Up until recently I’d never completed a 200 mile bike ride. It’s been on my list for years. Once I finished my first century, ticking off 200 miles seemed like the next logical thing to do (that progression is debatable, but that’s beside the point).
But, for this reason and that reason, it never happened. And in 2020, the year I would have been most likely to give it a go, I got too enamored by Everesting to plan a 200 mile ride. In fact that first Everest, at 155 miles and ~19 hours total, was by far my longest ever ride. And back on March 13, 2021, when I signed up for Rexy, my second longest ride clocked in at 123 miles (from 2016) and I still didn’t own a gravel bike. Rexy was going to be a 208 mile point to point gravel race from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. It was the inaugural year, and they had big plans for a fantastic day. Plus they had early registration for women in an attempt to help equal the field. I was so excited about it, I even convinced Paul to join me. He eventually agreed and registered himself, sending a screenshot of the sign up to our good friend Julia who responded appropriately with:
Her first question was who our support person would be. Every rider needed someone they could call to bail them out during the 30-40mi in between aid stations if they got tired or injured. Since both Paul and I would be riding we didn’t have a support person. Julia immediately volunteered to FLY TO BOULDER to be that person. Because she’s amazing, and also apparently her idea of fun is driving from aid station to aid station supporting two increasingly tired cyclists well into the late hours of the evening. Or maybe she just really wanted an excuse to get to Utah and see Arches National Park 🙃
Regardless, it was settled. So fast forward to October 2021 and we were just a couple weeks away from the big day. I was trying to run a fine balance of recovering from BWR and then ramping back up ahead of Rexy. I figured the 140mile BWR race counted as my long ride, but I did toss in one more big day on tired legs on Oct. 17th when I biked 78 miles and climbed over 9,100 ft on a delightful autumn Sunday. Paul was also getting his miles in, but he was suffering from a bruised and irritated sitz bone. That kept him off the bike a lot more which I know was frustrating.
Aside from the fitness prep, there were other logistical details to consider. We’d be riding in the dark at the start and finish, and we’d have 5 aid stations where Julia could meet us to give us supplies (food, water, tools, etc.). The more things we prepared for, the better off we’d be. One big missing piece of the puzzle was lighting for the evening. We were required to run a red back light for the entire race, and a front light in the morning/evening. I have three back lights that I planned to switch out throughout the day, but my front lights were trickier. I have a perfectly fine Lumina 1200 front light (actually, between Paul and I we have three of them thanks to biking portion of our 2019 Picnic…) but after chatting with folks I realized that one front light in the pitch black desert on gravel would not be ideal. The problem? Twisty roads. Your front light is always pointing front, so when you’re turning you can’t see what you’re turning into until you’re already there (which, obviously, is not ideal). I’ve ridden at night quite a bit but rarely on gravel, so this was a new idea to me. After several days of researching lights and a lot of creative thinking, Paul and I collectively came up with this genius:
Now, I realize this doesn’t look like genius. And that’s because while making it I briefly superglued my helmet to my fingers (and we won’t even mention what happened to Paul when he used the superglue 🤐). HOWEVER, in the end it turned out great. It’s the visor of my helmet (which I usually don’t wear) with a square piece of felt pad super glued onto it. The felt pad helped to create a flatter, smooth surface on the visor. From there, I added velcro to the middle of the felt pad and velcro to the back of an old Black Diamond headlamp. And voila, for the night time I could just add the visor onto my helmet and stick the headlamp on. Cost about $10 total (and a little of my skin). Definitely not as svelte or bright as the real cycling headlamps, but not much heavier and perfectly fine for a couple hours. It also worked because I didn’t have to carry it – Julia would have it for me at the appropriate aid station, so it’s large size wasn’t an issue. Also, it was definitely the best solution when you realize a headlamp is a good idea but you have less than a week until the event and there’s a supply chain shortage…
In other good news, we had learned our other good friend Eric would be coming from Portland to join us all! He’d meet us in Fruita the night before and then help Julia with crew support. After the race we’d all be in Moab for a couple days to spend time together and to go see Arches National Park.
And that essentially brings us to October 27th. Which ALSO happened to be the day before my birthday and the eve of Julia’s arrive to Colorado. My boss has surprised me with the delivery of a most delightful birthday treat:
Which immediately became part of the fueling plan (because carbs! and cookies!). So, with cookies in hand, Paul and I headed to the airport to pick up Julia and the adventure began.