A New Gravel Race
Steamboat Springs, Colorado smells amazing. Maybe not the hot sulfur springs themselves, but the hills surrounding the area are packed with sage and fields are dotted with fresh bales of sweet hay. Horses graze in the breeze. This is a ski town, but its roots are in ranching.
On Sunday, August 18th, I lined up with 1,500 cyclists for the inaugural SBT GRVL — a new gravel race in Steamboat, featuring a 37-mile “green” course, a 100-mile “blue” course, and a 140-mile “black” course. I’m not a black-diamond skier, but I opted for 140 because, why work toward something you know you can do?
Practice, Practice, Practice
I’m the kind of person who has to practice something over and over. I’ve always envied folks who show up at a marathon having never run longer than 10 miles, and pull it off out of sheer willpower. I consider myself fairly head-strong, but I cannot pull impressive physical feats out of thin air. I started doing 100+ mile rides a solid 7-months in advance of this race.
After my last long training ride through Rocky Mountain National Park — 103 miles with about as much elevation gain as the race itself — I told my husband, “No part of me was interested in going 37 more miles.” He said, “then don’t.” And that changed my perspective. This was supposed to be fun — a privilege.
Race morning was crisp and clear — 47-degrees and perfect — the long-course began right at 6:30am. I dressed for where the day was headed: 85-degrees and full sun. I wore thin gloves for the first 25-miles, but was otherwise ready for the heat. And the heat came.
By 11am hydration was the name of the game. With aid stations every 20-miles, and volunteers pouring everything from ice water to Gu Roctane to cold Coke, we were absolutely spoiled. There were 3 KOM/QOM timed hill-climbs featuring Popsicle hand-ups and cheering squads. There were mechanics, porta potties, and shade tents galore.
By mile-85, I was having the time of my life. I planned my nutrition right, drank plenty of water, and was ready to keep going. And maybe I was heat-delirious, or just happy to be feeling so good, but the second-half seemed even better than the first. The loop around Oak Creek that started at mile 93, took riders up perfectly packed dirt roads. Views of ranches, the creek, impossibly green hillsides, and mountains in the distance, were just serene. The descent from mile 105 to 109 was my favorite section of the entire race.
There’s nothing like a day-long ride up and down more than 9,000 feet of elevation, to make you super comfortable on dirt and gravel. I can finally say, gravel downhills in the drops is where it’s at.
But, after 9.5 hours in the saddle on a hot day, I was ready for that finish line. We were met with cold soaked towels and race-specific trucker hats. After a much needed shower, I was thrilled to sit down to some street tacos and a cold drink that didn’t involve electrolyte powder. As far as I’m concerned, SBT GRVL can rightfully claim their tagline: the greatest gravel roads on earth.
Hello Blue got me through
Night before: Anxiety Relief, peppermint (40 drops in Sleepytime tea)
During: Chamois Crème (285 mg CBD)
Immediately After: 2x Concentration Pain Relief, peppermint (40 drops)
Morning After: Breakfast smoothie (see recipe) with Full Spectrum, strawberry (40 drops)
1 small banana
4 frozen strawberries
8-10 oz. vanilla soy milk
2 tablespoons peanut butter powder
40 drops Hello Blue Full Spectrum, strawberry
Blend on high for 1 minute