This past weekend was the 4th Annual Central Iowa Rock Road Enduro Metric, otherwise known as CIRREM . A 100K gravel grinder in the hilly (about 4,500 feet of climbing) country just southwest of Des Moines, Iowa. This event is all about treating yourself to some pain and suffering on good ole hilly ass gravel roads. I enjoy all of those and riding with my IA/NE friends so CIRREM is a must do event for me.
Photo above from Dave Mable
Must have goals....Two years ago I finished well at CIRREM with a top 10 finish and a finish time of 4:20. I ran with the front group and got to the check point half way point in 2:08. Fitness was good back then and as you can see I only lost 12 minutes on the second half of the course. All that with a frozen drive train and getting stuck in a crazy big gear for the last 20 miles or so. Fast forward to this year. My goal was to finish in 4:30 or less and get into the top 25 overall. I know my current fitness would not allow a another top 10 and as I am getting older I am trying to make more realistic goals. Even with the icy conditions that were going to be present at the start and the frozen muddy conditions that I knew were going to materialize within a couple of hours of the start, I felt a 4:30 was doable. Especially considering that the worse the conditions are the better I seem to ride
Long ass drive....I made the trip up to Cumming, IA alone this year. John did not get in this year as the event sold out within hours. Usually driving 3 hours in nothing for me, but trying to get a decent night sleep with a very annoying cat that my wife decided to bring back into the family is very hard if not impossible. With no wife in town (party trip to New Orleans) to take care of her cat, I was left chasing this bastard cat around the house trying to get it to stop crying. I love cats, but this damn cat needs to just go away. With little sleep I filled that coffee maker up to the 8 cup mark and decided to let dehydration be damned. Best be alert and arrive alive than hydrated and dead I always say.
Time to learn how to ride ice again......With nearly 125 riders starting riding on snow packed and icy roads was going to be a challenge. We had an neutral rolling start with Kent (Single Speed winner) leading us out. Once we got past the dangerous bridge with "tire eating gaps" in its wooden surface it was race on. All looked well and I was positioned up towards the front in the top 10. As we approached the the bridge I slowly started getting passed by some very aggressive riders - I guess everyone was trying to stay up front and out of harms way. Before I knew it I was mid-pack and in with a bunch of riders that I knew I should not be in with. These guys needed to retake snow riding 101: 1. Ride relaxed and steer with your hips instead of your hands. 2. Ride with lower tire pressure. 3. Stay off the darn brakes, especially the front, and do any braking early. 4. Pedal hard through any deep snow sections and keep the weight back and let the front end "wonder" a little if she wants to. Sure enough, first section of snow that we hit a rider goes down and the field comes to a stand still. The first 50 or so riders are already gone. This is even before we actually started "racing" after the bridge. I make the quick decision to go ahead and bridge up to the lead pack. I really wanted to be protected from the wind for at least the first 1/2 of the race. Just as I make it up to the second group of riders (lead group was gone) there is another crash due to the ice. Time to do it again. I put in a really hard effort and bridge up to what is left of the second group on the road and guess what? Another rider goes down and we all come to a stop. At this point I did not have another hard effort in my legs. Time to settle down and just ride this thing solo. Most of the field was all strung out and I ended hooking up with a couple of guys and settled into a nice rhythm. I made it to the 1/2 point in 2:05 which put me 3 min ahead of my time two years ago. I felt good and my nutrition plan (Perpetuem and Hammer Bars) was going well.
Wrong gear this time.....The course started falling apart before the 1/2 point, but got really bad in the afternoon as the temps got up to above freezing. As you can see by the photos above, if you had down-tube routed cables (which I do) you where going to have some serious shifting issues. The rear went out first and soon I was limited to 1 or 2 gears (25 and the 23). I was able to use the front chain rings for about 10 more miles, but soon the buildup of frozen mud prevented that. Soon I was down to a single speed just like two years ago. Only this time I was stuck in the wrong side of the cluster. A 38 x 25 is great for climbing, but on the downhills and flats you are really crawl along. I stopped twice to try and fix it, but with limited success I decided to just keep pedaling. Parts of the course were really bad. You know it is muddy when you not only have mud on the outside of your shorts, but also inside on he pad. I ended up rolling in to the Cumming Tap with a time of 4:54 for a 42nd overall finishing place. Not what I wanted, but at least I did have fun. Until next year....