Saturday, June 16, 2012

Westside Dirty Benjamin, '12

First year, I rode it as my second-ever gravel ride & second-ever century. Last year, we had a wedding to attend, so I helped out, which was great, but not the same as riding. This year, I went for the singlespeed century. Instead of Almanzo's blistering heat and winds, this race pelted us w/ rain for the first hour+, then left us to squish along somewhat drying out until next squall rolled through. Only a couple patches of unpleasant heat; unfortunately for me, the highest temps came right as I bonked. So be it.

In my worried weather planning, I nearly short-shrifted myself for food. Rain jacket? Change of socks? Short sleeve jersey? Sure, I packed all three.

Martin Rudnik, Jason Stukel, and the crew put their backs into making this low-fi event a smooth, interesting, positive challenge. High praise and thanks to their efforts and sacrifices.

We rolled out and, literally, within ten minutes the rain arrived. No major first-miles' wipeouts that we saw. Reminding myself not to push too hard, to go out too fast, to get sucked into the adrenalin at the outset, particularly with only one gear. I fell in with a group that by and large held together for twenty plus miles, then as people rubber-banded up and down the road, trying to find their best pace, a group of fifteen to twenty rolled together for a little while, and then the majority of them gained a gap (due to a guy who was struggling but wouldn't pull over). They rolled over hill and dale, we pursued but were losing ground steadily. Four of us started to bridge up to them...and then we didn't. I realized it would tax me hard just to reach them, and once there, I'd get spit out the back shortly. So four of us fell in together, and we covered the next thirty plus miles together. One was Ken from Cat 6 racing, whom I'd met back at the Slick 50* (64). He was single-ing it, too. The other was a woman training for Lutsen 99 next weekend; she was geared and pulled us a good deal. The fourth guy fell off, leaving the three of us to roll, picking up or passing various stragglers. Good company, good working together.

We were running on collective and individual vapors in the final miles to the checkpoint (mile 61+). My cue sheets fell out, so I was relying on those around me. I had another bottle of water in my trunk but no one wanted to stop so I pushed on. Bad move. We had bad navigator and went 1.5 miles wrong way from checkpoint, then turned around--bringing total miles at finish to 110. At the place, I swapped my drenched, sweaty, dirty pocked long-sleeve jersey for a clean one. I should have taken more of a break but my companions were itching to make up time lost on detour so we pulled out after perhaps five minutes.

In my haste, I left all my second-leg food in my drop bag. And I didn't get enough water on board before starting up. As a result, I downed one of my three bottles in first five miles, and I found myself short on caloric intake. And then, the bonks came raining down. I pulled a while through Luce trench, but right after that were rolling, sun-exposed hills, and I just dropped away. The other two hung back for a bit, but I was broken, so they went on.

I rolled solo, slowly and more slowly. Beautiful countryside out there. I found a convenience store, grabbed some stuff, felt better, and faced the final 25+ miles.

Martin made it good with the trail section at outset, including the large fallen tree; the woods after the checkpoint; the sudden Brrap section of mud and vegetation; the backside course was far hillier than the front, and though small, the hills were unforgiving on tired legs.

I missed sub-seven hours but had a great day. Hard and fun. Great seeing so many now-familiar faces out there.

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