On Sunday I finished a 62 mile gravel bike race in Hastings, Michigan called the Barry Roubaix. Although it’s a four hour drive it’s a great early season race and it always feels great to get outdoors. What doesn’t feel great and the challenging part of this race is the weather. Conditions are far from predictable and racers can expect anything from cold ice and snow to 40-50’s and sunny.
I looked at the weather early in the week and it predicted 40’s and sunny. Perfect! However as the week progressed the start of the race was going to be more in the low 20’s. But still sunny!
I booked a hotel in Kalamazoo, MI an hour away from the race start but given the 10am start that was acceptable. The race is 4 hours and 1 time zone away making it almost necessary to drive out the night before.
I packed different types of layers for the bike. I packed sandwiches for breakfast and dinner, a small red wine for the room, red bull and diet coke for the drive home and plenty of water and electrolyte drink for pre-race fueling.
I arrived in Kalamazoo and re-arranged my bags since I had packed in a bit of a hurry. I put all my cycling nutrition and gear in 1 bag and laid out my cycling clothes for the morning.
The Clothing: A spring race is always hard to dress for but here is what I went with:
- Craft winter cycling tights – fleece lined, wind proof front the warmest in my collection
- Mid-weight craft cycling jacket – not quite fleece lined but wind proof
- VQ winter fleece lined vest – love this item fits over jackets and has 3 deep pockets in the back – capo
- Gore windstopper balaclava
- Winter Pearl Izumi lobster gloves and chemical hand warmers inserted inside.
- Giro wool cycling sox, toe warmers and thick wool socks over top – I am deathly afraid of cold feet. Too many bad experiences during my winter commutes. The pain in insane.
- Winter SIDI gore-tex cycling boots – a size and half too big too fit extra layers and still have room.
My trusty rig of course was Peters Power my Trek Cronus X bike. I love riding this bike it is smooth and light. I had ridden it a week prior and unfortunately it was a bit gritty because of course I didn’t clean it like I should have. Luckily I bought a bike cleaning punch card from Trek HP so will be having it cleaned next time! My only worry was that I had just installed new pedals myself and had only tightened them by hand. Any time I do any mechanical work of any time I have concern but I had ridden it to work during the week and the pedals seemed ok.
The nutrition: was not terribly planned out.
- Two bottles which were meant to have Skratch but I forgot it so one had water and one had a Hammer fizz tablet.
- Packed 2 packets of cliff blocks, 2 gels and a tube of glucose tablets.
- For breakfast at 7:15 was 2 low carb bread sandwiches with Jason’s chocolate hazelnut butter and banana and hotel coffee. Bolused 60%.
- No temp basal mainly because I just forgot. Apparently a four hour ride isn’t worth worry about?
- Waking BG was 120!
- What I ended up eating:
- 1 packet of blocks
- 1 half pb and j sandwich at the first aid station
I got to the race site at 8:30. I picked up my packet and went in search of a parking spot. I decided to go for the charity pay lot. I entered and the lady told me there was one spot left but it was tight because 1 guy had not parked straight (non-racer). I decided to take my chances and squeeze in. As I was getting ready the owners of the one car arrived and I asked if she had enough room to get in. She started bitching about the race and said she was told to park there and she lived across and they were not told “nothin’” I commiserated with her and apologized and told her that was terrible.. etc. I don’t need to make any enemies after all and it was Tom’s car.
Once I had everything in order I did one last check on the bike. I spun both wheels. The back wheel was rubbing slightly on the brake. Not good! I took it over to the mechanics and lucky I had time for him to fix it. I really need to learn this stuff!
It was now about 9:50. The race started at 10:00 with my wave going off at 10:02 which included all women and masters men. I walked up to the start and saw some friendly faces – Cecilia, Nan and Dave Noda.
Last year I used my mountain bike and right from the beginning I had been dropped by everyone. In fact I remember hardly seeing anyone during the first half of the race last year then eventually catching up to people during the second half.
We started off and I realized I hadn’t checked my dexcom again prior to the race but it wasn’t alarming. I was so sidetracked with the brake issue on the bike and the parking spot issue I just ran out of time.
