BaseCamp alumnus Jill White shared her experience at Unbound Gravel.
“When a great adventure is launched with a powerful thrust, fatigue in the muscles and doubts in the mind are swept away by a fullness that moves life along like a breath from the depths of the soul.” ~Bernard Moitessier.
This was Unbound.
Race report cliff notes (if you don’t want to read all the words): I finished. I found a layer of myself I did not know existed. I rode full of joy and hope. I set realistic race goals. The devil tried to get me to stop in the mud. I told him to fuck off. He left me alone after that. Bullfrogs with crowns cheered and clapped me along. The Prairie was magical with firefly’s once the sun set… I was glad I did not miss the opportunity to experience that.
Cliff notes over
Start. My mind was so weirdly calm and joyful. I was grateful to be here. I had very realistic time goals written in my top tube bag. I had chase the sun times posted on my top tube. I started in the chase the sun time…the energy was infectious. I was ready.
GO. The bike and I became one instantly. I made good choices. Spoke the words to myself like a mantra “no mistakes” “no mistakes”. Everything flowed and I felt alive. From the start to first water oasis I was fast for me. I felt fast. I felt in control and aware of my limits. I was confident in the pace and was not over reaching. Made it to first water oasis averaging a bit over 14mph in 3hrs. I had consumed 300g carbs and drank 64 oz of Infinite/electrolytes. Boom. As planned.
From 1st water oasis to Checkpoint 1 : Rain and wind. I was still feeling so good leapfrogging with groups of amazing humans. I followed plan to not over talk, but let the noise of the bike and our breathing be the conversations to save energy. This worked so well for me. Occasional interactions were kind and supportive. I would ask each person I saw distraught on the side “anything I have that might help” an occasional “a tube” “a CO2” would pull me to side to give. I realized I had neither left, but I was near checkpoint 1 and I was fine with that because I would restock. (I forgot to restock so thank you universe) I was mind on the gravel and making good choices. Empowered. Was so grateful to see my smiling hubs at first checkpoint “keep crushing it babe” that felt good. I made it into and out of checkpoint 1 in less than 6hrs on course. The sunset still lingered a bit in my mind/but it didn’t drive me. The open ranges and the beautiful land felt like magic. That was what was driving me.
Next water oasis came gently and I loved the town. My mph average had dropped a bit, I stopped being able to calculate if the sunset was still achievable so I let it go. I pulled the sticker off my top tube, and I didn’t think of it again. I saw Meg Fisher and we exchanged “you are doing greats”. Her spirit and pure strength lifted me instantly. I filled up/readjusted and heard rumblings of “the mud” I ignored the talk and just focused on filling bottles and thinking out calories. I had a half of a water bottle left/ I took mental note to do better and I chugged the last half. I was feeling the heat and humidity a bit and my sweet friend Josie bought us both a bottle of cold coke. I shoved it in my hydration pack back zipper pocket and kept moving. (I had no idea it might save my race later). I am now 9hrs into this magic land. I got a bit tearful that I had made it this far (which is often a sign I am feeling defeated.) So I told myself the moon wanted to see me and I pulled out my race plan and taped it to my top tube. Tears gone. Reset….Arrow shot and landed.
The mud. I saw it coming like a storm…People stopped…..bikes everywhere….everyone trying to figure what to do. As far as my eyes could see were people carrying their bikes looking like mud zombies. Some sitting on the sides …some walking toward me defeated. I took this all in. I decided I did not have enough tire clearance to do anything but carry. I attempted to carry on my shoulder and after a few steps lost balance and fell. I looked into the mud and seriously saw a clay image of what looked like a devil’s face…. I yelled loud “fuck off” got up looked down hoisted my bike on my back and never looked up again….”one foot in front of the other jill. Jacob, Chris, Jacob, Chris (names of friends that prove to be no quitters and gave me lots of how to not quit advice) One-foot, next foot…I externally processed and spoke to the mud. I then became quiet as so was everyone quiet as our determination pulled together and somehow everyone around me was stepping to the same rhythm….I was so aware of this. I thought of Amber Neben saying “sing” This was a simple quite song in the mud. I heard it. Arrow shot and landed. I made it 1.2 mi of bike carry with mud for feet and legs. Then I saw Meg again. We rinsed our bikes in a creek of giardia (that was her words) and she warned me not to get the tops of my bottles wet. “Better to drink the mud than the giardia” she said. Her spirit again lifted me. I had to regroup and think. I had achieved a sustained HR of 200 for a bit of that heavy work and lost 45min of no nutrition. COKE. I guzzled my coke and ate a payday. My legs felt this fatigue and my pace slowed again. I focused on seeing my hubs and getting my lights. I was going to need them.
Checkpoint 2. My mind was not as crisp, I recognized that. I didn’t finish all my snacks and my hubs reminded me to eat. I needed his direction right here. I was 13hrs and 40min into the day. The magic felt a bit quieter now. My gratitude was still present but I felt a hush. I became internal and new the last push would be work. My husband said “you’ve made all your cutoffs” I processed that. I had not done that before. I missed them last year. “now go ride your bike”.
I did. I rode. Arrow shot, and landed. I kept my mind focused on “no mistakes jill you are tired” I felt the tired. I set the timer to beep every 10 min to remind me to eat, drink. I used that as my guide. I just kept doing it for no reason than I had to. I had been riding in larger groups until now… there was more mud sections…more carry. More fatigue and…. alone. I was more alone. I thought I saw a coyote, but it could have been a cat—I wasn’t really sure at this point…but as the moon came up so did the firefly’s. I have never seen such a beautiful sight as the shimmering firefly’s over the prairie grass. Magic returned. I slowed again, but noticed big bullfrogs on the side of the gravel near the grass in the wet spots…. My mind convinced me they had on crowns and were cheering for me—don’t judge, I believed it and wondered like a child in that magic for a while.
The rest was just peddling and getting to town. I crossed the finish almost mad that I was among loud noises and chaos again, I struggle to process I was done.
I don’t know how normal that is, because it was my first experience with an endurance race finish line.
I am ready to go back for more.
17hrs and 19 min. I am one of the gang…midnight club finisher gang. I liked the sound of that.