Sunday, June 9, 2013

Christina Anthony's CIRREM Report

I had the pleasure of riding with Christina Anthony and Dennis Grelk for a spell at CIRREM in February. It was a great ride, and I was happy to have it be the last race I did before leaving Iowa. Check out Christina's detailed report about the race, and then be ready to sign up for it next year!

It was roughly 10 degrees with light winds as we pulled into a parking space outside the Cumming Tap to register for CIRREM. The gravel road conditions were mostly clear throughout the course as the roads had all been plowed and graded since the snow storm on Thursday. Dennis and I started towards the back for the neutral 2.5 mile rollout as the pack rolled over a sketchy wooden slat bridge known for eating wheels. Our goal was to finish with smiles at the end, so we stayed our pace content with catching stragglers and being caught by others. Throughout the first half of the race and until the checkpoint at the roughly halfway mark, we were able to talk with people and tick off the miles. The hills were punishing though on the first half of the course and we spent a fair amount of time dive bombing down them but crawling up the other side as we struggled to find gearing that we were both comfortable with for the climbs. Shortly before the first checkpoint, we walked the first hill when Dennis hit a low point. I fed him some sugar and nuts and we were on the road again and rolling the hills. Temperatures also warmed up and by the time we'd reached the first checkpoint 3 hours into the race, I had shed my jacket, gloves, and buff. There was a monster of a hill right before the checkpoint, and I was singing, "This is the hill that never ends; It goes on and on, my friends; Some people started riding it, not knowing what is was; and they continued, just because..." on repeat. Dennis smiled (or so he said), and we were grateful to be greeted by smiles at the top from the people at the checkpoint. Fresh water and a few treats, and we were back on the road again. Temperatures also warmed up and by the time we'd reached the first checkpoint 3 hours into the race, I had shed my jacket, gloves, and buff. 
After the checkpoint, the road became a little more of a course that favored a tandem for a while with hills we could use our momentum to fly over and we were rolling a good clip for quite a while. We even happened upon a flat section with a tailwind! We also saw two more bridges and I managed to get a picture of one of them while we were rolling. After all, this is the land of the famed Bridges of Madison County movie. Interestingly, after that checkpoint we saw not a single soul until near the end of the race. 
Throughout the race, I was in charge of keeping us both eating and drinking. In my one humorous misstep, I dropped the Reese's peanut butter egg on the ground as we were slowly crawling up another long hill and I learned the value of Reese's as we stopped and I ran back down the hill to fetch the peanut butter egg for Dennis. My low point came a bit later in the race (around 4.5 hours in) when I was all of a sudden starving. We stopped and walked the third and final hill of our race and I ate nearly every bit of emergency food we had brought along on the course. With my belly stuffed, we hopped back on and kept motoring. 
Towards the end, both of us were struggling. Dennis had a sour stomach and my legs and low back were tightening up and I couldn't find a way to stretch them out on the bike. Our pace had slowed, and all we wanted to see was the finish line. Because my computer had paused itself somewhere along the way, we truly had no idea how close or far we were and we just kept plodding along toward the line. Our spirits were bolstered a bit when a friend caught up with us and we were able to talk for a bit. His computer had died, so we were all just riding along, chatting and distracting each other from the pain. Before long, though, we turned and had the tailwind helping us again and lost our friend as we rode into town. I have never been so grateful to walk into a bar, be given a Pepsi for me and a chocolate milk for Dennis (on the house!), and presented with a trophy for the tandem division! Smiles all around! 
I attached two photos... One I took during the ride of one of the bridges we crossed and the other is a photo of the trophy we got at the end.

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