Because I’m still relatively new to gravel, every race is an opportunity to learn. I learned a lot from riding Bohemian Sto Mil in Nebraska a few weeks ago. Mostly, I learned about pickles and how important they are to gravel success.
I had no idea. Everyone I met at SAG 1 and SAG 2 was eating pickles. I didn’t pay it any mind. For one thing, I was tired. For another, they were also drinking beer and so I thought it was all just a joke.
The joke was on me. I needed nourishment badly and I never would have known except that there was a third SAG at mile 85 that wasn’t supposed to be there. It was like a mirage in the desert. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I knew I was going to stop and I knew I was going to chow down. I wasn’t hungry in the traditional sense. It was more along the lines of a subconscious need for food. My body knew it was starving. I had a deviled egg and a can of Coca-Cola. I also had a pickle. It was sooooooooooooo good.
And after I ate, a funny thing happened. I got right back on pace without really even trying. Turns out I made a rookie mistake. It wasn’t so much the heat or the hills that hurt me as it was a lack of nourishment. I let my glycogen stores deplete. It has been a long time since I did this. I feel a little silly. Like I said, I’m still new at this. Lesson learned.
Turns out that pickles are a real thing in gravel racing. There’s some disagreement on whether it’s the brine or the cucumber that does the trick, but everyone agrees that pickles magically make leg cramps go away. They taste awfully good, too.
In an odd twist, Jan and I planted a garden earlier this summer. It’s our first in several years. The cucumbers are prolific. Jan is putting them up and they are delicious…far better than the best ones you can find at the grocery. I had no idea when we planted them that they were soul food for gravel racers. Just more proof that we live in an ordered universe.
So now that I know, I’ll be eating early and often at Steamboat. I hope they have pickles. If they don’t, I guess I’ll have to confine my gravel exploits to Nebraska and western Iowa going forward.