Adventures in Sensory Deprivation – Anti Epic 160

4/5/13 – 4/6/13, 292 miles

I’m on mile #162 of – on paper at least, a 160 mile race. In other words, pretty near to the end of the ordeal. The clock is ticking off hour number 11 on riding these long forgotten gravel roads south of Denver – and when I say, “South“, I mean, a good 60 miles south. Better sounding then, “20 miles North of Colorado Springs“, I guess – because who knows really where Colorado Springs is, relative to anything, except Pikes Peak?

I’m staring down a small, one-lane slot that makes up the overpass below I-25. Bleary-eyed, a little sunburned. My crotch is something akin to being on fire, as my pair of bibs are very well over their guaranteed freshness date, having seen thousands upon thousands of ill-cared for miles in the (only) 9 months I’ve had them: the stitches in extremely important places are now only memories, stripped out like the fillings in my teeth from today’s ride, the only evidence of both being the holes left behind. My bottles are empty – I’ve been eating roadside snow for the better part of 3 hours. Stomach is full of nothing but rocks.

I’ve picked up quite a bit of speed, as the last few miles have been downhill – the last 75 miles before that have been achingly undulating – but the direction has been mostly up – 7,000 feet of, “up?” Much to my chagrin and complete blubbering of basic chart reading. At present, I’m going about 25 mph, racing directly towards this hole in the wall. On the other side, going a little faster, but a little farther off, is a giant, F-250 red pickup truck. We’re both approaching this slot, not wide enough for both of us – barely wide enough for the truck at a reasonable speed! – and one of us is going to have to give way.

Christ“, I think, “I’m playing a game of Chicken with a local in a 3-ton full-cab.“.

Surely, the truck will give way to the bike. A head-on in the center would render the cyclist (ME), dead and the truck – well, a quick sweep of the wipers and I’m just a little bump in the road. “Perhaps like last week” (I imagine the driver thinking out loud) “when that errant alpaca got loose on S. Spring Valley Road – and, well the speed limit is 50 mph and those undulations of the grade can be gradual – but they can also be pretty abrupt! biff. Unfortunate – and worthy of some ‘plainin’, but certainly the fault of the lesser object in the way.

I do my best impression of this sometimes stubborn, vicugna pacos, opening my eyes just a little more than seems normal and careening my neck to center in with the slot.

I do a cost/benefit analysis.

Squeezing my tiny little brakes weighed in grams with the force of forearms cross-trained at the bouldering crags, little nibblets of rear tire tear off and join in the surface texture, joined by the sound of the skitching tires. The truck continues hauling through. I give them a thumbs up as dust kicks up around me. “Good job!“, I yell. The driver neglects to give a second glance.

Welcome to the end of the 2013 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. You have just earned 6th place. Now, go home.

Photo by Ben Welnak

I can only faintly remember why I signed up, but it was imperative that I sign up MONTHS in advance, lest the race roster fills up to dizzying amounts of names. Gravel Grinders seem to be en vogue, maintenent, so what the hell. 160 miles seems a good distance for this little diesel engine that could. My cyclocross season was filled with more costumes and beer handouts at every lap than any real, well: results on the podium. When you don’t have a top-end, a 45 minute race is enough time to simply get warmed up to go about the same speed (maybe a little slower) for, well, all day, and that’s what I’m highly specialized to do: blunder around literally all day on a bike. To test this theory – well, you do these types of races – but oh – just doing 160 miles ain’t enough:

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