The Allure of the Gravel Grinder - Sending Off the Almanzo Postcard

11:01 AM

My decidedly non-arty postcard submission
Gravel grinders are on everyone’s mind lately, it seems.  In issue #20 Cyclocross Magazine explored all things gravel related: from finding a race to preparation and equipment.  It comes as no surprise that bike companies have jumped on board with gravel specific bikes (but  c’mon, we all know they are just CX bikes and the manufacturers are simply looking for a way to sell you yet another two-wheeled contraption) as more and more people line up for the Dirty Kanza and the Barry Roubaix.  

And lately I’ve found myself daydreaming about a possible spring gravel race: The Almanzo 100.

I’m sure the current weather has something to do with this.  We are in the deep freeze of January - on Monday our high isn’t supposed to get above -15.  Ugh.  Though I had a nice break through December after the cross season, I am ready to start building up my strength.  But it is difficult to get motivated when you are facing workouts on the spinner.  As I have never ridden a century before (longest ride to date is a 78 mile team ride around Lake Pepin) a gravel grinder might be a great way to kick my winter training into high gear.

Or it might be a great way to damage my fingers more with additional bouts of frostbite.

There is something mightily appealing about the suffering of this kind of event.  As Paul Krumrich writes in his summary of the 2011 edition of the race, “The Almanzo is the mirror that shows you who you are, not who you tell people you are.”  Part of me wants to see if I can handle this distance, this level of difficulty, this challenge.  Am I strong enough, both mentally and physically, to push myself beyond my overly comfortable limits?  Will I find new levels of strength in the well by hitting the gravel in some long and lonely training rides?  

Or will I end up crying by the roadside fumbling with the cell phone as I call for a ride home.

Ultimately, I don’t know what will happen.  I may get lucky and get a year when the temperatures are warm and the gravel is dry, or I may face rain, wind, and cold.  But as I sit here cozy in my house with the whole year of cycling ahead of me, I’m excited enough to send off the registration postcard and start thinking of the possibilities.

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