Dirty South Roubaix 100k

The Dirty South Roubaix was on my radar since I first saw it posted. It was a little farther away than I wanted to drive by myself to and from on the same day. I also have a full enough calendar that I really didn’t want to spend for another hotel room. When I found out that one of my teammates was making the trip, it was a no brainer. It would be a fairly early morning, but the race is in a different time zone to help with that. The drive over went well and we found ourselves behind the Bushong van as we got close to the start.

Photo Credit: Tammy Bushong

We checked in and started getting ready. I was not as prepared as I needed to be on a couple bike things and I also took a long time trying to figure out what to wear. It was supposed to get fairly warm, but it was much colder getting ready than I expected. I just ran with my decision on clothes and hoped for the best. I figured I would not always be warm enough, but hopefully not too cold for too long. Before I knew it, I was needing to grab my things and line up. This was the first year for this race and I was pretty surprised as how many people were there. I really think that if this race was not the same weekend as Southern Cross, it would have been even more people there.

After a few words by the promoter, we were going down the road for a neutral start. I was not trying to be too far to the front. I didn’t really expect the legs to show up good enough to be there. But, there were a few small inclines as we rolled along and several people were slowing down more than I wanted and I found my way back toward first group on the road. The pace car pulled away and I kind of expected it to just go crazy. The guys at the front may have picked the pace up, but it was not a full blown attack. I was able to hang out with some riders and work on warming the legs up.

Photo Credit: Marcus Janzow

After a  couple hills, up and down and then the first part of gravel, I found myself in some company that I am not used to being in. I was riding in the pack that Bushong was riding in. That typically has made me wonder if I was going too hard. I was feeling good and tried to make sure that I was not over cooking it too early. I hung around in that area for a little while, but eventually he pulled away on a climb. It was early and I was still not sure if I was going too hard or not, so I just settled in at a comfortable pace and climbed away. The first big switch back type climb was pretty long. There were areas that I though we were at the top only to find myself climbing again. I will say there were several sections that if I had a camera with me, it would have been very easy for me to pull over and take some pictures. It was a very pretty area.

When I was on the rollers at the top a rider that was wearing the Saint Nichols Brewing Company team kit. I knew he had to be local and knew the roads. I pushed a little harder in areas that I would not have because of him.This was a very good thing. It let me keep the pace up and climb hills faster than I would have not knowing just how long they were or weren’t. I let everything hang out on the main down hill on this section. Apparently it was going well. Strava had me in 4th place overall on this section, well at least against the riders who are on Strava.

Toward the end of this section I was taking a turn up front. He said the road section would be soon and we should try to bridge the gap up to the riders in front of us. So, I picked it up a little and pulled them in. I found Bushong in this group. Most of this group stayed together for the road section and the beginning of the levee. Zach from Hashtag bikes joined us on the levee. This part was the hardest section of the ride. It was basically flat, but the wind made it very painful. The group started to splinter and soon enough I too was spit off the back. Zach and Bushong were putting in just a little too much power for me and knew we still had a long way to go.

I was stuck along for a little while, but eventually another rider who was part of the group at the beginning of the levee, rejoined me. Together we took turns trying to finish this section up. At one point we turned left and the cross wind was so hard I thought I was going to be blown off of the levee. I was leaning to the right very hard just to stay on the path. I was very happy when this section finally ended. But, it didn’t take too much down the road that we were climbing a steep and loose section of climbs. I was really feeling the effects of the levee and just tried to keep moving forward.

Photo Credit: Marcus Janzow

Overall this section was really nice and scenic, but there was some sections of chunky gravel that also made it interesting. Eventually we came down another fast and fun but chunky down hill. There was another guy near me that was all excited about how crazy that hill was and then all of a sudden, his tire was loosing air. It really didn’t not shock me after what we just went down. I was thankful that I was tubeless and managed to stay aired up for that section. Not too far after this, I was spit out on to another road section. I was out there by myself for this whole section. I didn’t see anyone in front of me or behind me. I was told that this was a tail wind section, but I sure didn’t feel it. I just did what I could to keep the pedals turning and moving forward. It is easy to sit up or stop and eat up a lot of time. The legs were feeling it and I kept eating and drinking to keep fueled up. I guess I did a pretty good job of this as I kept riding better than expected.

