I gave it a week. I was hoping that by immersing myself back into planning SBT GRVL, riding with friends, and even coaching a 4-day Life Time camp in Boulder that I would glean some insight into my 2021 Unbound Gravel race. The bottom line, it hasn’t worked! 7 days of distraction and reflection and I haven’t settled my disparate thoughts. The thing is, I DIDN’T FINISH THE RACE. I had podium dreams and I was a DNF. Reflecting back on my cycling career, where I had seasons that I raced upwards of 70 days in a year, I cannot remember a time that I didn’t finish (barring broken bones and/or concussions). I pride myself on my grit and determination and yet…I pulled myself out of Unbound Gravel.
What does this mean?!
Seeking outside validation that I made the right decision (!), I meticulously read Chris Carmichael’s article When to Quit a Race with a critical, albeit biased, assessment:
Dangerous or Uncomfortable? Dangerous. The heat was definitely a factor, with temperatures in the low 90s. My heat acclimation leading up to Unbound Gravel was subpar, to say the least. The majority of my rides in Steamboat were in leg and arm warmers. I knew that the chills and goosebumps by mile 70 were a bad sign.
Gear necessary to safely continue? No. I crashed around mile 140 and saw the damage to my wheel as well as bent brake hoods. I lost some skin, which wasn’t a deal-breaker but was certainly uncomfortable. Luckily, I wore PEARL iZUMi Pro Gel gloves that saved my hands!
Adequately hydrated? No. Likely due to the heat, I threw up my gels and water. This is not normal for me and made me nervous about the state of my health.
Risk to others? Probably not. At my slow crawl, it wasn’t difficult to avoid other riders as they passed by me.
Further seeking external reinforcement that pulling out of the race was the right thing to do (!), I reached out to friends and family and embraced their comments…especially those that supported my decision! “Wow Amy, I think you’ve finally matured!” my friend Lucy said to me. “Good. I was hoping you would prioritize your health,” my dad said. “You would have dug a hole that you couldn’t crawl out of for the rest of the summer,” another close friend said.
Despite my (biased!) assessment and gravitation to supportive comments from friends and family, I remain stuck on what this might mean. I’ve decided to take a step back and reflect on the entire week in Emporia. My commitment to eternal optimism remains (see An Unconventional Journey to Unbound Gravel), and I’m going to call the week in Emporia, and the leadup to Unbound Gravel, a success. Hear me out on this one!
Learning from my 2019 race with 7 flats (!), I beefed up my tires to 40mm, reduced my tire pressure to 32psi and didn’t get one puncture. I worked with Shimano for the ideal gearing setup for the race as well as the Pro Discovery Top Tube bag for all of my treats and the Pro saddlebag for my repair kit.
I wore my favorite bibs of all times, PEARL iZUMi Women’s Pro drop tail bibs (they are game changers for nature breaks!). I felt great about my equipment and my kit.
I had the absolute pleasure of staying in the Gufler Mansion (spoiled rotten, I know!) surrounded by friends/colleagues (the Lyman crew), my husband, SBT GRVL partners (e.g. Wahoo, who happen to be the best support crew around!). 10/10 for enjoyment, productivity and an ideal setting leading up to the race.
Seeing the Unbound Gravel team (Kristi, Michelle, Ryan and Kimo) kicking off the gravel event season in style, meeting a handful of the athletes that I coach in person for the first time, catching up with former teammates and racing friends and spending days with the SBT GRVL extended team/family was incredibly fulfilling and gratifying after a year apart.
Final Take Away
In summary, I finished 155 miles of a 206 mile course. For now, I’ve resolved that the result doesn’t mean anything. It was an incredibly challenging day on the bike. My grit and determination are still ever present and my eternal optimism will reel me to the next Unbound Gravel event with enthusiasm.
Until then, I’m grateful to be back at events, surrounded by friends, partners and colleagues and doing what I love!