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Key West 207k

by on April 14, 2014

Clint and I disagree about who initiated the idea of taking a day of vacation to ride a 200k, but the plans came together thanks to a gracious route owner and Eaton Bike Shop in Key West.  We watched the weather and chose the coolest day of the week with the most favorable winds for our ride, Thursday, April 10.

We picked up our bikes from the bike shop Wednesday evening, having them install our pedals and saddles and fitting the bikes.  They were aluminum Cannondales.  Along with the $45 rental came a tool kit with 2 spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, inflator, and tire wrenches.  A quick ride back from the shop and we installed bags, cameras, etc.  I also added to the tool kit my multi-tool and an emergency medical kit.  We planned for a 6 am start.

You have to get up pretty early in Key West to beat the roosters.  They crow all night, and the sound of them accompanied us as we left our Condo at 5:35 to make our way to the starting control.  We were legally lighted, but with only enough lights to be visible to others.  Negotiating some dark streets under construction was challenging, to say the least.  We checked in at a McDonald’s near the start, and pushed off promptly at 6:00 more than an hour before sunrise.  It was a quite comfortable 68°F.

The Key West 207k is definitely an out and back route.  The main cue sheet has six lines, three of those are controls.  However, there is a bike trail along many stretches of the route, and we quickly discovered that (a) they were smoother and less debris filled than the shoulder of the road and (b) often they abruptly end.  We chose to mostly stick to the road’s shoulder, with occasional forays onto the trail.  The shoulders were mostly necessary crossing the bridges from one key to another, and these were the most debris filled.

Those first few miles were all about getting into the groove of riding.  Clint’s seatpost was slipping and we stopped to fix his twice, and mine needed one readjustment.  Good thing I brought the mult-tool.  The tool kit from the bike shop didn’t have one in it.

The first leg (traveling east-northeast) was directly into the 20-25 mph ENE wind.  Clint and I quickly found our rhythm of trading “pulls” in front, although I must admit that with that strong headwind and our slow speeds, sitting on his wheel didn’t feel much like drafting.  I did watch my heart rate drop slightly when he was in front, so it must have been doing something.  We watched the sky lighten toward a hoped for glorious sunrise, however low clouds blocked the horizon.  The skies did have some nice color for a short while.

50 milesAt mile 40 we got to the 7-mile bridge.  I was anticipating a great scenic ride across this bridge.  What we got was the full blast of the headwind and plenty of fast moving vehicle traffic just a few feet to our left.  We managed about 10-12 mph across the bridge, taking more than 30 minutes to cross.  It was an effort the whole way, and I must say, rather discouraging.  We found a McDonald’s in Marathon at mile 50, and stopped for some food and drink.  Once we were on our bikes again, we discovered that the trail east of Marathon afforded us a little break from the wind, and it was set off well away from the road.

At one intersection, we became heroes to a stranded cyclist.  The woman was on a cruiser and said she had seen a small snake.  She described swerving to miss it, and ended up dropping a chain.  She was unable to put the chain back on.  I pulled out a latex glove and within a short time Clint and I had the chain back on.  The conversation with her was one every Randonneur has in such a situation.  The hapless victim of poor bike maintenance and bad luck is forever grateful for the knowledge and skill we demonstrate in bicycle repair … and astonished that someone would voluntarily ride the distances we ride when they ask about where we had ridden from.  It went something like this.  “Where did you start your ride today?”  “Key West.” “You didn’t start this morning did you?” “At about 6 this morning.”  “No way!  This morning?  And you are here?  Where are you going?”  “To Layton and then back to Key West.”  “Today?”  “Yes, we’ll get back sometime this afternoon.”  Silence.

As invigorating as this break from the routine slog into the wind was, I started to struggle after this.  There were more miles to go, and more bridges … some of them seemed to take forever because there was no stopping the wind on them.  Eventually we made it to Layton and the little shop that was the turn-around control.  Ice cream was just the ticket.  Of course, knowing that a tailwind lay ahead was also plenty of motivation.

