Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Before it was playing around 40-70% chance of rain and thunderstorms so we were not sure what to expect. As the days closed on for race day, the rain poured down making the course wet, less dusty, packed, and muddy. Water crossings were large where they had to reroute a couple sections as the water crossings were impassable. As race day approached, rain forecast seemed to diminish and temps remained optimal with good cloud coverage and cool test. We were incredibly blessed with the weather conditions. Perfect temperature, little bits of rain, clouds for the first half of the day making it nice and cool. The wetness had dried a little bit so the course was well packed, no dust, and less muddy sections. Water crossing were a blast and cooling. The sun came out towards the end making the day spectacular ending with lightning bugs.
5am- Woke up after a pretty restless night of sleep. Went to bed early, but I found it hard to fall asleep, running through my head making sure I had everything set up right and set for the next days BIG race. As for goals, this was my very first 200 miles in one consecutive ride I have ever done. So pacing, eating, hydration was all in question and all very new to me for that level of hours on the bike. I had a goal to stay with groups and work towards at least 12 hours.
I got up and slipped everything on with a nice little mug of decaf coffee to get me going and I hopped on my bike and head to the start. It was incredible! All the amazing people there to endure a big day and enjoy taking the time off from work, life, other obligations to do that we love.. RIDE BIKES! I lined up with the pros and we were set to go. 6am was the start time. Bright and early, and perfect as we all had a long long day ahead.
5:58am- Two minutes before it was GO time, A train decided to pass and we were delayed about 5 min waiting in anticipation to get going. Those five minutes seemed like forever, but I really enjoyed getting to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in years as well as meet some new pros lining up. The vibes were incredible.. nervous, but excited and ready to enjoy a full hard day of riding. Training had lead up to this moment and this was my Official race to kick off the gravel season for this year.
Nutrition/ hydration plan:
I had some great support with me. Original Skratch labs rice cakes and bottles at each aid station ready for pick up and a plan with nutrition and hydration dialed. Nutrition and hydration for a ride like this (320km) is critical and you must start early and keep up with it in all the right balance. It takes a lot to learn your body and what worlds for you. I had been training a lot with the same nutrition and making it best for ME.
The reason to why I didn’t not start with a pre ride breakfast is that fact I have trained my body to fat adapt and start rides fasted. Now I knew I would have to feed within 20-30min of the race start, but it made it perfect for me as I don't eat that early and to go off the normal routine could throw my body off and lead to stomach issues and extra energy used. Now the night before at about 8:30pm, I had a higher carb snack and topped off my glycogen strokes as I had been increasing carb uptake during the week as well. So my body was ready to rock and roll.
The plan for the ride was to fuel early and start with foods that were higher in fat and medium carbs. This is from the fat adaption I was use to at the beginning of my rides through a good year of training like that. Now the foods were more higher fat because I had be carb loading and topped myself off the days before so I wanted to use fat as a fuel for the long portion of the start as fat has 9 calories and carbs have 4. Fat lasts longer and you don't have to eat as often and as much because its nutrient dense for the volume. This would be a tactic to use as for a ride that’s over 10 hours. Constantly eating can become difficult and can cause stomach issues and pale fatigue. I wanted to make sure I was getting in energy, but starting strategic so I wouldn’t have issues of bonking because of food or having stomach issues.
Food and hydration- To go along with nutrition and hydration, its gravel and things can get bumpy and difficult to eat, but you have to find the best and most optimal way to make eating and drinking was for you. I found that having a top tube bag and my trusty camelback filled with two liters of 2x LiveMomentous hydration mix equaling electrolytes and 300 cal of some carbs. In the pockets I had my phone and some other snacks in the back to transfer over after going through my top tube and jersey pocket food. Now my top tube bag consisted of the higher fat foods and then breaking to some gluten free fig newtons and in my jersey pockets I had the amazing and most best Skratch Rice cakes.. coconut blueberry and savory egg. For water I had my 2 liter camelback, and then I have 2 full liter bottles of water on my cages filled with plain water and one with lemon juice to flavor it a bit and prevent the sweetness overload.
