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Pere Marquette Rail Trail and State Trail 200k

September 2012

Pere Marquette Rail Trail and State Trail – 200K 124.91 (actual 126.5-127) – Midland thru Evart and back again.  7h:12m:48s

As should be expected, I showed up early to our meeting place.  We were supposed to be there at 8:30, I showed up at 7:45 so I had plenty of time to take some photos of one of the nicest parks in our state.  The Chippewassee Park in Midland.  They’ve got a decent little skate park, a huge farmer’s market, playground and it’s all within walking distance of more restaurants than you can shake a stick at…  I can’t wait to take the wife and kids.  If you get the chance, type in “E Main St, Midland, MI” into your navigation system – when you get to East Main, you’ll know where to go – you can’t miss it.

The skies were absolutely clear, as you can see, but the temps were low, even for this time of year.  There was still frost on the ground in the park, temps were in the mid to high 30’s.

I took my time getting ready.  I put on my jacket, made sure I had everything situated in my back pack, dropped a couple of electrolyte tabs into my water bottles and ate my last banana.  To say I was excited is a bit of an understatement.  There’s just something about that last few minutes before a really long ride that is special, a unique mixture of giddiness, of being excited and unsure at that same time – it’s hard to put my finger on it but it’s awesome.

We started at 8:45 and I quickly found out that I’m quite good at foreshadowing.  Two days ago I wrote this:  ” I’ll be going it alone for the last 95 miles, riding out to Clare with the group (if they’re fast enough, if not I’ll be alone for about 124.6 miles)…”  Now folks, I was expecting slow, but I wasn’t expecting s-l-l-l-0-o-o-o-w-w-w-w!  I literally stayed with them for less than three tenths of a mile.  I’d done some quick math (because I’m smart like that) and figured at that pace it would take me about 3 hours to finish the first thirty – and I’d still have 95 to go!  The sun (and the temperature) rose quickly.  I’d been worried about this starting out – I should have just muscled it out with the jersey and arm warmers and left the backpack in the truck.

Someone knew I was coming…

At the 20 mile mark, I filled up my H2O bottles, put my jacket in the backpack and got back to going – 20 down, 105 to go.  The temp was already in the 60’s and rising and the sun felt good.  I was at a 17.9 mph average already and I was pretty happy with that, considering the slow start and the fact that I was headed dead into a 5-7 mph breeze.  Things got a little dicey getting into Clare – according to all of the trail maps, once you get off the 1st trail, you just go up the road for a couple of miles, following the bike path, and you jump onto the next trail.  Yeah, not quite that simple.  Fortunately there’s a nice little bike shop right downtown (Ray’s) and he pointed me in the right direction.  30 down, 95 to go… I hopped on to the new trail and assumed it would be much like the Midland to Clare trail.  Oh, I was mistaken…  A friend of ours had told me that the second trail was a lot more “rural”.  Indeed it was – there was nothing out there – and that had me worried.  I hadn’t taken a break yet and the wind that I was headed into was starting to take a toll.  I passed a tiny park on the right but decided against stopping there (doh!) – it snuck up on me, I didn’t realize I’d passed a park until I was already beyond it – I hadn’t taken a break yet and the wind that I was headed into was starting to take a toll.  I passed a tiny park on the right but decided against stopping there (doh!) – it snuck up on me, I didn’t realize I’d passed a park until I was already beyond it – and I don’t generally turn around.
I ended up stopping in a car wash parking lot.  Where they had benches and garbage cans all along the first stretch, the State Trail was, well, just the trail.  No benches, no garbage cans, just a trail and the woods.  I’d had a GU Roctane wrapper in my hand for a couple of miles that I was desperate to get rid of, so I hung in he parking lot for a minute to eat some Energy Beans and take a load off…and to sparingly sip from my water bottle.  I got back on it…35 miles, 40, 45 – still no water refill station and I was getting nervous – and thirsty.  I’d let a gas station go by and now I was kicking myself.  I passed a fella heading the other way and asked him about the water situation.  He recommended a camp ground restaurant about a mile up the trail.  Thank goodness I’d spoken with that guy because I’d have cruised right by it if I hadn’t been looking for it.  Thankfully an employee was taking a smoke break and took a minute to fill me up.  50 miles, the wind was starting to drag on me.  It had picked up from 5-7 to 7-10 mph.  Now I can handle slogs into the wind, but I’m telling you folks, at 50 miles with the wind into your face the whole way, it starts to wear on you a little more than a little bit.
Just a touch more than “a bit rustic”
52 miles, 53, 54…  I’m hurting now.  Now food, only energy beans and GU Roctane because I wanted to see if the caffeine helped my body switch from burning carbs to fat (yes and no, but I’ll delve into that later…).  I keep thinking to myself, “self, you’ve already got more than a century in if you turn around right now – you can save yourself 14 miles (then 12, then 10…) if you just turn around and accept the glorious gift of the wind at your back”.  I’ve gotta tell you, a lot of the other members of the Melon Committee were chiming in on that one.  The wind picked up again – 10 to 15 mph.  It was brutal now.  57, 58…
and then after all of that complaining you get to see the most spectacularly beautiful sight so far:
59…  When I stopped at the restaurant to fill up my bottles I forgot to “un-pause” my Endomondo – I got about a mile and a half or two down the road before I realized my error – but I knew I could turn around at 61.5 and the ride would show up on the computer as 125 in the end…  60 – I was hurting really bad at this point and as close as I was to the turn-around, I was losing heart.  I hadn’t seen anyone in miles and I was tired enough to think that the squirrels playing in the brush on the edge of the forest sounded like bears.  I stopped right there – only a mile and a half from the turn around and took a break.  I’d passed a gas station about five miles back in Evart (that is the name of the town, Evart – I told you it was rural folks) so I wasn’t too worried about conserving too much water.  I ate a Clif bar, a couple of bags of beans and a GU…and I laid down on the grass for a few minutes – possibly the wisest thing I did all ride.  My back was killing me from the weight of the back pack and that wind in my face drained me of just about everything I had.  I got up and got on my bike…  60.5, F@ck you, legs!  61, F@ck you, committee, you can suck it…  Then:
The car is 63 and a half miles, straight that way…
Oh, that once brutal wind that had made the last fifteen miles darn near unbearable was all at once, glorious.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was recharged, but I sure wasn’t as miserable.  65…70…  I started looking for the gas station – where was that thing?  I was bone dry and it was starting to hurt.  Then, salvation.  I pulled off the trail at an intersection and headed over to a gas station.  I picked up a large Gatorade, a water and one of those new tiny Cokes (oh, I do like them – it’s just enough to satisfy but not enough to start tasting like syrup and you’re trying to get the last 8 ounces down).  That Coke was the new best Coke I’d ever drank.  I filled one bottle with water and the other with Gatorade and sat down on a sugar beet pallet to enjoy the rest of my Coke.  I secured the rest of the Gatorade into the straps on my pack and took the empties inside…  72 down, 53 to go.  The next 18 miles were a blur though I can recall several times thinking about calling my mother-in-law who lives about 25 minutes north of Clare to see if she would pick me up…  My back was knotting up, and my legs were protesting on every pedal stroke.  I reached for the phone…  Me to the committee:  “Not today boys, you’re going to suck it up, we’re getting through this”…  I thought about Elisariva’s post in which she wrote that I defy the odds…  I used that post for at least 5-10 miles (I told you I’d use that).  85…90.  I was coming up on Clare and I was absolutely wiped out.  That nice tailwind had turned into a northerly crosswind at about 80 miles.  I can remember laughing to myself and saying aloud, “doesn’t that just figure?”  I stopped for a rest right about 90 miles, set my backpack on the ground and used it as a pillow.  I laid there for about ten glorious minutes and took in the sun.  That rest was exactly what I needed.  I drank everything I had left in my water bottles and put the last of my Gatorade into one of them, ate a bag of Beans and hit it.
91, 92, 93…  The end of the State Trail.  I got back onto the highway bike path leading into Clare.  94, 95…  Downtown Clare.  Now I had a decision.  Do I stop for a late lunch or keep going.  I was absolutely hungry and some food would have done me good, but sitting down for a period of time seemed like a bad idea so I pushed on.  30 miles to go – and all of a sudden everything loosened up.  My Endomondo chick spoke up, “lap time 3 minutes, 2 seconds”…  That’s more like it, I thought.  97, 98, 99, 100…  “Lap time 3 minutes 12 seconds” – still with the crosswind.  101, 102, 103…  “Lap time 3 minutes”.  105 – the water station, oh what a fabulous sight.  I topped off both of my water bottles.  20.2 miles to go.  107, only 18 to go…  “Lap time 2 minutes 56 seconds”, “2 minutes 57 seconds”, “2 minutes 57 seconds”, “2 minutes 59 seconds”…  At 112 I could feel everything drain all at once.  “3 minutes 9 seconds”, “3 minutes 25 seconds”.  With only 12 miles left I was faced with a decision.  Keep going at the slower pace or take a few minutes so sit down.  I found a bench at an intersection and plopped my weary butt down:
Forgive me for breaking the rules of photographing one’s bike…  I’m in the middle ring and the bike is facing the wrong way (you’re supposed to have the chain on the outside, facing you – I was too tired to get up and turn it around for the photo, then walk back to the bench).
114, “Lap time 3 minutes and 29 seconds”, “Lap time 3 minutes and 15 seconds”…  Ten miles to go.  “Lap time 3 minutes 9 seconds, 3 minutes 7 seconds”…  Calf muscles cramping a little bit but as long as I keep the cadence up I’m good.  118, 119, 120…only five miles to go.  Calf cramp 3:25, 3:14, 3:15, 3:17…  124.  124.2, 124.4, 124.6, 124.8…and 124.9  WOOHOO!  I sat up for the last half mile and spun back at about 5 mph.  On getting back to the park I parked my bike on the car and tried to walk around for a minute.  If I’d have had anything in my stomach I’d have lost it right there on the sidewalk.  I was absolutely cooked.  I sat on the sidewalk and collected myself for a minute before packing my bike and hitting the road.  It took me a half hour before I felt like I could keep any food down.  By 40 minutes I was famished…  So I had to ask myself a very serious question:  “What does one eat after riding 125 (+) miles”?
Pretty much anything you want.
Final Notes:  That 7:12:48 was not “ride time”.  I left the clock running for many of my stops – I figured between all of the photo taking (and turning around to catch a few of them), overall time wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  I was, of course, mistaken and now I wish I’d paused the app at all of the stops, but whatever…  My average, with stops and turnarounds – and no drafting help was 17.3 mph.  If I’d gone by “ride time” I was probably looking at about 18 mph.  Also, I did the second 100k almost as fast as I did my first ever 100k in April – 3h:26min in April, 3h:28min yesterday.  I’m exceedingly happy with that…  I started this season with a 100k, and I finished it with a 200k.  That’s progress.


  1. IowaTriBob says:

    Great recap of the ride and congrats on getting it done. I look forward to being able to share a similar story of a long 200K ride in the years to come…

  2. elisariva says:

    I had a crazy weekend and am still reading to catch up. I have found so much encouragement and the will to drive from blogging. I know readers like you are going to check to see how it went and it keeps me going. You got through this on your own talent. I just had to remind you!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Talent… I like that a lot more than stubbornness. Thanks for everything, at the very least your comment helped keep my head in the crank where it needed to be. 😉

  3. […] for a 200k solo ride on the Pere Marquette rail trail.  I wrote about last year’s excursion here.  This, unlike all other 70+ mile rides I go on all year, is a solo effort.  No help, no breaks […]

  4. […] I’ve done this more than once – well, just once for the 200k, but I did that solo. Actually, all of my big rides up there were solo. I wrote about one (here) and the big 200k (here). […]

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