Steamboat Gravel 2022 Recap
228km 3,000M elevation Gainan
This would be my second year taking part in the amazing Colorado SBT Gravel In Steamboat Colorado. I was born and raised in Colorado and the gravel in this state is to perfection and some of the best in the US. The best part is that it also involves climbing and is at elevation which is another aspect I love. I was so happy to be able to do it this year and do it with my now fiancé, Matthew!
The Start: 6am
Perfect temperature.. not too cold and not too hot. Thousands of people lined up at the start as the amazing Dave Towle announced. This year was a bit different from last year as I was more riding for myself and the love of cycling. Getting seriously sick has taken me a lot longer than expected to come back and feel normal again. It's not easy and it's been a journey to say the least. So this year it was a year to just have fun and keep working on feeling better again.
Waiting for the gun to go off, Matthew and I slotted into the mid-pack of the massive group and knew that there would be some work to move to the front after the Go. But we are well versed and know how to navigate well so once it was GO time, we swiftly move near the front as the giant peloton of all these incredible riders rolled out nerves and excitement for the long day ahead in the air.
The essence of these events is so important. To have all levels, sizes, and abilities of people be able to gather together for a fun hard day is truly something I love the most about this gravel. It leaves this special feeling in my heart to know that when you set gourmand to something you can do it. That’s the same mindset I set out for all my athletes. No matter what, keep going and don’t give up.
The day before SBT, I have finally gotten the Supersapians CGM *continuous glucose monitor hooked up to better my knowledge as a coach and nutritionist surrounding glucose. I am so excited to be working with them and on my next knowledge journey to learn how my glucose can better my understanding to help others in the future with theirs to best optimize health and performance.
At the start due to it being early like Unbound, I decided to top off well with glycogen the night before and start fasting. This time I decided to eat a gluten-free fig bar instead of more fats. Well now that I know. My body prefers to start with fat if I go into a ride fasted. So insulin spiked super high and when we went off, it came crashing down, making it difficult to stay with the group. Then the stomach issues began.
I wish I could say that all races are awesome and a great experience, but there’s that known rule of thirds…
1/3 of riding it awesome
1/3 of riding is ok
1/3 of riding just suck
Having all three of those thirds in balance is a recipe for success. If one is more than the other, you need to add a little bit of the others to maintain balance. So Set was my bad 1/3 and I could be grumpy and mad that stomach issues came out of it and made it more difficult, but I remembered the rule of this as I also preach them as a coach. Its OK and it doesn’t mean that the day is over. Something’s the hardest rides, you learn the most about yourself and I sure did.
Almost halfway I was managing the stomach issues with my homemade Skratch-style rice cakes which helped my stomach and gave me better energy and insulin stability. Now it was about nearing that 4hr point and onto a long section that I knew would be tough, but one to push through. Now I love watching GCN *global cycling network and Monon *an amazing female decided to take on the Black and do her first 200+km gravel race. They cam all the way from the UK so I knew she was out there and it was thrilling to know that they were filming the experience and capturing the essence of this kind of gravel. She is a star and just knowing she was also riding there made me so excited.
Came 130km, nearing 100miles, fatigue started to set in.. I had made one pit stop at the second feed zone to help manage some of the stomach pain and reapply sunscreen o my hands as I had taken my gloves off from some numbness so I didn’t eat to scotch my hands. I had also stopped at the third feed zone quickly to refill and restock on food and get prepared for the long stretch to then take on the long long climb to chalk creek which was a loop that always is a tough factor during the race. I rolled out of the feed Zone and joined again with a good group and we paced well up the beginning of the longest slowest climb of the day. It wasn’t hard and steep but VERY long. We all set into our own paces and I met two men and hung with them until parting ways up the road and setting into my climbing pace. Stomach issues were still persisting and it was hard to keep food down, but I still stayed on top of trying to eat and drink no matter what because it was a huge deciding factor on being able to continue and finish.. even if it wasn’t that fast... At this point finishing at my apace and to my best ability was important for me. I am still fairly new to longer gravel rides so it's always building to more experience and learning and building that endurance.
Now it was riding alone at my pace for a while… then I saw it.. that colorful jersey! The jersey of the great friend I made during more than half of the 200 miles at Unbound. This is also the other aspect of gravel events like this. Yes its fun to race and go hard, but when you set back a bit and ride and do your best in the given situation, you meet some of the most incredible people, and yes it's one ride.. but the things you go through, you remain the closest of friends. Mitch! There he was and there we were again! Side by side and enduring our bonks and energetic moments together. We would have moments of pacing each other and a moment of catching up as much time has gone wince unbound… It makes me even smile writing this to know that the company is so important and meaningful for these rides. And our paces match very well. One thing I have learned from Mitch was that he really enjoys the ride. Loves nature and doesn’t just stay in that tunnel vision. Yes, it's good to be in tunnel focus vision for moments, but for rides this long, it is incredible where we go and how we get there on two wheels. He appreciates it and doing so, keeps us motivated to keep going and takes away from the fatigue. We rode and chatted and paced and kept going. One feed zone stops and then it was the dreaded Chalk Creek loop. But now I was ok... I had a good buddy and it was going to be hard but ok!
