Thursday, June 17, 2010

a long way to gravel glory

well, the DK200 was a hard day of cycling. here's a quick recap.

RD, EB, and I rolled into a windy, hot, and humid Emporia, Kansas during the middle of Friday for the pre-race check in and orientation. We met the race directors Jim and Joel, both high-class guys who know how to put on a top notch event. registration and orientation went well and it was time to hit the hay. i didnt sleep too well. pre-race jitters make sleeping the night before these events a little difficult. i may take a page from RD and sneak a little nightcap in before hitting the hay.

raceday started with a 415 wakeup call. the 'stach crew pounded some food and liquids prior to rolling out with the lincoln guys at around 530. the lincoln guys are great cyclists, pretty laid back, and fun to hang out with. everybody is there to have fun and take care of business on the bike when it's time. we rolled to the starting line in front of the Granada theater and watched the riders accumulate. there were about 160-some riders at the start line when we began the neutral roll out with the emporia police escort. i hung out in the middle of the pack as we started to hit the gravel and the race was on. then, on like the first bump, and my two rear water bottles pop off. snap! 500 feet into the race and im already in last place. i secure the bottles in my jersey and play catch up.

the first 10 miles of gravel were flat and easy going. after that, the steady diet of climbs, rocky flint, and wind chipped away at your morale. the humid morning air was not too bad because the headwinds and crosswinds cooled you off. however, the winds were relentless. after finishing some climbs you were totally exposed to the wind that tried to push you over. 15-20mph winds continued all morning long. oh well, glad RD and I got some training in on some windy days in early may, otherwise that would'a been much more difficult of a day. i was passing lots of the slower riders but not making too much ground on some of the faster riders. i think i try much harder when there's an element of a pursuit, like there is in the wednesday night ride. anyways, i was fooling myself, the fast group is really fast. they were pushing a 17mph pace where I was maybe pushing 13 the first two or so hours. at around mile 40 the headwinds and crosswinds finally turned to a tailwind as the next 20 or so miles would be with the wind at our backs as we cruised to the first checkpoint. things were going well until flat-city. around mile 42 there was a great descent. i was rolling a little too flat and hit a cattle grate and heard a hissing sound. arg...first flat. luckily there was some shade that the cows were not occupying. i try to fix the pinch flat but abandon that because i couldn't locate where the hole was. too much wind made it difficult. i fix the flat and then hop on the bike. at about the same time i noticed none of my four water bottles had any contents. thankfully some riders shared a bit of their commodity before i spotted a farm house and filled up again.

i hit the first checkpoint feeling ok. a little dehydrated, but ok. i stocked up on fuel and then hit the road. the next 40 were with a tailwind, so that was nice, kinda. tailwinds make it hard to cool off and the temp had climbed into the 90s. Ouch. Around mile 80 i began to question why was i doing this. in all of these races, there's a little voice in your head telling you to keep going and to not quit. that voice was telling me to take it easy and not kill myself. i switched to a long sleeve collared shirt to protect me from the sun. it helped, but i was beat. the breaks became frequent and there was no drive to keep going. at checkpoint #2 i called it a day. my head hurt and my legs were cramping.

there were many folks who called it quits at that point in the race. it was 3pm and i still had a 100 miles to go. no mas. luckily, i ran into a guy who i rode with on the Good Life Gravel Adventure and he was able to give me a lift back into Emporia. Ahh, air conditioning...

I spent the next few hours eating and enjoying some nice tallgrass wheat beer with some construction guys.

it's a long way to gravel glory. i'll be back. no DNF next time. better training means a better chance to cross the finish line.

****photo credit to Corey Godfrey for the Best Western greeting photo

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