Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trans Iowa v9 Recap - Part V: Lessons Learned and Special Thanks

I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing, but rather found by trial and error a few things that seem to work for me.  This series of blog posts is intended to merely document my Trans Iowa experience.  My previous TI posts can be accessed using the links below.   
Part II: Preparation and Training, Bike Set-up, Clothing, Nutrition, Hydration
Part IV: Saturday and Sunday, The Race

Lessons Learned

  • It’s important for me to stay calm the night or nights before the race.  Don’t stress about lack of sleep, realize that rest and relaxation, even if I don’t sleep, is better than being awake and stressed.  Even though I got virtually no sleep Thursday night, I did get 4-5 hours Friday night and that was enough.
  • Pacing was important for me, riding at a good pace but staying below my red line, even if that meant riding alone.  I know this is contrary to what I have read in other race reports, but it worked for me.  While it would have been nice to ride more with others, I felt comfortable riding by myself.  My pace the last 150 miles felt so slow I kept thinking a group would catch me and I could jump on with them, but it didn’t happen. 
  • C-stores work much better for me than grocery stores, even if I have to ride a few more blocks to get there.  And Guitar Ted is right:  if you see a c-store on Trans Iowa, you had better stop, even if it is a couple of miles out of the way.  There might not be another one for 100 miles.
  • Liquid nutrition (200 cal/hr) in concentrated bottles worked well for me, but it does require drinking more water in cold temperatures, requiring more pee breaks.  Knowing I had a decent nutrition base gave me one less thing to worry about.  The additional 100 cal/hr I took in from energy bars, candy bars, almonds, dates, cookies and c-store sandwiches was really something to look forward to, kind of a treat.  Regarding the extra water:  I once read on Charlie Farrow’s blog that it is actually a good thing to be the guy who has to stop and pee during an endurance race. 
  • Chewing gum in general helps me stay awake, but adding caffeine to the mix really amplifies the effect.  The caffeine from the Stay Alert gum just seems to work faster for me than caffeinated gels or drinks.  Some of the energy drinks have a bunch of other things in them besides caffeine; I’d rather just stick with what I know.
  • I should have used 40 mm or wider tires on TI.  The 35’s, although set up tubeless, were too skinny for 325 miles on good gravel, much less the stuff we saw this year in Iowa.  My initial concern of needing more mud clearance did not pan out, but even if it had I think 40’s would have been a better choice.  Like my friend Kevin Collins says, if it’s muddy enough to stick you’re probably walking anyway.
 Special Thanks

I owe thanks to a lot of people, who without their help, I could not have participated and finished this adventure:
  • My wife Katrina and her sister Lorrie, who served as my stand-by team in Grinnell.  Katrina has actively support me and tolerated my absence many days and weekends while I trained over the last three years. 
  • Dan Driscoll, Charlie and Pat Jenkins, Gary Gottlieb, and Joshua Crixell for the many long rides together and their helpful advice on endurance cycling.  The Lone Star Randonneurs are a great group of people to be associated with. 
  • Keith Clark, Kevin Flaspohler, Terry Johannesen, Dan Schultes, Dan Reinking, Adam Pratt, Randy McDonald, Sean Orta, Justin Jones, Steve Corbett, Jack Tatum and all the folks in the Bartlesville Pedalers Bike Club I have spent many miles riding gravel with and talking to about riding gravel.
  • Jake, Brian, Chad, Garrett and all the good folks at T-Town Bikes in Tulsa.  Not only have these guys kept my bike in good shape, they have shared lots of good advice for all-night rides.  The custom bike fitting Jake did for me a couple of years ago was well worth the money, and the Specialized BG products have my contact points covered:  gloves, saddle, and footbeds.
  • Guitar Ted without which there would be no Trans Iowa.  Thank you for putting together an event that allows ordinary folks like me to test their limits.    

