Now what?

Now that Motherlode is over and I don't have any huge goals on the horizon I'm feeling a little aimless. I've got a few upcoming races: right now I'm registered for another go at BT Epic, I know I'll do the Thunder Rolls 24 hour AR again, and I'm hoping to be at the No Sleep 30 hour and the Berryman Adventure Race in September. Somehow none of those races exerts the same training pull from me as a ridiculously long gravel race.

Every year after my big spring race I tend to slip into my couch and stay there until school starts and the lack of elastic waists in my dress clothes informs me how much weight I've gained. So far I've managed to run a couple times a week and get in several mountain bike rides.

#winning CCLP
Creve Couer Heartbreaker cat 3 podium
I even managed to win my division in a race! Nathan is home from Japan and a family obligation kept me from entering the marathon class, but the two laps and 9:30 start time of cat 3 worked out perfectly with our schedule. I have a hard time with starting aggressively because I don't want to somehow end up in front of people who are faster than I am on singletrack, so for possibly the first time ever I was caught behind slower people and had to pass quite a few times.

Doing such a short race is a very different experience. Usually I'm aiming for measured, sustainable effort so I can finish a 3+ hour race strong; this time I could go "all out" (as all out as I get, anyway...where I'm not limited by fitness I'm still held back by handling skills and confidence) without worrying about blowing up early.

The shorter mountain bike rides are definitely helping with my handling, but I don't want to lose my endurance. After being out of town all weekend for a mud volleyball tournament, I had Monday free and made plans to ride with a couple friends who still have a big bike race to prep for. Unfortunately, Mickey ended up injured and couldn't go, but Eric was still game to ride.

The forecast had correctly called for rain, and when my alarm went off I had repeated thoughts of bailing. I know I won't melt, but the idea of a soggy ride was unexciting at best, and my bed kept calling me. The only thing that got me out the door was knowing how much I'd hate myself if I skipped out and then spent the day doing nothing.

Hawk Point
Misty Missouri morning

My poor cross bike was still covered with South Dakota dust when we rolled out, but that was quickly covered with Missouri gravel spray in the light rain of the first three hours or so.  Early on I felt super sluggish, like I was working way harder than I should be to keep up, so I wasn't sad at all when he had a flat 8 miles in.

Hawk Point

Neither of us had ever ridden this route before, and neither of our Garmins was particularly clear about which way to go when the course split directions (beginning/end of a loop), but it didn't really matter which direction we went. The route was heavy on wildlife; definitely the coolest moment was when a coyote ran across a field next to us and then ahead of us on the road for a time, but we also saw cows, horses, a groundhog (?), birds, rabbits, and the entire farm dog population of the Hawk Point area. None of the chasers seemed unfriendly, but one girl kept us company for a long enough time that I worried about her finding her way home, running alongside us, licking our legs, and darting in front often enough to make me nervous about crashing into her.

Hawk Point
When you've taken a bite just before your riding partner takes a picture...
We had another short break when we were caught in a small-town July 4th parade. Had we been more appropriately dressed for the occasion we'd have joined in; instead we waited for a break in the patriotically decorated tractors and snuck through.

The light rain and cool temps made riding really pleasant, but I definitely didn't drink enough and massive leg cramps hit me about 40 miles in. Arriving home the previous evening, I'd thrown together a few Payday bars and filled my water bladder, but with typical long-ride supplies still strewn among 4 different bags after the trip to South Dakota, I'd neglected to make sure I had ibuprofen and electrolytes. With no solution other than stretching and soft pedaling, I limped along the next 10 miles trying not to whine about how awful I felt.

We planned a convenience store stop so I could pick up some ibuprofen and Eric could grab a drink.  I told him I'd give the ibuprofen an hour or so to work and then bail if my legs were still hurting. While the store clerk couldn't be bothered to get off of his phone while waiting on us, he did still have a delicious-looking piece of pizza left in the case. I slathered in in mustard (don't's delicious), took my ibuprofen with a bottle of gatorade, and tried to walk off the leg cramps.

It was a more extended stop than we'd originally planned, but it was well worth the time because my legs felt 100% better afterwards. It's a lesson I've learned time and time again on the bike and in adventure races, but it still amazes me to experience the way you can go from feeling awful to great (and then sometimes back again) as long as you don't give up.

The next 40 miles or so were fantastic. The second loop was hillier, with some decent climbs and several sections of fun rollers. I really appreciated Eric's patience when I felt terrible and was very glad I hadn't quit riding when I had the opportunity. Then around mile 90 I was pretty much over it all and started to get a little crabby about being on my bike. That final 18 miles became something of a slog as we were both suffering and ready to be finished.

My legs felt pretty good, but my arms and hands were sore and my left foot was killing me. I've had the same pair of bike shoes since I started riding clipless, and if the holes where you can see through to my socks aren't enough of a sign that it's time to replace them the long-ride foot pain should be.  I entertained myself with thoughts of what I was going to eat and drink once I was off my bike, attempting to compose a song to the tune of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. I'm sure that wasn't annoying at all to someone who was in his own pain cave. ;-)

But at the end of the day, we logged 108 miles, got lots of time in the saddle, and had a good ride. Not bad for a rainy Monday.


  1. Interestingly, mustard - like you put on your pizza - can diminish leg cramps. The acetic acid triggers productions of acetylcholine, which allows a contraction to "uncramp".

    1. I'd heard that it helps but didn't know the science. Thank goodness it worked, though! It saved my ride.


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