This years Gravel Grovel had a lot of changes from the previous years. There was a new start/finish area, a little different rout, food after the race and most importantly great weather!! There is nothing like being able to race in shorts at the end of November. The start/finish area was nice with the inside building for eating and awards, but it would have been more of a benefit if it was as cold as the last two years.
We got there plenty early to get signed up and get ready, but it never fails that the start time rolls around quicker then I am ready for. I hurried up and packed up and went to the start. I figure that I was forgetting something, but I was out of time to figure it out. After the pre-race meeting, I went back to the car to grab some stuff that I didn’t have and everyone seemed to be going to the top of the hill. I thought the start was at the bottom, but then again, maybe the lead out car was going to change that, so I headed up the hill with everyone else. We were not up there long and the bus came rolling up to tell us that we needed to be at the bottom of the hill. I stopped by the car to peel off the knee warmers and grab some more stuff that I still forgot.
The start went well and I was feeling good. We went by the road that I thought we were supposed to turn on. I just figured with the neutral roll out there was a change in the start to use the car longer. Well, that was until it stopped and turned around to head back to the road that we passed. I didn’t think it was a good thing to start the ride with that many miles extra. I figured the day was going to be hard enough. After we made it back to the correct turn, it looked like it was about 5-7 miles longer then it should have been.
Overall I had a great ride. The legs were strong for most of the loop and I could keep moving at a good pace. I think the gear choice was right on for my condition. I had to walk part of a hill close to the start, but the gravel was a little think and it was steep. I might have been able to climb it, but I didn’t think it was worth the extra effort at that point. After that I didn’t have to walk anything until I was on Combs road on the way out. There were a few tough hills, but I managed to climb them. After the paved hill from hell I made the turn on to the first out and back it was good to see all the front groups as they were heading back. I felt like I was off the back pretty far, but to see all of the front groups made me feel like was not that far back.
I was starting to wear down on the way out to Story and my legs were starting to feel like they could cramp. They were holding in there, but the hills were not nice to them. I had a great time on Combs road. I got a little air on some of the rollers and cleared the first tree that was down. I had to calm down a little and make sure I didn’t crash or break anything. The rest of the way to Story was uneventful except for the big climb. I grabbed a few pretzel sticks, topped off the water bottle and headed off. The trip back to Combs was not too bad other then the climb at the Nebo parking lot.
Somewhere along the way I ran up on a guy that was walking. I asked him if everything was ok and he said he was cramping bad. So, since I finally remembered to pack the mustard, I made a quick stop to dig out a packet and give it to him. I said no matter how it tastes, it will help. A little way up the trail my legs were starting to hint that they were going to cramp. When I had to stop to go under the one tree, I decided to not wait for the legs to cramp and go ahead and eat some mustard myself. Right before I got out of the dirt section of Combs road, the guy who I gave the mustard came rolling up. He seemed to be doing much better. He thanked me again for the mustard and we rode together for a little while.
After crossing Maumee bridge I was starting to really get tired, but I knew I was getting close or well at least close to camp. That added loop around the camp hurt like hell. There were a few climbs that really hurt and I was wearing down fast. I finally made it to a corner and thought I was getting close now. Well after a few sections of thinking I saw the road for the camp, I rolled up on 925 and made another turn. I was bummed that I still had a ways to go, but knew that this time I was on the last section of road. I was doing well for this section right up to where I was just about 3 miles out. I felt a few rocks a little harder then I had been and thought to myself that I would have a flat tire by the time I got home. Well, I didn’t make it that far and I was flat. Damn it! Well, I think some animals heard something a little stronger then that and louder. Why did I have to flat so close to the end! I decided to walk the rest of the way. I knew it was only a few corners and changing the back wheel was more work then I felt like doing. If I would have been on just about any other bike, I would have changed the tire. But, having to re-adjust the disc brake and re-tension the chain didn’t have me wanting to fix the problem. So, I limped the rest of the way back in to the finish.
At this point I could really feel my ankle hurting. I was having a little trouble waking and figured that I would not be able to walk the next day. It had been hurting for most of the day, but more of a annoying pain for most of the ride. I have no idea what I did to it, but I knew it was hurting. As soon as I checked in at the finish line, I headed straight to the car for a Mad Anthony IPA. Man that tasted good! I changed and put things away and had some good conversations with friends. It didn’t take long and it was about time to eat. We headed down and stuffed our faces. I really don’t know what we were eating, but it was very good. It sure hit the spot and I even went back for more.
The awards ceremony was quick and I have to send out a congratulations to Jason Pruitt for winning the SS class and Garth Prosser for winning the 40+ class. I ended up with a door prize and won a shirt. The shirt was nice and all, but I think everyone wanted the wheel set. I know I would have found a use for them.
My garmin had some incorrect information so it is hard to tell exactly what is what, but it seems I was right at 66 miles in 5:22 min., but my bike computer had a couple more miles. My elevation chart shows that it is only 30 miles for the whole loop and a moving time of 2:38, so I am not sure what is wrong there. I had the unit on my wrist and sometimes I end up hitting buttons that I don’t want to hit. The thing that does not make any sense is that the summery had the correct miles and time. I really wanted to finish under 5 hours to improve from last year, but it is hard to tell if I would have if it were not for the extra miles at the start. I know I climbed more hills this year, but I also had a little smaller gear. This is good for climbing, but back for going fast. I felt like I rode strong for most of the ride and was turning the pedals well. I didn’t stay at any of the check points for very long, I felt like I ate and drank well, so I am happy with that. Maybe some day I will be able to keep up with the faster guys. I will be back again next year if at all possible, maybe with some gears maybe not. What else is there to do after stuffing your face on Thanksgiving?