Gravel Worlds 2016: The Captain's Log

Like Donald Trump's hair, this article needs some explanation. For instance, is it a wig?! Who knows. Is it even possible for a fake piece of hair to be as titillating, debilitating, and arousing as The Donald's fine display? So many questions to ponder about the exquisite nature of his follicles. Oh, sorry. Wrong topic, we're talking about bikes. Although, I hope what you are about to read is as titillating, debilitating, and arousing as The Donald's hair. But let's be honest... can it really be on that level?

Gravel Worlds 2016 is a wrap. We've sailed the 7 seas, some conquered, others perished. After spending some time back in port, I've compiled and combined every piece of digital media, that I'm aware of, to put together a comprehensive overview of my Gravel Worlds 2016 experience. Think of it as my Captain's Log Book; my bike is my ship; my riding partners are my crew.  Being Ben Fischer, I couldn't take the easy way out. Instead, I combed through everything and got the exact times and locations of every entry made in this log (my memory could be sketchy on the "crew" column, if you see an error, let me know) I did my best to be brief, but sometimes you just have to go on a tangent about Donald Trump's hair.

If you want to follow along on a map, check out my Strava ride here. (link opens in new window)

Captain's Log Book
of the
Ship    Black Betty - '12 Giant TCX 0  
of        Lincoln, NE    
Master    Ben Fischer     
from     8/20/2016       to    8/20/2016    

Time Position Course Crew
05:48 Mile 0 - Fallbrook North All

Gravel Worlds started and ended in Fallbrook, a subdivision of Lincoln, NE. A thirty minute drive got me there around 5:30 am. This meant I had to get up at 3:50 to get my hair ready, or more specifically, get my beard ready.

Unpacked the car, prepped the bike and gear, found my riding buddies, and then started staging. I knew things would get crazy when the hundreds of riders first hit gravel, so I positioned myself about 2/3 back so I could keep my heart rate down and get in a rhythm. My goal for the day was to finish the 145 mile gravel race, not win it. (like that was even an option!) I knew from previous experience that I needed to utilize all of my self control to stick to a manageable pace. The temptation to push yourself when hundreds of riders pass you is incredibly high. My mantra for the day? Race your own race.

It was a cold morning for August with temperatures between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. A cold front came through Lincoln overnight and brought in a bout of rain which led to some ambiguity in road conditions, especially the dirt road at mile 125. Just about everyone was shivering before the race started, being hairy like Sasquatch had its advantages here. I was just at the threshold for shivering which meant I could act tough and play a little psychological warfare on the other riders. "I see you're shivering... are you sure you're prepared for this?" I knew as soon as we started moving I'd be fine, just had to wait it out so I didn't have to carry around extra clothes all day. My gamble paid off immediately.

5:48 am Staging underway
Waiting... and freezing. It was about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Photo by Matt Pearson
Erik and I waiting to start. Photo by Matt Pearson

Time Position Course Crew
06:48 Mile 10.2 - Approx. N 70th and Raymond Rd. East Ben T., Erik

Riding into the sunrise... is that a thing?

The first 10 miles were quick. People were passing like crazy and I was having a hard time keeping my heart rate out of zone 4. My plan was to stick in zone 2-3, but the pace of the group and the condition of the roads were not simpatico with my plan.

From the rain the previous night, the roads were saturated. The saturated sandy layer of gravel underneath sucked up all of your power and really made for some hard work. The dudes on fat bikes had an advantage here. All of us on skinny tire people were trying to find the correct line choice, whereas they could just float over the top. Although, us skinny tire people had the advantage after things dried out, which happened within the first 15 miles.

6:48 am: Hello Sunshine, the world awaits!

Time Position Course Crew
07:02 Mile 13.5 - Approx. N 112th and Raymond Rd. East Ben T., Erik

By this point, the race had started to thin out as people settled into their groove for the day. Luckily, I've met some great people through cycling and all of them have roughly the same pace as myself. I can't say I was alone the entire day. There was always someone I knew within one mile of me.

This was also about the point when I started getting hungry. I had burned through my breakfast already. Clif Bar time. Think I enjoyed the deliciousness that is Coconut Chocolate Chip. Could be my favorite flavor, although Blueberry Crisp is really good. It's like comparing the hair of Fabio and Donald Trump. They are both masterpieces, but sometimes you just need something different. Ya know?

7:02 am

Time Position Course Crew
07:15 Mile 16.6 - Approx. N 148th and Raymond Rd. East Ben T., Omaha Crew

People with cameras, better smile.

If the Gravel Guru guys had a dollar for every time someone said hello to them, they could retire and afford Hillary Clinton's $12,000 Armani jacket. That's just the nature of gravel riders. Good people. They always say hello.

