Monthly Archives: August 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017 – The Sandy Seas of Nebraska

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!

Let’s not start off on the wrong peg leg. The word “GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR” is Pirate speak for the intent of this post.   An exclamation if you will.  Please don’t be confused with the fish of the same name. I feel it’s important that when you see me use the word “GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR” you think of a drunken bearded pirate raising his or her mug to the sky and yelling “GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!!!”. I feel my story will be fully ruined if instead you picture someone skinny dipping in a river bed pointing at the water and yelling “Gar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(On second thought…who knows. Lets see where this goes and which interpretation better fits.)

Here we go.

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

On the Eve of the 19th Day of August, I made the final preparations to set sail on the sandy seas surrounding the Isle of Lincoln. The flag I was to be waving secured to the mast with the best knots known to those who sail the water vast. The main deck scrubbed and ready for the task at hand. I was outfitted with the Fork of Lauf and the Carbon Blades of Cantu Cycling Wheels.  I was clothed in only the best Bibs of Pactimo…wrapped gently and nestled comfortably in their Chamois of Summits.  A mystical oil made gathered from the Seals of Orange applied to the bottom of the ship and we were ready to set sail in the morn.

A hardy meal from the lands of Italy was consumed. Saving the mead for the victory, the lads and I consumed our weight in water. Cake rolled in the hides of Zebra was to be our reward for braving the voyage! A treasure chest of these I could have consumed!!

GAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

Passed out under the stars I did! I awoke to the sounds of my First Mate yelling “Show a leg!!!!” Sink me!!! We can’t be late for the grand depart! To the Schilling Tap!!!

SHIVER ME TIMBERS!!!! The collection of Pirates was legendary!!! All shapes and sizes! A colorful lot our brethren! Clothes tight to the skin to avoid being caught on climbing rigs. Spirits were raised by the introduction of the mighty Pirate Cycling League and their Captains Cornbread and Schmidty!! AYE!!! bloodthirsty Pirates they be!!!

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Photo cred to Venny

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

Anchors were hoisted!! Away the ships all sailed!! The sandy seas awaited!!! The speed was quick!! The sand banks were treacherous!! The banks themselves seemed alive as they would grab your very rudders and careen your ship into another! The sun slowly raised her head from slumber and warmed our shilled souls! The morning air was magnificent! Arrr!!!!! What a day to be a Pirate!!! What a day Poseidon (or Neptune…or SpongeBob…or Nemo…whatever!!) himself had blessed us with!!! Through the Gulf of Otto we raced without pause! Within mere hours we had already come upon the Port of Valparaiso!!

GAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

The Port of Valparaiso be a treacherous place!!! Many a Pirates day has ended in this land! Lily livered Land Legs can only get you so far on voyages such as these! Many a great and courageous soul has failed to gather their Sea Legs upon entering the Seas…few are able to continue once the Stomach turns…aye…tis not for the faint of heart or strong of smell. AVAST!!! I see the green gown of the Pirate Wench known as Jeffy The Young!! A quick look shows that Jeffy is courageously fighting the Wrenching Stomach. How can I aid the fair wench?? Alas, I do not carry the Cakes made from Zebras on my ship! While Jeffy The Young is consuming some mystery item known in this land as a “Lunchable” I wandered inside the Outpost to relieve my Bowels of Fury!

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What??? NO!!!! Upon my return I find Jeffy is no more! He has disappeared from port! His vessel is not to be seen!! He is in no condition to sail! There can be only one answer!

PIRATES!!!!

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Quickly I hoist anchor and gain chase. My sea legs are strong to today! IMG_7950Within a few nautical miles I see Jeffy!!! The wench is alive!!!! Oh sweet SpongeBob he’s alive!!! He saw fit to leave with the Single Mast Pirates of Stillwater, Gabbi the Champion and Scissortail Adams…legendary tamer of the gravel Straits of Kansas. I am sad to say Adams was turning back to port at that moment. His stomach had turned in a bad way and although courageous Adams be…the day was not to be his. Gabbi held back to take inventory of her ship before heading onto the the small Isle of Malcolm. The wench Jeffy and I continued forward! Jeffy continued to work to gain his sea legs and I continued to follow our charts forward!! The waves were choppy and we passed many known Pirates (Hi Frank!!) along the way…all determined to land at the Isle of Malcolm.

