My Triple Dog Dairyland Dare Ride Report
After months of training, perfecting my gearing, and much anticipation this past weekend finally brought the Dairyland Dare. I signed up for the 200 km route back in April as one of my training goals for this year and had been looking forward to getting out into the Wisconsin hills all year.
The Day Before The Dare
I started packing and preparing the middle of last week doing my usual gathering and placing on an empty table throughout the week. By the night before I was planning to leave I had everything gathered. All I had left to do was to pack it all up and away I went on Friday afternoon. The drive took a little over 3 hours.
Here’s a bit of the scenery I saw along the route driving to the ride. I hadn’t expected to see a windmill farm in western Illinois.
I arrived in the evening at the hotel, checked in, and then drove to the checkin at Lands End. They acted as hosts to the event on their campus and even let riders use their showers after the event was over. The facilities were top notch and I have to give them props for hosting the dare.
They were showing off some of their upcoming wares during checkin. I’m going to have to check their new Canvas 1963 clothes offerings to see if they have them in my size.
After checkin I headed back to the hotel and to meet up some folks for dinner and in route had an epiphany … I had forgotten my water bottles on the counter at home. I don’t know why it popped into my head then, I think I was thirsty, but I was freaking out. How could someone who just wrote a blog post about checklists and being prepared for an event forget something as critical as a water bottle?
My only option was to look at the maps and see what was near me … low and behold there was a Walmart near by. I haven’t had the best of luck at Walmart in the past but I was certainly hoping that would change today. After arriving and heading straight to their sporting goods department my heart sank when I saw that they had sold out of water bottles and only had a $10 version with the cage and bottle. I wasn’t paying that much for a bottle, that’s crazy since the bottle itself was only $2.50.
After asking for help and being lead to house wears and other places in the store I had to explain to the employees what a bike water bottle was … seriously, they didn’t know what I was talking about. Asking a manager if they maybe had some in the back he went and scanned the barcode and them promptly disappeared into the back of the store. Much to my surprise and excitement he came out with 2 new clear white water bottles … his last 2!
Woot, for once Walmart was on my side. I decided to take an extra few moments and buy some water and fruit for the morning. Might as well buy a few more things to thank the Walmart gods for helping me out right?
Late that night I had a great dinner with some folks from the Sub-5 ride I just signed up for who were also doing the Dairyland Dare. It was great to chat with them off the bike and get to know them some. It’s such a different experience chatting while riding with people than just relaxing and talking off the bike.
After returning to my hotel, getting everything setup for the morning, and some late night front derailleur adjustment (it wasn’t shifting right) I finally hit the hay around 11 pm. About 2 hours later than I’d have liked since I was getting up at 5 am but such is life and poor planning. I should have setup everything when I first checked in and I should have adjusted my derailleur the night before … oh well, lesson learned.
The Day Of The Dare
I had trouble getting up in the morning and instead of getting off at the 6:00 start I ended up getting on the road and starting at 6:30. Well, more like 6:34 as I was running late dropping off my special needs bag to be sent to the drop off at mile 74. I didn’t know it was a one way drop off so I had to return some things to the car.
Anyhow, I was a bit surprised when after starting, within the first mile I saw at least 7-8 flat tires. Some of you might remember that I bought new tires for my bike (sorry no pic). I finally put them on my bike Wednesday night and hadn’t had a chance to ride with them before Saturday so this was their inaugural voyage on the road. I had visions of flats dancing in my head seeing these guys.
I’ll cut the building suspense and tell you now that I didn’t flat today, but trust me when I tell you that the thought was in my head a few times per hour all day long when I saw people flatting.
Heading into the first rest stop I felt great. There hadn’t really been a lot of climbing yet but sometimes you can tell if your legs have it and sometimes you can’t. At that point I felt really good and full of energy.
After checking out the big tank at the rest stop, topping off the water, and answering some early nature calls I was on the road again. Along that first 50 km there were some amazing farmland views. While I failed at taking as many shots as I wanted I did manage to take a few more.
I caught this one when I saw someone else stopped with a camera. I managed to grab mine from my bento box, turn it on, and snap a pic while riding by. I know I know, dangerous, but I was being lazy and didn’t want to stop.
Just up the road I managed to stop and take a picture after a big climb. This was at the top of one side and that’s a shot down the other side.
You can see way off in the distance the upcoming climb. There were quite a few of these rolling hills throughout the day. Awesome speedy descents followed with longish climbs at steady grades.
The Second 50 km
The first 50 km looped past the start / finish and at this point I still felt awesome. My legs were feeling great and I quickly continued on to the rest of the course. From here it was all moving outward away from the start and while there weren’t any more loops back through the start there were turning points where you had to decided if you were doing the longer or the shorter routes.
There were adjustments at the last minute to the next 50 km of the route to eliminate some roads under repair. They had decided to add a second loop to the Governor Dodge State Park. There was one killer climb along this route and another shallow one with a steep finish. The great part was that we got to do it twice! Wow, that climb up Governor Dodge Rest Stop Climb was a doozy and had a few 20-25% points and peaked at 35.6% at one point, ouch!
