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Jun 21, 2022

This week we sit down with Mark Allen from Wichita, Kansas to learn of his experience in the UNBOUND 100 in 2022. Mark started cycling three years ago on an undersized Walmart bike. He was overweight and dealing with some health issues that convinced him he needed to make some changes. An UNBOUND poster on the wall of a friend changed everything and started him on a journey that led to completing this years 100 mile route.

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

Mark Allen - UNBOUND 100

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist. This week on the show, we're talking to Mark Allen from Wichita, Kansas, and talking to mark about his journey from being a non cyclist three years ago, to finishing the Unbound 100 this year.

I very much enjoyed this conversation with mark and I hope you do too. I think it just goes to show all of us that regardless of the challenge. What's important is putting one foot in front of the other one pedal stroke in front of the other, and just keep moving forward. Before we jump in. I want to thank this week. Sponsor, bike index.

Bike index is a nonprofit bicycle registry and stolen bike recovery platform. The platform has helped recovered. Over $18 million in stolen bicycles. And you know what? The one thing they all have in common is they freely registered their bikes on bike index. So head on over to bike, register your bike. All you need is the serial number, make, model, and color of your bicycle. You'll get it in the system and hopefully you never need to use their services.

If you do, they've built out of robust, stolen bike recovery platform. With tools that you can use to freely share your stolen bike on social media channels. As well as ways of actually advertising against your stolen bike. To your fellow cyclists in your area, it dramatically increases your chances of recovering a stolen bicycle. So please take a

With that said let's dive right into my conversation with Mark Allen. Hey, mark. Welcome to the show.

[00:02:01] Mark Allen: Thank you very much for having me.

[00:02:03] Craig Dalton: I'm excited to dig into your story as the listener knows. I always like to start just by getting a little bit about your background. So why don't you tell us where you're from, where you're living and originally how you found the bike, and then we'll get into how you got the courage to sign up for the Unbound 100 this year.

[00:02:20] Mark Allen: Yes. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas did not know hardly anything about gravel cycling at all, which is amazing when you know, Unbound is basically in the backyard of Wichita. So. About three years ago, I decided I needed to get my health in check and was probably about 60 pounds overweight struggled with some thyroid issues that created me to gain an immense amount of weight.

And I went to Walmart and bought a bike that just, I just decided to go ride a bike and

[00:02:57] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Did you just get tipped off that cycling was a good activity, easy on the joints and

[00:03:02] Mark Allen: I read yes, easy on the joints trying to not hurt my knees any further than they've been over 53 years of using them. So I jumped on this bike. That was way too small and I wrote it and I wrote it and I wrote it. And. Started losing weight. Started fixing my nutrition started fixing the proper medicines with my doctor.

I mean, you put the three together and it, I really started having great results, great health results, great mental results. I mean, it was just a, you know, all on. Little itty bitty mongoose bike that I bought in Walmart. I'm six, five and 280 pounds at that time. And I'm now six, five, and kind of bounced between two 30 and two 40.

But so I'm not literal at all.

[00:03:52] Craig Dalton: Was was the environment in Wichita conducive to cycling? Was it, were you seeing people out there on the roads that made you say like, oh, like I see people are really passionate about this sport.

[00:04:03] Mark Allen: Oh, say it all the time. It's amazing amount. You know, we don't have the greatest cycling infrastructure for the level of cycling that gets done in Wichita. Really surprised at that, but the amount of people that are. Riding bikes. I mean, everything from recreational bikes to folks on road and folks on gravel is amazing.

So the, it is very popular here. It's very popular here and and. It's again, it's just amazing to see the amount of people doing it and really the amount of people not doing it. And I've been really spreading the wor word on cycling, trying to get other folks you know, involved in it because I've, I had such great benefits from it.


[00:04:46] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's amazing. I mean, a couple things I wanna drill into there, but, but first off, you know, cycling, I think can be a, a cost prohibitive sport. It can be kind of confusing and intimidating. You just jumped right in and got, got yourself a bike and started riding. Were you riding just on the, the streets and trails of Wichita at that, at that first instance?

[00:05:06] Mark Allen: get up every morning, about 4:00 AM and I would ride through my neighborhood and then I would go outta my neighborhood. Down to an intersection across the street up all the way down to the next inter street intersection, cross the street and come back through the neighborhood. And I kept doing laps very early in the morning.

