I went to Nebraska yesterday for a leisurely day of cycling in the rolling hills around Prague, an area affectionately know as the Bohemian Alps.
I mean, it’s Nebraska. How hard could it be?
Pretty hard, as it turned out. Without a doubt the toughest 100 miles I’ve ever cycled. SWIGG might have been tougher per mile, but I only went 55 there. Yesterday, I did the whole enchilada…100-point-zero (Sto Mil) miles. Here’s what I learned along the way.
Finishing on Gravel is a Very Big Deal
We’ll see how the results shake out, but I suspect close to half the field DNFed yesterday. It was hot and muggy. That’s not good with all the hills. At SWIGG last month, it was 28 finishers vs. 19 DNFs.
Trying to compare gravel to road cycling is a fool’s errand. They are night and day different. The heat certainly factored in, but the two courses I’ve raced on were both torture fests. Crest a hill and you’d see the next three just waiting for you. Flat stretches are few and far between. The Garmin says I climbed well over 7,000 feet yesterday. You have to be mentally tough to deal with that when your body is screaming at you to quit. If you want to test yourself, gravel will let you know what you’re made of in a way that pavement never will.
Gravel People Rock
I learned this at SWIGG, too, but reinforcement of important messages is always good. Here’s the thing. Those who have done this before know how tough it is and that we’re all going to have days when we’re just not feeling it. There’s a lot of concern on the course for other riders. For most of the day, you’re out there all alone. The few people who passed me invariably asked if I was doing okay. I did the same with the few people I passed. I ran into one guy who was struggling with the heat and so I hung with him until the next checkpoint. He would have done the same for me. It’s pretty special in this day and age to have competitors treat each other with concern and respect like this.
Grassroots is The Last Vestige of Pureness In Sport
I was a runner in high school and one night a week a bunch of us would get together to race over some lightly traveled rural roads on the far end of the metro area where I grew up. Of all my running experiences, I remember those road races as being the most fun. There were no prizes, no entry fees, no tee shirts, no anything…just a bunch of people who loved the sport going at it head to head.
Grassroots gravel is like that. I love the down-to-earth vibe, the small towns, the kindness of the organizers, the personal touches. In a world that’s all about monetizing everything, there’s something very pure about grassroots. It reminds me of a simpler and in many ways better time.
Bohemian Sto Mil was an amazing experience. I got a finisher’s patch. I wasn’t expecting it, but I will treasure it because I know what I had to give to get it. I would like to personally thank Gina Kovanda, Russell Parde and Ryan “Rhino” Albertson for all the hard work they put into Bohemian Sto Mil. I’d also like to thank the people who staffed the aid stations at mile 47, 71 and 85. The beer was awesome. Homebrew…so perfect in so many ways! (Note: I didn’t have the beer until after I finished!). So were the pickles, deviled eggs and that ice cold Coca-Cola at mile 85. I would be remiss if I forgot to thank Vince and Jessica at Ponderosa Cyclery + Tour in Omaha for suggesting that I give Bohemian Sto Mil a go. I did and I’m glad I did, sore legs and all. It was a day I won’t soon forget!