A Score to Settle

>I have a score to settle.  You know those races, rides, or routes that haunt you because you KNOW you could have done better on a previous attempt? The reasons for the disappointment are varied (I wasn’t trained, the weather got me, I did something unwise, acts of god, mutiny of the body … you name it), but the event still gnaws at the back of your brain and you lie awake sometimes thinking “what if..?”.  This weekend, I’m hoping to settle a lingering score with my second attempt at the Alexander 380 mile course.

To be fair, what I am riding this weekend is arguably “much easier” than the original course.  My attempt in May brought gusting winds, 35F temps, downpours, and hail.  I survived all that, got dried off, warmed up, and fed, and set out into the cold night only to break my bike a few hours later by shearing off and warping the derailleur after stupidly biking through deep mud. My journey lasted 165 miles and ended with me sobbing on the side of the road in the middle of the night, my heart filled with disappointment.

My tenacious nature has made me adamant I would reattempt the course at some point, and an opportunity presented itself much sooner than I thought. A group of us are headed out on a journey we’re calling the “Fallexander”, designed to coincide with the peak of fall color and crisp but gorgeous fall weather in the driftless area. This weekend will bring temps lower than 40F at the start, but things will quickly warm up and usher in some possible rain — luckily for us the rain and wind are supposed to occur at much nicer temperatures, like 50F plus.

We already have lodging booked each night (sleep in a real bed?!), dinner plans that involve table food, and daily mileage will be between 110-145.  Sounds kind of cush, right?!  We’ll still be self supported, carry everything we need, and purchase what we can’t carry to follow the spirit of the Alexander. In my heart I know this isn’t the same as redoing the “real Alexander” as the conditions will be too fucking nice, but it’s a start on my road to redemption with this infamous route.

There are a handful of things going against me for successfully finishing the route this weekend, but I’m trying to systematically make them irrelevant. I’ve been battling a bad sinus / respiratory cold for a few weeks that has kept me off of the bike for almost 2 weeks, so I saw a doctor Monday and was prescribed a regimen of steroids and antibiotics. I’m regaining some energy and ability to breathe but the wheezing and cough continue.

My gravel bike was inoperable as of yesterday, and today it’s quasi-operable and should be fixed by this evening. I can now say that I live with a “professional bike mechanic” so my gear and I are in good hands. The giant saddle bag I used for the Alexander isn’t compatible with my tiny bike (lots of dragging on the tire), so I purchased an as-yet untested large-but-not-so-large saddle bag with hopefully more tire clearance. I have a somewhat nonchalant attitude about gear selection, what food I’ll eat, what I’ll drink and how I’ll carry it.  I can’t decide if this is good or bad.

Prior to the Alexander sign-up I had ridden only 100 miles, and as Alexander training and over the summer I’ve logged quite a few ultra distance rides.  Fingers crossed that I’m actually better prepared and not being negligent.

If you’re curious, you can take a look at our daily routes on my Ride With GPS page.  Our Facebook event is public, and I’ll try to throw a random picture or two on Instagram during our journey. Wish me luck in removing this albatross from around my neck this weekend.

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