I was a little self-conscious. I was very didn't want any traffic. Didn't just, just needed to ride at my pace. And, and. Just build upon, build upon that. So, didn't venture far, just a lot of repetitive lap

[00:05:40] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah, no, it's great. I mean, it's great that you sort of knew that about yourself and said that like you just need to get started and everything else that we'll talk about that came from that start started with you just being willing to get up early and ride around the block a few times.

[00:05:54] Mark Allen: is absolutely correct.

[00:05:56] Craig Dalton: Yeah.

The other thing I wanted to ask you about that you mentioned, obviously you started to see some health benefits. I think anybody movement is just so important for all of us and you, it was clear, you were gonna see some health benefits right away, but you also mentioned, you know, you felt mental benefits from riding a bike.

So I'd love to just kind of hear a little bit about your thoughts about that and the benefits you were getting for just getting out there and riding.

[00:06:20] Mark Allen: Solitude it it's, it's amazing. Just writing by myself and having time to just think I own my own business. I have 30 some employees. I have, I'm married, have seven children. I have five children that are out the house now. And two home. Very demanding. So, a lot of responsibility, a lot of working with a lot of people and just finding time for myself, just tiny, you know, sorting things out in my head and trying to find, you know, self care time to really meditate on things.

Think about things, talk to yourself you know, just even positive feedback from yourself. You know, if I set a goal for the day and I accomplish it, That feeling was phenomenal. I mean, it was it just, and it was, there were little goals, you know, there were little goals at first three laps, four laps, five laps, you know, and that self feedback loop of wow, I did it was, was immense.

So I get up in the morning. I do these rides. I set my daily goals. I meet my daily goals and my entire day. Starts out different. I'm not waking up with the, the weight of the world of my family or my work on my shoulders. I'm waking up and accomplishing a goal immediately. And it just sets the tone from the day, from there on out, just absolutely sets the tone.

[00:07:43] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I completely agree with you. I got out this morning for an hour before anybody was at the breakfast table, got home. And honestly, anything I achieved throughout the rest of the day is, is inconsequential because I've really, I've spent that time with myself. I got a little bit of exercise in and just enjoyed, you know, the environment that I'm able to ride.

[00:08:03] Mark Allen: Yes. And, and I want everybody to understand. It's just little things, right? It's little things, just getting out and doing little things to begin with. And, and, you know, my story has this. Incredible ending which is another beginning, which I'm sure we'll talk about soon, but it's just little things. I mean, it's a lap around your street.

It's that simple of a, a start, you know, the, the start's the hard part. But it, it isn't you know, it isn't hours at a time, which, you know, is just a little bit, so, you know, I tell everybody don't be afraid, just start, you know, pick something easy and go. Yeah. And, and it's amazing how the rest of the day just comes together.

[00:08:43] Craig Dalton: Yeah. So tell me about, so, you know, you're running laps in the neighborhood and you're building up your mileage. Was there a certain point where something clicked and you said, well, gosh, maybe I should set a target. Maybe I should try to ride. 15 miles or 20 miles. And it kind of got you a little bit outta that neighborhood routine and made you

[00:09:00] Mark Allen: I started reading about single track and I was like, wow, this is pretty cool. And watched some videos. And I went and bought a specialized doubled XL rock hopper. It's a huge bike, which fit me, which was great. So that's really the first bike that. Fit me to where, you know, I wasn't scrunched up. I wasn't hurting or anything like that.

And I left I Prairie, sunset trail is about five miles from my house. It's a trail that runs about 20 miles on the west side of Wichita. And I left I left the, the confines of my neighborhood and I rode that trail. It's flat. It has, it has no elevation on it at all. So it's just flat and you'll find everybody, people walking, walking their dogs, you know, riding gravel, cyclists.

I mean, everybody's on that trail. And so I was first able to overcome. People seeing me on a bike. I finally had a bike that fit me, so it didn't look terribly crazy. And I started riding that trail and you know, at first, the first time I did 10 miles on that trail, I was beside myself. I was just like, this is the greatest thing ever.

I did 10 miles and that's five out and five back to where I parked. So, you know, five out with a break and five back with a, you know, when I parked. And so I started doing. I did a little bit of the air cap Memorial trail, which is there too. And then I had a pretty good wreck on it as anybody that does single track.