The Gravel Guru boys got me in action. Photo by Gravel Guru

Time Position Course Crew
08:20 Mile 32.5 - Eagle, NE South Erik

I stopped at the Casey's in Eagle just long enough to whip out my phone and let Erik catch up. Everyone else pushed on.

Some of you may be wondering why there is a random "enter" in my FB post. That's not code for anything. I was dictating to my phone and wanted it to start a new line. It didn't. #tears

Time Position Course Crew
08:46 Mile 37 - CP 1 Schmidty's Aunt/Uncle South Erik, Ben T., Omaha Crew

A big family reunion! The whole crew came back together around CP 1.

The mere sight of donut holes made me hungry again, time for third breakfast. Donut holes and fruit snacks, the third breakfast of champions.

Spirits were high, you can tell because I replaced an "s" with a "z" to give it some extra pizzazz. You can also tell that I was busy eating donut holes because of the amount of brevity used. #priorities

Time Position Course Crew
09:19 Mile 43.8 - Bennet Gas Station South Erik

Oh, we aren't stopping? Okie dokie. I pulled into the gas station thinking the rest of the group would stop, nope. #business

I caught up with them about 2 miles later at which time I passed Erik's better half and family-in-law who had just given him a pep talk or a slap on the bum or something. I couldn't be bothered, I was in a mortal battle with a banana and was determined to put it inside of me. Fourth breakfast was beckoning. Luckily their backs were turned so they couldn't get any blackmail on me. 

The above isn't a euphemism for anything, I was just trying to eat a banana while riding. 

Time Position Course Crew
10:19 Mile 57.1 - Roca, NE - Roca Tavern West Ben T., Erik, David, Paul, Omaha Crew

After conquering that tricky banana situation while riding through the town of Bennet it was time for my favorite section of the course. The section between Bennet and Roca was aces. Although, I could have just been high on dopamine from my triumph over the stubborn banana. Or, it could have been the extra potassium. Who knows? Either way, there was a section of old quarry that had become a lake and a twisty bit of road with tree cover that went around it. (Quarry Ledge Rd.) That was the bomb diggitty dot com. The only thing better? Free candy and I didn't have to get into a strangers van to get it.

The Roca Tavern is an awesome bike friendly bar just a pedal away from Lincoln. They maintained their reputation by giving free frozen candy bars to riders. I grabbed a Snickers bar for later. The group spent some time in Roca and had our first proper rest before heading into a head wind.

Free shaved ice? SWEET.
If it were hotter, I would've done it. Instead I stuck with my PB and honey sandwich and some pretzels.

10:40 am Getting ready to leave Roca, NE

Time Position Course Crew
10:46 Mile 58.5 - Back on Gravel after Roca North Erik, Ben, David, Omaha Crew

Into the wind! We had a decent head wind, but our group was steadfast for the first several miles. After that, we started to split up and this is when Team Ben was at it's peak. I started counting down miles until BBQ. 27 miles to BBQ!

10:46 am Back on gravel after Roca 

Time Position Course Crew
11:12 Mile 63.3 - SW 14th and W Bennet Rd. West Ben T.

Turning west, a break from the wind! Team Ben was holding a good pace. We stopped to check on one of the tandem riding groups that had a mechanical, as well as let another member of our group catch up. It was conveniently at the top of a hill. So, no complaints were had. 22 miles to BBQ!

11:12 am Team Ben riding strong

Time Position Course Crew
12:17 Mile 75.2 - CP 2 Reinkordt Farm West Ben T., Erik, David, Omaha Crew, BCycle boyz

Somewhere around mile 65, Team Ben had caught up to the BCycle boyz. Mr. Turner was quite excited to see them and gave me a fright with his sudden enthusiasm. We joined forces to make Team B, as in Ben and BCycle, not Beyonce. All four of us pushed on to CP 2.  Around mile 65 I was starting to feel fatigued, but no problem as I still had plenty left in the tank.
10 miles to BBQ!

12:17 pm CP 2. Reinkordt farm ,75.2 miles in. My bike has the blue bar tape in the lower left corner. Photo by David Quade
A couple of wild Bens

Time Position Course Crew
12:34 Mile 75.7 - North on SW 98th North Ben T., Erik, David, Omaha Crew, BCycle boyz

We spent some time at CP 2 refueling and resting. The crew had come back together at this point. I was the local BBQ informant. Letting everyone know that there was BBQ in 10 miles. Guys. BBQ! 10 miles. Let's do this!!! I. Was. Pumped.