Trans Iowa v9 Recap - Part IV: Saturday and Sunday, The Race

My previous TI posts can be accessed using the links below.  
Part II: Preparation and Training, Bike Set-up, Clothing, Nutrition, Hydration

Breakfast, last minute stuff

Good or bad, I have become accustomed to eating McDonalds breakfast the day of a big ride.  It’s not exciting, but it avoids the surprise one might have at a mom-and-pop place.  I like having something other than oatmeal or an energy bar in my stomach at the start of the ride; I know this not what a lot of people smarter than me recommend, but it works for me. 
I microwaved and ate a sausage McMuffin purchased the day before.  I also ate yogurt and drank chocolate milk.  I threw the bottles on the bike, the hydration pack on my back, and rode the 2 miles or so to downtown Grinnell, arriving about 3:30 am.  I mingled with a few other riders, made one last bathroom stop at the bike shop and lined up near the back of the group in anticipation of the 4 am start.

photo by Wally Kilburg

 Leg 1 – Grinnell to Ira

The race started promptly at 4:00 am with Guitar Ted leading us out of town.  A couple of miles and we were on gravel so rough it was hard to find a good line.  A heart-rate of 150-160 bpm (75-80% max) seemed to correspond to a 12-13 mph average, so I kept it there.  If the roads had been wet, sticky, and slow I felt I could have ridden much harder to ensure making the checkpoint in time.  But as it was, I believed I was safe maintaining this lower effort level, so I parked it there.  

photo by Wally Kilburg
photo by Wally Kilburg
 I felt I rode the first leg near the 2/3 mark, meaning 2/3 of riders were in front of me and 1/3 behind me.  I don’t have anything to base that on really, but it would be interesting to see my position at the 1st checkpoint.  I caught up with John Welsh about half way to the checkpoint in Ira.  John and I first met in the muddy trenches of Dirty Kanza in 2011.  John and I rode into Ira together and arrived about 8:09 am, ahead of the 9:30 am cut-off.  

I spent more time at the checkpoint than I planned.  Between shedding clothing, a bathroom break and cue sheet arrangement (an obsession of mine), I did not leave cp1 until 8:29 am.  This was a little ahead of John who was getting help to zero out his cyclocomputer. 

Leg 2 – Ira to cp2

John caught up to me in Melbourne around mile 74.  We rode into town only to find there was no c-store there.  We back tracked, got back on route, and rode to the highway where we could see the c-store about 3/4 mile off course.  Rule #1 at TI is don’t pass up a C-store.  I filled up all my water, prepared another nutrition bottle, ate a turkey sandwich, and drank a Coke.  Rolled out at 10:41 am.

At mile 82 we passed a Casey’s directly on the route, too bad we didn’t know about that one.  During this time we rode briefly with Ari Andropolous and Special K.  They were riding well, holding a steady pace, good guys to talk to.  My legs felt good, so I charged ahead, arriving in Eldora mile 121 about 2:30 pm.

photo by Wally Kilburg
 There were several cyclists stopped at the Freeway grocery store in Eldora, so I stopped there as well.  In hindsight, I think it would have been worth my time to ride another 4 blocks west to the Casey’s.  The grocery store did not have what I’m used to buying from a convenience store, in particular sandwiches, so I settled on a bag of nacho cheese Doritos and a Coke.  I also picked up a couple of Paydays and water for the road.  Besides lack of selection, it seemed like half the town was doing their grocery shopping, so I probably spent an extra 10 minutes standing in line, well more than the time it would have taken to ride to the Casey’s and back.   But standing in line did make for some pleasant conversation.

On average, I think I was taking in about 300 calories per hour, supplemented by Cokes, turkey sandwiches, and chips at the C-stores.   Previous experience at the 24-hour Iron Butt in 2011 proved to me that 200-250 calories per hour is not enough; I experienced a mini-bonk there after 18 hours from which I emerged by taking in, wouldn’t you know, a turkey sandwich and Coke.  The saving grace for me on Trans Iowa and other long rides in 2013 is the bulk of my nutrition was coming from my nutrition bottle, so anything else I ate I thought of as “comfort” food, something to boost my spirits.  I had only been at the grocery store for 10 minutes or so when John arrived.  He was still eating and getting his stuff ready when I rolled out from Eldora around 2:55 pm. 

photo by Wally Kilburg
I'm not sure, but I think it was somewhere in this next stretch I caught up with Steve from Wisconsin and we rode together a few minutes.  He was riding a Karate Monkey and had gotten separated from his two friends after having a flat.  (I enjoyed talking to all three Wisconsin friends over breakfast two days later on Monday.)  I reached cp2 at 7:15 pm, ahead of the 9:45 pm cut-off.  I was there when Robert Fry posted his announcement on TI radio about the international riders.  Again I spent a lot of time folding the cue sheets to fit in my 5x7 bag.  My plan was to have two in front and one or two in back to minimize cue sheet manipulation later on when I’m tired and disoriented.  I left cp2 about 7:30 pm.

