Saturday, February 4, 2012

Year of the Gravel Dragon

2012 is the year of the dragon for the Chinese. It's looking like the year of the gravel dragon from here!

Last year was my first year on a bike, first time racing and on the one year anniversary of a MTB demo, my first hundo. This year (year two) with the new beauty on the way, a spot in Dirty Kanza and a ton of other new gravel races in the area, 2012 definitely has a gravely theme. The icing, is that AntiEpic Ben has talked me into provided the nudge that led me to host the R2G2 (it didn't take much of a push). I'll probably also toss out a November/December ride on the prairie. I haven't mentioned this to him yet but one of the few nicknames that stuck was Epic Shane. It's not something I came up with though.

HC100 finish - great way to end my first year on a bike. 
Long, long ago (the '90s), in a state far, far away (WA) before I ever got on a bike I spent a lot of time alpine climbing. I admit to having a few trips that did qualify as "epic". In the climbing world that means something a little different than the increasingly popular and randomly tossed about term it has become. In climbing it usually requires at least one unexpected open bivouac, and probably some other nastiness. Not long ago 100 miles seemed like a big deal, now I'm doing several events well over that and with the big stage races, Trans Iowa and the Tour Divide I honestly don't know what would qualify as a true epic in terms of biking.

Leading out of an ice cave in beautiful frozen Canada.
In any case, it seems I got this name from some other locals with more of a sport climbing bent. It wasn't an endearing term. In fact it was plainly derisive. I only learned about this moniker as I was about to leave town as it had only been used behind my back. To be honest you'd have to screw up pretty damn bad to have a true epic while sport climbing at a crag. (I did and do still clip bolts.)  It's not that I was a complete dunce either - the more you look down the barrel, the greater your chances are that one day you'll get hit. I've been nearly taken out several times in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. (Thanks to the kind folks at Petzl who replaced the helmet that was broken by a rock - while it was on my head.) Whatever I got out of alpine climbing seems to be in the past for me. I never expected to leave that realm and I never saw myself as a cyclist, but somehow it happened. I'm glad it did.

Clipping bolts in the Red River Gorge.
I understand now that the desire for adventure exploration and excitement I felt at going to new places "out there" are now fueled in a different way. This blog may be about gravel riding, but I still do a good deal of singletrack. I'm not avoiding danger on a bike; I fully accept that I'll probably crash and have a hospital trip some day. I'm simply less likely to be crushed by falling rock or ice, or fall into a glacier on a bike. Whatever that desire is that lives in me that drove me to explore those peaks and gain the moniker of Epic Shane still exists - it just has a new method. I'll keep upping the anti on myself every year to see just how far I can go and what I'm capable of. I'm still that guy, but I'll take my scarlet letter (I suppose it's an E) and wear it in front. Our personal challenges that we set for ourselves are just that - personal. This year will be "epic" for me, and this year some of the events are on gravel. Next year, who knows?

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