60 Mile Bike Ride for 24 Hours of Cumming

Dr. Kristen Strawhacker Bonzer Hits the Gravel and Crushes Her Goal

A lot of you know I’m a runner at heart. But lately, I haven’t felt that same buzz from all those running miles. So I decided to focus on biking. On gravel…yep, gravel.

For those of you out of the gravel loop this means outside of town cruising through the beautiful Iowa countryside. The trails in town are mostly flat and run along our river beds. Outside of town you’ll find rolling hills and glorious open sky. There’s something about riding out there that makes my adventure-loving, nature-seeking heart soar.

At first it was scary, but I still loved it. I rode gravel with my Velorosa teammates, my friends, and my husband. I learned routes, tips for handling my bike on the rocks, and how to get away from farm dogs who chase bikes (gravel comes with hazards!!) Riding on something other than trail made me feel adventurous and daring – two things I strive to be, but that frequently lose out to fear. What if I got hurt? Or lost? 

I kept riding and got stronger and more confident. I entered ‘races’ and rode just to finish and enjoy the course. I knew other women who raced, but I wasn’t sure I was good enough. I’ve competed in lots of running events and by this point I know what I’m doing. I don’t know everything about bikes, but this year I decided to push myself.

I signed up for a race with my friend Jessica and trained hard all summer. We rode gravel together on the weekends. I mountain biked and rode as many miles as possible during the week. My bike guru husband helped me put new gravel tires on my bike, plus loads of help with maintenance. I put in the effort and I told people I was racing. Not just riding, RACING!

Last weekend it was finally race day. 100K (60ish miles) of gravel at the 24 Hours of Cumming in Cumming, Iowa. Gravel racing is a whole different mindset. People travel from across the country to ride races that are known for being brutally tough. Our own Iowa race is no different. People came from up 10 hours away to ride our Iowa gravel!

Based on my training rides, I set a goal of finishing as far under 5 hours as possible. I rode hard. Lungs burning, muscles cramping, scraping the bottom of the barrel, fearless hard. I needed to see what I was capable of. Could I push myself on a bike the same way I used to push myself running?

Guess what? I can. I crushed, I mean CRUSHED, my goal. I finished in 3:48:05. Under 4 hours, not 5! I finished as the 2nd woman and 5th overall in a field of gravel trained warriors. I felt strong, tough, and gritty (my new favorite life goal word). I proved to myself I could compete in new challenges. And my favorite part? I could even hang with the men.

Every day I work with incredibly strong women. But it’s not every day that we get to prove how truly tough we are. You are super strong, super tough, and super gritty. Sometimes it just takes a little digging, a little pushing, and a little time out of your comfort zone. I promise what you find will be empowering.