July 10, 2014

Guest Post: Glen R. - "The Ride From Hell"

The Central Iowa 300k - a.k.a. The Ride From Hell
By Glen Rumbaugh 

Ok it wasn't that bad at all; I only listed as the Ride from Hell so you'd read it.
It was a dark and stormy morning, or so they said it would be. It did look like we would get wet Saturday when we were receiving our ride safety briefing from Iowa RBA Greg Courtney.  Yet, as we rode east out of Ames toward the dark rain clouds, the rain ultimately disappeared and, later, so would the clouds. 

The summer Iowa events are run on a single weekend, allowing riders to pick their preferred distance, and allowing those same riders to share miles with other riders doing other distances.  Twenty-two riders started: eleven doing the 200k, five for the 400km, three for the 600km, and three for the 300km.  You can see the benefit of the multi-ride instantly:  three people tackling 600km makes for a lonely day...but being able to start the ride with over seven times that number is neat.  

We all began together riding in a nice line East from the hotel. The faster riders, doing both the short ride and the longer rides soon pulled away. Some would be caught later as they burned their energy early on.  When the routes split in the town of Nevada I met a rider from Minneapolis who was also attempting the 300k.  His name was Vincent D. and he spoke with a definite Minnesotan accent. He reminded me of
two of my normal riding buddies, Keith and Steven: very cerebral, funny and some times a little odd.  Most riders, when approaching dogs, prepare for a sprint, yell loudly, and grab a water bottle to use as a weapon.  Vincent, instead, says "...puppies!" in a slightly childish voice, then stops and attempts to befriend them. If i did such a thing I would come away with a few less fingers and more holes in my body than I need.  Vincent has been a RUSA member (#3071) for several years, went to Paris in 1987, and had just completed another R-12, riding several perms during the winter in Minnesota.  At the first control we met up with Dan P. from Springfield, Mo.  Dan has ridden several of the Kansas City area brevets including the 100 and 200 this year. Dan reminded me of another buddy, Terry, because they both have a nice steady pace and enjoy their rides regardless of the extra time. Dan would be right there about a mile back, just in view, as Vincent and I would crest hills or make long slow bends in the road. The three of us continued riding together to the second control. 

Much of this route was the same as last years 600 so it looked familiar to me. At the control I bought water only since I was carrying my own food. This time I was following the advice of the "no meat athlete", Mat Frazier, who runs 100 milers.  That's runs.  He recommends getting energy from fruits like dates, cherries, bananas, apricots, and some protein from nuts or legumes. This worked well for me the entire time, with the exception of how sticky my fingers got. Vincent had his own food he called his second breakfast. He had made sushi the night before and was eating this as fuel. At first I thought this strange, but think about Alan Lim and his feed zone cook book. Most of his meals use rice as the base so maybe sushi will be on my menu in the future!  Dan pulled a Gary and bought a sausage & egg sandwich.  He said the ever-present Iowa 'Kum-n-Go' stores were pretty much the same as all the Casey's back home. We continued to the third control where Vincent & Dan decided to have a leisurely, sit-down lunch, so we parted ways never to see each other again during the course of the ride.

The Raccoon River Trail was busy this day: lots of families enjoying the weather, groups of women and surprisingly a lot of "cat trikes".  The trail, one of many area 'rails-to-trails' conversions, provided a good place to ride for two reasons: it was shaded, and, there was no wind; both because of the many trees. I remembered this section from last year and enjoyed it both times. I was able to let my mind go and enjoy the scenery but it left me wondering why we don't have more trails like this at home, of course the answer is always MONEY.

The next control came quickly and I noticed that my ride was going really fast at this point.   When I started I had hoped to finish at midnight, and now it looked more like I'd hit the barn at 10:00pm!  After navigating some back roads I came to the town of Woodson, IA., where the High Trestle Trail begins - another great rail-trail.  If all these rail-trail sections have you thinking that Iowa's brevets would happen too slowly, you'd be mistaken:  compared to popular KC-region trails like the KATY and Prairie Spirit's crushed limestone surface, all of these Iowa trails are paved with concrete!  Fast and smooth - just like a road, but no cars to deal with!  Woodson is
also where the 300, 400, and 600km routes meet back up for the ride back into Ames (the finish).  Last year I missed this turn twice because I couldn't find it easily in the dark, which added some bonus miles.   Since I was here in the day light this time I could easily see the trail with the old train depot marking the spot.  No bonus mileage this year!

The town was having a festival on this day and I thought about hanging around for awhile, but I also knew what waited up ahead.  Last year it was dark as I approached the High Trestle Bridge but the lights had already been turned off since it had been after midnight. This year I could see the bridge but the lights were off because there was still day light!
Ack!  Sometime I'll ride this bridge in the dark with the lights on!!!  After the bridge it's a short ride through several tunnels to my favorite spot, the Flat Tire Lounge.  The lounge was crowded again this year; lots of bikes hanging on the racks, very few cars.  The beer was great, the cool air felt nice, and I enjoyed one big laugh when a group of 20-something girls came in, hair done-up fancy, prom style dresses on.  Then came the big announcement, that the "wedding party" had arrived.  The bride was dressed in a short white dress with blue sequins, and she looked a little worse for the wear.  That was my cue to get moving; and, anyhow, o
ne beer was all I dared this year: the sun was too hot and I knew traffic would be picking up as I got closer to Ames, only about 30 miles away.
Beer finished, carbs reloaded, I headed on toward town.

Ames wasn't too bad for a Saturday evening: light traffic, cycle paths and bike lanes made the ride feel safer.  Finally, I saw the hotel and the final check point ahead!  I checked in at 8:08pm; 14 hrs 8 min after I'd started.   I can never figure out how I can ride longer rides faster than the shorter rides!  Something in my head, I guess.  All the 200k riders had finished before me but none of the other riders.  I had dinner at the Pizza Ranch, drank another beer and then went to bed.   Later I found out that Vincent and Dan P. had come in together at about 10:00pm;  15 hours and 48 min.

I don't know if I'll ever get to go back to Iowa again, but I still need to see that damn bridge lit-up in the dark; but, Vincent had talked about the rides in Minnesota.  ...Rochester is only another hour away...hmmm... maybe I'll try there next year or the year after.  It would give me another state toward the American Randonneur Challenge and would be a great road trip: any takers???

See you on the road!
- Glen

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