That's a Wrap!
Georgia Gravel Grinduro
Shortly after my last post, Long Course Duathlon Nationals was cancelled. And for a few days, I thought my racing season was over, before it really began - but then a friend mentioned the Georgia Gravel Grinduro in Helen, GA on Halloween.
Perfect! - I could use the event as a carrot to train for and as a final race before getting reset for 2021.
Training was a balance of short hard intervals, and long rides; then a few fun mountain bike rides and gravel adventures with my wife. I was also running a bit more (25-35 miles per week). I put very little pressure on myself and tried to take a low key approach to the race. It was just supposed to be fun, and a good way to challenge myself. Despite the "low-key and fun" approach to training, I was able to put up some of my best ever numbers for 3-minute intervals and set PR's on some long Strava segments. So, I was happy to have good legs heading into the race. I figured Elliott Baring would show up (he beat me at Southern Cross in March) and he'd be ready to race; so I was looking forward to a good thrashing to close out 2020.
The race is a 65ish mile route through and over the mountains of Northeast Georgia. It features about 7000' of elevation gain and tackles some VERY rough "gravel" forest service roads. It was supposed to have three timed KOM segments, but because of Tropical Storm Zeta, the route was modified and would only have two timed segments. The second timed segment included the whole mountain pass (the climb up, over and down Addis Gap). More on that later...
After a couple miles of neutral roll out, I picked up the tempo on the first little riser to get warmed up for the first timed segment of the day.
I went across the first timing matt to start the timed segment in the top 10 and shortly there after, there was an attack and I followed the wheels. But about a minute after that attack, we all came over a hill and saw a big tree across the road. It caught everyone off guard and it was hilarious! So we're basically sprinting toward the tree, thinking as fast as we possibly can, "What's the fastest way over, under, or around this thing?" I went left, hopped off, lifted my bike, jumped over the tree and hopped back on - I was actually the first one past the tree (and I've never ridden a CX race in my life)! The race was on from there. The group whittled down to Elliott Baring, Patton Sims and myself. I think I was the first one to see the "end of segment" sign as we came around a turn. So, I got a jump on the others and came across the line with a narrow lead.
From there, we rode a comfortable, conversational pace all the way to the start of the second timed segment at Wildcat Creek. We were joined by 4-5 others along the way.
We hit the Wildcat Rd gravel and I rode a pretty steady tempo. The bottom half was in good shape. But as we went around the gate at the top, things got ROUGH. I had ridden the Addis Gap section during the TNGA and I knew the top and the descent would be very rough on a gravel bike. The recent rain from Tropical Storm Zeta made gullies in the road, exposing boulders underneath and the winds blew down a number of leaves and trees. I was riding close behind Elliott when we got to a down tree. We both had to portage our bikes over and through the down branches. This is where a branch hit the BOA dials on my shoe, releasing them and nearly taking my shoe off. I had to stop for a few seconds and snug them up. From there, I was chasing Elliott up to Addis Gap, and then down the other side. I had closed the gap to just a few seconds by taking some risks on the very rough, wet-leaf-covered road bed.
I came around a right hander pretty fast (~25 mph) and was diving into a left when my front wheel nailed a big rock. The sudden jarring caused me to lose my grip on my handle bars and I went down hard on my left side. I think my left arm/elbow hit first, followed by my left hip. I rolled once or twice then went flying off the bank into the woods, landing on a downed tree probably 6-8 feet below the road. I was immediately in a lot of pain, primarily from my hip/upper thigh, and I laid there screaming for a few seconds before pulling myself together.
I pulled my arm warmer around the bleeding laceration on my arm, doubling it up to act as a compression bandage and I sat there for a few minutes, hoping someone would come by and help pull me up to the road... No one came. So, after a more few minutes, I was able to slowly crawl up and sit on the edge of the road. A couple riders came around the corner and asked if I was okay - and I was. I told them I was going to try to roll down to the aid station at the bottom of the hill. Fortunately, my mom was at the aid station. And when my fellow riders stopped at the aid station they relayed the message that I had crashed up the road.
I slowly rolled down the road, picked my way through a couple more downed trees, and met my mom on the road.
From there, we went to an urgent care and the urgent care sent us to Northeast Georgia Medical Center Emergency Care. Went spent several hours at the ER. Fortunately, all my x-rays came back negative (no fractures). I ended up with 14 stitches in my arm and 4 in my hip. I want to give a big thanks to my mom for patiently taking care of me...
Sidenote: My wife crashed on the same descent. She finished the race (third female overall) and then went on to urgent care to get stiches in her hip and arm... She's pretty tough.
Four days after the crash and I am very sore. I'm still having trouble walking, but I am optimistic I'll be back on the bike in a couple of weeks.
This is not how I envisioned ending the year, but then 2020 has been anything but normal. I really should not complain because relative to others, I've had a good year.
So I'll take some time to recover. And I'm looking forward to making a push to get back to Powerman Zofingen in May of next year. I'll be back here to write about my goals and preparation.
As always, let me know if there is anything else you'd like for me to blog about...