Gravel Worlds Preparation 2016: Knocking out the Miles – Part Two

As August 20, 2016 and Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska rolls ever closer, so does the preparation of the three-person Gravel Cyclist crew in far away Gainesville, Florida. Continuing on from Part One, our ride on Saturday, July 30 wasn’t so much about big miles, but getting used to the heat and humidity that we may experience on race day.

Yes, it is rather hot.
Yes, it is rather hot.

Living in Gainesville, Florida this time of year is to experience energy draining heat, humidity and unpredictable rain showers and thunderstorms. Cyclists and runners have it a bit tougher than most, because neither activity involves the luxury of air-conditioned comfort nor a fridge full of beer just a few steps away. But, that’s what sets a lot of us apart from everyone else, right? Life’s too short to always be sitting on the couch… that’s best saved for post workout mega-zone out sessions, which admittedly is one of my favourite pursuits in life 🙂

Thumbs up coz this ride is awesome.
Thumbs up coz this ride is awesome.

Gravel Worlds in Nebraska is 150 miles in length. I had it in my mind to knock out 150 miles / 240 kilometres on this particular Saturday, regardless of the weather forecast. A predicted high temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit / 36 degrees Celcius lay in store. I’d planned a stellar route with plenty of tree-lined dirt and gravel roads and multiple store stop options along the way. I was quite proud of myself until…

Friday afternoon, when an email arrived from Gravel Cyclist teammate Dr. Pain addressed to the Gravel Cyclist Worlds trio…

As your friend and team mate, I feel compelled to try to talk you out of tomorrow’s ride. 97 degrees. I think it is an error in judgment to think that you will get any sort of training benefit from such a ride. Second, if there is any minor training benefit, I think it is offset by the risk of serious consequences, and minor, but actual detriment to your fitness and health. Yes, you may get some sort of increase in your ability / willingness to endure discomfort, but all three of you are already sufficient in that regard. JOM says he will have his phone tracker on, so I will monitor progress and come rescue you with the car if called.

Shortly followed by a reply from Mrs K-Dogg…

I have been thinking over the rational for this effort too. Last time we did this distance it took 9.5 hours of riding plus stops. It was April and 78 degrees. I have been thinking that a five to six effort would be long enough to figure out / practice the hydration and nutrition differences in the heat. What I did in April when it was 78 degrees is not the same as now with a heat index of close to 100. I agree that the value of a longer effort may be minimal and potentially harmful.

My guess is that JOM and K-Dogg may want the mental training of the long effort? Not sure.

Then, K-Dogg himself…

Am I going to die? If so then I vote we ride much shorter, meet at 6:45 to leave no later than 7:00.

My thoughts on the matter…

K-Dogg and I are both not right in the head, but when Dr. Pain chimed in, we mostly ignore him. But, when he and Mrs K-Dogg both chime in, we should probably listen. After all, K-Dogg lives with Mrs K-Dogg, and it ain’t no fun being in the Dogg-house if you’re on the couch. And, she’s the voice of reason among the trio heading to Nebraska.

Thus, I relented upon my mad plan and assembled an abbreviated route at approximately 105 miles in length, with plenty of hydration options along the way. Everyone was happy at this newfound reasoning! Thanks Dr. Pain and Mrs K-Dogg for talking sense into us. K-Dogg and I both need a little supervision at times…

Waking up early on work weekdays royally sucks, but for weekend fun, that rule doesn’t apply! I rolled out of bed at 5:30am to meet with my teammates at 6:45am. Because I’m a smart fellow, the route I planned conveniently started very close to my humble abode, meaning I could cruise to the ride with no worries of running late.

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The view from K-Dogg’s camera… somewhere in Florida.

Local rider Doug, relative n00b to the ways of the gravel, had gotten wind of our ride and decided to tag along. Because of the “serious” nature of this training ride, I gave instructions for Doug to sit on the back and enjoy the tempo of the ride. See, I’m a nice guy like that… come race day, we’ll be in race mode, working with the many other riders at Gravel Worlds and drafting here and there.

Steve sitting on JOM's wheel in a wee bit of sand.
Steve sitting on JOM’s wheel in a wee bit of sand.

It wasn’t long before Mr and Mrs K-Dogg arrived, shortly followed by another relative n00b to the dirt and gravel, Steve. Admittedly Doug and Steve have a good level of experience in this type of cycling. Doug has his own group ride happening at least once a week and Steve has always been an endurance cyclist, and picked up the gravel cycling bug just like everyone else.

