Sunday marked my 4th gravel century of the year, affectionately nicknamed "The dirty hundy". We had a small, but dedicated crew on hand for this installment, Steve "Mechanical" Fuller, Scott "Bike Iowa" Sumpter, Tom "Griz" Anderson, and myself "Buckshot". At least we all had some interesting nicknames. Although, I must profess I coined Fuller's name just on this ride due to his seemingly endless mechanicals that while they don't necessarily sideline him, they definitely make his rides interesting to say the least.
We rolled out from Steve's house at pretty much 7 sharp. It was just cool enough that I was happy to have arm warmers thrown on and breifly thought my full finger gloves wouldn't have been a bad idea either. We met Tom just a couple miles outside of town as he rolled up from his place. While we weren't killing it by any means in the morning, we kept a nice strong pace going along. I liked the idea of going without a route, which was our plan, but in reality, to truly get a hundred miles in and make a good time of it, I think a little more planning might be better.
Our adventure racing for the day came shortly after our breakfast stop. We turned onto a road with a large "Road Closed to through traffic" sign. Hmm, since we're not typically considered traffic by most motorists, I guess the sign doesn't apply to us.
At the bottom of a decent hill, we found a bridge under construction. Well, from where we were standing it looked like they had the deck boards layed out so we headed out across. Funny, the deck stopped about halfway across leaving us to cross exposed girders. At least we had a steel cable to keep us upright and in reality it added quite a bit of fun to the ride.
About 25 miles in we made a quick Casey's stop for a donut and a quick hop off the bike and then we were off again. We rolled on towards Lynden where we were thinking of grabbing some food for lunch and quickly realized there wasn't anything to be had. Panora seemed like a good option and was only 6 miles by the Racoon River Valley Trail. We somehow streched it into 10+ miles of gravel with some sketchy descending on a highway shoulder and a nasty hill climb up the other side. It was this hill climb that I broke my self induced suffering of planning to big ring it all day. After roughly a half mile in the middle ring, I hopped back into it and kept it the rest of the day. It actually worked pretty well on the hills as it forced me to work up them to keep my cadence at a certain level and mostly put me up in front of the rest of the group.
By the time we rolled into Panora and hit PJ's for lunch I was due. Luckily? there was a pretty hefty crowd in line and we spent over an hour basking in the shade enjoying a nice breeze. Apparently the burgers came back to haunt Scott and Tom, but Steve and I really didn't have any problems. After lunch I felt pretty good for about 10 miles and then the long term effects started setting in.
I was really getting down on power and hurting even though I rolled off the front of the group. I was riding my own pace, but still felt pretty slow. Tom apparently felt even worse and sent the other two ahead while I waited at the next turn for them. After seemingly forever we rolled into Adel with about 80 miles on the clock. We spent some time here soaking in some rest and shade in the city park while Tom rolled back up to meet us.
We criss crossed highway 6 to make sure we had enough miles of gravel to qualify the ride and then hopped on the bike trail to get Scott back in time for his debut on Kim West's radio show. We made one more breif stop by Tom's place we headed back to Steve's. Tom followed us for a bit to get the rest of his miles in for the day and we cleared 100 on the way to Steve's. All in all it was a good day in the saddle, but I was really feeling the effects of it. I am hoping I'll have some time next year to not only work on my short, hard efforts, but to also expand my long distance riding as well.