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Saturday - 135 miles of gravel - what am I thinking!?

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Saturday - 135 miles of gravel - what am I thinking!?

Old 09-17-08, 09:24 AM
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bdinger
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Saturday - 135 miles of gravel - what am I thinking!?

This Saturday I committed myself (or will be committed..) to riding a 135 mile gravel ride here in Nebraska. Counting commuting to/from the start location I'll be at 150 easily by the time the day is done. I clocked off a century earlier this year, and it wasn't too bad, but a lot of that was pavement. Suffice to say, I'm a little on the nervous side!! Here's the route:

http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...avel-Adventure

I'm going to attempt to keep posting twitter/blogger updates during the ride, if you want to follow along, starting bright and early at 0530. This one is really important to me for several reasons. First, because if I can't complete this there is no way I'll be able to do the Dirty Kanza 200 (similar ride, 65 more miles) this spring. Second, well, I don't want to look like a weakling by bailing out!!

Adding to the nervousness is the fact that the cross tires I just ordered, Schwalbe Marthon crosses, on MONDAY from Universal Cycles STILL have not shipped. Time in transit to my house via UPS is only supposed to be 1-2 days, but at this point I'm pretty much a nervous wreck. Granted I've ridden on gravel several times with my current setup, and I'm still here, so I should just mellow out...

Anyway.. still crossing my fingers. Going to take it easy commuting tomorrow and Friday, as well as taking off work early on Friday. Going to start waking up at 0530 for the next two days as well, so maybe I'll actually sleep Friday night .

Any tips and tricks are welcome, but my overall plan is just "spin to win". My goal is just to finish it, ideally in 12 hours or less. Yup, taking the Long Haul Trucker to do it as well.. .
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Old 09-17-08, 09:27 AM
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It depends on how fine or coarse the gravel is. I rode a long tour, half of it on gravel, on touring tires with little tread. The last day was 100+ miles. I wouldn't do that if the gravel were very course, though.
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Old 09-17-08, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by bdinger View Post
This Saturday I committed myself (or will be committed..) to riding a 135 mile gravel ride here in Nebraska. Counting commuting to/from the start location I'll be at 150 easily by the time the day is done. I clocked off a century earlier this year, and it wasn't too bad, but a lot of that was pavement. Suffice to say, I'm a little on the nervous side!! Here's the route:

http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...avel-Adventure

I'm going to attempt to keep posting twitter/blogger updates during the ride, if you want to follow along, starting bright and early at 0530. This one is really important to me for several reasons. First, because if I can't complete this there is no way I'll be able to do the Dirty Kanza 200 (similar ride, 65 more miles) this spring. Second, well, I don't want to look like a weakling by bailing out!!

Adding to the nervousness is the fact that the cross tires I just ordered, Schwalbe Marthon crosses, on MONDAY from Universal Cycles STILL have not shipped. Time in transit to my house via UPS is only supposed to be 1-2 days, but at this point I'm pretty much a nervous wreck. Granted I've ridden on gravel several times with my current setup, and I'm still here, so I should just mellow out...

Anyway.. still crossing my fingers. Going to take it easy commuting tomorrow and Friday, as well as taking off work early on Friday. Going to start waking up at 0530 for the next two days as well, so maybe I'll actually sleep Friday night .

Any tips and tricks are welcome, but my overall plan is just "spin to win". My goal is just to finish it, ideally in 12 hours or less. Yup, taking the Long Haul Trucker to do it as well.. .
Sorry I'll miss this. I'll be out logging my last long ride before my century next week. Go for it, big fella!
 
Old 09-17-08, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
It depends on how fine or coarse the gravel is. I rode a long tour, half of it on gravel, on touring tires with little tread. The last day was 100+ miles. I wouldn't do that if the gravel were very course, though.
I hope the gravel Big Ben is riding on is in better shape than the C & O towpath. There are a lot of places, such as Harper's Ferry, that are little more than rocks.
 
