Three hilly challenge rides are held every year in the Kettle Moraine region in southwestern Wisconsin. These rides give Midwesterners a chance develop climbing strength and test ones determination. Collectively, these are known as the Horribly Insane Dare. I completed the 100km (75 miles actual) Horribly Hilly Hundreds (HHH) in June. Like many of the HHH riders, I found myself walking the 15 to 20% hills. However, I finished, and knew with a better base and some changes to my climbing strategy, I could complete a ride like this without walking or resting.
I had to pass on the Insane Terrain Challenge in July. I focused my training on the Dairyland Dare held August 14th. This event offers 50, 100, 150, 200, 250 & 300km ride lengths. I pre-rode the 100, 150 & 200km routes, and targeted the 150 or 200km lengths for event day. More important than the length selected, I wanted to complete the event without walking and I would limit my substantial breaks to the 50 & 90 miles rest stops. The 150km route provides more than 10,000 ft of climbing and the 200km route has 13,550ft of climbing, plus a 22% climb is featured.
I knew that riding the area on a regular basis would be needed and I managed to ride the area eight times over a 12 week period prior to the event. I logged more than 1000 training miles during the nine weeks prior to the event. I also changed bikes, and put a compact double and an 11-32 ten speed cassette on my titanium road bike. The combination of wide gearing and a very stiff frame proved to be an effective improvement over my 30 speed touring bike.
After several weeks of near record rain and heat, bad weather was predicted. The forecast 24 hours before the event was for a high of 88f, 75% humidity and a 40% chance of rain. Event day would be much better than expected, with a heavy overcast and temperatures in the 70 to 80 degree range. The humidity was high, but the day was rain free.
I arrived at 6:40am, was able to park close to the start, and was in position to start a few minutes after 7am. The event is super-organized, with local police controlling intersections and more than 100 volunteers on the course. My batch of starters crossed the electronic timer and headed southeast over the rolling farm hills. Rolling is the best way to envision the course. Sections often look like an oversized roller coasters ride, with 40 mph drops that would last a thousand yards and a symmetrical climb that slows me to 8 mph for several minutes. Feeling strong, I used my 210 lbs mass to roll up the hill half way and then resumed speed quickly as I crested the top. This created a situation where I would pass a group on descent and I would be passed on the climb. In accordion fashion, I stayed with the same set of cyclist for the first 35 miles, with this pattern repeating itself a dozen times.
The first section ends in Mineral Point after 15 miles. With police stopping traffic everywhere, I was able to travel through this folksy rural town non-stop. Leaving town, I passed several dozen riders by just getting in a tuck and taking the corners at speed. It felt like a day at Mad River Glen, a ski resort in Vermont. This pattern held until we returned to Dodgeville. I also caught up to some of the faster riders I started the day with, by maintaining a solid pace in Dodgeville. After years of riding in Chicago, a little urban cycling is no reason for me to slow. I stopped with a group at a red light and was moving as the light changed. After a mile, I looked back to see a group of 8 in a pace line at about 21 mph. The guy behind me took the lead, and I put myself behind him. He slowed a little after a while and I resumed the lead. I finally dropped myself to the back as we approached Dodge State Park. I leaped ahead on the first decline, but was quickly overtaken on the first climb.
I began dropping way behind the rest of this group on a longer hill within Governor Dodge State Park. The park road then drops about 500ft over a mile and my speed hit 50 mph. This was a little sketchy since forest debris and damp pavement is not ideal on a curvy downhill. To my surprise, a very fast rider on a TT bike passed me! So, I’m not the only guy that’s nuts! I caught my group at the bottom of the hill. The climb out is in the 16 to 18% range, I slowed to 4 mph using a 34t chainring and a 32 rear cog. Others were walking. At the top of the hill, most riders used the second rest stop, but I kept going with supplies enough for the next 15 miles. After 35 miles of open farmland, we entered a rural section of forests and valleys. This is the kind of terrain that is so outstanding in this area. Thirty mile views are available from the ridges and secluded roads, sheltered by a canopy of trees, is the norm. Two long descents and two steep climbs dominate the section that’s starts after turning off Hwy 23 and finishes on County Road ZZ. These two climbs are the steepest for the first 50 miles.
I planned to take a substantial break at the 50 mile point. Two rest stops are set within 2 miles of each other on County road ZZ. I rode to the second stop, thinking my bag of food & supplements would be waiting for me. Due to my error, the items were at the first stop. So I backtracked and spent more than 10 minutes eating and preparing my bottles and Bento bag for the rest of the day. I was not feeling too strong at that point. Several weeks of hot weather had left me feeling blah. But I knew the existing weather and overcast meant that conditions were right for a long ride. I committed myself to the 150km length and decided that the 200km length would be too-much for my first Dairyland Dare. I also needed to finish by mid afternoon and needed to feel well enough to drive back to Chicago for a late dinner.
Leaving the rest stop, cyclist travel down Route Z for the first of two trips and are treated to a near mile long drop at high speed. As soon as that’s over, a mile long climb in the 5 to 9 mph range dominates the better part of ten minutes. After a mile of rolling hills, the route divides, with the 100km cyclists returning to the starting point, and the 150-300km riders continuing. The next four miles are mostly downhill, a nice break from the prior 10 miles that features three sharp climbs. The Dairyland Dare routes do provide substantial recovery time, and I began to feel stronger. A stair-step climb up route ZZ returns cyclist to the 50 mile rest stops. Soon after, a long stair-step decent down Korback Road provides the best section of the day. A mixture of open farmland, forest and rolling curvy pavement provide non-stop variety. After a short ride on Route Y, cyclists take Rosy Lane, a moderately steep stair-step climb.
At the summit, a rest stop is provided and an electronic timer is triggered. I nice long decent on County HHH follows and wide pavement made this speedy decent super easy. The turn-off to the 200 km route is at the bottom of the hill. I continue north on HHH, the turn-off on Knobs Road is within five minutes. Knobs road is a long stair-step climb that last about two miles. It’s a nice road, very quiet with a variety of farmland and forests. Knobs Road ends at County T, and I know I have only about 20% left to finish. The last 20 miles includes a lot of vertical, both up & down. The long grinding climbs are very much back-loaded, a smart cyclist needs to save plenty of stamina for the finish. I’m feeling good and taking it slow for the last 25 miles. I probably use two hours to cover the last 25% of the event.
An intersection coated with gravel marks the beginning of Far-Look Rd. This is another multi-mile climb, some sections exceed 10%. Knowing that I’m close to the end and have not over-extended myself, I feel confident. After another long grind, I reach Route Z, 150km riders use route Z twice during the day. I take a short break at the 90 mile point. Resuming my ride, I travel down route Z, with a pack of younger riders grabbing my wheel at 45 mph. As the road bottoms out, I start the mile long climb at 5 mph. A few more rolling hills along route Z and I approach the start/finish point. A final climb up Route 191 and I’m at the conclusion.
I reported on Facebook that I was “as slow as a snail” for the Dairyland Dare 150km. This is true! Many riders coming to this event are very fit & fast. It’s impressive to see, and a part of the fun. My challenge was to ride, ride & ride until completed. My preparation allowed me to finish in good form and I look forward to participating in most of the cycling events held in this area next year.
Edited by WILDCAT - 8/16/10 at 3:52am