When was your first Gravel Worlds?
My first Gravel Worlds was in 2015 and it was a failed attempt due to a huge logistical error on my part. I’d only been riding gravel for 8 months at that point and only had one ride over 100 miles on gravel under my belt since I really didn’t ride much gravel before buying my Farley in December 2014.
What was the biggest hurdle/most difficult challenge?
Riding 150 miles, most people would probably guess that the biggest challenge would be your fitness level but it’s not, being strong mentally is what will get you through more so than hammering out 100 mile rides all the time. Fitness isn’t going to get you through the dark places that long distance gravel riding is going to take you to at times, if you can convince your mind that you can keep riding after the body says you can’t the odds of succeeding are much greater. My biggest mistake that led to my not finishing was not paying enough attention to the course and thinking we were stopping in Denton, where I planned to get some food, but the course didn’t actually go into Denton. I still managed to push myself 95 miles through sheer will power, the body started giving up around mile 60 due to lack of nutrition but I just kept telling myself that food was just up ahead so we kept going for as long as I could.
What was your highest Gravel Worlds moment?
Riding a fat bike I’m not the world’s fastest guy, not that there aren’t some super-fast folks out there on fat bikes, so my highest Gravel Worlds moments were finishing the second and third attempts. Not that finishing wasn’t a highlight in itself but the greatest part of finishing was coming across the line to all of my friends who had also rode still there waiting for me to get in; some of them having finished an hour or more before me. None of them had to do that but it was great seeing all those faces at the end.
What is your favorite Gravel Worlds story?
My favorite story or memory from Gravel Worlds is actually the first one that I didn’t finish; it was probably the greatest learning experience of any of the Gravel Worlds that I have done. As I said before, I was cooked at about mile 60 that year (it was the year with the horrible 20-25 mph winds) but I kept pushing on hoping that I could make it to Hickman and the chance for some much needed food. I never did make it to Hickman and lay down in a ditch at mile 95 and made the call to pull the plug but I remember all the folks who passed me and how encouraging they were, all of them asking if I needed anything or offering me their own food. Here is a guy on a fat bike, barely moving at 5-10 mph by that time, ranting and raving out loud about the hills, the wind, the sun, the heat or whatever else that was bothering me at that time and looking like a lunatic I’m sure. Yet all of them took a moment out of their race to see if I needed anything or to offer me food or a mini pep talk. That speaks volumes for the type of family community you’ll find in gravel racing and even though I didn’t take any of their food offers (I knew I was done already and didn’t want to jeopardize their race) the offers were very touching.
How did you feel when you finished?
Relieved more than anything else, a sense of accomplishment sinks in a bit later but at the moment that I crossed the finish line I felt thankful and relieved that I didn’t have to pedal anymore.
In one phrase, what is Gravel Worlds to you?
To me, it’s a blissful struggle. Being out there in the country, on a desolate gravel road brings me tremendous peace and joy but it’s a peace and joy that you have to pay for and earn with every pedal stroke.