Monday, May 21, 2012

Gravel = Bad, Friends = Good

Well, first let Patrick's gloating begin.  Last week he said that once you start doing bike rides > 25 mi, it is nothing to start doing 30-50.  So when I saw on Facebook that the illustrious Team Virtus was going out for a training ride for their upcoming Dirty Kanza (200 miles), and that Superkate was going to come to Jefferson City to join them - I couldn't resist.  I Facebooked them and asked if I might be able to join in on the fun.  I warned them of my slow mountain bike speed, but they said it would be ok. 

I was a tiny bit scared by the route (MapMyRide Link).  It was longer than I'd ever gone before (34+ miles), it was looped (so not much option for shortening it) and it had a pretty good percent of GRAVEL!  Never mind the THREE Cat 5 climbs (plus at least a few others that were rather steep, but shorter.  But I was all in - we should all do things that scare us a little, right?

Sunday morning, I got up about six (couldn't really sleep for the excitement/dread anyway) and ate a little something to get the colon moving.  Got dressed and made sure I had everything.  I had loaded my mountain bike in the car the night before so that was good to go.  I headed out a little early to make sure I could get the tire back on my bike (has to come off to get it in the backseat) and to not have anyone waiting on me.  It wasn't long until Luke in the Team Virtus van and Superkate pulled up at the same time with Adam not far behind.  Introductions made and water bottles loaded and we left.  Unfortunately, I only have one bottle cage on my mountain bike, but they all said they had more than enough to share with me. 

We headed out and even before we were off the nice packed gravel and flat terrain of the Katy Trail, I thought about calling my husband to come get me or turning around and going home.  Here is a pic Luke took towards the beginning of me and Adam (Adam's banana in bike bag made for some good FB funnies):

But I sucked it up and hung in there.  The first Cat5 climb was on pavement and, although I made it very slowly to the top, I didn't get off to walk my bike.  I can't say the same for the 2nd and 3rd hills.  Gravel SUCKS!  It is harder for me to get out of the saddle and pedal standing up on my mountain bike with nobby tires and regular pedals w/ running shoes.  On one of the particularly nasty climbs, there was some thicker gravel at the bottom and I lost speed before I really even started climbing.  So I walked about 2/3 of it, but when the steepness subsided some, I managed to get back on and pedal the rest of it.  About the same with the 2nd.  Here is a shot Kate took after she stopped behind a tree to pee and the boys got a bite to eat while waiting for me to catch up:

Towards the 3/4 mark, a climb that wasn't long enough to be "categorized" kicked my ass.  I think I was starting to bonk as I had only eaten a granola bar and one bottle of fluid (that was half Powerade and half water).  I couldn't get moving up that stupid gravel and then even when I started to walk the bike up, I couldn't catch my breath and was hyperventilating.  It was ugly.  At the top of the hill, momma Kate and daddy Luke were concerned.  He donated a bottle of water and a Honey Stinger waffle to the cause (both were awesome).  I felt a little better and mostly just wanted to keep going to try to get it over with.  We weren't too far (I didn't think) from some backwoods pavement and I thought if I could just get off the freakin' gravel for a while, I'd be ok.

It was mostly "rollers" from there - both on gravel and on pavement.  Here are some of the pavement ones that when I was so tired, just weren't that fun:
Photo Credit: SuperKate who must have taken this WHILE riding way ahead of me
Luke had to ride ahead to get to work (man he is fast), but Adam and I led Kate back to the start.  I had a couple more hills that weren't fun, but I got through them.  I think in total, I walked 3 or 4.  I decided that I'm not really a "gravel" rider.  Of all the things that hurt, it was my hands and arms that bothered me the most.  I'm sure some padded gloves would help, but maybe just sticking to pavement too.  Not only are the gravel hills harder to climb, but the gravel downhills (and we had plenty of fun on them) were scary as shit!  Felt like the bike was going to come out from under me at any moment leaving me skidding (fast) across the painful gravel.  I don't foresee becoming a permanent fixture with Team Virtus anytime soon, but they are fun to hang around with and I hope to ride some shorter less painful routes sometime soon.