Photo Credit: Matt Gholson

After we crossed back over the levee section we took a right to head back toward the finish line. As I turned the back wheel slid out on me. I knew right away that it was flat or really close. I stopped and checked it. I put some air in it and got back on. it did a pretty good job for a while. The tire kept loosing a little air and I could tell it was lower pressure than what I prefer. I tried to take it easy on it, but shorty after the creek crossing in the picture above, it was low enough that I needed to stop again. I put some more air in it. At this point my teammate Lovins pulled up. He wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. I guess he saw me stop the first time to put air in it, but just could not quite catch me. If I would have looked back, I probably would have eased up so we could join forces.

The tire held for the rest of the race, but it was not at the pressure I wanted it to be. I kept waiting for it to go flat again, but managed to hold on. I heard about a huge climb at the finish. The legs were really tired, but I was ready to be done. I was surprised at the pace that I was climbing the last hill and was just waiting for the point that my legs give up. Maybe the power of the finish line was pulling me through. I powered up the last climb and rolled across the line. I finished in 4:17 and ended up in 5th place in the sport class. I was very happy with my effort and how well I rode. I was also very happy with 5th place, but that back part of the brain does wonder what would have happened if the tire didn’t start to loose air. I do not think I had enough in the legs to catch 3rd place and get on the podium, but I know I would have been close. Maybe next time!!

For a first time event these guys did a great job!! The course was marked very well and there were volunteers at most of the intersections just to make sure people didn’t go the wrong way. The roads were very enjoyable. This is an area that I could go ride just for fun. I may have to schedule a long weekend down that way. Thanks to all the volunteers and everyone that made this race possible. Thanks to my teammate Lovins for being like minded and helping twist my arm to make the trip. This is on my to do list for next year. I really hope my schedule works out so I can make it.

Here is a video by Zach Andrews of the first 1.5 hours of the race. I get a lot of coverage near the end when we are riding together on the levee section.


Posted in Gravel, gravel, Racing, racing, Team Adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2017 Snake Creek Gap TT #2

This was the second year that I made the trip down to Dalton to race The Snake. This year was the first time that I was going to race the same distance both times. If you read my last post, then you know that the first race was shortened because of the weather. But, anyone who finished would get credit for finishing the race in their class. Last weekend I headed back for the second race in the series. The good news was that the weather was supposed to be a lot nicer than the first race. Not just less ice and snow that we could actually race the full distance, it was going to be pretty nice.

One problem with the weather being nicer is that I had been riding in colder weather and not used to knowing what to put on. I am not very good about keeping track of what I am wearing per how the weather is. I had a new kit that I really wanted to wear. Another issue I was having was that this new kit looked like the jersey was a little thinner than what the old ones were. This makes it hard to know how much difference it would make. With the start being at a different parking lot then the finish, I also had to try and make some decisions before we left. I made some last minute changes of putting on a second under shirt. I also put on knee and arm warmers.

Once we got to the start we unloaded and started to get ready. The stress was a little high as expected. This was going to be a big day and a lot of things can happen. Just when I thought I was ready and getting ready to roll around a little, my first complication of the day showed up. I was a little rushed at the hotel and I could not take care of all of my pre-race prep. Normally this is just an inconvenience, but looking at the bathroom line it was a lot more than just an inconvenience. So, I make a quick decision to head to the woods. As I roll up to the jeep, something happens and I land on my seat a little hard and pop, the seat moves. Great!!! So, I dug around trying to get the tools needed and then leveled the seat out. So, back to the last task at hand…………..

I then rushed back to the jeep and headed to the start line. I saw some of my group and worked my way up to them and hung out waiting for my place in line to be started. Soon enough I was shuffled up to the guy yelling out race numbers to the time keeper. He says go and then says wait. I was like what?? am I supposed to go or what? The timing guy said go ahead. I joked that there when 3 finish spots. Like I really thought it would matter.

Off I go in to this new trail section that I have not rode before. it was supposed to be nice and flowy, so I did not want to get too carried away and over do the first 17 miles as the next 34 would be tough enough with out blowing myself up. It didn’t take long before I found myself behind Abby from Wood-N-wave who I met the night before. It felt like I was going too slow, but I figured that was just me being too pumped up. So, I made sure and just sat there for a little while. Eventually I made my way by and said good luck.

