The Gravel World Championships or Gravel Worlds was held last weekend. I was on the starting line with 116 other gravel gurus. I expected to DNF. I don’t usually, OK, I never go into a challenge figuring that I’ll fail, but I haven’t been feeling that great lately, especially in the heat and getting in even 60 miles has been a chore as of late.
The high in Lincoln was supposed to be anywhere from the high 70s to low 80s, depending on where I looked.
“Hmm, I may be able finish this thing.”
Oh wait, the other thing that has stopped me and my bikes is mud. There was a 70% chance of rain in Lincoln. Mud is a ride stopper for sure. I just replaced my drive train after the DK200 and broke a derailleur in half last year on the Fargo because of mud. I would definitely quit before breaking more bike components.
Thursday night Lincoln was pounded with rain. Cripes.
I headed up to Lincoln on Friday with my friend Kevin, although we’d be in two cars because I wanted to stop in Omaha after the race to see my sister.
… and 100s of other gravel grinders coming into town.
After hanging out for a little bit we decided food was a good idea. We rode downtown after getting some advice from the locals on good eats. We ate at Oso Burrito which I do recommend if you like big burritos. I do and it hit the spot.
On the way back to the shop, the sky was looking rather ominous. I might have a chance to finish the 153 mile race if it didn’t rain any more, but more rain the night before the race or the day of would be the end for me. I absolutely hate carrying my bike through the mud. I also just bought an entire new drive train after the DK200 and if I broke something on this race, this bike would be out of commission for a long time. The kids gotta eat too you know.
Please don’t rain
I was riding in downtown Lincoln in something I’ve never ridden in before: A BIKE LANE. How sweet is that? Very.
It was extremely cool to be riding safely in a bike lane. Every town needs these!
We registered for the race back at the shop and the murmurs from the crowd where all about rain, mud and which minimum maintenance roads would be unrideable. Cripes. I’ll be honest, I was feeling a little wimpy. An easy out from the race would be OK by me. I was pretty certain I wouldn’t finish this one anyway.
The PCL being who they are, had free beer, root beer and sweet, one of a kind, screen printed posters for sale. I bought two posters to put in my man cave and had some root beer. Kevin let me know that I couldn’t hang those posters unless I finished the race. Whatever Kevin.
Gravel Worlds Posters
After talking to a few people at registration and leaving with my posters, Kevin and I had to do the unthinkable. We went to Walmart in Lincoln, Nebraska. Do they shoot all “the people of Wal-Mart” in Nebraska? Now, I live in Kansas of all places, nothing too ritsy there, but wow this was amazing. No offense Lincoln, but just wow.
Kevin, being an orderly engineer type about lost his mind with all the yelling kids, large crowd of people, exposed skin and other stimulating things going on at the Wal-Mart. His brain locked up for a second as he stared into space. It seemed to take hours to get what we needed. Seems like every Wal-Mart is layed out the same, but this one was different. Why were we there you ask? We needed breakfast food, oh and then utensils and then something to cook in… it seemed to go on and on. All we wanted was oatmeal and eggs for the morning. We would use the handy hotel microwave to cook in.
Even though I was in a hotel room, I slept like a baby that night. Then the alarm broke into my happy dream at 4:00 am. Time to get up.
We ate our eggs and oatmeal and I started drinking nuun enhanced water and then Cytomax as I was getting ready. It was time to test out the best of the samples of Adventure Monkey gear.
Now some may have thought that was a bad idea – to wear new cycling clothes on a 153 mile gravel road race. But I will have you know, that AM’s test facility doesn’t mess around. It would be literally, my ass on the line here if the chamois didn’t perform as I expected. The kit I had on was made of Italian materials and chamois which felt great on the 30 mile ride I did before. I was hoping it would perform well at the race.
But remember, I still had my doubts about finishing this bad boy anyway.
We made our way to the starting line at the edge of town. It had rained that night. The ground was already sloppy. Wow, this was going to be an interesting day.
Check-in happened in the dark. The air was thick with excitement, nervousness and well, moisture.
All 116 or so of us lined up and listened to Corey Godfrey (I think it was him, I couldn’t see) say something about gravel, 153 miles, MMR roads and safety. I am not sure what he said to be honest. I just wanted to start pedaling. I was sure I would DNF fairly soon. I couldn’t imagine riding on wet sticky roads for 153 miles.
