Gravel Withdrawal

It’s been weeks since I last mounted my Warbird on dirt, welcoming the daylight astride my trusty bike, and riding it dusty all day into the sunset—and beyond. I’m not really sure what to do with myself.

Sometimes the start invokes a stink courtesy of Charlie Denis

Even as I’ve set out to do a five-pack of these amazing gravel races, the DK200 reminded me just how fragile this goal really is. It was a tough one. Hot and windy (although less-so for us; my real empathy goes out to the DKXLers, who also faced 60 mph storm gusts and hail, along with the heat and humidity). But the reality of heat sickness was evident on course this year, and I found myself in not the best head space on a number of occasions—lost drop bag (thank goodness for the generosity of the Stillwater crew, you know who you are), bent rotor (squeak, squeak, squeak for 80 miles), nausea (thanks, Mom, for the heat stroke warning resonating now in my head)—all of these little blips in the brain are kryptonite on an endurance ride.

Putting on the brave (banana) face at Checkpoint courtesy of Jill Martindale

Thank goodness for The Chaise. The motivation of seeing friendly faces, and also just checking that next box on my way to accomplishing this goal, really pushed me more than a few times.

Riding the last leg of DK200 with two amazing women (Jill Martindale and Kellie Nelson) made for a valiant end to a long, dirty day, and an epic Chaise experience...

And thank goodness for the gravel community, of which I’m humbled to be starting to feel a part, riding alongside some of the same folks I have the past few months at Land Run, Coast To Coast and Le Grand du Nord on more than one occasion. Brian, Isabel, Dave, Joe, John, Matt, Troy, Sean, Jill and Kellie—100 times “Thank you! Can’t wait to ride with you again!”

Views like these are the joys of gravel: The infamous beaver dam put the water’s surface at eye-level on this stretch of Le Grand du courtesy of Charlie Denis

Meeting “gravel friends” is part of the sanity maintenance we all share on course. I rode with Brian Johnston at both Land Run and Dirty courtesy of Brian Johnston

But when all was said and done, just before midnight, for me and Salsa sponsored rider Jill Martindale, we snapped some photos at the Dirty Kanza finish line and started the long, slippery slide into post-event doldrums. She and I have intermittently been Facebooking in the weeks since, unsure of what to do with ourselves (some bikecamping and kid-glamping have distracted us these past weekends).

The bright lights of Emporia, courtesy of Jill Martindale

And that’s why I think this withdrawal thing IS a thing. It’s funny, because the week before DK I think I was feeling more gravel fatigue than withdrawal, looking forward to my diet getting back to real food after lots of energy shots and waffles, really looking forward to seeing my kids for a weekend, but as soon as this latest event passed I found myself listening to tales of the next events other friends and gravel community members were planning, and I found myself in a state of gravel envy. Damn, I wish I’d signed up for DAMn (Day Across Minnesota).

With life as I know it happily back to normal, work getting caught-up, kids out of school and celebrating summer in sprinklers and with sparklers, I SHOULDN’T be melancholy. I’m blessed on so many levels. Remember: The reasons I ride.

Bunny hopping run-off ditches on gravel are NOT the most important bunnies in my life...

And still, the draw lingers. Luckily, I do still have one big event to go, and honestly the fear of falling out of shape in the three full months before I try to ride over a mountain pass in Idaho in search of red velvet will undoubtedly kick in here soon.

But I wanted to acknowledge the lapse, both mentally and emotionally, that I’ve experienced in the past couple of weeks. It reinforces my belief that it’s a good thing to have goals, those seemingly insurmountable challenges that push you out of your comfort zone or in some other way give you something to look forward to. Set the goal, give yourself permission to prioritize it, and plan out that path to success.

JayP’s Gravel Pursuit, here I come!


The last stop (for this year) in the Chase The Chaise tour will be on September 29th, 2018, at JayP's Gravel Pursuit in Island Park, Idaho. Click here for more information on the event.

Click here or the image below to view the Chase The Chaise portraits taken thus far...

This post filed under topics: Gravel Laura Haraldson Ultra Racing Warbird

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Laura Haraldson

Laura Haraldson

Running and mountain biking with her dogs in the great outdoors—rain or shine, winter or summer—are two of the things you’ll find me doing when I’m not gathering inspiration from my daughters, Ella, Cora and Lili. I have a recent fascination with wellness topics that include circuit training, TRX, HIIT and any other fitness acronym of the day—a simmering-beneath-the-surface competitive edge means I’m willing to try any form of exercise once. Helping my husband Scott’s wedding and lifestyle photography biz offers a bit of creative balance to my everyday routine.


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