It has been seven days since I finished the Gravel Worlds/Pirate Cycling League Long Voyage.
Total mileage was 302.2. The Long Voyage was definitely an adventure, the
race/course/experience matched my expectations. The course is very hilly, scenic, and
challenging. I would say that the course description matched the actual course 100%.
I started preparing the Monday before the race. Throughout the week, I washed my bike,
charged my electronics, planned my nutrition/hydration and went to bed early every night.
Friday morning came quickly, I decided to go to work so that my mind was kept occupied, but to
be honest, most of my thoughts were about the race. I was excited, with a dash of anxiety and
nerves, and felt ready.
My attitude going into the race was positive and I believed that I could finish. Before I race, I
always envision the outcome. I had been doing this for several months. I imagined myself
crossing the finish line, hugging my wife and friends while listening to a very special song (more
to come later about said song). My wife Stephanie picked me up at work and we drove to
Schillingbridge at 2 pm. We picked up my packet and tracker, chatted with a few friends and
went back to the car to prepare my bike. I had everything I needed and was ready to go. A
friend of mine let me borrow a helmet light, power bank and a GPS computer, which saved me
later in the race. Time flew by! Around 4 pm I turned on the Spot Tracker and headed to the
start line, I was pumped! You could feel the excitement from riders, organizers and spectators
alike! All of a sudden, we were off! My goal was to ride at a comfortable pace, with a goal of
keeping a 15 mph average. Unfortunately, I started feeling my calves twitching at about mile 20,
I knew that cramps were not far behind, this was very concerning, once cramps start, they
hardly ever go away for me. I drank so much fluids that by the time we reached the first gas
station at mile 51.00 I had no fluids left and I was cramping really bad. I decided to chew some
salt tablets, drink Gatorade and refill my water. The salt tablets worked almost immediately and I
was ready to go again. I took off with my friend, Todd Frye. Todd and I chatted and started the
night riding part. Everything was going well, except for my GPS computer, my computer for
some reason restarted itself. It took about 10 minutes for the computer to reboot, fortunately it
picked up the course right away. Todd and I kept riding and I was feeling pretty good. Todd
expressed that he was feeling tired and he was going to nap as soon as he found an
appropriate place to do so, he started to slow down, while my pace was staying at about 14.5 to
15 miles per hour. Whenever I am in a race, if I feel good, I take full advantage of it. I never
know when I am going to hit a rough spot. Unfortunately, inevitably things change, especially on
a 300 mile/30 hour race. At this point, we were riding fully in the dark, I was enjoying it and at
around mile 82, we arrived at a mobile SAG Stop, it was really cool, they had a van with lights
right on the road and had everything we could ask for. I had a coke and some snacks. I took
advantage of the stop to fill on fluids and get ready for the upcoming miles. At this moment I
realized how convenient the helmet light was, I was so happy I had it with me! Still feeling good,
I took off. A bit after the SAG, we encountered a wet MMR which we had to walk. I was a bit
disappointed because this set me back, but was in good spirits. I had forgotten my mud spatula,
so I had to remove mud with my fingers. It took me about 30 minutes to clean the bike and keep
going. Riding at night was great! The weather was amazing and my Light and Motion SECA
light was bright and gave me confidence to ride at a nice pace. It was very cool to go up hills
which I could not see the top, and also to see the bike lights from the riders that were about a
quarter mile in front of me. Once in a while, I would look up and looked at the stars which were
amazing! The next stop was Pawnee City. There was a hose to grab water. I grabbed water,
took a few minutes to readjust my nutrition and water and started riding again, this was mile
109.00. One century down, two to go! At some point, my computer rebooted again, so I kept
close to the rider in front of me while it restarted. With no further issues, my computer restarted
and picked up the route. About an hour before I reached Marysville, my mind started going to a
dark place, I started thinking about something that had happened earlier that day and it kept
bothering me, my mind was not in the right place. I arrived at Marysville and struggled. I did not
know where to start, should I eat? Refill my water? It took me several minutes to even do
something. I could tell that I needed help, that is when I called Stephanie and told her what I
was experiencing, we talked through it, she calmed me down. By the time I felt better, ate and
drank, that sun started rising and it started getting warmer, this helped me a lot. At this point, I
headed to Beatrice. While heading to Beatrice, I realized that my phone was not charging. I had
plugged it to one of my power banks and it had not been charged at all, this was very upsetting
since I only had about 20% charge. At this moment I let Stephanie know that I was going to turn
off my phone. A few miles later, I noticed my computer was not calculating mileage, which
meant my miles to next cue were also not calculating. I tried restarting my computer and
nothing. After several attempts to troubleshoot, I decided to use the extra computer I had. I kept
going. I arrived in Beatrice. In Beatrice, I was not feeling well at all mentally or emotionally, so I
called my wife and told her I thought I needed to quit. Stephanie said, ok, do you have 50 miles
more in you? I said no. Do you have 20 miles in you? I said no. At this point, she said ok, I will
head your way and we can meet halfway. In my mind, what I remembered from that
conversation is that she was going to pick me up when I called her. I gathered myself and
headed out. It was a struggle fest and by this point, my 15 mph average was a pipe dream and
the new goal was just to meet Stephanie somewhere. I thought I was done. At some point, I
shed a few tears. A few hours later, I was in Wilber at mile 224. I was feeling a bit better, and
decided to keep going. I was going slow, but consistent and fighting off the dark thoughts, but at
least my phone was charging again, which gave me some reassurance.
