|(L-R) Capn' Steve, some guys from Gravel Sharks, and D'Corn
So, the 2023 version of this event came upon the heels of a large scale storm that literally blew through the area the day before, leaving a wake of destruction in its path from high, straight line winds and tornadic activities spanning several states. It also left us with a Friday in the 70's and a Saturday that started out around 30 degrees with a 25mph Northwest wind and gloomy skies to start out the day.
This edition of the Gents Race was one where I had absolutely zero expectations for myself. I had just come off a three week period of sickness, and the last vestiges of the head cold I had were just recently eliminated from my body only a few days ahead of the event. I had precious few miles in because of that and the wonky weather we've had as well. So, with little training, I only was going to be able to do so much, and I was fine with that. What else could I do?
|N.Y. Roll filing his team's waivers. His team actually won the Gents Race due to a technicality.
|The race organizers moved the start from the bike path to a shielded from the wicked Northwest winds.
I drove down with plenty of time to spare since the race organizers pushed back the first team out start time an hour to accommodate for frigid temperatures. They also wisely moved the start out of the wind to a sheltered area to help keep riders warmer right up until the start of the event. Teams of five riders were to take off at intervals starting at 9:00am.
Our start time was 9:44am, so I didn't have to leave the house here until 6:30am, which was really nice. The drive down was rough in that heavy wind, and it made me think about how hard this course is when the winds are out of a Northerly direction. But again - I could only try my best. If that wasn't good enough, I would know why and I was fine with that.
|(L-R) One of the RD's, Kyle Sedore, Christopher Rhodes, D'Corn, GT, Bob, and Cap'n Steve at the start.
|(L-R) Partially obscured, Chris Rhodes, D'Corn, Bob, and Capn' Steve.
The start went straight North out of the gate and then turned West after a mile. The start was waaaay too hot for me and I was maxed out in heartrate and breathing straight away. Not good! We turned west and I said to myself, "This isn't going to work for me. I have to back things down." Steve noted my distress and apologized for the pace and promised that he would convince everyone we needed to adjust our expectations of speed.
That worked and I settled into a pace that worked out at the time. We had about a four mile Southward push about right then and a few of the guys joked that we could just keep going that direction, let the wind push us, and end up at Bob's "Cumming Tap" which he runs. While that sounded fun, we turned Westward and stayed on course!
Here we were at the Southern most point of the course near Saylorville Lake.
|This was my view for most of the 11 miles we went North before the checkpoint.
My teammates did a great job shepherding me along when they could and I just kept grinding, and grinding......and grinding. Finally I heard Steve say, "Hey Mark! We made it!" , and just ahead was the turn off Eastward and with the wind at a 3/4's tailwind to our backs. I was really happy to not only turn out of that headwind, but that I made it! I only stopped briefly one time in the entire stretch. That was a lot better than I thought I'd do.
|Barns For Jason: Still heading North at this point
|This shot gives you a feel for the sandy, loose gravel that we had for much of the course.
Once I was going with a tailwind it was assured I'd make the checkpoint and there was only about one mile where we would be going West and otherwise it was all East and South in this section of the course.
Some of the guys were talking like they would call it quits at the checkpoint since it is only about 4 miles from there to the start/finish. I didn't know what to think. On the one hand I figured with a bit of a rest and some food I might be able to make it. On the other hand, stopping the pain I was experiencing sounded good too. My arms felt a dull, aching pain at the shoulder sockets and my legs felt sore too from the big North push. Plus, I was on track to beat my longest ride of the year so far. No big deal, but it was on my mind.
|Barns For Jason
At the checkpoint I ate and used some of the Embark maple syrup based nutritional supplement I got, (more on that in another post) and I felt pretty good. We pulled out a bit sooner than our usual last place and motored East a bit and then another five or six miles North back into that wind again. Uggh! But I was actually able to put together two long pulls for the group, which surprised me. I didn't plan that, but I felt it and went with it and it worked.
|Heading North....again! (And yes- D'Corn was wearing denim blue jeans
|The Northward section after the checkpoint ended here with a bit of "cheater road". Ha !
I made this Northward push as well, but while I was amazed by that, I had burnt almost all my matches by this point. Going East and South wouldn't be that big of a deal, but at the very end, if we chose to do it, there was another three or four miles of Northbound road. Chatter began about this time that there would be a "team meeting" where the Heart of Iowa Trail crossed our path and went directly back to Slater.
|This wind machine's blades were getting flexed a lot by the heavy winds.
|We were making excellent time heading South.
Eventually we made our crossing with the Heart of Iowa Trail and our planned stop to discuss the plans to either go ahead, or cut things short and head to Slater. It seemed that we were right on the borderline of making it back on time, (the cut-off for the event was 4:00pm), and no one was interested in another segment of North headwinds, so we all bailed out on the trail. This brought us in with 50 miles for the day.
I was fine with the decision. I had gone well over twice the length of any ride I'd done up to that point in 2023 and I was happy with my performance. I had outdone myself, and I am still amazed I made it as far as I did. This is good for me as long as I build on it in the coming days.
We hit Slater and the bar where I had a meal with Steve and I talked to a few others as well before heading out for home. My legs are torched, but that's okay. They will come around! All in all this was as successful as I could have hoped for considering where I've been most of the month of March.
I'll have a gear round-up coming next.