I rode the one hundred mile ride through Hell, Michigan they affectionately call “One Helluva Ride” with a bunch of my friends yesterday, and more than a few new friends. It is, typically speaking, the hardest ride of the year. It’s hot as, well, hell, the roads suck, and it’ll beat the snot out of you – especially if you go out too fast, which is easy to do because the first ten to fifteen miles is a negative grade.
Our average speed was north of 23-mph (37-km/h) at the first rest stop. One of the lead guys through that front section (I took a long turn up front, too and I didn’t slow down, either), toward the end of the ride, said he kept looking back and everyone was there, so he figured the pace was good and kept it. For my turn up front, holding 24 to 25-mph didn’t feel so bad, so I held it.
We decided as a group to pull the reigns in after that first rest stop. We needed to slow it down or we’d literally be cooked later on. By the time we hit the second rest stop at 49-ish miles, our average was down to 21.6-mph. Unfortunately, as we pulled into the parking lot, several of the guys were fishing for white flags in their back pocket… One, an incredibly strong dirt rider on a gravel rig, said he’d have phoned it in had we not stopped at the rest area. He was starting to feel a little toasty… it was getting hot.
We were still holding it together at the third rest stop. Our average had dropped to 21-mph, though we’d lost five guys out of our group. I was still feeling pretty good and we only had 23 to go. Unfortunately, that 27 miles between rest stops hammered most everyone else. Four guys were doing better than I was, and a bunch were a lot worse off.
The heat cranked up like a sauna without the steam – it was just hot. Guys started slipping off the back and before we hit 85 miles, our eighteen man group was down to just five. And then they started throwing hills at us. Three of the guys left were mountain goats. They cruised up the hills with relative ease. Then there was Chuck and me. Mountain goats we’re not. I’m still trying to lose my last few pounds from vacation… I’m feeling a bit the fat ass. Jonathan, Vance and Mark tore up this innocuous looking hill and Chuck and I were just behind. Chuck had been dealing with the early stages of cramping, and about halfway up that hill, the hammer dropped on me. I went from, “meh” to “oh, $#!+” in one hill. I’m thinking, “what the hell, this hill is no big deal, what is going on?!” That’s when Chuck chimed in, “Yep, 7%”. It was one of those deceptive optical illusion hills. You’re dropping down to the baby ring and you’re like, “hey, I should be doing 20 right now”. Trying to keep up on that hill torched me. We only had seven miles to go.
The next three miles were plain ugly. I even thought about getting SAG’ed in for a few seconds. My feet were hot. The one bright side, with the exception of the unrelenting sunshine, was that I’d picked up a new Specialized Jersey – one of those crazy-high priced pro style deals, and it was absolutely amazing how cool it kept my upper body in the intense heat. As I’m suffering along, the performance of that jersey crossed my mind more than once.
I didn’t call SAG, of course. I decided I’d let everyone go if I had to. I was going to take the hills easy, coast down the descents, and hold 20-ish on the flats… and before I knew it, I was still with the front crew, for the most part, and we crossed the 97-mile mark. I relaxed a little bit, “No matter how pooched I am, I can ride three miles”, I thought. We navigated the neighborhoods of Chelsea until we could see the fairgrounds. Chuck with renewed life, said, “If I’m not at a hundred when we hit the parking lot, I’m going to get the extra”. Not me. I rolled into the parking lot with 99.8 miles and I was freaking done. I didn’t even ride my bike to the rack. I got off and walked it.
I’d had enough.
Some watermelon, Gatorade, water, more watermelon, a half a turkey sammich, and a shower later and I was starting to feel okay again. Chuck had driven and I managed to stay awake till we hit my driveway, but I was half asleep when I wheeled my bike into the house. My nap was awesome.