12:34 pm Just leaving CP 2

Time Position Course Crew
12:57 Mile 80.8 - SW 98th St. North Ben T., BCycle boyz

The crew had separated out again after CP 2 and Team B was back in action. The most notable thing on this section was the old school house. Seemed like a great time to frame a picture using the rule of thirds. Position the bottom 1/3 of the frame on the ground, top 2/3 on the sky. Position one third of the frame on the school house, position the other third on the ass of the guy in front of you. If you take pictures while riding your bike, that's how you do it. Trust me, I got paid to take pictures once. 5 miles to BBQ!

12:57 pm Old school house 

Time Position Course Crew
13:20 Mile 85 - Malcolm, NE North Ben T., Erik, David, Omaha Crew

This isn't Instagram, no pictures of BBQ here. (aren't you glad I talked it up for the last 10 minutes?) Instead you get a picture of my bike in front of the building. The smiley face on their signage was an accurate representation of my expression after engulfing their fine cuisine. I ate the pickle for good measure, because it helps with cramping. It was horrid. I hate pickles. Easily the worst part of my life. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. At least I got my money's worth, unlike Hillary and her $12,000 Armani jacket. I mean, come on, you're just paying for the name with that one.

1:20 pm 85 miles Malcolm, NE time for some Lippy's BBQ

Time Position Course Crew
14:50 Mile 93.2 - Branched Oak Farm Oasis North Erik, David

Erik and I stayed back in Malcolm enjoying the ambiance a little longer than the rest of the group. We ended up catching up with David at the Branched Oak Farm Oasis. Nice oasis, but I was in a bad mood. This was my low spot for the day. If I could push through, I could do it. Spoiler alert, I did it.

Time Position Course Crew
16:15 Mile 106.4 - Random Oasis East Ben T., Paul

Around mile 100 I pushed through my dark spot and came out on the other side. I had been riding with Paul for a couple of miles and just after mile 100 we caught up with Ben Turner. He was having some knee problems, but you can't break that guy's spirit. I've never seen someone be in pain and be happy at the same time. That dude is a freak of nature. I mean that in a respectful way.

There was a random truck oasis that Paul and I stopped at. Did you really think two college guys would pass up an opportunity for free food? Come on...

4:15 pm Random oasis before Valparaiso. 106.4 miles

Time Position Course Crew
16:35 Mile 109.4 - Main Rd. & Co Rd 27 East Paul

It is at this point that I would like to educate you on Butt Butt'r. What is it? Essentially, special Vaseline that you apply to your land down under to keep things from chaffing and to reduce friction. It helps the buttocks glide over the saddle like a graceful stallion. I was over 100 miles in and needed to reapply. So, I quickly stopped in Valparaiso and took care of business. Nothing funny about that. Buttering up is serious business.

In other news, look at those clouds!
Ah, take a look at that. Oh my gawd, listen to that horn!!! Oh my gawd, she is beautiful, she is beautiful, YEAH!!! Alright. Oh no, it's a BL-2, too!!!
This is special, THIS IS SPECIAL. 

4:35 pm

Time Position Course Crew
16:47 Mile 112.4- Co Rd. B & Co Rd 25 East Paul


4:47 pm 

Time Position Course Crew
16:56 Mile 114.7- Co Rd. B & Co Rd 23 East Paul


4:56 pm
Hey. You see that cloud on the left side?
Uh, which cloud?
The one on the left, two down from the top.
Ok, that cloud?
Nah, the one to the right.
That one?
Yeah, you see how it cradles the cloud next to it?
That reminds me of how The Donald's hair cradles his head.
Ok... maybe it's time for you to go back to the psych ward.

Time Position Course Crew
17:34 Mile 124.0- CP 3 Otto Pond South Paul, David

Well, I've gone off the deep end. So, why hold back now? The last checkpoint, Otto Pond, was like the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer of Gravel Worlds. What is the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer? It's the biggest helicopter leasing event in the western hemisphere since 1997. Do I need to say more? How 'bout I let Adam Scott tell you about it.

The next question on your mind should be "Ben, were you ready for the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer?" Hell yeah, I've been earning and burning, snapping necks, and cashing checks. I was ready.

That's enough of that... that aside was brought to you by the blockbuster movie "Step Brothers" which I recently watched on cable television. #NotASponsor

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Otto Pond was the final checkpoint and stop for the race. Paul and I spent some time resting and refueling before the remaining 21 miles or so. This was my favorite stop for the day. When you have ho-hos and tacos how could it not be? Also, how could you say no-no to a ho-ho?!

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm the guy in the blue/white kit, gnomies socks, and fluorescent yellow CamelBak. Just look at the definition on those legs... That's like 4K definition. I'm joking of course, they're like 1080P at best.

