According to the owner of my local shop, I have the best of both worlds when it comes to cycling. Well, technically about five or six worlds… Yet there’s always been something in me that keeps looking for more. To be stronger and faster, to be specific. I do contemplate racing from time to time and I just don’t know why I can’t leave well enough alone. My first DALMAC didn’t help things either.
See, a few weeks ago Adam, one of the guys I ride with, mentioned that my buddy Mike likes to “win” DALMAC. That he likes to lead the group in on the last day. He said I should mess with him by trying to beat him in a sprint… I took that one step further and started trying to reel in the closing “Welcome To” town sign for each city we were staying at every night. So for the first night, I went off on a last minute attack into Vestaburg. Friday, two of my friends went off on a three-man break and I took Lake City by a nose (I almost missed it). Let’s just say I was a little bit fired up. I had so much fun that I almost thought about racing for a minute and mentioned something to Matt, the most experienced cyclist in our group, about it.
He said something that completely changed how I will look at cycling for the rest of my life. He said, “Jim, the only trick with that is that if you really want to be competitive, you really have to be dedicated. You have a really good thing going and you should just stick with that.”
And he’s absolutely right.
It didn’t hurt that I was completely wrecked on Saturday, and that century going into Boyne City had me so far off the back of the leaders, that I almost thought about having my head examined for contemplating racing in the first place. Out of our whole group, maybe ten in total, we’re all pretty fast and we have a really fun time riding together. In other words, it’s all about the fun. It’s sometimes about the scenery (when we’re not hammering down the road) and the good times and laughs shared afterwards. Matt reinforced, at an intricately difficult time, exactly what I’ve been saying all along: That I just need to have fun and enjoy the noodle salad.
The ride, or rides as they were, were each challenging and awesome in their own right. For the first century rained so much I thought about trading in my bike for a kayak, but fortunately it was warm enough that the rain wasn’t miserable (at least for me, a couple of the other guys struggled a bit). The second century was tough sledding from the start. The temperature had dropped after the rain but not enough to warrant cooler weather gear under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, the roads never dried out from the rain the day before so it was cool and wet:
I brought a rain jacket that I kept in my back pocket and put it on at our first stop because I was getting cold… Goose bumps, a little bit shaky, you get the idea. I then preceded to sweat my butt off for the next 25 miles till the next stop. I was so hot, the sweat rolled out the arms of my jacket and completely soaked my gloves. Once I ditched the jacket, after the temp had rebounded a little bit, I did fine and the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable. We also ended up deciding to cut the ride short by about ten miles because of the lousy conditions. Once back, my wife and I rode out to Jennings with Matt for some bonus miles:
So for two days, we had 213 miles, give or take. The third day was much better. It remained cloudy but the temperature was great, in the upper 70’s and the roads dried out:
I was starting to tire out at the end of that ride. The final climb, on a day full of climbing, is called “The Wall”. It’s a nice little, short 18% climb that’s preceded by three miles of climbing at single-digit gains. I made it 2/3’s of the way up before all of my “want to” left me. I just didn’t want to hurt as bad as I wanted to get up that sucker. I could have made it but I just didn’t care. I checked behind me, pulled over to the side and dismounted. I waddled up the last 75 yards. At the top, I kissed my wife and kids who’d come out to see me, got back on my bike and continued into town. Funny thing about that climb… Given fresh legs, it’d have been no problem. After 303 miles in three days, it was absolutely brutal. I finished the day with 312 miles in three days.
Day four of DALMAC was a bucket-list ride for me. By far the most beautiful, in terms of scenery:
I’d woken up with some ridiculously sore legs and it took almost 30 miles before I finally started to spin out of the pain. The scenery sure helped keep my mind in a good place though…
Just before these photos were snapped I’d hit a pothole the size of Vestaburg, MI. I broke the bottle cage holding my tools to my saddle (and cracked my rear rim as it turns out, but I didn’t find that out till yesterday). I got that fixed at the local bike shop and my friends Mike and Phill stayed back to try to catch me up to the main group. Then came my favorite part of the four days… The Tunnel of Trees, along the coast:
This was about 35 miles into the ride if memory serves, about halfway home. We caught up to the main group but I had to fire down my lunch so we could roll out with them, I think I had all of ten minutes. The good part in rushing through lunch is that my legs didn’t have time to tighten up so I was off and rolling without missing a beat. For the next twenty miles we absolutely hammered down the road. It started out easy enough, but the pace picked up to the mid-20’s before I knew what was going on. Then I hit another pothole and lost a bottle, full of Gatorade. There was no way I could catch back up at that pace so I just left it go… I only had a half-bottle of Gatorade and we had twenty miles left. You can see in the photos that it was perfectly sunny but you can’t see that it was hot. Mid-80’s and I was sweating like a dog. I conserved the best I could and still managed to snap a few photos of the coast with about ten miles left (the group slowed down for a mile to give me the chance to take the pictures):
Then came our procession in… The group slowed and three of us noobs were called to the front to lead the group in. One of the coolest gestures I’ve seen in a group ride.
…And then we were done.
388 miles in four days, a 19.5 mph first day, 19 mph second day, 18.5 mph, and incredibly hilly third day and we finished north of 20 mph on the fourth. I was more tired yesterday than I’ve ever been in my life. My legs hurt, my back was a little sore and I was just tuckered out… Lansing, MI to Mackinaw City… The long way. If you think a century is tough, try 3-3/4 in a row. I can’t wait for next year.
And Mike, Brad, my wife and I still managed to get in a 24 miler in the morning. After all, ya gotta spin the legs out.