|Photo by Jessica Lee/Spinistry|
The road to happiness isn't always paved. In the case of the 2013 Red River Riot, only the beginning and a few stretches of the 50K, 100K and 200K courses were paved. The majority of the roads were dirty, muddy, slippery, challenging and fun gravel.
|Straight-up posin' for y'all.|
All kidding aside, there's much more in Muenster, actually. It turns out, there are the necessary gravel roads and significant hills for another Spinistry event — the Red River Riot. If you didn't read about Spinistry or gravel grinding in my Texas Chainring Massacre recap, here's the gist: Spinistry puts on kick-ass, tough races in farflung communities for mountain bike and cyclocross riders. The races are laid-back and an absolute blast. I intend to race as many as I can.
|That's one clean bike. Not for long.|
I signed up for the 200K (route actually equalled 130 miles). I figured it could take me 10 hours to complete, depending on the terrain and weather. It would be a perfect training ride for 24 Hours in the Canyon and a good test of my recently purchased Orbea.
I started the race spinning fairly easily, not succumbing to the excitement of the race and overexerting myself early. The 29er sure does pedal smoothly — much more bang for your effort buck than my old 26-inch-wheeled MTB (my review of the rig coming soon). Still, I wasn't hauling much ass. I happily allowed the cyclocross riders and quick-paced MTBers to roll right past me. As wet as the roads were, they didn't kick up much mud. That's not to say it wasn't messy; it sure was. It took a few miles to get a feel for the way my bike handled on the terrain — getting comfortable with the way the rear tire would drift, following well-worn tracks and picking lines that would offer the smoothest ride. You can't ride these roads with your brain completely shut off. You have to be engaged. And it's a blast. Riding them on a bike is one thing, but I couldn't imagine the fun of driving on them. I figure tooling around in a 4X4 is good sport and cheap entertainment around Muenster — as evidenced by the varieties of light-domestic empties lining the sides of the roads.
|All smiles on the flat sections!|
Need more incentive for paying attention and not mugging for an effin' picture: Apparently the locals can be troublesome during these kinds of events — either removing those orange arrows or turning them in opposite directions. Utilizing GPS is a good idea, as race director/Spinistry founder Kevin Lee advises. I had printouts of the route and the map on Google Earth just to be safe. Fortunately, I didn't need either. Thanks, Locals for not jackin' with the signs!
So, yeah, those hills. There were a few of those bastards. Dry gravel would have been challenging, but doable. A little bit of precipitation made them damn tough. I resorted to walking the last large climb when I realized spinning my granny gear was wasting more energy than pushing a bike would.
It's hard to tell from the picture, but that's a 17 percent grade (better evidence in subsequent shot). It kicked my ass.
Throughout the race, I went back and forth in my head — "Will I do the full 200K, or will I call it a day at 100K?" Thinking about friends who have accomplished bigger, badder and tougher races kept me motivated at times. Then I would lose focus and daydream about being done. And then a well-timed Lara bar would revive my spirits ... and then dropping it in the gravel after a single bite would deflate me. (I almost stopped to pick it up. No lie. I wanted it soooo bad.)
Ain't that a sight! Well worth walking, too!
Sitting in the parking lot near Muenster High School, I watched other racers load up their gear and clean up before heading back to their homes for the day. All of that was very appealing to me, more so than completing the day's challenge, I'm afraid to say. In the moment, it was the right choice — I enjoyed the ride, felt strong and wanted to end the day that way. Finishing the 200K probably would have felt great. An accomplishment. But I pondered if finishing might be more punishment than training. We will never know. I'll live with it ... until next year, when I will finish the whole damn thing.