Single Speed. Lap the Lakes. Vodka.
I have become very comfortable on a bike over the seasons of 2016 and 2017. The last gravel event of any kind that I did not finish was…I am not even sure. 2015 maybe? I think I was recovering from a couple herniated discs and the Hike-a-Bike of LandRun100 was too much that year. I’ve been very very lucky with mechanicals. My time is coming. I know this. Gravel gets us all eventually. I also started riding consistently around two years ago. I’ve simply grown stronger. I cramp a lot less. In 2016 I finished around 10 century gravel events. In 2017 I finished around 7 I believe. Oddly enough only one gravel event of 2017 was in my home state of Kansas. One. The Dirty Kanza 200. Every other century’ish long gravel event I rode was out of state…one was out of the country, The Dirty Reiver in England. Not on purpose. I didn’t look at local event, turn up my nose and say “meh”. I need to ride more local events. I’m proud of our local cycling scene. I’m absolutely in LOVE with our local backroads. I’ve simply been busy with Life on the dates of local area rides. I have a loving wife and 2 very active young daughters. I have a very talented and wonderful extended family with varied interests I want to support. I have a couple jobs as well as serving the community on a few Boards. Life.
I love Life.
SO…when a friend of mine scheduled his gravel event on September 23rd and my calendar showed empty…I thought “finally”. Lap the Lakes. Jaffar Agha’s labor of Love. 125 miles. Eighty riders between the short and long courses? Fairly flat at only 4500 ft of climbing. Mostly hard pack gravel roads. Drop bag mid-way support with water checkpoints every 30 odd miles. Fall weather. A huge and welcome change from the beautiful but relentless hills of Iowa and Nebraska and the breathtaking (literally and visually) mountain climb of Idaho.
August to Labor Day is an extremely busy cycling calendar for a #midpackattack rider like me. 24 Hours of Cumming, Lunar Kanza, Gravel Worlds and Rebecca’s Private Idaho…a 3 day 193 mile stage race in 2017. I was spent. I was slightly burned out. I need to throw more Disc Golf. Did you know Emporia is a Disc Golf destination? Dynamic Discs. Check them out. Emporia is a freaking awesome little town. Point being I wanted to ride. I wanted to support a friend. I wanted to ride with local friends. I just needed a change. I needed inspiration. 125 miles of gravel…even flat, tame gravel is no joke if you aren’t ready to ride. My friend from Wichita, Matt Smith, is an avid Single Speeder
and has been prodding anyone he knows to ride single speed with him. I haven’t been on a single speed since being a kid on a bmx bike. I respect Single Speeders but…gears baby!! Matt sent out a request for more SS people to come to Lap the Lakes. Jaffar promised a SS category if enough signed up. Fine. Okay. I’ll try SS. it’s “only” 125 miles. Why not. I put a Surly Singulator on my Warbird the Wednesday before the event. I rode 20 miles on a 42×17 setup. Seems fine I guess. Thursday I rode another 20 miles…should be good. Chain didn’t fall off. Let’s go.
Saturday morning. I really didn’t want to ride. I had a loose stomach. I just felt…whatevs. I could just do the short course. 60 miles. No. I opened my big mouth and said I’d do the 125…I’m doing the freaking 125. I hate bikes. Why do I do this? I could be at home curled up in bed. Norah or Reagan could be snugging watching cartoons with me…Teen Titans Go! Or Scooby Doo reruns…fine. I’ll go ride.
I decorated myself with some of my daughters fake halloween tattoo’s to make myself laugh. I needed a reminder to not be too serious. There’s nothing cooler than a grown man showing up to a cycling event to ride single speed for the first time sporting fake spider and bat tattoo’s… I get it. I didn’t care. Fashion is stupid. Do whatcha want.
I hung in the lead group at 23 mph for the first 8 miles. We hit the first short punchy climb and all I remember was someone telling me “you gotta hit the climbs hard”. So I did. Stupidly hard. Like Hulk hard. I passed everyone and had time at the top to setup my camera, take a selfie in front of the group, get back on my bike and soft pedal until they caught up. Kidding. Almost. I hit that first hill hard. As Mike Marchand said…”congrats on the KOM”…that doesn’t exist. I laughed and learned.