You know, I had a really good wreck. I hit a tree with my left shoulder, went over the handle bars. I'm too old. I'm too big to be going over handle bars And I was like, okay, this is, this has kind of scared me. And At that time I had met Nathan Wadsworth, who is in charge of elite training. My son had been going to him doing some personal fitness with him, and Nathan is a phenomenal gravel cyclist.

So him and I had just been talking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And he's the one that steered me that, and the tree steered me away from single track and towards gravel cycling.

[00:11:03] Craig Dalton: Okay. And were you able with, we, were you able to find gravel cycling roads out of Wichita that you could start to enjoy at that point?

[00:11:11] Mark Allen: Oh, all over. They're all over. There's a 45th street is I, I would say a mile from my house and I can do a 20 mile out and back on the same street with some decent elevation with a. Boat marina at the end of the first 20 miles. So if you need to use the restroom or get something to drink, you can refill and, and head back in the gravel roads around Wichita on the west side of town are great, not a ton of elevation training wise but they are they're, they're incredible.

And very rideable and they were really designed to help me, you know, learn how to ride a gravel bike.

[00:11:47] Craig Dalton: Okay. And did you end up swapping the, the specialized mountain bike for a drop bar bike? Or were you still on the specialized.

[00:11:54] Mark Allen: I rode that J until I could find one. My problem was, this was right pre COVID. And as COVID was hitting, every American went out and bought a bike. And and given my size there's only a few manufacturers that make a bike large enough for me anyways. So what Nathan did was steer to a, a specialized 64 carbon sport diverge.

And I spent months looking for that. So I was stuck on. Rock hopper, riding gravel roads, like a gravel cyclist looking months on, in for a gravel bike that the specific 64. And I found it over the internet in North Carolina. So it was and it was at a shop that couldn't ship it to me due to specialized franchise territory rules and all that.

But it was in a town that I have a friend, it was in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I called my friend and I said, Hey, they have this bike that I've been looking for for months. Could you pick it up for me and ship it to me? And, and my friend Chuck was like, absolutely. And I said, it's at all star at in quail corners, right outside of Raleigh.

And he. That's the bike shop I use. And I was like, holy Mac, we we've got my bike and it's in Chuck's neighborhood and I'm gonna have this bike here in three days. And I did, it was just, it was a miracle. I mean, it was, you know, just, it was cool. It

[00:13:17] Craig Dalton: That's amazing. Yeah. I'm glad you were able to get something relatively efficiently. Cause I've heard tons of stories about people trying to find a bike. And in your particular case, as you describe it, when you've only got a model or a couple models that are gonna work for you, you probably have an even li more limited opportunity to grab a hold of a gravel bike.

[00:13:36] Mark Allen: Yes. Yeah. There's just not for my size. There's not, and that's something I'm hoping in the future that the gravel industry will look at, cuz there's a lot of guys, my size that would do this. If there was, I think more availability you know, of, of, of bikes, of size.

[00:13:53] Craig Dalton: So you'd been riding maybe about a, a year. Did I get the timeline right? When you got that gravel bike

[00:13:58] Mark Allen: Yes. It was a, it was about a year,

[00:14:00] Craig Dalton: was when you first sort of stepped over the gravel bike and started riding with dropped handle bars. How did you, how did that feel? Was that a, a rough transition from a straight bar mountain bike, which is a little bit maybe easier to ride.

I'd argue

[00:14:15] Mark Allen: Scared me to death I had never, I mean, I had never written any written, anything. Like that. And so just the basics of trying to master a bike that is beyond your technical skill and also way beyond your physical skills. So the, the, the bike was way out ahead of my abilities and just having a thumb shifter.

I mean, literally I I'd never, I'm like, I didn't know what gear I was in , you know, just trying to Technically learn how to ride the bike. It took me, it took me quite a while. I mean, it took me, I don't know, several months to finally get into the flow, get into a fill. I went through three different fits.

Trying to just get very comfortable in it. So I'm, I'm writing it every day. I'm going, you know, weeks at a time I go get a fit and then I get another fit and I ride and get another fit. And finally it all starts coming together and it, it, it's not easy on gravel. It's, it's not easy at all, as we all know, but it was, it's funny trying to.

