Here's another tremendous testimonial on Almanzo from Brianna Prahl. There must be something about this race because everybody I asked about it wrote me a couple pages. Fantastic! Enjoy:
by Brianna Prahl
This was the first gravel century, and longest ride I'd ever done by 47 miles. I sent in a postcard, almost on a whim after a text from my husband Tyler reminding me that there were "only" 27 more days left to register. I think I surprised us both a little.
Then I panicked, realizing I'd be riding this race with at least 2 guys that have done this race in the past. I kicked up my weekly spin routine at the YMCA and rode outside as much as I could.
Tyler did a great job mentally preparing me, and having heard his stories about last year's ride, I was able to get a good idea of what I was up against.
It was a perfect day, sunny but not too hot. Windy, but not too bad. It had rained the night before so there wasn't much dust or loose gravel for the first 50 miles.
I honestly didn't have much of a strategy, besides eating and drinking a lot, trying to keep up with the guys, and mentally preparing for the worst. I remember my first 50 miles being hard but manageable. We added on a few extra miles and a hill climb on a wrong turn, all the while being filmed by a camera crew.
I started petering out right before the 2nd water stop. We had gotten into a nice rhythm and I should have been drinking and eating more. I was spent by the time we got there, and my back was killing me. I started to really worry if I could finish and still walk afterwards. I stretched a lot, ate a ton and refilled my water supply.
These next 10-20 miles were pretty brutal. Endless hill climbs on loose mean looking gravel, and white knuckle downhills hoping I wouldn't veer from my line and grate all my skin off. I didn't have much experience on loose gravel until then.
Around mile 80 Chris Skogen appeared from the woods to direct us around the 2nd river crossing which had become unsafe to, adding another 3 miles to our ride.
I walked up a lot of hills. I fell down twice when my legs were so weak I could hardly clip in or out, and have matching bruises to show. I wolfed down an unknown amount of calories and I felt for the first time both of my thighs seize up and cramp after the last significant and insane climb (which I walked).
After the last climb we were something like 7 miles from the finish line. I drank water the whole way and choked down one last GU to try and prevent my legs from cramping up again. At that point we knew we had made it and you could feel the energy as everyone picked up the pace and enjoyed the sunset the rest of the way in.