Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Gut Check 2012

I have been a very poor blogger, considering what I'm writing about occurred in August.  What will it take for me to be a better blogger?  I'm guessing more exciting biking excursions and, most importantly, the death of the evil empire known as Facebook. At any rate, this is the big news of the past few months in my cycling world.

Have you ever felt that you let somebody down so you could have your own moment in the sun?  In the Gut Check 2007 I completed the Gut Check race across South Dakota in pretty adverse conditions, but in doing so, I left two friends behind at various points: Chris "Snakebite" Pierson and Craig DeVelder.  I was very happy that Chris went on to fulfill his dream of finishing this race the next year.  However, that still left Craig.  After suffering some nerve damage to his hand in his first attempt at completing the race in '07 that never totally corrected, it seemed unlikely that Craig would even attempt it again. I always had that "unfinished business" feeling about Craig not being able to finish.

Enter the magic of the Bacchetta TiAero recumbent bike.  Craig had been on a Cattrike for a couple of years and decided that he wanted to be a little faster again so in his search for a better recumbent, he found a Bacchetta Ti Aero for sale.  That bike looked so cool and was so hard to keep up with on my diamond frame, that I decided that I better get one too! I told Craig to keep an eye out if another came up for sale and within a week, I was in negotiations to purchase one myself.  Purchase I did, and many miles were accumulated and much joy was had!  So much joy was had riding longer distances, that discussion of another attempt at the Gut Check was discussed.

Discussions continued on into the winter when Craig and I both decided that step one in going after this was to lose some weight that we both had put on.  This step proved quite successful for both of us.  Step two was good off season training.  Both Craig and I put in many miles on "the bike to nowhere" over the winter. 

Early on in the spring it was decided that if we were going to do this, that we were going to do so as a team: stay together the whole ride, and go in one vehicle.  My wife Laura nor Craig's wife Liz neither had any excitement about driving, by themselves, at 15-20 mph for 412 miles across the state. Once the decision was made, the training commenced in earnest.  Many 50-75 mile rides, with quite a few century and century-plus rides, dotted our summer of training.

When it came time to actually leave for the Gut Check, it seemed surreal.  We both felt more than ready for the long hours on the bike that awaited us, but that didn't exactly settle either of our nerves.  The other glorious thing was the forecast.  After a summer that frequently was over 90 degrees, with many over 100, the forecast was for milder temps in the low 80's light winds 4-8 mph.  For a couple of guys who put in the miles, trained smart, and now seemingly had Mother Nature on our side, the table was set in our favor.

Our nerves were still pretty high at the starting line, knowing what was ahead of us.  Our plan was to take it easy in the beginning, get our legs warmed up, and then find a comfortable pace to hold. Once we got the official start, the nerves settled pretty quickly.  We did as planned, taking off fairly easy.  Even going out what seemed easy to us, only three or four were ahead of us early.

The weather was as advertised, light winds and temps in the low to mid 80's.  It was decided early on that if all went well, that we would make it to Gettysburg in the middle of the night and catch a couple hours of sleep.  The ladies made the call to secure our reservation as we kept rolling on.

We hit Faith, SD at a little after 6:00pm where we stopped to eat an awesome hamburger that was just what the doctor ordered.  At that point, 114 miles in, we were averaging 20mph and feeling great.  We continued with very few issues to Dupree.  We started planning for night riding with headlamps and taillights as we were hitting dusk now.  By the time we hit Eagle Butte, it was beyond dark.  We knew going in that the moon phase called for no moon, but the reality of how dark that would make it became a reality.  It was scary dark, even with headlamps and the van behind us with the headlights on.

We finally reached the Missouri River sometime after midnight.  The long climb to Gettysburg was all that remained.  After we climbed out of the initial river valley, the lightening we had noticed in the distance brought the inevitable:  rain!  As dry as the summer was in South Dakota, I'm sure everybody but us was excited to see the rain at that moment.  To add a little excitement with the rain in the pitch dark, there was a cat in the middle of the road that seemed hypnotized by our blinking headlights. I tried to shoo it off the road but when it decided to run, it actually moved towards me instead of away from me. This caused me to swerve and on the rain slicked roads, I actually slid sideways, which is extra scary on a recumbent. Somehow I pulled the old race car maneuver and righted the ship without dumping the bike. After that brief bit of excitement, we pedaled through the rain without further issue and made it to Gettysburg around 2:00am (1:00 mountain time).  It was a good thing as we were both ready for an extended break off the bike.  We found the hotel on the other side of Gettysburg, and there, taped to the door of the hotel, was three envelopes, one with our names and keys!  Have to love small town South Dakota!

Craig and I both showered and climbed into bed to get a few quick hours of sleep.  I started shaking after the shower.  Apparently the rain made me colder than I first thought and the warm shower really set off the hypothermia alarms in my body.  It took me a while to settle down, but I did, and we all slept for 4-5 hours. We woke up feeling much better than I think we expected.  There are actually pictures documenting us smiling wide before morning departure.  We had a continental breakfast in the hotel and then hit the road again.

I told Craig that I thought we should try to do the first section to Faulkton (40 miles) without stopping.  We succeeded with that and decided to try to make it to Redfield (another 40 or so miles) in the next stretch.  When we hit Redfield, we stopped to eat at a restaurant again. This time we spent a little more time than we expected but we still, by my calculations, were in good shape to finish before dark. 

Coming into Clark, there is a hill that I simply didn't remember from my first Gut Check.  It was a gradual incline for the better part of five miles.  When we stopped on the other side of Clark, it was apparent that the hill hurt us a little as we rested a little longer than our wives thought we should have and they called us on it.  I told Craig we should probably cut our breaks down a bit if we were going to make it to the Minnesota border before dark.  Craig was trying to convince me that we wouldn't make it, but I explained that the night before it went down a bit earlier because we were in the Mountain Time Zone and that we should be fine.  This fact inspired us to try to get it finished.

There is no denying that we were getting tired.  We kept on rolling targeting a split in distance between Clark and Watertown by stopping in Henry.  Henry's short stop was going to bring us one of the most rejuvenating stops of all.  As we pulled into town, we noticed friendly faces other than our wives!  Our awesome biking friends Karl and Julie Kruger had ridden in Watertown that day and made a special trip out to see us.  It definitely lit a spark in us as it seemed like no time until we made it to Watertown.

We stopped on the other side of Watertown with only 32 miles to go.  A quick discussion ensued and it was decided that we better split this into two sections.  Laura and Liz found a spot about half way to the border of Minnesota and waited for us.  After that stop, it was only a few short miles until the rest of the ride was LITERALLY downhill for us.

We hit the border to find out that we the second people to cross in the solo race in a time of 30 hours and 30 minutes.  This was quite the surprise to us, considering we were just relieved to accomplish our mission that started five years prior.  Craig was now a Gut Check finisher!  Will we do it again?  Craig says no.  For me, I'm definitely not ruling it out.  It's a great challenge that I've grown to enjoy.

A big thank you to all those who followed us via Facebook and lived the adventure vicariously through us. It's amazing the number of people who are considering doing this race now after following our training and hearing our story. Best of luck to all who do! Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank our wives who followed us all the way across the state in the "Bazinga Van"  providing us the perfect advice at the perfect times.  You are both awesome! 


Pedaling for Life said...

Awesome jobs guys. I'm hoping to get it done in 2013.

rigtenzin said...


gad2357 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gad2357 said...

Congrats Craig and Kevin. And, thanks Kevin for the blog post about it---for the Facebookless (or would it be the nonFacebookers? or Facelessbookless? or ...)

added later...
re: the Facebookless
found this at the Urban Dictionary