Hi everyone! Look how early it is...
Hi everyone! Look how early it is…

Our quintet set off promptly at 7:01am EST and began knocking out the miles at a good tempo. Mr and Mrs K-Dogg were chipping in turns, while Doug and Steve enjoyed the scenery and the view of our lycra clad arses. The ride’s midway point would be the blip town of Ellisville. There ain’t much there aside from a motel or two, a Dollar General, a couple of gas stations and a speedway… Wikipedia has even less information so I’m not linking it, but the town is located near exit 414 on Interstate I-75, US of A.

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K-Dogg testing his Camelbak.

Over the past few weeks, plenty of rain had fallen which usually means primo conditions for our local dirt, gravel and sand roads. However, it seemed much of the rain had skirted these areas, or the previous week of 95+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures had dried everything out. Our relatively narrow tyres averaged between 35mm and 40mm in width, so just about everyone was fishtailing a bit here and there as we stomped through the odd sandy patch. ‘Tis always good for the skill building. If teammate Dr. Pain were on the ride, he would have crushed all of us on his Monster CX bike and 50mm wide tyres. He enjoys doing things like that.

Dry and sandy.
Dry and sandy.

Most out of character, Mrs K-Dogg was experiencing difficulty along any of the sandy sectors. Because we’re a team, we had no problem waiting for her, but it was a bummer seeing her struggle in areas she normally does quite well. Mrs K-Dogg is a known saddle tinkerer, and it turns out her saddle was pointing downwards, causing a most unpleasant side effect of sliding her weight forward, forcing the front wheel to bury itself hard into some of the soft and fluffy sand. She was spotted during our Ellisville hydration stop tinkering with the saddle, making it level and much more comfortable.

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Yo Pfaff Daddy!

Gravel Cyclist teammate Pfaff Daddy appeared along our route, approximately 20 miles along the course riding in the opposite direction. He hasn’t been coping too well with the heat of late, but was happy to join us for an hour or two. Some people relish in the cooler temperatures, Pfaff Daddy is one of those guys. I was stoked to see him… riding tempo on the front and sharing the workload for our training ride is more enjoyable when the party is bigger.

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Teammate K-Dogg tests JOM’s reflexes in sand…

One of the known tricky sectors before our half way stop put everyone into a spot of bother. No walking was involved, but some serious power and low gears were required to get through without falling over. I had the perfect line through the toughest and sandiest section, riding like a man possessed with the end of the sector just ahead. K-Dogg was riding his perfect line just three feet to my left, when he decided his line was no longer perfect, and cut into my line hard. Cheeky bugger!!! This is exactly the sort of thing K-Dogg loves to do on training rides… disrupting your line, just to test your reflexes, laughing as he does it. Did I mentioned he’s my friend? He’s 61 year of age… you’d reckon he would have grown up by now, right? 🙂

FYI, Florida isn't all flat.
FYI, Florida isn’t all flat.

Once the tomfoolery had dissipated with about 53 miles beneath our wheels, we finally rumbled into Ellisville. Everyone rushed inside the conveniently located convenience store for liquid hydration. My drink of choice was a 44 ounce Coke with a little ice and a dash of lemon; that is how a gentlemanly gravel cyclist fellow deals with re-hydrating in the heat. Caffeine and sugar mmmm. The nutritionists out there may not agree, but that luscious and cool beverage hit the spot and readied my mind for the remainder of the route. Everyone else consumed similar beverages and refilled their water bottles on the bike with mysterious powders and water… my mysterious powder was laying at home on my counter top. Nice one guv.

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One of the most amazing roads ever in North Florida.

The rest of the ride went smooth as butter. By chance, there was a lovely tail wind pushing us along for much of the way. I never plan training rides based on wind direction, because come race day, you can’t exactly ask the promoter to be a nice bloke and reverse the course because the headwind during the last 60 miles isn’t to your liking.

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Mowing grass the right way.

We stopped one more time at High Springs, a quaint little town steeped in railway history and mostly known today for its nearby springs. Sadly, the convenience store I chose didn’t have a fountain drink machine, and this was a point of concern for at least one of the riders in attendance. I chucked to myself about this first world problem, as I downed my first world 99c Surge gigundo can of soda. Yeah, more sugary caffeine goodness. The saving grace for this store was its water faucet outside and to the right of the store – or tap as we call them in Australia. I ran that thing wide open and dunked my head and arm sleeves beneath its cascading flow. A fab way to drop one’s core temperature!

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Washboard galore on some sectors. Mrs K-Dogg rides it out.

Rehydrated, our quintet rolled back in Gainesville, Florida some six hours an 21 minutes of ride time after setting out. I was quite pleased with our effort and felt good for most of the ride… my teammate K-Dogg probably felt A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

One of the few cars along the route.
One of the few cars along the route.

What did we learn from this experience?

