I wasn't positive I was going to ride Almanzo this year even after it was resurrected from the dead. But in the end Starr was able to get the day off so we made our plans and were off to the Maple Springs campground Friday afternoon.
|Camp CyclovaXC at Maple Springs Campground. Getting ready to eat spaghetti.|
We met up with the rest of the CyclovaXC contingent at the campground. We enjoyed Eric's spaghetti feed, a few carb loaded beverages, sat around until after dark, tweaked a few things on the bikes, and then shuffled off to bed.
|Laminating cue sheets.|
Having already tackled a few gravel centuries now including the Mammoth a few weeks back, my nerves were pretty low and I had confidence I was going to finish the ride. I haven't really done any dedicated training other than getting on the bike fairly frequently.
Outside of the usual goals for an event like this which include finishing and having fun I really only had three goals.
- Keep the rubber side down
If you'll recall from last year's report, I crashed just after mile 30 last year. That put a very different tone on last years ride. This year I wanted to avoid that.
- Ride "hard"
I'm not a bike racer. I suck at bike handling (see crash last year or basically every mountain bike ride I ever do), I don't have thousands of miles of biking on my legs, I haven't trained to race 100 miles, etc.
That said I wanted to make my first attempt at doing a ride like this up to the best of my abilities. This was going to mean riding smart, conserving energy, fueling right, minimizing stops, and pushing at the end.
- Ride every hill
Lame shoulder and all I rode all of them last year. I picked up a smaller chain ring before the event and installed it so I better make use of it.
I'm going to break it down into legs and try to keep the rambling down as best I can.
|Clean bike ready to roll.|
Spring Valley -> Preston
Starr and I picked up our numbers Friday evening while everyone else had to do it Saturday morning. Unfortunately that meant we let them out of our sight and then couldn't find them in the crowded main street. Thus I started "all alone".
|Even the CyclovaXC kit is hard to pick out in this crowd.|
Last year I hammered hard off the line to keep up with Dallas, Keith, and Kristen. That was SCARY for my crap bike handling skills, that many people, and loose gravel. This year I just went with the flow. I did catch and pass Lisa and Alisa shortly after getting on the gravel.
Somewhere a little later Mitchel caught me. I didn't know he was coming so it took me a minute to figure out who was talking to me. I think I saw him pull over with Tyler a little later but I rolled on.
I then managed to meet what I consider an internet celebrity. OK, celebrity might be stretching it, but I still thought it was cool. I can't remember how I ran across her blog, but I've been following Emily Korsch's blog for the last year or two. She is a damn impressive adventure racing, gravel grinding, ultra running, endurance nut. I saw a Gear Junkie/WEDALI kit and thought to myself, "hey, Emily races with people on that team." I then look to my left and there she is. After a semi awkward self introduction as an internet stalker I was able to have a nice little conversation with her and Erl. Fun stuff!
|Emily Korsch on the right. Image by Todd Bauer (I didn't ask for a selfie with her, that would really have been awkward)|
Anyhow, plugging along. I was super pumped when I finally made it past death corner from last year without mishap. I rolled past the hose that was out again this year. Last year I stopped there to wash my wounds and for Dallas to help me with my bike. My thought was to grab water in Preston to top off.
I slowly rolled through Preston but didn't see any obvious water. I still had about half of my 3 bottles on my Warbird so I thought I was probably good until I reached Forestville. A little worried, but probably OK.
Rolling out of Preston you head south for a few miles of pavement. Unfortunately the wind was straight in my face and the crowds were thinning out considerably so I was riding alone. About a mile out I finally spotted Micah in the distance. It wasn't until we rolled off the pavement and up the really pitchy climb on Jay Road that I finally caught him.
|Micah powering up Jay Road|
We rode within a few hundred meters of each other pretty much from there to Forestville. This included a quick stop to fill one of my bottles from a nice family along the way which in the end I didn't use before we got to Forestville, but it quieted the little voices in my head that were going to worry about it.
We rolled into Forestville at about 4:30 of elapsed time. To that point I had been off my bike for about 2 minutes total. Just over a minute for a quick trip into the weeds to dehydrate, and then another minute standing over the bike filling my bottle. I was feeling tired and sore at this point. So my race plan was executing fairly well. It would now be time to tell how many matches had been burned and how many hills were left.
Micah and I stopped at Forestville for approximately 14 minutes per my data. We then had another momentary stop before leaving the park as all of Micah's sheer power popped one of his rear spokes and he took a moment to twist it around another one.
As we climbed out of the valley it was starting to warm up. The sun was starting to shine and I wasn't really appreciating it. I'm not really a fan of the heat. Those next few hills out of Forestville are pitchy and long too so you aren't getting any fresh air and working pretty hard.
