by Sarah Cooper, Long Course Triathlete and Ultracyclist
Another crazy gravel road adventure is in the books, and somehow I managed to survive a really tough day and come out on top as the overall winner at Odin’s Revenge. I had heard nothing but positive things about this small event in Gothenburg, Nebraska and was really looking forward to an epic challenge. It ended up completely exceeding my expectations on all levels, and became a good lesson in persistence and determination.
This year’s course was 170 or so miles of dirt and gravel roads. It’s a free event, and mostly self supported except water is available at points approximately 50 miles apart. The course winds through the countryside and is fairly remote.
Rain soaked the roads during the overnight hours which promised to turn the course into mud. Race day weather was predicted to be sunny and 80s. Chad Quigley, the race director, promised that things would dry out at some point. I’d not had the opportunity to race or even ride in much mud, so I knew that this could be a long day of learning things the hard way. The course was predicted to be tough in good conditions, and miles of mud was going to be a pretty extreme challenge.
I lined up in front, and decided I would try to hang out with the lead men as long as possible. I didn’t see any other women, although I thought a few others had signed up? We rolled out behind Chad’s truck for the section on pavement, then Matt Gersib and a few other guys pulled off in front as soon as we made the first left onto gravel. It was indeed squishy, wet, and thick. I ate a lot of dirt in the first few miles, and I made one pathetic attempt to pull and not be a barnacle on Matt’s wheel. I ended up apologizing and dropping back behind him because clearly I had no idea how to pick a good line in mushy gravel. Matt was cool about it, and we had the opportunity to talk for a few minutes. He told me that there weren’t going to be many finishers that day, and that persistence would pay off. Sounded like words of wisdom to me. I felt pretty good, but noticed that my heart rate was climbing into the 170s. That’s not really a zone I wanted to be in given the long, hard day ahead, so I dropped off behind the guys after 10 miles. I was having shifting difficulties already, which was very worrisome, so I just let them go. That was pretty disappointing, but definitely the right decision.
It was definitely the right decision. You should visit Sarah's blog for the full story, which includes bike-eating ruts, Hapkido, all natural Lemons + Limes + Dirt hydration mix, cattle herding, and some really smart racing. If you can't wait to see how it ends, keep reading below (but then you simply must go read the full story).
After turning on to pavement with just a short stretch to the finish, I finally took a minute to look down the road behind me and saw no men in sight. The finish was pretty cool. Just a handful of people clapping and taking pictures, but totally awesome. Winning is always fun, and being first overall was just great, but I really had to pause for a second and take in what I had just accomplished. I signed up for an adventure, but that was a bit more I expected! What a really challenging and difficult day!
Chad told me that I am the first woman to ever win overall at a gravel event. All I can say is that I’ve been working pretty hard at this for the last several years, and I have the support of my family and many really awesome people that made that possible.
Thanks so much to Chad and Merrie Quigley, Matt Bergen, and all of the volunteers who put so much work into this event. Thank you Chad for answering my pre-race questions and for putting together such a stellar course. Challenging all the way through, and a grand adventure!
Thank you Liz Bryant for coming along to support me on my adventure, waiting for hours for me at checkpoint three despite the rattlesnake, for feeding Dan and me after the event, and for chauffeuring my sorry carcass home the morning after. You are the best!
Thank you Mike Wilson for everything you’ve done for me this year. Yeah, I’d say it’s all coming together pretty well :)
Kyle Robinson, Bret Whitaker, and Darrick Watson at Kyle’s Bikes, thank you for keeping my ride in good shape. This event was really hard on my bike, but I made it through some rough conditions with only minor mechanical difficulty. Thank you so much for spending that extra time checking things over on race week, even though it completely freaks me out when you start taking my bike apart, piece by piece. I couldn’t do this without your support.
Complete results from Odin's Revenge can be found on the Odin's Revenge Facebook page.