Sunday, May 25, 2014

Crushing Gravel Part 6: One More! Then We Go.

Other than my All-City "Fast is Forever" glass, this is my favorite!
I have this pint glass from Lakefront Brewery which says "One More!  Then We Go".  I feel like this could be applied to far too many pieces of my life.  Just one more page read before dozing off into a slumber, just one more cup of coffee at my favorite breakfast spot, just one more song on the dance floor, just one more weed pulled before I call it quits in the yard, just one more beer before I depart from my wonderful friends, and just one more gravel ride/race before the "road season" really truly begins.

This winter I hadn't planned on doing the Gravel Metric.  After Almanzo, the idea was to log on long road rides and also work on obtaining speed faster than a sloth.  The problem was I had so much fun at both Dairy Roubaix and Almanzo this year that it pained me to say "goodbye" to gravel until fall.  Have I become a glutton for punishment?  Have I become one of those gravel junkies?  Maybe yes on both accounts.  Although there is a bit of discomfort in these events, and god knows I'm not fast, there is also a much larger reward for riding them than many of the paved road events.  First, I love the idea of being unsupported, second, I really love the fact no matter how slow or fast you are, you are welcomed with smiles at the end, third I think it's really cool I never know what to expect on course, and I find myself constantly improving on my weaknesses.

About a third of the riders lining up to start

Today marked my first "real ride" in Illinois.  Yeah, sure, I've ridden on the Jane Adams path south of the WI border, but I've never done a real ride there.  I have to admit I probably wouldn't have even done this ride if it weren't for meeting some really nice guys from the area at both the Dairy Roubaix and Almanzo this year.  Both guys, Mike and Stu, along with one of our cycling reps, Brendan made me feel completely at home.

At the line up for the start, I was so happy to see so many people--including some of my friends from Madison and Milwaukee.  I later learned there were 360 riders, and with their donations to Axeltree--the folks who put the event on--bicycle advocacy for the area is now that much stronger.

Lemonade stand
I wasn't feeling 100% confident about my strength right from the start.  This wasn't my type of event.  Flat, fast, and windy with grass trails and B roads mixed in.  Give me endless hills, but don't give me 68 miles of flats or any technical stuff.  After being passed by what felt like the entire pack, I got a bit discouraged.  How could I finish Almanzo feeling strong, but feel like I was bonking at mile 30 on this stuff?  I decided to calm myself down, slow down even more (I went from 18 mph to 13), and just enjoy this new experience.  Come to find out, just that simple shift made all the difference.  I began to see the more technical stuff in a different light, and basked in the shadows of surrounding wind turbines (this was one of the things that made my ride).  I even stopped for lemonade at a farm stand run by kids--oh the joys of summer!  With those simple pleasures, I was actually able to crank my pace back up to 16-18mph to finish with an average of around 15mph.  Not great, but who cares, I had fun.

Spinning with the wind turbines

As with any event I do, I realized what I need to work on.  I will be back next year, hopefully with better handling skills and better endurance for the flats.  Thank you North Central Cyclery and Axeltree for a fabulous summer day!

This whole gravel dust cleansing is becoming routine

No comments:

Post a Comment