This weekend was the fifth rendition of the Gravel Grovel. I have attended every race and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon. Each year keeps on improving, but I didn’t have an issue with it the first year even with any of the issues. The event keeps running smoother and smoother each time. Sub 9 has done a great job of growing this race, I just hope that they don’t loose that grassroots feel. I know I always enjoy myself.
This year the weather was better than last year. I had big dreams as to getting close to the 5 hour mark. That is something I really should be able to attend or even better. I have been close before a couple years ago on my SS, so with some gears I should be able to get there. Last year I was slower than the previous year even with gears. I am not sure what my main problem was last year, but I am fairly sure that the lack of riding in the two months leading up to this race didn’t help me this year. I put in as many rides in November as I did in August and September combined.
This year there was a group that was talking about going for the same goal that I was wanting to do. I was interested in trying to ride with them, but I really didn’t think I could keep up. I was in the group at the start. The pack took off at a pretty good pace. I tried to keep up, but when they dropped me the second time, I figured I better just ride my pace. I know that when I start out too hard with out being fully warmed up, I end up hurting myself more than it is good. I am not sure if this was part of my problem or not, but I just didn’t have the legs to climb at pace. I could climb the hills, just not as fast as I would like. Then when I would shift in to the granny I would be even slower.
I was happy to see one member of the group making an effort to wait on me. I am very thankful that Eric L. decided to stay with me. It sure made the day go a lot better. I seemed to ride pretty good for most of the route except for the climbs. I tried to let him know that he didn’t have to wait on me. He was riding a lot stronger than I was. We made it to story earlier than normal, but that was because it was earlier in the race. When Charles saw me roll through the check point, he knew I would take a beer. I was the first rider to take one (no shocker there). I saw that two riders were still waiting on me, so I downed it as fast as I could and we were off again.
I am not sure when it ended up only being the two of us, but we were working well together. I had to sit on early, but later on in the ride, I felt like I had some legs to do some pulls too. By the end of the ride it seemed like I was returning the favor of waiting on him. I really don’t know why I seem to do better at the end of the ride. Several people say that I ride stronger at the end of the ride than I do at the start. I am not sure if this is true or not, but it does seem like it. I think I just tend to ride the same pace for the whole ride and everyone else just slows down. I do know that as the pain settles in and the miles tick off, I get to the point that I am just ready to get back to the car. Maybe that pushes me to ride a little harder than I did when I started.
Well, we were not very close to the 5 hour mark. Actually we were almost an hour off of that. Part of me thinks that does not sound too bad and the other part of me thinks that is way slow. I really didn’t think I could make the 5 hours this year and would have been happy with 5.5. So, to be only 25 min. off of a time that I would have been happy with does not sound bad. The other part of me sees some people that did make the 5 hour mark and less and think that I should be in that group. I am not sure I will ever get to the 3.5 hour mark that it takes to win, but I should be able to get less than the 5.
There is always next year. You know, the year I actually get in shape over the winter and come out swinging. I also won’t drop off a few months in the middle. Yea, I am sure next year is the year. Right now I am not sure what next year will even be. The tentative race schedule looks like I will be doing a lot of driving if I am racing. It really sucks living in the southern part of the state where they don’t want to have races because too many people won’t drive that far. Guess what, we always have to drive that far. That was part of the reasons I quit racing so many years ago. I am looking forward to seeing the Kentucky point series. I had also thought about doing a few of the Ultracross races, but since I was almost last in the two I did this year, maybe I should wait until I can actually keep my goals threw the winter. No matter what ends up on the calendar, I am sure I will have a blast riding my bike.
I would like to thank Tania, Jonathan, Charles and the whole Sub-9 team that puts in a lot of hard work so I can have some “fun” riding/racing my bike. Thanks to the Midwest Trail rider and MTO outpost, they have one of the best start/finish areas that I have ever been to. If you have not taken advantage of the cabins, I highly recommend it as they are awesome to stay in. Thanks to all the other sponsors for helping make this the one race of the year that I just can’t miss! See you for V6.0.