Not too far down the trail I found myself coming up on Hutch and a train of riders. As we worked past a couple people we found ourselves rolling up on Team People’s bearded powerhouse and Kayla (She Shreds) in front of him. If I was catching him, I figured I was starting way too hard. Then I could tell he was really trying to pace himself so he didn’t over do it in this section too. So, maybe I was not doing too bad. Eventually he pulled away and Kayla ended up behind us. We stayed that way for a little while with a few other riders in tow. Hutch was setting an awesome pace. I figured that she was going to have a finishing time that I would be very happy with, so there was no need to pass her. I figured any extra effort that she was not putting in would only hurt me later.

We rode this way for a while. There was a little time that I did end up in front and went back and forth with a few of the other riders in the pack. As we went up the big climb before the Snake Creek gap parking lot, the legs felt like they were going to cramp. I backed the pack off hoping to keep that from happening and she rolled away from me. I came in to the parking lot rest area hurting pretty good. It was not easy to roll past the unsanctioned rest stop that had beer and whisky. I figured a beer would make my day end up badly. I rolled over to the sag tent and grabbed everything I felt I needed. I ate some Cliff products that were being handed out. I topped off my bottles and took off up the very long climb before my legs decided to take a break.

I took it easy up the hill as I knew it was a long one and with my legs feeling heaving I really didn’t want to cramp. i saw some more familiar faces as they passed me, but I did’t panic and just did what I felt I needed to. My bail out gear on my 1×11 is really nice for some things, but when I am in it I go pretty slow. Maybe shifting in to a bigger gear would have been good, but I will never know. When I did get to the top of the climb and started the next section the legs started to feel better. I had some highs and lows for this part all the way up to the water stop at the top of the road climb. I downed some mustard and went on my way.

I did pretty well for the next section. Legs were feeling better and it allowed my to ride a lot of the rock sections.  I just tried to keep moving, eating and drinking. It is crazy, but I kept wishing the wall was around the next corner. I really didn’t want to go up it, but I was ready to get it over with. Eventually the wall came  and I started walking. With the legs wanting to cramp and also being wore out, I didn’t ride as much as I did before. After what seemed like 3 hours I thought I was finally over the wall. I thought at this point that I had a little rock section to go and then the radio tower would be there soon enough. Well, this little bit really dragged on for every. I didn’t remember there being that much after the wall. Part of the issue could be that at this point, my legs were locking up and keeping me from doing much. The cramps would come and go. When I could ride, I felt like I was still moving pretty well, but when my legs were locked up I was a snail.

Eventually I saw the radio tower. I could not have been happier. I knew it was all down hill from here. I dropped the hammer the best I could and let it rip on the down hills and made fairly short work of the last section. As I came around the corner and saw the finish line tent, I was ecstatic. I safely made the turn in to the parking lot and here was the group cheering me on. Jeff yelled for me to do a wheelie and even with my legs about ready to fall off, the next thing I know I was pulling up to ride one. Riding a wheelie at the finish line can be tricky. It is even harder after putting in the effort that I had to put in to get this far. I didn’t want to pull up crooked or if I did pull it up straight, I didn’t want to loop out. I was very happy when I pulled up an perfect wheelie and rode it way longer than I thought I had the energy for. I think this was one of things in the ride that I was the most happy about. Very little beats a good finish line wheelie.

I rolled across the line in 6:13 and ended up finishing in 15th place in the 40-49 class . My goal was to finish in 6 hours. I was not really thinking that I could get to 6 or even under so I really am happy with my time. But that does not mean that I don’t keep thinking what if. I am super happy with the first 4 hours of the race. After that is where I started to put more effort in being able to finish as strong as I could and not just riding/racing. Typically I am the blame for my cramps or issues. I have a bad habit of not eating or drinking enough. Maybe I still didn’t do enough of either or both, but I felt like I was doing a good job of taking in enough.

After thinking about it a little, I think maybe my issue was just not training hard enough. The cramps were along the inside of my thigh. I am not used to having cramps there as they are normally the calves or the hamstrings. I think all of the standing and pumping I did trying to ride everything was using muscles that I didn’t work out enough before. Too many of my miles were put in riding gravel and not enough actual mtb riding where I need to stand up. I may be way off on this, but it seems to make some sense to me.

