Thursday, May 23, 2013

Almanzo 2013

Last Weekend I competed in my second Almanzo 100 gravel race. The Almanzo is a 100+ mile gravel road race that takes place in Spring Valley. I did it for the first time last year and had a really rough day on the bike, so rough that I had to walked up many of the hills and actually took a short cat nap in a cemetery. This year my goals were simple, beat my time from last year and ride up all the hills.
Ross and I rolled in to the start area a few minutes before the start, we had planned to start towards the back but by the time we got there, there were already 1000+ cyclist lined up. I started the race at a nice leisurely pace but when the route turned onto the first section of gravel and all I could see were people to pass, I went into race mode. The problem with starting in the back was, I was always passing groups and could never find a group that was traveling at my speed. Ross and I would come up on a group of 20 or so riders and would think this is the group we'd ride with but then up the road we'd see another group and we'd jumped across to them. This leap frogging went on for the first 40 miles. At mile 40 we came into the town of Preston, where there's a grocery store where we could refuel.
One of the many climbs.
 After refueling in Preston, we got back on course and settled back into our pace. Before the race we were informed that one of the bridges we'd cross was no longer there, so we'd have to cross the river on foot. About a mile outside of Preston we rode through some Closed Roads signs, and then arrived at the bridge less river. Some riders took their shoes off, others brought along water shoes or sandals, and one guy had some plastic bags from Preston and threw those over his shoes. I didn't have the space for another pair of shoes, and I didn't want to waste time taking off my shoes or risk walking through a construction site barefooted, so I shouldered Skittles and jumped into the water. The water was cold but felt great, got to the other side and jumped back on the bike and continued to pedal.

River Crossing
After the river crossing there weren't many more groups in front of us. As we got to the base of another climb we could see a group of around 5 guys all from the same team. The guys were working good together and were going at a good pace. We decided to jump across to them and become part of their paceline. The problem with that was we were on a long grinding climb, we latched on to the group right before the top of the climb and I was able to stay with them on the following downhill, but as soon as the road went upwards again my legs and heart screamed in protest and had to slow it down.

Miles 50 to 70 are always my hardest part of a century. It's usually where I start to get hungry and the Adrenalin starts to wear off. When I lost Ross and his new group of friends I slowed my pace and focused on not bonking. Luckily for me I had plenty of water, a Coke, and some homemade Bacon and Egg Rice cakes. I chowed down two rice cakes, drank some water, and slammed a Coke. After my meal I started to feel good again and brought the speed back up. The next water stop was in Forrestville State Park and I was running low on water so I stopped and filled up my bottles. Ross was there when I got there and we left the state park together. The road out of the state park is a long paved climb followed by a steeper gravel section. Once again my 240lbs frame couldn't stay on Ross's wheel and I watched him ride away.
Race Face
Photo: Craig Linder
 So far I hadn't had to walk up any climbs or stop and take a nap but I knew the worst was yet to come. Once I watched Ross ride away, I settled back into my pace and kept the pedals churning. Mile 80 was where the cemetery I slept at last year was located, this year there was a tent set up and they had some cookies, water, Beer, and bourbon. I passed on the beer and bourbon but filled up a couple bottles. Before I left I spotted a pop machine, I grabbed some dollar bills and hopped in line. I watched the guys in front of me open up their Pepsi's and Mtn Dew and I started salivating. I put my money in and hit the button for Pepsi.... Sold Out,  Dew........Sold Out,  Diet Pepsi......Sold out,  down the line I went, everything was sold out. I contemplated taking a shot of bourbon but that would have ended up with me screaming "George SMASH!!!!" So I got back on the bike and continued to pedal.
Team Bike and Fitness
Photo: Craig Linder
The next 10 or so miles went by pretty fast, there was suppose to be another river crossing, but it ended up be pretty sketchy so the organizer had to reroute the course. After the reroute I came back on course and soon found myself turning onto Oriel Road. The name sounds so peaceful, but it's not. Oriel Road starts out with a 1/2 mile climb that averages over 10% with some section of 18-20%, if you don't know how steep that is just know it's painful. As I turned onto the climb everyone in front of me was walking up the hill, I felt pretty good and decided I wasn't going to walk but grind up it. The climb hurt like a motha, but I made it to the top and knew there was only one more real climb left and I'd be done.

Seemed like the wind picked up in the last 10 miles and for the majority of those 10 miles I was going into it. Powered through the last climb, gritted my teeth and fought the wind, and before I knew it I was crossing the line. I hit the stop button on my Garmin, I ended up with 104.5 Miles with a riding time of 7 hours. My official time was 7 hours and 31 minutes, so I took an hour off of my time from last year. I didn't have to walk up any of the hills, and didn't feel dead after the ride, so all in all I'd call Almanzo 2013 a success.

Thanks to Chris Skogen and all the volunteers for putting on an amazing event. Can't wait for next year.

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