The night brought a quick rainstorm, so the start was comically muggy. I was wet just walking outside to put my bike on the rack. I drove this year, so I could get my daughters down to the start to volunteer.
We arrived at twelve past Seven, with wheels set to roll at Eight sharp. I spent the next 40 minutes getting registered (I always register late so the club gets more money) and talking with riders and volunteers. With eight minutes to go I hit the porta-john one last time and lined up. Muggy doesn’t do what we had justice. You could break a sweat from breathing.
I learned earlier that the A Group didn’t have enough to form a real group so we were lucky enough to have them ride with us. If we get a good rhythm going, having a half-dozen a guys to hammer out the hardest miles can be fantastic. It makes for fantastic average speeds.
And without ceremony, at 8:01 in the am on Sunday, we were off. I took a long turn at the front to get us through town at a good warm-up pace, and left the horses to run after a couple of miles, having worked the pace up to 20-mph. And then the A Guys took over… and played nice. We maintained an erratic, but reasonable 23-25-mph pace right up till mile 50, then it started getting real. A few 26’s, a 28, two 29’s, climbing hills at 22-mph – more than a few of us were wondering how long the surge to drop weak riders would last. Four miles. Tongues were dangling near spokes when we pulled into the 58 mile rest stop with a 22.2-mph average.
A few of us slipped off the back to work together at a more reasonable, less erratic pace. The problem, for the first 55 miles, had been weaker riders working their way to the front then falling back, leaving gaps for stronger riders to make up. The practice drives me nuts. Typically because I’m not strong enough to continually make up for someone else’s inability to work well with others by either staying at the back or pulling through. The yo-yo effect, at that speed, just hammers me into the ground. We had a nice, strong, group of five or six, three or four guys and two incredibly strong women. We decided to, after the rest stop, head out together and just keep a steady group.
After the rest stop, as everyone mounted their bikes, a few of the B guys went to work convincing the rest of us that we should stick with the A’s, that they said they’d play nice to keep the group together. I protested, as I knew better, but was overruled. Jonathan and I got a late start and we had to chase the group on the way out of the park. That chase proved to be the beginning of the end for me.
The “play nice” pace lasted for three miles. One of the bigger horses, a huge, mountain of a guy on a newer S-Works Venge disc Dura Ace Di2 got to the front and put the hammer down. A handful of us were, mercifully, off the back shortly thereafter. The rest of the B folks hung on for a further two miles but they were spit off the back as well. The five of us, Jonathan, Joanne, Sue, Dave ended up having to chase down the rest of the B Group over the next five miles. It was a lot of work, but not all that bad. Once we were back together, the next miles were much more reasonable.
And then, after the second-to-last rest stop, right smack dab at 75 miles, I came unglued. First my right quad seized up, in mid-pedal stroke. Dead straight, I couldn’t bend my knee to get the crank around again. Then the left started quivering. I was in trouble, and it wasn’t going to go away. I immediately dropped off the back and waved everybody on. I turned my Garmin off at mile 80. I could manage 18-20-mph but any faster would send my quads into spasms. I tried to get out of the saddle once and the result was comical. Both legs locked up – it felt like my crank arms were both bent. I sat back down immediately and downshifted. I called my wife and asked her to send a SAG wagon to meet me and the final rest stop at mile 80. Being married to the Volunteer Coordinator has its perks… or so I thought.
Long story very short, the SAG person had another to pick up first, she took FOREVER. Then I heard she was driving a Prius. Visions of my beloved Trek on a top tube hanger bike rack on the back of a Prius was like a nightmare, fresh after jolting awake. Then my buddy, Big Joe rolled in and invited me to take a few shortcuts back with him. We set out. One way or another, I was going to figure out how to limp home without waiting for a freaking ride in a Prius, with another bike and another stinky cyclist… with my carbon fiber bicycle on a top tube hanger, just waiting for a bump to crack it. No thanks.
I seized up two more times, whenever I put a little power to the pedals. Then the rain hit. Now, nine times in ten, I’m going to be bummed about riding in the rain. In this case, my legs loosened up almost immediately. I went from struggling at 18-mph to cruising along at 21-22 with no problem. The wetter I got, the more I cooled down, the faster I could ride. Joe and I cruised on home, and he managed to knock almost five miles off the 20-mile trip home. He left me to head home about three miles to go, but I’d hooked up with two more friends on a tandem, so we rode in together. We managed an 18.6-mph average for the trip home.
After lunch I headed home and grabbed a shower, a nap, and some Ibuprofen, I was right as rain and headed back to help with the clean up… and to polish off some watermelon. I didn’t have a problem with my legs the rest of the evening.
I’m chalking that one up to overheating, because the rest of my nutrition and hydration plan was perfect. It was one of those days, but I still finished… even if I did take a few shortcuts.