After the race we all headed to Cherokee Brewing for some awesome pizza and beer. Good times were had and we even helped a local named Eric celebrate his birthday and he shared his cake with us. It was interesting to say the least, but we had a great time. I would recommend checking that place out if you are in the area. We moved the after party back to the hotel and continued to have a lot of laughs and good times. I keep saying that the hanging out before/after the actual race is why I keep coming back. it just makes the trip all worth it. Laughter is good for the soul and with this group it is easy to come by.

Thanks to Kayla for this great picture

I though it was just the beer talking, but apparently all the talk about riding the next day was really a thing. The next morning I was still a little in denial about the fact that we were really going to go ride. I didn’t get near enough sleep, but I was up and moving like it or not. We loaded up and headed to Booker T State park. We met up with the girls and we all went for a ride. I was very tired, but was riding better than I thought I would. It didn’t take time before the climbs were getting slower, but I was still going. The weather was over 70 degrees in February, so how could I not be out riding. The only bad thing about it was that it made the drive home seem longer than normal.

I want to thank the staff that puts on this race every year. There are a lot of people that put in a lot of hard work . I also want to thank everyone who helped make this weekend work out as good as it did and as fun as it was. Phil at Adventure’s Recreation for helping me get my Scott Scale. This bike is a blast to ride and much lighter than what I was riding. Thanks to ESI Grips for having the best grips on the market. Stan’s NoTubes for helping me keep from having a flat tire with all of the rocks I bounced off of all day. Honey Stinger for helping keep me fueled up with some great tasting energy products. Handup Gloves for keeping my hand happy. I want to thank my wife for all the hard work she has to do while I am gone for the weekend racing and while I am out putting in all of my training rides. She pushes me to get out and keep getting better. I can not ask for a better support team. And of course I have to thank my travel partners. With out you I would have to laugh at my own jokes and we all know that is not a good thing.

Sorry for the book. See you next time 🙂

Posted in Bikes, hills, Mountain Biking, mtb, Racing, racing, Team Adventures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Snake Creek Gap #1

Last weekend was the first of two Snake Creek Gap TT races. Being that it is the second weekend of the month, it did not leave much down time for the new year. I didn’t go too crazy at the end of the year, but I tried to keep as active as I could. I knew this race was just around the corner. The first week of the year didn’t work out too good for riding and I didn’t get any miles in before this race. I did have some activity, but no riding out doors.

As the weekend drew closer, the extended forecast kept getting worse. The high temp if the day kept going down and the chance of snow kept increasing. There was even some thoughts about not heading down as it didn’t seem like it would be worth it. Since part of the group already left Thursday, there was no way I was going to back out even if I had to head down by myself. Thankfully that didn’t happen and Friday afternoon we headed south. The chance for bad weather Friday night was pretty high. There was some areas not too far away already getting snow. They also posted that there would be a decision late Friday about if the race will be shortened or cancelled. We were already on the road and I figured they would not cancel it unless it was really bad. Worse case we would have a real good time Friday night and find someplace farther north to ride on Saturday.

The company that was going to do the shuttle was not going to run to the parking lot for the 34/50 mile start. So, the race was shortened for everyone to being just 17 miles. Now that may sound like a pretty short race, but anyone who has done this before knows that this is the hardest 17 miles of the race and seems a lot more than just 17 miles. Then if you add in the snow that was coming and the temps reaching a high of 28 degrees, it could be a very tough “short” race.

I was torn on how to feel about hearing the race was shortened. It was not really what I came down here for, but with the conditions it would make a hard race even harder. I was also a little worried about how strong I would be for the full 50. Also, with it being this early in the year I as really thinking this more like a training race than something that I could actually place well at. So, with all that could go wrong for the weekend a snowy 17 mile ride was not too bad.

The first climb out of the parking lot hurt me more than I thought it would. I am not sure if it was the fact that half way up the hill I could no longer feel my fingers to know if I was pulling the brakes or not, much less holding on to the handle bar. I felt like I kept moving pretty well even with it hurting. I was going faster than some and slower than others. It was cold and the snow made some sections tricky. Once I hit the top and started flowing, the feeling in my hands came back. I felt like I was a lot farther in on mileage than I thought I should be. This made me think that I probably was riding better than previous times there. I did have one issue. The one water bottle I had was banging around and making a lot of noise. I thought my water bottle cage was loose, but it was just that the ice block of a bottle was too much weight and it was bouncing around everywhere. The other bottle that I had was an insulated bottle and after the second drink, it was frozen too much for me to get a drink.

