Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gravel Worlds '16: It Ain't Over Till It's Over

It was just a dang beautiful day out there. Glad I was riding.
Valpraiso was a bit of an extended stop due to the backed up line in the convenience store. Another reason to stay out of those things, but I desperately needed a coke and I also grabbed some more beef jerky for good measure. Once I was good to go Tony and I left town with the hopes that the mostly Eastward run out of town would be easier.

Well, it mostly was. There were a couple of zingers, but it wasn't terribly hilly like before. I mostly kept myself preoccupied with ticking off the miles and thinking that past 110 I was making the longest ride of the year so far with every pedal stroke. The next thought I had was that maybe we could beat the Sunset. I was thinking it would be close, but Tony and I were making decent time, and things were looking great to accomplish that feat.

But then again, anything could have gone wrong in those last 35 miles. An untimely mechanical, a flat tire requiring an extended time to repair, or worse. This wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot. Of course, we had no idea of where the course might take us. We did know that there was one Minimum Maintenance Road coming up and that it might be a hike-a-bike section. I wasn't too worried about that since the course had full Sun most of the day and the wind would help dry things out well enough for us to ride most of that road, if not maybe all of it. At least I was hopeful that would be the case.

The last checkpoint we passed was the Otto Pond farm. Black Beard Micro-Pirate stayed put during this stop.
The end of the Eastward stretch was marked by the final checkpoint at Otto Pond. We got there just before 6:00pm and didn't stay long. I was working hard so I took a seat and downed a cola before remounting and heading out for the final stretch of our Gravel Worlds ride. Twenty Two miles to go, give or take a few tenths. What could go wrong?

Tony eyes up the mud hole ahead and decides to take a winger.....
.........and he paid for it by taking half a mud bath!
Well, that muddy Minimum Maintenance Road was one thing! Tony had a mind that the path looked okay to go across some short stretch of water without dismounting, but the mud was too deep. He slipped over to the left and stuck his arm out to save himself from total immersion in the muddy water, but he was half a slimy mess. I stood by and watched as he cleared away as much slime as he could before we remounted and took off again. A slight delay, but not enough to keep us from making the goal of Sunset or before. But we were going to have to hoof it double time, as fast as our legs could take us.

The day was drawing to a close, the course was nearing the end, but the hills never stopped.
About a half an hour out from the finish, we managed to still be smiling. Me on the left with Tony McGrane: Image by Kevin Fox
The hills were never ending. One after another. Hats off to Schmidty for finding the roads that led right up to the very end with hill after hill. Kevin Fox appeared about 15 miles out from the finish and took a few images of us. He was encouraging us to keep at it and that I indeed would not be needing that phone number after all.

Indeed. I would not be needing it at all.

I've never finished one of these "big" gravel events before. Dirty Kanza has eluded me and Gravel Worlds had been unattainable. Odin's Revenge had been just too dang difficult for me to tackle and even some of my own GTDRI rides have been to tough for me to tame. But this was going to be different.

I didn't know how I would react. I actually gave some thought to it briefly as I rode the final miles. Then I chased that thought right out. I had to finish first. Anything could go wrong......

Crossing that line with a fist bump from Tony. Image by Kevin Fox
We got the patches. It's official now! Image by Kevin Fox
Well, obviously it happened, and I was pretty dang happy about it.

I'll have more about the equipment and the nutritional plan later.

Thank You: Thanks to my wife, Phyllis Stevenson for letting me go on these crazy adventures. Thanks to my children, Izabel and Jacob for putting up with my being gone a weekend. Thanks to Tony McGrane for the companionship all weekend and especially for waiting for me on the hill top! Thanks to the Pirate Cycling League, Schmidty, all the volunteers and the Pirates Of The League who make this event possible. Thank you to the Schmidt's, The Brown's, Roca Tavern, The Reinkordt's, the people at the Malcom General Store, the people at the Branched Oak Farm, the town of Valpraiso,  the people at Otto Pond, and the Schilling Bridge Cork & Tap House. Thank you to Kevin Fox for your inspiration, encouragement, and images. Thank you to Matt Wills for the awesome bear hug at the finish. Thank you to my Brother MG, you are awesome my friend! Love ya! To all the Lincoln folks- I love you people! You make the gravel scene what it is. Anybody that feels left out- I Thank You Too! Finally- To all the gravel riders at Gravel Worlds, I give you a tip of the cycling cap. You all are awesome folks and you make this scene what it is. Keep on doing it like this! Please! Don't ever stop. 


Steven Butcher said...

Congratulations, Mark!

Dave said...

I'm happy to finally read that you finished one. Nice work!

Robert Hingtgen said...

Great Job Mark!! You are inspiring me to take on one of these challenging events!

Piperguy416 said...

Congrats! Great reading, as always.

Robert Ellis said...

That's a great ride! congrats!!:)

MG said...

Love you too, Brother! Congratulations to you and Tony for your GW16 finishes and thanks for taking the time to hang out Friday night before the race. I could tell from your easy going ways you had it confidently in the bag, barring "unforeseen circumstances". And indeed it was true.

Cheers!! Way to slay the dragon!!!