It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... if you weren't a reader of this blog and I told you I had done two gravel races back to back, one 60 miles in length, with mild temperatures and a gentle breeze, the other 100 miles with temps in the mid 90s and 30 mph winds but I only would finish one, would you guess right which race it was?
Saturday was the Good Life Gravel Grand Fondo, storms had rolled through the night before and caused a lot of damage due to winds and torrential downpours but the day of the race was absolutely perfect for mid June.
What wasn't perfect were my legs, it was Wednesday before I started to feel somewhat normal again after the Sto Mil and I had been second guessing racing the Good Life Gravel Gran Fondo but figured I had already registered so I would go and see how things went. Unfortunately they didn't, I felt alright at the start but things went downhill quickly and it wasn't long before I was crawling along. I wasn't even in the hills yet and already struggling up the baby hills, some of them I was only able to maintain about 5 mph.
I rolled into Tabor Iowa, found a convenience store with this cool little park area next to it, grabbed a few cold drinks and something to eat, popped open an umbrella and sat in the shade enjoying the day for a little bit. After sitting in the park enjoying a cold beverage on a beautiful June day, I decided to abandon the race and find the most direct route back to Malvern and the start/finish area, there was no way I had another day of struggling through 40 more miles. Nobody likes to quit but anyone who has ever tried pushing themselves has eventually found a breaking point and I found mine on Saturday, but quitting is only failure if you don't use what you learned through it to help you improve for the next time, some of the races I've learned the most from are the ones that I didn't finish.
Heading out of Tabor on Waubonsie Ave, I spotted this committee of Turkey Vultures and hoped that they weren't there for me. I wasn't feeling that bad I didn't think but maybe the birds knew something I didn't.
300th and Oman road looked like it would have been a really good time in drier conditions, 300th street was actually a pretty good road to travel down, rollers but nothing horrible.
By the time I hit Noyes road I was feeling almost human again, road struck me as a little humorous actually. Is it no, is it yes or would it be maybe road? I guess when you're out on a lonely gravel road by yourself things seem funnier than they actually are sometimes but on Saturday I was crackin me up. A little pro tip if you're new to gravel racing... here's the secret to making a gravel race, find an area that you're familiar with and then find some big hills, heck find all the big hills in that area and then sit down and figure out how to ride them all, even if it means a few miles of just looping up and down the same hill a mile or two down the road. So here is perhaps a better tip, if you ever find that you're in over your head or just having a bad day and you can't go on, look at the course map and then take any other road out there back to the start. Typically just one or two roads down you'll likely find a nice gravel road with rollers instead of giants and you can easily spin your way home. The only time such roads are used in a gravel race is if they are needed to link up the monster hills but they are out there and they are more common than the roads with the big hills; why do you think most gravel courses are so jagged in design?
While it took me 20 miles to get to Tabor using the roundabout way, there was only about 10 miles separating the two towns and it wasn't long before I was back at the start enjoying a sandwich from Relish and a beer from Brickway while I waited for riders to start showing up.
I didn't have to wait long at all before the rest of the gang started rolling in, they obviously were killing it and having a much better day than I was having. While I managed to finish 30 miles in about three hours, they rest of them were completing 60 in just about that same time frame, pretty impressive.
Jamie even won the female single speed category... and a free bath from Feagan's sweat towel, although he swore it was water.
Obviously some were happier than others after the race, birds were out in half force on Saturday.
So while my day wasn't the greatest, everyone else seemed to have a really good race but they are all strong riders so that was kind of a given.
Not a whole lot of true "positives" from this race as it was more of a learning experience than anything else. Things to take away from the race, well, big one is that I need to listen to my body and if it's not snapping back after a race like it usually does, going ahead and racing the next weekend anyway is probably not a great idea. I think next year if the two races end up being on the same days that they were this year I might to have to make a decision and only sign up for one of them. They are both great events so it will be a difficult decision for sure however to be honest had the epic winds not been a factor the previous week, I think this race would have been much more attainable so that might be something to take into consideration for next year as well. Epic winds on the first race, no go on the second race... I suppose the other option is to decrease the tire girth of the bike I'm riding but that is just crazy talk.
Next up is the Solstice 100 but instead of racing it I'm helping my good friend Joe with whatever he needs me to do so that we can get the inaugural edition off the ground this year. Should be a great race and a great area to get out and ride some gravel, you really owe it to yourself to seriously consider riding it. If you do show up, stop by the timing table and I'll be handing out free high fives all day.