Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Gravel Grovel Slop Fest 2018

After last years record time and the fact that for most of the year I was riding stronger than I can ever remember, I had some high hopes for putting in a really good ride this year. But, I did a good job of making sure that didn't happen. The last 3 months leading up to the race it seemed like I had a lot of conflicts and issues that kept me from getting a lot of rides in. My monthly mileage for September was an all time low. I did a little better in October, but still way lower than normal. November was also busy, but I did my best to try and get my legs to snap out of it and let me finish the year strong.

The last couple rides leading up to the race didn't really make me feel any better. I was still riding the climbs, but I didn't have any pop. I had a bigger gear on the Spot than last year with the thoughts of going faster. With my weaker state of riding I made a last minute decision to change the gearing back to what I had ran the last couple years. This was a very good decision for my legs. I figured if I am going to have a bad year, why cause myself any more unneeded pain.

I got there early enough on Friday to get checked in to my cabin and all settled in. After Bushong got there we went for a little ride to loosen the legs up. We just did the small loop from the start area. This also let us see how some of the roads were looking. The legs were not feeling too bad, but still not where I had hoped they would be.

2nd place SSer, Jeff Bushong

After the pre-ride there was more people showing up at camp. The plan was to head in to town to eat, but how were we going to get there. With the number of people, we would need a couple cars. Then Big Red came to the rescue! We all pilled in the back of Big Red and off to town we went. What a fun and crazy drive in to town. I have no idea how Big Red fit in the parking spot that was selected, but it did squeeze in pretty good and we were nice and close to where we were going to eat.

Dinner was just ok, but good thing we had some good company to make everything better. I thought for sure we were going to see some major carnage on some scooters, but some how they didn't crash or at least where we could see them. Eventually we all piled back in to Big Red and headed towards home for the weekend. We got settled in and didn't stay up too late. 

The next morning came sooner than I wanted, but I am used to that. I got some coffee and breakfast going and we hung out and chilled for a little while. Got signed in for the race and made necessary bike adjustments for the race. It seemed like we were up a little early, but this let me chill out for a while. We got to see Jason head out to the heckle stop. This is where I went back and forth a couple times trying to figure out what to wear. It was cool and the rain also settled in for most of the night. It was going to be an interesting day.

Even with getting up early I somehow find myself getting to the start line last minute again. I see E2 in the middle of the pack and join him. I figured there was no need to get to the front since I was not in the greatest shape. Next thing I know the race was off. After the bottle neck over the bridge we were cruising down the road. I always try to not get too caught up in keeping up with some people who are going too hard for that early. I settled down in to my pace and followed E2 for a little while.

I could still see the front longer than I thought I would be able to, but I was not setting the world on fire. The new pavement was keeping the pace faster for more people than normal. I made it up the first climb pretty good and continued moving well. E2 got away from me somewhere in this section. Combs road was pretty sloppy. I have seen it worse, but it still made you work hard to keep moving.

Just hoping to make it to the top

The traffic on the climb was heavy, but I was probably better off since I had to walk a little section with all the riders. I was able to get back on near the top and ride the last part. I kept moving over the top and skated my way down the other side. I must have passed E2 at the top, but I didn't see him. I could see Jeremy up ahead as I started down blue creek road. This section was pretty soft in spots and was not easy. My legs were feeling really heavy at the bottom of the climb and I was struggling with traction when I needed to stand. I figured it was not work the extra spent matches and got off and pushed the first part.

Once it leveled out some I was able to get back on and get moving better. I was able to catch and pass Jeremy on the down hill. The flat section at the bottom was really muddy in spots and line choice played a big part of how much effort you needed to use. Once I was back on the road Jeremy passed me again and took off. The Nebo climb was really tough. Tougher than normal. Overall I was moving pretty well, but the steeper parts were hard to keep traction. It was a real struggle when I had to stand and really work it. I did manage to get by Jeremy on the trail section, but I made a stop at the heckle group to have myself a beer. Jeremy didn't stop and got by me here.

After hanging out a little and using the facilities, I got back on and pressed forward. Once I was back on the road I was in no-mans land for a while. Just spinning along as what ever pace the bike wanted to go. Not quick enough to be fast, but still moving. I was really wore out at the bottom of Mt. Baldy and had some concerns that I would be able to climb it with out walking. Somehow I crawled along and kept moving. I made a quick stop at the rest stop and took off.

Even though I was hurting, I could still laugh at myself

The rest of the race was mostly uneventful. I was tired and hurting, but kept moving. I had to walk more hills than normal, but with the trail conditions the way they were, my legs had to work harder than normal to keep moving. The main issue I had was that I had to keep stopping to pee. It was an unreal amount of times. I have no idea why either, but there was no holding it, I HAD to go.

As normal, the section after you take a left, before the fire tower, really dragged on. I was just hoping that the church would be around every bend. Then once again, like several times in the past, I came around the corner to see the turn to Maumee. Dammit!! I was not even there yet. This section always gets me. I am deep in the pain cave at that point and just want to get to the finish. Eventually I came to the church and made the turn. Finally on the home stretch. I was feeling a lot better knowing it was almost over and mostly down hill. I did have to make another dang stop before the end, but I was getting close now.

I passed a person who looked like they were assessing the creek as I just went right at it and rode across and in to the finish chute. I knew I would be close to beating the 5 hour mark, but came up just a little short rolling in at 5:02. This put me in 53rd place overall and 6th place in the SS class. Before last years race and how I was riding this summer, I would have been very happy with this finish time. Funny how perspective can change like that. I was really not that mad at this finish time. I knew I was not in the shape I was earlier this year and after stopping so many times and even drinking a beer, I can't complain to finish at a time so close to what used to be my goal. I am sure I would have beat the 5 hour mark if I didn't have the beer, but there is no fun in that.

Jason the fire master keeping the flame going

After cleaning up and getting a bite to eat, the rest of the evening was filled with hanging out with great friends around the fire, drinking some more beer and having a fun time. Riding my bike is fun and all, the views are spectacular, the exercise does wonders for my health and pushing myself in a tough race really makes me feel good. But, I can not say enough that how much the time hanging out with people I really enjoy hanging out with really makes it all worth it. I am not sure they understand how much I really need that. My brain thinks a lot of strange things. Burying myself on the bike does a good job of shutting my brain up, but when I am with these few people I don't have to worry about trying to distract myself to shut my thoughts up. I don't even really think in those moments, I just enjoy.

I hope to continue to improve and get stronger/faster over the winter and hit next year in a better position than the previous. I am getting a lot closer to feeling like I actually compete against the people who are where I want to be. I still have a long way to go, but at least I feel like the journey is actually moving forward. Here's to more fun times on two wheels!

It at least looks clean again

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