So June 29th was the second installment of Odin's Revenge, and after my DNF primarily due to the oppressive heat last year, I was determined to make another go of it this year, hopefully with more cooperative weather. I sent my postcard in on Valentine's Day, and was added to the list of riders for year two.
I would have two big endurance tests to gauge my ability before this ride, Bonk Hard Racing's The Ogre in mid April and Dirty Kanza 200 the first of June. The Ogre started off pretty well, but the Ozark hills kept wearing me down more and more until I got to the point that I barely made the last pit stop before the cut-off time and then was only an official finisher due to some generous timekeeping by the race officials. Dirty Kanza didn't have The Ogre's hills, but it did have 20+ mph winds that were working against me for a good 40 - 50 miles between miles 50 and 123 where I decided I'd had enough and called it a day. That sent me into a bit of a depression for a couple weeks where I contemplated not even bothering with going out to Nebraska. Then as the 10 day forecast came into view, the week prior to the event was supposed to be in the mid to upper 90's and it was questionable whether or not it would cool off by the weekend. I about pulled the plug when I saw 95° for race day at one point, but thankfully that was a one day blip and by Thursday when I headed out, upper 80's were being forecast. At least I wouldn't be able to blame the weather for any woes.
Since my friend in Topeka is in the process of moving, I didn't want to intrude on her for a free room Thursday night, so I drove to my teammate Aaron's house in Jefferson City to shorten the drive on Friday at least a little bit. The prerace meeting was scheduled for 7:00 that night, and I would be pushing it to get make the drive all the way out there in one day and still have a little time to relax before I went to bed. Okay, if I took the interstate all the way to Gothenburg, it wouldn't be a problem, but when I'm driving solo, I like to take some of the back roads and do a little exploring in the process. I think it helps me stay awake too. Interstates can be extremely monotonous.
However, after getting out of Aaron's house about a half hour later than intended, a stop in Kansas City to get a new hydration pack bladder (mine was starting to grow mold after DK - oops), then searching a few tiny towns in northeastern Kansas for a gas station after forgetting to fill up in Atchison (I was on the phone discussing the possibility of a whirlwind Denver trip after the race - oops again), it was 7:00 on the dot when I pulled into Gothenburg. I didn't even have time to check into my room at the Comfort Suites before the meeting. However, when I got to the KOA Campground, I was not the only one running late, and they waited until about 7:30 before getting started. After some thank you's, introductions, and the presentation of a bottle of alcohol to Guitar Ted, who made the trek from eastern Iowa to partake in the festivities, they started drawing names to hand out lots of SWAG that was gifted for the riders. My name was drawn fairly quickly, and I scored a Twin Six water bottle stuffed with a pair of socks and a $20 gift certificate. Cool stuff!
After the meeting, I made my way over to the motel, then went downtown to the grocery store for some fuel for the next day. At that point I wanted to get some dinner, so I got a pizza from the Pizza Hut next to the motel and took it back to my room while I made my final preparations. As I do more of these endurance events, I'm getting more dialed into just what I need to bring with me, and I don't stress nearly as much before each one of them.
I was still up until at least 10 or 11 though, and my 4:30 alarm came pretty quickly the next morning. I kitted up, double checked my gear, and went down to the lobby to see if they had anything for breakfast. My memory is starting to fade, but it seems like they didn't have as much ready for us as they did last year when I got down there around 5:00. No matter, I mostly just wanted some of the apple juice they had, and then I went back to get my bike to throw it on the car and head across the interstate to the campground.
When I got there, I did my last minute bike adjustments (mostly air in the tires and lube on the chain) and waited around for the start. Right at 6:00, Chad hopped into his truck, and led us on a rollout to the south of town.
I have a history of having things happen to me early on in these races or group rides that drops me to the back of the pack early - last year I had to stop to adjust my light or something right after we hit the gravel, I dropped my chain in the first mile at The Ogre, I had something come out of a pocket or bag early on at the Joe Dirt ride a couple years ago - so I was enjoying being in the front half of group on the roll out. I knew I had no hope of keeping up with them once we headed into the hills, but it was fun to be up there for a mile or two at the start. Sure enough, they were dropping me even before we got out of the Platte River flood plain. As we started heading up Wiggins Canyon Road into the hills though, I started to get a little worried about my fitness levels. This gradual 2-3% slope seemed to be tougher than I'd remembered from last year, and I was struggling to keep up with some people that I was definitely faster than last year as well.
The one thing I did have this year that I didn't have last year is my Garmin Edge 500, so this year I have the benefit of being able to go back and look at my ride data, and I was holding a 15 mph average through the first 10 miles, despite climbing nearly 300 feet during that time. Of course, that's only 30 feet/mile, and that kind of climbing is a cakewalk compared to what I normally have to climb around my house when I go out for a ride. The chill in the air was the other thing I remember from this early stretch. When we got into the canyon valleys out of the flood plain, the temperature was only in the low 50's and the perspiration from the climb was making me really chilly on a couple of the early downhills.