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Photo credit to Michael McCoglan

GAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Malcolm was a double edge sword for many!! An Isle of comfort after a morning fighting the vast waves surrounding northern Lincoln. CURSE YOU Poseidon!!!! Jeffy The Young ended his day here on the shore of Malcolm. I’m told so did the Champion of Single Masts, Gabbi. Twas a sad moment for all.

….gaaaarrrrrrrrrr… (I don’t know a sad pirate term)

My path would then take me south through the ancestral waters of the great Pirate Captain Schmidty!! Safe and cool were these waters! Quickly they opened to the Pirate gathering known as CheckPoint One. 85 miles completed!!! There was much merriment too be had!! Self portraits were taken with friends of the Seas!!! Ahoy John of Cantu!!! Happy to be riding on your Blades of Carbon I be!!!!

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GAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

The seas grew angry. The winds became calm. The sun rose to stand high in the sky. My sea legs were still strong…my stomach was becoming weak. Oh….Roca….mile 103.1….the Taverns of Roca. How sweet was your cold water!! Ho incredibly painful that same water turned when dumping it on my head I did. Alas…I wear the magical lenses of contacts and the day had been incredibly dusty my friends. The dust now led to near blindness as I pedaled through the running waters of my eyes. The day would be downhill from there. I never lost the stomach battle but I never regained my strength. My mind was losing the mental battle but the sails were still up. The rudders were still guiding me. I sailed onward to the Village of Bennet.

….gaaaaarrrrrrrrrr “ouch!” rrrrrrrrrr!…

Bennet I barely looked at thee. I don’t believe I looked up from the main deck of my ship. I saw the Pirate, Batiz, pass me and utter something but I could not respond…I simply continued to move forward. The food on my ship was rotten. The water tainted. The booty…no long shaking. I wanted nothing. I could force nothing. I even rolled slowly past the safe Pirates haven, the General Store of Casey’s (known for great Pizza!!!) I floated on the seas without pause…my day was near end I feared.

GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

The SAILS BLEW OPEN WIDE!!! STRENGTH!!! I had STRENGTH!!! I flew into THE LAND OF SCHMIDTY (aka Checkpoint 3) with strength and power! My stomach had settled and in replace I simply felt the pains of an empty stomach wrenching itself. 29 miles left!!

Do I dare eat anything?? Do I dare tempt fate by consuming the magical burrito’s of Pepe!?!?!

I do not!!!

Do I dare add the sweet flavor of electrolytes and calories back into my bottles???

I do not.

(Yeah…this was a STUPID DECISION!!! Why the heck didn’t I????)

No! Instead I shall rely simply on water for almost 30 miles of hills, sandy gravel and heat after already sailing 123 miles…garrrrr…I need to go back to Pirate school I do….

GAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Onward to the Schilling Tap!! Onward to bountiful supplies of mead and hamburgers and chips and the Cakes of the Zebra!!! SAIL! Sail! sail! sail. sail.. sail…

Twenty nine miles is a long journey with no rations. No calorie intake. No…strength…sail… 11mph I averaged on those remaining Seas of Sand. The 100 miles I averaged 16.5 mph….gar….this was going to hurt….the sea was angry my friends. I saw not a single other pirate those last 20 miles until the very last half mile. One rider passed me the last half mile. Josh of Epic fame. A long final journey lost in my own mind it was. I knew the ending. I knew these seas. I knew one final hill would led up to the Paved Land winding to The Schilling Tap. As I climbed that last remaining hill…my face shuddered…my eyes almost watered…my body went limp…my mind stopped thinking. I simply moved…slowly…

gaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..

I turned into The Paved Land at roughly 4 miles an hour. A volunteer road up to me. You doing okay he asked? No words. I shook my head no. Can I ride beside you and follow you in he asked? No words. I nodded my head yes. That sounded smart. I coasted in on a completely empty mind, body and soul.

GAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

The Schilling Tap!!!!! My letter of marque awaited!!!!
The wench, Jeffy The Young, was waiting!!! GAR!

Jeffy

Photo Cred to Thomas Adams

Producer Matt! Gar!

His First Mate, David!

Gar!

Much joy was to be had!!

Buttram, Adams, Gabbi, Collin, RobE, PaulE, Cantu – John and Venny, MikeM, BobC, RyanB, CoreyS, Emporia Peeps, John of Colorado! Everyone else!!! GAAARRR!!

GabbiThomas

Thomas and Gabbi – Infectious – Photo cred to Mr Adams

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John and Venny – Cantu Strong – Phot cred to Venny

GAR! GAR! GAR!

