I think the Internets almost got tangled and unusable because of all the Twitter, Facebook and blog post yammering about Almanzo over the last few days. For good reasons that you might find quite intriguing. (The header above links to the Facebook page, and this one to all you need to know to get started.)
The combination of the Almanzo 100 and the Almanzo Royal 162 is arguably the best, hardest and most popular gravel road racing event in the Midwest that I’m aware of, and I’m not aware of them all. But, consider the Almanzo Gravel Road Series (AGRS) for your next great endeavor. Make it a goal for next year, or get in on the remaining action of coveted Minnesota gravel races:
- Ragnarok 105 – 04.14.12 - I hope you didn’t miss it. I did.
- Almanzo 100 – 05.19.12 - Did you make it?
- Royal 162 – 05.19.12 - Did you survive?
- Westside Dirty Benjamin – 06.16.12 - Ya missed out (probably). I did. Registration closed February 16. But, I’ll be crit racing in Menomonie that day. Yea!
- The Gentlemen’s Ride – 09.22.12 - I have no idea on the progression of planning for this event except for this artwork by Olivia Skogen, age 7, so it’s defintiely happening. Drew, any other news?
- Heck of the North – 9.29.12 - Accepting postcards through May 31. Exclusive to 150 riders drawn from a hat!
- Dirt Bag – 10.27.12 - Very exclusive. Just over 100 riders accepted via postcard.
Actually, I think they’re all registration via postcard. Gotta plan ahead people. The pain, the new friends, the good times and the great oldies are worth every free entry these all are. Donate your blood, sweat and passion to the cause.
OK, Another Brief Recap of the Almanzo Sufferfest of Fun:
Firstly (to explain myself), no pictures were taken by me. I will refer you to others’ blog posts in a moment who somehow came prepared enough and had the strength/determination to snap photos.
I prepared for this race like it was going to be just a bit longer than my average century ride. Not really a big deal, I thought. I’ve ridden 130 miles in one day. What’s another 32? Actually, the race was 155 miles. I didn’t fully catch on as to why. The heat? Race start at 7 a.m. must have been around 70F. I heard it peaked at 94F between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wind was steady between 20mph and 30 mph out of the south.
Good thing we were rolling toward Iowa. Bring on the head winds and cross winds. Still, I thought, “Meh, about 50 other riders in the Royal? No big. I’ve got 5 Clif Bars, 2 ProBars, 3 Clif Shots, 2 Honey Stinger stroopwaffels and 90 ounces of water between a 20 ounce bottle and a 70 ounce Nalgene reservoir in my Osprey pack. I’m good for at least 100 miles before refilling on that.” (Notice the avoidance of the “CamelBak” generonym there? That was tough, and now I ruined it. Dangit!)
This is not your average bike ride. Gravel is not pavement. Loose, newly laid limestone gravel is not easy to ride on and keep up a steady pace. Coasting is hardly an option. The heat will get to you if the wind, gravel and rolling hills don’t. It all got to me at mile 85. Bonktown.
Actually, I’m pretty good in the heat. I think my nutrition was lacking. I’d only gone through about half of what I brought, and what I brought wasn’t nearly enough.
The four other leaders of the race and I had broken from a larger lead group of 10 at about mile 50. After 85 miles, I wanted to quit like you wouldn’t believe. No cramps. My legs were just spent. Power down. I struggled to make it to a lonely farm town bar on the Iowa border at mile 98.
I talked myself into quitting right then. I had a Pepsi and asked for two bags of ice for my quadriceps. The bartender obliged. Lovely people at that bar. I can’t thank them enough. As other riders I’d left behind before rolled into the bar to refill their water, I seriously thought, “Really, who’s going to drive to the Iowa border to come pick me up? I’ve got to pick myself up.” The determination of the half dozen other riders I saw roll in and out got me back on my feet, but I must have been at that bar for at least 45 minutes before I left.
I needed that rest like you wouldn’t believe. I can’t believe I got back on my bike, looking at 60 more miles to the finish. I threw the remainder of the ice in my jersey pockets to ice the back and gave the other bag to a guy in a Salsa kit who was rolling out with me to do the same thing. We rolled together for a couple miles, but once we rejoined the riders on the Almanzo 100 route shortly thereafter, I was rejuvenated and on the gas again.
Salsa guy who got me moving out of the bar, I owe you. My memory was way too far gone at that point to remember your name, and for that I apologize. Thank you for just giving me that simple, stoic, matter-of-fact look to say, “We came to do this thing. It’s time to finish it.” It was exactly what I needed. That, and some good ice time on the legs and back.
The next 50 miles were somewhat lonely because all I did was pass people, and all I could think was to just keep pedaling to get this thing over with. It was beautiful and tormenting at once. Every uphill was met with a sigh. Every turn into crosswind or headwind was cursed until I found my pace and cursed it a little less.
I passed people on mountain bikes, tandem bikes, fat bikes, commuter-looking bikes, touring bikes, singlespeeds and cyclocross bikes. I saw countless people by the roadside either fixing their bikes, finding relief in the scant shade provided in the valleys, stopping at any available water source and suffering from exhaustion at the first reasonable place to pull over (usually not very reasonable). I knew what stopping was like, and I wasn’t stopping again.
I walked just half of two climbs. I consider that victory on a day with somewhere around 9,000 feet of climbing…on gravel!!! And, I finished!!!
Twenty-three finishers of 50-some. I know Chris and the race volunteers accounted for everyone who finished or had to drop out before finishing, so I’m not worried.
Chris Skogen, the race organizer and man of many hats, is there to shake the hand of every finisher as they come in. The applause, congratulations and cheering of other finishers, volunteers and others as you roll in to the finish is modest but indescribably relieving and fantastic. The last five miles were almost entirely straight into the headwind. I was cursing Chris’s course design the whole way, but I couldn’t have been happier to see his face and shake his hand.
Thank you Chris, Spring Valley, volunteers, sponsors, fellow riders, camping buddy Tim and Deer Creek Speedway Campground for a wonderful bike racing experience. Keep killing it bigger and bigger every year!
For more gravel racing and bike journaling, please start here: http://rideonpurpose.blogspot.com/2012/05/royal-162-recap.html - I’m amazed at Drew’s determination to finish strong. His blog puts you in the hurt box right beside him. He finished 6th, 30 minutes ahead me with a far higher suffer score.