Gravelicious!

With the double centuries behind me (maybe), I kinda felt a little lost last week.  I figured I’d play it by ear and do what felt right as far as rides.
My legs still feeling the effects of a century on Saturday and 6000 feet of climbing Sunday, I hopped on the C3 for an easy cruise around the valley Tuesday afternoon.  It was a good 30 mile spin that reminded me, once again, how lucky we are with all the riding opportunities right out our front doors.
I couldn’t find anyone willing to ride as early as I wanted to Wednesday afternoon, so I hit John’s Peak for a little solo action.  I decided to try an old road that branches off Arrowhead Pass just before the summit.  As many of you probably already know, that’s a dead end.  Still, another road checked off in my John’s Peak exploration handbook.
After knocking out both Canyon Vista trails, I called it a day.  But, not before blindly cussing out whoever it was that ruined the trail down from the Dick Ames Shelter (can’t remember the name of the trail) by redirecting the trail to impossible switchbacks and laying half buried logs across it every 50 feet or so. C’mon man!

 

While ruining a good trail wasn’t my bad decision, participating in the cyclocross race on Thursday definitely was.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was fun.  But, halfway through, my left leg felt like it was barely attached at the knee and I soft pedaled the rest of the time.  It worked in my favor, however, as I got to drink some beer offered by Dave Sargent, and talk to a bunch of buddies as I rode past (or stopped by) them.
My knee doesn’t necessarily hurt, but it still feels really weird even right now and I’ve been walking with a limp ever since.
Oh well.  No crying allowed because Saturday was my chance to complete my second biggest goal of the year, The Oregon Triple Crown.  All I had to do was finish the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic race in Waldport, Oregon.  
The Gravel Epic is the third, final, and in my opinion, best race of the three.  It is 72 miles, of which probably 2/3 is gravel, and a total of somewhere around 9000 feet of climbing.  
CX bikes were the most popular weapon of choice, but there were plenty of MTB’s as well as we lined up for the start at 8:30 am.
I chose to ride the Toa as it’s lighter, more comfortable, and far more dependable than my old aluminum CX bike.  And, I surely didn’t want to ride the Grammo CX since it’s set up as a single speed right now.  That would be no bueno!
The course took us through some amazing terrain with fantastic views.  I sorta wish I had stopped to take a few photos.  I didn’t.  Thanks to my good pal, Jacob Hammond, for the in-race pics he let me use.
With 4 major climbs through the race, it’s no small task to finish the thing.  Last year, with my Cross bike, I suffered 2 flats and probably 7 or 8 separate instances of cramping in my hamstrings.  By riding the Toa, I was hoping to avoid both of those issues. 
I gotta say, it was a blast flying past all the guys with narrow tires as I screamed down all the descents.  It was a little less fun as all those guys passed me on the climbs and the two 4-5 mile flat paved sections.  Yep, the Cross bikes have the advantage.  At least for me.  Pushing my fat mtb tires wore me out.  There were times I was only hitting 17 mph when I remember doing 20-21 mph in the same areas last year.

By the time I hit the last aid station I still felt ok, but could feel my legs tiring.  Fortunately, there was only 15 miles and one more big climb to go.  
Halfway up the climb (maybe the steepest of all of them), I kept getting glimpses of a local rider, Michael Davis, just before he would disappear around a bend in the road.  Pushing a little harder, I was able to catch him just as another rider caught both of us.  
Despite the fact we were now riding along the ridge and not up the steep side of the mountain, we were still climbing slightly and it was all I could do to stay with Mike and the other rider.  A couple times I stopped pedaling, feeling like I couldn’t keep the pace.  But, then I would tell myself I was being weak and force myself to catch back up to them.
As we finally hit the descent, Mike and I dropped the third guy and stayed together until the final 3 miles, at which point we hit flat pavement and Mike promptly dropped me.
It was a great day.  The weather was perfect.  I didn’t start cramping until about 5 miles from the finish.  And, although I haven’t seen the final results yet, I’m 99% sure I was able to sneak in at just under 6 hours.
Thanks, Mike, for being my rabbit for the last 10 miles!  I had a good time suffering alongside you.

 

Also, thanks to my wife for a couple photos.  I really slacked in that department this week.
Whether you choose to race the Gravel Epic next year, or want to check it out on your own, you can’t go wrong.  I’m planning on making a trip back to ride it again this Winter just for fun because, well, it’s Gravel.  And Epic.
Aaron

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