Before the long trek...
The afternoon storm was beginning to brew ahead where we were riding and it was dark and heavy. We knew it was going to be wet, but I didn’t mind. It was going to cool things down so this second to last feed zone was important to grab what I needed, refill, and pop in a little caffeine for the long loop. And there she was! It was Manon! FROM GCN! I mean yes… I admit it, I'm a huge fan haha. She was sitting and definitely at a tough point of the ride.. yes the bonk you have to work to crawl out as it definitely happens. I had just crawled out of one so I understood that feeling. It's not fun. But also didn’t want her to feel like another fan just crowding her for a photo as she already had a camera crew. I wanted her to feel like a rider. So as with anyone I walked up and told her to thank her for coming to this race and making the trip. She smiled. I told her that there was a loop but pavement after and told her I knew she would come out of it for that climb as the road is her strong suit. It was the perfect interaction. I didn’t want a picture and I didn’t want to bother her as people would crowd around the crew and her which I get it.. it's exciting, but she was tired, I just wanted to thank her for coming out and tell her that the bonk would end! ;)
And then I was off with Mitch.. rolling off, there she was rolling off with me! So I began to pull her as I knew it the hardest to get back on after the middle of a bonk. The storm was ahead and we knew that this loop was going to be a tough one. We ended up having to set at our own paces, but I still knew that she would come back. But now it was to power on and get through the storm. Mitch and I began to loop around and enter the dark stork. Lightning was close and yes, of course, we were at the highest part of the course. It dumped and it poured! Hailed a little, but the company was great. Through all of this, the GCN camera crew was leapfrogging us to capture shots of Manon... Mitch and I were in full-on conversation each time they would drive the motorbike by and stop to set up for a shot. We would be in the silliest conversations or ones about near-death moments with lightning. Every time we passed through we would wave and it soon became a fun little game with the GCN crew as we were happily smiling whilst getting dumped on haha. It was fantastic and the big loop became shorter. We looped around and I knew it! Manon got closer and closer.
Back to the last feed zone, it was a pee break and pickle break to trek the last bit. Manon rolled right as we rolled in and I smiled at her and said, yep I knew you could! And now it's just the finish stretch. It was a great interaction as I knew this was a whole new world for her. But now she would shoot off and I would endure the Bonk that I could not crawl out. But the sun was coming out after some scary moment with lightning. But again Mitch and I rolled out together to take on the last 40km with one climb that was short, but tough because it was after 190km of riding.
The last stretch
Always tough as it was nearing 8 hours of riding. But Mitch and I rode together and it was honestly the best company ever. He is such a genuine being and just puts a whole other perspective to my view coming from all racing. And as we finished on the cattle creek stretch, we passed some happy cows and set off on the last 10km to the finish. I was in a bonk that was the everlasting one that cracked me so I had to set into my own pace, but rolling into the finish Mitch was right there cheering and just even writing this, my heart is warm with the people you meet and meet again during a bike event like this. I love racing and racing is fun, but when you know it's not your day, I decided to enjoy the ride and take a view from a different perspective, and in doing so, I learned so much about my mind. I am grateful for these moments and even if I’m finishing some time back from the ones that first crossed the line, I got more time to ride but also appreciate the world we are in. Of course, I have great plans to journey back to that level, but having this time this year to do this has made me love the bike in a whole new way.
Matthew was there finishing with a tough mechanical where he broke his chain and had to put it back together. She was still smiling. Mitch was smiling, and Manon was even smiling. She finish just a bit ahead of me and I was so happy she powers through and made it through her longest gravel race at elevation. I congratulated her and the camera crew had become good friends with us and even got a fist pond! I told them that they should get more credit and told them that you for all they do because as a videographer myself, I am so blessed they are out there capturing this to share with the world.
Well... I was very tired and had to take a moment to shed some tears as yes, it wasn’t the day... but after my moment I now realize that this year is a year with a different perspective and I'm learning so much about not only myself but the adventure involved and the incredible individuals in this world. It's a new perspective that I know can help me as a coach. With all of this, I also had an athlete take on the 100 miles and finish an hour faster than her goal time. She came to me saying she didn’t know if she could do it, but I told her to never give up. With that, I take that away and know that those rule of thirds must be in balance, and yes there are those tough days, but they really help you grow as an individual.
From my journey, I want you to take something and learn that the bike is incredible. You can race hard, you can go through bonks, you can meet incredible people, and you can have those tough days, but in the end, it's the adventure and how you keep going that matters. You do what you can where you are in your life and no matter what, I encourage you to Enjoy the ride.
**Thank You Mitch For taking some of these awesome photos and helping me enjoy the ride! Thank you to Steamboat for being so open to all the gravel enthusiasts. Thank you to all the volunteers at each feed station making it so much fun and being such a huge support! Thank you to my Matthew for being a huge support and thank you to all my incredible sponsors for being incredible!
Sans Meal Bar
Zone 5 Women
Zone 5 Racing