Time flies when you’re busy. On some level I knew that the spring was quickly evaporating, and work travel combined with general life had kept me off the bike. Once we hit June I realized that my epic-stupid-crazy ride was less than a month away. Uh oh. Time to start training, or tapering, or give up, or something.
This realization led me to post the following on a long distance cyclist’s Facebook page for commentary. I figured either she or her other crazy buddies would reply, and I was really hoping no one would try to talk me out of my scheme.
What’s a ludicrous but BORDERLINE reasonable jump in mileage. From 115 to … ? Pertinent info: It’s for an event, not for training. Pavement, so easier on the body. I’m willing to gamble and accept that I may end up in the SAG wagon – the ride is fully supported. I’ve done a lot longer stuff, just not since 2016. Not asking for a friend. 😉 But let’s face it, I’ll probably show up at the event regardless, because, insanity.
I’ll let you know what they said later. For now, head on over to my Facebook page and let me know what you think. I can already tell you that I don’t want to be talked out of it; more so, I want to know what’s the “bad idea bike ride that YOU got away with on minimal training?”
Based on the timing of the upcoming ride, I decided I needed another legitimate training ride on Saturday. I wanted to ride my “fast” road bike instead of the comfy but heavy endurance bike. To change things up even more, I wanted to add more hills to this route since the last long ride was flat and hills and my spine fight sometimes. I needed a test. I would practice pre-hydrating the day before, eating some of my normal on-bike endurance foods from 2016, and testing how far I could get between stops with two water bottles.
One friend was willing to ride out of the neighborhood with me and over to a coffee shop, the usual meeting point. After a week of working a double-overnight-shift at work and getting minimal sleep the night before the ride, I REALLY needed others to get me out the door. I rolled up the garage door at 5:55 AM and sure enough, there was my friend in the driveway ready and waiting to go. Another person joined us at the coffee shop. It’s great to have others around waiting for me. The early start time was dictated by afternoon kid constraints, otherwise I would have loved to sleep in. I tried to convince myself that this sleep deprivation was simply great ultra training.
My plan was to ride just under 100 miles, tackling some of the rated climbs up and down the bluffs near the Mississippi. I was willing to accept not meeting my goals, and it’s a good thing because the day didn’t go how I had hoped….
It started off adventurous, with thunder rumbling in the distance and the pavement becoming increasingly wet as we rolled east. I had planned out my distance and timing with the assumption that we’d be drafting, but with the road spray it was gross. Ok, I thought, so we’re a little slower. No big deal. I still intermittently drafted, staggering my wheel slightly to the side to avoid getting so much road water in my mouth. Better down the side of my face and torso than dead on.
The first friend wasn’t planning on riding long, so she peeled off after about an hour. The two of us that remained rolled on straight into the headwind, continuing the march miles to the east. I like to get as far away from home as fast as possible on long rides. It’s a lot harder to cut the training short this way. The ride felt a little harder than I expected, but I don’t have much of an idea where my fitness is so I didn’t think anything of it.
I ripped down a fun descent (when you are short, dense with muscle mass, and heavy, you descend like a cannon ball getting dropped from a hot air balloon — it’s a blast). On the following flat, my left hamstring and glute started having shooting pains, often a symptom of nerve problems. I started stretching and arching my back on the bike. We also took a break on a quiet side road for me to stretch and refuel, which seemed to help some.
We biked a little further and turned onto the highway, and things kept feeling off. I looked down and noticed that my rear tire was nearly flat! We stopped and I changed the tire. I tried desperately to find why I had flatted but had no luck. The tire, the road, heck the entire world was covered in grit and grime, so finding a puncture was impossible. We both took turns feeling the tire and tube looking for something suspicious but came up empty. My legs were now covered in mud and brake dust smeared with water, making almost a light paste on my legs.
While I was airing up the tire with my CO2 cartridges my ride partner gasped. Apparently he had just witnessed cloud to ground lightning not far away from where we were, and right where we were headed. We decided to press on anyway, knowing that my tire wasn’t quite fully inflated but seemed to be holding ok.
We slowly worked our way out of the river valley, my tire doing ok but definitely not ideal. My friend decided he would stay with me on the route a little longer. We descended back towards another river valley, and at that point I decided that my prudent option would be to cut off 10 miles and a few of the gnarly climbs. We were rolling slower than I expected and I was worried about my tire.
I arrived in Cannon Falls, parted ways with the other cyclist, and promptly headed to the donut shop. Folks stared at me – I was sopping wet from the road spray, covered in grit, AND my quads were still a dark mess with brake dust. A few folks asked where I was from and where I was headed in these storms, and I got looks of admiration when I told them I was about 60 miles into a 100 mile ride.
I sat outside on the stoop, too dirty to take a seat in doors. Bolting down my donut, I noticed that the clouds off to the west, the direction of home, were quickly getting darker. Crap, another storm front was coming through. I pinched my rear tire, decided it was good enough, and rolled out.
My route took me south of the storm, and I warily watched the clouds to the north of me. I was rolling along steadily above 18 mph on the flats and feeling rather good. Donuts definitely are one of my favorite forms of cycling fuel. I turned north and began feeling like I was trudging again. I biked for another mile or two, then inspected my rear tire. Oh crap. The tire pressure was getting really low, and I had used both CO2 cartridges already. Like a dolt, I didn’t bother to bring a patch kit, pump, or 2nd tube. This would later become a major problem.
I kept pedaling for as long as I dared, not wanting to damage my carbon rims. I stopped and pulled out my phone, wondering if an Uber rescue was an option. Nope. No cars available, and even if there WAS one it would be well above $60 to get me home. I halfheartedly pedaled some more, debating what to do.
Finally I cracked and decided to impose upon others and ask for help. My boyfriend was at work and I didn’t want to bother him. Instead, I selected a few friends to text. Lucky for me the woman who rode with me earlier in the morning responded. Absolutely, they could come pick me up! I was probably 35 minutes south of town, but because they are saints their whole family came to rescue me and my muddy carcass from the side of the road.
When I got home, the rain started pouring. It was serendipitous that I got the 2nd flat when I did and made it home before the deluge. I was able to clean the wheel and analyze it for punctures later. As far as I can tell and based on the condition of the two tubes, I had two very distinct punctures in different spots on the tire. I decided that the tire is toast and I’m going fresh. I had put big miles on that tire in 2016 and it had served me well — time for new equipment!
I’m fairly stubborn and determined to start the ludicrous ride I mentioned at the beginning of the post. My test ride failed due to the flat tires, but the speeds I was able to maintain were promising. I don’t know how far I’ll make it that day, but I won’t know if I don’t try, right ??