Old 09-17-08, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
It depends on how fine or coarse the gravel is. I rode a long tour, half of it on gravel, on touring tires with little tread. The last day was 100+ miles. I wouldn't do that if the gravel were very course, though.
Ironically I know the roads, or at least most of them, very well due to my work for the county during severe weather. They range anywhere from being fine gravel that's almost like pavement, to big chunks of rock (the newest thing the county is doing, I *love* it...not), to dirt roads to absolutely quicksand-like deep gravel. It's going to be interesting, definitely, but I've ridden all those conditions on that bike before. Only thing that really has me nervous is the tires, the rear in particular, as it's got about no tread left with the casing getting pretty thin, and that's just achin' for a breakin'. The Schwalbes I hear nothing but extreme praise for in those conditions, and in winter, which is why I just picked them up. Here's hoping that Unviersal delivers on the promise that they'll be here by Friday (aka I REALLY should have just paid the extra $10 to have my LBS order them..).

I should also note that I'm pulling off the fenders (again), as the worst thing in the world is mud-caked fenders.
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Old 09-17-08, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
Sorry I'll miss this. I'll be out logging my last long ride before my century next week. Go for it, big fella!
Thanks Neil! Also, hope that your long ride goes well, as I know you have a new saddle to break you in, err, break in .
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Old 09-17-08, 10:12 AM
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Enjoy the ride, Ben! You'll pull it off!
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Old 09-18-08, 06:38 AM
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Yikes - good luck! That's a lot of miles on that surface!

Heck, that's a lot of miles period!
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Old 09-18-08, 07:13 AM
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Add in a sore shoulder and a couple of saddle sores that came to be overnight.. and it's going to be interesting!! I'm looking at right at 150 miles counting the commute to/from the starting location. Uffdah.. at least spinner Saturday is goona look good this week!
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Old 09-18-08, 08:06 AM
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Ah, you will do fine, you've been working up to this for quite some time. Just ride within yourself and spin away.

Hope the tires make it in on time!
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Old 09-20-08, 06:38 PM
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He did it, folks. 135 miles of gravel. He's getting a lift back home, so he's a little disappointed he only rode 135 and not 150. I should have such disappointments. The guy is amazing.

Three cheers for Big Ben!
 
Old 09-20-08, 06:43 PM
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Congrats, Ben! 135 miles is incredible! Way to go!
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Old 09-20-08, 07:52 PM
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I knew you could do it, Ben. Congrats!
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Old 09-20-08, 08:07 PM
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I've ridden on a couple of gravel trails that were fine, pea-sized limestone. They were okay, although it is a little slower than pavement. Good luck on the trip.
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Old 09-20-08, 08:10 PM
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Congratulations, Ben. You are an inspiration to me and I am in awe of your journey.

Keep up the good work!
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Old 09-20-08, 08:12 PM
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Congrats.
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Old 09-20-08, 08:40 PM
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Thanks Everyone! Summary is that is by a long shot not only the most difficult ride I've ever done, but the most difficult day I've ever had. I mistakenly thought my previous glut of mileage on crushed limestone trails, and my commutes, were enough preparation of this ride. They were, to put it mildly, nothing compared to it. Constant rolling - and brutal - hills that may or may not be composed of fresh, deep pea sized gravel. You climb the hill and you aren't just dealing with the brutal incline, you are also dealing with quicksand. My century was nothing compared to this, honestly, I finished 135 in 13 hours, figure 12 hours of riding. Lots of 5-10mph climbs followed by 20mph declines.

I really, honestly, wasn't prepared for the challenge. And I was, as Neil pointed out, disappointed that I didn't hit the 150. Oh well .

My Surly Long Haul Trucker performed outstandingly. With the addition of the 700x38 Schwalbe Marathon Crosses it not only rode beautifully (with them at 80psi!) on terrain that was everything from beaten down gravel to rough dirt roads. The ride was phenomenally smooth. Only mechanical hiccup was that the stock SRAM chain broke around mile 65. I almost SAGed right then and there, but two other riders showed up and helped me to fix the chain by removing two links, and that made it work. Shifting was a tad bit off, but nothing major, it stayed together for the remainder and that's all I could ask for it.

I ran out of water, which was amazingly dumb on my part, considering I had three bottle holders and a pannier. I completely misjudged the water needs from mile 47 to mile 84, which was mostly composed of a road known to local racers as "Hella Road". I think they need to remove the "a', honestly. Those 37 miles took me almost 4 hours, a number I dind't feel so bad about knowing that a group of fast folks were only 30 minutes ahead of me. After that, at the final checkpoint, I filled all three bottles and then bought 4 extra bottles. Between mile 107 and mile 135 I used all seven bottles, no kidding.

