tl;dr

Only finished half the race, was doing okay, ended up going to the hospital.

Background

  • Dirty South Roubaix is a gravel race starting in Alto Pass, IL and going through the beautiful Shawnee National Forest.

  • The weather had been wet in the days leading to race day, but the day of was going to be free of precipitation and 32-40ºF.

  • I had signed up for the 100km version, which called for 3,300ft of elevation gain, mostly done in a couple very difficult sections.

The Night Before

A group of 8 of us Chicago peeps shared an Airbnb in Alto Pass, IL and had it for the night before and after this race. The night before the race, some of us went to St. Nicholas Brewing Company, one of the generous sponsors for this race, to eat dinner and pick up packets. They not only provided every registrant a bomber of a special Dirty South Roubaix black pale ale, but also kegs at the finish line! The only issue was the brewery was 45 mins away from Alto Pass, but the food and packet pickup was worth it. We went back to the Airbnb, talked about clothing for a couple hours, and went to bed, “ready” for tomorrow.

Start

The day of the race, with limited parking and a growing number of participants, we decided to roll the 2 miles to the start. Laura and I were chased by a big and fluffy, adorable, but ill-intentioned dog, so that was an exciting pre-start! I was surprised by how small the total group of around 200 racers was. Overall the start (and the entire event) was well organized and run, started on time, and had a pace car controlling our initial...pace, so there were no “go go go” start issues.

The First 31+ Miles

Once the pace car peeled off, the ride started out with some super fun and flowing up and down sections, and then lead to a 420+ ft. climb in ~1 mile, over 12% grade. That took a decent amount out of a lot of people, but we got to stay on top of the ridge for a while and some more flowing hills. Then finally back downhill and to a long flat section on a paved road and on top of a flood control levee. This ended at a 21.5% grade hill, the infamous “south hill”, that I think literally everyone had to walk. I was feeling tired but okay still at this point, slightly beyond the halfway point at 32 miles. There were a series of more serious hills in this south section, and I had gone up and down the worst of them, being forced to walk a couple more times. This is where things got more interesting…

The Incident

At the top of a fairly easy looking descent near the end of the “south hills”, there’s a person flagging us to slow down. “Interesting, there must be some mud or something” I think. So I slow down and as I descend, I see something that makes my heart sink. It should be worth noting at this point that earlier, on that levee, Laura had blasted ahead of me because she’s a beast, and I wasn’t really catching up with all those south hills. Anyway, I see Laura in her BFF jersey on the ground in the middle of the road, a big St. Bernard dog nearby (cue flashes of that dog chasing us in the morning), and a group of people and bikes surrounding them. My first thought was “oh god, there’s been/is being a dog attack.” Well as I roll up in full “fight or flight” mode, I see that there’s someone else on the ground, wrapped in a blanket, with Laura providing assistance.

As it turns out, what actually happened was another one of our friends, one of those staying in our house with us, went down hard on that hill. No one saw exactly what happened, and this person definitely had a concussion, repeating “Oh, I fell? Oh, is it bad?” every minute, so knowing exactly what happened is probably impossible. An ambulance was on the way. Laura and I stayed with them for about an hour as the ambulance came. The Paramedics, given the concussion and circumstances, were pretty adamant that one of us should go with them to the hospital. I wanted Laura to finish, especially since she was already killing it, so I volunteered to be the one to go, and off we went.

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The Aftermath

Ultimately, the hospital diagnosed the concussion, a fractured rib, multiple cuts and scrapes, and an eyebrow that needed a plastic surgeon, but our friend would be okay. We arranged transport back to Alto Pass and then alternate transport to an emergency plastic surgeon. The plastic surgeon was able to do local anesthetic and get them all patched up the same night!

End of Day

By the end of the day, the injured rider and everyone else was back in our Airbnb, all patched up and enjoying those free bombers while we watched The Goonies. I was a bit bummed I didn’t get to see some of the fun end of race features that I heard about, like a steep muddy hill through someone’s backyard (cross is coming), but was happy to help a friend and Race With Heart™

Conclusion

This is an amazingly well-run and well-sponsored event. It is also a very challenging course, harder than Barry Roubaix for sure. We saw only a couple cars and spent most of the time just surrounded by nature. Overall, a very cool race. I’m grateful for my friends and for everyone ending up (relatively) okay in the end. I’m happy I was able to help.

Fun Facts

Laura ended up with finish time of 5:31 (11th out of 16), and a moving time of 4:34, which would have been good enough for 4th if it wasn’t for our hour stop to help our friend!

One of the more useful things I was able to do for the ambulance / hospital crew was explain how to / help take boa shoes off.

They provide you with a sag-bag to put stuff in that you can retrieve (or deposit into) at the sag stops. I decided to toss a warmer layer in there in case my “slightly cold” start turned out to be too cold. I didn’t end up needing this. Others tossed humorous things in there, my favorite being two pieces of pizza.

There was a free giveaway raffle at the finish with a lot of us winning something, as well as the free beer and a baked potato bar, which was a hit.

The sag wag took the injured and my bikes to the finish to wait for us, they were very helpful.

The St. Bernard was part of the sag crew and was actually v. friendly. A+ would pet again.