Well that would be the short answer. I am sad to say that I did not finish in under 5 hours. But, I kind of figured that no sooner than I asked the question. I really did not do myself any favors heading up to this years event. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I think I misunderstood. I keep hearing people talk about tapering for big races. I had been pretty run down from work and stuff and figured I could use a good taper to rest up. Where I think I fell short is that I didn’t taper long enough. I did ride for 3 weeks before and was still tired. Maybe I need to try 4 weeks next year.
Yes, I am quite aware that 4 weeks will not help me either, but it is probably more realistic as to what I really need to be doing. I had done a lot of things right this year to lead me up to being ready for my best time. The biggest problem was that I could not ride much at the end of the year. When the weather was prime, I was busy doing something else. Not at all good for staying in shape. I did have my bike in good condition and ready to go, so I did have that going for me or well it should have been going for me.
This year I changed to riding a cross bike. I had figured that there was a lot of places out there that I would be faster on a cross bike over the mtb. This year they decided to add more trail sections and took out a long road section to the course, so I am not sure how much benefit the cross bike gave me. Add the fact that it warmed up quicker than it was supposed to and the roads and trail were soft in a lot of places. I know there were some complaints about how muddy it was and my bike sure looked like it agreed, but I felt it was better than I would have expected.
At the start the pace was a little faster than I wanted it to be, but it didn’t feel too bad. We were going faster, but I didn’t feel like I was putting in too much extra effort to stay there. I did back off some after a little bit and shortly after we hit the first climb. I didn’t seem to climb too bad, but I could tell the legs were not going to be as strong as I had hoped. I tried to maintain as strong of pace as I could, but who I was hoping on spending the day with had pulled away and were no longer in sight. I had to ride with who ever was around. No one seemed to last very long. We would ride together for a little bit, but sooner or later one of us would pull away.
There were several climbs that made me wish I had more gears to choose from. I don’t know how much difference more gears would have made, but I do know that I would have used them. I knew how big some of those climbs were, but for some reason I keep thinking that they are smaller. I am sure it is the brains way of taking a memory and changing it so it does not seem so ridiculous. But, they really are that big.
One part that I would have thought the cross bike would be a problem was the trails. I actually rode the trail sections pretty well. There were a few times that got a little harry on the decents, but some how held on. So, I don’t think I could say it really slowed me down a lot. I am sure some, but not as much as for some. I do know that the cross bike was faster on a lot of the road sections. If I could maintain some momentum, I was cruising along.
I tried to not stop at too many of the rest stops. I know how much time stopping can add to my ride. I was feeling good enough and had plenty of inventory so I didn’t need to stop anyway. I did stop at the 3rd one or so just to top off the bottle. I grabbed some food and took off as quickly as I could. I did this at two other stops. I would like to think this made me faster, but it is hard to really know. There are times that just getting off the bike for a minute and walking around at the stop can motivate me to ride harder in the next section. For now I will lean toward not stopping or doing so as little as possible.
I did try to eat and drink often to keep my power up. I probably could have done better, but I know for sure that I have done a lot worse at it. For one, I turned down all of the beer I was offered. This is very rare for me and maybe lets me know just how hard I was being on my body. I felt like I really did a lot of good things to be able to put in a good time. I guess overall it was not a terrible time, just not what I was hoping for. I don’t know what my official time is yet, but my computer had me out there for 6:08. It also had me with a ride time of 5:38. I really don’t think that I stopped for that long, but anything is possible. I figure it also added some stopped time to thee total from the few times that I did have to walk. I am not happy to admit that, but yes I had to walk a couple of hills. There was some that I could have done more of, but just didn’t feel it was worth it to ride it over walking.
Now for the big question, is sub 5 really possible for me. The easy answer is yes. I truly feel that I could be sub 5 if I would just do what I know I need to do. There are a lot of things that could be different. The roads could be harder, the trails could be dryer and the wind would be a whole lot nicer. Those things would make a huge difference in my time. It would make a difference in everyone’s time. The one thing that kind of scares me about sub 5 is that the person I was going to try to hang on to came up a little short of the sub 5. It was close enough that I would have been very happy with the time, but still not faster than 5 hours. To think that I need to be as strong as he is and then still have some things work out to be even faster does not sound good to me. I know the body could get there if I let it, but it sounds like I am a lot farther than I should be.
There is always should of, could of and lots of other things that could be different. The only thing that I know wont be different is where I will be next year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I have been to every Gravel Grovel so far and not planning on changing that any time soon. I would like to thank Sub 9 and all of the sponsors and volunteers that helped put this race on. Everyone does such a great job!! This is the race of the year that I look the most forward too every year. Hope to see you there next year and maybe I will finally do enough to allow myself to put in a faster time.