The weekend of April 22 and 23, 2017 was a weekend I had planned to attend the 2017 Bootlegger 100 – one of the most difficult gravel races in North America. 108 miles, over 10,000 feet of climbing and some amazing scenery. As I alluded to in my Dirty Kanza 200 training plan, “a loosely formed plan with some flexibility”, I decided to spend the weekend in my adopted USA home town of Gainesville, Florida, instead. Ditching the Bootlegger race wasn’t a decision I made lightly (I love the event and the promotion crew associated with it), but traveling expends a lot of energy and with several “away” races and events in my future, I needed some good local time.
Saturday morning, I joined a local cruisy roadie ride for a total of about 70 miles / 110km’s. It wasn’t totally cruisy, as I rolled a few intervals respectfully off the front, then rejoined the ride, once I was finished.
Later that day, I attended the local Hogtown beer festival with my lady, and indulged / carbohydrate loaded for Sunday’s mega ride. Also, cheerio to the two lads who stopped me to say hello. Wearing a Gravel Cyclist t-shirt virtually all of the time works out sometimes
The original plan was to ride Sunday in the company of Mrs K-Dogg. Unfortunately, she’s been sick as a Dogg lately, and had to politely withdrew and tend to feeling better. 60+yo teammate K-Dogg generally does her bidding (he’s such a good hubby eh), so he joined her for a easy road ride that was limited on the miles. It should be stated K-Dogg raced at the Shake ‘N Brake event in Alabama on Saturday, so he gets a pass on this one 🙂 There should be a race report from him and a video sometime soon.
I woke up feeling a bit dodgy. It may have been all of those beer samples consumed at Saturday’s beer fest, but no matter, I had to knock out a seriously long ride on Sunday. I have plenty of base miles in my legs, so people are probably thinking, “JOM, why the eff are you riding so much?” I’m a firm believer of a bit of mental toughness for the training… and I have a certain Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel race on my agenda in early June. Additionally, I wanted to put some miles onto WTB’s new Byway tyre for a future review, and test some other equipment / personal nutrition / hydration options. In plain English, I wanted to see how my body would react to certain food items. The best laid nutrition plans sometimes go astray, so a little knowledge about a Plan B always helps.
To say the dirt, gravel, limerock, sand and other roads were in a sad state on Sunday would be an understatement. It hasn’t rained for weeks in and around Gainesville, Florida. The known sandy spots of my mega route were extra sandy (or spicy), and the washboard / corrugated roads were off the chart bad. All of the internet suspension aficionados can bang on as much as they want about how their fork, stem, seatpost or ultra plush MTB super full suspension wannabe gravel bike can tame roads like the one pictured above, but I’ve got bad news for you. Unless you’ve developed a system that can rebound so fast it can level out such gnarly roads, I’m sticking to my suspension system. Bigger tyres, lower tyre pressure and riding with a very relaxed grip on top of the handlebars. This method of cruising on the top of the handlebars works for the best of the Euro pros at Paris Roubaix; thus, it works for me.
Around the outskirts of Alachua, Florida, across the renown dirt and gravel sector of Bellamy Road, the first federal highway in Florida. The Gravel Cyclist crew fondly refer to this road as the Flappalachians mountain chain – a lumpy, short and very distant cousin to the real Appalachians. Later in the ride, across to Ellisville, Florida.
Close to Ellisville, I came across this lady. Her overgrazed pasture had her looking for food beyond the perimeter of the fence. From “gardencycle“, a fan of the Gravel Cyclist Instagram account; “pasture rotation is critical, for when grasses are eaten down as in the picture, they actually do not regrow quickly. Not enough people do research before enslaving sentient beings.” Useful pointers, thank you for chiming in “gardencycle”. It would be nice if the goat’s owners knew this.
It took 10 minutes, but eventually I freed the lady goat to join the rest of the herd.
Onto the outskirts of Lake City, and the first scheduled stop for the day. Until this point, I’d been chugging from my one litre bottle with Gu hydration mix, regular water from the second bottle and a Gu flask filled with Gu Roctane gel. A quick refill of water and Gu hydration tabs, a 32oz / litre of fountain vending machine Coke with lemon (cheap but classy), and a quick nosh on a Lara Bar. Time to roll again.
Into Wellborn, Florida (76 miles / 122kms in), home of a blueberry festival that happens during the first week of June. Sadly, I’ll miss it again this year, but hope to attend this fun event? in 2018.
The miles between here and my next scheduled stop at Beachville, Florida, approximately 112 miles / 180 kms into the ride were tough. Along with the slow road conditions, I just wasn’t feeling good. This feeling of overall malaise became very apparent about 100 miles into the ride. I consumed some more Gu gel and water, and hoped it would pass. Usually, I have the company of K-Dogg on these rides, and he will break into song, badly I will add, in order to distract me from feeling bad. So, no distractions today, just head movies and thinking about goodies at the store stop.
I timed my fluid consumption to perfection, bone dry at one mile before the store. Brilliant!
The rubbish in the photo above rejuvenated me, mostly due to its high content of caffeine and sugar. Maybe not the best calories, but I wasn’t up for dragging around a bicycle trailer filled with hydroponically grown, local, non-GMO, non-SOY, non-MSG grub. Nor, did I have a team vehicle at my disposal. Ordinarily I would never touch a beer like that, but on a warm day with plenty of miles in one’s legs, that cold Budweiser was simply amazing.
The march for home was much more pleasant. I’m not the sort of bloke who plans rides based on supporting tailwinds towards the end of a ride, but somehow, I’d gotten the following wind right, especially as I rode in an Easterly direction. Remember, with organized rides and races, you’re at the mercy of mother nature and the direction of the course. It isn’t like I can bother the Dirty Kanza promoters the morning of the race with this question. “Hey Jim, any chance you could reverse the Dirty Kanza course? The wind forecast is for a full on headwind during the last 60 miles, WTF dude.” Jim would shake his head.
I didn’t exactly feel amazing, but I was buoyed on by the dwindling kilometres to home as seen on my Garmin navigation device, and the fact I hadn’t cracked, physically or mentally. However, I was less than chuffed by one absurdly rude washboarded road (pictured earlier in this posting) between Fort White and High Springs, Florida. These effed up roads physically and mentally beat the heck out of you, which is something you really don’t need in the closing miles / kilometres of an all day gravel ride. Even the last gravel road along route was rough and rude, but by then, I didn’t care.
I completed the 161 mile / 259 kilometre route in a ride time of 10:36. Not bad considering how slow it was out there.
Headphones used – 0. Goats helped – 1. Beers consumed – 1.
For those who are interested, you can see my Strava workout from the ride, HERE.
So, what’s next?
This coming weekend is Paris to Ancaster. I’m making the flight and drive across the border into the Great White North of Canada! Should be a fab time, so look for the ride report and video involving that trip. Niagara Falls may make an appearance…
Thanks for reading!