A ride this epic, stuff is sure to happen
This kit is black, not brown.
By Kelly O’Day, Editor
I signed on for the Mammoth 100 gravel ride, and followed through despite a frightening forecast.
Fast forward to ride morning. Frank, the race director, explained the worst part of the course would be the sand barrens from Miles 16-23, but at least the final 40 miles on Gandy Dancer Trail would be fast.
He forgot to mention there was a second sand barrens. Oh, and the fast Gandy Dancer, not so much. Before the event, the common wisdom was rain would firm up some of the difficult spots, but too much rain had the opposite effect.
On the other hand, how many race directors sweep an event, and offer up Coke, water or Hamm’s, with cookies, crackers and venison sausage?
And beautiful scenery (swan pairs in Crex Meadows!), everywhere we looked.
Inevitable jokes occurred.
“What’s wrong? Nothing important, just a loose headset. Ride on.”
At Mile 35, Todd made the mistake of looking at weather app radar, proclaiming the storm almost past. For 50 miles, “Todd, when’s it gonna to stop raining?” Turns out we were perfectly staying within the scope of the slow-moving showers.
Absolutely the funniest part of the ride was when we noticed Dan’s bike shorts hadn’t been properly rinsed, so they were foaming liberally around the pressure of the seat. Bizarre and hilarious. “We’re going to have to put you and your rabies butt down, Dan!”
Most of the event was a joy, filled with joking, but when one’s long ride of the year is 44 miles on pavement – or a similar equivalent for others in the group – at some point the whole thing devolves into a survival slogfest.
We all started to break down near Mile 70, the effect of the sloppy Gandy taking hold. One bonk led to a slowdown to 5 mph. Group-think said stay together, but quick mental math slapped a six-hour finish in the face of an already too-long day. It was decided three continue, one to return with a vehicle. A mile down the trail, I realized I was in danger of not finishing myself unless I could get in a groove of my own pace – a hardly different one from the rest of the trio. In my altered state, it seemed I broke the trail suction a mile-per-hour or two faster.
It helped to descend into my own head, but it lead to missing the final indicators of the well-marked trail (an orange-topped stake alerting every turn, another around the corner in the next direction), the first turn in nearly 40 miles. I ended up adding about two miles to the ride, thankfully almost all downhill highway. I figured I had one last blast in me, but it turned out my bike didn’t. Too much crud in my rear derailleur wouldn’t let me shift, so I coasted nearly the rest of the way home. It had happened in the sand barrens, too, but a momentary bike bath in the meadows and the grinding disappeared.
Getting off the bike, I realized my legs were shot. I could barely drag myself to the door of the Cyclova XC shop and was unable to bend down to pick up anything. Steve – of bike to the Birkie, camp at the start, ski the full Birk, then bike straight home fame – threatened to charge me a buck per item pick-up. Instead, the lifesaver offered pure arnica gel. “How much does it cost?” followed quickly by “Could I buy it from you?” Pure relief.
Steve asks with a straight face if we saw any rain.
“It downpoured here for 10-15 minutes, but then we didn’t have any more,” he explained.
“Did we have any rain?” I repeated. “Only for 80 miles.”
I highly recommend biting off more than you can chew at times, just to push your limits beyond your limits. Share it with a few friends to create cherished memories.