(written by Mike)
Living in the midwest, I was exposed to a phenomenon called "Gravel Grinding". My guess is that it's the midwesterners answer to the lack of mountains and therefore true "mountain biking". The more I dug into the subject, the more fascinated I became. Races that I had never heard of, The Dirty Kanza, Gravel Words, and The Almanzo 100 were so popular. Each had their own distinctness and unique challenge. I decided the Almanzo 100 was the one I wanted to try. Mainly because it takes place in southern Minnesota and it gave me an excuse to go back to the state that I really grew to love!
Registration was simple. Mail in a postcard with your name on it, and check to see if you made it in. As I registered, I asked my friend back in Utah, Scott Rice, to join me. Not really expecting him to take me seriously, I was totally surprised when he said he was in!
The day prior to race day, Scott and I drove the 4 or so hours to Austin, MN where we would stay the night. The next day we lined up with over 1,000 other racers. The race, which was actually closer to 103 miles, took us through some of the most beautiful terrain in the midwest. Rolling hills, small towns with little white churches, beautiful valleys with trout streams meandering through the middle, and did I mention hills? This part of Minnesota is incredibly hilly! Total elevation gained over the 100 miles was close to 8,000 feet! Ouch! Riding next to horses, tractors, and all things rural, it was breathtaking.
This race left a mark on me. I often found myself a little melancholic as I rode. For some reason, I knew I would soon be leaving this part of the world. At the time, I didn't know we would be moving back to Utah, but something was telling me, "Enjoy this, for you won't be here much longer". I will miss the midwest, and this race really incapsulated many of the things I enjoyed about my time there. The scenery, the wholesomeness, the simplicity, and the people. What a blessing!
I've already told Scott that we will be making another trip back to do this race again!