Leg 3 – cp2 to the Barn

During the 10 mile stretch between cp2 and the c-store in Gladbrook, I saw a pickup truck stopped on the road, and the man driving waved me down.  I also stopped and he asked me what was going on.  I explained this was Trans Iowa, a 323-mile endurance ride on dirt roads of Iowa with a 34 hour time limit.  His wife in the passenger seat asked where we were stopping for the night, and I said we weren’t stopping, at least not slow riders like me, perhaps some of the faster riders would have time to stop…  They were both surprised, thanked me for my time and said they had better let me go so I could finish.  I smiled, waved goodbye and continued on.

I arrived at the Gladbrook c-store, mile 185, at 8:20 pm, just a little after sundown.  I bought another turkey sandwich and Coke; they did not let me down, these really hit the spot.  Also some more paydays and a Coke for the road, and some other things I can’t remember.  Besides the normal filling of water and preparing the nutrition bottle, I changed out all batteries on my headlights, noticed my I-phone was at ~50% battery, so connected it to the Li-Ion charger.  I put on leg warmers, arm warmers, jacket, and balaclava.  I spent 5-10 minutes cleaning and lubing my chain.  There was no noise at this point but it had been looking pretty rough since cp1.  I texted Katrina at 8:52 pm to tell her I had 17 hours left to ride 140 miles.
John rolled into the c-store about 30-40 minutes after I did.  He said I was welcome to ride with his group; this was tempting, but I felt really good and decided to ride into the dark alone, leaving the store at 9:20 pm.  One hour was more down-time than I wanted, but I felt good as I left; time well spent to refuel my body and re-set my brain.

Just a few miles from Gladbrook I caught up with a cyclist from the UK, I believe it was Vin Cox.  We rode together a few minutes and he explained he flew to Iowa just for this ride and that Steve Fuller had picked up him and another UK cyclist Paul Errington from the airport.  There are so many good folks involved with this ride.  After 10 minutes or so riding together, Vin urged me to ride on, so I pulled away into the night.  A little while later, I caught up with two cyclists I believe were Brian Gillies and Christina Mihaescu at an intersection where we were heading east and supposed to turn south, but the street sign did not exactly match the cue sheet.  Almost without exception the cues were spot on.  I believe the spot might have been after the 10 mile stretch east on 400th St where we turn south on 197th St which is also T avenue, but I’m not sure of that.  I presumed Brian and Christina had stopped to check the cues; I told them this had to be our turn.  They passed me soon after that and we leap-frogged one another a few times the rest of the ride.

It was colder both mornings than the 45F weather forecast.  I think my Garmin reads a little low, but it showed in the 30's each morning, down to 35F Sunday morning.  On this second morning, about 4 am I found myself on a B-road with some mud and standing water, probably the only mud hole on the entire ride, and I somehow plant my left foot in it!  I was concerned that might come back to haunt me, but it never did.  I’m not sure if the heavy merino wool socks are that good, or if I was just really out of it.  Although my foot was cold it did not go numb.  No sock change required.  I never had to wear my toe covers either.  In general, my body felt cold in the dark but not too uncomfortable.  If I was a faster rider with more relative wind this might have been different.  

My past long rides have taught me that the hardest time to stay awake is between 3 and 5 am.  At around 1 am I started taking in 100 mg of caffeine every hour, first using gels and then using Stay Alert caffeinated chewing gum.  I did this for 5 hours until 6 am.  The caffeine did help me stay awake; I was tired, but I never felt myself nodding off.  Sometime after 5 am, however, I realized it was time to stop the caffeine:  my face felt flush and my eyes seemed to be bulging a little.  There is probably a point where caffeine will not help you stay awake, but rather will just make you sick.  I know 500 mg caffeine may sound like a lot, but considering a large Starbucks coffee has 400 mg and each shot of espresso has 150 mg helps put things in perspective.  After the sun came up about 6 am, I had no problem staying awake.   
Just prior to arriving in Brooklyn I caught up with three cyclists, I believe they were Jeff Burnett, Brad Patty, and Derek Weider.   We stopped at the Casey’s together at 6:05 am.  In reading other ride recaps written by cyclists faster than us, this store was closed and those folks had to forge on another 15 miles to the c-store on the highway.  I don’t think the Brooklyn Casey’s opened until 5:30 am, so this was one time it paid to be slow!  I filled my water bottle and Camelbak, made up one final nutrition bottle, downed a breakfast sandwich and chocolate milk and left Brooklyn at 6:32 am.  Besides getting slower on the bike, everything else seemed to slow down as well.  I’m not sure why I spent almost 30 minutes at the Brooklyn store; there weren’t that many things I had to do, but I guess it gets harder to stay on task after 26 hours.  Just before leaving, I texted Katrina saying I was 55 miles out and I gave an estimated finish time of 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. 

