This is Deaner.
My first Gravel Metric was in 2011. I was considerably less experienced in the world of cycling, having really only been “seriously” riding for about a year. Heck, I was less than a year away from having a flat bar road bike on 23c tires. With mirrors. And a rack. And a giant gel seat. And aero bars. I could go on…
But in 2011, I had good friends of mine build me up a “gravel bike”–a Vaya–and I trained for the Metric. My training consisted of riding a lot, and even riding some gravel roads. There was a 2 mile long stretch of gravel that was near my house, and I’d go out and ride it, back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, to “train for gravel.”
On the day of the event, the skies opened up. There were microbursts. There was hail. There was seriously sideways wind. There were drenching downpours. There was flash flooding.
That, my friends, is a road. Not a creek, but a road. There was water over the bottom bracket in some areas.
I remember the crack of the lightning, and I was riding next to Mattias–me on a titanium bike and he on a carbon fiber bike. I remember joking about how I’d draw the lightning because of my metal frame. I remember lightning getting closer, and thinking about how that really wasn’t funny.
I also remember riders taking respite in barns along the way. I remember riders getting invited up onto front porches of area farmers. I remember riders sticking together and helping each other through. I remember getting filthy, and then getting drenched, and then feeling cleansed. I remember riding in conditions I had never ridden in before, doubting whether I would finish, and pushing through to the end. I remember how good finishing felt.
So why do I share this today? Well, the weather forecast is calling for some rain over the next few days. The forecast is also suggesting isolated showers on Sunday. I’ve had a few people email me and express doubt and reservation about riding if it rains. This is my formal response.
Ride the event anyhow.
This is the best course we’ve ever had. This is the best start/finish spot we’ve ever secured. The people volunteering are some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met. This course will challenge you–dry or wet roads. But all you have to do in order to finish is to keep turning over the pedals, quickly or slowly.
If it’s looking wet, throw on a set of wider tires, or ride your bike that’s set up for worse conditions. Take your time and provide extra room on the B-roads. Bring along an extra bottle or two, and some extra calories, in case you end up riding slower than expected. Throw your phone in a sandwich baggie so it doesn’t get wet. But come out and ride–because by riding you become stronger. By doing your best, finishing or not, you become tougher.
Our slogan at Axletree has long been advocacy, events and awesome. You’ll note that “winning” is not a part of our slogan. We’re not really racers at heart. We pull through, and help each other out. We start together and we finish together. We stop when someone has a flat, rather than engaging in an opportunistic attack. That doesn’t mean that we are better or worse than race teams–there is enough gravel for everyone. And there will be people out on the course absolutely killing it (despite the fact that this is not a race). But there will also be people on the course taking their time and enjoying the ride for different reasons. If you have doubt, know that there will be others who have doubt as well–just like I did some five years ago. What I’ve found over the years is that the doubt of wondering if you will finish is far better doubt than the question of what would have happened if you would have ridden.
So come ride. Be awesome. Pull through. Weather the weather.