GAR FREAKING GAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

Gravel City pirates, B&S Kennel pirates, Mulreadys Pub pirates, Gravel Guru pirates, Maizies Pride pirates….GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Pirates of Emporia ride well my friends!!!

Our combined Gravel Pirate community and family is strong my friends.  You’re all awesome and so incredibly strong.  Too cool to be a speck among you.

One final thing….The Hug of Schmidty was the biggest reward. Not me chasing down Craig and forcing a hug but Craig actively seeking me out after to gift me that hug…that’s worth every bit of those last 20 miles.

Worlds johncraig

Photo cred to Venny

Thank ya Craig, Corey, The Pirate Cycling League, Cycle Works, the Schilling Tap and all the volunteers around the Isle of Lincoln…thank you. I’m stronger because of you.

Gravel…it’s silly isn’t it. What I rode my bmx and 10 speed on as a kid as a way to gain a little freedom…still can almost bring me to tears…40 some years later…

Gar.

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(Next up…Rebeccas Private Idaho in 11 days…)


The Story of 24 Hours of Cumming

24 Hours of Cumming
Over.
In the books as they say.

My team of Tim Mohn, Jeff Young and Jim Cummins was able to nab another first place in the 4×60 relay. Strong rides by my teammates. They never let up and just kept pushing. Proud of those guys. Hugs and high fives all around!


But…

Gravel is not defined by who wins a race. Gravel is more than that. Gravel is defined by the individual efforts. The individual goals achieved. The individual challenges met. Those are the stories that get told around the campfire. Those are the stories we remember and retell year after after. Those are the stories that become legend. The achievements are what stand out to me…not the wins.


Some stories I know about from 24 Hours of Cumming that defined the weekend. Please…feel free to add your own. I want to know more.

1. The little town of Emporia Ks sending up 15+ gravel riders to challenge themselves in the hills of Iowa. Thats a lot of traveling folks to a small little race that’s become less about the results and more about Gravel family. Less about the awards and more about the camping and the stories by the campfire. A race where the Cumming Tap is just as important as the beautiful scenery of the Iowa green.


2. Dangerous Dan. Great meeting and hanging out man. Loved the enthusiasm you have have. Awesome watching you roll in after Leg 2…120 miles down and 120 miles to go…only to rush the stage and Head bang a little with the band. So much energy. Wish I had half that. Of course…I’ve got two kids. You’ve got one on the way. Can’t wait to hear the stories you’ll have of the kid next year. Best of luck.


3. Natasha Krause crushing 60 miles and 4500+ feet of elevation. Her first ride away from the safety of home gravel. Great job!


4. Autumn Howell. Persevering through navigational miscues and finishing what she started. 62 miles turned into 70+. I’m sure she was disheartened and frustrated but she just kept clicking the miles off. Team out of contention she finished the job. Longest ride ever and I’m guessing easily the most elevation gain. Awesome.


5. Courtney Huber. First long solo night ride. Way to fight off the fear and ride through the nigh. Navigational perfection. Great ride when nothing was on the line except the personal challenge of doing it. I heard you bunny hopped a family of raccoons?? Maybe that was just folklore…Proud of you!


6. Mr John Freaking Decker – the man rode an awesome fricking ride only to be derailed 6 miles from the Finish Line…where his relay teammate waited…by his entire crankset falling off his bike! No 8mm wrench in hand John was forced to jog, run and glide the remaining 6 miles. Six miles of HILLS…after midnight!! He could have stopped but his team waited. They needed him so he kept going strong. Way to get it in buddy. Way so cool!! Give it a couple years and the story will be 30 miles instead of just 6…legend.


7. Balkenhol. Helping and supporting all freaking day. Never complaining. Just “what do you need?”. Doesn’t start his ride until 1:30am. No chance to enjoy the scenery. Crushes the route in under 4 hours. Raccoons and deer lining the ditches ringing cowbells and giving handups all the way. Cheating if you ask me but nonetheless…epic. Great job buddy.


8. Shawn Legend of The Flint Hills O’Mara. 400k solo. Shawn wasn’t racing. Shawn was riding. Shawn was doing what Shawn does. Turning the cranks and enjoying being outside on the bike. Solid. Always ready to give a smile. Always ready to ignore the discomfort. Mile after mile. Hill after hill. Move forward. You deserve first place buddy but more important…you deserve that perfect ride. You deserve that feeling of peace we all feel on the bike when we enter that zone. Love ya bud.