Just as I was getting into a groove on Wiggins Canyon, we came up to the first real turn we had to be watching for, and after 6 miles of mindless riding, a lot of riders missed the turn. Fortunately, someone nearby me called it out and I was able to make the quick turn onto Medicine Rd, which greeted me with a nice little climb from a near stop since I had to slow down so much to make the turn. That close call woke me up a bit and I started staying more in tune with my cue sheet to be aware of the turns. It helped that the next 10 miles were a nice series of left and rights as we followed the edge of a grid pattern of farm roads as the flatter arable land butted up against the more rugged canyonlands we would be spending much of the day descending into and climbing out of.
|Just a cool looking abandon house early in the ride|
|Almost to Checkpoint 1|
I'd remembered the stretch leaving the checkpoint being a grind last year, and while an 8 mile stretch on one road is nice because you don't have to worry about missing any turns for a while, it can also be one of those stretches where if you aren't careful, your mind will start playing games with you because there's not much to keep it occupied for a while. Sure enough, those 8 miles were just as painful as the year before because not only are you climbing 200 feet during those 8 miles, the wind was blowing out of the north giving us a nice little headwind to fight. Even though the turn off of Cut Creek Road meant a quick descent and immediate climb back up to the next ridge, I was glad to be off of that road. Plus, after I turned onto Effenbeck, it was a nice easy 4 or 5 miles to the infamous Government Pocket, or Government Contract, as I kept mistakenly calling it before and after the ride.
During this point, I had the honor of riding with Guitar Ted, who had caught up with me on Cut Creek after leaving the checkpoint, and I then was using him to pace myself and make sure I didn't fall back too much on the grind of that road. We didn't chat a lot, as I'm not always the greatest conversationalist, and as it turns out, he was starting to fall into his own pain cave during this stretch. He pulled off to take a break when we turned onto Government Pocket, and that was the last I saw of him until we got to the next checkpoint.
Last year, I remembered Government Pocket as this loose, sandy, chalky, mess of a road that I had to walk a large portion of because I couldn't get any traction on it. Thankfully, this year it was packed down, and while it was bumpy, at least it was rideable, and I only had to hop off the bike for one gnarly climb. Unfortunately, we didn't get the surprise water stop after the descent we got last year, but with temperatures in the 70's or 80's rather than the 90's, it definitely would've been unnecessary this time, as Checkpoint 2 was only 10 miles away. Still in good spirits, I pulled into the checkpoint about noon. The volunteers manning the checkpoint commented about how much better I (and everyone else) looked this year than last, and that they were still seeing smiles on most people's faces. I didn't have a drop bag, having opted to carry everything in a backpack, but I grabbed a bite to eat and relaxed for a few minutes. To be honest, even though I was still feeling good at this point, I was not looking forward to the next 10 miles or so. There was going to be the monotony of having 8 or 9 miles with no turns, and I seemed to remember a couple hills that were not fun from the previous year.
Just before 3:00, I headed out to tackle the north leg. I had been riding with a fellow from the KC area for most of the stretch after the second checkpoint, and I was planning on riding back out with him, but I didn't see him around race HQ and I thought that I had missed him, so I went out solo. I got through town just fine, but as soon as the houses gave way to farm fields and the pavement went to gravel, my speed started going south, and there was 8 or 9 miles due north right into the wind as we left town. On this stretch, I did get to see the race leaders come by me on their way back into town, but I was stopping to take a break every half mile for a while here. Finally, after one last mile with a kick you while your down climb, the route turned to the east and I got a too-short break from the wind before the route headed north again. After a couple more miles into the wind, I just stopped and chilled out under a tree for probably 5 or 10 minutes until I saw someone coming towards me. It turned out to be the guy I'd been riding with earlier, so we teamed up again to work against the wind. Thankfully, just a few miles down the road, we came to one of the water stops they had set up for us on the north leg. My supply was actually okay at this point, but the almost park-like yard they had set up was super inviting, and the two of us chilled out for probably 20 minutes or so here.
|Hills on the north leg.|
Once we headed out, I noticed those northbound stretches weren't as tough as before. Unlike at Dirty Kanza, where the wind seemed to blow all evening, now that we were going to have a tailwind, it was calming down. GRRR! Oh well, at least it didn't shift direction on us or something heinous like that. Once we turned south, we started making pretty good time until we came to this one MMR that was like a giant sandbox. Not the greatest bike handler, this brought me to a dead stop, and the guy I was riding with pulled ahead of me. I figured that would be the last I saw of him. Eventually though, the dirt firmed up a bit and I was able to ride again as the road dipped into what I thought was the most scenic part of the north loop, another road through a small canyon.
Of course, what goes down must come up, and climbing back out of that canyon was pretty tough, but once I was out, I was pretty much back into the Platte River
Now, with the sun getting lower in the sky, the temperatures cooling down, and Gothenburg starting to appear on the horizon, my adrenaline was kicking up, and I started to just put my head down and pedal as much as I could to get back to town. My main goal was to beat darkness now. I had a light on me, but I didn't really want to fiddle with it and put it on.
The race is slated for June 28, 2014, and if they follow tradition, registration opens February 14th. As of right now, I'm planning on sending my postcard in that day for next year. Word is there might be a completely new course. I'm excited to see what they come up with.