Gravel Conspiracy part II

This was an incredible event.  It's just awesome that something like this can happen AND with zero entry fee.  That has a lot to do with some great sponsors (cyclova xcsalsaA-train cycles and three stars)  and I certainly appreciate that they provided the money that helped make this happen but Josh ACTUALLY made it happen-  thank you Josh.  I think the best thing I can say about this weekend was that over and over again I thought to myself that the route, format etc. was exactly the way I would have made it myself.  

9:38pm Thursday night- lab shift finally complete, head home to meet DG.

9:45pm- find out we no longer have a place to spend the night, camping has been effectively rained out

1:00am Friday-  pull into Duluth hotel that we booked after approximately 12 phone calls.

8:00am- Waffles and tea, free with room

11:15am-  Coho cafe Tofte, wonderful pre-race food.  One of my favorite stops.

12:30pm- At the start line on Artists Point-  awesome to see everyone and get a feel for who was in the field.

1:20pm- slightly late start but a hot pace out of town, wanted nothing to do with it but eventually took a pull so as not to feel like a total moocher.

1:50pm?- finally onto gravel, immediately onto a hill...  is this thing a race?  Figured it was going to go up for a while as we left the lake and settled into a fast climbing pace, no looking back.  Nearing the top, a glance, could only see Ted.

3:56pm-  Ride into Bearskin campground with Ted.  Very tired, average speed had been 18.6 with a ton of climbing.  Super great ride!  We had repeatedly talked about the beauty of the roads and how cool the event was, just amazing.

5:40pm-  Max cap. of 3 persons hot tub signed out in our names and quite full with 5 guys.

7:00pm-  Send email out to family with regards to the day so far.  Think about how absolutely awesome an event this is and is going to be.  The rest of the night was a lot of sitting around and bullshitting with the other riders.

7:00am Saturday-  Long day ahead of us and with no idea what to expect topography wise etc..  Feel OK,  surprisingly feel healthier than Friday morning...  happy to be getting over my cold.  Excited for the day.

8:36am-  everyone has left but Ted and I...  

mile 30-  we've been riding with a decent sized group of guys but for some reason the pace is picking up.  I feel a little tight but try to mix up the way I'm pedaling and work it out.

mile 33- take my turn pulling at the front and legs don't feel as tired as expected (I've learned that on multi-day rides like this it takes me 1-2 hours to get going in the morning)

mile 35-  the group breaks up a bit and we hit the base of a hill.  I make a decision and don't look back for a while.

mile 38- I still see them but don't think they are catching, decide to really go for 5 more miles and in reality that was when I actually put it down.  I never see anyone again.  I realize that this is sort of race/ride/tour event and appreciate what that means with regards to going solo, I think I'm going to have more fun riding solo anyways.  There is a rhythm that I just can't find riding in a group and the time to think.

mile 42-  Settle into my normal pace and mood for "touring" type riding.  Plan to treat the rest of the day just like all the long rides I've done over the last 6 weeks or so.  

mile 57-  Josh rumbles by in the Uhaul and they let me know I have a huge gap.  I just ride.  I focus on standing to climb in order to mix up the muscles I'm using.  Think about how great the route is, how perfect the weather is for me.  Rain, wind, cold, hills...  why can't all races/rides/tours be like this, this is exactly what I wanted when I signed up for this thing.

mile 70-  quick turnaround at rest stop-  a coke, three snickers, chain lubed and water bottles filled by Josh...  awesome!  I leave the checkpoint just flying and loving life.

mile 97-  hell yes!  ATV trail, punchy climbs.  Almost overcook a corner or two descending.  Think about how this  whole ride is exactly what I've been doing for fun this summer when I wasn't racing my bike.

mile 101- another dismount, is this right?  whatever, GPS says so...  it's CX practice I suppose.  Then it dead-ends.  GPS says the road is 300-400' away.  The woods up here are pretty thick with undergrowth, paved with bear-sized boulders covered in moss and riddled with thickets of shit you just can't walk through.

I walk to the purple line.  I walk past the purple line and back over it, again, again.  I do not want to be off route.  I want to win this race/ride/tour, I feel like I've had enough bad things happen in endurance races to last a while.  I curse.  Make my first, another?, mistake and continue searching for the phantom road.