Me to shift before I go up. And then how am I managed to go down properly without crashing and, and just, it was an amazing. Transformation. It just was, everybody thinks you'd jump on the bike. And yeah, I just jumped on the bike from Walmart and rode. I just absolutely rode. I got on the rock hopper and I just rode.

And then all of a sudden, I'm now leaning forward and I've got gears to manage and I've got gravel to manage and all of this comes together where it takes a while before you can technically maneuver with, you know, any kind of efficiency.

[00:15:56] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Did you, did you see some immediate performance benefits on being on that bike versus the heavier mountain bike?

[00:16:02] Mark Allen: Oh, yeah. It the, the street that I would ride on EV every night had a lot of gravel cyclists on him. I could never stay up with them. I mean, I never, I couldn't even get near 'em. So, you know, we would all start out together and I'd be the one in one behind. So, yeah, it was it's, it's amazing. The difference in.

Performance that you get with it. And that bike has been phenomenal. It's it's, it's amazing. When, when you get your bike working good and you have confidence in your bike. It's just, you're unbeatable and you're unbeatable in the sense of the perception you have for yourself. You know, what, what you expect out of yourself, you're, you're meeting and surpassing your, your own expectation.

I'm not worried about beating this guy or beating this guy. I'm worried about my perception. You know, what should I expect out myself? And when that bike is together, it's just, it's amazing. It's amazing.

[00:16:54] Craig Dalton: Yeah. It sounds like in those months you were really feeling yourself and feeling just kind of great about the journey you've been on. Did you go back to Nathan and talk to him? And at what point did you see this sign on the wall that said Unbound and thought about doing that?

[00:17:09] Mark Allen: it is pretty funny. It actually happened before I got the gravel bike. I said, would you coach me? If I get a gravel bike, if I go get this gravel bike, will you coach me? He says, yes, he'll coach me. I said, great. And I said, well, I've been looking at this sign this map on your wall for, you know, a bunch of time.

Now, every time I'm in here with my son, I said, what is this? And he says, that's the Unbound 100. And I just laughed. I said, people ride a hundred miles around Emporia and I was like in the Hills and, and I love the Flint Hills and I know the Flint Hills, like the back of my hands. And I was like, why, why would you ride those Hills?

How do you get up? 'em you know? And, and And he was, you know, laughing at me and, and, and I said, okay, I'm gonna get the bike and you're gonna coach me. He says, yeah. And I just, matter of fact, Lee looked at him and I said, I'm going to finish that in three years. And I'm so happy. He didn't laugh at me.

I'm so happy. He just didn't start cracking up and go. You, you know, you're naive. You don't know what you're talking about. And I said, Nathan, you'll learn. You'll learn. You know, I'm I'm, if I say, I'm gonna do it, if I believe I'm gonna do it, then it's gonna happen. And so. It, it sounds a lot easier. I'm, I'm probably making it much more simpler than what I went through, but I made a promise to myself and I made a promise to him.

If he coaches me and I follow him and he helps me that I'm gonna finish finish that. And I did. And it was incredible. Incredible.

[00:18:31] Craig Dalton: Amazing. So when you had sign, did you sign up sort of for you raced obviously the 20, 22 event, how long before did you know you had gotten the slot?

[00:18:41] Mark Allen: Oh a couple months. It was a couple months before that. So, you know, I was, I was just worried. I'm like, why would they pick me out of, you know, Thousands and thousands of people that are doing this, I'm like, why would they pick me? What was the, you know, and, and when they did, I was, Ugh, I was ecstatic. I was like, I can keep my word in Nathan now , you know,

[00:19:00] Craig Dalton: Did you go through some special process because of the journey you're on. Was there like an application for, you know, someone who's doing something bold?

[00:19:08] Mark Allen: It was a long application. I mean the, the actual physical application and, and I was like, I answered all the questions and I was like, why would they pick me? I was like, I hope they're some, somewhere on the application. I could tell my story a little bit. And there was a box that says, tell us a cool cycling story.

And I was like, oh, I got one, you know, old, heavy guy that needs to get better grabs a bike and rides and fast forward, he's in the Unbound, you know? So.

[00:19:34] Craig Dalton: So, so you've got Nathan in your corner, obviously advising you as to what to expect when you got to the start line, what was your confidence level? Like when you arrived at the start line, is it something you knew you could do? Or is it something that you're like, I'm gonna try my best.

