Monday came and it was crappy. Weather doesn’t care if you plan on running or riding, it does what it wants when it wants, and on Monday it chose to blow 35-40mph gusts with rain and sleet.
I packed all my running gear for the James Wilder test run, maps for scouting afterwards, and went to start the car….nothing. The weather and a defunct battery? It all seemed like a sign to stay home and get some inside work done. I ignored the signs, jump-started the car, and was on my way.
Arriving in Spring Valley, I parked at Tootsie’s Homecookin’ restaurant and started off. The course was great, the gravel was decent, and the weather was brutally similar to the 2011 Almanzo. The course was challenging with plenty of leg-burning hills, but I was only slowed to a walking pace twice when I turned straight west into the onslaught of wind and pelting rain.
Wind and hills seem to characterize SE MN gravel; as do cattle, cats, deer, birds, and of course, DOGS. Dogs live on gravel roads and the farms that surround them. Here is an article from Drew over at Almanzo.com who owns dogs and wrote about dealing with them on the bike. Approaching dogs on the course will happen and it is best to be positive, calm, and careful. Most dogs are just excited to see you, want to run with you, or looking to chase something. There will however be the occasional stand-offish dog which you must treat carefully. I’ve found that slowing down when approaching the yapping dogs tends to decrease their interest and allow you to go buy uneventfully. During the James Wilder test run I encountered many dogs and had zero problems.
After passing a curious German Shephard I powered West through the wind towards the water crossing. This water crossing is on private property, so for those of you running through it come May 19th or 20th, be RESPECTFUL! The property owners were Minnesota NICE and are letting us trek through the water from gravel to gravel. Here’s the water crossing as of April 16th.
I was happy with my time of about 4 hours 7 minutes, an 8:20ish pace in the windiest weather I’ve ever “raced” in. The course came to about 30.2 miles and during my 40 degree run I went through most of my 32oz Camelbak bladder, a handheld bottle with gatorade, half a salted nut roll, and a few energy chews. Hopefully as you’re getting up there in mileage you are figuring out what works best for you and ultimately how much sustenance you need to carry. Only the 100k folks have the luxury of a drop bag, otherwise everyone is on their own.
The James Wilder is a tough course, so make sure and get those miles in to make race day as good as it can be.
I’m excited to see you all out there on the course in a month; CRUSHING GRAVEL!