Since about midnight, my rear shifter cable was squeaking every time I shifted.  I thought it was probably dry where it passes through the cable guide under the bottom bracket, but I kept putting off dealing with it.  Well about 15 miles out of Brooklyn, shortly after crossing highway 21, it was driving me crazy and I couldn’t stand it any longer.  I got off my bike, turned it upside down and threw some chain lube on the cable and guide.  I think I also shed some clothes at the same time.  

After that, the last 40 miles had the worst hills and the worst gravel of all of TI!  This section would be a tough training ride just by itself, let alone with 280 miles already in your legs.  With about 25 miles to go, where the route turns west off of 200th St onto 470th Ave (I think), I again came across Brian and Christina.  They had over-shot the turn and were returning from the north.  I stopped to check my cues, but Brian assured me I was on the right road.  A little while later while climbing a steep hill, they got off their bikes to walk the hill.  This was the first time I noticed Christina was on a single-speed; I did not realize that before when it was dark.  I felt lucky to have my 26t bail-out ring those last 40 miles, I can’t imagine riding it on a single speed.  I passed them on the hill and did not see them again until the finish.

Besides testing me physically, Trans Iowa tested my mental will as well.  As I got closer and closer to the finish, I noticed I was obsessing about finishing.  I really wanted to finish in the 34-hour time limit, but I honestly would not have stopped riding even if I went over 34 hours.  I realized that would not get my name on the list of finishers, but for me it was much bigger than that.  Just the satisfaction of riding all the miles would have been an accomplishment for me, a closure to some unfinished business from TI in 2011.  

At 11:00am I was 11 miles from the Barn with 3 hours before the 2 pm time limit.  I reasoned that if my bike became unrideable, I might be able to jog with with it at 4 mph the rest of the way.  Then at 11:30 am I had 6 miles to go and felt I might be able to finish by 12:00 noon, but only if I sped up from the 10 mph I had averaged the last 50 miles.  I got down in the drops and told my legs to work harder.  At first they did not respond, but I kept trying and after a mile or so the legs came around and I could tell I was getting faster.  I rode as hard as I could (considering), covering the last 6 miles in 25 minutes, and pulled into the finish line at the Barn at 11:55 am, with a total time of 31hours, 55 minutes.

Guitar Ted shook my hand and congratulated me.  I was very relieved and very tired.  Katrina and her sister were there to pick me up.  I loaded my bike and congratulated Jeff, Brad, and Derek as they finished just a few minutes later.  Then as we were driving off, Josh Lederman who finished before me, asked for a ride back to the hotel.  We loaded Josh and his bike and left, congratulating Allen Brunner, then Brian and Christina who we passed on the drive to the hotel.  It was great talking to Josh who will also be tearing up Dirty Kanza in a few weeks.

My immediate feelings after Trans Iowa were more ones of relief than jubilation.  Only now, when I’m writing this four weeks out, am I starting to feel some of the latter.  Don’t get me wrong:  I’m really glad I finished TI, but it was such a test both physically and mentally, that I was initially just glad for it to be over.  My hands were “buzzing” for about 5 days after TI, but that has gone away.  This was a great experience for me, definitely my high-water mark in cycling.  

Continue on to Part V: Lessons Learned and Special Thanks

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trans Iowa v9 Recap - Part III: Thursday and Friday, Pre-Race

My previous TI posts can be accessed using the links below.  
Part II: Preparation and Training, Bike Set-up, Clothing, Nutrition, Hydration

I left Oklahoma about 2 pm on Thursday before the ride.  My wife Katrina and her sister Lorrie came with me and were my bailout option.  We arrived Grinnell a little after 10 pm.  When unloading the bike, I noticed the rear tire was completely flat.  Bummer!  I spent the next 1-2 hours messing around with the tire.  I inflated, applied soapy water, and determine the leak to be around the valve stem.  I tightened the retaining ring, and sloshed sealant around the stem, but could not stop the leak.  I went ahead and broke off one bead and replaced the stem, but I had no luck re-inflating the Kenda with just my floor pump.  