  • Definitely need to start thinking about the hydration and food situation at Gravel Worlds.
  • Need some shake-down miles on our races bikes. As of this posting, none of our bikes are ready. All of us will be aboard Ritchey Breakaways (I’m on a new Titanium version), but we have run into various issues relating to parts compatibility or availability, etc. Nothing is ever easy!
  • Listen to your friends! I was so glad we kept the ride short at 105ish miles. Riding 150 miles would have been a complete and utter death march in these Florida July temperatures.
  • We will definitely be drafting here and there at Gravel Worlds. This was a training ride!
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Mrs K-Dogg, also testing a Camelbak.

Strava Data

For those so inclined, you can check out JOM’s Strava data from the ride.

Lincoln, Nebraska – here we come!

We are really looking forward to Gravel Worlds and meeting a ton of our fellow Gravel Cyclists. I’ll be roaming around pre-race talking and interviewing people, so don’t be shy!

As always, thanks for reading!

15 comments on “Gravel Worlds Preparation 2016: Knocking out the Miles – Part Two

  1. I’m definitely taking a hard look at the Ritchey Breakaway. I wonder if they’ll ever put out a disc brake version? A Breakaway with TRP HyRds would be sweet since they’re cable operated and have the master cylinder as part of the caliper body. This would make it easy have the cable breakers necessary for take down. Otherwise I suppose you could run mechanical discs.

  2. Phillip – the wheels have to nestle into a very tight travel case to escape airline scrutiny. Disk brakes would cause problems.
    Just buy the best canties you can find.
    I’m sure JOM and Dr. Pain can help you there. These two are what advertising firms call
    “Innovators” – they race to buy the new stuff.
    We call them Guinea Pigs.

    I’m just sayin’

    1. K-Dogg (a complete luddite) is sort of right about disc brakes. Ideally, it is best to remove the rotors else they can be badly damaged when everything is chucked into the case – it is quite a process.

      FYI Phillip, I generally spec and sometimes build K-Dogg’s bikes… see the thanks I get!!! 🙂

  3. There’s certainly nuthin’ wrong with a good set of cantis and the fitted case is the big attraction for me. I’m tired of seeing my bikes get beat to hell every time I travel. I’ve always been a bit OCD about keeping the paint minty fresh.

    1. The case is not totally rigid so I put strong cardboard cutouts on the two soft sides which seems to help. Occasionally I have to true a wheel slightly out of the box.

  4. K-Dogg, the esteemed philosipher Red Green says, “Remember, you may have to grow old, but you don’t have to mature.”

    I once did a consulting engagement in Lincoln were I checked into a hotel and checked out two years later. Great town and great people. Just leave your Florida Gator stuff at home.

    I’m riding in the Tour de Tonka tomorrow. 3500 riders started last year. Should be a great time. You Florida ‘Sunbirds’ are more than welcome to join us.

    1. What is a Gator? 🙂 The Gravel Cyclist crew doesn’t follow the collegiate sports scene (except for cycling) too closely.

    2. Beargrease, “Remember, if the women don’t find you handsome they may as well find you handy.”
      Grow up? Not as long as I can ride bikes!

      JOM is accurate. When someone local yells “Go Gators!” we just stare at them then
      mention we are fans of Djamolidine Abdoujaparov from Usbekistan. Then they stare and all is good again.

      Have a blast with your 3500 buds!

  5. This might be slightly off most of the other questions topics, but I am a relative newbie to gravel, but deeply in love with it. Anyway – I am trying to notice what shoe/pedal combo seems to be most appropriate. I see a few MTB combo’s and a few Road combo’s – any recommendations? I know there are forums – but this topic doesn’t have a lot out there and I want to hear from the folks with a LOT of experience under their tires. I understand if there is a known hike-a-bike section of any length that a MTB setup is advantageous. Currently I am running Candy Pedals and Specialized Rime shoes (great for walking around and general comfort as they have a vibram outsole – but definitely on the heavy side!)

    1. Hi Justin,

      For me, MTB shoes and pedals every time. Hike-a-bike seems to feature at gravel rides and races pretty frequently, whether it be mud or a very steep climb that forces you to walk. MTB shoes and pedals are a personal choice, but I ride Shimano SPD compatible pedals – I have a few different brands in the stash – and Gaerne’s top of the line MTB shoe… which isn’t cheap at retail prices.

      I hope this helps!

      JOM

      1. Yes, it does – I really like the Specialized Rime shoe – GREAT for hike-a-bike but they are rather heavy which worries me greatly on long endurance rides. I really like the Candy pedals for weight reduction and they are pretty indestructable but the weight savings don’t matter much with the heavier shoes. Thinking about switching to a traditional MTB shoe that is lighter and still fine for hike a bike. The beauty of gravel is that there is no one right setup – as you said preference. Final question – do any of you use power measuring setups (pedals, hubs, or crank)?

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