The morning went great. I rolled with Corey Lies for 44 miles at about 17 mph avg. Not too difficult really. I enjoyed it. Yeah…it was mostly a tailwind and in the mid 70’s. The afternoon got hot and windy. The middle 60’ish miles was mostly 15-20 mph head/cross wind and temps soared to 95 degrees. Can you say furnace? I’ve had a couple bad heat situations in 2017 and I seem to be affected by it more now. Could be mental but regardless it’s there. Cramps started at mile 44. Rideable cramps. Just the quads by the knee mostly. Like riding with needles jabbing you but bite down, accept it, control the breathing and you can continue to pedal through it…just lighter. I know cramps pretty well. A few breathe takers but I’ve had worse. Around mile 80…I had worse. Two freaking SHARP hits back of the leg high up. Does the hamstring go up that high? Hamstrings are always sharp. Both sides. Brought me up out of the saddle screaming out loud “WHAT THE FRIDGE!!!! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME!!!!” The sun got very bright. I had a moment of nausea and disorientation so I soft pedaled for a bit. I really really didn’t want to call Kerri. Corey caught back up and offered me a HotShot. The real help was Corey slowing down and letting me hang behind him. Human contact. Reality. I calmed down and chased him the rest of the day. Well…there was no real chasing. We were both exhausted so I just watched him about a half mile ahead of me the rest of the day and rode back there. I was cool with that. Corey seems to be a great guy and I had nothing in me to try and catch him. I would finish 2 minutes behind him, ha!
Fifteen miles from town I was D. O. N. E. I looked longingly at every shade tree I rode past. I knew I was 3rd place SS and only an hour out. I didn’t care. I knew Sarah was behind me in 4th place. I knew if Sarah passed me…I’m good with that. I’m taking a freaking 30 minute nap. I. Don’t. Care. Except I did. Ten miles to go I looked back and yep there she was. She motivated me. She motivated me not because of a place on the podium but because she was still riding hard. I need to roll. It’s almost over. I know these roads. Hit one more hill hard followed by a few rollers then it’s a flat 6 miles to the Finish Line…with tailwind. Fine. I want the Finish Line. I need to be done. I’m overheated. It’s safer to be done.
Riding in was great. Riding across the Finish Line is always great feels. Seeing friends at the end is always a good moment. Thanks for being there everyone and thanks for taking care of me. Shawn and Lynette Honea…thank you. Jaffar thank you. Corey thank you. Thanks to Gary Bacon and all the volunteers.
Thanks to Team Mulreadys Pub, Firestone Walker and Boulevard Brewing for keeping me pretty in pink all season!
Thanks to my buddy LeLan Dains who acted as a Trainer and mentor all season long. I’m stronger because of you. I’ve never cared about a spot on the podium. I started training to be better able to enjoy the cycling experience. You understood my point of view and never pushed me to be a competitive person. I enjoy cycling and pushing myself…against myself…pushing past my limits. Thank you sir. Enjoy that new baby coming in 2018…you’re gonna be an awesome daddy.
So…Single Speed thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed the single speed experience. I really did. There’s a feeling of accomplishment looking at a hill coming up and thinking…”Well. I’ve got what I got. This might suck. Let’s go for it.” It’s a lot like riding a bike…you just turn the cranks, haha. 42×17 was great with all the wind. Less wind and I might have been able to push a 42×16 on THIS course. I had fun and that’s the main takeaway.
ONE OTHER THING!!! IF you ever find yourself in a supporting role for a dehydrated, over heated, slightly delirious rider. BE CAREFUL where you sit down your water bottle full of Peach Vodka. To a dehydrated, over heated and slightly delirious rider that looks like a thoughtful bottle of gatorade…or pedialyte…or anything with electrolytes. NOT VODKA. We don’t sip in that situation. We gulp. Gulping Vodka is a very eye opening experience in that situation. VERY EYE OPENING!
Not that I would know…thanks Shawn and Lynette….