"When you feel like letting go. Hold on. Take comfort in your friends. Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hands up. You are not alone. Hang on." I am sure you all recognized the title and lyrics to the REM song correct? Really the prefect theme song for a gravel/adventure ride specialist like myself. Adventure rides are BRUTAL. In a beautiful way. Honestly after this summer all I really want to do are Adventure rides. And I am really not that good at them. I am a flatlander. But my favorite rides are in VT. In case you have never been to VT it is not really flat. I am of a certain age. I certainly am not skinny by any stretch. But what I do have is grit. I don't really give up. And I can "enjoy" suffering. The mental and physical suffering of endurance type events. I am not really great at actual suffering. I am kind of a baby actually. Racing is cool. I get a lot out of it still. Mostly the camaraderie and opportunity to see so many of my friends in one spot. It is my version of golf, or NFL ticket or NASCAR I guess. But I am not a racer anymore. But I race. But adventure riding or gravel riding or what ever you want to call it now that I get excited about. I have probably 3-4 events I really love. Rasputitsa, the NEBRA Adventure Ride, D2R2, and VT Overland. Those 4 really are what its all about. Totally different but all so beautiful. One day I will do all four in a season.
I probably get to do 2 of the 4 events and sprinkle one other in for fun to mix things up. This year I had D2R2 as the event I really wanted to focus on. We did it last year and had a blast. Did the full D2R2 experience. Camped out with friends, BBQ dinner the night before, great ride, swam in the river after the ride. It was perfect. I had reached out to a great group of friends to ride with and was going to camp with one of the best wingmen on the planet. And then like lots of great plans it went up in flames. I was riding through a field I ride through a million times when I got hit by what felt like a bullet to my leg. How I didn't crash is beyond me. Some of the worst pain I have ever felt. I look down and a wasp is stuck in the elastic band of my bib shorts and is lighting me up. I rip it off my leg and throw it to the side. I get the bike and myself under control and assess the situation. It hurt like a mofo but I seem "ok". I finish up my ride and head home. I take a shower. After the shower the leg looks funny. An hour later it looks less funny and really actually pretty bad. And is warm to the touch. So off to the Urgent Care.
Now anyone who knows me and my family knows we are no stranger to ERs and oddball quasi-medical emergencies. Never a dull moment in my house! I see the Nurse Practitioner and assume its fine. She is actually impressed by how bad it is and doesn't play around and gives me antibiotics and Prednisone. She warns me about the Prednisone. As does a close friend. But I am a chipper guy I assume it will be no big deal. Um yeah. It crushes me. Never felt so horrible on meds as that protocol. So suffice it to say I missed D2R2. Super bummed but no way I could have done that ride. I was a wreck. VT Overland was the next week and I figured a week of clean living should freshen me up for that ride. I was a little worried as I had zero energy from the meds and recovering from the infection/allergic reaction but I was optimistic. Especially as I was driving up with the newly crowned HUP Rookie of the Year! I have known Guthrie for some time. He is such a great guy. Strong as hell. Always smiling and positive. And always up for an adventure. HUP is a CX racing team. With an adventure ride problem. Guthrie really is the perfect HUP rider. So stoked he is on our team.
I do some planning about how I am going to tackle VT Overland. I felt pretty ok at the NEBRA Adventure Ride. That was about 61 miles and had some climbing. But Overland is tough. Not just the climbing which it has in spades but the Pave Sectors. Adventure rides come in all flavors and types. VT Overland is spicy to say the least. I love the legit Class 4 roads they throw in. You need to have a really good skill set to handle them without crashing or walking a bunch. As I freely admitted early I am not a climber. But I am built for the descents and have good skills in the gnar. So I am 100% ok suffering up some nasty cramp inducing climb for a 50 mph gravel road descent. Speaking of cramps I was pretty nervous about cramping on this ride. I knew my body wasn't right after being stung. I couldn't source any Endurolytes. And didn't really feel comfortable using a product I had never used before so opted for boiled potatoes and Skratch. I also had some margarita clif blocks. I felt prepared and was really stoked to be traveling with Guthrie and his friend Joanna. A big part of adventure rides is rolling with a good crew.
