Coffee cannot lift this fog!

The word 'epic' gets thrown-around with great frequency, but I can think of no other word that accurately sums-up my 147ish mile ride across the state of MI with ~100 other cyclists.

The One Day Ride Across Michigan was resurrected as a fundraising event by several members of our JDRF Ride to Cure team after a 1 year absence. It starts in Montague and ends in Bay City.  Last year I attended the finish with my hubby (we brought our bikes and rode in about 12 miles to meet up with friends who were riding, then rode them in during those last miles when they needed the moral support).

I pretty much had decided there and then that I wanted to do it this year, though it still seemed like a really daunting undertaking. Last year's ride started in pouring rain and ended up relatively hot and humid. I don't do hot and humid well, as I struggle to ingest enough fluids and electrolytes to hold cramps at bay. What I was most nervous about was battling leg cramping issues, which could make for a VERY long and painful day.

Fortunately this was not an issue yesterday. We started off around 7:30 with relatively high humidity, but temps only in the mid-60s. Very comfortable. The temps seemed to hold steady for a few hours, so I had no issues staying on top of hydration, even though we were plugging away at a respectable pace for several hours (I think our cruising pace was in the 18-20mph range, even with rolling hills and a slight head wind. We had a great double paceline going with about a dozen strong and reasonably experienced riders).

The group separated into 2 groups a bit before this stop. I managed to comfortably stay with this front group of some particularly badass riders.

Our first major food stop was about 55 miles in, out of the back of my little hatchback. Derek volunteered to operate as a sag vehicle for our group (he was also responsible for the road markings the past 2 years), so there were chips, water, sports drink, Fig Newtons, cookies, cheese sticks, and beef sticks available for us to keep us fueled until the lunch stop about 82 miles in.

It was shortly after this stop that our group separated again. I was behind a friend struggling up a hill and lost the slipstream of the front group. I attempted for a few miles to latch back on, but it became obvious that trying to do so was an unwise means of pacing myself with nearly 2/3 of the ride still remaining. I wasn't certain how far back the trailing group was, so I happily plugged-away on my own for about 25 miles...which was just fine, since I was having some major "up front" issues by this point.

As I neared the lunch stop it began to rain a bit and I could see in my little rear-view bar-end mirror that the sky behind me was becoming VERY dark.

At the lunch stop I was SO thankful that I'd packed a 2nd pair of shorts. A couple of weeks ago I had purchased a pair of Pearl Izumi short with their "PRO" level chamois, since I really like their Elite chamois--the Pro shorts are a step-up and seemed like a good idea for a ride nearly 50 miles longer than any previous ride.

I had also recently switched to a new saddle that on paper appeared to be the perfect saddle for my anatomy...and at first I was wondering if the saddle was the issue. But I wasn't having pressure or pinching problems, I was having OMG-who-put-sandpaper-in-my-shorts problems. And I had been suspicious on previous rides that my new shorts were perhaps a little too roomy (snugger is better with cycling shorts, as any slack just gets shifted back-and-forth with each pedal stroke) and the chamois too bulky.  All the chamois lube in the world wasn't going to remedy the situation.

It was clear immediately after we returned to the road that the shorts were, indeed, the culprit. Damage had already been done, but as we rode my nether-regions actually started feeling better, and by the end of the ride I was pretty fond of my saddle (well, as fond as one can be of a bike saddle after nearly 150 miles).

Back to the lunch stop... The group behind me arrived at the lunch stop just before the skies opened. And with the rain came pretty serious winds and lightning. So our planned brief stop was extended by a good half hour while we watched the skies and attempted to view radar on our cell phones, which received very limited signal out in BFE.

No longer glaringly white...these shoes earned the dirty and stinky!
Before we rolled post-lunch I donned arm warmers, which I had packed in the car thinking I might need them for the start. I was regretting not packing my lightweight windbreaker jacket at this point, but once we got moving I was warm and I would have been soaked no matter what. The rain wasn't coming down all that hard, but the roads were covered in puddles, so we all got drenched from the spray off of the tires of riders in front of us.

