5.17.2011

Story Time.

Today, Jacobi and Ryan have a story or two to show from this past weekend. First, Jacobi:

So, how do I start to describe the Almanzo 100?

First, what is the Almanzo 100? It is an event in southern Minnesota that commemorates the triumphant effort of Almanzo Wilder. If you don’t know who he is, he is the husband of the gal that wrote the Little House on the Prairie books. The actual books not the TV show. I guess this Almanzo fella drove 40 some miles in the worst conditions to save his town from an outbreak of some sort to get medicine. That’s the kind of shit that heroes are made of.

Well I’m no hero and I didn’t save any towns. But, I did finish this race. If you don’t know what it is all about, it is a 100 mile gravel road race that is set in some of the most epic area of southern Minnesota and is absolutely positively self supported. I mean you better bring all of your shit with you. Not only is it self supported, but you have to travel on 97% gravel and have to climb some of the biggest hills I have ever climbed. I’m talking hills that are a mile and a half long with a grade that will make your jeep want to go in low gear. Plus, you have to cross a river at some point that has no bridge. I’m talking epic!!

Now let’s tell you about the day we rode this. Past Almonzo’s have been sunny but not this weekend! It was 45 degrees and we had a 20mph head wind for a good portion of the ride plus rain and sleet. Rain had also been down for most of the night had soaked the course and turned it into mud pit, it made for a muddy day to come.

Once we started the wind was so bad it froze my hands and feet to the point of numbness and we had only been riding for an hour. My choice of clothing was limited at best, I was not thinking this was going to be
that kind of ride and did not bring my whole arsenal of goodies. Thank god, for the first stop is was a little town called Preston, that was the saving grace for me. I was shivering and my mind was saying 'this is bad Jeff'. Word was spreading about a short cut that would take you back to Spring Valley but my riding buddy Ryan was not having it! He was the voice of reason. Plus what kind of pussy would I be if we drove all this way and didn’t get the 100? So after pacing up and down the isles of this little grocery store for about what seemed like a day I came up with a MacGyver fix!

I bought a box of trash bags and some gardening gloves. The trash bag was to be made into a poncho! And the gloves well, they went over my fingerless gloves that weren’t cutting it. You should have seen me I was shivering and hovering around hypothermia. It was not cool! Once I had my bag over my body and the gloves on, life was getting better! At this point, 20 or more people were already hitching rides back to the start. Bunch of pansies! But, Ryan and I soldiered on.

We had 60 plus miles to go and I was thinking 'why I am doing this!!' but as the ride progressed and my body temp got higher, life got better. Hell, I was even laughing! I think I was a bit out of my head. Once we hit the 65 mile check point you could mentally feel that the worst was behind you. That was a huge boost, exactly what I needed to finish strong. The last portion of the race was probably the hardest because of exhaustion and the hills kept getting tall and longer. Out of all of the hills I was able to pedal up all except one. At some points I could have walked fas
ter than pedaling my bike, but then I couldn’t say that I only had to walk one hill. If riding 100 miles wasn’t tough enough I really wanted to get all of the hills. Just cause. But, the one that I pushed up, got most folks.

Well we finished. We were not first, but not last. 92nd out of 177 folks that showed up. Out of those 177 people only 150 actually finished and 750 signed up for it. That means a lot of people woke up and looked out side that day, and said 'NO WAY! I’m not riding in that crap'. But, hey we drove 500 plus mile to do this thing. So it was going down either way.

Would I do it again? Sure. But, I have to say, it would be easier on a bike a little bit newer. If you don’t know what rode? Well, it is my Iver Johnson that was built in the 1920’s with a coaster brake and a 71 gear inch. Let’s just say I was thinking I would be a badass and see what I could do. I will never learn. But, after this event I truly feel that I could accomplish a lot on a bike. It was the most grueling 100 miles of my life and looking back I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. My bike is now completely trashed and needs a complete restoration. And I have not quiet gotten the feeling back in my finger tips. But, what a freaking epic ride. If you have ever been to the Venetian Casino in Vegas and have seen those people that are all white and are supposed to be statues. That is what we looked like after this race. I feel bad for the people who had to clean up the grocery store and the hotel.

Thanks Chris Skogan, for putting on this event. I think it will truly become a classic. And if you have to prove how bad ass you are on a bike this is by far the way to do it! See you next year. And I’m brin
g more people to see how truly bad ass this course was. I can’t express it in words. 35mph plus, downhills on gravel! Need I say more?

_

Now, Ryan's thoughts...

As we made our way to the start line I overheard someone say “well, looks like we’re at about 41deg”. The temp wouldn’t reach the daytime high of 45 deg until around the half way mark. Did I mention that it was raining pretty steadily as well? OK, so you’re cold and wet before the start but how bad could it be? I thought to myself “I’m sure we’ll get warmed up soon after the start.”

The landscape looks flat and wide open but that is deceiving. You see, in Michigan we go uphill before we go down hill. In Spring Valley Minnesota you ride along the rolling farm fields until you drop into a river valley and the valleys are deep. You descend at around 38mph until you get to the river. At that point you’re out of the wind and life is good but the inevitable climb out of the valley is just ahead. These climbs are steep and fairly long.

So we started peddling and the rain kept coming. I don’t remember that last time I rode in 45deg rain but I do know that I always underestimate just how cold it is. We turned onto the gravel (I would guess that there is less than three miles of pavement in the entire race) and I looked at
Jacobi and started to laugh. It was apparent that the day was going to require a fair amount of effort. We were fresh and had positive attitudes but the cold was beginning to take its toll. The first and only town with supplies was Preston at the 38mile mark. When we reached Preston the temp had reached a balmy 44deg. Jacobi’s hands were in bad shape and we were both cold and wet. We climbed off the bike at the Preston store and I heard a Hell Yah! It was Jeff Frane and thought to myself hey, we’ll just hook up with him and finish this sucker off. Not the case. There was a large group off people that were bailing on the race he was one of them. I’m not trying to call you out man. It’s just when you see strong riders throwing in the towel it really gets in your head. There were so many people asking the store manager for directions back to Spring Valley via pavement that he posted a map on the door. We stayed at the store, fighting off hypothermia and getting psyched out by people bailing for and hour and a half. After buying dishwashing gloves and trash bag rain coats we decided to get back in the saddle and finish this thing.

Jacobi had lost his cue cards a long way back but I still had mine so we were not worried. That is until we got to the second turn and I realized that my cards were neatly placed on the bench at the Preston store. This was a very uneasy feeling. In fact it was a little scary. We were committed to another 62 miles and had no directions. Luckily we ran across another guy named Jeff and he got us to up to a group of riders that were more than happy to take care of us. The rain was starting to let up and the out look was getting more and more positive. The next thirty miles or so to the checkpoint are kind of a blur. Lots fields, valleys, headwinds, and climbs but we were feeling better and the pace seemed to be increasing. The roads were still muddy but that was beginning to seem sort of fun.

After the checkpoint it was a short thirty miles of big climbs, seasonal roads, and a water crossing. We made it to the finish around seven thirty pm with a great feeling of accomplishment. Not because of our race time (which was actually a little disappointing) but because of the mental challenge that he had overcome. Cold to the point of concern and unfamiliar terrain really took its toll but we had made it. And I would do it again in a heart beat.

_

A few pictures from Ryan from the day. Some stellar photos by Cycleture on the event go here or checkout Jeff Frane's post on All City's blog.







2 comments:

  1. you guys are a couple of real tough guys. seriously though. tough as nails.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome ride! I finished too and it was worth every pedal stroke...

    ReplyDelete