After about 20 minutes, and very likely less than 500 yards total progress, I have not found the road.  I look at my GPS and my tracks are moving, but I am not.  It dawns on me that I do not know for sure which direction is "back".  I spend the next 10 minutes trying to backtrack, I give up on that and look at my options on the GPS.  I make a second? mistake by not completely giving up and walking way back to where I know there is visible trail.  

I try yet again to find the phantom road.

45 minutes or so into the woods I realize that I'm not finding that road and that I don't really know where the barely there trail that got me into the woods is located.  The GPS is acting weird enough at the level of zoom needed that it's basically useless.  I start walking toward the only other road that I can see on the GPS (this happens to be the road I was supposed to be on btw).  It is roughly .5 mile to that road.  I figure that will take me roughly 30-60 minutes.  The going is very tough.  

I hit a lake and it's actually a godsend as it allows me to walk faster out in the open.  I take a couple of pictures.  On my map this is the smaller bit of water where the lowest white dot is.  

purple-  GPS "route"
red- real road
yellow- dead end road most people ended up on
blue- my route
white (from bottom to top)- beaver dam, moose bed, lake crossing picture etc.

As I leave that smaller lake (beaver pond) I follow a game trail that allows me to move fairly well.  It heads in somewhat the wrong direction, but again the purple line is over there and I convince myself to go to it.  There is a gigantic deer bed along the game trail, I assume it is a Moose bed.  Wonder where the moose is?  I figure that maybe the GPS had just been confused earlier about my whereabouts and this time I will find it.  There is no road there.  Finally I give up on it again and head back toward the other/correct road.  My helmet is on, I use it to push the brush out of the way as I push forward.

Again there are signs of beavers but this time when I get a view of the lake my heart sinks.  I'm blocked from the road.  Think about the possibility of spending the night out with nothing but bike kit and gu shots.  Think about the possibility of having to leave my bike to navigate faster.  The lake looks largest out to my right, I decide to go left.  Throw my bike down and jump off the boulders into the peaty shit that surrounds the lake.  The peaty vegetation stuff supports my weight 9 out every 10 steps as I move around the lake to the left.  Finally I am able to cut back to the East but the going is terribly slow.

Cross one small stream as it cuts through the peaty crap and it is only about knee deep.  I start actually crossing the lake (although in reality I crossed no open water, and generally was always mostly supported by vegetation) and I find another channel.  This channel looks similar to the first one so I throw the bike across and step in...  there is no bottom and I topple up to my armpits.

At that point I was soaking wet, "in" a lake, unsure if any of the roads on my GPS were real and it was 2.5 hours to sunset.  I knew the overnight low was about 40.  Hoped I would make a proper road.  Decided that I would leave my bike if necessary at 6pm in order to be able to pick up the pace.  Considered where/how i would spend the night.

Pushed on across another portion of the lake and into the woods.  Find a road.

mile 107-  stare at my bike and realize it's still useable, hop on my bike and ride

mile 128- UHAUL!!!  I've finished.  I know I've lost the race with my mistake.  Happy to be in one piece.  Josh tells me I'm first finisher (I later find out that Aaron Alto had not gotten lost and had finished 30-40 minutes ahead of me- see below) and my head spins.  Shivering I grab dry clothes, food, hop in truck.  We head down the trail toward the other riders.  In the end everyone was safe and I'll let each of them tell their own story as they see fit.  The majority of the riders made a shorter bushwack and were able to finish the ride roughly 1 hours slower than I had.  A few others followed the right road.  Others, who knows?  In the end everyone was accounted for and safe.

11pm-  back in Ely, need real food.  Head to gas station for $15 worth of microwave sandwiches and arnold palmer.  Knees look like this-

Wonder if I will be able to ride Sunday.  What was at mile 100 looking like a sub-8 hour day had turned into 14.5 hrs between the hike and the uhaul trip.

7am Sunday-  EARLY, cannot get moving.  Eventually drink another arnold palmer, put on some bike clothes, lubricate chain, stare at bike and think about what I'm supposed to pack.  Don't have matches, bring Gu shots and water.

