The trophies for this fantastically run, beautifully designed and marketed event are Mason jars of gravel. Rad. I was pretty sure there was no way I was in contention for one of them -- with some 550 toeing the line and roughly 100 of them women -- but I was hoping for a top-10 female spot. I've been getting miles in, mixing disciplines, and in the hot (for MN) and windy conditions, I might actually be better off than the northerners.
Yeah, you gotta watch those children. Shifty little buggers.
There were about 20 miles between Preston and the oasis at Forestville State Park, and when I hit the road again, all the people I'd been riding nearby were still resting and refueling. I hit the long headwind climbs out of town alone, burying my head and staring at my cue card begging for a turn out of the wind. It came in the form of Jay Road, the first climb where I got off the bike. Good thing I'd been staring at the card, too, because a pack a little bit ahead of me missed the turn.
|Pack riding somewhere in the hot dust. Photo by Craig Linder.|
It got cloudy, and with all the dust and wind, I started wishing it might rain. Pulled into Forestville, refilled bottles and got some nice cold hose water through the helmet, sat in a lawn chair for about 3 minutes, and mounted back up next to a fellow Lincolnite, Dave McCollough, who I introduced myself to after spotting his Trek Store kit and Cycle Works bottles. It was his first gravel grinder, and he was crushing it on a SS 29er. Way to go!
|I was SO happy to see Corey. That's the only thing that smile is about. Photo: Cornbread|
I hung in his draft for a couple miles, but eventually, around when I fumbled for my camera to take this picture, I lost contact. I was glad, too, because I didn't want him to slow down because of me. But damn, that was a nice draft.
The last 25 miles were pretty excruciating, despite there being a couple sections with pretty righteous tailwinds. I was having a lot of trouble breathing again, and anytime I took a deep breath, my lungs would go through sharp and excruciating pain. Full of dust, tired of working so hard. I started leapfrogging with a couple groups and a couple women, and there was a glimmer of competitiveness that snuck back in. Maybe I was top 20? Maybe higher? If that woman is the difference between a top-whatever spot and not, should I try a little harder?
I ran out of water for the third time that day. A couple riders -- all of a sudden, I met like 3 guys named Dan, maybe I was hallucinating -- gave me fluids, one some horribly opaque pink thing I had to hand back for fear of what havoc it would wreak on my system. I was staring at my computer...10 miles, 9, then 8...ok, this is like a ride to Pepe's, 5, more blasted headwind, almost there, watertower visible...and then pavement. Highway. Headwind. I tucked my head down and threw it in a big gear, so ready to finish.
At the line, people were cheering and Chris was there waiting with a handshake. Super classy. It was a perfect way to finish. 8 hours, 39 minutes, with 8:11 of it ride time. According to the roster (and not sure of gender on some names), that made me either 8th or 9th among the women, 179th overall.