Otto Pond was the first stop after I broke my personal record for longest distance ridden. Previous best was 111.4 miles, which I set back in June. Before that, 101 miles. It really didn't seem that much harder to get the extra miles. After 100, it's all kind of a bonus.
5:34 pm CP3: Otto Pond.  Photo by Michelle Otto

Time Position Course Crew
19:23 Mile 145.5- Finish South Paul

Mile 125-126 was the only dirt road on this years course. We had no idea what to expect with the rains the previous night. Was it going to be an entire mile of mud? Could you ride it, walk it...? It turned out to only be two or three big mud holes on the entire mile of road. We were able to ride through two of them, the last one was not rideable, but there was a strip of grass on the edge of the road that you could walk through without getting your shoes dirty. Some people didn't realize that and rolled through the finish with soaking feet. Work smarter... not harder.

Paul and I rode together to the finish. The last twenty miles seemed like eternity. "are we there yet?" I kept looking down at my Garmin, What?! still 15 miles... ugghhh. 14 miles... sweet baby jeebus. Looking back, I'm surprised "The final countdown" wasn't stuck in my head. But what I'm more surprised by is the hair game of the band Europe, it's strong. Could give The Donald a run for his money.

North first street was the final stretch of gravel. Having ridden it previously, I knew what was in store. For me, it was the hardest part of the day. Being so close to the finish and having to climb those big rollers with chunky gravel. TEARS

The last chunk of gravel was in sight after we passed the Lincoln city limits sign. I ceremonially waved goodbye to the gravel, then hit the pavement. I thought to myself, we were basically done. What a relief! At this point, I knew I would finish even if my bike broke in half. In the unlikely scenario that this did happen, I had a back-up plan that consisted of shouldering the remains of my bike and walking the remaining mile. How bad-ass would that be?!

When I rolled through the finish, I was greeted with a Gravel Worlds Finisher's patch and family and friends that had come to watch me finish. I really didn't think anyone would be there, but it was a wonderful surprise to have people screaming your name.
WOOT. Crossing the finish. Photo by Karen Fischer

Closing thoughts

Get out there. Adventure. Then come back and share your story. There may be 500 people doing the same thing as you, but your experience will be entirely unique.

Everything I had with me at the end of the day. I also used a Camelbak Rogue pack that is not shown.

Gear List

  • Banjo Brothers Deluxe Medium saddle bag
    • Spare tube
    • Pedro's Tire levers (set)
    • Park tool patch kit
    • Swiss tech Micro-plus EX 9 in 1 tool, mainly use for the pliers
    • Crank brothers M17 multitool
    • Park tool tire boot
    • Presta to Schrader valve adapter
  • Apidura Extended Top Tube Bag 
    • Spare tube
    • Lezyne Pressure drive pump
    • Anker 2nd Gen Astro E1 USB battery pack (to recharge devices)
    • USB cable for Garmin
    • USB cable for phone
    • Custom wood spacer to hold bag off of top tube cables
    • Butt Butt'r
  • On the bike (2012 Giant TCX 0)
    • Garmin Edge 810
    • Nite Rider Lumina 750 headlight 
    • Nite Rider Solas 40 Taillight
    • Banjo Brothers Cue Sheet holder and Cue sheets (attached with velcro)
    • Race number
    • 700 x 40c Clement MSO tires, clincher (not tubeless)
    • Fizik Antares saddle
    • Garmin magnetless speed and cadence sensors
    • 2 x 24 oz. Polar Insulated water bottles
  • On my body
    • Pearl Izumi sun sleeves
    • Walz synthetic wicking cycling cap
    • Louis Garneau fingerless gloves
    • Garmin premium heart rate strap
    • Road ID
    • Smith Pivlock Arena Max Sunglasses
    • Clif Bars - (Think I had Oatmeal Rasin Walnut, Chocolate Chip, and Coconut Chocolate Chip)
    • Banana
    • Canon Powershot SX260 HS camera
    • JBL Synchros Reflect Headphones
    • Zip lock bag
      • Phone - LG G3
    • Pearl izumi Elite In-r-cool bib shorts
    • Just Sayin' Jersey
    • Lazer O2 Helmet
    • SockGuy Gnomies Socks - a.k.a. the coolest socks ever
  • CamelBak Rogue Hydration pack 70 oz. (2 Liter)
    • Sunscreen
    • Wallet
    • Glasses cleaning cloth
    • Contact lens rewetting drops
    • Chapstick
    • 4 mm allen key to adjust saddle (multi tool isn't long enough)
    • Ibuprofen
    • Band-aids
    • Gum
    • CamelBak elixir hydration drink tablets
    • Gatorade powder in pre-portioned baggies
    • Pretzels
    • PB and Honey sandwich
    • Other miscellaneous food
    • Tissues
    • Car keys
    • Butt Butt'r
    • Chapstick with Sunscreen


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