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Tracy's story: Cascade Gravel Grinder

BaseCamp alum and coached athlete Tracy Ellwein shared her experience at the 2023 Cascade Gravel Grinder.

GRIT, can come in many forms and I redefined it at the Cascade Gravel Grinder stage race in Bend, Oregon. This three-day event of 160 miles and ~11,000 feet of ascent was my A race. It didn't start well after I got GI distress the day before Stage 1 due to something I ate at a restaurant. This left me empty and dehydrated for Friday's Stage 1 time trial and into Stage 2 (66 miles and 4,000 feet) and still lingering around on Stage 3 (80 miles, 6,700 feet). I focused on trying to rehydrate, resting between the stages, and dense nutrition to get my energy stores back. Hefty doses of Pepto tablets helped and are now a staple in my travel gear. :)

Here were my keys to overcoming:

  • The mind is powerful. Listen to my body, start fast/aggressive, push to stay on wheels, and find wheels that match where I'm at.

  • Ride like nothing happened and put the "not feeling good" out of mind.

  • A hydration pack was a game changer for water and accessibility for food.

  • I created packages of 50g carbs into snack-size ziplocks and put in hydration pack pockets; this helped to keep track of my fueling per hour; including hydration in my bottles, I was at ~70g/hr.

  • Keep pedaling hard, as you never know what happened in front of the race, even when pedaling alone.

  • Use the BaseCamp challenge race tactics. Could I create a break now where I am strong? This paid off as I dropped people on the flats to get separation on the smaller riders that were climbers, especially with an 8-mile-long hilltop finish (stage 2). I surpassed my expectations with a 3rd place finish in the stage and set a new all-time power mark for 90 minutes.

Big THANK YOU to Coach Kate Johnson who had me dialed in on my training, my BFF Bee Kickel for being there and spreading her positivity, and Mary Carroll sharing her home (and air recovery boots).


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