud. Away we went anyways, departing the Best Western Hotel’s parking lot and heading straight over the first set of rail-road tracks. I walked over them, knowing there was still 61.9 miles of traversing to be had. Over the railroad tracks we hit our first bit of single-track. The single-track runs below overpasses, through creeks, and straight up slick mud hills. We even pass by a hobo tent village, untouched since 2014 at least. This path winds on for at least 5 miles. I stuck by the riders that I had entered the trail with. Keeping myself calm and collected during the starts of races is always hard for me. I wanted to charge ahead and ride everything as fast as I knew I could, but again, there were many miles to go.
Once we exited the single-track we rode through a cow pasture. The first thing I did was ride straight up a giant hill the wrong way. The course is fairly well marked considering you are literally riding around in the middle of no-where. I realized about 2/3rds up the hill that this was not the way,I stopped, and bombed it back down the giant hill back onto the course. We wound around through the cornfield, down another giant hill to have to go straight back up another. If there is one thing about Iowa, if it’s you go down you are going to have to get out of there. The hill may have been rideable by others, but I walked. I chatted with fellow riders and started to loosen up. I made it through the tricky start and was sitting comfortably close to the front pack of the race. Atop the hill I could see the end of the cow pasture where we would ride the road for a bit before hopping on the Heritage Trail, but first we would descend a first class B-road. Last year the B-road was covered in snow, but this year the snow had melted away to reveal a rock laden, icy death trap. Plus a tree has fallen across the road, adding a limbo obstacle. I rode the whole thing, mostly thanks to my studded Dillinger tires and my snazzy skills.
Cleared of the first 15 or so miles we finally hit the Heritage Trail. The trail was long, flat, and limestone-slop covered. I chose not to ride with fenders because I knew I would be getting off and on my bike so often. As soon as I hit the trail I was instantly covered in little bits of muck. Sandy and wet. I accepted that I would soon be completely covered. We were riding straight into a headwind all the way to Dyersville. I jammed headphones in earlier than I would have liked and put my head down. The trail was still pretty firm and I cruised along at 10mph. Faster than I would have predicted. I arrived at the half-way point in Dyersville in great spirits. The sun was keeping me warm and I found some friendly faces to ride with. Dave Farber and Adam Blake rolled into town with me. We stopped at the mandatory checkpoint and left quickly. I was stopped for maybe a total of five minutes.
Heading back was glorious. The tailwind helped me maintain 10mph while the sun continued to melt the trail into sloppier muck. I was hoping at this point that this was the muddiest I was going to get, or that at least this was how the next 3+ hours were going to feel. Gross. Mud was getting places it never should have been. Eyes. Behind ears. Caking my hair. If I moved the mud would get somewhere new and terrible. Continuing onto the Heritage Trail I rode along with Farber for about thirty minutes. Slowly, yet surely he pulled away from me. Then I was alone again. I spent the whole beginning of the race alone to be left yet again, and to be honest I love riding alone. Riding on, the trail started to get a little unmanageable. My body was starting to get fatigued and the muck felt thicker and thicker with each turn of the pedals. The last twenty miles were not going to fly by like the first 40. No fair.
Nearly 4 hours into the race I managed to get my soggy self to Durango. This was around the 50 mile point in the race, and the last checkpoint. I checked in, shared some high-fives with friends, grabbed a piece of pizza, and headed back to the course. I asked a photographer if I was to continue on the paved trail I thought I saw. He replied with a quizzical look stating that there was no paved trail here. That was the point I realized how tired I was. Back on the Heritage Trail I realized there was less than 15 miles to go. I usually try and keep my computer out of sight, which was easy considering it was covered in mud. A couple miles later the Heritage Trail was over, and the real navigating began.
I rode an overpass to some gentle snow-mobile trails. At the end of these trails I met a big intersection where I got lost. I vaguely remember Lance saying something about not having to ride the next set of snow-mobile trails from last year, but instead of taking the new marked route in front of me, I took the route from last year. I rode along the ditch and then onto the off-camber trails of last year. They were not fun. I rode/walked them all though, I guess my mind just figured if there were trails there I should ride them. Isn’t that what fat-bikes are best for? On the other side I walked up a three-tiered hill next to another intersection of road, at that point I saw another rider coming down along the sidewalk towards me. That must have been the alternate non-trail infested route.
Getting over the mental block of thinking I wasted time on those trails I rode onward down a smooth paved trail. I remembered the trail from last year being a struggle to stay on due to various fast food places surrounding it. This year was no different. No Dairy Queen or Buffalo Wild Wings was going to stop me! Near the end of the trail I found a fellow rider on a mountain bike. He was lost. In my best have-no-fear voice I exclaimed, “I know where I am going, follow me!” I sort of knew where I was going and away we went. Less than 5 miles to go I was starting to get excited for my favorite part of any race. The end! Bouncing through strange trails next to the interstate I really hoped I was going the right way. My Garmin map showed that we were heading towards the single-track we previously rode and I knew it was true. With about 3 miles left we bombed down a huge hill and back onto our single-track. I spent the next three miles taking my time through creeks and trying to keep myself and bike upright while navigating twisty, mind-bending tracks. One mile to go I was nearly giddy with exhaustion knowing the end was near. Walking over that now last set of railroad tracks I crossed onto the pavement and pushed up the last hill back to the Best Western. Completely mud-soaked and now frozen I stumbled into the Best Western as the first female finisher and 19th overall.
Editor’s Note : Andrea is the newest addition to our Black Ribbon Test Pilots and will be writing a review of Bontrager’s Jackalope wheels for us very soon! Andrea is an incredibly down to earth, yet completely kick-ass rider! ~gomez~