Welp, lots of events got cancelled in 2020, and for whatever reason you can bet they all fell under the great viral umbrella of covid. Dirty Kanza is one such event. It has since recovered, but not unchanged. Now, renamed Unbound Gravel, I personally wonder if this is the same event I fell in love with attempting, or is this switch to a less offensive title simply the tip of a politically correct iceberg? I guess not. Things in Emporia seem to have went as usual during the 2021 edition. Best I can tell from a distance, anyways. I’m not going to rehash the whole falling-apart of this yet another victim of wokeness. That debacle can all be enjoyed at your convenience with a quick google search. Nope, I simply aim to hold myself accountable for the unattained goals set forth in my previous Get’n Gritty post. Sooooo, here goes.
Not attending in 2020, and not dragging myself through the gravel laden fires of cycling hell to train, can easily be attributed to Kanza getting covided. (Yes, in my world, covided is a verb). So, what happened in 2021? Well, uh, errrr, I discovered that gravel cycling is HARD! No longer cruising that silk-like hardtop, smoothly churning the pedals, and slipping along at a predictable, safe and relatively obstacle-free pace, I found that I was woefully underdeveloped, both in physical ability, and skill set. Nothing a few months or more and countless hours spent grinding down every gravel road on my radar and some not-so-much wouldn’t fix, right? Right? Hmmmm…
Ok, After a few months of bouncing along washboards created by under skilled, obviously impatient road grater operators, and dodging everything from secret entrances to alternate dimensions that inevitably seem to open up just over the top of ancient, long- forgotten culverts, to wild hogs that are undoubtedly launched from invisible cannons created and installed by some sadistic agent of chaos and twisted humor, all for the express purpose of ending either my dreams of completing a 200 mile epic gravel adventure, or perhaps just me in general, a somewhat less inspired, perhaps gone-softer me began to emerge. My focus shifted back to road cycling while I reevaluated my decision to tackle Dirty Ka… I mean Unbound. I must admit, even now, I wonder if i have what it takes to even survive the training.
So, how do I like it now? After a year of thinking it over I may be close to a concrete conclusion. At 57, its becoming clear that the fear of injury is growing despite my will to push myself at all costs. These days, I’m only willing to push myself physically at most costs. In other words, I no longer bounce so much as splat, and because of this one immutable fact i am forced to adjust my expectations of myself to better match my current abilities. This isn’t to say that I’ve put the brakes on the whole gravel show in Emporia. I’ve only downshifted my goals from the big ring. Yep, thats right, no Sur La Plaque for me in gravel bike achievement land.
I haven’t decided for certain yet if I’m entering the lottery for 2022, but if I do it will be in the interest of a paltry 100 mile effort, the “stepping stone” distance to the full on 200 mile distance. Is it for me? Maybe we will see. If my sound judgement slips somewhat between now and January 5th when the lottery opens I suppose I’ll throw my chain in the ring. For the time being, I’m left wondering, are there wild hogs in Kansas?