Three days after completing the Gravel Grovel, I'm still mulling over the ride and how it affected me. Riding 62 miles of paved rural roads is all well and good; riding 62 miles of rural gravel roads with steep inclines along with some treacherous mountain biking terrain thrown in is a totally different experience. The roads I normally ride are mostly flat with some small hills here and there. I have cell phone service no matter which direction I might decide to go. During Saturday's ride, in addition to cycling on gravel for upwards of 90% of the ride, I also had no cell phone service whatsoever. I was totally cut off from being able to call for help if it was needed. At one point, right around mile 53, I was exhausted, trying to climb yet another hill, up out of the saddle, my rear tire spinning to the point I knew I was going to go down if I didn't sit, putting weight back on the tire to keep it firmly attached to the ground. My stomach lurched with the effort I was expending, and for a split second, all I wanted to do was break down and cry. The Gravel Grovel was doing a number on my head and my body.
I took a deep breath to calm myself and thought back on my first century ride. I'd felt the same way at the end, when I'd battled through the last 13 miles, 9 of which was in a headwind. Alone and tired, I really, really wanted to stop, but a small voice deep inside my head said, "You're almost there. Don't stop now." I finished that ride, and when I arrived back at the truck, I turned away from Hubby to keep him from seeing me nearly break down in tears from all the overwhelming emotions gripping me. The century I completed after that first one went better, with me never feeling along the way that I wanted to stop. My third century I was even stronger. Those rides, along with my summer ride across the US, have instilled in me a confidence that rises up when I most need it. That small voice I'd heard during my first century wasn't so small on Saturday. When all I wanted to do was give in, that voice, loud and clear, said, "The last six miles are all downhill. Just three more miles. Just three more miles." I leaned down over the handlebars and kept on going. At the six miles to go mark, I saw Hubby standing near the road, snapping pictures as I approached. I knew then I had the ride all but wrapped up.
Since finishing Saturday's ride, my shoulders have been achy, my hips fatigued. The Gravel Grovel may have left its mark on me, but I won the battle. Now I look forward to the next one.