As I said earlier Guthrie is awesome. New to HUP but a good friend and someone I have ridden with a lot. He has that amazing mix of sick climbing ability, next level descending skills and a great attitude. Always funny and positive. I had met Joanna a few times before and knew her. She is a really cool person and super fit athlete. Her first CX race was Night Weasels last year. I remember walking the course with her and Guthrie and talking about the race. It didn't even occur to me that she had never raced CX before. Night Weasels is a tough CX course. Legit hard. She went out and crushed it. Won the Cat 4s straight up. She even wore her podium jersey at VT Overland. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball. All bike racers do that inner checklist before heading to an event: Helmet, shoes, etc. But we all have forgotten one key element to being able to ride. I remember once leaving my shoes at JD and Megs the day of the JAM Fundo. Joanna ended up leaving her shoes at home. 5 am roll outs are not easy and it is so easy to forget something. I give Joanna so much credit. I mean she didn't even flinch. She was in a good mood and just problem solving. I went to registration and asked for help. The response was incredible. Honestly it is the thing I LOVE most about these events. All the people involved want to help you. One of the volunteers called her daughter and asked her daughter to bring shoes to staging.
While we were waiting for the shoes all three of us kept asking people for shoes etc on the off chance the ones that were coming didn't work. At the end the best solution was running shoes and flat pedals. The promoters wife Kim Vollers literally took the running shoes she was wearing and gave them to Joanna to use for the ride. Joanna and Guthrie then went over to the Cannondale booth and the mechanic set up her bike with flat pedals. I was literally speechless that this worked. What was even more impressive was everyone's PMA. We all were joking and taking photos. Laughing about doing the ride in flat pedals. I mean DH racers use flat pedals? What could go wrong. We rolled out last to let 800+ of our close friends sort it out on the neutral start. So many people and so many cool bikes.
We hit the first climb and Guthrie and Joanna punch it! We just start floating up past groups of riders. At one point we hear a thick accent behind us reciting some Flemish. Then we realize he is reading the line off Guthries Blanco HUP kit. HUP kit has all kinds of easter eggs all over it. We are a Belgianophile team. And aren't afraid to flaunt it. Guthrie asks the nice man to translate the line for us. The Dutch guy says "As long at the Lion can claw, as long as he has teeth." All three of us start laughing. This really is the perfect way to get the ride started. As we climb we keep seeing more and more people we know. It really is so incredible how social these rides are. When you take away the crazy energy of racing and are just there for adventure and riding it just changes things. Sure you ride hard. And you suffer but it is beautiful because you are all suffering together. The three of us stay together for about half the ride. Joanna's ability to smash both the climbs and downhills on flat pedals and running shoes is beyond impressive. The downhills are probably the most impressive. I mean you hit 40 mph in a blink of an eye on these roads. And they are all washed out and nasty. I can't imagine not being attached to the bike.
I have a great second half mixed with riding with a group, then riding solo, smashing Pave Sectors like a boss and then having rigor mortis like leg cramps. I mean they were next level. But oddly if I got off the bike and just walked a touch they went away and I could hop back on. A little group crampo sort of merged together. And it really was amazing. We just supported each other the last ten miles. Kind words, smiles, recognition of the pain and suffering but also the reward of the views and descents.
The final descent down the grassy ski slope of Suicide Six was unreal. I made it. Honestly there were times I thought I might not finish. Seeing Anthony and Heidi at mile 40 with waffles and water bottles and some crazy ass rap music blaring out of a black SUV brought me back to life. Just a great, great day. 10 out of 10 and would do it again. I know its CX season. But my mind is going to be up in the hills in VT. Huge thanks to Kim Vollers and the whole staff at Overland for making our day so great. They literally saved the day.