Right now somewhere in the world Paul Errington of Focal Events LTD is writing in his memoirs “I can not believe The Casual Cyclist came from Emporia Kansas to my event The Dirty Reiver. I can not believe I asked him for a selfie shot. Oh my gosh I’m, like, so embarrassed. He is, like, so, like, awesome. I should have asked for a autograph! Why didn’t I get an autograph!!” (Except imagine him thinking that in a really cool English accent.)
Right now somewhere in the world LeLan Dains and Jim Cummins of DK Promotions are thinking to themselves (at the same time. Like telepathic twins) “I can not believe we shared a cabin with The Casual Cyclist!! I hope he didn’t see us watching him sleep at night! I hope he doesn’t realize we stole his tube of used Chamois Butt’r. (I noticed. That’s gross)
Right now somewhere in the world Garry Davoren and Colin O’Halloran of Mbr Bike Shop out of Galway Ireland are spinning folklore of The Casual Cyclist who rode across the great Western Sea from the Hills of Flint on a mythical 2 wheeled beast surviving only a single Banger and a never empty supply of Guiness from his Hydration Pack of the Osprey’s.
Right now somewhere in the world Dirty Kanza 2015-2016 Womens Champion Amanda Nauman and CTS Trainer David Sheek, both riders for SDG Factory Team, are counting the days until they again share the same air with The Casual Cyclist and increase their knowledge of better training techniques (bacon and Zebra cakes) to proper hotel room coffee in foreign lands. (portable pour overs…who knew??) David secretly hoping to rectify his mistake of settling for the goodbye handshake rather than following his heart and lunging for the goodbye hug.
Right now somewhere in the world millions, NAY, thousands, NAY, hundreds, NAY I SAY…okay…maybe just my parents are reading this blog recount and thinking “what a load of shit. (actually my mom would never say “load of shit”…maybe “crock of poop”) More pictures and less name dropping please. You barely averaged 11mph so stop with the “Casual Cyclist” crap. You say “casual”. We say “slow”. Love you son.”
Love you too mom and dad. Thanks for reading.
The route was incredible. Fairy tale forest roads leading to wide open gravel flowing amongst stone walls lining the English countryside. The occasional small paved lanes winding through picturesque pastures. Rough roads bordering Liddel Water along the England/Scotland border. The route ending with a trip around Kielder Water and the Bakethin Reservoir right up to the doors of Kielder Castle. I would return in a heartbeat if it was so easy. The hospitality at the Checkpoints was superb. The food and drink assortments phenomenal. Easy in. Easy out. The route was perfectly marked and all questionable corners manned by volunteers showing the way. Thank you so much to everyone involved! We even had fellow Emporia Ben Shreiber manning the Finish Line cheering for us after he made the trip from Germany…unfortunately…his bike getting lost along the way. How’d my personal day go?
The Dirty Reiver. 120 miles. 200km of gravel, dirt, climbing hills, water crossings, flapjack munching, hill climbing, unnatural nature breaks, soul searching, climbing hills, white knuckle descending, knees aching, hill climbing, shoulder shredding, bike abusing, tricep tearing…pure enjoyment. Honestly I mention the names above not to name drop. Over the 4 days prior to and post Dirty Reiver they became part of my gravel family and forever a part of my first international gravel event. Garry and Colin provided much needed transportation surrounding the event as well as eased the nervousness with countless cycling stories. Amanda and David were such a joy to be around and getting to be a small part of a video shoot with them was so much fun. Jim, LeLan and our wives Susie, Christina and Kerri provided that link to home we all need. I even got to meet face to face a friend of mine from Lauf…Gudberg. Amazing trip. Amazing four days. Amazing experience. Overall. The details?? Well…as they say…thats a different story. Ha!
I was uncomfortable from the beginning. I did not adjust to the flight well. I had diarrhea all day Friday. Slept 3 hours Friday night and had the same stomach problems Saturday…albeit less severe. I was simply exhausted. I am so grateful the route involved many trees to hide behind during numerous “nature breaks”. I gotta say putting back on sweat soaked clothes in 40 degree weather will WAKE you up though! I love hill climbing when i have energy. I attack with a good cadence and work my way through my gears maintaining that cadence. By the time I’m out of gears, I’m typically near the peak and crank right on over carrying that momentum forward. As a day rolls on my cadence slows and when I’m exhausted every hill is just a slow cadence easy gear mash fest. My Dirty Reiver started out this way. I call it survival climbing. You are just trying to move forward. My whole day was this way. I had no burst. I had no energy. I had a low cadence. I just moved forward. I wanted to curl up and sleep. I wanted to quit. I should be vacationing in England not planning my next tree to “nature break” behind. I should be in the van with LeLan, Garry and Colin drinking a pint and cheering people on. I should be enjoying coffee and scone with my beautiful wife and best friend Kerri. I’m a moron. I freaking hate endurance cycling. I thought I was faster than this. I finished 35th OVERALL at the epic mudfest LandRun100! I just rode 90 miles to Lawrence KS averaging 18+ mph! What! The! Hell! Miles 10 to 35 folks. England gave me a physical beating but it was nothing compared to what I was doing to myself mentally. I’ll give myself credit though. Mental blow after mental blow I kept the cranks turning. I kept moving forward. It’s what we all do. Nothing special but at that moment in time it feels like everything.
