This past weekend (Sunday, October 27th) I participated in the 2019 Roadrunner Rocks, a highly memorable event organized by the great people at The Spinistry. The event was held at 4R Ranch Vineyards and Winery just north of Muenster, Texas. Both 100k and 50k routes were available to ride for which I chose to do the 50k route.
There was a lot to digest with this ride. I went into it with very little expectations other than it would be a challenging gravel ride. Little did I know just how challenging it would be. Biggest mistake I made was not reviewing prior years Roadrunner Rocks rides. If I did, I would have learned just how much of a challenge this ride would be.
Now, before I talk about my experience, take a look at the first 15 minutes of the ride:
This is the first group that rode out...the fast group (as you can see!). Myself and others did not ride nearly as fast as these guys did. Holy cow! Look at those speeds! And that's on gravel roads, ladies and gentlemen! :P
For the rest of us, we ventured out at a more leisurely pace. The initial parts of the route seemed to be standard gravel fare. Nothing super challenging except a bit of mud at the very beginning. Other than that the roads were nicely packed and made for some really nice gravel riding.
Just five miles in, the hills would show up with some their relentless inclines. Initial inclines didn't seem so bad. Most of them had elevation changes of 100 to 200 feet. It was more about the frequency of them. Up and down, up and down, up and down we went. I handled it all ok and seemed to be sticking it out on the inclines.
However, at around the 15 mile mark, one of the biggest inclines proved to be the most challenging. Starting at around 750 feet in elevation, the next two miles would add over 300 feet in elevation topping at around 1066 feet. Now, that might not sound so bad but imagine a relentless set of inclines on a gravel road where a good third of it was this mushy crap that bogged you down. On a normal dry packed gravel road an incline like this would be tough. But if you add an extra layer of resistance onto your tires now you're dealing with a leg breaking ordeal. On one part of this set of inclines, I made it about halfway up the hill but but got bogged down a bit too much. I gave up and walked it up the rest of the way. The mush was that bad.
Other inclines would prove to be challenging as well, many of them around 7 to 8 degree grades. Again, it wasn't the grades so much as the relentless frequency of them that made it challenging. If the inclines were spaced farther apart then the route would likely not have felt so challenging. But this is Texas hill country! Even my mom knew what I was in for!
On top of that, there was another section of road that was super muddy and challenging to get through. Bogged down again, I had to walk it a little ways to get clear of the mud.
Aside from the challenge of the inclines, the downhill parts more than made up for it. They certainly didn't disappoint either. There were a bunch of areas where I hit a good 20+ mph which, for a rider like me, is more than fast enough. Definitely had my "whee" moments! :P
Aside from the challenge of the ride, the area we were riding in was super scenic and absolutely beautiful. Lots of beautiful hillsides and treelines. At times I had to just stop myself from feeling the challenge of the ride so that I could look around and soak in the beauty of my surroundings.
For a fairly inexperience gravel rider like myself, this all added up to being a super challenging ride. So much so that, with just two miles or so to go, my legs simply gave out. I bonked and bonked super hard. Several times, my left thigh was darn near to the point of cramping. All that climbing and trodding through mud eventually had a toll on me. I ended up walking up most of the hills the rest of the way. But, with relentless determination, I made it and rode across the finish line.
Suffice to say that this was by far the most challenging bike ride I've ever been on. Question is: If I knew how challenging it would be would I still have done it? Yes...but I think I would be more prepared for it. For starters, I would have done more training with lots of climbing repeats. That and more strength power training. Definitely didn't help that I was off the bike for two weeks prior to the event.
The Spinistry did a great job in organizing the event. They were super responsive to questions and obviously have riders best interests at heart. Looking forward to future Spinistry events! :D