The DaMN 240 mile gravel race.
The end of 2016 I had been hearing about a new gravel event being put on by Trenton J. Raygor. The DAMn. I had recently fallen in love with gravel and even though I love the challenge of riding long endurance events, gravel throws another element in there of constantly having to have your brain on, anticipating what is coming next and always looking for that line and building your confidence over and over with every obstacle, hill (up or down) and crossing that damn finish line. I remember thinking to my self... 240 miles, I can do that! I chose to block out it was gravel and Trenton would be putting the route together so the hills he would pick and the flow of the race would either break you or leave you with a dusty, exhausted but happy and grateful grin on your face.....
registration opened at midnight on my birthday. I signed up...at midnight, of course, posted that I did and encouraged all my friends to get in on this rad event
I didn't over think it, it was just a done deal. If you know me you know if I say I will do something and commit backing out is just not an option. So we go on....
The only thing I started pondering was "support". Being a Minnesota Randonneurs that concept, though I had heard and seen it before, was foreign to me. I am used to carrying everything with me and control stops to load back up if needed. However the more we talked about this and planned we felt it would be smarter to take this on with less on the bike and someone that would be there to support from hugs, smiles, pics, having all we needed out and ready every check point we pulled in. We were blessed to have the best support person around, just returning from RAAM supporting Sarah Cooper, agree to support us! I am honored that she agreed (while she was doing RAAM, not to mention), and to call this amazing woman sister and friend, Jill Marks...thank you,thank you, thank you! Seeing your face and hearing your cheers as we approached every point of the ride would light me up! ♥️
At check point 2, I saw a new face saying my name and taking pictures and cheering me on... my friend and teammate with The Alt Armada, Phil Velo! I was surprised and thrilled to see him there volunteering his time to help and to know my teammate was there to keep me going! Thank you, Phil!
We rolled into Gary, SD about 5pm to get checked in and had dinner and prep ourselves and bikes for the midnight roll out. The mission... 240 miles of gravel in 24 hours. My plan... simple, finish before midnight, no exceptions or other thoughts even entered my mind.
My riding partners, Scott Gregory and Phil Higley (some of my Rando buddies) would join me in this adventure. We all got prepared and decided we would rest for about 2 and 1/2 hours before the start, I think maybe I napped for 30 min total.
We got dressed grabbed our bikes and headed for the opening ceremony and start line. This was the first time I started a ride at midnight, but I told myself this is just like leaving a control at 2 am and continuing on for another 240 miles
The line up was stunning as lights and the spinning of hubs just kept increasing and getting louder, my heart was racing with excitement!
It was go time! The 1st 60 mile segment was rollers and fast, I loved every second of it! We connected with a few other Midtown riding friends of Phil and Scott's and quickly formed a group working together. We came into the 1st control in just a little over 3 hours. We were starting the day off good. After some much welcomed hot soup from Jill with potato flakes (yeah, I had never heard of this) filled us and warmed us for the next leg of the race. It was still dark as we took off excited that this leg would bring daylight and a renewed sense of energy as the morning came.
The 2nd leg our group work together again minus one that snapped his derailleur. I was so bummed for him, but we had 180 more miles to go we had to keep rolling. This leg we got to experience a low maintenance road and as we climbed out the sun broke it was beautiful! Rolling into check point 2 is where I saw my friend and teammate Phil for the first time with camera in hand and a smile on his face he asked... how are you feeling, you look great! I reply awesome! All is going great! After connecting with Jill and refueling with an avocado I threw some organic gummy bears in my pocket just incase and we rolled on.
The 3rd leg of the race must have been where Trenton decided we should be warmed up now, now we climb real hills if they are rollers, or short and punchy ... I am a power climber but long climbs mess with my head (something I am working on) well.... here came the long ones. Again our group stuck together and made it through this leg, this check point I again see my teammate Phil and he said how are you doing now? I said that section was much hillier, but I am good. He said yes, and as you move forward it's more hills!
I wanted to say, could you just lie to me and tell me the last section will be like the first one, flowy fast rollers!?! . Anyway we pedal on, this would be the last leg 57 miles left, let's bring it home! This was the mental leg for me. The boys were crushing me on the longer hills and I am not a person that likes for people to wait on me so with about 40 ish miles to go I watched them ride away and part of me was okay with that. Now it was me and the bike and my head. Make a plan and execute. My plan... work on my weakness (climbing long) and excel at my strengths to make up for my weakness and that is what I did and stuck with it to the finish for the exception of one additional challenge. My garmin died with 40 miles to go. I typically have an external battery pack with me all the time and this time I left it with the support vehicle, wtf!?! Well, I would now test my mind staying focused and watching the cue sheet and matching up street names to my turns. The hardest part is at the end of an event like this, being tired mentally and physically... 3 miles to the next turn feels like days!!!! But the cue sheets were superb and Trenton's Dad was driving around the course at the end making sure people were good, hydrated and aware of sketchy descents. Every time I would see him I would smile and wave as seeing him was reassurance I was on track and doing just fine. I was able to stay focused and work my plan and as I cross the bridge into WI and turned towards the road to the finish line... all I could think was DaMN! That was badass, I just biked gravel across the state of MN today!!! With grateful anticipation I wanted my DaMN High five from Trenton as I rolled through the finish line to see my amazing friends and to hug and congratulate each other on an amazing and epic day! I rolled through a little before 7:30 pm so I met my goal with time to spare. Today I am happy, content and my body is reminding me, I worked hard and I love it! Thanks to all of you that supported, cheered, challenged me! My world is richer with all of you in it!#cyclingmakesusfamily #bikelife Just Ride MN HED Cycling Bianchi Owners Club USA Bianchi USA Alt Bike Board #altarmada #altbikeboard#TCMovement Twin Cities Movement