The next morning, I ran into Jim Cummins and his support team, had a nice chat.  Then I took my wheel to Bikes To You and used their compressor to bead up the tire.  Took the tire back to the hotel and submerged the valve stem in the bathtub.  Still leaking so tightened the ring several times, without much luck.  For curiosity, I removed my front wheel and submerged it as well – also leaking!  Not a lot, but definitely bubbles forming.  I sloshed sealant around the valve stem in both and the bubbles slowed considerably.  This convinced me a lot of valve stems on tubeless setups out there are probably leaking some, just not enough to lose more than a few psi per day.  Try it some time, you might be surprised!  I convinced myself the problem I saw with complete deflation during the trip to Grinnell was caused by more than just the slight bubbling you might see when the valve stem is submerged under water.  

Anyway, I mounted the wheels back on my bike and went for a relaxed-pace 18 mile ride Friday afternoon on gravel roads south of town.  The tires, mounted up tubeless, stayed inflated just fine.  Having been stressed the night before, I slept poorly (~2 hrs), and my legs felt dead during this ride.  This brought back memories of how tired I was and how dead my legs felt on TI v7.  Back at the hotel, I tried sleeping a little before the Pre-Race meeting, but no luck.  

photo by Wally Kilburg
I felt really tired during the meeting and headed back to the hotel after my name was called to pick up my packet.  I finished putting stuff on the bike, placed the cue sheets in my 7x5 plastic bag and went to bed about 9:30 pm.  Somehow I was able to finally relax and I slept much better Friday night.  I woke up 2:30 am Saturday and felt surprisingly good.  What a difference a day makes!

Continue on to Part IV: Saturday and Sunday, The Race

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trans Iowa v9 - Part II: Preparation and Training, Bike Set-up, Clothing, Nutrition, Hydration

I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing, but rather found by trial and error a few things that seem to work for me.  This series of blog posts is intended to merely document my Trans Iowa experience.  My previous TI posts can be accessed using the links below.  

Preparation and Training

I’ve had my eye on Trans Iowa since my first Dirty Kanza in 2009.  My friend Keith Clark and I tried to enter TI v6, but the post cards we mailed to Guitar Ted did not arrive in time.  Instead, Keith and I attended as volunteers that year and this reserved us spots for TI v7 in 2011.  My attempt at TI v7 did not go well.  A missed turn and 2 miles of unnecessary hike-a-bike was too much for me to overcome; I did not make the 1st checkpoint in time.  I think more than half the riders did make it through, however, so that helped put things in perspective:  I was slower than at least half and possibly 2/3 the folks that attempt this race.  I needed to work on speed and hope for good weather.

I dropped my name from the roster of TI v8 due to a stress fracture of my hip (femoral neck) in late Nov-2011 that would not heal and required surgery late Jan-2012. 
My repaired hip
About the time I mailed my postcard in Fall-2012 for TI v9, I separated my right shoulder while mountain biking near Billings, MT.  I missed some time on the bike, but luckily no surgery was required.  The clavicle now sits 1/2” high on that side, but holds up okay to riding a bike.
End-O in Montana
My training for TI v9 consisted of a partial series of brevets (200k, 300k, 400k) with the Lone Star Randonneurs in Texas, multiple 18-mile gravel rides on weeknights after work, eight to ten 55-mile gravel training rides to simulate the first leg of TI, two 90+ mile gravel training rides to simulate riding between C-stores, three organized gravel rides of 52, 107, and 130 miles, and a handful of road centuries.
My plan was to use the gravel rides to work on speed and help ensure I at least made the first checkpoint this year, and to rely on road centuries and brevets to help maintain a good aerobic base which I thought would be important later in the race.  The 400k brevet lasted 19-1/2 hours, and I did not see a need to do a training ride longer than that, rather relying on a couple of 24+ hour rides from previous years to provide experience in sleep deprivation and depletion of usable glycogen stores.  Those rides included a 25 hour, 265 mile ride with my friend Keith from my house in Bartlesville, Oklahoma to Humboldt, Nebraska in 2010.  The “Blast to Nebraska”, as Keith calls it, consisted of 60% paved, 40% dirt roads, in a straight line across Kansas.  My other long ride was the 24-hr Iron Butt event at The Texas Time Trials in 2011.  There I rode 318 miles in 25 hours on paved roads from 6 pm one day to 7 pm the next day.  No drafting allowed, so this provided good experience riding alone.

