Sunday, May 19, 2013

Almanzo 100 2013

I'm going to go in reverse order and cover the Almanzo 100 Gravel Race first.  Ming and I and Kyle went down on Friday night and stayed at the Clarison so Ming and I would be fresh on Saturday morning.  Kyle was our emergency SAG in case we needed extraction, as neither of us had ever pedaled a 100 mile gravel race with 8500 feet of climb (4200 or so feet of ascent) before and didn't know what to expect.  There were almost 1000 people at the race.  We didn't expect to be contenders and, in the first few miles, the main body of the pack was completely outside our view.

We stopped in Preston at the grocery store for lunch at the 40 miles mark, missing the Trout Days parade which wasn't until later that day.  But we did get to enjoy this parade not far from Preston.  A bridge was out, so we all took turns wading through the water.  There was a steep drop of mud on the way in and a steep climb of mud on the way out that was all churned up by the 800 or so folks who'd come before us, so it was a real challenge, not including the 50 degree water that numbed your feet, the strong current, and the giant slick rocks the lined the stream bed.

Here's Ming after the portage and a foot cleaning.

It was interesting to watch the tandem folks try to get their bicycle across the stream.  They didn't go with the carry-the-bike method, for obvious reasons.

Shortly after the stream, mile 44-54 (?), there was this awful medium size gravel.  If you went too fast, the back of your bike would slide, making downhill almost as much work as uphill.  Fortunately, everyone who came before us had carved a new singletack into the side of the road where you could bike a bit more easily, as long as you didn't mind the wind trying to push you into a ditch that now and then got rather deep.

Here's a close up of the stuff.  You can see in both pictures where bicycles were having problems.

This was a much better bridge, in Forestville (and Mystery Cave State Park).  The area around here wasn't too bad and there was cold water at the park, but it was a trick.  To get out of the park required climbing a very large hill.

At the top of the Forestville Hill (Hwy 118 and Maple Rd) I asked Ming if we should call in our SAG (Kyle).  A guy who was riding with his father said "Don't do that" and told Ming he should push on.  Ming caved to peer pressure.  Which was probably a decision he regretted as Maple Road had perhaps the largest hill we'd encountered so far as well as a secondary hill leading to Hwy 14.  Here's Ming.  This isn't that big hill - it was bigger.  Much bigger.  But this shows that we had many hills.  4200 feet of ascent is way more than I'm used to.  I think the most I'd done prior to this ride was 3000 or so over the course of a full 80-90 miles.

We called it at the 70.8 mile mark, partially because when I ran the math, we weren't getting back into Spring Valley until after 9:00 p.m.  I think this was about 6:00 p.m.  Trying to pedal it in in the dark didn't seem like a great idea.

A very challenging ride.  You need to train to be able to keep up your speed to finish the ride.  And I can see why Marianne told me that when it's wet, it's scary.  The few places we encountered moisture, the dirt would grab at your tire and sap all your momentum.  If it had been wet, we could have added slickness to those challenges, as well as insane downhill rides.

Not something I'm likely to do again, but definitely worth giving it my 70%.

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