And then we were off and rolling. It was dark. I could hear people’s voices but mainly the sound of bicycle tires spinning in the wet, sticky gravel. Soon I took my first shot to show all the blinky lights.
This is possibly the worst picture I’ve ever posted on here. No it is. It was dark and I was on my bike. This is what I get with a slow shutter speed and me trying to hold the camera steady while riding on gravel. Trust me, seeing all the blinky lights way up the road was pretty cool.
The road wasn’t too bad. The gravel around Lincoln is pea sized with sand underneath. The water drains away pretty well and it wasn’t too muddy at all. The weather was so cool, I couldn’t remember the last time I rode in weather this pleasant. I was making good time and was able to watch the sunrise. I was in a state of bike happiness.
This could be the whole story – Rolling hills. Lots of them. The end. Keep reading for the details.
We have hills in the Flint Hills. Some are steep, all are pretty rocky, but these were different. The gravel on them is pretty tame, no big, nasty, tire shredding rocks anywhere. But I swear the rollers started and never ended. 153 miles of constant rollers. We don’t have that in Kansas.We have rollers and hills, but we have some space in between them. The rollers in this shot are pretty tame, but pretty much shows what I was looking at all day. Rollers and farmland. The crops rolled for miles too. It seemed like the crops went on forever, vast fields of corn and beans. It made the croplands I’m used to seeing in Kansas look small.
I was making great time and feeling amazing. It was a beautiful day and the weather was cool. Who would’ve thought I’d be riding in weather this nice in the Midwest in August?
And then I hit the first MMR road that was an impassable mess. OK, not impassable, but definitely unridable. It was time to pick up the bike with all the extra water (=heavy) put it on my back and walk through the mud. I gotta say, this section sucked some energy out of me. But then I saw a guy carrying a heavy Surly Big Dummy through the mud and realized I was getting off pretty easy. Why would one want to ride one of those on a 153 gravel race? All I can figure is those PCL guys in Lincoln are straight up crazy.
There’s some Emporia boys up there. Scott O’mara and Tim Mohn were up ahead in the mud.
I made it through the mud to a place with big mud clobs all over the road and some nice PCL guys telling us to make sure and clean off our bikes because many people were shredding their derailleurs as they sped up down the hill that was ahead. Since I carried through the mud my bike wasn’t too bad. My shoes on the other hand were a mess. I was glad to have Crank Brothers Candies for my pedals as the mud doesn’t clog them up at all. One of the PCL guys said there was only one other bad MMR road full of mud in the course. That made me feel pretty good. Although it was a lie.
Off I went and made it to the first checkpoint where I met up with Tim and Scott with Kristi working as their support team.
Let me just take this time to take back anything bad I have ever said about the Mohns. Kristi took great care of me at this and other stops and I even borrowed some lube for my chain from their stash. They took good care of me and it was nice to see familiar faces, since my “friend” Kevin that said something like, “I’ll probably hang back and ride with you so I don’t blow up,” was nowhere to be seen after the starting line. I would expect nothing less from him though. And to be honest I don’t like holding people back when they are a lot faster than me, and he is just that. Although there might have been a little monkey inside that wouldn’t be sad to catch him if he did blow up.
Then I bought my lottery ticket. That’s how we proved we made it to the checkpoints. All the cyclists were full of mud and the poor lady at the gas station was not too happy by the time I saw her. That place was trashed. The floor was covered in mud. It was gross. I felt kind of bad, but I had a lot more miles to pedal, so I didn’t grab a mop or anything.
Some of my regular readers may have noticed I haven’t mentioned anything about my bathroom experiences, since they always become a big deal on these long rides. My GI tract, just doesn’t appreciate a good day of riding. Well FYI and to make sure I give you TMI, this first checkpoint became a place of sweet relief as I had my first showing of the day. I came out of there with my arms raised like a champion. Things were good with the GI tract that morning, but don’t worry all that would soon change.
Because of my awesome lack of planning (too bad Jen doesn’t ride with me – she keeps me in line) I decided to just go with mini Cliff bars to supplement my calorie intake. Cytomax keeps me fueled, but I needed some food to supplement it. I wanted something easy and the trail mix isn’t the easiest thing to eat, hence I had mini Cliffs and some beef jerkey. The mini bars worked fine for awhile. I would eat around one and hour or so for awhile. More on this later.
I left the first checkpoint and missed a turn. I was so excited at how good I was feeling I missed one line on my cue sheet. After backtracking and getting back on route I added three to four extra miles to my ride. Like I needed a little more.
