May 30, 2016: Way Outside My Comfort Zone

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I think enough recovery time has now elapsed (2 weeks) that I can finally write about this. Several months ago, at the suggestion of one of my riding buddies, I signed up for the Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder. This is a 67 mile ride (not a race) with almost exactly 1,000 feet of climbing for each 10 miles or 6,700 feet. That didn’t sound too terrible. However, there were several factors that I didn’t consider that made this an epic 6+ hours of riding.

First, due to a variety of issues, I really only had about a week of riding in my legs after a month off my bike. Second, some of the climbing was on dirt roads or singletrack that was over a 20% slope. Third, the temperature at the start was around 40 degrees. Even though the forecast was for a warming trend with sunny skies, this never materialized and the temperature at the finish was right about where it had been 6 hours earlier. Finally, some of the trails were so muddy from the downpours the night before that our bikes quickly became somewhat unrecognizable.

Now, here are the ugly truths that I’ll admit to. I walked some of the steep uphills. I walked some of the gnarly, muddy singletrack. I was occasionally passed by freakish monsters on fat bikes going uphill. It did actually snow at one point about 3 hours into the ride. I considered cheating the course and not doing a technical loop about a mile long that ended right where it began but was shamed into it by my friend Dave Beals. In retrospect, I’m glad that I did it. Here’s a great shot of my friend Tim Leonard navigating some of the singletrack:

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Now the beauty. The scenery was spectacular. The course was spectacular. The organization and support was first rate. The food at the 2 food stations was perfect. My goal was to simply complete the course without having to call in a Med-Evac helicopter and on this front, I succeeded.

I was also able to ride the last half of the course with the aforementioned Dave Beals. He took my mind off the suffering enough to finish and for that, I’m eternally grateful. It took almost a full week for my legs to feel good again but I’m sure I’ll be back next year. Thanks folks!

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