As we pushed off, we were buoyed by the tailwind.  My head was up and we were flying.  Our planned lunch stop was Marathon.  The bridge that once was a long slog into the wind was now like a downhill slope, and our speed was just an expression of how good it felt.  We were flying with little effort.  And then … CLINK, CLINK, PSSSSSSSSS.  My bike got all squirrely and it was all I could do to stay upright as I gently braked to a stop at the end of a bridge.  The front tire was flat.

No problems!  We were now about 70 miles into the ride.  One flat.  I noted that I had a significant cut in the front tire.  I brought a set of tire boots in my repair kit.  I pulled it out, patched the tire, new tube in, inflated.  Ready to go.  I tested the rear tire before mounting to ride.  It was flat too!  I had double flatted!  There was no evidence of anything in the tire that I could find, so new tube, inflate, holding, put it on the bike.  Press down on the tire just to make sure it is inflated properly and BOOM!  The tube blew.  Pull it back off.  Check it.  It was cut too.  Place a tire boot on the tire, new tube, inflate, test, on the bike, good to go!  Clint is looking a little irritated at this point.  We are now down to 1 tube and 1 CO2 cannister between the two of us with 60 miles to go.  We’ll be fine, I say.

The speed comes up, our heads come up, the scenery is glorious.  The blues of the water are spectacular.  Life is good!  We stop in Marathon at a fish restaurant, get our fluids topped off and drained.  I have some soup.  Clint has a fish sandwich.  As we leave Marathon with about 50 miles to go we have a discussion about whether or not we move off the route to go to the bike shop for more tubes.  I remind Clint that we have 2 patch kits between us, and 3 tubes with holes in them.  We’ll be fine.

When we hit the 7-mile bridge again, we are flying!  I ran out of top end gears.  Our top end speed of 33 mph was on the bridge, and we averaged about 25 mph over the length of the bridge.  I glanced down at my Garmin’s thermometer at one point on the bridge and saw 92°F.  We didn’t have much of a cooling breeze as we kept pace with the wind.  It was getting hot.rest stop

We figured a little more than two hours home at the rate we were going, but even with a tailwind I was having trouble.  The soup didn’t sit well with me and I was having trouble hydrating.  I asked to stop a couple of times just to cool down a bit and hopefully allow the liquids in my stomach to empty into my bloodstream.  My pulse was fine (often a tell-tale sign for me) but I was increasingly in distress.  With about 4 miles to the end of the ride, I pulled quickly off the side of the road, doubled over, and dry heaved.  Ok, my stomach was emptier than I thought.  I grabbed the bike and noted that my rear tire was flat.  We found a wire protruding from the tire itself, and the close examination revealed this was the culprit.  Fix the flat.  Use our last tube.  I promised Clint I’d ride on the rim if I flatted again before the end of the route.  Once we were past the course end, the bike shop could pick us up.

When we got back into town, we headed directly to the bike shop, another 3 miles inland.  They were about 30 minutes from closing, and they quickly pulled our gear off the bikes as we told the story of the ride.  The owner was clearly excited about our ride.  When he asked me how it went.  I pulled a punctured tube from my rear pocket, handed it to him, and said this has a hole in it.  He took it and threw it in the trash.  I pulled another one and said, “This one too.”  He got a concerned look on his face, and threw that tube away.  I pulled out tube 3 and said, “You can do the same with this one.”  He didn’t say a thing.  I reached back for the 4th tube and he said, “No.”  I said, “Yes.”  I then told him about the two cut tires and the boots inside.  He said, “I’ll replace those tires too.”

I was still suffering some.  Clint wanted a stout beer with ice cream in it.  My desire for a shower luckily won out.  I got back to the condo, dry heaved some more, showered, re-hydrated with water before tackling some food and drink.

Despite this, it was a good ride and a great adventure.

Those interested may look at the Garmin data.  It can be found here.

 

 

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