Checkpoint One was 37 miles in. 60km. We rode into the town of Stonebaugh. The aid station was stocked to the max. I ate stuff. I drank stuff. I saw Paul. Told him today sucked. He said my “legs would come”. I knew what he meant. Keep pedaling. Love ya man. I rode away from the Checkpoint with no plan and no goal. I rode out because it’s what you do if you aren’t hurt. You move forward. You can quit a mile out of town but you always roll out of a Checkpoint and see what the next mile brings. The body and mind are funny things. Give them a chance to come around.
The second leg was my favorite. The gravel took us across a creek, down stone wall lined roads and onto narrow twisting paved lanes. I didn’t take pictures here. I do regret the decision but I was focusing on changing my attitude. Relaxing. Accepting my day for what it was going to be and taking in the views. My plans of a sub 10 hour ride were out the window and I focused on moving forward and beating the sunset. I wanted to beat the sunset for no other reason than I knew it would be getting cold. I was tired of feeling cold. I was going to smile more. I was going to enjoy the aid station food. I was going to hug Paul at the finish line. I was going to share a pint at the finish with Garry, Colin, Amanda and David. I was going to high-five LeLan and congratulate Jim on his finish. I was going to embrace my wife and give her the longest softest kiss ever in our 20 years of marriage. (I tried. She said stay away you smell rank!) I was going to finish this damn thing.
Mentally I failed one last time at mile 78. Long story short I lost track of mileage and upon realizing I had another hour to Checkpoint Three my body simply went limp. I stopped pedaling. I had no more. I could feel all the energy leave my body. There was a sense of…nothing. There was not going to be a Don Buttram riding up behind me from the sunset this time to save me. There was a highway right behind me. I could hop onto it. 41 miles left. 65km. I needed another nature break. I needed to find another suitable tree. I can’t let me first trip to England end this way. Please move forward. My legs are not cramping. Okay then MOVE. Pedal Damnit. Please. So I did. I moved forward. It’s just what you do.
Checkpoint Three was incredible. Freshly boiled potatoes. Flapjack bites. Pour-over coffee. Seriously. You make your own. Freaking incredible. I almost cried. Paul…if you ever read this…next year add bacon. Riders will be crying all over the place. Major photo ops. Cover of Time magazine style. It’ll be huge!! Just saying. I spent the day prior playing around on the paths that would be the final 26 miles (41km)…so I knew what to expect. Just get rolling. The sun was setting and I was soaked with seat and starting to feel the chill. The paths were smooth. No big hills climbs. Riders sped by me but I still had no burst. No power. Nothing. It was okay. I enjoyed the roll and knew it was almost over so I looked around as much as I could. The lake was beautiful in the evening with the low sun. I simply stayed out of the way of faster riders and kept the cranks turning. I stopped a few hundred feet from the final climb up to the castle. I knew family and friends were waiting but I just stood for a moment. I took off my jacket so my Team Mulreadys jersey could be in any photos and made the final climb. There hugs. There were high fives. There were fist bumps. I got my finishing patch. I tried for that kiss. I think it was Kerri. Might have been Paul. I don’t remember. I know I kissed someone. Sorry Paul. Love you Kerri.
The Dirty Reiver is a mix of never ending hill climbs and white knuckle descents. Picturesque English landscape and dense wooded forrest’s. Your bike will rattle and your body will be punished. The roads range from shoulder pounding stones, to smooth soft gravel to a few smooth tea sipping paved lanes…as long as you can sip tea while descending around turns at 30+ mph with one hand on the brake. If you don’t set a new Heart Rate PR…then you didn’t ride The Dirty Reiver properly. Do it again. I hope I get to come back.
Final Note – I can not say enough about the Gravel Community. I truly enjoyed my time and my overall experience. I made new friends in Garry, Gudberg, David, Colin and Amanda and strengthened old ones with Paul, Jim and LeLan. I met a lot of great riders who recognized me from my webshow “This Is Gravel” on the Gravel Guru page. I never felt like I was too far from home.
So…so…glad I picked up a bike six years ago…Instagram @casual_cyclist