After these loops I still felt pretty good but I’ll admit that rest stop climb was hard. The first time around I zigged and zagged a bit but still had energy so didn’t stand. The second loop around I had to climb out of the saddle and attack it otherwise I was gonna have to walk. It was all or nothing and it felt great to make it to the top, especially when there were 3 other people walking it … that always helps the ego.
Heading out of the park I was starting to have doubts at doing the 200 km route. Even though this was only 80 km into the ride the thought popped into my head, especially after that second lap climb. Yes I made it but the doubts crept in and started to chip away at my confidence.
The Next 50 km
The next two climbs were hard but I made them without walking and was feeling good. I made sure to eat and drink a lot, about every 15-20 minutes. I also stopped at most of the rest stops to at least top off the water but often to grab some more substantial grub as well. I have to say, the rest stops were well stocked and had some great food. Gu, HEED, Gatorade, fruit, bagels, peanut butter, nuts, bars, etc. They had a ton to eat and if you went hungry it was your own fault.
At about 115 km into the ride there was a rest stop where I had my transition supplies sent. I knew the stop was coming but was reminded because they had put up a sign next to the road. What they did though was pure evil, they placed the sign at the bottom of a killer hill … the Dugway Road Climb.
I didn’t know about this hill at the bottom but about 1/2 up it goes from 4-7% range to a long 16% gradient section. As soon as I hit that and tried to climb it I was cooked. I really dug deep but hit bottom at this point and unfortunately had to dismount.
I hated doing it and really didn’t want to but it happened … I walked. There was no way I was gonna climb that section, my legs had nothing left. So I did the walk of shame and started hoofing it … cheering everyone else along as they passed me, head down in frustration.
After it flattened a bit back to 5-7% I mounted back up and climbed into the rest stop at the top. I sat there eating and resting and really did a gut check. Was I going to make the 200 km route? The turn off was about 5 miles down the road and I had to make the call soon. To go on and attempt 200 km or turn and only do 150 km.
After the Governor climbs and then the subsequent couple of climbs I knew my body and I knew that I was reaching for more and bottoming out. I also knew that I 3 big climbs to go along with the random undulations that are the norm around here. It was sitting there on the ground at that Dugway rest stop that I knew I couldn’t do it, I had dug too deep and had to cut this ride short at 150 km.
It’s often hard to listen to your body. You want to fight it, deny that you’re weak, and push further and then end up hurting yourself. In the end though, I chose to listen. I didn’t want to have to be driven back to the start in the broom wagon, I wanted to finish this ride under my own power.
So I mounted up and rode to the junction and instead of going right for 200 km I went left with my head again hanging low and took the 150 km route. Let me tell you one thing, I’m glad I did because the final two climbs were crazy.
Coming into Far Look Road Climb I thought I had it and could see the top. I was sorely mistake though when I arrived at the blind corner about 1/4 of the way up then saw the rest of the climb … the other 3/4 of a mile. You can see on my segment page a huge spike in elevation. That is me digging deep only to find absolutely nothing left, stopping, swearing, and then walking a bit because it was crazy steep. After reaching a more manageable elevation I mounted back up and rode the rest of the climb.
That made two walks on a day I wanted there to be zero. Humbled again by the hills I now have even more respect for real climbers. I also now know I really need to drop another 50 pounds before I can attack these climbs like I want to. Next year!
On to the final climb, simply titled the DD2010 – 2 I resorted to shoe leather yet again. If you’re counting that’s the third dog of a climb today (thus the title of this posting). Already running on empty I had to face facts, there was no hope for me to climb 0.8 miles at 7% elevation average peaking at 18%. I did try to attack it twice though but came up empty. The saddest part of this climb is that if you look at the segment I came in 43rd out of 44 people
NOTE: To get a good view of any of my climbing troubles goto any Strava segment links above, click on the Performance tab, and then turn on the Cadence checkbox. Unless it was a downhill (when I was coasting) you can see where I walked and had zero pedaling cadence.
Crossing the finish I had a mix of emotions. I rode the furthest hilly ride to date coming in at 96.55 miles in 6 hours 16 minutes.
I felt very prepared coming into this ride having ridden quite a bit in the spring and a ton in July. I leave humbled again and yet hungry for more. While it wasn’t nearly as humbling as last years 100 km HHH it was still a shock and more self reflection that I have quite a ways to go.
Before I can become the climber I want to be I need to drop more weight. No, I know I’m not going to be a 150 pound climbing machine but there’s no reason I can’t be a 210 pound climbing powerhouse. I can’t imagine what it’d be like dropping 60 pounds off my body climbing those hills, it’d be a different riding experience for sure.
I crossed the finish line happy with my many successes today and excited to do it again in the future. I attacked some killer climbs and did things that others can only image. I climbed 8 category 4 climbs, over 7,208 feet of elevation, and rode for 6+ hours burning over 4,500 calories. It was a epic day with much to be proud of and even more to work toward.
If you made it this far thanks for reading and I hope I didn’t bore you too much. If you read this and are now wondering if you should try the Dairyland Dare I can unequivocal say YES! The support staff and accommodations were awesome. Whether you take on the 300 km monster of just the 50 km taster route it’ll be a challenging and fun day of riding.
Thanks again to Lands End and the homes along the route that housed the rest stops. Everyone was friendly and extremely helpful and the food was fantastic and plentiful. The Dairyland Dare is a must add ride to any cyclists bucket list.