8.21.2011

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.

4 comments:

  1. Awesome write up AND ride. You have become an incredible rider. You sure roll well with the conditions that you encounter!

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  2. Thanks! I really have fun, even when the going gets tough. :D

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  3. Wow! Very cool. You did a great job!

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  4. Thanks! I wish I could do this same ride a few times/year, instead of just once. :D

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