Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Photo courtesy of Paolo Urizar

Got a last minute ride (thanks, Todd!) out to DeKalb for Half Acre's Gravel Metric on Sunday. This 62-ish mile ride on gravel, dirt, and a bit of pavement was not officially a race, but of course, I was racing.

I decided to take my road bike. I felt fine on it at Leland, and I didn't want the rolling resistance from my 'cross tires. And, frankly, my 'cross bike still has Montrose Harbor all over it. When we arrived, though, almost everyone had 'cross or mountain bikes. Only a couple of us had our road bikes - and everyone kept telling us how 'brave' (i.e. foolish) we were.

After the neutral roll-out, I made sure to be near the front. There was a wicked cross-wind, so I was staying tucked in next to Dave Norton. As soon as he said "someone's going to jump soon," someone jumped. He was on it, and I was on him and we were flying up the road.

We hit the first gravel section and just hammered. The guy in front of me let a gap open up, I darted around and closed it. Then we hit some deep gravel and I fishtailed just enough to get myself shelled. But I had a good gap on the groups behind me.

Pretty soon, Paolo comes by, towing the guy who'd been gapped earlier. I got on that train. Paolo was setting a brutal pace - he was SO steady that I was able to stick with him for a bit, but I was on the rivet. At the first uphill, I was on my own again. Which was fine. I set my own pace and rode within myself. Turning into the tailwind, I felt great and caught a couple guys that Paolo had caught and left behind. I kept my pace and worked with them to the first checkpoint.

Where I made the mistake of not filling up my waterbottles. A group was leaving just as we arrived, so I hurriedly checked in and rode off with these guys. Turning into the headwind, there was another group of four or five just ahead - so I bridged my group up and we had a long paceline.

I took my turns at the front, but bridging had taxed me, and I had run out of liquids. Before we got to the second checkpoint, I was gapped on a hill. I chased for a long time, but never caught back on. They were at the second checkpoint when I got there, but I HAD to fill my bottles, and by then they were gone.

So I was alone again, riding within myself. I was a bit dehydrated and starting to feel ill. I was forcing myself to eat, but everything was gross. But I had full bottles, and I drank often.

I got to the point in the course where you could choose to take a longer, 'easier' way, or a shorter way that took you through a creek. I'd had absolutely no problems at all with my road bike on the gravel, but everyone was making the short way sound so ominous, so I took the longer route. I suspect I was the only person to do this. The first leg of the 'easier' way was down an insanely rutted dirt tractor path. A mountain bike would have been VERY handy through there. Then a paved stretch into the headwind, then finally a gravel road back to the regular route.

I could see groups crossing the road I was on, I must have lost at least ten places by going around (and later found out that the creek was shallow and had a cement bottom - no problem on a road bike). So I chased a couple guys ahead of me, passed them as one bonked and they stopped. Then I came across 10 guys standing around while one changed a flat, and passed them by too. I slowed to eat a Clif Bar, and the two guys I rode with in the tailwind before the first checkpoint caught up. I sat on and let them tow me to the third - and completely awesome - checkpoint.

Checkpoint three had cold water. And cokes, cookies, bananas, peanut m&ms, chips, and all sorts of other stuff. They handed me a coke and filled my bottle for me. I ate a banana. The group of guys changing the flat showed up, so we all embarked on the last 22 miles together.

Despite feeling sick to my stomach, I had a bit of a second wind. After a few miles, we let one guy ride away from us and dropped a couple others. I sat in with two guys on 'cross bikes. I felt badly that I wasn't able to take any pulls, but they were so nice. They didn't mind me sitting in most of the time.

We were all feeling the heat and the miles. It was really grueling. When we finally got to town - Sarah Lu was there pointing us in the right direction. "You're in the top 20," she yelled. That gave me a boost, so I pulled us through town. The endless town! Finally we got back to the bike shop. I collapsed into the grass with the hard men who finished before me, while the awesome Half Acre volunteers gave me water.

I WAS in the top 20, and I was the first woman to finish. Yay!

But, man, did I feel AWFUL. I had all sorts of recovery food - a sandwich, salty pretzels, a builder bar - but I couldn't eat any of it. Nothing appealed in the least. Finally, I got my sandwich, but after one bite, threw it away.

My carpool went to the after party at Fatty's bar to eat. Half Acre knows how to have a party! They had a couple kegs of free beer there. We all sat in the beer garden and a very nice server in short shorts brought me a root beer, a veggie burger and big, soft, plank-like french fries. Soft, bland, sugary and salty - just what I needed.

By the time they gave me a CASE OF BEER! for being the first woman to finish, I felt much better. I gave away three of the six packs, and took one home for Jackie.

Thanks again, Half Acre - you're a class act. Next year, I'm going through that creek.