Triple D 2014

This weekend marked my fourth trip to Dubuque, Iowa to take part in the Triple D Winter Race, a 100K snow race modeled after events like the Arrowhead 135 and Iditarod Trail Invitational. In addition to the bike event, Triple D also offers running and ski events, and it attracts an eclectic crowd of Ultra weirdos that gives the race a unique, fun vibe.

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Milling around at the start.

 

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Best Dressed, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

 

.The 100K course is made up of a mix of private snowmobile trail, alleged singletrack, and the Heritage Trail – a multi-use rail trail that comprises the bulk of the course. I love this course because although it never takes you that far from civilization, racers are still treated to views of wide open spaces and prime Driftless Region scenery. Finishing the race gives you a feeling of actually having gone somewhere and seen something — a nice alternative to the multitudes of short format fatbike races that are currently exploding in popularity.

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Getting used to this view.

 

This year made for a challenging event, thanks to a combination of fresh snowfall and tropical temperatures in the mid 30s. Long sections of the course were marginally rideable, and I did more pushing off the bike than in any other year I can remember. Fortunately, things never stayed unrideable long enough to be really soul crushing, and I slogged through the rough sections in relatively good spirits

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Alex Oenes and Mike Johnson leaving me in the dust

 

I eventually finished in just over eight hours – the longest day I’ve had on a bike in a number of months. I was satisfied to have finished, and admittedly a  little disappointed about not having been closer to the front. An 8 hour race in the middle of January is a great indicator of how much work is ahead of you to get ready for Spring!

As always, race director Lance Andre and his crew of volunteers did an excellent job of running the event, and the majority of riders who showed up seemed to finish with a smile on their face – an impressive feat given how tough things were this year.

 

North Shore Exploring

Shortly before the snow got really heavy

This weekend Curtis and I headed north with a station wagon full of gear and a loose itinerary – the plan was to test out his canvas hot tent in some real winter conditions and basically have as much fun as possible exploring the north shore with a combination of fatbikes, skis, and snowshoes. Acting on a tip from DeathRider, we pulled our sleds along the _____ River until reaching the campsite pictured above. We set up camp in increasingly heavy snow, stoked a fire, ate dinner and fell asleep. It was cool to be in a comfortably warm tent in 0 degree weather, even though the smoke from the woodstove kind of turned my stomach.

Luxury Digs
Luxury Digs

The next morning we woke up to 6+ inches of fresh snow, which effectively killed our plans to ride our bikes along the river. Before too long Deathrider and Mark arrived at our camp to make fun of us for sleeping outside. I talked Curtis into breaking camp and meeting them in Grand Marais for some exploring elsewhere along the shore. Curtis humored me, though I’m pretty sure he would have stayed out there permanently if he had the option.

Curtis in his natural habitat

Curtis in his natural habitat

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Cool ice formation slightly downriver from our camp

Cool ice formation slightly downriver from our camp

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After hauling our gear back to the car we met DR and Mark for a hike along the Devil’s Track river. We began by hiking through deep snow along the Superior Hiking Trail. This was the first time I’d been on the SHT this far North, and it really does seem to just get better and better the further you go – I definitely need to get back here soon.

The views were ok.

The views were ok.

After a few miles on the trail we hopped onto the river itself, and begun hiking downstream towards the shore. The river carves through a canyon that gets deeper and more awesome the further you go. DR led the way for the most part, picking the numerous lines we needed to cross the river to avoid thin ice and patches of open water. He seemed to know what he was doing and has survived enough of these trips to make me at least relatively confident that we weren’t going to die.

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Eventually we reached a waterfall that we had to rappel from in order to continue downriver. Curtis and DR gave me a crash course in how to affix a harness and not kill myself, and I made it down in one piece. I’m scared of heights to the point where I just didn’t look down to see how far the rappel was. Our group finished the rappel just as it got completely dark.

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Once we were down past the waterfall we had a nice packed snowhoe track to follow and made great time along the river towards Highway 61. It was awesome hiking through the deep canyon in full dark on a clear night, with a sliver of moon just barely peeking through trees on the ridge above us. Then DR led us on a dubious shortcut back to our car that consisted of turning off the river onto a small creek, postholing through snow upstream until we finally regained the SHT and followed it back to our cars.

We headed back to Grand Marais for some mandatory Sven and Oles, then crashed out in DR and Mark’s hotel room. I was super grateful to get to crash out inside, as it gave us enough time to get up on Sunday morning and fit in one more hike, this time along the Kadunce river. This one only took about an hour, but was every bit as awesome as the Devil’s track. We scrambled up some small waterfalls to reach the top, then took a SHT spur trail back to our car. Unfortunately it was too cold for my camera lens to open, so I only managed to get one picture of Curtis looking badass.

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We talked about trying to fit in some more snowshoeing during the drive home, but the warm car and the draw of the Thirsty Pagan proved to be too much for us, so we loaded up on pizza in Superior and went home. Even though we ended up not getting to ride bikes at all, this was a great kickoff to 2014 and I still can’t believe how much awesome outdoors stuff there is to explore just a few hours from where I live. I’ll be going back soon.