BaseCamp alumnus Tracy Ellwein shares her experience at the Pioneers event at the 2022 Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder.
I did it! The 5-day gravel stage race with 363 miles and 33,750 feet elevation was a test of mental and physical stamina. Add in the nightly camping accommodations (noisy) and the provided meals (not great, but was just happy to have food!), added to the overall stress and fatigue. I started off the first 3 stages being competitive and the added fatigue and conditions changed my mindset to just finishing will be enough for me.
The conditions were rough at times with the sand (OMG sand, but cyclocross skills paid off), huge puddles like bath tubs with hidden gems, exposed climbs in the high temps, rough decents, and 'rideable snow' that is tricky to get through.
Here are my take-aways from 5 straight days.
Practice PMA all the time! This helped to change my mindset to make the 2nd half of the ride better than the first. (day 1)
Finish strong. No matter how the ride unfolded, finish strong to set up for the next day. (day 2)
Manage expectations. Though the mind says go, the body may not be able to at that moment. Take care of things screaming at me (day 3). Lower back pain and deep chaffing, two things that I haven't experienced, so get off the bike and stretch, it's OK.
I have a choice! Queen's stage day was my hardest day ever (95 miles, 10,000 feet). Had to dig deep to recall why I signed up for this march to hell.
One bite at the apple. Last day of 6,000 feet elevation and just said to take it one hill at at time. The profile on my Wahoo was a lifesaver to manage my output.
Being on top of nutrition, hydration, and recovery, even in a campsite, are all factors. A soak in the river helps too!
Great to connect with fellow BaseCampers Susan Robinson (who rocked it to 3rd in Masters Women), Matt Montgomery, and Paul Burdick. A special thanks to Coach Serena Gordon and her pep talk before Stage 4 and Coach Kate Roxanne for getting me mentally and physically ready for the Pioneer.