Someone had mentioned it earlier when we were getting our post ride grub on, but I I didn't pay much attention until arriving home and glancing in the mirror: a dirt mustache. I relished sweat rings on my kit...a badge of honor.

The Gravel Metric, our local darling gravel "ride", took place yesterday and is just what the name implies...a100km of (mostly) gravel. For those of you that can't do the math, that's 62 miles. 62 miles, no big whoop, right?!

Well, it is a whoop and here's why: gravel riding takes constant attention. Your mind is constantly working to pick the fastest/safest lines. The bike will float over gravel, if you let it, but it will also take you down if you jerk or over steer. As well, you typically don't carry the same momentum as pavement, so more push is needed.

The GM is notorious for some terrain mashup...from gravel to rutted out two tracks to a "starts fast then kills your soul" grassy stretch to more two track with a stream crossing...closed out with a seemingly merciful asphalt finish.  Ironic enough, that last section of smooth roads becomes "the Walking Dead". A trudge to the finish... broken spirits, beat into a mindless churn of pedals.

This years GM was quite fast and smooth, for the most part. A few teeth rattling ruts and some squirrelly gravel sections, but that was about it. Years past have been less kind with washouts, thick pasty mud, biblical rains, melt your brain heat. The heat did build up throughout the day and took its toll. Eternal gratitude to the residents that dragged out hoses and bottled waters.

A few notes about my ride: in the usual "get ahead of the fray" mindset, I tried to push somewhat hard to start. My legs and back moaned, setting off some alarms. I kept on for some miles, trying to stay with the mini packs and move up. I finally settled in with a foursome that were just right in the speed department. Soon after, my teammie, Jacob, appeared from ahead. He hooked on and declared "I'm working for you today, Groen". Knowing my back was acting up already, I was first tickled then terrified. I was stoked to have his giving wheel, but he's not a slow bloke by any means. What I later pieced together, he marked me to hold him accountable to a ride pace. He had gone gangbusters with the near front stampede. A mechanical caused him to pull over and not only was the bike adjusted, but his mentality. He decided that day was better served in push mode rather than bar room brawl.

He couldn't have been a kinder escort. Nothing but patience when I needed to stop and stretch. Relentless against the wind. Endless smiles and enthusiasm. He didn't let me slouch, but he also had an intuition about my limits. I nominate him "Sherpa of the Year"...and can't thank him enough.

The best part about these rides is the solidarity that occurs. Our rendition of "band of brothers". We all suffered together and came out the other end. We tell our tales of woe and glory at the finish. The insufferably slow grass, the windmills looking down on us with grandeur and smugness (I love wind), the incidental lemonade stand, the endless dust filling our eyes and lungs, the checkpoint high fives, the heat coming off the fields.  What a magnificent, albeit tough day.

With all that in mind, I give thanks to everyone who makes it happen and simply say... stay gold, Gravel Metric, stay gold.

--Jen Groen