122km (75miles)- 1500 m (4800ft) of climbing
Have a wonderful start to the morning with a nice hour drive all the way out to Delle Utah. It was my first time actually getting able to see the salt flats. Yes I have been living here for over two years now and haven’t been out there. It was a fantastic opportunity to start sightseeing. I do have to say much of what you could see was flat, water, and no man’s land! I mean you are way out there! It was awesome to pass the Morton salt company along the way and see the giant piles of salt that they produce for the whole country! It was a lot of sodium!
Arriving at 8 AM… The race started at nine. The temperature was nice and chilly but the sun was beginning to warm up the world. I ate my breakfast as Matthew drove us down. Never ideal to eat so early for me but it was important for me to get my nutrition in so I was ready to rock ‘n’ roll off the start. Fully topped off. I had laid out everything the night before making sure that waking up in the morning and leaving at 6:45 am would be an easy task and I could just focus on the race ahead for the day. I had not done this race so I had studied the course and I really understood where the feed sons were and the mileage and climbing as well as hill segments. But I still didn’t know exactly what kind of gravel would be out there and how the conditions would persist. I really wanted to make sure everything was set off well for success. I was like to say, the less stress the day of the event is one of the most important Key factors to making your event successful. Sometimes it can take a lot of planning and reading maps and writing things down and setting things out and packing but it’s worth it.
The day before I had gathered my two big giant liter water bottles and filled one with plain water and the other with an electrolyte tablet. I knew that the ride would be out near the dry desert so you never know if it’s going to be excessively hot and you are going to sweat a lot. Next up I wanted to make sure I had everything on board and could stop minimally. For me I’m not a big fan of stopping all the time because I lose my momentum. Especially if it’s a tough technical course once I lose my momentum, it’s hard to get back into it and it can cost a lot of time. I grabbed my Camelback Chase vest which had 2 L on board. I feel that with a hyper tonic drink mix that has some electrolytes but more carbs. This was the new Liv momentous hydration mix. Next up was setting out all nutrition and making sure I had the right calories coming in for the calories that I would be exerting out. I assumed it would be at least a five hour ride and I would burn at least 500 to 700 cal an hour including with a total burn of 2800 cal. I aim to replace at least 35 to 45% of those calories so I wanted to make sure I had all the right food for the event. Now since it’s five hours in the saddle I didn’t want to start straight with fast burning easy carb Gels *science in sport isotonic are my go to. I like to save those for the last 90 minutes because once I start consuming those, I must keep it up every 30 minutes. I packed five dried figs, two pouches of Mott’s fruit gummies, One full sleeve of clif shot blocks and a package of the new science in sport gummies! I also packed an applesauce pouch as that would be the first thing I would start with. Coming in a little over 1500 calories consisting of a different range of carbs, I still packed a few extra snacks in my backpack section of my Chase vest as emergency back up. It’s always better to have more than to run out especially for long gravel races when you are nowhere near any water or food.
As the sun beamed morning vibes and we grabbed our packets, we began to run through all the equipment on our bike to make sure everything was set and ready to go. I lubed my chain and checked my tire pressure as well as put on my race number plate making sure it was secure. Yes Matthew was racing too! Hi grabbed my Wahoo element roam and turned it on and loaded up the route I had pulled from the GPX file the night before on the event and made sure everything was set off. The night before I made her to check that everything was updated and connect to the Internet and make sure the route for the race was ready and set. It is incredibly important to have a route for races like these as some signs cannot be there and you must know where you are going because one wrong turn can lead you to an extra two hours of riding that is unplanned. There’s not much phone service out there so it’s also important to know your routes and have a better understanding on how to get around but make sure the route is prepared and ready on your head unit. I have really had good experience with my Wahoo as it also shows color gradients on the climbs and is really good at directing and helping me navigate through a course.
With everything ready to go I put on my helmet and shoes and hopped on my bike and of course did the usual run to the bathroom a couple times with the small bladder I have! No it was time to get to the start and get to see some of my local friends that I haven’t seen all winter! It felt good to be back out getting ready to shred on some gravel. My element
We all started together men and women for the same route which let a very interesting dynamic as you would have to hang in close with the men and really be comfortable with bumping and trust the wheels ahead of you but be prepared for anything. The beginning of the start was quite rough. Everyone was antsy and ready to go. The course was a little rough leading to some loose gravel and straight into some giant rain potholes. It’s hard in a big group and some cannot pointed out right away because you were trying to stay upright. So the biggest thing I worked on was to stay light on my bike and let my bike float around beneath me while engaging my core and making sure to keep my head up and looking forward. There were a couple moments where people had to slam on brakes or try to yell out that there was a pothole but I was prepared and would hop my bike over it and just worked on moving towards the front of the group as best as I can and finding a line that I was comfortable with. Then the attack started to come and this is where the group withers out. The first climb started to approach and that’s when I knew it was the best chance to just keep moving up and put the gas pedal down. These are the interesting moments within gravel races were you know you have a long way to go but you must stay near and with the front group to get into the selection. I worked hard on drafting and picking the smoothest line as a chorus was very chunky big rocks and quite bouncy. Once the whole field had completely spread out I then began to settle into my climbing pace. Now is the time to settle in and do a nice steady pace that I know I can hold and sustain for a long time. Not easy but one that wouldn’t over exert me leading me to burn out. The climbing for this race wasn’t too substantial so I knew I would have to work hard on the flat sections because I do like climbing and flat sections are my weakness. We got over a climb and at this point everyone was on their own with occasional working with someone else. For the downhills I really have to focus on myself. You have to have for tension especially for gravel races on the down hills. The course today was filled with chunky big rocks as well as a mix of other loose rocks. Descending down had to be very skillful and very relaxed. I really had to focus on looking forward and letting my bike float below me over the rocks and making sure I didn’t break through any of the turns because stopping any traction would lead to skidding out. It’s something I’ve been working on the most for my gravel racing as skills can be tough but I noticed with the practice I have been doing, I got a lot better and going down became less stressful.
