Monday, December 05, 2016

A Lament For Odin's Revenge

Beautiful, Tough, Fun. Odin's Revenge was all of that. Image by W. Kilburg
I think it must have been 2012 or so when I heard some stories about Odin's Revenge, a gravel grinder event out in West Central Nebraska. As I recall, it was Mike Johnson, a local rider, who was talking about his experiences out there and that it was a "must do" gravel road event.

I had been out to the area back in '09 to scope out what was to be the failed and final attempt at a bicycle festival dubbed "The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo". I found out back then that Nebraska was actually really hilly and absolutely gorgeous. Any excuse to go back was going to be met with a positive response. Well, lucky for me, the Odin's Revenge gravel grinder was cooked up, and I decided after hearing what Mike had to say, I was going to head out that way and give it a go.

Now, I'm not going to go into all the details of the event. Heck, all you have to do is go back in the blog here to any June from 2013,'14' or '15 and read the reports on this event. There you will read all you need to know. Odin's was my one of my favorite events of the year, one I would not miss, (except this year due to my Mom's surprise 75th birthday party), and was probably second in line to the Renegade Gent's Race in terms of my all-time most favorite event to ride in. I was planning on going back next Summer for sure, but the organizers have called it quits for now.


But, at least I got to ride it three times. I've never managed to finish that event, and now it looks like Odin's will have "his revenge" forever upon me, but man! It doesn't matter to me, really. I am just so glad I got to ride Odin's Revenge at all. So, I decided that I would share some images and memories they stir in this post.

The roads in this area of Nebraska are breath taking and brutal. That's Craig Groseth on a single speed in the image.
Another crazy road. That's Craig again, I am pretty sure.
One of the unique elements of Odin's Revenge is the roads. I've never been on roads like this anywhere else. There is outright gravel there, but the unmaintained roads are the real stars of the course. If anyone has ridden an Odin's Revenge, all you have to say is "Government Pocket Road" and nothing else. The eyes and expressions shared would be all the communication that would be necessary to understand. It's just a crazy, rutted, dusty, sometimes muddy twisted course of dirt roads out there that amaze, challenge, and more often than not, brutalize those riders that take them on.

Then there was the element of where the event was held. Gothenburg Nebraska is situated far enough West that it drew riders from the Colorado and Black Hills areas. That is why I met several folks I am so glad to have met. I doubt I would have ever become friendly with any of those people had Odin's Revenge not existed. People like Craig Groseth, whom I met at my first Odin's Revenge, and who I hope to ride with again some day. Craig was just crushing it on a single speed, and he is an amazing rider. Just one example of many folks I met out there in Nebraska in the middle of no-where.

And of course, there are the organizers and volunteers of Odin's. The "DSG" group. The main folks were Chad, his wife Merrie, Matt, Bob, Nate, Paul, Kyle, and Garrett. Thanks to these people, their hours of work, their care, and their dedication, Odin's was a great experience. The core group kept that event fun, tough, basic, and one of the best run grassroots gravel events that I am aware of. That was no small feat either. How they kept a balance of sponsorship, down to earth feel, and honest, heartfelt care for everyone that came to ride is beyond me. The experiences I had were second to none.

That's Chad on the table, the "Odin" of Odin's Revenge. This was the pre-race meeting in '14.

Merrie, Chad's wife, checking me in to CP#1 in the '14 Odin's event.
Paul playing the hammered dulcimer. Yes, you even got serenaded at Odin's pre-race gathering!

My resting place after another "vision quest" at Odin's in 2015
Like I said, I never finished an Odin's. I twice  got about a 100 miles in and wilted. The other time it was the toughest 47 miles I had ever ridden. That was the "muddy" year. Along the way, I had what one of my gravel riding acquaintances would call a "vision quest".  Well, every time I rode Odin's, I had a pretty intense experience. I have a distinct memory of each time I rode an Odin's of where this happened.

Like the first Odin's Revenge where I got so overheated I stripped down to my birthday suit and laid in the cool grass several yards off the course in a secluded grove of trees. I got the job done, cooled down the core, and continued onward. There were probably two other times I was really on the edge at that first one too. Sitting at Potter's was a Godsend and that running water from the hose. Heaven!

There was the time I had to bail out early at Mile 47 and ride back to Gothenburg. On the way there, I was falling asleep on the bike, so I stopped and rested under a huge shade tree in a pasture. Or the last Odin's, where I was so bonked out and overheated that I saw fog when I looked around me and there was none. Odin's may have been a ton of fun and good times, but maybe it also damn near killed me. I'm not sure.

I guess it was a combination of the terrain, the heat, and my understanding of myself, or lack of, I should say. That's another thing I owe to Odin's Revenge- I learned an awful lot about myself and also how I needed to prepare and how I dealt with heat. I learned what to eat and keep myself fueled. The lessons gained from Odin's were used in my finish at the Gravel Worlds this past Summer. Had I not tested myself so severely, I likely would never have gotten to that finish line at all.

Matt Wills grinds up a long hill on his single speed Soulcraft in the '13 Odin's. Probably my favorite shot I've taken at any gravel event.
So, I am so glad I even got to ride in one Odin's Revenge, let alone three. The people, the place, and the experiences are something I will treasure forever. Thanks DSG and anyone ever associated with Odin's Revenge.

There may never be another Odin's Revenge, but I will go back there to ride again someday......


Rob E said...

It was a very unique and great ride put on by a fantastic group of people, it will be missed for sure.

Craig Groseth said...

Well spoken, Mark. Odin's Revenge is all that, and more. It's hard to express the depth of a shared experience at Odin's Revenge, but I know that I cherish each one. Thank you for sharing some time and miles at my first one back in 2013. I look forward to riding with you again.

Your friend, Craig.

Salmon said...

Did my first one last year, bailed at the third CP, got 100 miles (counting the ride to and from the campground). Got a chance to hang out with Chad and friends after the ride and then later that night, everyone was great. I already had this on the list for this summer, to go back and and get my full dose of Revenge.

Good luck to Chad, Garrett, and the rest of the gang!

See you down the dusty road,

-the slow Greg G.

Robert Ellis said...

It was a tremendous event. I just loved it! Had it on my calendar for this year as well. Very sad that it is no more. All your words were right on and I feel the very same way. So grateful that I got to experience a couple of times. I hope they bring it back one of these years!