Again our group split into 2 smaller groups and I rode for a few miles with the front group, but they were moving just a hair faster than I felt wise (for me) and I was getting tired of riding behind the rooster-tails of water from bikes ahead of me. So I told them to go on ahead. I was again content to ride solo. Many of my miles are done alone and I really don't mind it--especially with new scenery.

Coming into Shepherd, MI I saw DH and DS with "Dash, the wonder car," so I stopped for a minute or so for a photo op and to join up with the other half of our ride posse.

The 7 of us remained inseparable for the remaining 50 miles.  And in many ways these miles were the easiest: good company, net downhill, rain abating, and the end in sight.

Maybe 10 miles out of Shepherd we turned into a short stretch with a relatively strong headwind.  By the time we turned 90º to yield a cross-wind 3-4 of us were feeling really poorly.

I thought it was just me...I suddenly went from riding with a reasonable degree of strength to bonking.  I felt tense and weak at the same time, shaky, and thoughts of quitting were at the forefront of my brain.  We were also just beyond the 100 mile mark and into the realm of the most miles I had ever pedaled in my life in a single ride (which I wasn't even thinking about, but my body seemed more aware of this milestone than my brain was...mostly because my brain wasn't really functioning at this point).

Cindy, me, Mike, Lindsey, Bill, J2 (where's Pea?  Pea Peeing?)
Just as we turned the corner we saw a mirage...a little copper-red Mazda 3 hatchback. Only it wasn't a mirage, it was my hubby and son and an open hatch with a cooler full of food and beverages. Derek describes our behavior as a swarm of locusts. This was pretty accurate. The 7 of us descended upon the car and in just a few minutes inhaled thousands of calories worth of carbs, protein, fat, and caffeine. And the remaining 40 miles were actually pretty tolerable with fuel.

Lindsey and I had a few issues for the remainder of the ride with the sand we collected at this stop gumming up our cleats and making it difficult to clip in and out of our pedals (Lindsey made great use of that little car of ours while attempting to unclip in a parking lot a few miles after this food stop.  She has some mad skills for someone who has only been riding a mere THREE months).

The remaining miles were fairly comfortable.  Several of the roads were seemingly paved-by-angels, which was so welcome after so many hours in the saddle.

The last couple of hours were cycles of us pulling/dragging one-another along.  I was so thankful to have such amazing company so late in the ride.  I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to ride with while operating with only half a brain, heh.  My average pace for the duration of the ride was >17mph.  Cruising speeds generally in the 18-20mph range, even during some of the stretches when I was riding solo, which was pretty crazy cool.  When I first started riding I had to push it to go 13mph for a 2 hour ride.  Total ride time was about 8.5 hours.

Will ride for beer
In the final miles I became a bit tunnel-visioned and had only 1 thing in my sights--a pint can of one of my favorite local beers, Brewery Vivant's "Solitude."

I still felt surprisingly strong as I rolled into the park parking lot at Bay City.  I was so ready for my beer, a burger, and a hot shower at the campground across the street from our post-ride party picnic shelter.  I was able to remove the surface dirt from my legs in the shower, but there is still road-grime embedded in the skin of my legs -- COOL!

Many of the riders loaded onto a chartered bus for the trip back to their vehicles at the start.  My family made the mostly uneventful drive home (in the same town as the ride start, incidentally) while dodging deer and other critters through dense banks of fog.

Though I was utterly exhausted it took me a long while to settle-down enough to actually fall asleep.  I took a couple of ibuprofen before bed to combat some of the general body aches, but still woke at least once with just general discomfort (I don't have any specific area that's in pain, just couldn't get/stay comfortable enough to sleep as soundly as I needed) and a little hungry.  Today I'm feeling quite ravenous and anticipate snacking for much of the day, but tomorrow I need to really forcefully jump on that weight loss wagon.

Some of my more, um, ambitious (read: insane) friends are pedaling back to the start today, aka MARDO (Mad Ass Ride Do-Over).  Derek is currently en-route to meet them somewhere mid-ride to claim a century.  My goal for the day is to remain awake and alert without the assistance of more caffeine...but I'm feeling a fail coming on.