There really wan't much else to report on this leg. I thought Cherry Grove was more like mile 80, so when I rolled in at 75 I was a little disappointed. I wanted to get a little further before taking another break. I did want that Coke though so I drank half and then poured the other half in my third water bottle for a little pick-me-up later. I also ate a handfull of Oreos and potato chips. No whiskey shots for me. Looks like a 7 or 8 minute stop.
|I knew Frank was in race mode when I saw how much Hamm's was left in Cherry Grove.|
Cherry Grove->Spring Valley
Micah and I rolled out for the final 25 miles together. Still pretty darn sparse at this point. I was encouraged to get to the river crossing and still see Todd Bauer there. As Sam Olson observed on FB today, I am apparently not the only person considering using number of times seeing the race photographer as a measure of performance in an event.
|Photographing the photographer at the creek crossing.|
After the MMR climb out of the river I lost Micah. I thought he had drifted off the back. Sounds like I didn't catch that he was taking a nature break. Oops. I figured he was a big boy though and could make it to the finish on his own.
This started about a 10 mile lonely stretch. Quite some distance in either direction to see anyone. At points if there was a hill or turn, I couldn't see anyone. As I rolled down the descent towards what I knew were two quick turns and then Oriole I was finally gaining on someone.
|Not much to see there.|
|Nor up there.|
Then I turned and saw Oriole. Talk about carnage. After almost 40 minutes with no one around, there were probably 30 people walking up the hill in front of me. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but per goal 3, I had work to do.
Holy cow. I wheezed, and puffed, and my heart pounded, but I rode that bad boy. Yes, I only averaged 4.6mph, yes my HR was at 180 (95% max), yes it probably would have been more efficient to walk it. I only saw one other person ride it when I did. We celebrated our badassness together at the top.
My reward for climbing Oriole was the near onset of calf cramps for the remaining 10 miles. They never quite locked up, but they were close. I spent a lot of time stretching them at every opportunity. I also rewarded myself with the remainder of the Coke I grabbed in Cherry Grove.
The final climb by Deer Creek was tough. I almost didn't make it. I knew from there though that we had a few miles of rollers, mostly south into the wind and then a couple miles of pavement to the finish.
I had a nice chat with I believe Glen from Rochester in the last few miles and he offered to pull me on the pavement as I was just about spent.
I rolled across the finish line with 7:24:59 of elapsed time per my watch. Strava says roughly 7:01 of moving time.
Post race I rolled right over to the car to clean up. I was crusty from a combination of dried sweat and dried limestone dust (cement). Micah rolled over just a few minutes later and chastised me for not waiting for him. I tried to make it up with a coolish adult beverage. Frank wandered back from his walk to DQ for first dinner and we hung out watching finishers cheering in Todd, Lisa and Alisa, and Eric.
Moments after Eric finished the sky let loose and it poured. And the wind howled. I got nervous for Starr still out on course. I come by the worrying honestly. I ended up going to check to make sure she was safe while everyone else went to start on first dinner (second for Frank) at the pizza place in town.
|Moments before finding the girls.|
Now I shouldn't have been worried. When I found her she was all smiles still. And Kim was still with her which was a complete shock to Eric when I told him. Kim was positive she was going to drop at the campground. To find her at mile 90 tired, soggy, dirty, but smiling was a surprise. Anyhow the ladies didn't want anything and were planning on finishing the race. I headed back for first dinner and then Eric and I went to the finish to await our ladies. I don't think there were two more proud boyfriends than us when they rolled in, both finishing their first century ride, let alone a gravel century on the Almanzo course.
|A pair of accomplished ladies.|
Pizza, long drive home, picking up sleeping kids, unloading a very wet and smelly car, before finally showering and sleeping in time to get up to work the Woolly registration table in the morning.
I know everyone loves my numbers. Ben Jonjak and Jeff Wolf said so.
One of the reference points is the "Training Effect" calculated in SportTracks. This essentially calculates a cumulative training effect of any given workout based on time at a given HR. This ride set a new record in my training log. It is followed by the Mammoth Gravel Classic from October 2013, last year's Almanzo, and then the 2013 Strada Fango.
As far as goals go, I kept the rubber side down, rode "hard", and rode every hill so it was definitely a success. Last year had an elapsed time of 8:47 and a moving time of 7:48. Compared with this year of 7:25 and 7:01 a pretty good improvement.
Just today I've been talked into a trail half marathon next weekend in Rush City. This is one of the Treasured Haven Farm runs I've seen advertised on the sides of trucks for a while and am finally going to try out. Check it out if you are looking for something to do on Saturday.
Otherwise the first Sasquatch Dash is in just under two weeks. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you are too.