First off, I do not have a single image to share regarding the race. My point and shoot needed a recharge, and well.........as you will see, I didn't have a lot of spare time!
Friday: As I have previously stated, Friday was travel day to Lincoln. Due to my late entry and having to arrange a suitable situation for the remainder of my family, I didn't have any extra time to waste on Friday. I got off work, got my check cashed, ran home and started to load up the vehicle, and made sure everyone had what they needed for the weekend. By the time we rolled out of town for the four hour trip to Bellevue, Nebraska, it was 5:30pm. With one stop added in, we arrived around ten, and I downloaded everything and everybody, and left for D Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.A., Earth.
Corey was an awesome host, waiting on the door step for me to let me in. I was served a late night snack and after a bit of a chat, I hit the bedroom where I stayed the short, short night. In fact, I didn't fall asleep until 1am, most likely, and awoke at 4:30am to get dressed,and prepare for the event. Corey cooked up some awesome waffles and eggs which were a perfect pre-race meal for me. (Thanks!)
Saturday: By now other riders started to show up to ride over from D Street. MW and Troy Krause were both there. We all mounted up, and with lights blazing we made the approximately six mile trek over to the MOPAC Trail where the GLGA was to start.
After chatting with several "gravel aficionados" in attendance, it was time to go. It was still pretty dark, so lights were in order. The event was to have a controlled roll out, but if I am not mistaken, the front end of the event was gone off the gun. This would include all the top finishers, including our own Jeremy Fry, who nailed down a third place here. (No one else from the Cedar Valley showed, as far as I know)
I was on the Pofahl, of course, geared at a 37 X 18 with 2.1 Nanoraptors, and I was going at my own pace, no matter what. That meant a lot of the race went right on by me. I am okay with that, as I am not fast, nor adept at racing these long gravel events. In fact, I don't really race. I guess I just do it for the challenge to me, regardless of whatever is going on around me.
So, by about mile ten or so, I found that a few riders had settled in to "my pace", and that always happens in these events. You end up seeing certain folks and maybe riding with them most of the time. Well, for me it was Oliver and Ben. Two guys from the Lincoln area that were rolling along and seemed amiable enough. In fact, Oliver was a previous acquaintance from T.I.V5. He was supporting the rest of the Lincoln Crew at that event. So we joined in together, chatting and yo-yoing back and forth with each other. Me being on a single speed, and these two guys on geared rigs, well......you can imagine who was dangling off the back at times!
At the first check point at Valparaiso, Ben rolled in behind Oliver and I with a flat front. Between Oliver and I we had it changed out for Ben lickety split. Once more we headed out. Ben fell off the pace shortly afterwards and I didn't see him again. His day would come to an end in Denton hours later with severe cramping issues. Still, that's a heck of a ride!
Oliver and I went onward toward Malcom and checkpoint #2. Oliver was really talking up the hot food there, so I was motivated to stick to his wheel, as I was getting hungry. Well, working as hard as I was, it isn't any wonder why I was hungry.
You see, before Valparaiso, there were about 20 miles of the toughest roads I had ridden. Branched Oak Road was killer. Dirt roads were in abundance, with hilly climbs, fast down hills, and rutted bottoms that required razor sharp handling skills. North West 40th and Ashland Road followed and gave no quarter. Then after Valparaiso, the hills kicked in again. More dirt roads, and every time I went up, I was getting more drained. Malcom and a hot meal served to recharge the batteries, if only just for a while.
The climbing was oddly satisfying though. I am not much of a climber, so when that part of the ride goes well, I am happy. And even though I was over geared on the climbs, I felt great since I didn't have to walk any of them. This is really rare for me on the single speed, especially with the gear I had going. There was one reason, well........maybe two! The first reason is that I have been riding a lot better this year, and I have had some big rides too. Fargo adventures, Rock Lake Loop, Dirty Kanza, and The GTDRI all were big reasons why I have been doing better on the ups. But the clincher for me, the kicker, if you will, was a person I noticed on a single speed a few years ago, that was on this very ride. I must give the main credit to Matt Wills.
Matt had a way back then, (and still does) of just standing and calmly cranking over the gear on the steepest climbs in a very calm, relaxed manner. I was thinking of "MW" on every climb. Envisioning his even cadence in my mind, and trying to climb in a like manner. Well, this day it worked. I was really surprised at how well I was able to carry on up the steepest grades on Branched Oak, and beyond. Soon though, the fly in my ointment would rear its ugly little head and undo me.
It happened after Denton, the third checkpoint. I was getting too tired. It wasn't cramps, it wasn't nutrition, it wasn't dehydration. It was lack of rest. I started falling asleep on my bike! My mind was starting to just randomly switch off, which was dangerous, as you might expect. I would be fighting it, but when you are that tired, it doesn't matter. Your body just shuts down. I had to dismount when I couldn't control it. That started happening about every two miles before the final checkpoint of Cortland. Oliver dropped me long before, shortly after we left Denton. I told him to go on ahead, as I knew I was fading. By the time I was two miles from Cortland, I knew I was done. My back locked up in a seizure. Yeah. I was finished.
I rolled on into Cortland, made the call to Corey to DNF, and grabbed some grub and a tall boy which I drained in the parking lot in front of all of the Catholics stopping by after church. (Pretty funny, really) Corey couldn't come out to get me, but he sent race winner Troy Krause out to do the deed. How's that for service? The race winner picking up DNF'ers? These Lincoln folks got class, no matter what else you have to say about them. Thanks Troy! Thanks Corey!
I ended up back at D Street where Steph, the only female living there, set me up with another cold beer and a nice soft chair. It was all good, as MG and I had to leave that night to check out Potter's Pasture for the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo the next day. Oh yeah, that was four hours of driving time away too! (See my post on the results of that trip here.)
All in all it turned out to be a tough, but very scenic and satisfying 106 miles of Nebraska gravel.
Thanks to Ben and Oliver for your kind accompaniment along the way. Thanks again to Troy Krause for being beyond gracious in winning by picking up a "loser" DNF'er. Thanks to Corey Godfrey and the rest of the Pirate Cycling League for a most excellent time, and especially to all the residents of D Street for the use of their space! (Lincoln Crew Rocks!) Thanks to Twin Six for the awesome duds I wore. (Deluxe jersey, wool team socks) And thanks to Oakley and super doodes Rob Versteegh and Matt Gersib for the hook up with the awesome Jawbones shades. (More on those in a separate post) Easton Wheels (XC One 29"er), and Bontrager saddles (Inform RL) and Bontrager shoes (Race Mountain). Ergon for the GP-1 Leichtbau (No hand pain! Zero- Nada!)
Check out these products. They all kept me going for ten hours with no issues on a tough Nebraska gravel course.
And next time I probably should listen to fellow Lincolnite and friend MG when he tells me I should ride a geared bike!