October 2nd 2021- Wichita Kansas
Forever gravel roads, fresh air, farm lands, a lot of generosity and love is a good way to explain Wichita Kansas this past weekend at the HEMI gravel race. I haven’t ever been to Wichita, let alone ridden gravel and it did not disappoint. This gravel race was purely special in the fact that is remembering someone who is so dear to the cycling community. Craig. Riding in the light of all Craig has done and remembering him whilst being able to see his family so supportive was something I cannot put to words. So special. Even if it was pouring, windy at moments, and mud building to where I needed a stick to be able to keep riding, the HEMI was pure joy and a blast knowing that Craig was there and what he has made with three feet cycling will never fade. With that, I had so much fun getting muddy and enduring 100 miles of all kinds of Kansas gravel… and Grass field! I want to thank Kris and her family for all they do for our cycling community and continuing the legacy of three feet cycling to keep building the amazing community we have for both juniors and cyclists, and women. I am so excited to come out again next year and would make sure to put this race on your list.
Waking up at six, I grabbed my breakfast consisting of 1cup of basmati rice, and a packet serving of my new favorite @amphuman / @livemomentus plant based protein powder with ½ cup of canned chickpeas and some Cinnamon all mixed together with a splash of almond milk and a bit of monk fruit. Sticking to simple carbs and good protein source to start the day. Making sure to grab my coffee, I head out the door to jump in the team van and be on my way to the race start at an awesome small airport. It was still dark as dawn was just upon us with some rain in the forecast, I went through the list of things I needed to race…
Helmet, Half gloves, Shoes, glasses, stick (for mud), camelback, two water bottles, all the tools to fix a flat, my bike, and me!
On top of that I made sure to dial my nutrition in as I planned it would be about 6ish hours to endure the HEMI 100 gravel miles. I packed three Schar Gluten free rolls, 5 sleeves of shot blocks (orange, cherry, salted watermelon, and margarita), and one caffeine gel. Prior to going to be the night before, I made sure to set all water out and put mixes in so I could grab and go the next day. For hydration I put 24oz + some water and a packet of a secret new @amphuman mix 😉 in my 2 liter camelback. Then I had a 20oz water bottle with water, and 1 liter water bottle with another secret mix packet.
So food all set! Hydration all set! Time to arrive to the start and get my number.
The generosity at the race was so special. I felt no worry or fear from the rain ahead, as the vibe was so wonderful, there was no reason to worry as everyone was there to celebrate and keep Craig’s legacy spinning. It was actually more clear then the weather report anticipated, which gave way to a nice dry start onto the many many miles of Kansas gravel. I had never ridden Kansas Gravel, and I have never released how much Gravel there is out in the countryside of Kansas. Its all typed of gravel as well! Swampy deep muddy, smooth almost like pavement, roads with many cows crossing, lots of cats, weird green baseball sized green fruits, chunky chunky gravel, grass double tracks, and a lot of bridge crossings. Oh and not to mention, chickens! You saw it all!
8am- rolling start right into a 2km section of very chunky section. Right off into a hard pace. Starting with the guys, I latched on to the leading guys and we began mile 1 of 100. It was good good hard pacing session with few breaks. I held in and took to any attack that came up the rolling hills. The group got smaller and smaller as we kept pressing on.30 kmm in, it was very smooth riding gravel with occasional pints of chunky stone. we started to hit some double track sections that were big loose chunky rock mixed with some deep puddles to dodge.. the pace kept pressing and I hung in the best with the front group. A few km later, I was near the front and someone slowed down fast and to prevent me from slamming into the back of them, I swerved to the left right into a deep mud puddle getting my first round of mud for the day 😊. I guess that's why they slowed down haha. Slipping and sliding, I stayed up and gathered myself, jumped right back to it and knew I had to press hard to get back onto the Drafting train. Latched up and hung in for the next 30km. Then we came rolling up to some cows into the distance. We eased up but the cows though we were scary monsters and started to run with fear. They began to panic when one of them was running across in front of us and tripped over itself falling over and rolling onto the ground. Then it was sheer panic from the herd as they ran in all directions trying to get to the other side. It was quite a scene as we all tried to step to the side to avoid the hooves and cow bodies. We could squeeze by but I lost contact with the group and thats when I knew it was time to put my head down and ride solo for the rest of the ride. Into the rain storm.