A gravel race is not the easiest race for testing blood sugar either, pulling things out of pockets or even grabbing a drink. Immediately I had regretted not using the camelback. Although I feel like I’m a good bike handler it is still pretty hard to get a drink without slowing down a bit. I tried to drink on the smoother parts as much as possible. In addition I had used an insulated water bottle which I think actually caused it to freeze faster. The bottle was hard to squeeze and each time I tried to use it a small dribble would come out.
The race started, and although I felt like I was still at the back of the wave I didn’t feel like I had been totally left behind. I was still able to keep up with racers and draft as much as I could, it was a very windy day drafting definitely helped.
Despite the wind the course was in better condition this year, less mud. There were plenty of rocks and sand and some rutted sections. On one of the rough dirt sections I had to ride around two stopped riders, which I did and as I was pedaling cautiously around some deep hazards a guy came from behind and fell into me. I landed in the bushes. I was pretty annoyed considering I had been proud for navigating through the tough section. I didn’t feel anything then but the day after I definitely feel a strain in my neck and my right glute.
I stopped at the first aid station to grab more fluids although it was water which seemed to freeze instantaneously!
During the leg 2 (20-40 miles) Laurie Mann another VQ’er caught up to me. We ended up riding together most of the way in. We had a small pace group going with another guy and a girl. We arrived at the second aid station, had I been on my own… I probably would have stopped, however the rest of the group didn’t seem to be stopping so I rolled through grabbing several cups of water from the volunteers. I was really thirsty. I knew I was sweating and I knew I had not been drinking enough. My insulated bottle had completely frozen. I had been sipping the fizz bottle but it was still about ½ full at that point. Laurie and I lost the other two at some point and rode most of the way in together.
The thoughts in my head were as follows:
- Why didn’t I lube my chain it is squeaking so badly
- I wonder what my blood sugar is, I don’t feel bad.
- I should really stop and check my blood sugar, but I can’t (don’t want to)
- What is that other squeak? I think it is the # plate at the front of my bike
- Why do I race
- Its so pretty out here
- I’m not an athlete
- Should I be riding faster because of bike camp
- Should I tuck in behind this guy I’m coming up to or pass him?
- Can I finish in 4 hours this year
- I’m so thirsty
- I’m pretty comfortable my feet and hands are toasty
- I need to stretch my back out
- I need to get my front derailleur tweaked (I had a hard time getting into the big ring)
- I need an uphill my toes are starting to get cold
10 miles out I still felt good and had many guys commenting on my speed up the hills (thank you bike camp). I made a conscious effort to continue the same effort as I crested the hills and into the flats rather than getting to the top and taking a break.
The best part – sprinting to the finish while hearing GO VQ!!! a quick arm pump and I was done! 30 minutes faster than last year’s race partly better conditions partly better fitness. 4:04:45 for 17th out of 27 women. Check the deets here: strava file
Despite not checking, my blood sugars were fairly good throughout.
I joined the VQ crowd after the race to chat with Mike, Robbie and some others and had an amazing Porter by Founders Brewery one of the sponsors. I watched some of the awards then started packing up my car to head home with my red bull and a sandwich. Tom even commented that I was more alert that evening than I normally am after races – fitter?
The day after:
I woke up the next day with an aching back and a sore neck. My training schedule gave me the choice of a sub max run or taking the day off. I knew that I would run outside that day the weather was cold and blustery. After stretching for a half hour my back felt better and I left for my run around 1 pm, after a pleasant morning of oatmeal and coffee. I set my basal (constant drip) to 60% for 90 minutes about 30 minutes prior to leaving knowing that I would have a high chance of going low after yesterdays ride. Sure enough about 4 miles in and prior to my warning alarm I felt it. I quickly inhaled 2 blocks and continued on. 10 minutes later I still felt the bonking so I suspended my insulin and took another block. Another 10 minutes still feeling it I ate my last block. Finally, like a light switch I felt normal and was able to finish my run. I ended up running 10.5 miles which I was pleased with. A great weekend overall.
Next up the Rough Road 100 and the Grumpy Grind 3 in 2 weeks as prep for the DK200 in May. In the meantime ironman training and “the swim thing” is like a monkey on my back during the week I have been trying to get 3 swims, 2 other runs and an intensity ride in. My goal this week is to at the very least get my entire swim workout done. Lately I am lucky if I make it through the warm up and have been maxing out at 2000 yards…time to embrace the swim.