The Never Ending Hills
Well, that’s a wrap! Nebraska’s Gravel Worlds is done and dusted and wow was it much harder than expected!
Steamboat Gravel, I was familiar with and knew the route, but had never been to Nebraska and even ridden any of the gravel there. I didn’t know what to expect. Though coming from doing Unbound Gravel in Kansas, I figure Nebraska would be similar. But was I wrong! Its fun to explore and do routes ad events you have NEVER DONE. New places to see and territory that has not yet been discovered by yourself. Matthew and I were excited, but also a bit nervous of the unknown.
The things I have learned about Nebraska...
1- It is NOT like Kansas
2- Lincoln is a College football central
3- Gravel there goes on forever... But so do the hills * the hills are more like forever rolling and there were really no flat points!
4- The gravel was soft and mostly sandy and deep sandy in some areas
5- Epic farmlands and Epic support from the locals!
We arrived two days before, driving 8 hours from a brief visit at my parent's house near Denver Colorado. Matthew set off to do the 300-mile-long voyage. He would depart at 5 pm the day before my start and he would then ride through the night. I got the chance to ride over to the start and meet up with some very special friends that I have not seen in at least over a year. It was so so special and that’s one thing I enjoy most about these events. Yes, they are races, But to get to see fellow friends that are so important to you at these events is another reason for my WHY on riding a bike. The community and the way we can all get together for a weekend of doing what we love is special.
Over the last year, I have mentioned that I have gotten really sick with pneumonia. It has been a really hard journey back. I decided to take this last year and focus more on my athletes and my coaching. I decided to step back and work to recover back to the level I was at. But these things take time so I wanted to gather a different perspective from the race whilst focusing primarily on my coaching and my athletes. This perspective from the race was the longest time in the saddle and from the midsection to where you actually meet incredible individuals and I was actually shown the other side of incredible people who no matter what, keep going and never give up no matter the time they finish. I also gained a new perspective on enjoying these long rides and finding another reason for my WHY for riding a bike. It's not always just racing and going fast. Sometimes it's commuting and sometimes it's meeting people and enjoying the long ride together. I was gifted this year to enjoy all aspects and I do have to say it has given me a new love for riding a bike beyond just the competitive aspect.
Getting sick and getting injured is not fun and tough to come back from. It can take short time or a long long time to get back and it can be frustrating. I would be lying if I said I was happy some days that I knew the journey of getting back would take more than a year. It's tough and some days you give yourself ease and some days you sit in frustration at the situation. But the most I have learned about this journey is to appreciate life and even if it's frustrating at moments, it's OK to be upset, but it's OK to keep going and look forward. It helps me ride and get over tough long moments during rides. It helped me create a forward perspective. And that is why this year I wanted to decide to focus on my coaching and allow myself to work my way back, but also gain a different perspective from these incredible gravel races that allow for all to join and test their limits. I am happy I did this as I wouldn’t have made new friends, and gained more knowledge and connections if I had not. So Gravel Worlds this year was new to me, but somehow I felt relaxed, more excited, and ready to take on the long 150-mile day *245km.
The night before, I watched Matthew set off for his long voyage. Track leaders were rolling and I found myself having a sleepless night watching him. I knew it was probably going to happen and we can stress about getting a good night's rest before a race, but I found if the days leading up to an event, focus on getting better sleep because usually the night before an event can be hard to rest anyways so our bodies are incredible and can adapt if we bank up on sleep the days before. So I have found that stressing over not sleeping didn’t help the situation, so now I just trust my body to do its best. With Matthew out there, it was hard to sleep and it was ok because I was happy to get a call from Christie Tracy *a really wonderful friend and human who was a support stop for the long Voyage, with Matthew rolling through saying a quick hello!
Waking up.. 5 am to grab a quick half-caf half decaf coffee and hop in the car and drive to my start. I again was starting this race fasted as it works best for me. I would have a bit different game plan this time round than at Steamboat Gravel. With my new Supersapians Glucose Monitor, it's been so interesting to learn and gain more knowledge on my personal nutrition. Steamboat, I started with carbs ad I had a harder Tim eating at the beginning, so this time I grab the best Sans Meal bars which are higher in fat and full of about 400 cal each to start with. Lining up at the start, it was still dark and one of the best moments of gravel worlds was to know that there are 1000+ women who signed up. The support of the race promotors and directors is something I cannot simply put to worlds, but to just soak it all in. The women had our own start and we were the first to open up the day of an epically hard race.