Can't wait to do this again, next year.  Though I may have to relent and let Derek ride.  He may have to fight me for the privilege, though.  But he admits that he really enjoyed acting as support for our peloton of riders and we REALLY appreciated him doing that.  I'm not sure that I could have finished the entire distance without that moral and caloric support.

As "epic" as this ride was, it still pales in comparison to the marathon in terms of what it took out of me during and afterwards. Perhaps this is a matter of race vs. endurance "event," though.


Why am I pedaling my bike through Death Valley?

As many of you are already aware, I am joining my husband, Derek, to pedal our bikes 105 miles through Death Valley on Oct. 15, as part of the West Michigan Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's (JDRF) Ride To Cure Diabetes team. Derek is in his second year as a team coach for the fundraising program in our area.

I am riding in honor of a local teenager, Allison. She was diagnosed over 10 years ago at the age of 4 with Juvenile or "Type 1" diabetes. The money we raise goes towards research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that affects as many as 3 million Americans and sentences sufferers to a lifetime of grave health risks, blood sugar checks multiple times per day, and insulin injections. A cure for this disease would give those afflicted a greater quality of life, reduced stress, and remove the risk of early death from complications associated with diabetes.

Allison spent a lot of her younger years in and out of the hospital, dealing with severe low blood sugars that would put her into full body seizures, to extreme high blood sugars that would require hospitalization. She missed out on a lot of overnight parties with friends, sleep-overs at her grandparents’ houses, and other activities that healthy kids may take for granted.

She is starting her freshmen year in high school in the Fall and has come such a long way in living and dealing with her diabetes. It is still an every day struggle having to check her blood sugar 4-6 times a day, give insulin through her pump when blood sugars are high or any time she eats, check ketones when blood sugars are high, change her pump infusion site (similar to an IV) every 3 days, and manage her blood sugars when she is active.

Despite the every day struggles of living with diabetes, Allison is very athletic. She is in her 2nd year of Irish dance, loves cheerleading, playing tennis, and recently went to Gulf Shores in Alabama for a week with a friend over their Spring Break. She is very involved with band and colorguard and is going to band camp for a week for the first time in August.

Allison’s mother has said “We couldn't be more proud of her and have learned to live with diabetes, but the every day stuggles and worry of this disease NEVER go away. We are encouraged and hopeful that there will be a cure in her liftetime.”

I’m just over halfway to my goal of raising $4,000. Your tax deductable donation can help kids and adults like Allison to look forward to the day when they no longer have to live with the threat of complications and death hanging over their daily existence. I have an online fundraising page where donations can be easily made electronically: jdrf.org/goto/zoomy

I am also able to receive donations via a check made out to JDRF and mailed to me:
Kirsten Dykstra
7996 Bedau
Montague, MI 49437

To see our West MI team in action you can check out this short video - You might recognize the big guy at the 4:10 mark: YouTube video

Please, don't hesitate to ask me more about the JDRF organization and our ride. You can also visit the program’s official website for more information about the ride and about Type 1 diabetes: ride.jdrf.org

Allison’s family, my friends with Juvenile Diabetes, and I so greatly appreciate any help you can give.


My Ass...and other stuff.

My search for the perfect saddle continues -- unfortunately. I know exactly what I need...finding it is the challenge. If I could have my very own custom saddle designed, it would include these features:
  • 150-155mm wide in the butt-zone
  • VERY T-shaped (as opposed to pear-shaped...which is relatively more common in women's saddles)
  • firm -- minimal padding
  • flat (ie not domed from side-to-side)
  • white (so as not to get hot when under the Death Valley sun)
  • long-ish, narrow nose
  • cut-out (if the girl-bits ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!)
I'm getting close.  The Specialized Body Geometry Ruby 155 meets most of the criteria, but is a bit too pear-shaped (transition from rear to nose is too gradual and causes pressure/chafing where my upper-inner-thigh meets my butt cheek...also forces me too far forward on the nose, so I'm constantly pushing back, regardless of fore/aft position or tilt of the nose).  I can test it and return that to Specialized within 30 days, so I may end up using that for the One Day Ride Across MI. I did complete a century a week ago on that saddle and it was OK.  It didn't "disappear under me" and I was more aware of the saddle than I would have liked (especially when I'd ride in the drops, as that really had the inside of my upper thighs banging against the saddle edge) but the firmness of it didn't bother my sit bones as much as I had feared.

