27 April 2008

almost, and then some

Saturday was the day. Long-awaited, much-anticipated. I missed last year's start to the brevet series, coming as it did on the heels of the adult onset of asthma. Lat year, by the end of April I was already dealing OK with the breathing, but I had lost way too many training miles to reasonably consider doing the April 200k. This year I had 4 100-mile weeks in, and the week leading up to this ride I got in 97 of my planned 100 "warm-up" miles. Almost.

10 days before this ride, I learned that a friend and his buddy were going to try this ride for the first time. I had planned to ride alone, simply by default. So I wheedled my way in on a ride and 2 cycling partners. Jeremy and Pat are recent gung ho touring cyclists - and they have really gone after what is my favorite way to cycle. (But I just never get out that way anymore.) So I knew they would be serious, well-equipped, probably pretty strong, but that they wouldn't press the tempo too much.

Any day is a good day for riding. Saturday held its share of surprises: after a string of 70-degree days during the week, Friday night brought rain and thunderstorms. Saturday was cold, overcast mixed with mostly sunny, and WINDY! How windy was it? With the wind at the back, and us going 25mph, we could still feel the wind at our backs. That's windy? How windy was it? It was blown-off-the-road windy. It was smallest chain ring pedaling downhill windy. But I get ahead of myself.

A quick check of weather.com late Friday evening gave me the chance to add a few bits of clothing to my bags: long gloves, balaclava, rain jacket, and an extra pair of socks. All of which were put on in the windy upper 40's temperatures at start time: 7am in Delavan, WI. No, it wasn't raining, and it didn't rain, but I needed that extra layer as a wind break. About half-way between the 1st and 2nd controls (check-in spots), with the sun out and the wind sort of at my back briefly, I thought it was warm enough to shed the balaclava, gloves and rain jacket. Well, I often leave the first item just around the neck if I don't have a turtle neck on. The short gloves turned out to be OK. But taking the jacket off was a big mistake. Big mistake. I put it back on a few miles down the road ... that wind just wasn't allowing the sun to "stick."

The mid-point of this out-and-back ride was 65 miles and change. The route was basically a series of roads headed west and north from Delavan to Verona, WI. The northerly roads had a slight cross-wind effect, where you felt the wind but also felt you were getting some help. But the westerlies were into them. WSW at least, and as already noted, clearly higher than 25mph. Gusts much higher. 14 of the final 16 miles were directly into this wind, in 2 stages: 7.7 miles (1 mile respite headed north) and 6.2 miles. "Disheartening" Jeremy called it. "Bitter" and 'brutal" come to mind. I was not alone, I'm sure, in vowing I would never ride like this again.

Two years ago, when I reported on this ride, I noted how much I hate hills. Let me amend that. I hate wind!

Naturally, on the turnaround, this all changed. The wind became our friend. The all-too-brief respites from the wind on the way out (short sections headed north) became manageable slogs against the wind on the way back. And those long hauls into the westerlies, turned around, turned to some exhilarating stretches returning. At the Kwik Trip that was our turnaround rest stop, I know I was on the verge of dehydration. (Believe me, I know dehydration! click here and scroll down to "don't estimate - calcumate!") I took care to drink, drink some more, and eat a variety of fuel. And with the kindly assistance of this glorious wind -- which had been my enemy just minutes before -- the body recovered.

Not to say that one feels rejuvenated at the end of a 200k day. Actually, at 127 miles, this is a 203k ride. And then some. But at least this time I could dream of attempting a 300k ride. Two years ago I got back in the truck with every intention of giving up cycling all together!

Jeremy and Pat proved to be excellent cyclists, and good companions. We did not stay together on our ride west, though Jeremy and I had spells together or in the same group. But in Verona we stayed until Pat was ready to go, and we 3 hung together all the way back to Delavan. Indeed, though I have the most miles of training rides, they did get in first. And special kudos to Pat, who, I learned, had only about 24 miles of riding this spring, and did this ride on a brand new bike, complete with a stiff leather saddle! Now that is awesome.

No comments: