Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Gravel Fondo lessons learned (so far)

Don't forget: If you love it, lube it !!
One of the purposes of this blog is to store notes to myself for future reference.  If these notes help you then that is great as well.  Just remember this is all about Davo. My profession involves continual reassessment of processes in search of improvement.   I am pretty OCD about making lists before an event and saving those lists for later reference.  Shortly after each event I revisit the list and add comments as to what worked and what did not.

Below in no particular order is a listing of what lessons I have learned from my Gravel Fondo experiences.  I’m not going to say if the lesson was learned because it worked, or if I learned a lesson by not following the advice.

1.     Bring breakfast food so you can be self sufficient on the correct assumption the hotel food is plastic.
2.     Pack a “starting line bag” of the stuff you will put in your pockets and items you will need just before setting off.  My bag includes gel(s), shot bloks, endurolytes, lip balm and drink mixes for interim aid stations.  This bag is in a larger bag that contains my shoes, helmet, gloves, chamois cream and sunglasses – stuff I will put on just before starting.
3.     Use the drop bag option whenever it is offered.

4.     At food stops eat only what you know works for your body.  Often the food that is most appealing fifty miles in is exactly the food you should avoid.  You put all that effort into training.  Don’t sabotage that by eating the wrong stuff.
5.     Have a plan for your food stop.  It isn’t a race, but spending too much time at the food stop costs valuable time, body heat and stiffness.  Eating, filling bottles, dumping wrappers, refilling pockets etc. is a lot to do and giving that some thought beforehand is a good idea.

6.     Unless you are going for the win, keeping your race number in your pocket and pulling it out just before the finish is just fine and doesn’t put holes in your cool jerseys.
7.     No matter what the weather prediction is you should bring way more clothes than you think you need so you are covered just in case.  Just in case happens more than you think and having the right gear in your drawer at home is even worse than not having it at all.
Hot Hottie (properly dressed)
8.     Carry a patch kit just in case.  Just in case happens more than you think.  Peace of mind is worth something as well.
9.     Try and over hydrate the evening before.  For us, that has been on the drive over.  If you don’t have a bottle in your hand you’re probably not drinking enough.  

10.  Start eating ride food before the start.  I was munching on some shot bloks in the parking lot and on the first mile of the ride.   The first thirty minutes of the ride can be intense (paying attention to the wheels in front of you) and thus you forget to eat.  
11.  Have a three pronged recovery food plan.  First, have something to eat as you change out of your kit right after the ride.  Second, figure out a dinner plan assuming a late afternoon finish.  Finally, have something worthwhile to eat on the drive home.  Cheetos and cheeseburgers don’t fit into any of the groups I just listed.

12.  Being old and lacking close up vision is a hindrance.  Not being able to get a good look at a hole in your tire (especially a tubeless tire) is a problem.  I don’t have an answer for this one yet.

Tux before his second birthday.  Check out that muscle definition.....

13.  A good inspection of your equipment the week before the event is a really smart idea.  This includes inspecting your tires, brake pads, cables, bar wrap, shoes and cleats.  I’d even say checking your clothing for tears or missing stitching can’t hurt.  Test rides the day before are better than nothing, but not by much.  Check your gear far enough in advance that you can do something about it if you need to.

14.  Smearing grease on the outside of your bottom bracket to keep grit and/or water out may be messy but it pays dividends in the long run.  If you dare to worry about the extra watts needed to carry the weight of the grease and a sprinkling of grit compare it to the wattage required when that grit gets next to the ball bearings of your BB.

15.  Ride the bike you’re on and not the one at home.  I was on skinny tires (28mm) and should not have bombed down the rocky descent like I was on a mountain bike.  Next time….

16.  I have never regretting taking on additional electrolytes.  A nuun tablet added to a bottle of your favorite drink mix is good as is popping Endurolytes before and during the event.

17.  Buttonhole is still the best stuff ever made for its intended purpose.  I get mine from

18.  Garmin Edge 500’s don’t multitask well.   When I load a course onto my Garmin and then proceed to ride that course the Garmin struggles.  The device will say “Off Course” about a hundred times if there are mountains around which I can live with.  I’ve had the Garmin completely lose the course more than once which can be unnerving.  Most recently it seemed to “miss” some of the ride distance while on the ride.  When I finished my 143km ride my Garmin showed a total distance of 138km.   When it uploaded it showed up as 143km but during the ride when I was expecting the climb to start at km 116 it started at 112 because some of the distance was “missing.”  The possibility of either losing the uploaded course or having inaccurate distance (which invalidates a Cue sheet) can be downright dangerous on one of these rides.   Oh well, better to know than not.

19.  Ride hard, but not too hard and save some matches.  If the pace early on feels hard don’t be afraid to back off right then and there.  When the ride duration is four to eight hours you have plenty of time to pour it on later.  Early on you SHOULD feel like you can go harder.  If you go as hard as you feel you can early on be prepared to be eligible for citizenship in the pain cave.   Your day will be long and miserable.

20.  Be flexible.  Take a lesson from Cyclocross.  You train, you prepare, you get your equipment dialed in then you roll the dice. In a cross race when someone crashes into you one minute into your race your day may well be done.  Goals and objectives are nice but cows on the road, flat tires, freaky weather and a hundred other things can affect your day and you are powerless to alter them.  Make sure your goals can still happen in spite of these surprises.   Goals like, ride with my friend and enjoy the scenery are really good goals. People have died chasing STRAVA goals.  Relax and enjoy the ride.

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