8:30am-  At the start and feeling ready.  I've consumed yet more arnold palmer and gas station breakfast sandwiches.

8:45am-  Carpool teammate DG rolls off the front of the group for a second time.  I think he realizes that we have nearly as much driving time as we do riding time left for the day.  I decide to join him.  The race/ride/tour has become a ride, I think universally.  I ride the next 3 hours or so with Dennis at a nice conversational pace.

1pm-  where is Dennis?  don't see him...  hmm, give him a minute to reappear?  Did he flat?  Eventually, no Dennis and a decision to go on without him.  Only 60 miles left to go.  Can I average 18?  What is left in the legs?

????- countless amazing roads.  Same feeling as Saturday, more of exactly what I've been doing for fun.  No rain today, but other than that small omission I'm in the zone...  everything else I love is there.  So much descending too, I'm flying.  There is a rhythm to the climbs and the turns.  Want to ride 200 miles of this.

????-  Finish line at 7:30 ride time for the day, 114 miles.  I stop at a light for about 45 seconds and then still sprint for the non-existent line.

pictures are in previous post and likely available at the race's own blog

edit-  I received this comment via email.  The poster doesn't have a google account/couldn't post it themselves...

I wanted to post the message below in the comments on your report, but couldn't get it to publish; sorry for lacking the know how. Please post it on there if you would/ can. If not, at least you'll get my experience of Sat and Sun. Twas a damn fun event.

Take care.

Aaron Alto

Drew- On Sat I was rolling with Ted, Tri, Death R, etc until the ATV trail where I rolled on since it was no longer advantageous to ride with others. I wasn't running a GPS and was following the captains orders to look for chartreuse flagging through that stretch. Your tire track was the only one on the route until we got to a left hand off camber turn where there was flagging to the right through a grassy ATV trail; it was an easy turn to miss. Then the trail had no more bike track. It was fun to think that I might be able to get in first if the other boys didn't catch me and you stayed lost for a while (no harm intended, all in good fun) I squeezed the throttle harder. I never saw your track again and kept seeing some flagging every time I got nervous. I hit Spruce Rd and knew I was still on course for sure. I got to Harvey and Hwy 1 in Ely at 5:33. I rode down Harvey and back and around town more and was feeling WTF; my first potential win in 20 yrs and nobody is at the end. I think Josh was bailing out riders that got lost. What time did you get into town? Luckily my wife came up for that night and she was at the hotel after hunting for the Uhaul for a while too.

I got cold riding around town looking for Josh and continued to have wicked chills that evening. The chills and sweats continued all night and I felt like I got no sleep. Since my wife had come to Ely I had an easy way to bail on the final day and drop back home. Here's my account of Sun as reported to my homies that rode too- As I was seeing you guys off and the others rolling down the rd I kept second guessing if I had it in me to do the day. At that time I didn't feel too bad, but was really leery due to the sleepless night of chills and sweats. I actually fell asleep for an hr or so at the hotel after dropping you guys down at the construction zone (and it confirmed that I didn't actually sleep during the night, you know how you can wonder how much quality sleep one gets tossing and turning). As soon as I woke up I had the first of several bouts of diarrhea, including one in my sleep in bed at home (Teresa was not impressed with that since I was too worthless to help clean much). I had the chills and sweats and weakness too throughout the day. I was running through the scenarios of how I would have dealt with the liquid shits and suffering on my bike; they were all stinky, cold (after washing in a lake), and embarrassing (hitching after shitting drawers). In the end I had no regrets about not riding. Good to hear you boys all had a nice final day.

I'll second your sentiments on what a great event it was and how Josh kicked ass pulling it together. He does need to get some helicopter camera coverage for the ATV trail stretch; would've been fun to see it all unfold from above.


Drew again-  My finishing time on Saturday was just after 6.  So, Aaron won that day and actually had a lead of somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes going into Sunday as I believe I had about 20 on him Friday.  It is too bad we weren't able to fight it out Sunday!

1 comment:

  1. It is hard to assign a "winner" for that day considering the how the course ended up and people not all starting at the same time. I like to think I won as well. No reason, just because.

    I do have to say though Aaron, I think anyone who did not crap the bed could be considered "winning".