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

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