I rolled up to the water spot quicker than I expected. I ended up staying here longer than I normally would have wanted to, but it just kind of happened. I was going to just leave the water bottle there and thought the guy would take it back to the start. Then he said he was just going to throw it away. But, I really like the cap that was on that bottle and then dug in the trash to retrieve the cap. When I took it off, I noticed that there was some water still in there. I dumped out everything I could and put it back on the bike. I took the top off of my other bottle to get a drink. I had a slushy for the rest of the day, but at least I could take the top off and get something to drink.

I kept moving for the next section and doing what I could. I had a few sections that I thought I was going down, but managed to keep myself up right. The extra effort I was putting in to keep traction or to stay upright was starting to add up. I am sure the lack of fluids or food played a big part in this. There were a couple of spots that I had to push and tried to take a drink during some of those sections. I did finally eat a gel at some point, but it was pretty late in the ride. I was very happy with how I was climbing the tricky sections, but it was not necessarily what I would call fast. I did destroy any of my previous times climbing the wall. So, I guess I had that going for me.

I admit that I didn’t ride as much of the last rock section as I normally would have. After so many near misses I was second guessing myself too much. Some of the snow had melted and it was hard to tell what exactly was there. The sun was also to my back and put a shadow on the section of trail I was trying to see. With the race being cut short, my finish time really didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I did finish and I didn’t get hurt too bad to ride the next race.

The radio tower was there sooner than I expected, but I was really happy to know that I was just about done. The down hill from there had a few sections you really had to watch but was not near as bad as the road section. The changing between the pavement and the wet snow spots had me thinking that a high speed crash would be very easy to do. I took it way easier than I probably needed to but oh well. 

I ended up finishing in 2:40 and in 108th place overall out of 232 riders. It should not really bother me but it does. The fastest time was 1:54. I don’t think I am anywhere near that time but still think I should be faster. Granted I went in to this thinking more like a group ride than a race and I also made a few more bad decisions the night before. The time makes no difference for me in the race final, well unless the next race has the same issues and it cut short. If that is the case I will just go harder then. 

Even with knowing all the reasons that I didn’t go faster, it still bothers me. It is also compounded by the fact that in 2012 I did this race in a lot worse condition (myself not the trail) and I was on a rigid SS and it only took me 7 minutes longer. I am either getting slower the more I work out or I just need to sell the new bike and start riding my SS again. I have said several times that my best/fastest races are on a SS. 

Yea, I know I have some issues. That does not mean that it is easy to change how I think. 

Posted in Bikes, Mountain Biking, Racing, racing, Team Adventures | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Times fun when your having flies


It is hard to believe that I am actually working on the year in review post already. It does not seem possible that 2016 has come and gone already. Overall it has been a pretty good year. Not everything worked out the way I thought they would, but I am still here and riding better than I had in previous years. With that in mind I really can’t complain. I took the momentum from the end of 2015 and tried to build on that this year. Just like other winters I had a good plan of doing better about staying in shape and before I know it spring is here and I have some catching up to do.

I didn’t get a bunch of riding done in January or most of February. Typically only getting one ride if any each week and several of them I didn’t ride at all. The only savior was the Florida trip. This was my third trip down there. It is always nice when the weather is warmer, but there is normally plenty of wind. It is always fun to get away and ride with some fun guys, so in all it is never a loss no matter how much riding I get in. This year I put in over 360 miles in 5 rides, so it was a good year. That was a good kick off/catch up from my lack of winter training. The only problem with putting a huge week with back to back rides in is that I am normally wore out for a while when I get back and other than “racing” the Death March, I really didn’t get that many rides in.

Early April I went on the People’s Brewing Pisgah trip. That was with out a doubt the funnest trip that I can remember being on. Hard miles, lots of laughs and a few beers. Even with me taking the two scariest/ hardest crashes I have had in a while and thought I broke my hand. I am still not fully healed from one of those crashes and not sure if I ever will. I probably need to go back and get another x-ray or have someone check it out. It should be working better than it does and will a lot less pain.

Pisgah was good for the legs, but once again I failed to back it up with the riding to really get me in shape. Soccer always seem to keep me way too busy to get any real consistent mileage in. I love watching my kids play and would not trade it for anything. Next year since my oldest is driving now, I should not have to make as many trips for practices. This should allow me to get a few more rides in, but this also means I miss seeing my son as much.

