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Coast to Coast 100 Gravel Grinder

by Michael Green • July 21, 2019

Ernest Hemingway said 'A man can be destroyed but not defeated.' That summed up my day at the Coast to Coast 100 Gravel Grinder this past weekend.

As a boy Hemingway fished Bear Creek in what is today the Manistee National Forest and if you've read any of his short stories, the wild beauty of this land along with being home to Michigan's most dense black bear population, the organizers found a magnificent location for 100 miles of off road fun and adventure.

Two hundred racers started off at 9am on the shores of Lake Michigan starting with 6 miles of black top until the dirt began. The group strung out as expected and soon 25-30 separated themselves. Freewheeling over some potholes I dropped my chain but with a few moments of effort I easily caught back on. I hid in the middle of the pack enjoying the social aspect of the pace but by mile 25 I needed to pee.....BAD! Knowing I'd regained contact earlier with moderate effort I thought to myself, 'I can do that again' and so I selected a rooty, slow going, sandy two track deep in the woods for my quick pit stop. My timing was absolutely awful for unbeknownst to me was that this was the exact moment that the front few decided to explode the group.

I knew something was up as soon as I started to catch the first few racers. Everyone was strung out riding alone or in pairs, fighting the trail. I passed plenty of folks as I tried to reconnect to the front and after 14 miles of chasing I finally caught the second group on the road. This was the top eight, four others were up the road.

The effort had been more than I had planned and I had been on the rivet for quite some time. Just prior to the first check point at mile 55, I started to feel a twinge in my quads. 'Never mind' I thought, 'I'll rehydrate and sit in for a while' and it will pass. BUT....there was no water at the check point as had been indicated in the race bible, plus I was the only one without support waiting in the parking lot of the country supermarket selected for the mid-race location. Fortunately I had $5 in my pocket so I could line up with the Saturday shoppers and buy a gallon of water to fill my hydration pack and bottle.

It took me six minutes. Not bad in the scheme of things but I'd lost the group I'd buried myself for and my chase started all over again.

It hurt. I started to cramp regularly but I stayed the course and was frankly feeling rather destroyed. Seventy miles of the 100 I rode alone. I never saw a bear but just passed others one by one including some from that second group that I'd contacted earlier.

I finished 14th overall and 2nd Master. My Kona Major Jake and Carver wheels performed flawlessly. I used this event as a prelude to Leadville in August and learned a bunch. I need: to use my Stages power meter better; more fluids; to take extra food, just in case; don't go on a hero run; my sunscreen worked great; and when you're focused at the job at hand, time blows by quickly. In all a great day: I did not get totally defeated yet Lake Michigan was absolutely freezing so my expected post race dip never happened - I was beaten pretty badly on that one!

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