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I'm Headed to Unbound Gravel. Hope I'm Ready

Contained here is the knowledge essential for anyone hoping to complete Unbound Gravel. Plan. Practice. Master that which is in your control and conquer you fear. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Features

If you’ve been following the TPC blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been hyper-focused on Unbound Gravel this year. Here’s all the junk that’s been swirling around in my mind all spring:

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve gone a little crazy. I'm a bit stressed. I want my race to go well, but there’s only so much you can control.

The best way to ensure everything goes as well as possible is to plan and practice. I’ve done the planning in the blog posts above. The practice was done over several long training rides. My longest training ride was 120 miles:

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Of course, I’m testing out all my equipment to make sure it all works how I want it to. I’m also practicing executing my pacing and nutrition plan. 

The Unbound Pacing Plan:

  • Try to keep power between 150-250W
  • Limit efforts above 250W
  • Try to keep heart rate below 170 BPM

Ideally, I want to do most of the race in my endurance zone, so using a power window will help keep me in check. But I expect cardiac drift to happen over a race this long, especially if it gets hot, so I also have to keep tabs on my heart rate. If it starts going into the 170s (my threshold is 176 BPM) then I need to back off, no matter what power I’m making, to keep myself from blowing up later. 

The Unbound Nutrition Plan:

  • Eat every 30 minutes
  • Drink ~20 oz of carb mix every hour
  • Aim for ~90-100 grams of carbs per hour

I already detailed everything I eat in my nutrition post. The big thing is practicing eating it and testing how it affects you. I did test eating over 100g of carbs in a few earlier rides, but my stomach didn’t seem to like it, and it got hard to eat after 6-8 hours. I might be tempted, but I know now I need to avoid smashing two 50g Carbs Fuel gels in the same hour. 

The Unbound Suffering Plan:

The big thing though is also preparing my mind to endure 12+ hours of rough and punishing gravel. I really wanted to experience feeling completely drained, so for my biggest 120-mile ride, I put in a lot of tough climbs right at the beginning to soften up the legs. Then for the final stretch, I met up with my strong friend Jonathan (a Cat 1 road racer) who attacked me several times, forcing me to dig deep and feel the pain. It sucked, but it gave me a bit of confidence. 

Also, I got to practice some mental tricks. The last twenty miles of my ride were all within spitting distance of my house. It would have been so easy to give up. But I convinced myself to just go to the next intersection and see how I felt before giving up. Then the next. Then the next. Add these little moments of perseverance up, and you’ll get yourself to 200 miles in no time!


My Unbound Gravel Bike:

Lauf Seigla Unbound Gravel

Oh yeah, the bike. Of course, I had to make sure my bike was dialed. I had new tires, sealant, and inserts. I just waxed up a fresh chain. I got some narrower aero handlebars. I even went a bit nutty and got a titanium derailleur hanger because… titanium. 

I’m riding the same gravel frame I rode last year — a Lauf Seigla — but I’ve changed every part except the shifters, brakes, and cranks. The paint is roached from the mud last year, and a lot of chips and scrapes are covered with well-matched nail polish. It makes me sad, but now I’m more willing to abuse it in the race this year!  


Frame: Lauf Segla, Small
Fork: Lauf Grit 3rd Gen
Shifters: SRAM Force AXS
Brakes: SRAM Force AXS
Cranks: SRAM Force AXS, 170mm, 44t chainring
Rear derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle AXS
Cassette: SRAM X01 Eagle, 10-50t
Handlebars: FSA K-Wing AGX, 40cm
Stem: FSA SL-K, 120mm. -12
Seatpost: FSA SL-K,
Saddle: Specialized Power Pro Mirror
Wheels: Vision SC30 AGX
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder Pro, 700c x 47mm
Inserts: Tubolight EVO Gravel
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 7
Bags: Silca Speed Capsule TT, Wolf Tooth B-RAD TekLite Roll-Top Bag 0.6L
Cages: King Titanium

So What Now?

We pray? I don’t know. I feel ready. But I also feel woefully underprepared at the same time. That's just how I am — always riddled with anxiety, especially before races. 

I leave Thursday morning and will drive 8.5 hours straight to the dorms where I’m staying. The plan is to do ~40 miles of course recon on Friday morning with my wife (there's rain in the forecast so that might change). Then I’ll wax my chain that night. I’ll be eating carbs and hydrating the whole time. Breathe too. I need to remember to breathe. 

On race morning, maybe, it will all fall into place. But Unbound is long, and anything can happen. Hopefully, I make it to the finish this year. I’ll see you all on the other side! 

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