[00:19:49] Mark Allen: I knew if I could get to Madison in which Madison is the cutoff. If you don't get to Madison by one 30 they'll stop you on the, on the ride. And so I was very confident that if I got to Madison, I could finish. If I cannot have a mechanical, if I cannot have a flat tire. If, if the bike held together, I knew I could get 64 miles in that time.

And I did the 64 miles to Madison in five hours. It was the fastest I'd ever written. I, it was pure adrenaline. It was pure. It was just I man, I'm in the, I'm in this thing. Let's go now. And I was highly confident that I was I was gonna get there and I was what was looming over me was a little bit of the declines.

But also I'm every mile somebody had a flat tire every mile. It was just flat tire after flat tire after flat tire. And I was like, please, no, please. No, so.

[00:20:48] Craig Dalton: Going back to the start line. I mean, what did you feel like you're surrounded by a thousand people or what, whatever the number was starting, the Unbound 100. Were you intimidated? I'm assuming you hadn't done a lot of group riding to that scale? I.

[00:21:02] Mark Allen: Not to that scale. I had done a two years worth of rides, two years worth of rides. But nothing ever to that scale I was in awe. I was just awe struck. I just kept looking around at all these people. Feeling that I didn't believe belong there still that I was like, how in the heck am I in this thing?

I was just like, wow, this is awesome. And I was ready to go. It was about the best way to say it. I'm not, I, I was just, let's go. I'm I've worked three years for this. Let's go. But still didn't believe I belonged. There still didn't believe that I was in the middle of this. It was very surreal left the start line and couldn't quit smiling.

Through Emporia.

[00:21:43] Craig Dalton: Yeah. You know, I think for anybody who hasn't done an event, there is an electricity you feel at the start line. And that can go a long way. I mean, if you're leaning in and really enjoying that experience, like the miles just sort of fall behind you because you're, you're part of this thing. That's bigger than yourself.

[00:22:00] Mark Allen: Yeah. And that's absolutely, that's absolutely what it was. It was just. It, it's hard to put in words, the experience of starting it was wow. I mean, two to three minutes to get people out of the, across the finish or the start line. I , it was cool.

[00:22:20] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think that's always the funny thing you hear the, the cannon go off and then you look around and no one around you is moving for a few minutes.

[00:22:28] Mark Allen: Yeah. Yep.

[00:22:29] Craig Dalton: When, when you're rolling out in those, you know, say the first 25 miles, when I assume that that the pack is still pretty thick, was that challenging for you to kind of be around all those riders?

[00:22:39] Mark Allen: Yes, because it would. I usually end up in the middle of a race and at a start of a race of a, you know, the smaller races that I do. I mean, peop their separation happens very quickly. So you have the, the first 25% they get gone, they get outta everybody's way. And then you have me the 20 to 75% fall in that line, you know, we're we talk, , you know, we draft, we ride, we enjoy ourselves and we all have our goals for the day and we're trying to achieve our goals.

That's not a big pack. And a lot of the time I end up solo, I just end up solo on these races. So, being, I had to be much more aware of what was going on around me. I had to understand If the person in front of me is struggling a little bit it, it is just a lot more, lot more going on. Your head had to be in it more than I've ever experienced before.

So two there's tons of stuff going on.

[00:23:34] Craig Dalton: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. And I think, you know, oftentimes you're, you're pushed into a line that maybe you wouldn't have selected if you were out there on your own. And I imagine that's where a lot of the flat tires happen because people just get forced into riding through a little bit more Rocky section.

They, then they would've selected. But when there's a dozen people around you, you can't just go swerving, picking the best.

[00:23:54] Mark Allen: Yeah there abso absolutely what happened. There was a lot of people that went through areas that they probably normally wouldn't gone through. One of the things that I noticed was yes, people were riding over Flint rock. That I was like, don't do that. I was like, do not ride over that Flint rock. And there were scenarios where they were stuck and, and at any point in time we were all stuck.

I was stuck on one climb. Where the person in front of me was slowed down to the point where I had to come outta my come outta my pedals to keep my balance because they just they're and I couldn't go right. And I couldn't go left. And I, if I kept going, I was gonna hit them. And, and so it puts you in positions that you've never.

