Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gravel Worlds '15 Report: The Wheels Slowly Come Off

That's me bombing one of the long down hills. Image courtesy of Lisa Janssen
Optimism was high after leaving Malcom. Oh how fast things can change in ten miles! We still had a long slog Southward, some were saying 20 more miles, and there were ten to go until we reached the Reinkordt Oasis.

Now, I have to stop here a minute and give a bit of backstory here. Back at the 2010 Gravel Worlds, I was suffering like a dog on my Singular Cycles Gryphon in heat that was melting my resolve to carry on. That year, there were "oasis" stops implemented for the first time. These were farms or homes along the route that stated a desire to help give the riders water, maybe some food, and shelter if necessary. The Reinkordts were one of these few folks that provided that opportunity then. I stopped there in 2010 and talked with Mr. and Mrs. Reinkordt for at least an hour. I could have stayed all afternoon, but I had a race to get back in to. Anyway, I hadn't seen them or spoke to them since. The Reinkordts had since had Gravel Worlds start at their place and end there two years. This year, they were an oasis stop and just off the route to boot, but I had told Tony I really wanted to go there to say hello.

As we rolled onward, I thought the hills out of Malcom had some steeper pitches than we had seen before. Much more "Iowa-like", but perhaps not as long. Then there was also the wind, which, if anything, had increased as the day neared noon. The skies were devoid of clouds also, as the Sun began to get things nice and toasty. The gravel, which was very fine, and almost sand-like at times, was treacherous in areas where car traffic had not compacted it, or at intersections where turning vehicles had churned it all up into a sandy mess. So, while most of the time navigating a good line wasn't all that difficult, you still had to be aware of your surroundings because when the wheels slipped into that deep stuff, you were going to lose control.

I was working the bike to my best advantage so that I didn't really have any time for anything but eating and drinking when I thought I should. (Thus the lack of many images from me on this report.) I swear I used every single gear combination on my 22 speed bike multiple times all day on this ride. Shifting into higher gears on the downhills, pedaling to build momentum, and then clicking off the shifts back to lower gears as I climbed the hill ahead of me after the down hill. It was really a good method and I was stoked to be able to make such good time against this terrible wind.

But then something happened. I think it was at about Mile 67.3 when we crossed O Avenue as it ran East out of Lincoln. Tony said something about how that was the road out of Lincoln, that we could go right back that way. I thought the comment odd, but I acknowledged him as being correct. Later Tony said he was feeling down and would have made that left turn back to Lincoln right there had I suggested it. That said, I told him not a half mile later I needed to stop to take a break. We'd been working so hard, and there was no respite in this ten mile stretch. It seemed as if Nebraska miles were somehow a mile and a half in Iowan measurement. Yep. We were going to that "dark place", and I could feel it.

The stop at the Reinkordt Farm was a good one. 

We reached the Reinkordt Farm right at about noon. Right at about 70 miles. It wasn't our goal of 75 miles, but we both agreed that making 70 in these conditions was really good time......for us. Now keep in mind that the two leaders at the time were on the home stretch of Gravel Worlds, but, of course, we didn't know that. We only were trying to see the best in our efforts. I am pretty happy with that accomplishment.

Back at Malcom, I was kind of hoping to find a deli pickle, but never saw one, however, I knew the Reinkordt's would have these. At least they did in 2010. I wasn't disappointed either. Salt cured cucumbers in a big jar. I grabbed a couple and so did Tony. I reintroduced myself to the Reinkordts, and was surprised to find that they remembered me. That was nice of them. I sat for a spell, feeling our effort, but I worked on eating and drinking, so I could get going on the road again.

Eventually we took leave of the Reinkordts and their hospitality, which was greatly appreciated. We were told we had about 12 more miles into the wind, but we weren't real sure about that. It sounded hopeful, so we stuck with that 12 mile figure. However; we also knew that the dreaded "Denton Wall" was dead ahead.