I came up to the first feed zone. I had enough on board to last me until at least 80 km or even the whole race so I took a sharp left turn and begin the journey on the false flat plateau section for the next 40km into a nice stuff head wind. This one can be tough because you’re way out there and there’s not much to work with. There were a few people I ended up working with and my fellow friend Jess and I worked together for a while. But again sometimes for these events you have to go to your own pace so you might be working with some people here and there but sometimes you either have to get back to your normal pace or they have to find their normal pace. It is very normal for that to happen. I just have a goal to keep going and get to that last climb which had quite a steep kicker. Halfway through the plateau, there was a couple very sandy sections. One was a straight downhill leading into a turn and I found myself losing control and having to hop off my bike. One thing about gravel racing is… You were going to get off and have to walk. That’s just something that happens and when I first started I would always get so upset and mad that I would have to get off my bike. I have learned to really except it and actually enjoy the walk because it opens your hip flexors and allows you to stretch your back. Plus you’re still moving forward. So it happens… You might have to get off and I did but I kept walking forward and got to the top and felt good to get the little stretch out.
Now this is where I always say trial and error. As many years as I have been racing you might think I would have everything dialed down to nutrition and hydration as well as where I place it. Well I thought putting my gummy‘s and figs in a Ziploc bag would be perfect but due to the course conditions it was nearly impossible to try to open a Ziploc bag with all the bouncing around. So being able to get off and keep walking I was able to open the Ziploc bags and dump everything within the pocket. I definitely noted that maybe the next time I do a race I’m going to go for my top to bag especially if I know that it might be technical it’s best to have the easiest access to any nutrition because you must start fueling early or else it’s too late.
Closing in on the second feed zone I still continued on. This was where the Last big climb of the day was played out. Steep and tough at the top so I knew that I had everything on board and needed to push past here. There would be a tail wind on the flat land cruising back. Pushing to the top it was now time to prepare for the down hill. At this point, I was pretty fatigued and knew that keeping attention in the moment was crucial so I made sure to reassess at the top and check my mental focus. It was a tough descent with lots of big rocks and loose stones that made it technical and also bouncy. Again, I really focused on making sure I was letting my bike flow below me. This was my first official ride on my new Ventum GS1 and it was quite a good test for it. I had gotten bitten and had to adjust things slightly here and there. I had also gotten my all time favorite saddles (Velo saddles) so my body was adjusting, but managing well to the newness. When we get new equipment, there is always an adjustment period so it important to really make sure you get fitted, but also have a good saddle and allow your body to adjust because our bodies are incredible and will adjust to that.
Made it! Hitting some smooth gravel it was home stretch now.. I mean 50 km of like home stretch. Though the wind was behind me now and the course had become super smooth. I hit the go button after downing some more food and getting in a gel for the last bit along with finishing off a bottle. I had gone through my camelback water and all my gummies and figs and fruit pouch by this point. It was important to make sure I started early so now it was relying on those quick grab and fast burn carbs to take me to the finish. I had been switching from second to third throughout the day and this was a good opportunity. With the tail wind and the smooth gravel.. I put the pedal to the metal. I had gone through my first wall and gotten through it so this is where the other side was and it was incredible! Felt strong, powerful, unstoppable. I even began to sing and it was a good day to be alive!
Well then a little brain receptor alerted and I know that the last feed zone was meant for a bathroom break. It must happen during long races as you stay hydrated and have to go. So when Nature calls, I know I must answer so I took a quick pit stop, peed and went on my way. I knew I lost some time and that’s when Jess passed by, but we were close. I pressed on getting through the last little climb whilst passing some others and making ground. Then it hit…. Yes all good things come to an end.
We came back on the same route for the last 20km when we started. I released that I forgot how rough it was because I was focused on being in the group. The wind shifted to a stronger side wind as the afternoon winds fell upon us. BUMPY! I was so happy I had my helmet tightly secured as my brain would have rattled out! It was in this moment I knew the last bit was going to be a tough struggle. But I didn’t give up.. I soaked in the fatigue and bounced on over lots of big chunky rocks knowing that my Ventum would take me there. I pressed on and looked ahead as you could begin to where the finish was.
It was tough and the and was blowing, but I made it! Taking Third by the end of the day with a time of 5 hours and 20 mins. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get out on my new bike and test out the training I had put in. Matthew finished in a fast 4 hours and 45 min! It was special to be racing together again and though the last section of the route made me grumpy from the bumpy, I took some deep breaths and enjoyed the people surrounding me and the two amazing women up there on the podium with me.
That said, It doesn’t happen over night to take on a race like this. I want to Highlight that Putting in some solid workouts with the Live classes and on demand classes at Velocity have really made a huge Difference. It had pushed me to go hard and It really feels like one on one as you crush though a tough workout. It has become a weekly routine for me and I cannot wait to start instructing live classes as well! Zwift has also been a big tool in helping me find community and take long ride days to build endurance. It’s pretty incredible with everything that surrounds us now to make us successful and I am outmost grateful for that. What a great race and Next up is a local road race and a few other local races and then here I come UNBOUND!
Heres The Run Down of My Equipment...
Head Unit: Wahoo Element Roam
Saddle Bag and Top Tube Bag: Arundel
Hydration Pack: Camelbak Chase Vest
Liter Water Bottles:
Saddle: Velo Saddle Angel TT
I encourage you to Head on over to Velocity and check out the Gravel Series workouts I have. loaded as well as give some of those Live workouts a try!
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