Been in experience that you've ever been in before. And so you've gotta figure it out on the fly and, and that's probably the first 25 miles. My biggest handicap in that first 25 miles is I was like, now, what do I do? I, you know, usually I can just swing right. Swing left. I could stop. I could go. I could, I had so much more freedom in my other races.

This one you were sometimes just stuck. I mean, you were just stuck with what you were.

[00:24:58] Craig Dalton: Yep. Yeah. And I think having the patience, cuz oftentimes when you're impatient, you make a bad decision. Like, oh, I think I can float over those Flint rocks and that's never gonna end well for you.

[00:25:08] Mark Allen: Yeah. And a lot of people did. And I was like you know, Nathan kept telling me your native knowledge of writing all these roads or is gonna pay off. And after a while I was like, stop writing over that folks. I was telling people don't do that. Come here.

[00:25:20] Craig Dalton: Local knowledge. I love it. One of the other things, you know, in talking to a bunch of people who have participated in Unbound this year was, was the mud. And I've spoken more towards people who were doing the 200. And I know the professional athletes given their pace, experienced something different than the mid pack athletes did along the way.

Did the mud come into play in the hunter mile race for.

[00:25:43] Mark Allen: Oh, it did. There was, I think two miles of it was unbelievable mud. The bigger, the bigger. Issue was the thunderstorm previous to that. So I'm gonna answer your question about the mud, but I definitely wanna talk about the thunderstorm because that was unbelievable. Yet I had been in one other race on the Flint Hills gravel ride, where they had about two miles of mud and it was.

Probably the second race I'd ever been in. And of course I ride into it and my bike becomes stuck. I become stuck. I'm completely coated in mud. My bike's coated in mud and, and then it dawns on me and I was like, oh, that paint stick that that guy had in his Jersey. That's what this is for because I was like, why does this guy have a paint stick?

Why does he have a paint stick? And I'm like, now I know why. So, I was able to get out of the mud and. Worked my way through the mud. And, and it really hurt my time because I spent, I don't know how much time trying to get the mud off my bike with my fingers and tearing blue stem grass out of the Prairie to, and using that of sticks.

And so, not a lot of experience, but I knew better to then to ride into it. So when I got to the mud, I stopped and I watched what everybody was doing. I was just looking to see. Who was writing, who was not writing, where were they walking? And I was like, a lot of people were walking out of the road in the grass and that's to me a Nono because you now have mud and you now have grass and it just will continue to build up.

And I started watching where the water was running down the street or down the road in the minimum maintenance road. And if water is running downhill, it's running on the Flint rocks. And so you're not in the mud and. A great thing. Being as big as me is that I could pick a carbon fiber bike up with one hand, like it's nothing.

And I literally picked it up and I put it on my helmet. I literally straddled my bike on my helmet. I found where the water was running down the road where it's just Flint rock. And I walked it and I walked that two miles with the bike on with my bike on my helmet and my holding it in my right arm and using my left arm to keep my balance.

While a lot of people were walking in the mud and trying to ride the bike in the. Ruts. And, and so what I was very, I was tired. I mean, I was absolutely tired carrying a bike two miles, but when it was time to get out of that, I set my bike down and I looked up my cleats and I kind of clicked my cleats a couple times and jumped on my bike and was gone.

So, again, some of the native, native knowledge of what to do in mud helped but it was, it was It slowed me down. I mean, my first 64, my first 64 miles were five hours. My next 40 miles were four hours. So, the mud really put a damper on I wanted to finish in eight hours and I finished in nine and, and I would, the mud did definitely contributed to that.

[00:28:32] Craig Dalton: Yeah. It's such a shame when you've got an ambitious goal to have forward progress halted in the way that that two miles of mud did for y'all. Yeah.

[00:28:40] Mark Allen: It did it did, but it's part, it is part of it. It's it's awesome. It's just part of it, you know,

[00:28:46] Craig Dalton: Yeah. You, yeah. 20, 22 is just gonna be another one of these kind of unique adventures that Unbound offers riders.

[00:28:54] Mark Allen: yes.

[00:28:55] Craig Dalton: So tell me about that thunderstorm.

