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Friday, September 21, 2012

The (Longest) Bike Ride

My jersey, new gloves and...
hey, wait a second....
those aren't biking shoes!
Findlay, Ohio, Sept. 9, 2012.  The Horizontal Hundred.  I don't know why but I want to call it The Harmony, which is in May.  In Indiana.  And spelled differently. Oh, well.  This is great "first" tour for anyone as it has 4 distances: 20, 40, 62 and 100 with very few hills. It's pretty darn flat.

After the totally suckazoid cancelling of the Spousal Unit's Ohio Gran Fondo 3 days before the event, I think he really wanted to do the HHH. (I almost told him not to wear that GF jersey beforehand. He did! I have a shirt superstition about things like that!)  I'm still kind of pissed about the GF cancellation.  He worked so hard, tweaked his Bianchi, logged hundreds of miles on hills, spent a bunch of money, changed this and that and after all that -- cancelled?  I couldn't do so many things I wanted to do this summer because we had to keep "things open" so he COULD train.  I was not happy. He was livid!

This will be the SU's second hundred, should he choose to do it. He can always do 62, which is a "metric century."  I'm thinking, you so do not need to ride 100 miles when you really haven't been training that hard.  But he is: A) stubborn and B) a Marine and that combination can equal Stupid. Hey, it's your bod.  Don't complain to me! I am going to attempt to do my longest distance, 35 miles.  I had originally signed up to do 40 but they changed the course and shortened it to 32.  I'm pretty confident I can do that but I want to best my longest distance which was done (maybe) last year: 34.5 miles.

Green Lady, the Bianchi bike.
This year, I have a lovely, spiffy new-to-me bike given to me by my brother.  It's his green Bianchi whom I've dubbed Green Lady.  How unoriginal. She is most definitely a FEMALE bike!  We've been getting to know each other all summer.  I am not worthy of her, truly.  She is light, fast and agile.  None of these attributes are me.

I've graduated to the "Bigger Girl Stirrups", the cages for your feet. I'm still not ready for Clip-Ins.  I like the thought of getting undone and off that sucker --- fast.  The SU has had 2 spills with those damn things.  Not for me, thank you very much! I've gone from the "Comfy Big Bike Xtremely Padded Seat" into a (still-padded) racing seat.  I've gone from a girl-specific bike to a man's bike, with the bar.  Which I caught my pubic bone on during a rapid stop.  Once.  Hurt for days!

All week long, I've been watching the weather.  I am not a Hot Weather Exertion Gal.  The SU is a lizard.  For the past 4 years he has battled extreme heat and pouring rains to ride for MS in Ohio's Pedal To The Point.  It's in August.  Seventy-five (Yes, 75) miles, two days.  Ain't no way.  That's not my idea of fun, even for a great cause.  That's my idea of 4-H Hell: heat, humidity, heat-exhaustion and/or stroke and going to the hospital. Maybe if it was at a sensible time of year.  Like early May.  Late September?  My idea of Hot Weather Exertion is walking into a pool.

Now, having been in more than my fair share of walking/running (not that I run) events this bike thing is a different critter. The biggest difference between a bike tour, event, whatever-the-heck you want to call it and a foot-anything is TIME.  When you do a race or a charity run, there is a time limit and it's not that long.  Most Half-Marathons have the course open for 3-4 hours, period.  Then they roll it up and your on your own.  Even charity 5Ks are open for maybe 2 hours.  Maybe. So you have to:

A) start at a specific time, with the maddening crowds. Which admittedly, is a rush.
B) try to stay the hell away from a bunch of semi-pro racers along with yahoos and hooligans who think they're in an Olympic sprint.  Which is how people get hurt!  Mary Louise's little girl has more than a few brain cells left.  I know I'm not going to set any land speed records.  "Ya'all go ahead, I'll wait for a few minutes!"
C) Hustle your arse as fast as you can! Every second counts once you set your foot over that timing plate.  Even untimed races, you still have to move it along.
D) End by a specific amount of time. The goal is to finish.  Upright.  Unharmed.

Breaks?  (Insert sarcastic laughter.) There are none.  Oh, in the big races there are port-a-potties and drink tables with volunteers (Bless their hearts, truly!) hollering, "Water!  Gatorade!" so you know what you're grabbing, drinking and flinging.  You have a timing chip on your shoes, the seconds are ticking away.  The person who invents a timing chip that pauses while you're in the port-a-potty is going to make a FORTUNE! You feel this urgency to do the fastest drop-trow & pee in your life in those damn stink holes.  The timing chips mocks you.  You can feel its little inner metronome, clicking away. If you need nourishment etc., you better carry it with you!  If you go down, in short races, you better hope one of your competitors takes mercy on you and stops.  I've been the merciful one, helping someone, as dozens run merrily by.

But a bike event?  You want to start at 5:30 in the morning or at 10 am, go right ahead. There is an "official" start time (7:30 am) but they have support for TEN-TWELVE hours (depending on the event).  Damn, they even give you LUNCH!!!  Unless you're doing the shortest distance (20 miles), they feed you LUNCH!  Even at the 10 mile break there is (are you ready for this?)

