Thursday, December 13, 2007

I know what I did last summer

And now you will too. I actually spent the vast majority of my summer on the bike. I logged over 3200 miles since May of this year. I did a number of things many non-cyclists will think silly and even I wonder why I did a few of them. I think fun is the main reason behind a lot of what I did. A sense of accomplishing something personal is another reason. I love being able to set a goal for myself on a ride and then getting the gratification of hitting that goal when I'm done a few hours later. It's something of an immediate gratification. So, with that being said, here are a few of the interesting things I did this summer on my bike.

1) I failed at my first attempt to do a century ride. Why would I start of my list with a failure? This just goes to show you that some things aren't meant to be easily attained no matter how well you think you're prepared. Some friends put on a ride called the 10 trail tour. It was meant to touch parts of most of the paved trails in the greater metro area. The day started out rainy and cool, but dried off by the time we started. As the ride was open to anyone who wanted to show up, we attracted a few very new riders. Alas, the new riders, the weather, and a general relaxed attitude towards the ride came together in a perfect storm to dash my hopes of hitting that magical 100 mile mark for a single ride (aka a century ride). We ended up around 70 miles total and I succumbed to the realization that my bike fit was pretty far off as well. All told, we still had fun on the ride and I knew I'd be better prepared for my next try.

Here are a few of us hearty soulds ready for a nice sloppy day.

2) I rode through rain and thunderstorms. I know most people don't think much about getting out in the rain when you're driving somewhere, but you definitely think twice about being out in it when you're not surrounded by the comfortable confines of your car or house. There were several accidental rain rides and a few purposeful jaunts in the rain. I managed to learn I hate going down hills in the rain for fear of my front tire losing control and seeing my crumpled body skidding like a jelly donut with the red filling spewing out across the pavement. Other than that, as long as it isn't too cold, the rain really isn't that bad. I've ridden with and without rain gear. The rain gear really makes a difference if it's cold, but in the summer, it's actually an interesting change of pace to ride with the rain covering you. I also learned that lightning and thunder are excellent motivators for increasing your average speed!

3) I rode 2 days of Ragbrai. I rode with my friends from Team Cow. They have an old school bus converted to a RV/Camper fittingly painted like a Holstein cow complete with the requisite horns on the front. They're easy to spot as you'll most likely never encounter another couple riding a custom carbon fiber tandem painted like a cow. They graciously invited me along on their annual pilgrimage across the state. I only had enough time to ride for 2 days, but I had a blast while I was there. Something about riding with 10,000 plus other cyclists down back highways through rural Iowa is just a hoot. I rode about 75 miles each day and on the second day was lucky enough to speak personally with Lance Armstrong! He mentioned something about "on your left" as he rocketed past me with a few other riders pumping along in a pace line. I tried vainly to catch their draft, but by the time I accelerated to match their speed, they were too far away and I'd never have been able to maintain that pace for long as it were.

4) I did a century ride, double metric century, and rode on a racetrack all in the same day. I took part in the first of what I hope to be annual Track and Back bike rides. The entry fee was a bit on the steep side, but they did have a good lunch (for the first handful of riders), a good dinner, and the proceeds all went to a good cause. The start was a blast as it was my first experience with using the police to blockade the roads through to the edge of town. Against the advice of my friends riding their tandem on this ride, I actually rode to the start of this ride from my house. It was a short but hilly few miles to the start and I figured I'd still have enough pep after the ride to get back home..... The morning was a beautiful crisp August morning without too much heat or humidity to start off. As we rode I stayed with the front pack and as we approached the first turn I suddenly found myself all alone off the front. What was this? Did I suddenly find magical powers in my legs that beamed me ahead of the other riders? No, it was a simple missed turn by the lead rider that sent the pack splitting in two directions. I just happened to be the first person that actually knew the route. My joy was shortly crushed as the racers in the group whizzed past on the first of many climbs that day.

The course consisted of good ole Iowa Rollers. For those that haven't ridden in Iowa, an Iowa roller is just big enough that you get a good run down one hill, but not enough to get you more than about halfway up the next. I locked in with a group running a good pace and drafted them through the hills. Once we hit a flat I broke off with a few other riders running strong and enjoyed a healthy pace out to our halfway point.

As I mentioned earlier, we got to ride an an actual race track. It was a lot of fun riding around the oval at the Iowa Speedway and consequently I snagged a few good pictures taken by the event photographer.

We were to complete 7 or 8 laps in order to get the full 100 miles for the day, but since I'd ridden to the start I only road 3 laps and took off. As I alluded to earlier, there was a snafu with lunch. The first 10-15 people to arrive were welcomed by Subway sandwiches, pop, and snacks. However, the food ran out shortly with no replacements in site. We later learned that an error was made in the delivery of the food and lunch showed up sometime a while after I had all ready hit the road back home.

I felt good on the start of my return trip. Shortly, that feeling would be replaced by struggle. The day had heated up and a strong headwind was now bearing down. As I fought to keep my speed up while going DOWN hill, I wondered why the weather was being so cruel. Miraculously, about the time I was begging for it to end, a pace line pulled through and I caught the tail. Local cat 1 racer Lou W was leading the train and we were all hanging on for dear life (or at least I was). We rolled into the next town and thankfully a sag van arrived with fresh water and snacks again. A stopped for a short breather and took off again while most of the other riders were still hanging out.

The rest of the ride was pretty lonesome as I passed occasional single riders, rode through a brief but windy rainstorm, and found out the last sag stop for water was running late. As I rolled up the last big hill before heading into town, Lou again passed me. This singular moment stands out as the best part of the ride. I'm struggling up this hill and the speed at which he passed along with his comment of, "You're doing good" struck me as monumentally funny. The only retort I came up with as he blazed away was something along the lines of, "that's just not right!" I'm sure it's not nearly as funny to the rest of you, but the scene in my head is downright hysterical.

I finally rolled into the starting point and found myself amongst the first 10-15 finishers and felt pretty good about the whole ordeal. My friends on the tandem were all ready there and I guess my appearance was a bit humorous as they started in with the jabs about having to ride home and how I was contemplating adding another 25 miles on to get my first 200K as well.

I'll admit that I did sink down in the booth completely drained and blanked out for a good while. However, after we were fed and my water was replenished, I decided to go for it.

I bid my friends goodbye and headed off to the bike trail in search of 200K on the odometer. I felt good again at the start, but quickly that led to feeling drained and wondering why the hell I was even out here in lieu of hitting a nice hot shower at home. Sheer will power and stubbornness got me through the remaining miles. I did end up cheating my original plan though and road all my miles on the trail and called for a ride home in lieu of riding home as part of my miles. I couldn't stand the thought of any more hills on my dead legs. It just wasn't going to happen.

That's more than enough for one post. I'll make sure to catch you up on a few more rides and some other happenings from the summer soon.

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