Alo's Perspective: GTDRI '11

This past weekend myself and Matt headed back to my old stomping grounds of Iowa for Guitar Ted's annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational.

In the spirit of the epic gravel rides and races that have sprung up in the last few years, the GTDRI is a 100 mile no-drop ride through the A and B gravel roads of Iowa.

Sounds like a great weekend doesn't it? Especially given the 90 degree temperature and 80%+ humidity. I mean, who doesn't drive from Michigan 8 hours to wake up at 4:30am to ride for 11 hours?

But in all seriousness, I was excited for this ride. Granted this year, due to a fluke injury during a game of Octoball (an interesting mix between Dodgeball and Foursquare) the amount of miles that I would normally have at this point in the year was dramatically down. Nevertheless, the no-drop appeal of this ride along with Mark's, aka Guitar Ted, assurance that my fitness shouldn't be an issue; followed by the normal banter between the crew here that I was going home to die, I believed I was ready - not to do great but to be able to finish.

So Matt and I packed up early Friday and headed to Iowa. We arrived at my parents homestead around 11pm and quickly headed to bed. Waking up, we drove to the starting point of Hickory Hills State Park about 40 minutes from Cedar Falls for the 6am/sunrise start to the ride. In the parking lot, we put the finishing touches to our bikes - I decided to ride my 1x9 Cannondale 'Cross bike with A23 Comp's (35mm front / 32mm rear).

After meeting up at the ranger station 12 of us set out for a day of gravel, most on 'cross bikes and one on a Makluk. Riders showed up from Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Michigan looked out on a beautiful Iowa sunrise which included an interesting mix of fog in places. We made good time through the first 20 miles to Traer for our first stop where everyone put down the highly nutritional convient store breakfast and filled up water bottles.

After a few minutes of small talk, we set back out - another 40 miles to Toledo. Right as we hit the gravel, panic set in for me. Sliding to the side of the road, I checked my jersey pocket to make sure I had all my gear.

Cell phone - check.
Wallet - check.
Sunglasses - check.
Bottle - check.
Granola - check.
Car keys...

Car keys...

Car keys - not in the zip lock baggy with the wallet and cell phone.


Being 8 hours from Grand Rapids, of course not bringing a spare set - I proceed to throw everything back in my pockets, race up to Mark to let him know I thought they might have fallen out at the store. Mark then graciously stops the group as I turn around to head back to find them.

If there is one thing that small town Iowans are, it's helpful. As I panically walked back into the store and retraced my steps, my confidence of finding my keys is quickly diminishing. The store attendent starts looking through the store with me - soon enough I realize I should probably start dumpster diving to see if I accidentally threw them away...

Let's just say, I didn't find them in the trash.

The time had come that I needed to push back to the group - so I left my number with the clerk, called my parents to have them start exploring options on breaking into my car once I finished and headed back to the gravel. Like many, for the next 20 miles all I did was retrace my steps. Hoping that somehow I had left them at parking lot where we parked.

After meeting up the with group we continued on. The legs felt great, the gravel was hard packed in most places with the rolling hills you'd expect from Iowa. I had set out not to allow myself to blow up, so my pace was well... mine. I was slow but the group was overly understanding and gracious, often Matt or a few of the other guys would come back and chat and pull me back up to the group.

I'd estimate around mile 35, we experienced our first flat. The group then came together, helping the rider in need, hanging out in the shade Mark told a few stories from previous years Death Rides. Departing from this stop. I felt good, confident how my body was responding to the heat and the miles. Mark had told us that we had a few hills ahead along with one to the top of a ridge that would then lead us into Toledo.

This hill is where everything changed for me.

I'm not one to be able to judge grade, and it was not that this hill had a steep grade but that is was long - real long. This is where the group began to pull away. Finally getting to the top, I see Matt waiting along the side for me. Matt then lead the way as we attempted to catch up to the group.

My water supply had started to dwindle, out of 3 bottles I was now down to my last with around 3/4 left. My power had begun to decrease to the point where I had begun to not be able to put much down on the pedals. At probably around mile 50 - it hit. The first hill, and may I say not a very big hill, I had to dismount and walk. Matt coasted on up the hill and waited. I remounted at the top of the hill and hints of cramping had begun. We shouldered on - dreaming of a cold Coke and salty food.

We limped for another 5 miles. Only to encounter another hill that I had to get off and walk. At this point, I was out of water. Matt had very little but shared what he could. The heat was becoming too much, by breathing had become a concern. I had to sit.

I sat. Trying to slow myself down. Talking to myself that I could continue on.

I got up. Walked a little further and the dizziness set in. I had to sit.

Matt discovered that I had a little water in each of my bottles that I could snag if I took off the top.

This little bit of water was a lifeline. I was able to muster up the strength to get up and continue up the hill. We then encountered another rider, Steve, who was having similar issues to myself dealing with the heat. Steve had some water he could share. Shortly there after we were able to mount back up on the bikes and continue on.

Matt's legs still fresh and was pulling the both of us along the way. At around 3 miles from Toledo we hit pavement and once over a hill, we could see the water tower and what a beautiful sight it was. Coasting into town, we found the convient stores. Rushing into get fluids - Matt was then able to find the rest of the group who were at an adjacent store. Steve had been able to get into contact with his brother to come and give us both a ride back to the start. My body was fried at the point - no power would be going into the pedals so continuing on was and seemed foolish.

Fortunately, Matt was able to continue on and has a story or two about his experience to share hopefully tomorrow. 60 miles was all I had in me, am I frustrated? Yes. But I learned a lot from this for the next time about base miles, heat, and hydration to say the least.

I can't say enough about how enjoyable it was to ride with all the guys and talk during and after the ride finished. A thanks goes out to Mark for putting on an incredible ride that lives up to it's name, a huge thanks to Matt for being a saving grace in getting me to town alive and to Steve for the huge help in getting back to my car. And let's not forget the amazing cookies brought from North Dakota!

Oh my keys... well, they ended up being in the door of my car in the parking lot. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.

For more recaps of the ride, check out Mark's site and check back to read Matt's thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I am sure glad you made it back okay, and even got your keys back! Crazy.

    Next year, my friend! Make it a date. You'll do the whole enchilada.