The Big Frog was my first big race of the year and my first time racing this event. My lack of training leading up to the race and not managing my nutrition well enough had me paying for it dearly for several hours. I fought cramps way longer than anyone would want. It kind of reminded me of the time I did the Mohican. Even with all of my issues and lack of riding, I really can’t complain about finishing in 7:22. I really had no preconceptions on what kind of time I would get.

Next up on the list was my redemption on the Mohican 100k. The last time I tried that race I cramped for 5+ hours. That means I was out there a LOT longer than that. Actually somewhere over 9 hours. That is a very long time to only ride 60 miles. After the Big Frog I continued on my soccer filled schedule and rode once a week leading up to the Mohican. With the time being only 5 weeks apart I think I was in the middle ground of living off of the good that the Frog did for my legs and getting rested. This race was way better for me. Even with it having more single track than the Big Frog, I finished only 11 minutes slower at 7:33.

After that race soccer schedule let up some and I was feeling good about getting out on the bike more often. For the rest of the summer I was averaging over 100 miles a week and feeling stronger and faster. Group rides were a lot more fun. I had one of my best rides for the Strassenfest ride. This is only a fun ride, but anyone who has done it knows that it is not all fun and games. I kept up with the fast group for way longer than I ever thought I could and only a hand full of riders pulled away. I grabbed the next group and still finished strong averaging over 20 for the 60 mile route.

I was still putting in some good miles each week as fall was approaching. I went in to my only Dino race of the year a little tired, but riding strong. I had a pretty good race considering the lack of dirt I had been riding on and very happy. I had some hope that I could once again become a contender to the front group for the Cat 2 class. I just need to put more work in to it.

After that race I was still getting some good miles in each week. I went to the Pumpkin Metric and had another good ride down there. After that ride I started to incorporate more gravel rides in to the schedule to get ready for the Gravel Grovel. I went on some awesome training rides in the Story area. Those rides are always near the top of my fun list each year. I also attended a fun new race called the Boograss Dash. This was a very fun and laid back event that I really hope will grow for next year.

With the way the year was going and after last years fast time, I had some high hopes for a good Gravel Grovel. Apparently my body did not agree and made sure it was as painful as all the other years. This was a huge disappointment after all the work that was put in this years leading up to this race. I know I should be happy to even ride as good as I did, but it is just not that easy. Maybe 2017 all the pieces will fall in to place. I do love this race.

2016 was really a good cycling year for me. I fell down a few times and didn’t do my homework for a few other races, but I did put some good work in. This year I have reached my all time mileage record for one year. I do not track my indoor miles in this figure as I don’t really think that equates to the same as outside riding. I do have to say thanks to everyone who makes riding a bike even more fun that it already is. I know there are a lot of other people I should be thanking, but most of all I have to thank my wife for allowing me to spend so much time riding a silly bike. Phil @ Adventures Recreation for helping me keep get all my bikes worthy of spending all those hours on them and everything that you do to help me. Ghost Buster for all the hours, miles and good friendship we have shared. My good friends Jeff and Jason on the People’s Brewing Team for hard rides and even harder laughs. I can only wish that you lived closer to me. I also have to thank my new team member in E squared. We may not have rode that much this year, but I can tell that we will put each other in a lot of pain in 2017!! If it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger.

The numbers for 2016 are as follows: 4,193 miles, just over 280 hours and a little over 245,000 feet of elevation. I really can not complain about any of those numbers. I can only hope that I can do the same for 2017. If all things work out and with less commitment to the soccer season, I just may top that with breaking in to the 5,000 mark. So, here is looking forward to the 2017 cycling year.

Happy New Year!!!


Posted in Bikes, Gravel, Mountain Biking, Racing, Road Biking, Team Adventures | 2 Comments

Gravel Grovel 2016 – Hindenburg 2.0

This is basically how my Gravel Grovel went.

So, what was lining up as having the most potential to my best Gravel Grovel to date ended up a little less than optimal. It sounded like it should have been awesome, then it caught fire and crashed to the ground. That maybe a little excessive in the description, but that is completely how I feel. Lets go back a few weeks. I was riding as strong as I ever had and the first two scouting rides I was riding strong. I still was trying to figure out how to be faster on race day, but I was putting in some of my quickest Strava segments to date. I was not really going for segments, but it does make me feel better when my times end up being better than previous trips. Little did I know that in a few weeks I would have been happy to just be able to ride like that.