My recent training indicated I needed a 100 oz Camelbak and 3 water bottles to stay properly hydrated over 100 miles of gravel.  Also, I fine-tuned the idea of using a 1,000 calorie / 5 hour nutrition bottle (refilled 5 times) for the majority of my calories on Trans Iowa.  I had 2,500 training miles between Dec 1, 2012 and the start of TI Apr 27, 2013. 

 Bike Set-up

I’m still using the 54 cm Surly Cross Check I built up a few years ago from parts.  Components and accessories include:
  • Slightly used S-works carbon bars made by Specialized.  Double wrapped.  This combination seems to reduce the wear and tear on my hands.
  • 9-Speed drivetrain including Shimano STI shifters (105?), Shimano 105 fdr, XT Shadow rdr and HG80 11-32 cassette.
  • Avid Shorty 6 brakes
  • Sugino 26-36-46 crank with 170 mm crank arms.  The 26 ring sure was nice on the last 40 miles of hills.
  • Thudbuster ST seatpost, Specialized Avatar saddle.
  • Stans Alpha 340 Comp rims with 35mm Kenda Happy Medium in the rear and 34mm Hutchinson Bulldog in the front, both mounted up tubeless.  I used Stans 35mm Ravens for a couple of years, good ride but limited tire life.  I found some Bulldogs on sale; they have more volume than the Stans, seemed a little more durable, and shed mud really well.  Just 3 weeks before TI, however, the rear tire developed an unfixable sidewall leak and subsequent failure in the wireless bead.  My confidence in the Bulldog was shaken, plus I could not find any for sale, so I scrambled to find and mount up a new tire.  I first tried a 40mm Happy Medium and it was smooth and fast.  I considered putting the 40mm’s on both wheels, but I was concerned about mud clearance on the B-roads of TI (normally bad) and went with the 35mm Happy Medium.  More on that later.
  • Cateye micro wireless computer.  The new version allows you to view both time and distance which was great for using the mileage to follow cue sheets and using time for nutrition and hydration.
  • My Garmin with a heart rate monitor and thermometer.
  • My I-Phone and New Trent Li-Ion battery charger to recharging my phone and Garmin.
  • Two cue clips w/ Velcro strap.  One 7” x 5” bag to accommodate two cue sheets front and two sheets back when flipped.
  • Revelate Designs Gas Tank Bag – this thing is huge, I can put 7 or 8 energy bars in there.
  • Jandd frame bag – I tried fitting the RD Tangle bag here  I couldn’t make it fit to my liking without interfering with the water bottles, so I modified the Jandd bag to work with the gas tank bag.  The Tangle bag fits my road bike just fine for Rando rides.
  • Banjo Brothers trunk bag – this bag attaches to the saddle and will hold lots of stuff.  I tried to keep the heavier stuff and things I need quick access to in the frame bag and light stuff and less used items in the trunk bag.
  • Cygolite Milion 200 and Expilion 600 headlights and two extra batteries.  This was enough to put out 200 lumens of light for 12 hours with duplication built-in and only one battery change-out required. 
  • Princeton Tec headlight mounted on helmet.  The high setting is about 80 lumens and will last 5 hours using Li-ion batteries.  Good enough to see the cue sheets and spot the feral dog hiding in the ditch.
  • Cygolite Hotshot and Planet Bike Superflash taillight
I probably carry more tools than a lot of folks normally, but I added a few items for Trans Iowa.  I kept a spare tube, tire levers, and Crank Brothers multi-tool in the frame bag.  Other less used tools were in the trunk bag.  Here is my list of tools and emergency items:
  • Three tubes, two tire levers, patch kit, Park tire boots, CO2 inflator and two cartridges, Topeak MorphG pump.
  • Crank Brothers multi-tool, micro-size Leatherman, 2 oz bottle of chain lube, small rag.
  • Fiber-fix spoke, Stein mini-cassette cracker (40g), two quick links, one derailleur cable, a Problem Solvers universal rdr hanger.  (I practiced replacing a broken spoke, a broken derailleur cable, as well as converting to a single speed in case I broke my rdr.  I might run out of time doing the fix during the race, but at least I would have something to try.)
  • Four spare bolts for seat clamp, thudbuster, bottle cage, rdr/fdr adjustment screw,
  • One spare cleat.
  • Two travel size Wet-Ones wipes, eyeglass lens cloth. 
  • Two zip ties, small amount of duct tape.
  • Besides the tools that most people carry, I would guess my additional tools probably weighed an extra ½ pound.