A port-a-potty
Doughnuts/Bagels --- some kind of starch!
At least one nice person who can help with you with a bike problem!

Such a deal!

The weather looks like it's going to perfect, 50s in the morning going into the 70s with moderate humidity.  Rock on!  We arrive in Findlay, get our packets (oooh, we get numbers, mine is 314) and go shopping.  The SU gets two jerseys (most of his are so boring) and t-shirts.  I get a pair of socks!  We haul our bikes and gear up to the hotel room (very nice), eat dinner and settle in to (hopefully) sleep.

Hindsight Note To Self: Have the SU do a dummy check of what we really need to bring.  That would be:

Your Bike.  (Duh!)

An Extra Tire And Small Tool Kit. (Like I'm really going to change my own damn tire.  I'm going to bat my eyelashes behind my sunglasses and pull my best Southern Belle imitation, "Oh, you big ol' strong ma-yan, kin ya'all fix mah little ol' ty-er!" Yep, I'm on that like white on rice, baby.)

Your Bike Shoes (hard soled, highly uncomfortable to walk in)

Your Bike Helmet (hated but necessary equipment)

Gloves.  You'd be surprised how much you need those padded suckers. 

Bike Shorts.  Again, padded and you would be surprised how much you need those suckers! It's not necessarily my legs, knees, back, shoulders, numbing hands that give out.  It's my butt! 

Chamois Butt'r. Your butt deserves the best. Chafing is NOT your friend!  Think about it.

Glasses: For me, it's sight, glare etc. and for all cyclists they are Bug Shields! Getting a bug IN your eye sucks.  It's bad enough when one of the little suckers gets in your helmet, ear, mouth, down your jersey or UP your nose!  Faugggh!  Bleech!

Sunday morning dawns dark and cloudy.  The SU does one more weather watch on his Tablet, we load up and get to the departure point at the U. of Findlay.  We change in our cycling togs.  I notice that most of the people are dressed like we're cycling in Antarctica! Long sleeved jackets, scarves, leggings, balaclavas, full gloves.  I have on my shorts, a sleeveless jersey, a neckerchief and a long sleeved cotton shirt over all. "It's 55 degrees, people. It's AWESOME!  It's not 35!  Sheesh!" I think.

We go out to the car to get ready.  I find my black Skecher's walking shoes, my tennies and...and.....and....I have an "Oh, Sh*t" moment.

"Uh-oh....where are my cycling shoes?  Crap!"  They are not anywhere in the car!  I guess my cycling shoes were NEXT to the Skecher's and I grabbed those instead.  Sh*t.

Skecher's and Bike Shoes
You can understand how
I got them mixed up.
Can't you? Can't you?
Tell me you can....
But wait, there's more.

Neither the SU or I had done the Dummy Check for GLOVES!  Oh, he is HOT and not in a good way!! I'm pondering whether I can ride without them.  Highly irritated, he clamps his way back into the hall. We find one vendor still vending and buy 2 pairs of Pearl Izumi gloves.  He is NOT happy with me.  In a spirit of fairness, he could have double checked our equipment. (Grumble....)

I look at my Shoe Situation. It is at this time I am more than grateful I do not have Clip-In pedals or I would have been Sh*t Out Of Luck.  I have 3 choices of footwear: running tennies, the Skecher's and flip-flops.  Those are out although the SU has seen people in other events biking with sandals.  I put on the Skecher's thinking those soles are probably the stiffest.

We finish kitting up and we're off; he in one direction and me in another, following the little "HHH with arrows" symbols painted on the road.

I am bee-bopping merrily along on Green Lady, feeling pretty good about myself, hoping it won't rain.  There's not a ton of storage room on a road bike, two small bags and the pockets in your jersey is all you've got.  It's a lovely, quiet morning and I'm looking at all the pretty historic houses flanking Findlay's main drag.

"Bump!!! Thwack! Clatter-Clatter-Clatter!"  These are never  good sounds. I look down at my handlebars and see that my cell phone has fallen out of its bracket and is missing.  Braking and muttering curse words, I get off and go back to retrieve my phone.  Trepidatiously, I pick it up, fearing the worst.  It is not only clocking my mileage (good old Runkeeper) but it's my sole means of communication and it has The Map stored in there.

"Phew, thank God!" The hard case and Zagg screen have saved the day.  As aside note, this is about the fifth time I've dropped this phone and it still works.  Teenagers and twenty-somethings, take note. Remounting Green Lady, we continue on.  At about Mile 8, according to Runkeeper's nice lady voice, I think, "The first rest stop is coming up."  I come to an intersection, still following the arrows.  Alas, in my best Directionally Challenged way, I have made a wrong turn.

Now, in some respects, I'm a blithering coward; in others I'm rather adventurous.  It hasn't dawned on me yet that I've made a wrong turn.  There is something blissful, quiet and soothing about moving with no sounds except the wheels spinning on the pavement, the soft swishing brush of your legs as you pedal and your breathing. It's flat, so there's really no intense labor. There are no cars.  It's a quiet, country, rural road. The sky is big, with dark, bristling brooding clouds.  The soy and corn fields pass by.  There is no car noise.  Nothing but your sounds and the wind.  I'm doing a bit of thinking with part of my mind focused on what's ahead.  There's no one pushing, no competition, no trying to keep up with another cyclist.  It's just me, Green Lady and the straight road ahead. I could stop if I wanted to.  It's my ride. I keep going, take a drink from my water bottle. The road continues past fields and clumps of trees with the big sky all around me....