9. Steve Cannon. You’ve got a good thing going man. The gravel takes care of itself. Focus on the rider and gravel family like I know you will. The Cumming Tap is perfect. The grilled wings kicked ass. Beer was cold. Fire was warm. High fives we’re heart felt. Appreciation was true. Throw in a few trays of Cinnamon Rolls Sunday morning to go with that coffee and there’s no place else to be the first weekend in August every year.


It’s gravel. We’re family. We’ll travel. We don’t need much. Gravel. Beer. Coffee. Grill. Fire. Hugs and high fives.


Story after story after story. Year after year after year.

24 Hours of Cumming…Steve Cannon…The Cumming Tap.

Please come in 2018…I want to see your next story.

I know I’ve missed stories from 2017. Sarah Cooper killing it on her Fatbike. Smile leading the way. KateG crushing 120 miles. Jacob laying down the rubber and never missing a beer handup. Others. Don’t be offended. I’m old. I miss things. Tell your story. Tell someone else’s story. It’s gravel.


(Ps.  Yeah I borrowed some pics.  You’re family.  You don’t mind right?  Steve Cannon, Paulina Batiz…not sure who else.  Thanks.  👍🏼)


Embracing my Hypocrisy

Ride casual. I preach these words. Embrace your casual side while cycling. Go fast? Whatevs. I’d rather ride with friends and carry on a conversation. Laugh and enjoy the moment. Watch the scenery flow by. Catch the movement and grace of a deer hopping into the trees. Challenge each other on a hill but then smile and joke about it at the top. Regroup and tell a couple stories about the last ride. No true competition other than maybe who has the best sock game going on.

#ridecasual

Except…deep deep down I am competitive. I keep my competitiveness buried. I don’t want to accept it. I don’t like the way being competitive makes me feel. I’d rather stop and help other riders than “race” another rider. Sit on my wheel…I’ll pull you. You need a tube? CO2? Careful this corner is dangerous. Do you have enough to eat and drink?

I channel my competitive feelings inward. I challenge myself. I compete with myself. I win most of the time nowadays. I feel I’ve become fairly strong mentally on a bike. I know how to ride through cramps and pain. I’ve crashed and got back up. I lose occasionally. I’ve chosen poorly with hydration and heat twice and both times fell only to get back up via the ER and fluids. I know better but when I’m competing with myself…I want to win. Every time. I’m okay with this. I’m not competing with others. If I win…no one else loses. If I lose…no one else knows…it’s channeled inwardly.

Except…ONCE a year…I allow just a little bit of that competitiveness to show its face publicly. Once a year I accept my hypocrisy and show it publicly. Once a year I participate in a Gravel relay race. A team of four. 24 Hours of Cumming put on by Steve Cannon. Hosted by the Cumming Tap in Cumming, Iowa. Each leg of the relay is 60’ish miles of hard packed gravel over miles and mile of rolling hills. I charge the hills a little bit harder and take the corners a little bit sharper. I’ll catch a wheel a little bit longer and take a pull a little bit smarter. The beauty of the race is I get to compete against other riders without really feeling like I’m competing. I simply give everything I’ve got for 60 miles. A 60 mile ITT. I ride the first leg every year. There is no “winner” as I come across the Finish Line.  I don’t wish bad luck for any other rider because I know I have a team of three other riders backing me up. My job is simply to give all I can give and put my team mates in the best position possible to win. Sixty miles. Four water bottles. Six GU packets.  Roll strong. Spin the cranks. Blow yourself up and finish your ITT on fumes.

#ridehard

The rest of the day? Chill. Sit around and have a few beers with your fellow riders. High five your team. Support everyone. Cheer for everyone. Hugs all around. Food truck cuisine. Laugh about your lows and be humble about your highs.

Once a year though I do want to win. I want the team to win. I want to stand there next to my team mates with a trophy in one hand and a box of Zebra Cakes in the other. I don’t want anyone else to lose…but my team has taken home the 1st Place trophy two years in a row and I plan on doing it again.

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I’ll make this promise though. If we don’t win…I’ll still give hugs and high fives. I’ll still smile and laugh and tell stories. I might even…no. Never mind. Buy your own damn Zebra Cakes….these are mine.

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Good luck everyone at 24 Hours of Cumming!

#casuallyrace