I got back on and continued to enjoy riding the rollers. I hit some more MMRs, but most of them were ridable with only a few areas where I had to carry the bike through a big puddle or deep ruts. I was in a really nice scenic area and had to stop to shoot a few pics.
I usually love riding after these signs, but with all the rain, these signs became signs of trouble.
The rollers never stopped. Over and over and over. I was quite impressed with the rolling hills and the course that kept us on them for 153 miles. Quite impressive. No wonder why the PCL crew is always in the top ten at the DK200. Good thing my derailluer was working well. I would ride really fast down a hill and shift to easy gears to get up the next hill and then repeat that for 153 miles. Did I mention we rode 153 miles of non-stop rollers?
I took this shot and chuckled as I could just say this was the whole course – rollers.
I was getting a little tired from all the rollers but made it to the second checkpoint. There were a lot of people resting. I got my lottery ticket, refilled my water, ate an orange slice provided by the nice lady in the store and relubed the chamois. Things were feeling pretty good down there with the new bibs.
You’d think I would have relubed the chamois in the bathroom, but I tend to lose all sense of appropriateness when I am involved in an endurance event. So, I just put my hand full of chamois butter down my pants there by a trash can outside by the bikes. Of course I had to wipe off my hand before putting my glove back on, so I walked over to some grass, but before cleaning off my hand I showed the aforementioned hand to Kristi as I walked by and said something a little off color. Can I restate, that I lose all sense of appropriateness at these things? I just want to get the job done. And I tend to think gross things are funny. Sorry Kristi. But it’s like a cat that brings it’s owner a dead mouse. That’s how cats and monkeys show their affection – with dead mice and butt butter.
Scott, Tim and Kristi in Malcolm, Nebraska.
I didn’t stay long. I don’t like to stop too long on these races. It makes my muscles tight and my mind gets too comfortable taking a break. That makes it doubly hard to get moving again. So I was off before the others that were there when I got there left. I told Scott and Tim that they would probably catch me soon and I headed out. And guess what I found?
Soon, I was feeling it. I had to push up a hill or two to give the quads a break. And something else was happening. The Cliff Bars were beginning to wreak havoc on my insides. Gassy and bloated followed by the total lack of wanting to eat anything but real food. My whole GI system was starting to feel, well, just bad. Luckily the beef jerkey sounded good, and I ate some which made me thirsty and I was able to continue drinking plenty of fluids. I hoped the calories in the Cytomax would keep me going. I just wanted to make it to the “secret checkpoint.” I needed a break and I was hoping they had food.
Finally, I saw the war flags and turned into the driveway that led to the oldest house in Lancaster County, Nebraska.
The PCL crew had food. The liquid kind with hops and barley. I can’t drink and ride like crazy Malcolm who put down something like 12 beers on this ride. So I would settle for some rest.
Kristi gave me a chair to sit and asked if I needed anything. “Food, I’m so hungry,” I said. She gave me some Payday bars which aren’t real food, but they were edible. I was at that stage where I either wanted to throw up or eat something. Yeah, I know, those are opposites, but that’s how I felt. The wrath of those miny Cliff bars would last through the next day too.
As I was relaxing in the shade, Tim and Scott showed up. Kristi had sandwiches waiting for them. As Tim ate his I could smell the goodness of real food. Oh it smelled delightful. Scott was tired and seemed to be mentally spent. The bad news was, Scott could not go on. The good news was, he could not eat his sandwich and asked me if I wanted it.
“You sure?” I asked. I felt like a dying man taking another dying man’s sandwich. He said he couldn’t eat and since he was pulling the plug, I dug in. I usually try to eat somewhat kosher, but not only do I become inappropriate, I eat just about anything at these events. As you can see from my face, that is one satisfied Jewish boy enjoying some delicious unclean meats. Sorry if they look dirty. It tasted that good. I can’t thank Scott and the Mohn’s enough for their support.
At this point, I think I was only 50 miles from the finish. I was now determined to finish the race. I couldn’t go this far and give up. My legs were beginning to feel fried, but I wasn’t cramping and I wanted to continue. I hoped the food and rest would help out.
They did. I made it to the next checkpoint which was only 12 miles away and bought the last lottery ticket of my race. I thought I would buy some real food, but I wasn’t feeling so well so I refilled the water one last time and pushed on to finish the race.
I was doing well and pedaling strong again. The sun was going down but it looked like I would finish before dark. Woo hoo! I just wanted to be done and off my bike. My hands were very sore as were my feet and sit bones.