Bike- Now I absolutely love my Ventum GS1 as it is a rugged frame and can carry a lot. I had my trusty paint stick for the upcoming muddy situation in my camelback. Next I had my saddle bag (Arundale *My favorite bag company). This bag had 2x CO2, a great Muck-Off tire plug, CO2 dispensers, One tire, a multitool, DZ Nuts chamois cream, Chapstick, and tire levers. This is my go to bag for all things mechanicals. I will be adding chain links and derailer hangers in the future. You never know what will happen so its best to have it all with you because Gravel can come in all shapes and sizes. Dont forget the amazing Kenda Flintridge tires. These I have had nothing but no flats and luck with and will always keep using. Good tires and great width. I was a bit more narrow as I had 40mm, *I would opt to go for 42mm, but the good thing is that they run wide. For tire pressure, I like to run a bit more stiff. I was at 35psi. My saddle is a Velo saddle Angel TT. Super comfy and I have used these saddles for the past 3 years.
On my downtube, I have a parktool hand pump that attaches to my bottle cage. This is such a handy tool to have! Then I had my new and improved bell *yes I always carry bell son my bike for paths, cattle, and even just a friendly ring to people. I then had both a front and rear light as it called to be cloudy so I wanted to be safe with cars and visibility. Head unit was my trusty Wahoo Element Roam that I love very much. Love the mapping and elevation system of colors as well as eating reminders I pout on to really make sure I started early with nutrition.
GO! And we were off! With lots of practice in a peloton at the UCI road races and a good few years of Crit racing, It comes pretty naturally to me on moving around in the group. We were just all cursing together and picking up pace once we hit the gravel. I hung with the mid to from pack for a good 10km just drafting and working around. It began to string out and this is where the group started to spread. I knew that the first 2 hours were important to keep at a hard pace as then the selection would be made. I have to say the sound of the gravel were incredible. The clicking of shifting and just how we all moved together as a group. As we kept going, It felt a little more resistants to pedal, but in the moment, I was concentration on staying in the group and working to stay upon there. As we spread out, I started to hear this awful rattling. Was this my bike?! I looked down knowing my rear derailer was being a bit temperamental the day before, but I worked with the Shimano crew to get it sorted, but something was off and pedaling seemed not smooth. After some good investigation after cleaning my bike and going through the parts post race, it makes sense the issue.. Kind of lol. Yes we always keep learning how to maintain our bikes, but I look at it as a fun time to learn something new and really get the confidence to manage your bike.
What happened- My rear derailer hanger was not seating flush within the frame as well as my quick release button on my rear derailer was giving out and not holding position. Now with the through Axle in, the hanger would somewhat stay in place, but it would still slip out of place *I was very lucky to not completely break it. As the quick release button would give out, the spindle of the rear derailer would push up into my cassette making the wheel and pedaling slow down and add extra resistance.
Now I could still ride and it was just a bit of resistance that allowed me to keep going, but this took major energy out of my and my muscles to push that extra unneeded resistance. I knew I had to make it to the Shimano tent at 115km so I pushed up and just settlEd into a pace I knew that I could maintain. I apologize in advanced to all my friends who rode next to me dealing with that racket lol.
At that point I began to strategically break down thew ride into checks to help me mentally. I go By Kilometers so I broke the ride into 3 sections of 100km. I knew 100km was manageable so It would seem better and more sustainable. I made it a must to keep working with other as well and just keep riding to get to that checkpoint to reassess my bike. It was no easy task, I had lost a lot of time and It was slow moving and loud, but This race.. I was going to Finish!
Entering the checkpoint I was stoked to see the Shimano people right there! I saw the same guy who helped me and he knew what to look for. Taking my bike, he had to readjust the derailer and almost completely rehab the alignment and work with the spring button. This took a good 30 min.
