This is what passes for a race recap around here.

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Shamelessly stolen from Craig Lindner – See link below for full set.

I love the Almanzo reason for a lot of reasons, most of which are pretty obvious: the course is gorgeous, the event attracts a good crew, and race director Chris Skogen has so thoroughly infused the event with his personality that every person who participates walks away feeling like they’ve made a new close personal friend. With these qualities, the exponential growth of the event isn’t too surprising. But the thing I love about the Almanzo is a little more personal – it’s how closely I associate it with my development as a cyclist. In 2010 the race was my first ever century, and my first race that didn’t take place on a miniscule loop of singletrack. I rode away from the Forrestville checkpoint genuinely unsure if I was capable of completing it. In 2011 I finished the inaugural Royal 162, and that was my first time riding over 150 miles, but the miserable conditions were a lot more intimidating than the distance. Each year I feel like my riding has made some modest advancement, and the Almanzo has been there as a barometer for my progress each step of the way. No matter what other races I sign up for, I’m confident that I’ll keep making the trek down to Spring Valley as long as I have the opportunity to do so.

Last weekend was my third Royal, but it also marked another first. This was the first year that I’ve actually felt like I ‘raced’ the event, instead of simply struggling to survive to the finish. Not struggling with hypothermia or heat stroke, combined with a few more miles logged earlier in the spring, left me feeling like I was capable of going fast, not just going. I’m still pretty slow and allegedly non-competitive, but I finished 160 miles in 10:41 and got 7th place, and I think that’s pretty cool. Lately I’ve been thinking of replacing my 7 year old Cross Check, and maybe at least writing down how much I ride on paper somewhere. I don’t discount carbon fiber as a material anymore, and I even thought about buying a heart monitor once! I still only care about long rides that barely resemble races, but I care a little bit more about how quickly I ride them. Looking ahead to the rest of the summer and beyond, it looks like I’ll have a number of awesome opportunities to test my limits. I’m beyond grateful that the Almanzo has been here to help me start down the path towards discovering what those limits might be.

In addition to the above quasi-philosophical nonsense, I learned some practical stuff this weekend as well. Beef Jerky really hits the spot when I ride in the winter, but not so much in the summer. And the phrase “steel is real” is always dumb but seems even dumber when you’re hoisting 25 plus pounds of it over your head as you scramble out of a river.

As usual I took no pictures, but here are some that are pretty spectacular.

Trans Iowa 2013

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Obviously super excited to be here.

This weekend I finished Trans Iowa, a 320 mile ultracycling race that took me 29 hours to complete. I hate writing about the races I participate in because I end up sounding like a douche and its really hard to distill an entire day of riding into a cohesive narrative of just a few paragraphs (via being a shitty writer). That’s doubly true for Trans Iowa, an event that’s so long that I’m pretty sure I’ve already forgotten entire segments of it.  While its probably impossible for me to offer a compelling recap of my race, there’s at least one big thing I took away from this weekend. Nearly every race I take part in is touted as a ‘self supported’ event. I think the sentiment behind ‘self supported’ is admirable (and the alternative truly wretched), but it’s also total bullshit! After Trans Iowa I have never been more aware of how much I really depend on others during these events. Early on Saturday morning another racer remarked to me that having company during the Trans Iowa’s mandated all-nighter was ‘critical’.  This proved to be incredibly accurate, and I’m confident that I wouldn’t have finished if it weren’t for the eight other racers with whom I rode through the night.

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Contemplating another 140 miles of exactly this

 

I was lucky enough to cross paths with some seriously fit riders and capable Trans Iowa veterans. After a dinner break at mile 180 we coalesced into a group of nine and rode together through the remainder of the night. As the sun set and we pulled on extra layers for the long night it was obvious that we were all starting to wear. If it wasn’t for the leadership and navigation of a few members of our group, I would have been in trouble. By the time we rolled into a Kwik Trip at 2am, 290 miles in, I was almost ready to throw in the towel. Nearly hypothermic and unable to eat, I considered taking a nap in the Trucker’s lounge and calling my girlfriend for a ride. In the time it took me to choke down some chocolate milk Mike Johnson and already purchased pairs of gloves to pass out to the group (as well as a Mountain Dew sweatshirt that he wore to the finish!).  He grabbed me by the shoulder. smiled, and asked if I was ready to go. The unspoken message was ‘get your shit together, ‘ and somehow I did.

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Mike Johnson taking care of shit was a consistent theme of the weekend.

Over the last forty miles our group drifted apart, some getting a second wind and attacking the final giant hills with alarming speed. I limped along, finishing at the back. Still, shaking hands with everyone as we sprawled at the finish line and cracked beers, it was clear that we had finished Trans Iowa together. Mike, Paul, Tim, Paul, Chris, Jay, Steve, Charles, it was a pleasure. Thanks for getting me to the barn!

Finally, if it weren’t for the support of one person I wouldn’t have made it to Grinnell in the first place. Thank you Alex for putting up with my obnoxious training schedule, hanging in Grinnell all weekend, and putting up with my sleep deprived rantings on the drive back home. I love you!

 

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The best out of like five pictures of us at the start (srs).