Somewhere after the second scouting ride my legs became weak at climbing. We did a full loop ride and I didn’t do that bad, but did not climb very fast at all. Even with climbing slow, not eating enough, taking it easy in some sections and wearing down badly toward the end, I still did the ride in just over 5 hours and that included the trip to and from the Story Inn. If I could just get my climbing legs to come back a little, I would be set up for a 4.5 hour ride if the weather cooperates. The did cooperate! It always could have been better, but even with the rain that came in the week before it was one of the driest conditions that I have done and ready to be fast. There were only a few deeper water sections and combs was not what I would call muddy.

The cabin was booked full and friends were in the next cabin over. Everyone trickled in Friday night at different times. It was fun hanging out and catching up. This part is what makes racing so much more than just riding a bike. Friday night had a lot of potential to go bad, but didn’t. I really was not hungry most of the night and never ate what I took for dinner. I did have a couple little things, but not a lot. I was not sure why, but I was just not very hungry. I actually got to bed fairly early compared some some years.

I woke up at 3 am with some terrible stomach cramps and cold sweats. Awesome!! I continued this on and off for the rest of the night. I did not want to get up when everyone started moving. Eventually I did start moving around. There was plenty of time before the race started and I hoped I would start to feel better. Either way my legs felt like I just ran a 5k and I was beat up from all the cramping. I made several trips to the bathroom hoping to remidy some of the issues, but no luck. I made an awesome breakfast, but could only get a few bites down, lots of dissapoints to be had. I was doing everything I could to get ready for a good race, but was not succeeding.

Eventually I made my way over to the start line. I didn’t really warm up like I would have wanted too, but the way the morning was going I figured it really didn’t matter. Soon enough we were given some instructions and off we went. I was surrounded by some good company and doing what I could. The first section was going better than I figured and hung out with several people that I wanted to be around. I was trying to just go the best I could with out digging too deep until I got going. The first big climb, the paved road in the middle of nowhere hurt, but I felt like I had climbed it slower in the past.

The next section had some good parts and bad parts. At times my stomach was cramping badly and I could not ride very hard. Other times I felt like I was not too far off the pace. I did still see some of the people I wanted to ride with not too far away, but some were gone already. I felt like I did well on Combs road and climbed the hill. At the top was several people there to offer me a beer hand up. Originally I was not planning on taking this one as it was pretty early. I was not feeling too good and the climb did a number on me. I just rolled over the top and kept going.

The down hill on Combs almost got me once or twice, but I managed to keep it up right. The Blue Creek road section was not that great for me. I was wearing down and still not feeling very good. I climbed the road climb, but I am positive it was not at record pace. Once I got out of that section and hit the gravel road I was really starting to hurt. I remember taking my time and almost stopping to eat something. I wanted to get it in me before I hit Nebo, but I don’t think it was early enough to really matter.

Most of Nebo is a blur. I normally remember a lot about my race, but just can’t picture most of this section. I know I had the only place I needed to walk in this section. It was one of the steep/technical climbs and the guy in front of me didn’t make it and I had no place to go. I also remember the up and over log was not the same on the back side. I thought I going down, but really glad I didn’t. The rest of this section was uneventful or at least nothing big enough for me to remember. I was still not climbing well, but I was riding fast enough to keep people from catching me.

From here on out I was in another world. I was just turning pedals over and trying to keep moving. I was trying to eat and drink as often as I could, but my stomach was still cramping on and off and I was having trouble keeping down everything I ate. I figured I was finally going to actually have my first puke on the bike. I have had several that have been very close, but I am not one for puking so I always manage to keep it down. Today was not so easy.

Before I started up Baldy I saw my riding buddy Brian coming down the other side. He waved and went on. I was really wishing I was over there and not getting ready to climb this hill. I just kept moving and hoping the top was just around the next corner. Eventually it was, but there were a lot more corners than I wanted. I pulled up to the rest stop to top off my water bottle. This was my planned stop for water. I tried to eat a little more while I was there. I did see several people roll up that I know. They wanted me to jump on their train, but I knew I would not be able to hang on. I took off before they did because I knew they would catch me. Shortly after hitting the bottom and making the left they went by and I never saw them again.

