An Unconventional Journey to Unbound Gravel 2021

April 05, 2021

Nine Weeks out from Unbound Gravel – oh sh**!

As with every Sunday evening, I sit in front of my laptop writing schedules for the athletes that I coach. Building out the weekly plan for one of my athletes, I scroll down to June and see that Unbound Gravel, one of his top priority events, is nine weeks away. As I write the words: “The next seven weeks will be heavy mileage, and we will incorporate intensity into your training. Don’t worry, you’re ready for it – you’ve been building up to this point for months” …it dawns on me, I, too, am racing the Unbound Gravel 200 mile race in nine weeks. However, the difference with my situation is that I have not been building up to this point for months. I am certainly not ready for heavy mileage with intensity. In fact, I’ve barely ridden my bike this year!

Trying not to panic, I log into my Strava account to confirm just how dire my current situation is:

  • Total 2018 mileage Jan – March 15: 1845 miles
  • Total 2019 mileage Jan – March 15: 1968 miles
  • Total 2020 mileage Jan – March 15: 2013 miles
  • Total 2021 mileage Jan – March 15: 521 miles

Oh, dear!

Amy Charity racing in the 2019 DK200
Diggin deep through the Flint Hills.
Amy in a paceline in the midst of the dust of DK200 in 2019.
It’s hammer time in the middle of a long race.

I’m not a math major, but by my calculations, I’ve done approximately 25% of what I need to do to prepare for this beast of a race. Unbound Gravel is no joke. It requires respect and preparation. By beast of a race, I am referring to the type of race where you have an out-of-body experience. I’m referring to a race that starts with an intense pace that takes me back to criterium racing days…for the first 30 miles. After the lead groups are formed, it feels more like a road race, where you and your group hammer away for the next 120+ miles trying to keep the pressure on the pedals and the pace high. For the final 50 miles, Unbound begins to feel like a time trial. I’m either alone or with one or two others and starting to come unglued and have disconnected thoughts as I attempt to keep my wits about me during the 12th hour on the bike.

Bottom line, I do not feel prepared physically or mentally for this massive physical undertaking. Not to mention I’m still piecing together the bike that I will ride for the event! That said, I will be racing the Unbound Gravel in *gulp* 60-ish days.

Amy laying on the ground with her feet up on a chair after the race in 2019.
Hopefully, this is as rough as I’ll feel after the race this year…

I would be remiss not to reflect on how it is that I find myself in this situation. I feel confident that I am speaking on behalf of…well, just about everyone in the world (!) when I say that the past 12 months have been unique. In my case, they have been filled with complex and heart-wrenching challenges coupled with silver linings that remind me of why I’m an eternal optimist.

Without belaboring the details, the lows were significant and traumatic. They included the death of a friend and business partner, getting a fairly severe case of COVID where I found myself in the ER with pneumonia and having to accept the loss of a very cherished friendship.

The highs included purchasing SBT GRVL and having the opportunity to work with an incredible team. Adventuring deep into the backcountry on foot and skis with some of the best friends I’ve ever had. And feeling more connected to my husband than ever before.

In this complex, challenging, unique 12-month period, I find myself in a situation where I am under no uncertain terms, underprepared for an event whose outcome matters to me. However, the past year has been tumultuous and just plain weird for all of us. If we have learned anything, it is that we are resilient and we adapt to new situations.

So, to my fellow eternal optimists, please join me in finding another silver lining and taking on a challenge that you may feel inadequately prepared for.

Join me on this journey to Unbound Gravel!

Amy with fellow competitor Yuri Hauswald
All smiles after the race.

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