This feature was really about four really steep hills that succeed one another with zero respite. Add in the brutal wind, which we headed straight in to and this was a really tough slog. Tony and I both climbed it all with zero dabs, but with temperatures at 90° or so and the dry wind, it sucked the life out of me. The following miles were barely tolerable, and I was hurting. It didn't help that the salt cured pickle was turning my gut, and I felt as though I had a balloon in my intestines now. Anything I tried to eat or drink wanted right back up again, but I didn't let it. I just quit eating and drinking at this point. Mercifully, we  eventually pulled into Checkpoint #2, which was out in the open on a sunny hilltop. Not at all what I needed. I need a cool tree's shade and a shelter from the insane wind.

Not to say anything bad about that checkpoint, mind you, because the people were super and very supportive. It just wasn't what I had envisioned, and by this time, I was so fatigued and dehydrated I was getting cranky. My fault. I don't remember a whole lot about this stop. I was losing it by this point. I stayed there quite awhile, and Tony was very patient and waited on me. Finally, we gave it a try. I figured I should be able to get 12 more miles to Roca, which was another small village on the route, and I would assess my status in the race there.

Uggh! Another big hill after Checkpoint #2. 
The first 4 miles were okay, but then my legs just lost it. I couldn't eat anything, my guts were doing flip-flops, I was super-heated, and I could barely go more than 3mph up the hills. This wasn't going to cut it. Tony was out of sight. I found myself coasting into a valley on a dirt road, I saw a tree overhanging the roadside, and I decided to stop to gather myself up again. I laid down. Flat on my back.

The thoughts you have on a random stretch of country road in the middle of nowhere while you are nearly insane with dehydration and fatigue are, well........messy. One thing is for sure, I wasn't in my right mind. I knew that. The wheels had come off my attempt at Gravel Worlds.

Right here on Wittstruck Road is where it all was decided. 

I got tired of folks asking me if I was okay. Now....I think that was very kind thinking back about that, but at the time, it was annoying. I wanted to be left all alone. I wasn't happy. I felt like I didn't belong with these riders. I was pissed off. I was sad. I was about 30 other emotions. I finally got back up and crawled on to the Tamland Two and weakly pedaled onward. I was reconsidering my decision with about every quarter mile I went in an insane roundabout of logic that was not at all making sense now, but sounded perfectly logical at the time. I finally saw a cyclist coming toward me. It was Tony. I told him I was done. He said something about getting to Roca and getting some shade. I said that sounded good.

 I finally limped into Roca, we parked the bikes, and I sat down and put my head on the table in the air conditioned bar. I was cooked. Totally fried. I eventually told Tony to take off, to go get his well deserved finish. Just before he took off, another rider that was dropping out asked if I needed a ride back to Lincoln. His wife was coming to get him and they could take me. A broom wagon. (It actually was a Subaru wagon!)

And so that's the end of my riding in Gravel Worlds. Tomorrow I'll give some final thoughts and comments.


sniffer said...

Remember passing a rider at DK standing next to a tree to stay out of the wind? Right before the water stop that was out of water. That was me going through the same emotions. That head game shit sucks. Nice report and good riding.

Rob E said...

The end of your GW attempt sounds eerily similar to mine, except I pulled out at HWY 77 and Wittstruck Road and never made it to Roca. Reading this I probably should have as that A/C sounds like it would have been amazing. Great write up, hope to see you out there again next year.

Kurt Fossen said...

I looked for you all day. Wanted to say hi and shake the hand of the infamous G.Ted. No idea how I missed you? Your start pic must have been feet from me. I recognize the people in your Malcolm pics. I was also at the Reinkordt Oasis during the 1oclock hour. If I would've been along side you at the Oasis, I would've tried to go farther. I called it there. I had been alone from Garland on. Ugh!

unclechet said...

Anybody that has spent time on a bicycle knows the feeling. It happens. I'm just glad you're still around to write about your adventure. There's always another "race". See you out there.