We went just under 35 miles in a little over 4 hours.  Nothing to be impressed with pace-wise, but given the terrain, the freakin' gravel, etc - it is, what it is.  We got back to the parking lot and visited a bit.  Then Kate took off to do some more gravel (though flat on the Katy Trail).  Part of me wanted to go with her, but I was pretty physically done and had my family waiting for me at home.  Here is a shot of both of us at the end that she took:

I got home and cleaned up my bike with a wipedown that was needed after all the dust.  Then I showered - oh, heavenly shower.  Tried to read the paper and dozed off and on for a while.  Then the usual mom duties kicked in and the day was over before I knew it.  Thankfully, today's mom duties include chaperoning field day all day.  The good news is that my station is the roller rink so nothing too strenuous and all in a/c.

Long time since I've updated this and it wasn't too bad this morning - MMNW was 165.2.  This is close to wear I had hoped to be at the end of the "off season", but not 2 months later.  Unfortunately, I've been bouncing around between 165-168 for the last 2 months.  I know I need to dial the diet in and hopefully I can do that in the next couple of weeks as the kids and I kick off our summer.


  1. As with everything, once you ride more often on gravel, you'll be fine. Sounds like a great, strenuous ride!

  2. Nice ride! I don't like gravel either--I'm sure some people manage it just fine, but I don't think it's fun!

    The next ride you'll see a boost in your skills from this one!

  3. Nothing builds up the leg muscles like hills. And gravel? I hate the stuff. Especially if you have any turns to negotiate. I am actually looking forward to our new found hills in Austin and may get a mountain bike myself.

  4. You've managed to write two things in this post that I've never read before: "...the illustrious Team Virtus" and "Luke had to ride ahead to get to work (man he is fast)." We've never been called "illustrious" and I've NEVER been called fast. So thank you, but you are being WAY too kind here.

    I'm so glad you joined us on the ride. If we weren't training for the Dirty Kanza, then we would have done a more beginner-friendly gravel ride. I still can't believe you rode the whole thing! Great job!

    And the 3 previous commenters are right. Gravel gets easier the more you ride it, it also improves your handling skills dramatically, and the hills will definitely improve your strength and endurance.

    That was NOT an easy ride. I couldn't have finished it a few months ago - especially on a mountain bike with platform pedals. You did great! Seriously. I hope you'll ride with us again soon.

  5. I did almost the exact ride a few months ago on my 26" Trek rigid mountain's not an easy ride! If you did great. Keep on trucking and it will get easier to ride gravel, then everything else is a piece of cake. I wish I could have made it out for the ride.

  6. I'm glad you made it out to ride with us, and you did great. Those gravel downhills still scare the crap out of me...the only thing that helps me go a little faster is when there's an uphill right after it.

  7. Sounds like a great day, gravel excluded. Patrick is right - you are an athlete whether you realize it or not. Realize it.

  8. Good for you! Gravel is no fun at all, but it doesn't make you stronger and a more aware rider.

  9. How cool is that you got to ride with the Virtus team! Really cool to meet up with online friends. Sounds like you had a good ride too.

  10. Hey, congrats on you long ride. Might have been tough going a few times, but I am sure you feel good about your accomplishment. I am excited for you.

  11. You did it..what's the problem? All good. And I still contend that 25 to 40 will be a pretty easy transition. But I never mentioned gravel. And I probably forgot to mention that my first 25 to 40 ride found me and my broke ass waiting for my wife to pick me up at a gas station at mile 30 Oops...

  12. Regardless of whether you are a gravel rider or not, you did it.

    Now for some bad news. Call me the exception to the rule, but I have ridden >25 miles and I will never ride 30-50. EVER!

  13. Riding with friends is so much more fun

  14. I found your blog through SuperKate's, sounds like a pretty hardcore workout!

  15. I found your blog through SuperKate's, sounds like a pretty hardcore workout!