Gluten free, vegan cinnamon rolls- 400 cal
Gluten free, vegan muffin- 200 cal
Grain free higher fat Gluten free vegan Gingersnap cookies- 300 cal
1x Gluten free Fig bar- 200 cal
½ bag Plant based Vegan cheesy gluten free pretzels- 600 cal
2x Skratch Rice cakes- 400 cal
Full Camelback of water and one full liter of regular water bottle with lemon- 300 cal
Knowing this, it was time to restock and prepare for the next 100 km point. eating was on point a lot as my goal was to start early as I knew I would fade towards the end so being topped off was optimal. Plus with the circumstances with my rear derailer, I had been exerting a lot of energy.
With that fixed “partially” the bike ran smoother and it was super nice! I gained much more time on this next 50km as it was nice to not have that extra resistance. I ended top riding with Mitch and another guy I had become friends with at that point. I had decided that the goal was now to finish.. before darkness fell. Mechanicals happen and it can be demoralizing but if you decide to take it and just make the best out of it, you can reminder the love you have for cycling. That’s what happened. I made a great friend (Mitch) and we worked together and occasionally worked with other groups. This is where I knew this was my very first 200 miles, so it was important to me to finish and learn what works for me and what doesn’t for the many more to come! We can sometimes get wrapped up in the results and that is awesome, but sometimes when you are completely new to something, its good to give your body ease and know that its going to take a few times to adapt and know your capability and limits.
This next period of riding was special. Special in a way that You began to become euphoric and latch onto that pace of just riding and pushing. You become one with nature and just know that it's time to keep going and focus on the task at hand. Task meaning the water crossing ands the mud!
Muddy Hike a bike:
Cruising and working hard, but appreciating everything about the bike and the ability I had to ride, I closed in on 194km, mentally ready for that next checkpoint in about 40km and the last 100km Chunk. The gravel got a little more wet. Knowing Kansas, mud there can become like peanut butter pudding fast if it gets too wet. You know these areas when you go down into a tree covered area . Well we did. Down we went and the roads became more and more muddy form just basic splashing mud to pudding too peanut butter. This is where that paint stick becomes your best friend! I rode through at least 1km of the beginning sections taking it as it came to me and using my core strength to work through the peanut butter. It got deeper and deeper. Then most people got off and walked and I lost rhythm and it became impossible to ride. Plus what’s a gravel ride without some hiking a bike?! From the last year of gravel riding, I have really come to accept that walking is a part of the journey and it's bound to happen. As at first I would always reject that and get frustrated at walking, but for gravel, you don't necessarily want to turn around and go back. There is no OUT. Walking become apart of the experience and the riding. Now Walking is good though for a long ride like that. You are able to stretch your back and hip flexors from the riding position. It gives you rest and is almost a break. So by 200km, I knew this was perfect because walking, you are still moving forward right? This section was a challenge though. We didn’t know how long it was and our bikes have been capped with mud leaving them heavy to pick up. The only option was to carry them as walking with your bike wasn’t plausible. This mud likes to stick and this is where you need that paint stick to clear your wheel wells so your bike and at least roll. Though this section didn’t give. Walking and walking, we ended up walking 3km (1 mile) of pure mud. I felt like a duck waddling along as my shoes build up so much mud we all had heavy webbed feet. Slipping and sliding around, stopping occasionally to readjust the bike barring down on my shoulder, I pressed on. At this moment I wasn’t angry. You couldn't be. It would waste extra energy and at that point we had ridden so far it was just acceptance and moving forward. I understand it was difficult for some. It really depends on where you are within your mind when you come to sections like that. I have been right on a hard wall making those sections so difficult mentally, but over the practice and work towards acceptation, I have over time been able to build mental stretch to endure tough sections. A lot of this is because of my love Matthew who is the most incredible person for true endurance and grit to keep going. He has taught me to not give up and keep moving forward. In this moment, I became to gather all positivity towards cycling and looking around me at all the other folks getting through it together. We all were there enduring it and together we were doing what we could to keep that forward motion. I knew
….This Moment Shall pass…
And it did.
