Almanzo 100 Debriefing
Sadly my attempt at the Almanzo this year ended in abandonment and failure. While there were many factors in my exiting the race midway through, though I'm loathe to admit it, there is only one root cause: I simply wasn't tough enough to finish it.
Big shout out to all the racers, all the finishers, and especially Chris Skogen who once again organized the hell out of it.
At registration each rider was given one of these beautiful envelopes with their name on it.
One of the hallmarks of this free event is the quality of design and materials that Chris puts out. Simply several steps ahead of any other race, free or otherwise. Included was a sponsor handbill, cue sheets, invitation to the gentlemans ride and a postcard.
This is what my bike ended up looking like before the race
I mounted some file tread Vittoria 32's in the frame, which fit perfectly with plenty of mud clearance. Due to the sloppy weather and peanut butter gravel I was glad I had opted for some tread. Throughout the race my bike rode and worked perfectly. The Mr. Pink was the right tool for the job.
As the race started it was lightly raining and windy, I opted to wear some high socks, shoes with no covers, a non waterproof windshell, bibs, lycra short sleeve jersey, and my cutoff Dickies. My dress choices would prove to be terrible as the race got underway.
Within the first gravel miles my glasses were rendered useless by the ceaseless spray of fenderless riders in front of me, leading to taking them off and dealing with the constant assault of mud and rain into the eyes. It sucked, but at least you could see. I was in the third tier pack and we were making decent time but the rain kept on coming.
Soon though, my Dickies were soaked and caked in mud and were becoming a rapid hindrance as the wet material rubbed my knees raw. I stopped and took them off which made pedaling better but my exposed knees were quickly bright red and freezing. My jacket soaked through and stuck tight to my arms, and I rapidly began tiring out. With every pedal stroke bubbles were forced up from my water logged shoes and gathered around the tongue.
Around 30 miles in, I took my first pee brake and as soon as I stepped off the bike I realized I was acting punch drunk and wobbly. A sure bad sign. I remounted and a while down the road started to shiver uncontrolably and lose use of my hands. By the time the town of Preston came into view at 38 miles, I was completely demoralized and spent. I had made decent time in the race up to that point but was simply unprepared to continue. I was beat and knew it.
At Preston I waited around for a while and was soon joined by a host of other MPLS kids who were also retiring. We then rode the 15 miles on road back to the start and to our cars. The soft gravel, the 40 degree weather, the driving wind and rain had all beaten me. I was unprepared and soft, but I made it back safely and for that I am thankful. It was a bad scene out there and I was a mess.
To the riders who sucked it up and soldiered on, you have my admiration, everybody suffered like a dog and even the top guys finished crushed. I've already heard several stories of equipment failures, losing use of one hand and having to shift with the opposite, and hypothermia. It was, as the Almanzo is supposed to be, a true test of one's own abilities to endure and persevere. Bravo to the folks who finished it.
Even doing what I did, I was still more tired than the previous year when I rode the whole thing single speed. While it wasn't a ton of fun in the act, I had a good hard ride on the bike in shit weather and am super stoked on the experience. Can't wait for next year.