At the inaugural Flint Hills Gravel Ride out of Americus, Ks, that is where!
NOTES AND TIPS:
1. DO NOT SCHEDULE A J&J COVID VACCINE SHOT the Wednesday afternoon of a Saturday morning gravel event. After spending all day Thursday in bed with headache, achy joints, fatigue, fever, chills and zero appetite, a Saturday morning ride like this is too soon. Friday I still had headache, little appetite, slight nausea but functionable. By Saturday, I had a slight headache that FINALY responded to Tylenol and was eating carefully as to not upset stomach. SO yeah, I had a moment about 7-8 miles in I got lightheaded, blurry vision, lungs hurt, chest tight, nervous I was gonna pass out or have a heart attack. Maybe it was Jon's magic hugs, but after several minutes, I finally got to a point I was able to ride...at least get to checkpoint and then decide to press on.
2. DON'T TAKE COMMENTS FROM THE COURSE CREW AS CHALLANGES. I rolled up to a turn with people off their bikes looking down a stretch. While I saw a line I could ride, it was pretty muddy. But should I? Maybe just walk it all...till someone says, "With those tires you may make it if you navigate correctly". Challenge accepted. I went maybe 150 yards when I thought I was a few feet from what was solid and no. Back wheel locked in mud. Had to scrape just to get it to turn for walking as it was too heavy to carry now.
3. THE HAPPY GEAR IS KEY TO ANY FINISH. Something Jon told me about way back. Just find the happy gear in the situation you are in and go with it. Even if it is at a crawl, I will find a happy gear to get thru wind, a long climb, or long straight. Happy gear may be fast in one section and slow later.
4. THE FLINT HILLS NATURE TRAIL IS GREAT FOR BIKE RIDES. The stretch we rode into the checkpoint was a joy after what we had just been thru with the wind. Reminds me how I need to take advantage of the FHNT more often.
5. ANY ROUTE CREATED BY ANYONE NAMED BOBBY, WILL 90% OF THE TIME HAVE A HIKE A BIKE SECTION OF SOME SORT. While we were told there would not be more than a mile (at a time) of muddy roads, there are still muddy roads/sections. Being I did the 34miler, we really only saw 1 mile of actual hike a bike and then a 10 to 20yd spots of mud not too terrible to ride thru. I hear the 80milers had a bit more.
5. THE WIND IS ALWAYS BLOWING THE WRONG WAY. Wind will suck the life out of you when riding toward it; try to steer you off your line when blowing crossways; and create your personal sauna when at your back. Sure you can ride faster with it at tor back, but if the sun is out, you will cook while doing it. . . So best just not have 15 to 20 mph winds. 2 to 4 mph would do.
6. THE FINISH IS NEVER DISAPPOINTING. It does not matter what kind of finish line is set up. . .just finishing an event is a personal achievement and feels good. I have only quit once and if I had only finished, I'd had placed. I just need better skills to get my shit together on my own so as to not worry Jon or slow down someone else's progress. (OR maybe not get a damn vaccine known to make you ill 48 hours before a ride.)
Anyway, it was really good to be back among my gravel peeps for my first in person gravel event of the year! Nice to have a new awesome event so close to home too.
So, just before Easter, I received a message from a Pink Gravel follower. She informed me that she is a "late-to-the-party" cyclist, but loves road and gravel. It was because of her love for her gravel community, she found Pink Gravel. I am going to refer to her endearingly as Mrs. LTTP (Late-to-the-party). For the record I am 46, so I think I fit into that category too.
In Mrs. LTTP's message, she informed me that she has just begun her journey with breast cancer and is hoping she will be able to approach it with the same humor and grace that I displayed. Mrs. LTTP was still in the discovery phase and just starting to have the hard conversations with family members about her diagnosis. Mrs. LTTP thanked me for being here. Her words warmed my heart.
It is odd how I now feel an instant connection to other breast cancer warriors. You hear the jokes; but seriously, It is a club. The club dues are freak'n high; but if have been diagnosed and are willing to look for us "cancer club members", you will open the door to a whole new world of instant friends. It is a bit amazing considering the cost.
And that is where Pink Gravel comes in. I believe a HUGE part of my coping with cancer was through sharing. Of course I could talk to anyone and/or post it all on FB but I also wanted to respect the fact not everyone is interested or maybe they have their own stuff going on. I suppose traditional support groups would have fill this space.
But guess what? COVID is what.
The one group I could find in my area that meets once a month, was not meeting. But, you know who was? Gravel cyclists. Now, granted, I wasn't riding because of being physically drained from cancer treatments, but I was able to fill a water bottle, hand out some snacks and hold a bike while a rider pees in the trees. So I pushed out Pink Gravel to the public and began a new cancer support group of one. Since then I have been looking for others to join me and join in my support of others.
I want to thank all of you out there who take the time to read the blogs, who support Pink Gravel by liking the social media pages, who share this website, who wear or display Pink Gravel swag, who attend our events and those who welcome or advertise Pink Gravel at your events. It is SO APPRECIATED! It was because of you that Pink Gravel was on a Girls Gone Gravel Podcast! How cool is that?!?!
So please know your actions help others, help people like me - like Mrs. LTTP - find some additional support within the gravel community that they may not have in their local area.
And you know. . . It's a gravel club within the cancer club.
I would even say it is a cooler club - because you don't have to get cancer to be in it. :) #pinkgravel #cancersucks
I am just a 40 something married lady with kids who likes to ride gravel when life lets me. Just so happens I was called into the Cancer Club on October 31, 2019. Fought my fight with surgery, chemo, radiation, friends, family and lots of dark humor. I find sharing my experience helps me. Maybe it can help you.