Crushing gravel

I have a future post in me about “why do sports?” But today I just want to say:

I crushed my gravel race yesterday. Major progress was made.

There are a lot of lessons here.

What you eat matters. I made some simple switches to what I eat during a ride and went from barely finishing a race to sprinting to the finish.

I went to bed the night before the race fearful of the weather. It turned out to be perfect — cool and only slightly wet. I was worried about nothing.

Also I will note that I passed three riders the last 10 miles of the race. That felt really really good.

I am 41 years old. It’s nice to know I still can do “it” — whatever that is. I’m locked in on riding and ready to see how far I can push this.

Also if anyone is reading this and needs tips on how to ride 50 miles in the rain at about 55-60 degrees. First don’t wear leggings, they get wet and heavy. I went jersey, vest, and arm warmers. No hat. And I used gloves with no fingers. It was the perfect riding outfit for that type of weather. It didn’t rain much though.

It’s amazing how much planning has to go into a four hour bike ride.

Yo Saturday looks rough

Saturday looks rough. I got my workouts for the week. I’m supposed to go over 2000 kilojoules in 2.5-3 hours. No clue if I can do that.

I’ve been riding without power for the last week. I had a bike accident. My bike fell off my car while I was on a highway.

Brutal

But I got really lucky. The bike was covered by the manufacturer (sort of). They gave me a discount on a new bike frame. So I should have my road bike back in June.

Meanwhile I found a gravel bike online. This was a super lucky find because the whole world seems to be out of bikes. In fact, it is out of bikes:

When COVID-19 hit last spring and the only activity deemed safe involved being outside, the demand for bikes spiked, local bike owners and sales managers say. At the same time, the bike pipeline dried up last year, because of COVID-related shutdowns of bike manufacturers in Asia.

It’s interesting to view the micro and macro events caused by COVID-19.

At the micro level, I think about how I picked up biking in August 2020 because I wasn’t comfortable going to the gym. And then I realized I was tired of cross fit cult stuff. And I loved going far on a bike and having a break from my house.

How many of these micro adjustments will stick? I don’t plan to go back to a gym or cross fit (ever). I plan to buy more bikes. Heck, I’ve bought three bikes in less than a year. I’m doing bike races. I love the experience of bike riding and studying my data and trying to get better.

At the macro level, it seems like our manufacturing and shipping systems were very vulnerable and COVID-19 exposed that. It starts with a supply and demand problem. Supply was at a normal level; but demand ramped way up as everyone wanted a bike. Bike manufacturers could not ramp up supply in response.

On the other side of the pandemic, I expect an influx of “used” bikes. People smarter than me will be thinking about this. If I was an entrepreneur, I’d be creating a bike exchange of sorts. Or a bike Airbnb where you can rent bikes (because people will be traveling more and bikes are a great way to get around).

Whatever. Saturday is going to be a killer ride.

Bike riding

What is it about bike riding that I have fallen in love with?

I suck at it. I love working at things I suck at. These are the results from my first gravel race:

I sucked in my first race

I should add that the results above were from the C class. And I got passed by someone in the D class.

I love the hard work, the grind of getting good at endurance sports. There is no magical formula — you must put in the hours and hours and hours.

My first gravel race was near Wichita, the Rage Against the Chainring series. Going into it, my first bike race ever, I wanted one thing: no rain.

Of course, it rained a lot the night before the race. Parts of the race were a complete mess. Unfortunately I didn’t take any great pics.

Mud ride

But that picture does the trick. That’s a picture of the entrance to the first gravel portion of the ride. Notice the standing water?

But I finished the race. That was the goal going in. Just finish. I collapsed on the back 25 miles of the race, though.

I know I pushed hard, maximum effort. I’ve been riding for about a year and keeping track of watts and heart rate for every ride. Training Peaks is fantastic software for tracking all this data. So I was pleasantly surprised to see I had set personal records during this race.

I’m not sure what to take away from my data. Red is heart rate, yellow is cadence and magenta is watts.

Declining…

Basically my performance declined across all three measures the entire ride. We had two stops, one to get water at 25 miles and one when Stu violently cramped.

So this is the starting point. I remember during the ride thinking to myself, “if I ever do this again, I am hiring a coach.” After the ride, I decided I enjoyed the ride and I was doing it again. so I hired Kent at Move Up Racing.

The next race is May 15. I’m going to shoot for one a month. My goal is 3:30, which is a lot faster then 3:50. But I anticipate a few things:

  • The conditions will be better
  • I won’t stop for water or for a cramp
  • I’ll have a better idea of what I am doing
  • I’m going to change up my riding fuel based on advice from Kent

I need to get in at least one long, hard ride before May 15. New gravel bike comes this week so I’ll probably try to do a hard gravel or road ride on May 8.

Onward.