Monday, October 19, 2015

Cuban Gravel Crisis

 I have a condition. I was unaware of said condition, until my friend pointed it out. I suffer from exercise induced rhinitis. And, know this, I'm not looking for sympathy. Please, save that for one of my many other conditions.

My friend, whom prefers to remain anonymous, (John Long), is a federal government employee. He explained, as a federal government employee, you cannot simply have a "runny nose during exercise". This situation requires a condition, hence "exercise induced rhinitis".

This condition segues into one of my other conditions, Snotrocketous Imperfecti, or, in laymen terms, an imbalanced nasal cavity outflow. My left nostril. Perfect trajectory. My right, OMG!

I know what you're thinking, (along with "this is disgusting"), why is this a big deal? It's 40°F, I'm barreling down a gravel road on my bike, 20ish mph, it's hard to breath. It's really hard to breath with a stuffed up nose. I gotta get rid of that stuff. As a courtesy, I check for riders nearby, and clear the left side. I dread it, but I need to clear the right as well. I dread it because, at best, it's gonna wind up on my shoulder or sunglasses, or worse, pop my right eardrum, which occasionally sends my balance into a spiral.

I am fortunate. I'm 8 miles into the Cuban Gravel Crisis, hanging with the lead group, but I'm one layer too heavy, and have to stop and remove my wind shell. I take this opportunity to clear that right nostril.

Jim Phillips and I both stop, remove a layer, and let the pack gap us, agreeing this stop will keep us from chasing a group that will put us in the red zone far too long. Everyone has a slightly different red zone, but spend too much time there during a 100 mile gravel race, and you'll spiral into a seemingly bottomless pit of pain.  

A gratuitous photo op to show off my 1 month old grandson, Liam Buttram.

Liam Buttram- Age 1 Month

Jim and I rode the majority of the 102 miles together. It was nice to have the company of a friend. The CGC course is one to be reckoned with. The first 40 miles is an unrelenting onslaught of rollers, not unlike the 150 miles of Gravel Worlds. Rollers replete with washboard features and nice, loose, gravel. 

The CGC Course - Photo Credit: Josh Lederman

It was in this first 40 mile section I felt some chafing in my chamois area. I was wearing new bib shorts, and some chafing is not unusual. They kinda have a "break in" window. I wasn't that worried, because I had a safety net packet of chamois butt'r at hand in the gas tank. I'm extremely clever like that. 

During a nature break, I decided to remedy the chafing issue, which had escalated, by applying the additional Chamois Butt'r. I pull it from the gas tank, tear off the tab, and squeeze, looking forward to the creamy goodness. But, here's the deal, this goodness wasn't creamy. It lacked the familiar viscosity. It was clear. It was, well, soapy-ish. To the untrained eye, packets of Chamois Butt'r Kit Wash and Chamois Butt'r cream are very similar. Again, I'm extremely clever like that.

Jim, being a good friend, offered to share some of his Chamois Butt'r. The offer came with a qualifier, it had already been applied. I carefully weighed the offer. Then declined. 

Ride Forward.

Jim and I had been jockeying positions with six time Ironman and Trans Iowa finisher, Josh Lederman. Josh battled some flats earlier in the race, and flatted again on a descent with Jim and I. He was out of tubes, and down to patching. I donated one of my spare tubes to the cause. Earlier in the race, I bragged to Jim about my tires. My Clements had taken me across the Kanza, through Gravel Worlds, and numerous gravel and road rides in the interim, with nary a flat. Jim said it was way too early to say that. 

CGC River Crossing - Photo Credit: Josh Lederman

Miles 40-70 presented some substantial climbs. I've been streaming Amazon Prime music to my car via bluetooth, and had a great playlist for the hour plus drive from Lebanon to Cuba. It's a good playlist including Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Awolnation, and some acoustic stuff. But it was The White Stripes 7 Nation Army that became my CGC earworm. You have no idea how many times you can play that baseline riff in your head during 8 hours of gravel riding. I used this riff, along with some pedal stroke counts to take my mind away from the climbing.

The fuel station/check point at mile 82 provided much needed liquid refreshment. We've been riding for 6hr:30m. and I could feel it. Jim was holding back for me. It was here I told him to go on.

The course leveled off for the last 20 mile leg back to Cuba. The refuel helped, and I could smell the barn. Jim had gapped me after the 82 mile stop, but I came upon him patching a flat around mile 91. Hoping generosity would balance the earlier "no flat" braggadocio, I toss Jim my last tube. I had a party to attend in Springfield later that evening, and made haste to the finish. 

My friends, Collin Little, Anatolie Junco, and Paul Erickson worked together, posting a phenomenal finish at 7hrs:10m. Jonathan Graif snagged the overall single speed win, with a quad crushing 7hr:53m. RESPECT. Well done gentlemen. Full results can be seen here.

Left to Right - Paul Erickson, Anatolie Junco, Jonathan Graif

Collin Little's Finish Time: 7hr:10m
The Legend that is Jim Phillips at the finish line.

Major Kudos to Mr. Bob Cummings for crushing the inaugural Cuban Gravel Crisis with a monster 6hr:25m finish.
Left to Right- Mr. Josh Brown and Overall CGC Winner: Bob Cummings
Photo Credit: Mrs Cummings

Josh Brown. You're a tough competitor, righteous race promoter, and most importantly, a kind and generous human being. Well done brother. 


  1. I'm glad you didn't suffer flats despite your ill-advised tire remarks. I'm going to have to be more circumspect. After years of riding gravel events with zero flats, my go-to gravel tires (replaced every year) double flatted at 24 Hours of Cumming.

  2. Hi Kate, double flats, that sucks! I got lucky. ;-)