Suddenly, it dawns on me.  There is no one around.  I haven't seen a single cyclist since leaving downtown Findlay.  That's not that unusual but it's really solitary.  And the road is getting narrower and narrower.  Hmmm.  I start looking down at the road's surface for the little directional arrows.  I'm feeling a bit like a secondary lead in the sequel to the film Children of the Corn: Children Of The Soy.

"Oh, wittle ar-whoas, " I say in my best Tweety Bird imitation, "Where are woo?"  (Yes, she's gone over the edge, she's talking out loud to herself in a Warner Brothers cartoon voice.)  Finally when my road comes to a sharp curve and turns into gravel, I think, "Hmm, maybe I better turn around and head back.  I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque!"  I'm not panicking.  As a matter I'm thinking this will add mileage onto my ride.  No worries.  It didn't dawn on me that if I broke down, I was screwed in the middle of nowhere. (This was pointed out to me later on by Mr. Killjoy.)

As I stopped to turn around, a ray of light shafts the deep gray, brooding sky, highlighting the dark curtain of rain in the distance.  Rain?  Oh, OK, not good but it looks far way, I should be fine. Suddenly, the shaft of light moves to spotlight the road back. Right on the road, not the fields or berm of brown grass. I know a Sign when I see one.

"OK, I get the message!  Thank you very much!"  I head back, arrive at the intersection and finally find the "Wittle Ar-Whoas" on the pavement.  I arrive, 12-some miles in, at the rest stop.  Lovely!  Some water.  A glazed doughnut! Coffee with sugar!  I'm on my way to lunch, keeping some other folks in eyesight.  I am somewhat amazed to find myself pedaling past folks.  I am not a speed demon by any stretch, but I glance down at my odometer and discover I'm doing 16 MPH.  Taken aback, I slow down somewhat.  I don't want to "blow up", to lose my steam.  It's not a sprint, it's about distance.

I arrive at a small town school where I'll have lunch and get to use a REAL bathroom.  That flushes!  With a sink!  This is civilization!! There is FOOD!  I have a PB&J half-sandwich and chocolate chip cookie.  I loathe peanut butter and jelly but I've heard it's good energy food. I could have any of a wide variety of sandwiches, chips, cookies and drinks. I talked to some nice people when I have my "Vick Moment."

Nice older lady sitting with other folks: "Too bad about so-and-so getting hurt.  He's in the hospital with head trauma. They say he may never play again!"

Me: "Oh, that's too bad, who was it again?"

Lady: "It was _____, a baseball player."

Me: "Too bad it wasn't Michael Vick."  General laughter!

I run into Mary M. whom I had met and ridden with last year.  I decide to pedal with her and her friend.  We go along until the rest stop (10 miles from the finish), having a nice chat.  After the rest stop, I keep finding myself ahead of them.  I'm still not in bad shape.  I haven't hit any physical walls, I'm feeling pretty good and a check of my odometer reads 16 MPH. They are way behind me. I can't even see them! I never did get to say, "Good-bye and I'll see you later, take care," and I feel bad about that. I keep pedaling along and even the big hill going over the freeway isn't too bothersome.   Green Lady is cruising along!  I guess she must thinking my brother is riding her!!

As I'm cruising into Findlay and towards the finish line, my Runkeeper chirps, "Time: three hours and so many minutes and seconds.  Distance: 38 miles." Hey, I know I'm beaten my longest distance.  I heard the 35 mile mark come and go.  I can add on 2 miles and make it 40.  So I spend the next 2 miles tooling around Findlay, trying to NOT get lost.  If I make enough left hand turns....I should be OK.  I finally hear the time and distance: 40 miles!  I did it! I can quit now!

Runkeeper says this. My odometer, which is probably more accurate said: 40.76 miles in 3 hours, 24 minutes, 18 seconds as I recall. I think that's more accurate.

The Spousal Unit
at the
end of his ride!
100 Miles!
A Triumph!
What's more important is I had fun! I felt confident too!  I hit both my goals for distance. I stayed upright.  It was a good adventure.

My butt was sore. I won't lie.  I do have a 40-mile-on-the-flat butt.  I wonder if it could go longer. That is not a surety. I met some nice folks especially Corey while I was waiting for my SU to finish his 100 miles in 7 hours, 5 minutes (as I recall). My poor SU had to change his flat, which sucked for him, at about Mile 70-something.  The problem with stopping at that point is your body gets all pissy on you and doesn't want to start up again. At all. And, another bummer, he never rode much with anyone.  He was by himself most of the time. He rarely got to draft anyone (pedal close to their back wheel, less wind) and get a break.

I think I'd like to try to do 62 miles someday but the weather is a huge factor for me.  It would have to be perfect, on the cool side and low humidity.

Now on to those foot races......

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