I didn’t go to the start line of the Almanzo yesterday. I’m ok with my decision if I think about it rationally, but the emotional parts of me are angry, frustrated, exhausted, and incredibly sad.
First, let’s talk about the positive things that happened this weekend. Earlier this year, I created the Alexander 380 route this year from scratch. This weekend, multiple people successfully completed the distance! I had fears that no one would finish; the route was too hard, too diabolical, or just plain stupid. Nope! Thanks to all those who showed up and successfully put my creation to life.
This winter, I was honored to be asked to help with Almanzo route planning in its new city, and I gravitated towards planning the 380 right from the start. After the shorter distances were roughly flushed out, I asked the other gents on the planning team if they’d let me handle the Alexander. They said yes!
The route needed to be roughly 380 miles long and I wanted it to head out into the driftless area of southeastern Minnesota. Another goal was to avoid as much pavement as possible while still stringing together a series of towns, grocery stores, reliable gas stations, campsites, and motels.
I spent hours agonizing over that route throughout the winter, making too many re-routes to count and adapting to changes in the event timing. (A shift to a midnight start instead of the previous year’s 5 AM start meant the cadence of my gas station and food stops was all off and required significant changes.)
Sarah Cooper provided wonderful feedback throughout the process. I’ve ridden long rides like this before, created my own stupid-long routes and ridden them, but never created something this epic that I would not ride with the other folks. Sarah, on the other hand, is the race director behind some amazingly tough races like Iowa Wind and Rock and Spotted Horse, two Iowa gravel ultracycling events. If you haven’t heard of them, please check them out and support the amazing things she’s doing for long distance, grass roots gravel racing.
I breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when the first bicycle rider crossed the Alexander finish line, knowing the directions were sufficient to get someone from point A to point B in a rather quick amount of time. It was none other than Seth Wood, a Tour Divide finisher who crushed the route on a single speed. Thank you to Seth and all the other brave folks who set off on the route, whether you finished or not.
Now back to my Almanzo story. I don’t have much to say except that a sudden and severe bought of nerve pain and muscle spasms mid last week took me out of the Almanzo. I was on a work trip, doing everything “right”, and was surprised when I felt the telltale symptoms ramp up. My hip socket felt like it was on fire, and my back muscles were working overtime to support my torso.
I hit my symptoms hard with leftover prescription medications from spine surgery two years ago but couldn’t get things under control enough to dare try the Almanzo. I know I made the right decision, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I’ll make a date with that course as soon as my body’s ready.
And the Little One starts road racing .. !
In other news, the kiddo just started racing for Northstar Development and he’s loving it! He walloped his first time trial, and now the struggle is convincing him that he needs to train if he does indeed want to do well at upcoming races. Wish us luck!