Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week #21: It's an Adventure!

What a great achievement it was
To get a hotel room this late
I bet they charge by the hour here
The kind of place where you should bring your own UV ray

It's not a big problem with me, love
You don't look that hygienic anyway
I'm only here because
I want to twist the structure of my average day

I heard that song last week, found it strangely appealing, and had been meaning to download it to my phone. So when we arrived at the Travel Inn in Dekalb, IL Saturday evening and took in the scene, I couldn't help but let those lyrics slip back into my mind. Of course, that is the most pessimistic interpretation of the situation, which is really quite the opposite of how I really felt. I do have a weird phobia of hotel bedspreads, but that applies to any place that doesn't use duvet covers that get washed between every guest. However, I was very excited to be joining Dustin, Corinna, and Jesse on the journey to the Gravel Metric, and since I was the last-minute crasher to the car and hotel party, my gratitude for being included was definitely outweighing my usual level of neurosis. That alone is an awesome feeling. From that was born my slogan for the weekend: "It's an adventure!"

The room was tiny, with two double beds each shoved completely against its respective wall, one being smashed against the heating/cooling unit, with just enough space to walk between the two. We still managed to get all of the gear and bikes in there somehow, although my bike had to spend the night in the bathroom. A bike leaning right next to the toilet offers all kinds of opportunities for humor, though, so it was totally worth it.

This picture actually makes the room look bigger than it was.
See the bike on the dresser? Yeah, it was like that.

This has been in my desk drawer since Barry-Roubaix.
I am invited? Me, really? How could I resist?
So after an evening of bike prep and general silliness, I got a surprisingly decent night's sleep, and woke up ready for my first self-supported, self-navigated gravel event. And by "ready" I mean that I had to buy chamois cream and gels from North Central Cyclery an hour before the race, and was begging help from my travel companions to unscrew the top of hydration pack (hands are still jacked) and get my queue sheet holder set up in the parking lot before the race. In the end, I made it to the start line looking almost gravel-pro and feeling good.
  
Dialed in. Just like a real gravel racer.
The first half of the race went pretty well, although I learned that headwinds are an even greater weakness for me than climbing. I think I get used to not having to experience those much in Bloomington. I struggled to keep up with the main pack on the roll out, but started feeling good once we hit the gravel.

One of the highlights for me was when I looked down and saw that I was going over 20 mph on flat gravel while trying to bridge up to a groupetto of guys on fat bikes, and just couldn't quite do it because they were going too fast. The second highlight was passing a large group of people stopped at a seemingly random group of trees for an impromptu rest stop. One guy offered me a flask as I passed by, and while I love a good flask pass, it seemed a little too early in the day for it. I just hoped to find him again with fewer miles to go and take him up on his offer. I later found out that they also had two liters of wine with them and had stashed beer at random places on the course. I found this a little confusing, as even some of the employees of the host shop got lost because the course was secret beforehand, but those people knew where to stash their beer. Anyway, I consider an event where I say, "Man, those fat bike guys were fast" and "Man, those drunk people were fast" within a 30 minutes space a good day.

Unfortunately, I was never able to catch the fat bike guys or the drunk people, because I got hopelessly lost in section of a state park where we rode through mowed grass lanes with lots of off-shoots for about four miles. When I found a road again, it was completely the wrong one, and when some people who'd been behind me offered to just lead me back to Dekalb by whatever quick route we could find, I totally agreed.


We made it back as best we could, and it wasn't too eventful. At one point the others stopped to check the map right in front of a cemetery, and I found it just too ironic not to take a picture. Getting lost and taking pictures in front of cemeteries. It's what I do.

Anyway, despite not officially finishing, it was a great weekend. I had so much fun and talked to a lot of great people. When I got home Sunday night, I realized my abs were sore, and that it probably wasn't from the race. I think it was from laughing so hard so many times during the weekend. So despite a couple of bumps along the way, this adventure was absolutely worth it!

1 comment:

Merry*Death on a Bike said...

Nice set-up! I have to admit, everyone around me is getting into these gravel grinders, and it is making me think about trying a few next spring - an early training goal seems to be a great way to keep things together in the last months of winter...