[00:28:57] Mark Allen: I had been watching the weather all week and I was like, wow, I think we're gonna get outta this thing without, without rain. And as we were approaching Madison, as I knew I was gonna make it to Madison, I was just so happy. I was just like, man, I'm going, I now know I'm gonna finish this thing.

And then it started raining. I'd have to say five miles out of Madison, four or five miles out of Madison and really raining. And then it turned into a full on. Kansas thunderstorm where the rain comes from all directions. I'm not just not down. I'm saying from the east, the north, the west, the south it was coming from all directions and my glasses are fogging up.

The rain's dripping from my helmet into the back of my glasses. So it's rolling right into my eyes. The roads aren't bad going into Madison, they've been pretty dry and they're still not bad going into Madison, but by the time we hit Madison, it. Madison was soaked. The roads had a couple feet of water you know, where the, the goalies were going across road and it was pouring.

I mean, it was all my nutrition and my saddle bag was soaked. So like my my, my peanut butter my Uncrustables, I love reading Uncrustables when I ride and, and my. all that was just soaked. So I had water log nutrition. In my kit, I had, you know, the goose and the, the honey stingers and all that stuff in my kit, but everything was soaked.

I mean, just absolutely soaked. And I was hoping it would pass over pretty quickly and it did not pass over. I think for the next 20 miles outta ma outta Madison, it was raining in some function. I mean, you come outta Madison little bit of a ride. You get into the mud. The mud is even worse than what was probably planned because of the thunderstorm you get out of the mud.

And you're still just absolutely inundated by this thunderstorm. So my back 40 was affected by the mud. But I think it was more affected by the thunderstorm, just due to the fact of it was just never, you can't train for that. You just never write in anything like that. So it was a.

[00:30:58] Craig Dalton: It's just like 15% harder than you imagined all of a sudden. How did you, how was your, how was your spirit after Madison? I mean, you're, you're going slow. You're getting hammered by the rain. Are you still thinking like I got this or did, did, did doubt start to creep in.

[00:31:12] Mark Allen: I got outta Madison. Well, as I was coming into Madison, I, my left calf, the front of my left calf started tightening up. It felt like it was tightening up. And I was like, okay I'm getting poured on. I've made good time. I'm happy. But then all of a sudden I've got this stinger going on below my left knee and I'm like, okay, I'll get to Madison.

I'll stretch it. By the time I get to Madison, it is pouring so much. All I wanna do is switch my nutrition out, fill up my camel back and I wanna get on my bike and get out of this thing. And hopefully I can write out of this a little. Did I know I couldn't I stretched my calf for a little bit and, and so I I've got.

Stinger in the front of my left calf. I've never had this before I go into the mud. I walk two miles. The Stinger's there. I get on my bike. I'm riding, I'm still getting poured poured on. Excuse me, I'm still getting poured on. And now I've cut this sore muscle to the left of my tibia basically. And I'm like, okay, this is now an issue, you know?

So, Thunderstorm rain and a little bit of a stinger going on in my leg. And I'm rubbing and I'm rubbing, I'm pedaling with my right leg, you know, I'm rubbing it. Okay. And I just, all three things kind of came together and I'm like, I don't care how much this hurts. I'm finishing. I am finishing period.

And I knew I was off my eight hour mark. I knew I was off that. There was no way I was gonna make it up and I just powered through it and it hurt. I mean, It hurt. I still don't know what it was. I don't know why it was but it hurt. So those three things together kind of, is there doubts? Yeah, there was doubts.

There was like, why now? , you know why now? But I just made my mind up. I was like, I, this is, I've done this way too long. To deal with this. And, and I just powered my way through it, you know, and I there's a lot of people that said, Hey, hop on, hop on, you know, you know, come with us. And I was just like, Hey, I'm doing this at my pace.

I'm, I'm a little bit hurt right now. And I'm just gonna keep going. And so put those three, the weather together, and with a little bit of an injury, I was like I still determined, but yeah, it, it bothered me.

[00:33:28] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah, I imagine. And so, as you, as you approach the finish line, when you're in those closing miles, what kind of thoughts were going through your head?

[00:33:36] Mark Allen: Oh, man. I think when I saw the Emporia water tower, it was just exhilaration, but I was at that point it's like 90 or 95 miles out. It was exhaustion. It was, it was. And. what was great, was all the people along the entire route, cheering you, and every time you came upon somebody cheering you, that gives you a little bit of that adrenaline.