Finally, what ended my ride was two and a half hours of brutal cramping in my quads. By the time I got back to Lincoln, and I hit the point where I clocked 135 miles, I was done. Honestly I tried to give up twice before that, at mile 80-ish and at around mile 110. Both times I had changes of heart, and voicemails that helped a bit. The cramps, though, really amazed me. I've never had anything like that on a ride before, they were to the point where any time I'd climb a hill I'd have to stop at the top and succumb to the pain, then roll down and repeat. It was.. demoralizing .

Anyway, I've done it, and that's awesome. Don't know if I'll ever do it again .
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Old 09-20-08, 08:43 PM
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Good job, don't sweat the last 15, you deserved a ride home!
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Old 09-20-08, 09:10 PM
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Outstanding Ben.

I shudder and whimper at the thought of 135 miles on pavement. The thought of rolling on hills on gravel roads makes me want my Mommy!

Bummer on the cramps, they are a serious blow to moral when trying to keep going. It doesn't surprise me at all that you kept going though. I see how you could have thought about abandoning, but I can easily imagine the dialog within when you told yourself, ah he!! no.

I do not know what your favorite beverage is, but I would recommend grabbing a 12 oz glass of said nectar and enjoying it with pride. You've earned it.

Long Haul Trucker, Will Travel.
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Old 09-20-08, 09:43 PM
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Awesome man!!

I can't wait to read a detailed report on your blog, should you get a chance to write one up (?)

Oh, and you'll do it again... Keep on kickin ass, that is!
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Old 09-20-08, 10:20 PM
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Awesome Ben, simply awesome.

Did you EVER, in your wildest dreams, think you would do something like this back when you were 560+lbs? I'm 315 and out of shape so even 13.5 miles downhill sounds like too much. Someday though...

I know you've heard it before but dude, you ARE an inspiration to all of us.

And - you ARE 'The Man'. Nice job indeed.
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Old 09-21-08, 09:44 AM
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Last night I had a New Belgium "Old Cherry" after eating everything in sight.. and promptly passed out at 10pm! It was grand.

Did I ever dream it? Oh heck no. But that's the point, doing something that you would never think you could do by sheer willpower. There is no special pill that can make this happen, only hard work, and believe me it's worth it. The pain, the suffering, it's all worth it.
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Old 09-21-08, 09:45 AM
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Full ride report posted here:

http://www.chubbysuperbiker.com/

I think I need a award for "how many times can I almost give up" . A day later, in retrospect, I should have thrown in the towel after the first 30 minutes of cramps. They really killed my morale.
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Old 09-21-08, 10:02 AM
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[quote=bdinger;7512282]Last night I had a New Belgium "Old Cherry" after eating everything in sight.. and promptly passed out at 10pm! [QUOTE]

I have no idea..... what is a New Begium "Old Cherry"?? Sounds like an some sort of ice cream treat or a wonderful Micro-brew. Whatever it is, you earned it.....

I understand about wanting to throw in the towel. My 1st century (Tour de Cure) was on the Outer Banks of NC with the last 20 miles dead into a 20-25 mph headwind. I understand morale buster....but doesn't that only make the accomplishment that much sweeter? My little "ride in a breeze" was nothing compared to your efforts.

Congrats & Well Done!!!
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Old 09-21-08, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by bdinger View Post
Full ride report posted here:

http://www.chubbysuperbiker.com/

I think I need a award for "how many times can I almost give up" . A day later, in retrospect, I should have thrown in the towel after the first 30 minutes of cramps. They really killed my morale.
I've never had leg cramps on a ride. Afterward, yes, because I haven't drunk enough. I can imagine it does put a damper on things.

BTW, I was very happy to call you and leave those voicemails. You were building this ride up into something excessively important in your mind, so I thought a "Go Ben Go!' voicemail or two was in order.

Your wife, wise woman that she is, hit upon an important rule of any long distance ride - it's just a bunch of short rides. I rode back to back metrics on tour, but I didn't. I rode 2 miles to Paw-Paw, 15 miles to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, 10 miles to Hancock, etc.

Another truth comes from the Clyde Forum's Bard of Cycling Transformation, our "Upstart Crowe" if you will. Tom S. told me the secret to riding a long ride is knowing you can quit at any time. You might be discovering that rule from this ride.

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I enjoyed reading your blog posting.

Neil B.

PS. Please don't think because I rode two days with a fractured rib that anyone should ride if they are in severe pain. One more fall for me could have had very serious consequences, and perhaps could have been fatal, since medical services were so far away.
 

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