The countdown began and we were off. The pro women altogether and heading right to the gravel. The Nebraska gravel was pretty deep and sandy in areas so you would have to get used to skidding around in some sections in the early morning darkness. But you warm up and gain better confidence once you engage your core and trust your bike. We were cruising along and still soaking up the start knowing that yes, the men will be coming soon as they were led off shortly after our departure. We knew once they came by, it was GO time. And yes it was… The men came and swarmed us and it was mayhem! Dust and gravel spitting everywhere. I just focused on my wheel and the others around me and pushed as the pace went from nice to hard. At this point, it was holding onto the wheels and draft as best as you could to your ability. I hung on…
The hills begin to pick up and this was new to me. I come from the mountains where you are used to climbing for long times and then going down for long times. Nebraska had a bit of a different terrain.. ok really different! They are like doing over-under workouts of two min hard and 1 min rest, but not much rest as you want to keep the momentum for the next hill. Then it began to soak in as I released that this day was going to be something I have never done before. The nonstop rolling hills. The elevation would add up to about 10,000 feet by the end of the 245Km *3400m. That’s a lot more than I had initially thought, But hey, I was in for a new world adventure on gravel.. yes about 96% all grave! It was good gravel. Sandy in some areas and deep, but not technical. The Technical aspect of this race was those hills. I was thinking it would more me like a slower death towards the ends, but it was more of a continuing death haha. Hill after hill and you were either up or down. Not much rest... This is a pure power course.
Now as the group separated and we settled into our own paces, the land was incredible! Lots of cars along with a beautiful sunrise and tons of green farmlands and surprisingly many thick trees. The day began and I knew it would be a journey!
Taking a pit stop to top off bottles, I was blessed with the early day cloud coverage leaving the temperatures perfect and not too hot. I began to eat more carbohydrates at this time and made sure one of my bottles had good electrolytes. I was not used to such a constant kind of power-heavy course, so I was fatiguing. It was crucial to work with groups so I would join in here and there, but when the miles begin to get longer and longer, there are moments you are alone and you must set your own pace.
Long rides like these, you are bound to go through hard walls and you need to climb over to get to the clarity on the other side. In this race, I had a good handful of them.. accumulated fatigue from Steamboat the week before, but also the fact that this house was targeting my mountain goat weakness ;)
Those walls were hard, but I took the time to appreciate them for teaching me new tools to work to keep going forward.
This next 100km was a hard push.. tough.. many walls and many opportunities to work to get through them and gain new survival tools. It was not easy and this course was taking its toll on me. But I kept going forward and made a new partner friend. I had 45km left to go and knew I could do it. With a quick gas station stop to top off with a giant pickle, peanuts, Powerade, body armor, and a gluten-free honey stinger waffle, I was determined to finish and be done with the crazy continuous hills!
I pushed hard to the finish and to see the last double track section meaning the last 2km sparked a fire in my should. Even if it was a super long day for me and I was tired, I wanted to finish strong. No matter where I was and if I was far back from the pro winners, I lit the fire and sprinted to the finish with everything I got. And then I saw Matthew. Waiting there smiling at me as we both knew... wow, we just rode our bikes a long time and wow we were tired and happy to be done with the hills. I am so happy I can share this with my love. I am so happy we can take care of each other as I drove him home and fed him dinner and he was fast asleep to recover to then take our trek back to Park City. Matthew did incredible! 21 hours for 300 miles and I finished in around 10 hours. What a weekend having Matthew out there drove me to keep going and keep going... I'd say there is definitely a cute tandem power team coming in the future!
I'm newer to all the longer-distance races and rides. It's been about a year since we all start somewhere. I was used to the mid-length and even short UCI pro races of high intestate. When I began to do these longer events, I was scared. I know I'm, not the only one. The fear of the long distance and now about to finish terrified me. The territory I was not used to, but I know if you have that same fear, I encourage you to keep that forward approach. Each pedal stroke is closer, but also each moment is a moment to learn something new about yourself and your abilities. It takes time, yes.. it takes training and practice to work up to those long miles, but the more you work to keep going forward, the more you become less scared and ready to take on a long day and finish it.
This next year I am going to begin a journey back to my old level so follow along as I build up with a former coach I had as a UCI junior, Jonathan Cavner. Yes, a coach needs a coach :) through all of this is learning but also enabling me to be not only a good coach but a great coach. I am happy to be on the upward of my recovery journey. I know there is a way to go, but I am also blessed to have the opportunity to have all perspectives of all ends of the race.
Next up is this weekend at Wasatch all road! Back to the beautiful; Mountains of Park City!
Glucose: *a bit different this time and another great learning opportunity to gain knowledge on how to better pre-load before certain events. As a nutritionist, I thrive off of applying this to myself to also help me as a coach. My glucose seemed to train off. Though I ate a great amount and felt fine, I knew that there need to be more pre-carb loading the days leading up to the event so this week I will start loading up on Wednesday and cannot wait to see what the change will enable. Love this!
So that was That! another fantastic Weekend of Riding a bike!
Thank you to all My amazing sponsors and the Support of this community!
Sans Meal Bar
Zone 5 Women
Zone 5 Racing