This past weekend, as de facto man in charge of the American UltraCross Series, I headed west for the final round in Norman, Indiana to take part in the event and handle the series awards. Dave Cornett and Ms. Stephanie Swan were my travel companions and cabin buddies for the weekend adventure to the Midwest.
As we left West Pennsylginia and headed west, the landscape got pancake flat. With 2013 being the first year the Gravel Grovel is part of the American UltraCX Series, we really wondered what it was going to be like. On the event's website it stated 62 miles and 2800 ft of climbing.. We all kinda laughed, as that amount of climbing is kinda flat in our world, compared to say 72 miles and 8900 ft of climbing in the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Still, we were excited!
|WHERE'S THE HILLS?!|
Back to the cabin, dinner then sleep.
|(inside our cabin)|
We awoke the next morning to COLD temperatures and everything was frozen. The grass outside was white with ice crystals and when folks spoke, it looked like they were all exhaling smoke. I wanted to just stay in the warm cabin and drink beers, but ya, that wasn't going to happen. Like a high school girl going to the prom, the debate in my head started, "what do I wear"? Too much and I'd fry, too little and I'd freeze. To compound the dilemma more, it was to reach a high of 48 that day, decisions, decisions. Dave and I bounced choices off each other and finally we both decided on our attire.
|What and what not to wear|
At the start I was surrounded by familiar faces in this strange land they call Indiana. George Lowe, Jason Samonds, Scott Green, Pflug, Swan and Dave were all there, just to name a few.. As the race started, it was just like we predicted the day before. The first 5 miles were fast, and I was having a hard time just sitting in. Oh hell, I thought to myself, this ain't good! I was started to dangle off the lead group, even though it was a flat section.
At 5.5 miles in, we hit the first climb, which was more like a steep pitch about 500 yards long. I got up it still in contact with the lead group, but my legs felt heavy and slow. Nothing like what was about to come up, a deep gravel descent. I felt myself backing off just a bit, trying to figure out what was going on with my body. After another 10 or 20 minutes my legs continued to fail me. I was alone now in no where land, off the front
It wasn't to much further down the road, after come around a fast corner, I show my buddy George "Michael" Lowe(no not that George "Michael") pushing his bike. George had sheared off two chainring bolts on his singlespeed. To make matter even sadder, he needed to only finish the race to take third overall in the series. With many more miles to go and no way to repair what was broken, third wasn't going to happen. Next year sir!
Back on the road, it was more pedaling on flat pavement alone. Dread set in, I thought to myself, "those
|How I felt the first half of the race|
|Correct tool for the job!|
After a few miles of sweet single track back to the gravel we went. I had dropped Matt on the trails but I thought it wise to slow up just a bit to have help on the road once again. As we joined forces again, Matt said, "ok, two big climbs coming up". He said goodbye because he didn't think he could climb with the guy from WV on the bigger hills. As I started up the first climb I could see Janeiro on the side of the fixing a flat.
|Maybe a slight exaggeration|
At the top of the climb Jason was only few hundred up now. With my 411 from Matt, I knew it was a big climb a 50 mph descent and then another big climb. Feeling back in it, I was riding well as we approached the next climb. I rode up to Jason right at the base and he said, "I think my 40 minutes are up now" referring to a cross race. He made me laugh. Pushing ahead, this climb was steep, I thought I was back home! Ever closer and closer we got to the top and I found myself about 20 yards behind Dave, and back in the top ten, as we reached the top. Here we go now, I thought to myself. My plan was to work with Dave and we could really start moving up. As we descended down the other side getting closer and closer to Dave I felt it. The rear tire hit a piece of gravel hard. I waited... Then I heard it, air and the sound of Stan's sealant coming out of my tire. NO!
|Reenactment of tire change|
The course made a few curves; as it went up, they were out of sight for now. I guessed I was maybe 3 minutes or so behind. As I crested the top of the hill I headed right down the back top section and I was motoring to get up there. About a mile down the road I see three riders stopped in the middle of an intersection.. I knew from the look on their faces they had no clue which way they should be going.. This can't be happening, I thought to myself.
The other riders and I looked around and no one had a clue. After a few minutes, I headed back up the road the way I came. I was going up, here comes Jason down. With a sad look on my face I gave him the turn around sign. To make it worse we had to ride back up the hill a mile or so to were we last left the course. Once back to where we got off course there were a few others scratching their heads but then someone noticed a piece of single track across the road. We headed down the trail, and I realized I didn't have another big push in my legs to work back up the field again. 2 was all I had.. Jason, I yelled.. I will ride in with ya. We had 18 or so miles left to go and I kinda like the idea of riding in with my pal.
The climbs, and now I know there are real climbs in Indiana, were pretty much over. There were only rollers the rest of the way back. I told Jason I was not going to leave him and to hold on. Roller after roller we went and we even picked off a few riders here and there. About 3 miles to go I was starting to really hurt and a couple of young bucks had been sitting on for a good 3 or 4 miles. "Hey, you guys can take a pull ya know", I said. One of the kids was a nice fellow from the Bissell Team and he said "thanks for the awesome pull" as he went to the front. Awesome pull it may have been, smart it was not. Usually when you are a mile or two out from the finish you get that, "I'm there feeling" and your energy reserves kick in. Nope, I burned way too many matches trying to bridge up and all that.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda!
Even with a bit of a disappointing finish, I had a great time with my friends! Plus West Pennsylginia folks crushed it out there! Nice job folks!
Want to see my course data and route? Here ya go - http://app.strava.com/activities/98164068
In the end we all found out Indiana isn't all that falt. 62.6 miles with 4,442 ft of climb(including my bonus climb) and not just that. The pace was so high on the flatter section that there was never a break. In my world, all that adds up to a good race!
Tania and the sub-9 crew put on a great event, we all are coming back in 2014.. Hope to cya there!
Also big shout out to Dynamic Physical Therapy and Pathfinder of West Virginia for giving me the opportunity to be out there racing!
Ps.. Congrats to all the series winners and competitors!
|Thanks to these great folks for their support!|