This weekend I took part in the Triple D Winter Race, a 65-or-so mile snow race beginning and ending in Dubuque, Iowa. With winter so far having failed to arrive in Minnesota, I was approaching the race with some serious ambivalence, and had more or less made up my mind to leave the Pugsley at home and attempt the course on a 29er. This plan went to shit on Wednesday evening, when Iowa locals involved with the race started uploading photos of the 7″ of fresh snow that had hit the area. I dug out the fat bike, got it in some semblance of working order, and generally tried to adjust to the notion that this was going to be an actual snow race. Even though I’m feeling like shit fitness wise and haven’t ridden more than 65 miles in months, I headed down to Iowa excited for the race and looking forward to seeing friends and enjoying the weekend.
The Triple D HQ is the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, a hotel that stands out as being one of the only buildings in Dubuque that isn’t decaying, boarded up, or haunted. Once we were settled in our room, I did some last minute gear prep, which mostly consisted of picking some of last year’s candy out of my Pogies.
We were sharing a hotel room this monstrosity, as well as our buddy Curtis, its stoker. As is obvious from the picture, the Fandango wasn’t equipped with enough storage capacity for a 65 mile race. Curtis and ‘Front End’ Ben Witt were forced to DNF after simultaneously running out of food, hot liquids, clean clothing, and reading material after completing only the first third of the course.
I had considered pre-riding some of the course on Saturday afternoon, but instead decided to prepare by eating Chinese food until I almost puked and then drinking beer in our hotel room. This plan worked out beautifully and I hope to replicate it at all of my upcoming races this season.
Sunday morning rolled around, and after some breakfast and a pre-race meeting, we made our way to an adjacent brewery from which the Triple D starts. Even though I didn’t have any expectations of riding well, I made a point of staging myself near the front of the pack. The large number of shiny Mukluk 2s in the pack suggested that this would be the first snow ride for a number of riders, and I wanted to be ahead of them from a self-preservation perspective.
Eventually we got moving, and after a slow, controlled roll-out through city streets we hit an unplowed bike path and the race began. The first third of the course consisted of a roller coaster of steep, sometimes unrideable climbs, and sketchy, off camber descents along private snowmobile trails. After two hours of riding, pushing, and sweating under an increasingly hot sun, the course turns on to a paved two lane highway. A mile and a half later we hit a pants-shitter of a descent on an Icy, rutted Level B (Iowan for ‘minimum maintenance’) Road, then turned onto the Heritage Trail, the recreational rail trail that comprised the remainder of the course. I hit the Heritage Trail feeling strong, rode to the turnaround point of Dyersville, choked down some lousy pizza, and turned back towards Dubuqe. Some combination of the pizza, a demoralizing headwind, and the lack of miles in my legs put me in a bad way for the next half hour, during which I was caught by all of the riders I had passed over the previous hour. I rode most of the remainder of the course by myself, eventually being caught by Michael Lemberger from Madison. We rode through town together, arriving back at the Grand Harbor just after 5:30 (7.5 hrs).
Once back at the hotel I began recouping my entry fee in food and beer, watching the remainder of the riders trickle in to the 2nd floor hotel conference room that, inexplicably, is the official finish line of this race. Eventually awards were handed out, prizes were raffled off, and at least one runner (The Triple D also has running and ski events) was overheard complaining about the drunk, obnoxious cyclists. Alex took 3rd in the Women’s Half Marathon, won a bunch of stuff in the raffle, and was a good sport when I passed on going to the bar in favor of a 10:30 bedtime. The Triple D race, its organizers, and the overall caliber of the people that it attracts made this a great weekend, and left me feeling invigorated about the upcoming races and events I have to look forward to this year.