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That Was a Big Day on the Bike!

by on July 1, 2013

On Saturday, I joined 9 other riders for what for me was an epic ride.  Before the day was done, 203.7 miles were logged in just under 15 hours.  This felt different than the Flèche, even though the Flèche is about 30 miles longer.  Of course, the Flèche is ridden in 24 hours … and really not any less.

For my first official 300k (plus an additional 27k) we had a 4:00 am start planned.  Temperatures hovered around 70° F and there were mostly cloudy skies.  In other words, perfect!  Several of the riders were doing a “training ride” in preparation for a 1200k in Alaska in mid-July.  Several others just joined in for the fun of it.  We pushed off into the dark morning just a couple of minutes after 4 am.

Within a few miles, we were comfortable with the pace and the route.  Since the last time I had ridden the first part of this route, the state had re-paved the road through Grasonville and Kent Narrows.  It was a delight to be running on smooth pavement on what was previously very much filled with potholes.  Conversation was nearly non-stop as we could ride 2 X 2 on these lonely roads in the wee hours of Saturday morning.  We fell easily into a rhythm and worked with each other trusting one another’s riding skills.  In the 15 hours of the ride I never noted one near-miss or potential collision with another rider.  Each of these riders had spent hundreds of hours in the saddle in group rides and maintained an awareness of just where the other riders were.

As the sun began to bring light to the skies, we watched the fields and forests emerge from the darkness.  We spotted our one and only deer just before sunrise.  By the time we arrived at our first control in Chestertown it was fully light.  We arrived just a few minutes after the control “opened” since we were making such good time on smooth roads with wide shoulders.  We stowed some of the reflective gear that was no longer needed, topped off our fluids, draining other fluids, and grabbed a quick bite to eat.  Then we pushed off for the next short leg to Millington.  Dan was riding a fixie and on this stretch, he moved out in front and set a quick pace.  He later commented that it was easier to maintain the momentum if he was in front.  It was fast enough that one rider was grumbling a little about the pace, but I was enjoying it.  We were flying down the road and my heart rate was in a very comfortable zone.  It was the kind of day and ride that made me believe I could continue on forever.  I love that feeling!

We were all in fine shape at the information control in Millington and opted to simply continue, now heading south toward Salisbury.  The winds were still very light and not a factor at all.  We could see rain clouds ahead, but they dumped whatever moisture they held before we got under them.  There were a few stretches with damp pavement, but otherwise the ride was completely dry.  The thick clouds allowed me to keep the sunscreen in the bag and it was quite a while before I thought to dig out my sunglasses.  We stopped for more fluids just outside Greensboro and I was amazed at the efficiency of these experienced riders.  Everyone knew exactly what was needed before entering the store and there was no wasted time waiting for someone to figure out what they needed.

Our next stop (this ride was really marked by the stops) was a brief one in Federalsburg for more fluids, bathroom, etc.  We split up a bit here.  Some of us stopped in a McDonald’s, some at a convenience store, and a few just kept riding on.  Moving out of Federalsburg we were in two groups, and when we arrived at the information control in Eldorado, we caught the lead riders.  From Eldorado, it was simply a fast ride to Salisbury.  A couple of the riders struggled a bit over the last 20 stretch into Salisbury and crossing Route 50 on a Saturday morning in the summer was not our idea of fun, but we all made it without becoming hood ornaments.  When we finally arrived at the control in Salisbury we had a sub 7 hour 30 minute 200k under our belts.  My previous best on a 200k was just over 8 hours, so this was really feeling good to me.

At the control, we had some decisions to make.  The sun was now out and the temperatures were increasing.  We had ridden a quick 200k with 127 to go.  Some of the group (3) decided to get a sandwich and keep going.  The remaining 7 of us decided on a nice sit-down lunch in air conditioning at Brew River.  That was a great choice.  We entered about the time the restaurant was opening for lunch and were a smelly, noisy bunch.  I think we spent about 45 minutes to an hour there.  Then it was time for sunscreen, new application of anti-chafing cream, and off we went.

The next 30 miles seemed long to me.  I had some stomach cramping from the chicken salad I ate for lunch.  The temperatures were rapidly climbing into the 90’s.  We had spent a long time on the bike.  As we were moving along, Clint suggested we try a rolling pace line.  I had always wanted to try that, and we started to get it to work pretty well when all of a sudden my rear tire seemed like it slid on the white line.  I had very little control and quickly figured out that I had a flat tire.  We grabbed a shady spot and in no time had the tube replaced and wheel back on the bike rolling again.  This was the only flat on the day.  Not bad for a combined 2000+ miles!

