So last week I set out to do my first every race. It was a gravel event in Northern Wisconsin called the Hungry Bear 100. Knowing that there was no way I had a century in me this early in the year I signed up for the 60 mile event, even though it was 30 miles more than any ride I have attempted this year. I ride mostly by myself and I had a great deal of anxiety about showing up to an event like this. I made it a goal to want to do one of these a few years ago but my fear has kept me away. Finally I decided to just do it. I mostly ride alone so I rarely see how I stack up against other riders. I took Friday off work to get my bike ready and pack but couldn’t keep my head straight. Luckily I remembered the essentials and even packed enough clothes to keep my kids dressed for 3 days. I however did forget underwear oh well. My parents picked me and my boys up around 3 and we headed up to Hayward about 350 miles away.
The drive took about 7 hours with all the stop included which wasn’t awful but I wasn’t eating and drinking right. When we finally got to the house I tried to get some sleep but that wasn’t really happening either. I tossed and turned until 6am and decided to get dressed and have my Dad take me over. After checking in my anxiety melted away. Everyone was very cool and the atmosphere seemed chill. I just wanted to ride! Finally 9am rolled around and I rolled up to the start. After a few words of encouragement from Time the events organizer we rolled out.
I kept up with the middle of the pack for the first ten miles or so. My strategy was to keep my hr rate under 150 and to to stop every 10 miles to stretch my back and eat some food. I knew if I did those two things I could finish. I had a goal of 5 hours to finish. Everything was going great until shortly after the first 10 miles my back started hurting. I was riding my Fargo which I havent really been on this year and I swapped saddles around too. I think the saddle fit wasn’t dialed in and I was having issues. I have two herniated disc and it was flaring. I pulled over and decided to to a quick adjustment on the saddle but it wasn’t helping much. I decided to look at the map and think about bail points in case it got worse. This route is pretty remote and my cell phone had zero reception so my best bet was to hit a highway and ride back to town.
The thought of quitting kept creeping in my head. My feet were starting to go numb and my back was really hurting but I just couldn’t bring myself to quit. Right about mile 30 I rolled up to an intersection with a major highway and a volunteer had me stop so traffic could move by. Here was my chance. .. .. Fuck it I said. The cars rolled by I exchanged pleasantries and hit the road. I kept up with my strategy to stop every ten miles even if just for a few seconds to stretch out and things started to get better. about mile 45 I hit the same stretch of highway again and was rolling feeling great. I stopped at Lakewoods Resort to call my parents now that I had reception to let know i had about an hour left. Unfortunately the call didn’t go through so i sent a text and hit the road. Pretty excited to almost finished I turned off the highway onto the dirt again.
This is where the wheels came off. The roads turned from gravel into rocky sandy atv trails. The first few climbs where no issue but about halfway through this last section I started to cramp up. I guess my poor nutrition from the ride up finally caught up with me. I decided to start walking up some of the steeper hills to see if this would help and it did. Even though it slowed me down the cramps started to feel better and I started to count down the miles. I was about 7 miles from the finish when The 100 milers started blowing past me. Dammit I whispered to myself. Hey I set out to finish and race my own race so I just kept my nose down and did what I could, besides phones wont work back here and I dont think my Parents and going to attempt to drive down these dirt roads. I made what I think was the final climb and I hit a group of people dealing with some cramps as well. I knew from the map we were only about 3 miles from the finish and the roads would turn back to pavement so I kept going. It was a great ride back to town. My legs started feeling better and I was actually riding and a decent clip again. I missed a turn and had to loop back around to ride across the finish and I guess the text I had sent 90 minutes earlier finally went through because my Parents were surprised when I called and said I was waiting for them. The best part was my boy running over to congratulate me.
I am so glad I pushed myself to do this event. it was well run and a great introduction to gravel racing. The 60 mile distance was perfect for me and I feel I have a better knowledge of how I need to train and prepare before a race. Thanks to everyone and greentunnel events for organizing a wonderful ride through the Chequamegon. Cant wait to come back next year.
I kept up with the pack for the first