BaseCamper Ken Carl shared his experience at the 2023 Coast to Coast 100-Mile gravel race in Ludington, Michigan.
Demon sand, teammates, BaseCamp strong.
4:38am, before the alarm clock in a pre dawn glow with Saturn still bright in the sky. I must have been dreaming about the race, I can hear the gravel crunching under my bike tires...birdsong tumbles my thoughts. Too early to get up, too late to go back to sleep. So I go over my pre-ride checklist again.
Twenty-four months ago I stood on the second level of the podium in my age group at this race. Covid and a broken hip blocked my return until now. Doubt creates resistance, and resistance loves doubt. The gold of BaseCamp is the opportunity to defeat doubt and break through resistance. Every FTP test, every early morning and late afternoon of grinding watts is a battle against doubt. As we grow stronger, the hold of doubt weakens. Each day of training builds your confidence to subdue resistance. The act of training is an act of defiance.
I love quotes. The most current mantra is, "You have a choice, you can be bitter or be better."
I say loudly YES to better. This race was wonderfully of better.
Races, rides, family gatherings, car repairs, and life do not always go as intended. How we adapt to the moment creates the outcome.
Kathy Watts, my amazing coach, and I had discussed the race plan. Control opening effort, establish myself in a good group, and trust the BaseCamp strength I had built. For the first hour, I was 100% on plan. Then the "demon" sand played its first hand. Tall grass, double track with hidden sand holes. I was riding with my Vision Quest team. Five of us, plus at least 15 other racers. Halfway into the sand double track, I saw the billow of dirt in the air followed by yelling and that gut-pulling crunching of bikes and grunts of bodies. I ended up high side in the tall grass. Adrenaline rush, vision spinning. No injury. Missing bike computer. Disconnection thoughts. Had to pee. Found the computer. Bike check, self check, 10 minutes evaporated. My team long gone. Get back in the game, get back in the race. Remember, anything can happen in 100 miles and usually does. Moving again. Power low, heart rate high. Keep moving, BaseCamp breathing, in good, blowing out stale adrenaline. Rolling.
Roy, a fellow master age teammate, caught up to me. He pulled me until my head cleared and was ready to go. We chased up to a small group and settled in. Then he told me he did not have the route. The C2C route is a bit tricky, and even with my crash we were still in the top 70+ riders. There were fewer wheels to follow. We made an agreement. I would provide the route, and he would do the heavy lifting. For the next seventy miles, we caught, dropped, and moved, up crossing the finish line hand in hand. Personal, team, and shared victory. The pure definition of what it means to be teammates and the true spirit of energy sharing.
Post-race discussion with Kathy brought clarity to how successful the day was. Beyond the obvious blessed return from injury and the raw ability to race (not just ride) 100+ miles, I was in the game. Kathy called me the "Comeback Kid," Loving that! Embracing that. Overall finished 57 out of 234. 5th in my age group. Power from beginning to end.
This race closes out the first half of my racing, big-ride season. RPI is bright on the horizon.