And you come in Emporia and they trick you with one last climb up the backside of Emporia state that, you know, Highland road, I believe it is pretty, and it's a significant climb. It is it's a street, but it's a significant climb and you're like, oh, one more. And you come across the. you come across the campus and you come into the shoot and you're like, everybody's cheering.

It's just like, like you see on TV, you know, like you, you see on all the everybody's cheering and you're just like, wow. Wow. I made it. So it's it's amazing. It's I, I had. I just amazing it was, could not believe I did it crossed the finish line and stood

[00:34:39] Craig Dalton: Yeah, no, it's phenomenal. I mean, what a journey to get there, what a journey that race given the weather provided for you that made it a little extra tough. And it was like asking the question, mark, do you really have this in you?

[00:34:54] Mark Allen: Yeah. It's and I think that was a great thing back about it. Now I can look back and say I was in 2022. I was in the thunderstorm. I was in the mud. It's a, it was a unique setting a unique set of circumstances. I was able to overcome 'em, you know, typically when you ride in Kansas, you're always dealing with the win.

And so, you're mentally prepared for win when you ride in Kansas. Just never encountered in anything in three years of thunderstorm of that magnitude everybody was safe. There was never an issue of safety. It was. A heck of a rainstorm. I mean, it made the roads outside of the mud, even, you know, not great.

So, and I was eating soggy UN Uncrustables so it was, that was not great either. so, so.

[00:35:43] Craig Dalton: amazing. Well, this is great. I mean, I really enjoyed learning about your journey to the start line and even more excited to hear the journey to the finish line. Cause I, I do think it's a huge accomplishment and I'm always super stoked to meet people who set a big challenge for themselves and realize like, it really is just about continuing to turn the pedals.

And if you. Belief in yourself and you put a little time into your training and energy. Many of us are capable of much more than we think we are.

[00:36:11] Mark Allen: I, I completely agree. Where I was, was a successful entrepreneur, had an in, you know, incredible home life kind of looking at now what, you know, what what's next, you know, kids are moving out. Again, like I said, a little bit of medical issues trying to deal with those and, and it was cool finding my inner self, finding my true identity, finding you know, A lot about myself, even at 53 to be able to go, yeah, I still can do things.

I still, you know, I'm more than just a husband. I'm more than just an entrepreneur. I'm mark, you know, and trying to understand who mark is and what mark is capable of. And it was, that was really the big journey and you know, the bike was the, the instrument along the way. So it was, it, it was really cool.

[00:36:57] Craig Dalton: I love it. Will the bike continue to be part of your life?

[00:37:01] Mark Allen: Oh yes. It's It absolutely is I've, I've taken about two weeks off and my body needed it. My brain needed it. I'm getting ready to get back on it again. Nathan has talked me into doing the 78 mile gravel worlds. So in August so, I'm going to attempt that next. But how in the future competitive wise, we'll see, I'll continue to do some races.

The big thing is for me, is continuing getting on the bike, you know, you know, three, four times a week getting on the bike and riding because it's such a. It's great medicine, riding a bike is great medicine and that's really why I started. And I'm gonna con definitely continue with my medicine, which is riding a bike.

And then we'll see, it takes me from there, you know, bike across Kansas interests me, which is going on right now. That interests me gravel worlds interest me. So, we'll see. But what I do know, I am getting on the bike pretty much every day because it is medicine. It's true.

[00:38:01] Craig Dalton: I love it. And that's a great place to us for us, for us to end bikes, our medicine, mark. Thanks again for the time. Truly appreciate it. And congrats again on your journey.

[00:38:11] Mark Allen: Thank you very much.

[00:38:12] Craig Dalton: That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Mark Allen for sharing his story and huge congratulations to them. I think everybody listening can understand that was quite a journey. And it's quite a feat for anyone finishing one of these hundred mile plus.

Gravel events. So kudos to mark. And thanks for the time. Thank you also to bike index for supporting the show. Remember go visit bike to register your bike with this nonprofit, all their services are free. So there's no reason other than your time. To not jump on over there and register your bike. If you're able to support the show.

Please visit, buy me a gravel ride. Separately ratings and reviews are hugely helpful. So very much appreciate anybody takes a moment out of their day to share their thoughts on the show. That's going to do it until next time here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.