Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gravel Grinder or Mud Masher, you pick...

The Gold Rush Gravel Grinder went down this last weekend. And as usual, with it comes tales of glee and tragedy, highs and lows, good and bad. So sit back while I spin a yarn for you.

Let me start out by saying I was pretty stoked for this year's Gold Rush. I had been getting good training rides in (training *gasp* I know, right?) and was feeling like it was going to be a good day for me. The weather forecast looked a bit sketchy with chances of "scattered" rain, but it looked like we'd be OK.  Also, let me tell you that I'm fairly anal about my bike maintenance.  Not quite to the level of Flyin' Brian but better than most.  This will play a part in my tale later.

The plan was the NSS clan going to Spearfish on Friday afternoon, set up the mobile NSS HQ, or a campsite for the rest of the world, and enjoy a weekend of camping with friends while throwing a long ride in the middle. Sounded like a good plan. Mother Nature had a different plan. (I swear I'm getting that bitch some anti-depressants.)

Friday before we headed out, the Black Hills was socked in with a steady, heavy at times, drizzle. I was not thrilled with the lack of accurate forecasting from the weather crew. I wish I could have a job where I was as wrong as much as meteorologists and still keep it. Anyhow, we made the best of it, going to Spearfish, getting registered for the race and set up our mobile HQ. We had a nice evening and meal with friends and got to bed in a slightly lighter drizzle.

I woke up at 3 am because my bladder woke up at 2:45 am. I tried really hard to get it to shut up, but my bladder won out.  Why is it that when you're camping getting up to piss in the middle of the night is a requirement? I rarely get up in the middle of the night when I'm at home.  Anyhow, I stumbled out of the tent to a clouded, but rain free sky. Things were looking good! I scrambled back into my sleeping bag due to my cold wet feet and tried to get back to sleep. After an hour and a half of going in and out of sleep, I got up for good to get my poop in a group and get ready for the 7:00 am start.

I rolled over to te race start for the pre-race meeting at 6:45. After 15 minutes of fist bumping, high and low fives, catching back up with people not seen in a while, and a few bro-hugs thrown in for good measure, Perry "Pedal-Power" Jewett counted down and it was time to roll.

A police escort led us out for the first 3-4 miles and the group rolled at a nice pace up the pavement to where the gravel would mark the beginning of the "race".  We hit the gravel and we were off! Of course the fast guys took off like they were shot from a cannon, but I was rolling in the second group, feeling comfortable.
Tatanka! On the neutral roll out.  (Photo from the
Gold Rush Gravel Grinder FB page.)

Remember the drizzly day I mentioned? Well, the further we rolled on this initial stretch of gravel, the muddier it became. Not sink-in, swampy, big mud, but just enough that it flung all over stuff and coated drivetrain parts like it was some kind of miracle lubricant, but that did the opposite, accelerating wear. Soon my rear derailleur started skipping around and things were NOT sounding happy. I pressed on although it was causing an itch in my brain that I couldn't scratch.  I really hate when my drivetrain isn't doing what it's supposed to do. As we were just descending a small hill, I was shifting a couple gears up to take advantage of the momentum, when things really sounded clattery in the back. I just started touching the brakes so I could slow down and see what was going on when *WHAM*, my rear wheel skidded to an abrupt halt.  I didn't hit the brakes hard so I know it is not good.  I look down to find my rear derailleur in my spokes, on the opposite side of my rear axle from where it should normally sit.  SHEEE-IT! In that split second my day on the bike ended. 

That morning I told my Lovely to make sure her phone was turned on (so she could hear it ring), you know just in case.  After 7 frantic phone calls, she finally answered (in fairness to her, she did not expect to hear from me, especially this early).  I then freed the bottom half of my derailleur from its spokey jail so my wheel could turn and began my walk-of-shame past all the people still riding their bikes. Many well meaning folks asked if I was OK, needed help, or if I wanted their help turning my bike into a singlespeed, further rubbing salt, or in this case, mud into my wound. I can fix just about any trailside mechanical issue.  Hell, I've given random strangers a freaking cleat bolt on the side of the trail for godsakes!  Having a spare derailleur in my "magic tin" is not something I or any sane person does unless you're riding the Tour Divide.  A few minutes after the last rider went by, my Lovely and the Boy showed up to extract me from this situation. 
Umm, I don't really think it's supposed
to look like that...

Making the best of the situation, I had a good afternoon spending time with friends and family waiting for the racers to come in. Jim Meyer was the first 110 miler to finish in just under 7 hours(!) and Chanceller Burleson was the first 70 miler in.  We  hung around, shot the shit with friends, ate great food, had great beer, and won cool prizes. With that said, Perry, Kristi and the whole crew once again did an outstanding job putting on this race, so the day/weekend was not completely lost on a blown derailleur. But, and this a big but, it still doesn't sit well with me. I'm already looking forward to the 3rd running of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. There's a chance I'll have a spare derailleur in my pack. 

1 comment:

  1. Sorry this had to happen to you this year! Sounds like you made the best of it. Always good to see you, your fam. and the Mobile HQ in Spearfish Park. Pedal Power!