I reached Crete and stopped very briefly, and kept going. At mile 248 I reached the Goodr SAG, the volunteer was
nice! He gave me water, a beer and jerky, I gotta say, the jerky was awesome! At around 6 pm,
at around mile 262 I realized that I have 5 hours to complete 40 miles, at this point I decided to
try and finish, I texted Stephanie and let her know the news, I was excited, my legs were still
firing and emotionally and mentally i was doing better, I knew as long as nothing extraordinary
happened, I would finish! All of sudden, the vision that I had for my finish started feeling more
like a reality. I slowly made it to Malcolm, then Raymond, it was dark again, my lights still had
charge and my computer was working. All of sudden I was 10 miles away. Those last hills were
tough mentally, I just wanted to be done, I was getting anxious. A few miles from the end, I was
waved down by another cyclist, his lights had lost charge and needed a navigator. I was more
than happy to navigate. We headed to Lincoln where I could see the lights. I was all smiles, I
was going to finish, all of a sudden we were in the Fallbrook area and the neighborhood streets,
as I saw the finish line, I heard it! Sopa de Caracol came on the loudspeakers!
https://www.facebook.com/roy.rivera.777/videos/1239122990208612/ Click to watch Roy cross the finish line.
Sopa de Caracol is a song that was authored by La Banda Blanca, a band from my country of origin, Honduras.
All of a sudden, mile 302.2 and I was done! I finished and was getting sprayed with champagne,
listening to my song and embracing my amazing wife and friends. I finished at 9:52.
The Long Voyage was a complete physical, mental, and emotional rollercoaster. For about 100
miles, I was mentally and emotionally drained. Physically, I was used to the pain, that part was
easy to handle.
What went well? My bike had zero mechanical issues, I had enough nutrition and liquids.
Weather was great, the light setup worked very well, and I did not feel sleepy at night.
What went wrong? Cramps in the first 50 miles, computer issues, mental and emotional
roadblocks. Definitely need to do more training rides, longer rides. My longer training ride was
about 160 miles, that was way too short for attempting a 300 mile ride. I believe that my mental
and emotional roadblocks were caused by this. My longest race before the Long Voyage was
the Gravel Worlds 150 course.
Things to improve on, better hydration, start salt tablet routing earlier in the ride.
I would like to do a shoutout to my loving and amazing wife, Stephanie, my finish would have
not been possible without her support, my canine daughters Carmen and Coco, who always
bring a smile to my face, a shout out to fellow riders, Todd Frye, Andy Phillips and Trisha Luke,
my companions during the ride, even though we did not officially ride together, it was nice to
enjoy some conversation and give each other support. A shout out to all the Long Voyagers
(you all are crazy!). A very special thank you to all my friends, you guys are awesome and love
you! You sure know how to make a fella feel special!
Would I do the Long Voyage again? Sure, but maybe not next year, I would like to hang out with
my wife and friends next year and enjoy all the other events that Gravel Worlds has to offer. I
guess I could just train more and finish earlier, right?! 😉
Thank you to all volunteers and organizers, Gravel Worlds 2022 was amazing! The Long
Voyage was difficult, challenging and exactly what I thought it was going to be, it was quite the
experience, and yes, I would definitely do it all over again, no regrets here.
See you all in 2023!!!!