|Rolling into the high country of the "Bohemian Alps" at Gravel Worlds|
While on my way there I ran into a couple of folks giving me props on this blog and for RidingGravel.com. (Sincere thanks again to anyone who mentioned my work while we were riding. I totally appreciate it.) I cannot remember everybody, but I remember Shane, and of course, Warren. I do also remember seeing Ben Petty who is from my area and he quipped, "I think I see you more in Nebraska than back home!" I generally run into Matt Wills, a former Trans Iowa finisher and GTDRI veteran at some point during every Gravel Worlds I do, and this one was no exception. Matt took notice of my square taper crank set and said, "Square taper! How do those arms even stay on the bike?!" He was being sarcastic, of course, as he was spinning a set of square taper White Industries cranks! Anyway, the interactions with other riders was fun and much appreciated.
As I was chatting with Warren, we ended up in Loma. Warren pushed on riding his black single speed, and I pulled up for my first stop. I needed to use a restroom, get more water, and maybe look for some suitable road food to take away with me when I decided to leave. By the time I reached Loma, the Sun had cleared the clouds and it was bright and sunny. Of course, it was also getting hotter. That didn't matter to me. I was having a great ride so far. But I also new that there was a long way to go.
|The scene outside the Loma Tap. Free water fill up at the red pick-up truck. That's Pell Duval in the orange tutu.|
|The owner of the bar plugging in some coins to get the music rolling. Mostly country music from the 60's and 70's here.|
I didn't spend a ton of time there, but I moved on with a full compliment of water and a couple of granola bars for the road. Next stop on the course was going to be Valparaiso. I didn't plan on stopping there, but instead I thought I'd put in another 20 miles and stop next at the first checkpoint at Mile 60. The roads were very hilly, but since we had passed the highest part of the course, it was mostly downhill to Valpo. I think it was in this section where I hit 39.8 mph at one point, which was my max speed for the day.
In this section I was passed by a young woman on a bike and I thought I recognized her from breakfast earlier at the hotel. I sprinted up to her and sure enough, it was her. We had a fantastic conversation and I was duly impressed with her personality. She suddenly said, "By the way, my name is Meg. What's your name?" Well, of course I answered, but having such a direct question like that was attention getting. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Meg. Thanks, if you ever read this. That made my day better.
So, Meg finally outpaced me and disappeared up ahead. I plugged along feeling okay as the heat got hotter and the Sun rode up into the sky. It was getting to be about 11:00am and I had a good hour plus in the bank time-wise. I was looking forward to a bit of a rest at the checkpoint. I thought I wouldn't spend much time there and then just push onward to Malcolm, another ten miles up the road, and rest a bit more there since there is shade in Malcolm, not so much at Branched Oak.
|The Branched Oak Farms volunteers were awesome.|
Eventually I pulled into Branched Oak Farms and I was tired, but I was feeling like I had more miles in me yet. The weather had gone hot and humid with a good stiff wind. That's always a tough deal for me. But I had time in the bag and my plan at this point into the ride was to take it easy and rest when I needed it. At this point I was just interested in getting water, maybe eating, and then getting out and back into some kind of rhythm.
As I was getting something to eat, (a handful of Fritos, a plain hot dog, and a Coke), I ran into Meg again as she was just getting ready to head back out on the course. We chatted a bit, then I went around the backside of the small outbuilding there to get into some shade while I sipped my soda. I spoke a bit with Steve and Kathy who were doing a tandem class ride. After I sipped the last of the soda. I grabbed my bike to head out. Just as I did I saw Meg take off. I wouldn't see her again, but I heard she finished strong.
|WooHoo! A MMR in Gravel Worlds!|
I hadn't gone up the road far when I realized something wasn't right. My guts were churning and I was starting to feel like I was not "running right", for lack of a better term. I turned onto a dirt road then and this was where the course was two-way. The 75 mile course riders were going against us and so on these rutted out tracks on the dirt road, I had to watch carefully as I climbed a steep hill and the others were bombing down the same. Yeah......ahhh....Frankly I wouldn't have ever considered doing that in one of my events. It just sounds like trouble in the making, but I made it with no issues. That is, other than breaking off a water bottle cage!
|Wait a minute! Something is missing here!|
I took several swigs as I kept an eye on any traffic that might be speeding downhill toward me. Then I tried to replace the bottle in the cage, while not looking, and kept missing the cage, which was frustrating. I have had this bike so long, I can "no-look" a bottle in that fork mount cage any day. What the heck!......
