My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Follow the Red Arrows

This past Saturday, I loaded my bike into my Honda Civic (put the back seat down, and take the front wheel off the bike and it fits no problem!) and headed to Highland, a small town west of Dodgeville, WI.  The local cycling club there has been organizing a ride to benefit the local food pantry.  It's an incredible effort - they have six different routes (14 mi, two 50K (~31 mi), a 75K, a 100K, and a 150K). Pretty ambitious, but well organized.  The routes overlap with rest stops serving multiple routes at the same time.

As you know, if you read my previous post (or follow me on Twitter), I was planning to go big - the 150K route, which was actually closer to 100 than 93 miles, with 10,000 feet of climbing.  That's almost two miles of vertical.  To put it in perspective, Denver is "The Mile High City." In other words, this route had A LOT of hills. No big hills, but there are fourteen "Cat-5s" - big enough to challenge you, but small enough to get over them with several minutes of effort.

The week before I rode an 80-mi training ride with over 2600 feet of climbing. One of the hills I rode last week was bigger than any hills on this ride.  I thought I was ready.  And I was pumped to conquer this challenge.

I woke up at 5:00 and took the dogs on a short walk, made breakfast (eggs and bacon - protein) and pulled everything together. I packed food (peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, oranges, Clif Bars, and energy bloks) and took off.  It was in the upper 30s with a forecast high of 43 for the day.  And it was overcast, with intermittent rain predicted.  Yay! Cold and rainy. (*end sarcasm*)

But I was prepared. I had rain gear over thermal gear. I wasn't going to let the weather stop me.

I arrived at 7:40, got checked in, then rolled out just after eight.  "Follow the red route. There are arrows on road at the stop signs."  Simple instructions, right?

As I headed out of town, I arrived at the first stop sign, I looked down and saw four arrows: green, white, yellow, and pink.  Ok, I thought, they must've used pink for red because of visibility.  So I turned right and followed the pink arrows.  For 6+ miles.  Until they met up with another set of arrows ... including a red arrow.

FUCK! I went the wrong way! Mistake #2.

#2?  Yeah.  The first was not remembering to bring a printed map with me so I'd know where the hell I was.  My iPhone was nearly worthless as a GPS as there was little or no signal on most of the course.  And where there was, it wasn't 4G, it was only cell reception.

So I turned back. And rode all the way back to town. Back to the first intersection.  Where I saw six arrows - the four pointing to the right I saw before.  And two pointing left.  A blue one.  And a red one.  Ok.  75 minutes later and I was on my way.

This was a small ride (I heard that under 50 people registered, compared to the 7500 that will be in Milwaukee in four weeks).  And the handful that opted for the 150K route were looooong gone.  So I pedaled on.  Looking closely for red arrows.  There were a couple of times that I was worried that I had made a wrong turn.  But then I'd see another red arrow.  Pedal on.

The scenery was beautiful. Amazing views.  The rolling hills and valleys of SW WI are gorgeous.  I stopped occasionally, grabbing a bite to eat, looking around, snapping a pic. (Pics below)

Then the route turned right.  Onto Shop Hill Rd.  68' of climbing in a half-mile.  Doesn't sound like much.  But that is a seven story building.  There was no run up to it.  No momentum to carry you.  Not that it would have helped much.  It was like a wall.  I got up about a third of it.  One-third.  Then I walked.

As the hill flattened out, I climbed back on. And pedaled my way to the top.  Even then I was gassed.  I paused and a van pulled up.  It was a support vehicle for the ride.  They were surprised to find a rider that far back on the route.  Yeah, that 75 minute "delay" was a problem.  So they had me load my bike and me into the van.  Ahh, the "broom wagon" sweeping me up.

I was driven 18 miles to the next rest stop.  There was another rider doing the 150 there taking a short break.  The wind was picking up too.  The other rider and I saddled up and headed out.  Looking at the other rider, I arrogantly thought "Is he going to be able to keep up with me?"  He looked about 5-10 years older than me, was 6" shorter then me, but looked to weigh about the same. 

Within four miles, he dropped me. Like a lead balloon.  I couldn't hold his wheel even with a tail wind.  This. Was. Not. A good day.

I pushed on.  Slowly.  My legs ached.  The voice in my head said it I couldn't do it.  I tried to tell my legs to shut up and the voices that they were wrong.  Finally, I made it to the next stop.  It was about 15 miles from where I re-started riding.  And this was the "flat" section.  And I had a tail wind for most of the way.

I was done.  I was the last rider on the course.  And it was just going to get worse.  I asked the volunteer at the stop to call for a ride back to the starting point.  It was only 5 miles, from Montfort back to Highland.  But it was hilly.  I didn't have any more in me.  So I quit.  After 51 miles.

Not a bad day's ride.  51 miles with 2000+ feet of climbing.  A good ride.  But not the ride I planned for.  (Not that I anywhere near prepared for the ride that I planned for!) 

I was (and am still) disappointed with my performance.  My average speed was under 13.  I didn't climb well.  I made mistakes.  I expended emotional energy on chasing back from a wrong turn.  I was cold.  And I was hot.  And I was tired of fighting the wind.

In retrospect, there are some things I would have done differently - no, will do differently next year.
  • Add hill repeat training;
  • Do more than two 30+ training rides prior to the event;
  • Drink more water (I barely drank one bottle in nearly four hours of riding);
  • Eat more (I had one banana, one orange, and half a Clif bar while riding);
  • Know where I'm going (or have a map);
  • Select the appropriate route - I should have done the 100K (~62 miles) route.
So, there you have it.  A beautiful, nasty, challenging, ass-kicking (mine), and humbling day.  I'm glad I did it.  Most importantly, it was for a great cause.  And I will be back in 2013.

The Pics:

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