230km- made it through to a lovely river to then hop in and wash our bikes and make our way to the last main Checkpoint. You felt so fast moving though that section. And it was perfect time as my derailer from all the mud and water buildup was again starting to give. I rolled into the last main feed check point and saw my awesome Shimano friends as we made eye contact and knew exactly what was to be done. This stop was about 20 min.. a little less as before the mud section I had quickly stopped at a smaller check point and washed my bike , grabbed water and reapplied some chamois cream and gave my chain a new coating of lube. This last main check point was the last to fill up. This was crucial to restock and make sure everything was topped off as this was the last to the very end. This point it was a race to beat the darkness. From that I had gone through..
4 rice cakes- 800 cal
The rest of the pretzel bag- 600cal
Sleeve of caffeine orange Clif Shot blocks 50mg- 200 cal
Fig bars- 200 cal
1 SIS isotonic Caffeine gel 75mg- 100cal
1 SIS isotonic watermelon gel- 100 cal
Icebreaker mints *yes I like mints to help taste fatigue and its refreshing
2 liters of plain water in camelback
1 liter of Skratch hydration mix- 100cal
1 liter bottle of plain water
The last main checkpoint I knew food would be hard and yes it was so I grabbed a banana and a pickle and ate that there as the amazing Skratch Labs crew switch me to two 28oz bottles of Skratch Super Fuel.. now this was the gold. This was the stuff that will keep me hydrated and topped off with no stomach distress. Nutrition and hydration all in one and this was the moment to use these.. Use the ammunition. That SUPER FUEL which I was a tester for a few years ago at a USA camp in Boulder Colorado. This stuff WORKS! I grabbed three more rice cakes just in case and did end up eating those as the REAL food was super handy.
NOW for the final 100 km stretch and into the sunset I rode pressing my pass to beat the darkness.
The Final push:
One more walk a bike section of mud after the main second checkpoint that was short seemed to be a breeze compared to that first one and then it was smooth sailing! The puddles would become your friend as they were perfect sections to quickly stop and get as much mud off as you could from bike and shoes.
Now I had lights right?! So darkness would have been ok, But they had died so I knew I NEEDED to beat the darkness. I just hunkered down and pressed to beat that darkness so I could at least make it back to Emporia for the town lights. And that’s exactly what happened. I stopped one more time at 30km out to get some plain water at a small support check and I had to slow a bit on the last 10km as darkness fell and I needed to see. I packed my sunglasses away and it was time to turn the backlight on my wahoo to finish the route! There were others arena me. I because to look around in respect that I had just cycled 310km that I have never done in my life for one consecutive ride. Closer and closer I got lucky through the train crossing as the big engine had slowed down to let me pass through. I began to see flickers of lights and released they were fireflies! Then Bang! One went right into my eye, so it was a little frenzy to try to ride in the dimming glimmer of dusk and get a bug out of my eye. As I was 5km out, I rode one eyed for a little bit until it resolved and the I saw the amazing spot lights moving at the finish! This was it!
Yes it didn’t go as fast as I wanted, and yes mechanicals are no fun. But the fact I rode and finished 200 miles was huge for me. I never knew what my limits were. The fact that I had great energy at the end from good hydration and nutrition was the best! I had no cramps and no stomach paints. I ate well giving me incredible clarity in the head and energy to push through those walls I passed through. We all have those hard walls we hit and have to get over on hard rides. Sometimes they can be really hard to go over and through, but I know with proper hydration and good nutrition, they didn’t really see as hard as I have endured before. This gave me knew light on how to pace and strategies for 200 miles. This gave me confidence in myself and ready to take on more races and know when to push harder now. As I said, we must have a few to know ourselves and progress and grow.