I also did a single ride on a Selle Italia Turbomatic Gel Flow (this is not a squishy "gel" saddle, but VERY firm, dense padding) and absolutely LOVED the footprint of that saddle, but it was too domed (it's marketed as a 153mm wide saddle, but it definitely feels MUCH narrower, because of the domed profile) and I felt like I was straddling the saddle, more than resting on it.  As a result my crotch-tal regions bore more weight than my sit-bones...after 10 miles on that I was ready to not be on it anymore. But the distinct t-shape transition was PERFECT.  I've never had a saddle that didn't feel like my inner thigh muscles and flubber weren't fighting for space with the saddle.  I didn't feel that at all with the Turbomatic...but the pressure "up-front" was a deal breaker.

I have definitely learned that the Specialized recommendation for me to be on a 143mm saddle with my 130mm sit bones is off.  It's no wonder I would end up shifting to sit a half-inch to the left-of-center (kinda like my politics, heh).  There is slight compression on the edge of my Jett 143 saddle on that side, where that sit-bone was sliding off to one side.

I have very high hopes for the next saddle in line for testing, the Selle San Marco Aspide Glamour Arrowhead (say that 5 times fast!).  The footprint is very similar to the Turbomatic, but it appears a lot flatter in photos (and I've been told by someone who owns one that it's "exceedingly flat," as well).  I also was able to find it on eBay in white, which is a bonus.  Rumor is that this saddle is VERY firm, but that shouldn't be an issue.  The Specialized Ruby is fairly firm and after a century ride on that saddle I had zero sit bone discomfort.

I'm hoping this saddle arrives in time for me to get in 1-2 short rides before Saturday.  If the overall fit is good I will use it for the ODRAM ride.  Then the worst issue I am likely to encounter is sore sit-bones...which is pretty much a given by the end of a ~150 mile ride, right?

I'm really loving my new road pedals and shoes...especially after I discovered that squirting some light lubricant (like WD-40) into the guts of the pedals made them release MUCH easier (even on the very loosest resistance setting).  Every stop before that was hairy-scary.  By the last quarter of last weekend's century I felt it was pretty much a given that I'd not be able to unclip my left foot at some point, especially as that leg/hip/ankle started tiring from the torque required to unclip.  Right around the 90 mile marker my suspicion was confirmed.  I still have a dark bruise on my left hip and a scabby knee to show for it.  First fall on my new road bike...took almost 2600 miles to take that fall.

Hopefully the pedals will loosen in time.  If not I need to make a point to spray lube into the mechanism as-needed.

The larger pedal surface has made such a marked improvement in my foot comfort on these long rides...though the shoes are a little trickier to walk in....not that I do a ton of walking in cycling shoes.

Speaking of traveling on-foot in cycling shoes, it's less than a month until the first Kisscross cyclocross race of the season...I feel sorta sick to my stomach just thinking about it.  I did my first "crit" closed-track race a few days ago.  It went OK.  There were only 4 of us on the track...one of whom is an opportunistic B-race cherry-picker who has no place in the C field (last week she hung on my hubby's wheel, then out-sprinted him to the finish...this past week she did the same to me for over a lap, then finished way ahead of me and 1 other rider.  A young guy hung on her wheel to the finish...not how criteriums are supposed to go down, at all).  I took 3rd, for $5.  Woot!  It gave me a bit of a taste of the effort level of cyclocross...though one of those races will take about 30 minutes and the Weds. race took about half that long for 3 laps.  'Cross is gonna hurt.  A lot.  But it will be fun.  And there will be beer.  And prizes are awarded by raffle/lottery, not placement.  So I can win cool swag...and beer.