100km in- 78km left to go… over half way, I skipped through the feed zone to keep going and prevent stopping as I knew I had just enough water on board. I knew I just needed to put my head down and make up time I had lost and keep going as in the big picture 100 miles is a long time to work on making time up. Prior to the feed zone, the roads started to get more muddy and deep as the surrounding storm had made its rounds and we were getting ready to ride right in it. I was so grateful I had my paint stick to move the thick chunky and rocky mud out of the way so I could pedal and my wheels could turn. It began to sprinkle and conditions got more fun and muddy. I knew one thing, dark dirt roads were the ones that could collect clay like mud and getting through those would take courage and a strong pedal stroke to power through. I was happy the rain came then leaving the start dry and a nice fresh smell to the countryside of Kansas. I enjoyed the feeling of it as it was warm and left the outside temps not hot at all. I mean I was already dirty from the first 100km so it was nice to latch onto the little and one of two pavement sections to let the wetness on the road wash the first of many clay mud sections off my bike to almost start nice and fresh for the next sections.
120km- The rain cleared and it dried up for a little bit. Felling tired by this point from maxing out with the front group men, I kept my head down and continued to push towards the finish. 50km left… thats it. One thing I really enjoyed was not knowing what was ahead of me. I didn’t know how many muddy sections there were or where they lead. Left a mystery aspect to what was to come and made it mentally acceptable as I kind of took each challenging sections as it came. I just knew one thing… I was riding for Craig and the memory of all his greatness and thats what kept me going as strong as I could as the rain began to sprinkle, then put down. By this point, I had minimal break pads left and things were chattering with all kinds of noises from the clay rocky mud. One last section the mud was deep and it was a long section leaving me incapable to pedal my bike so I got through to my best ability and had to stop midway and grab my handy stick to get it off so I could continue. I haven’t ridden in this much mud on a gravel bike. The only time I had delt with mud to this extent was a local Boulder Colorado short Cyclocross race. But this was a 100mile ride, not a 45min ride so it left that paint stick of mine was a life savor to get to the finish.
Last 20km- felt long. I did and up riding with another guy for a while but lost him on that muddy section so again another long lonely stretch in the pouring rain and washboard. I found I could manage though with the thought of the finish so near and close, I pressed on. Each pedal stroke I pressed and I kept my eye on my surroundings and my mental clarity as near as possible since it was fading. We pre rode the course the day prior and saw lots of cats and I was surprised I hadn’t seen one yet, but 10km from the finish behold my first cat sighting! A cute white calico. But it wasn’t enjoying the rain and trying to get home. It saw me and I saw it, and the poor guy panicked running away from me, but then deciding to run right into my drivetrain! I trew myself to the side to avoid the collision as he finally decided his first direction was probably a smarter choice haha.
Finish stretch- boy was that long.. I mean only 2km, but it felt so long as I rode down a plane runway. I could see the tent of the finish line in the distance, I was relieved to cross that line. The best thing though was the people there at the finish cheering me on and happy to see me. My whole team, Kris and her whole family, so many others there to support and I could feel Craigs serenity and spirit there in the air and all around. Finishing 3rd in my age group and overall in all the women, I made a time of 6hr and 30min for 109 miles.
It was a challenging route no doubt! I am so glad I got to get a taste (no pun intended 😂) of Kansas gravel and also the hospitality of the community. So inviting and creating something so special for this cycling community. I will continue to fully support this ride and Highly encourage you all to come to the HEMI gravel as this is on the top of my list to travel to next year. Thank you to all who sponsored and supported this even to help rain money for the Twenty24 junior development team. This community is so special and the support we have for each other is something that cannot simply be put into words. In all. This race day was one to remember.
📸 : Mike Hogan