The weather predictions called for a low of 45F each night and a high of 65-70F each day.  I tried to keep it simple, use simple layers easy to take off or put back on.  With such warm temperatures during the day, I did not want to mess with a base-layer or tights that would require extra time to remove and additional space to store on the bike.  I started the ride wearing a short-sleeve jersey, arm warmers, a light jacket, full-fingered gloves, balaclava, Sugino RSE cycling shorts, leg warmers, heavy merino wool socks, and Sidi shoes with Specialized BG footbeds.  On the bike I carried a spare pair of lighter wool socks, some toe covers, and a pair of half-fingered BG gloves. 

Nutrition and Hydration  

Over the last three to four years, I have experimented with using one water bottle specifically for nutrition, especially on long rides. 

After trying and using both Hammer Perpetuem and Infinit Nutrition mixes, I settled on Infinit because it sits on my stomach better than Perpetuem, it does not go sour even when mixed in a bottle at high temperatures for several hours, and it dissolves in water much better at high concentrations than does Perpeteum.  I also like Infinit because you can customize all aspects of the mix:  flavor, carbs, calories, electrolytes, protein, amino acids, and even caffeine.  I initially took their standard endurance formula and reduced the flavor significantly knowing my bottle would have 1,000 calories instead of the normal 280 calories.  After getting a significant salt build-up on rides in cooler temperatures, I created a winter blend with less electrolytes.  

 I tried the 1,000 calorie bottle on several rides leading up to TI including the 400k, 19 hr brevet in early March.  On previous rides I have noticed it takes about 60 swigs to empty a 24 oz bottle (I know that sounds crazy to track that sort of thing, but you have a lot of time on a long bike ride).  So this means 10 swigs equals about 4 oz.  In using the nutrition bottle, taking 4 swigs every 20 minutes will give me right at 200 cal/hr and make the bottle last 5 hours.  I pick up another 100 calories or so each hour from whatever food I can tolerate (half an energy bar, half a Payday, cookies, rice crispy treat, dates, raisins, almonds, I mix it up and have something to look forward to).  After the 4 swigs from the nutrition bottle and on odd-20 minute intervals, I take in however much water I need to stay hydrated.  I also carried a 24-oz bottle of Skratch Labs mix in case I got sick of the Infinit.   

I believe the biggest benefit of using the nutrition bottle is it helps keep my blood sugar level really stable.  I would previously get kind of shaky after more than 12 hours on the bike, but not since I dialed in the use of the nutrition bottle.  I also like the idea that all I need is water to have more calories; I carry a 100 oz Camelbak and a 20 oz bottle both full of water.  One downside of using the nutrition bottle is a minimum of 13 oz per hour total fluid intake (water plus Infinit) is required to ensure proper osmolality (i.e. to ensure the Infinit is absorbed and does not sit heavy on my gut).  As such, I probably take in more water in colder temperatures than I would otherwise, causing me to stop often for pee breaks.  Another downside is the extra weight I started out with, carrying 2-1/2 lbs of Infinit powder to help refill my nutrition bottle 5 times.  I realize some people, namely Alan Lim and others, discourage the use of liquid nutrition because of the osmosis thing.  I’m not sure they recognize that most folks on an ultra-endurance ride do not drink sports drink only, but also have a separate water source…  In the end, my nutrition and hydration went really well on the ride, so I think the nutrition bottle and separate water source was a good fit for me.

I dipped into the Skratch Labs bottle prior to arriving at the 74 mile c-store, but for the most part I stuck with the Infinit nutrition bottle until a new bottle could be made at stores or on the side of the road.

I drank a 12 oz Coke at three of the stores and packed a fourth Coke on the last leg which I never drank.  I ate a turkey sandwich in the c-stores at miles 74 and 185 and a bag of chips at the grocery store at mile 121.  A chocolate milk and sausage, egg, cheese croissant hit the spot at the Casey’s near mile 270.

Continue on to Part III: Thursday and Friday, Pre-Race