And then I hit the last section with mud. It was a long stretch of carrying and pushing the bike. I rode some in the grass too, but soon, my front wheel was completely stopped with mud from earlier in the day mixed with new mud. I needed to carry out of this section before cleaning the front wheel and fork.
After I finally made it to some white gravel, I found the mud wouldn’t come free by using a stick, so I would have to turn the bike over and remove the front wheel. To do that, I have to deflate the big tire to get it out of the fork. I used my multi-tool to chisel out the mud from earlier reinflated my tire. I was a little worried with how much time the muddy road took from me. I got back on the bike with a renewed energy and pedaled towards the finish.
I was tired, but still pedaling pretty well. Then I heard another bike behind me. A guy on a Big Dummy passed me. I’m not sure who he was, or if he was the Big Dummy guy from before, but he was some kind of animal. He was standing on the pedals and cranking away – away from me on a long heavy bike made to carry groceries. I couldn’t keep up with that guy. I started to feel delirious. I wondered if a little girl on skates would pass me next. But no one passed me after that. I was too fast for the slow people and too slow for the fast people and once again, I rode by myself most of the day. I’m OK with that. It was a good day of mind clearing bike riding through pretty country.
I soon passed the last oasis. I felt OK, and it was getting dark. I wanted to finish so bad, that stopping wasn’t an option for me. When planning for this race, I figured I would either not finish or if I did I would finish in the daytime. The mud took precious daylight away from me. So because of that, all I had for a light was a little three LED battery powered light on my handle bars. Plus I was wearing my prescription shades and didn’t bring my regular glasses. And then it was dark.
I made the last turn on the cure sheet and headed towards Lincoln. So close yet, so far. I think I had about eight miles left. At this point I had my glasses off and my little light on. I basically couldn’t see. The rollers were still rolling and I was up around 25 miles an hour on gravel at night without my glasses with a little beam of light in front of me. If I wasn’t before, I was delirious then. I began to sing. I made up songs just to keep my spirits up and vent my frustrations. I’m sure if anyone heard me, they thought there was a lunatic on the road. I just wanted to finish!
Finally, I saw the sweet sight of blurry (no glasses) lights. Lincoln! I made it in and met Troy, the guy that made the course I do believe. I told him how great of a course he devised. I was so happy to have made it through all those freaking rollers. It was such a relief to finish. I won. I felt the thrill, no the relief and exhaustion of victory. To my delight, Troy asked if I was a medium and threw me a sweet Twin Six jersey! Twin six is the coolest jersey making company behind the soon to be launched Adventure Monkey apparel line.
I think I came in 47th overall and 33rd in the Open Men division. Wow, strong mid pack. That’s getting better for me.
But then, I realized the finish line must be near a mosquito haven or something. I am still scratching from all the mosquito bites. And these were some big mosquitoes too. Kevin was talking, high from his great finish, but I just wanted to get out of there ASAP.
And then the best news of the day. This goes into the TMI zone again, but it must be done.
I wore the test AM full kit. It was very comfortable and my rear felt pretty good throghout the long race. But the truth would be told in the shower. I always get a nice burning sensation down there after a long ride. Even the really nice PI chamois leaved me a bit chaffed. How would this AM chamois do?
No burning. None. I had no chafing. That’s one very nice chamois. I gotta say, the best I’ve ever used. I am sold and soon will be moving forward on the AM kits. You all will know first, but it will be soon. I am just working out some details on zippers and fabrics now.
And now some shots of the bikes:
All was fine and good until some guy in a big diesel truck headed to the horse show backed into Kevin’s bike rack. I wan’t sure what was going on as Kevin went from looking out the window to running out of the room. I looked out the window and saw him sprinting after a big truck. It was a sight. Should I have been laughing? Probably not. But wouldn’t you know it, the Lincoln PD showed up and tracked down the truck at the horse show before we left. Wow.
This ghetto cue sheet holder worked perfectly. I printed it out and laminated it and folded it in thirds. I used safety pins and a clip to hold it in place. It didn’t move in the wind at all. At the appropriate times, I unpinned the cue sheet and moved to the next set of directions. It worked great.
All in all, that was a great weekend. I finished off the weekend by visiting with my sister and her family in Omaha before driving back to E-town. Gravel Worlds is a great race to do. The PCL crew put on a great race. I highly recommend it.
Feed Your Monkey!
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