That next big hill is just horrible. I don’t know if it is because it is so close after climbing Baldy or if it really would not matter when you do it, I am sure it will always hurt no matter what. Pedals kept turning and miles kept rolling on. I would see some people then I wouldn’t. I was a little shocked that I was holding off a lot of the people I did see. They would come up on me and the next thing I know I was pulling away or they would stop to re-group. This made me feel a little better, but I still knew I was not moving as fast I would like.

More trail and gravel climbs. One after another followed by some screaming descents that I was no way near strong enough mentally to be going as fast as I was, but I just kept going. I had a few sections that I felt a little better and others that really sucked. When I left trail 20 I just blew past the last rest stop. I was very ready to get back home. After the big climb after the last rest stop is normally a good section to put in some better speeds. This year was not the case. I found myself going pretty slow at times and had to ask myself why? I really didn’t know. I was just kind of day dreaming and would almost stop pedaling. As soon as I woke up, I would get back in to turning pedals over.

Eventually I did making it down the long down hill section and could see where the bridge was to the right. I could not have been happier to be this close. I crossed the bridge as smooth as I could. I kept looking back hoping I didn’t see anyone gaining on me. I knew that I had nothing to hold them off and really didn’t want to get passed this late in the race. When I hit the last creek crossing I was caught a little off guard on how deep the creek was. I guess I should have checked that out in the morning. I had to dismount and work my way around the left side a little to find a good place to get back on. I rode the rest of the way across and up the hill to the finish line.

Even though I was very happy to be finally finished, this was a little different than a lot of big races. Normally the emotions rush in and I am on a race high or sometimes at the verge of breaking down in tears. This was completely uneventful. I rolled across the finish line, not even sure if someone took note. I rolled back toward the cabin completely shelled and in another world. I tried to gather myself well enough to changed and head over to eat. I was late enough that by the time I got over there just about everyone else that I figured I would eat with were already done and some gone. The awards were over and the place was pretty empty. I ate my plate of food and headed back toward the cabin.

There were people hanging out there and I started to feel a little better by then. I at least knew what I was doing. Had a couple beers and hung out for the rest of the night. We had a fire and lot of laughs. It would have only been better if the occasional cramping would have stopped and I could have had a few more beers. Maybe even ate a little more because I know I didn’t have near enough for the day’s activity.

All things considering I really should not be too upset with myself. I finished in a time of 5:20 and I ended up 136th overall out of over 200 riders and 47th in the MTB class. The impressive thing I did, even with all of my issues, I only stopped for 6 minutes during the whole race. Those numbers are really not that bad as to all the other years that I have done this. The biggest disappointment is that I am coming off of a great finish time last year in some really tough conditions. I have worked really hard this year to be in even better condition and it ended up not really making a difference. I was basically an hour longer than my goal time. So, when you look at that number, it does not sound very good.

When the legs fell apart the weeks leading up to the race I figured the 4:30 time would be hard to get, but I figured 5 hours should not be an issue. The ride I did Friday to loosen up the legs felt good and I had a little hope that the legs were going to show up and treat me well. That really didn’t happen. I know I said earlier that barring any major issues I should be able to do 5 hours and I guess I did have a major issue. I had several people tell me they would not have even raced. I guess I still had hope that I would come around. In hindsight if I would have stopped for that beer on the top of Combs I probably would have been happier. I am sure I would have just decided to call it quits and ride with the heckle crew, but I am not one that likes to DNF. I had too many of them in the past when I shouldn’t have and now I go above and beyond to not quit. The one thing that I do know for sure is that when times are hard I seem to be able to ride in complete misery for way longer than I should be able to. I guess I have that going for me if that really makes a difference at the end of the day.

I want to thank everyone who helped me get to the point that I thought I was going to have a great race. All the guys who put in miles and miles on the bike even when I was holding them up. To Brian and his staff at DINO for keeping this race going. All the volunteers that helped out. I may not have used much of the sag stops, but it was really good that you were there for those that needed it. I need to especially thank Brian, Eric, Jeff and Jason. With out them I would have been no better off than any other year. I just really hate to have wasted it on having bad stomach issues. At least the time hanging out together and riding together are not lost. Those are the reasons I have the urge to get on the bike to begin with. With out all of you I would talk myself out of doing so many rides. I can only hope that I will show up even stronger next year. Maybe I will do it SS again….

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