I cannot express my gratitude for all the people in Emporia and the town to be so inviting to all of us cyclists from all around the world. The support from others and the Skratch crew, Ventum bikes, the local bike shop and everyone has left me again speechless. Having these volunteers and people who are stoked to cheer us on is a feeling I cannot put to words. I WANT TO SHARE THAT THIS very cycling community whether it road, MTB, BMX, Gravel, TRI.. the community of people that we are surrounded by is something special. We all respect and love life and even if we have hard moments and our focus can become small, I know that the reason we all ride is because we love to. Its good to find your reason to why you ride. This ride for me was riding for a cause, riding for awareness of who we are. I am taking the journey this year to open up, help others, and continue to reminder the love I have for cycling. It happens. If it was easy, everyone would do it, but its not. Sometimes that love can DIM and it happens, but know when it does and finding a way to bring light and find that love creates that balance you have with your life and love for cycling. This goes beyond just cycling, it's the connections we make from the community and the support and love we have for each other and other people around us. Even just three days I met some of the most amazing individuals that I know I will know for a lifetime. I made friends that are meaningful. I saw it all and experienced it all and with that I know all of us Grew together whether it was doing the 50 mile ore the XL 300 mile.
Thank you all for such a time and one for the books! I look forward to now continuing these types of rides and I am already looking forward to SBT Gravel, Gravel Worlds, Wasatch all road 100, BWR Cedar city, and time in Austria. I want to end again ion the fact that I have expressed my troubles with mental health from my past. It's not easy and it hard to be open about it at first, but I only want to create a vision of ending that stigma of mental health not being a thing or as important since its not really visual like a broken bone. But it’s important and I only hope that through my experiences, I can shed light to you all on how to battle through your brain in moments of challenge mental health, life, workouts and other. We all endure thoughts and moments of challenge and if we are open about it, we can power though and build critical tools that won’t just help us mentally, but help us find our life balance and become stronger individually and as a community. It doesn’t have to be just emotions, building these tools through awareness can help with enduring hard workouts, long drives, simple life moments that can be challenging, but we equip the positive mental stretch to find the perfect energy balance. Building these tools have helped me push though getting sick with pneumonia and having to start fresh and rebuild for two years. Understanding the process, but also taking care of health and well being 8More to come on that soon. We all endure adversity and the more we can learn to push through and power though, the stronger we become as individuals and as a community.
Now I hope you all enjoyed the recap and I look forward to seeing you all on rides (IRL, Races, Velocity, and Zwift). Cheers to the first 200 miles and more to come!
Off to clean my bike!
Full nutrition and hydration Profile:
Gluten Free vegan Sakara Cinnamon Rolls- 400 cal
Gluten Free vegan Sakara Muffin- 200 cal
HUkitchen grain free Ginger snap Cookies Vegan Gluten free- 300 cal
Gluten free Fig bars *Rasberry 2x- 420 cal
Quinns Plant Based Gluten free Cheesy Pretzel Nuggets *yes the whole bag- 1200 cal
SiS Isotonic Gels 1x Cherry caffeine 75mg 1x- Watermelon- 180cal
Clif Shot block Chews Orange Caffeine 50mg- One Sleeve- 200 cal
THE BEST original Skratch Rice cakes *blueberry and egg and bacon ones!- 7x- 1400 cal
Skratch Rice Crispy treats *recommend the marshmallow- 2x - 400cal
One package of Whole Foods fig and almond blocks- 400 cal
Total food Calorie: 5,100
2 liter with Liv momentum hydration mix 2x- 300 cal
1 liter with 1x Skratch hydration- 80 cal
1 liter with 1x Skratch Super Fuel- 350 cal
4 liter of plain water- H2O cal
Total Drink Calories: 730 cal
Full Strava route: