On my 200k ride Saturday I had a horrible time getting to the half-way point. It was such a mighty struggle that I didn’t include too much in the recap of the ride because I thought the topic makes for a good post all on its own. As I wrote in that recap, I fought the wind for most of the first 62.5 miles. As soon as the sun cleared the horizon at my back, the wind picked up – I think I was maybe three or four miles into the ride. It really wasn’t that big of a deal to start, the breeze was really quite light. Not unnoticeable, but not belligerent either, it was just there. That was, until about 45 miles in, when the clouds increased and the wind did as well. That’s when I felt the very real difference between riding with a group and riding alone. For me, that’s usually a good difference, until we’re talking about a distance ride. Never mind the ability to draft, which is HUGE on a long distance ride but on a normal solo ride, say 50 miles or less, I’m never that far from home and I know my way around if I need to stop (even if I never have). Also, on a planned Century ride, there’s always someone to talk to if I need a distraction. If I’m not in a group, I can find one easy enough. The differences between group and solo are multiplied exponentially when you’re 120 miles from home, you have no real idea where you are, you’re starting to get tired already, your car is 50 miles behind you, you haven’t seen hide nor hair of anyone in a half an hour…and you’ve still got 12-1/2 miles to go before you can even turn around to head back. The things my mind did to get me to quit were staggering, and with nobody to talk to – or maybe I should say, to distract me from myself – I really had to dig deep on those last twelve and a half miles or so. In fact, I wrote a few weeks ago that wanted to try to get to a point where I could use Jens’ famous line, “Shut up legs” – I had to go a bit beyond that into NC-17 land. Of course, this was the one plus about being in the middle of nowhere – when I was hollering at myself to shut the **** up, yes it actually came to that – I didn’t have to worry about offending any women, children or pigmies.
I expected, when I turned around at the half-way point, for things to get better [Please note, that word – better… It is not “easier”. This is for a reason] and it did for a few miles. I had the wind at my back for at least a half an hour so I was able to recuperate, at least until the wind shifted to the north and gave me a crosswind, making the ride work again. You should be able to imagine how tough that was to push through – to have the wind in your face all day only to have it shift on you just ten miles into the ride back. To compound the problem, the second half of the trail that I rode had no water stops. In addition to tiring out, I also had to conserve water. Now, had I not been prepared, I would have run out and it would have been devastating. I brought $16 in cash and my wallet with me so I was able to pick up a bottle of water, a large bottle of Gatorade and I threw in a 12 oz bottle of Coke for good measure… I don’t know what it is, but when I’m hurting on my bike, there is absolutely nothing – besides maybe a 25 mph tail wind – that can boost my spirits like a cold Coke and it sure did the trick on Saturday. That was the lesson confirmed, by the way – when riding in unfamiliar territory, always carry cash. I hit that gas station, just two tenths of a mile off the trail, with more than 30 miles remaining to the water station just east of Clare.
For the remaining 50 miles, pushing through being tired and having a sore back from carrying a Camelbak with my jacket and tools was doable. Every 3 minutes and 15 seconds or so I was a mile closer. When I hit the 90 mile marker I stopped for another rest. I pulled off the trail, laid my bike down, let my back pack slide down my arms to thud on the ground and used that as a pillow to rest my back for a few minutes. I don’t know where the idea came from but it was absolutely fabulous. Every aching muscle in my back loosened up and I rode the rest of the way pain free.
A friend of mine asked me today if I felt a sense of accomplishment for having completed the ride and I really hadn’t thought about it too much because I had to struggle so hard to make it to the half-way point – I can go two ways with that… I’m happy that I did it, I’m glad that I was able to muscle through it when I very easily could have turned around early and I’m glad that I stuck with it till I hit the parking lot. On the other hand, I’m more than a little miffed that the melon committee put up such a good fight. **** You, Legs.