So, finally I bend down to look and no cage! What?!! I stopped and looked 20 yards down the trail and there it was laying in a rut. So, I fetched it and stuffed the bottle in my Chaff Bag after rearranging some other stuff. Then I was back on the bike. By this time the heat was raging on that dirt road and I was feeling not so great. I climbed slowly up and finally back on gravel. It was becoming quite the slog and my gut wasn't getting better, it was getting worse. The legs felt fine, I didn't have any dizziness, no sleepy feelings, just a big, bloated gut feeling and churning in the intestines.
Well, my power was being sapped since my guts were shutting down. It wasn't far to Malcom now. I figured on cruising into town, finding some shade, and just giving myself some time. I had a lot of "time in the bank", my average speed was above 12 mph, and it wasn't even noon yet.
As I was assessing my options, Pell Duvall caught me again and asked how it was going, as I tried to answer I just about belched up my dinner. I probably should have. Maybe it would have been gross, but maybe it would have made me feel better. Anyway, Pell gave me some thoughts to chew on and then he rolled on. I made it into town and sat down besides the Post Office in the shade on some cool concrete. I felt awful by this point. My gut was not happy. It was getting painful now. Things weren't fun anymore.
Well, I gave myself until 12:30pm to make a call on whether to go on or to cut the course where the return loop of the next 75 miles came back to Malcom. Rob Evans and his crew were in the car wash building and invited me over. I walked over, a bit light headed and sore in the gut, and by 12:30pm, despite feeling kind of okay, but weak, I had to say no more. I knew what lay ahead. Some of the biggest hills, the hottest part of the day was yet to come, and this would be the furthest point away from the start which I would be headed into.
|Crash landing site back at Fallbrook neighborhood.|
I set off, bidding Rob and his merry men farewell. I felt awful. Not just physically awful, but I felt shame and a lot of disappointment. This last section was going to be populated by guys finishing. Fast guys. I had heard that the winning lead packs were about finished up, and had gone by Malcom already, but surely more were coming. It wasn't going to be fun cutting the course back to Lincoln getting passed by the serious racer crowd, but whatever.
I did get passed by about six guys going, what I assumed was, cruising pace for them. They were guys that probably had gotten shelled out of the lead group. Now, with "nothing to gain" they were kind of like me. Just riding to get back to the finish. Only they were a lot faster at that!
It was slow, but I slogged it out to the finish area. I stopped at one point to take my number plate off and disable my chip timer. When I made it back, I stopped well short of the finish line to inform a volunteer I was not a finisher, then I dismounted, giving the finish line a wide berth. I did not want any confusion that I was a finisher. Gravel Worlds, to my knowledge, doesn't have a "DNF Line", so this was the best I could think of at the time and in the condition I was in. I ended up walking around the SchillingBridge Tap House looking for a suitable place to sit in the shade but there wasn't anything appealing to me. So, I walked back to Tony's truck, saw some shade under a pine tree, and threw myself into the grass. Just about 77 miles down.
By the time I got back to the finish area, it felt like someone was stabbing me from the inside out. I definitely made the right decision to head back from Malcom. There was no way I was getting much further down the course without assistance later. I writhed in half awake pain and fitful napping for about an hour before the pain relented enough that I could get into Tony's truck with all the windows down and just concentrate on relaxing and recovery.
Then I grabbed my phone to pass the time and take my mind off my disappointing finish. That's when I saw that someone posted on my Facebook timeline and was congratulating me on finishing 11th in Gravel Worlds. What?!! Oh! Hold on! I figured it out. That timing and scoring loop must have picked me up anyway! I sent a message to the person who posted as a comment on that post of there's and made sure I set the record straight. Not long afterward, the guys from Gravel Worlds contacted me and we got it all straightened out. I apologize for that mess! I had no intentions of "finishing" like that!
Oh, and remember my rear tire that had gone soft the day before Gravel Worlds?
Tony ended up finishing at around seven o'clock. We met up then and were going to go out to eat when Tony discovered that my rear tire was dead flat on the bike rack on the truck. Crazy tire! It was fine all day! Well, at least as long as I needed it to be.
This ends the Gravel Worlds '19 report. Thanks to the PCL, volunteers, and riders that make this event so special. I had another awesome day with rad folks.