A short while after the flat, I was having more trouble holding the pace of the group.  I knew I was starting to overheat.  I was hydrating as much as I dared, but I still watched my heart rate increase, a sure sign that I was starting to get into some trouble.  By the time we arrived in Federalsburg for the control, I chose to stop just short of the control at a convenience store for iced water to pour over my head and to get some ice cream into me to help me cool down.  Dan and Mike also stopped here.  We sat outside in the shade, and reflecting on it now, it might have been better to sit at the McDonald’s in the air conditioning.  I was singularly focused on getting the cold water on my head to cool the core down.

The guys who went on to the McDonald’s were getting impatient on us.  When I felt as though my core temperature had dropped enough, we rode the quarter mile to the McDonald’s and it was there that Mike and I decided that we needed some more cooling and encouraged the others to go ahead.  About 10 minutes in air conditioning was all I could handle.  I started to get quite chilly.  Mike and I pressed on, and it was clear to me that we both simply needed to back off the pace in this heat.  The thermometer was reading just over 95° F and occasionally we had to push into a bit of light wind.  Our speed came down some since we didn’t have the whole group to work with, but we made much better time than I anticipated.

We stopped in Denton for more cold fluids, a banana, and I think I remember eating a Snicker’s bar.  The ice cream choices were pretty lame.  We lingered in Denton for a little longer than I wanted to, but there was no real need to push it.  We made good time to the information control in Ridgely and from there were on very familiar roads.  The heat was still oppressive and neither of us complained a bit when one of us made the request to stop in the shade for a few minutes a couple of times.

The miles continued to pass by.  We encountered less wind than we anticipated as we headed west.  I was grateful for that!  At mile 186 we noted we had covered 300k in 13 hours and 44 minutes, just about 15 minutes more than the time limit RUSA has for a 200k.  Both of us celebrated that accomplishment with still another drink of fluids.  The ride into Queenstown was hard for me … and I think for Mike too.  Once we crossed Highway 50 for the last time and with about 8 miles to go, we calculated that we were probably just outside finishing in 15 hours.  Mike was really struggling and I convinced him to draft as I attempted to get us in under the 15 hour mark.  I pulled.  My heart rate spiked.  I pulled some more.  I kept an eye on the rear view mirror and made sure that Mike was with me.  Eventually, I could press the pace no longer, and I let Mike take the lead.  By then, the horse could smell the barn and he had rested just enough that he put on a speed that was hard for me to keep up.  When I crested the bridge over Highway 50 he was a good 75 yards ahead of me.  I kicked it with all I had, caught him at the traffic circle, and we rode in together to the finish with an official time of 14 hours 58 minutes.  We made it!

Lori was there to greet our finish as were some of the others.  The group of 5 that left before us in Federalsburg arrived 38 minutes ahead of us.  Dan was struggling with some dehydration issues and would take about 2 hours before he was recovered enough to drive home.  I slammed down a chocolate milk, then changed clothes and we all gathered at Ram’s Head in Stevensville for food, drink, and celebration.  This was a very good day on the bike.

I was pleased with the nutrition and fluid choices I made.  I drank more water than I usually do.  I took two e-caps every time the second toe on my right foot started to give me evidence that it was about to cramp.  I used about 4-5 bottles of Rocktane, and only about 2-3 gels.  That seemed to work for me.  I was bloated at the finish.  My stomach hadn’t really emptied all the fluids from the last 30 miles.  No sunburn.  I had a hot spot on the outside bottom of my left foot, a little residual left Achilles tendon pain and some right knee pain that wasn’t any worse than when I started the ride.  My palms have some bruising, which is pretty typical for me on these long rides.

Again, this was a very good day on the bike.  It felt like an accomplishment and gives me more confidence for the upcoming 600k (375 miles) in October.

I’ll give an update about the Malaria Campaign in an upcoming post.

This Ride: 203.7 miles
Total for June: 652.4 miles
2013 Miles: 3188.3
Total since 1/1/2010: 22,961.2 miles


From → Cycling

One Comment
  1. Congratulations!!!! That’s a very impressive time.

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