Race directors have to make decisions and trade-offs all the time. But some decisions are not just trade-offs, they are true dilemas, meaning there is no good answer. After riding the 100km route for the Glenwood Gravel last week I was faced with a true route dilema, a version of the Trolley Problem, a gravel Kobayashi Maru… I had to decide between “death by a thousand cuts” or “a swift and killing blow”. Here’s what happened; one of the big climbs on the route, Quigg Ave., got several inches of fresh gravel. I’m talking deep stuff bruh.
Now, for those that were on the first Glenwood Gravel, you might recall that Quigg Ave. was one of our Strava segments and it’s one of those climbs that plays with your head. It’s not the steepest climb (that’s on the Preparation Pisgah course), but it has a long flat approach and then quickly shifts to an average 10% grade and bounces around 14-15% at times. It’s only 1/2 a mile long, so it’s not the worst, but it’s memorable and often heart pounding.
Well, as I turned left onto Quigg last week I knew instantly I was in trouble. To be clear, I like climbing. I grew up climbing big hills and I would consider it one of my strengths. I might not be the fastest, but I pride myself on getting up hills eventually. In fact, I can’t remember ever walking up a gravel road in Iowa. But… I walked up Quigg Ave.. The gravel was big, and chunky, and deep, and loose and it was at mile 50 on the route. So, Quigg Ave. won that day as I slowly walked my bike up the hill.
So, now what?
My goal with these race routes is to make them doable and fun for everyone. Fast racing folks should have a fun and a safe course and those not interested in racing should have a great day in the saddle and feel excited to tackle another day. I don’t seek to destroy people, but only appropriately challenge them. So, after attempting Quigg Ave. I thought to myself, “there’s no way I could send folks up Quigg Ave”. I looked at my other options and did a lot of re-work on the route. And, that’s when I faced the dilemma. I could send folks up Quigg Ave. (which I’ve affectionately started calling Satan’s Commode) or send them on a fairly long climb up Peas Rd., which come to find out has a lot of chunky gravel on it too, but it is rideable. I rode it today and while I wouldn’t say it’s in the best condition, it is doable and the views are really nice if you can keep your head up while picking your line along the turns and climbs.
Choice is power
I was told once that the only way to fail a dilemma is to NOT make a choice. By not deciding, you’re giving up your own responsibility and that’s the true failure. So, I’ve made a decision and I’m going to let you, i.e. each rider, choose the route you want to take*.
For both the 50km and 100km route you will be able to choose to take the Quigg Ave. “short cut”, which will almost certainly require walking, or you can ride Peas. Rd. and get a bit more climbing in. The asterix on this choice is that folks racing or wanting to stand on the podium have to take Peas Rd. and you’ll need to show me a GPS file to prove you took Peas and not Quigg.
Fun is deciding what you want
I do realize the irony in how I’m choosing to deal with this dilemma; I’m choosing to let you choose. I’m not trying to kick the decision down the road though–I really want you to be free to make this day a great experience and you play the starring role in that decision. Peas Rd. is actually something I’ve wanted to get on the Glenwood Gravel route, but I didn’t think it would happen this soon. I find I accomplish my goals much sooner than I anticipate…
Just know if you choose the “short cut”, I’ve walked up Quigg Ave. and I know how you feel. And, if you choose to climbed up Peas Rd. and I know how it feels too anxiously pick the right line up and down those hills. I also know you’ll make the right decision for you. Except for you racers… you get no choice; please go up Peas Rd. 🙂
I will do my best to make sure the route and this shortcut is clearly marked. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or reach out to the team from the contact page. Looking forward to hearing from you and see you in Glenwood soon!