What have I been up to this spring? Gravel!
I jumped into a spring gravel campaign this year with glorious and detailed training plans...which were, of course, drastically derailed by the cold that grips Minnesota each and every winter. C'mon, it's not like I could have predicted this...
So, my training in March was a bit of a bust - just a few rides here and there in addition to my daily commute. It was really starting to stress me out because the Ragnarok 105 was looming on April 11 and I didn't feel like my legs were up to the distance and elevation (8,000+ feet of climbing). Two weeks before the race, I called it. Just admitted to myself that I wasn't going to do it.
Then, a week before I got a great 65 mile training ride it in which I a) felt good, and b) didn't die. I figured, why not? The weather forecast was looking sunny and the Spouse would be at the ready with a car ride home, if needed.
I've now finished three gravel races:
- The Ragnarok 105 was painful (so much climbing...), but ultimately an amazing experience. I partnered with a friend at the 32-mile check-in and we worked together the rest of the race. By "worked together" I mean we: whined repeatedly about the climbs, exclaimed over the beautiful countryside, and commiserated over our growing list of aches and pains. I realized that the longer the ride got, the more strong and determined I became. After Ragnarok, the rest of my races looked a lot less intimidating.
- The Dickie Scramble was also a new one for me this year - 83 miles of rolling countryside just north of Rochester. Oh, and this wonderful innovation: potluck rest-station. One more time: potluck rest-station. It was a cornucopia of everything you crave: peanut butter cups, bacon, beer, waffles, licorice. Mmmm... Again, I found a nice group of three new-friends, and we worked together through the windy open sections and brutal climbs.
- Finally, we went back and completed the Almanzo 100 just yesterday. Another beautiful day (ok, a little rainy, but the wind was perfect), and as my experience grows, so does my confidence. I started strong and kept going. I took the rest I needed, but didn't stay off the bike too long. In the end, I dropped nearly an hour from my time last year!
And, most importantly, I haven't even looked at a road race this year. I'm done, through, finished with road racing. Gravel is free, the people are amazing, and the challenge is invigorating. I have a few more gravel races scheduled in the next month, and may even compete in the Crusher in the Tushar in July. Mountain bike racing stars in two weeks with the Mt. Borah Epic. Bring on summer!