Monday, March 19, 2007
Well, yesterday's Foresters Miracle Bike Ride 80 mile route turned out to be only 76 miles long but I doubt anyone complained.
The first 30 miles were southward, nearly straight downwind and flat with scenic views along the Indian River. Dave (DH) and I set out riding together but somehow found ourselves part of a pace line going about 25 mph. I'd practiced drafting and pulling on my training rides with Dave but this was my first experience riding in a real pace line and I knew that I was working way too hard. The problem was I didn't know how to get out of the middle of it.
So I hung onto Dave's wheel for several miles, too scared to do anything but pedal, pedal, pedal. The guy just in front of Dave slowed us to about 23 mph, which felt good to me, but on his turn Dave cranked it back up, close to 27 mph initially, forcing me to sprint in order to keep up (crap). Then it was my turn to pull (oh no, I didn't get any rest the last mile!) and I dropped into the aero position and stayed at near my red line to maintain 25 mph as best I could. In a couple minutes the pain was over and I dropped back, way back, so I could recover and continue riding on my own. I knew I couldn't finish an 80-mile ride dumping my energy reserves so early on, not with what was in store for the second half.
Dave didn't know I'd dropped out of the pace line and so he continued riding with the group, which was fine by me. We met up at the first SAG stop at mile 23, just past Sebastian Inlet (pictured above along with the road that we rode on). Somewhere along the way, I'd lost the top soft part of my aero bottle straw but other than that, I was OK. After the break, Dave insisted on riding with me (I swear, no threats were made) and we continued the downwind stretch at a more comfortable 22 mph pace. A guy named Don caught up to us and joined us at mile 30, just as the course made a big turn and the fun began.
It started first with me almost getting blown off my bike as we rode over the causeway that spanned the Indian River. It then continued as we turned directly into the wind and got on a stretch of road that was under construction and one of the worst I'd ever ridden on. I tried not to look at the b-b-b-bouncing bike computer but could not help noticing that our speed was only about 15-16 mph now.
After 4 miles of bumps, dips, rocks, glass and other bike tire unfriendlies, we got to the road we were supposed to turn off on. It was much smoother, thank goodness, but the headwind stayed with us making even 17 mph seem like a grand achievement. At least the river views were pretty here too, though smelly (rotting mudflats, Dave pointed out). A little while later, we passed a group of cyclists waiting for one of their own to fix a flat. They were the first folks we'd seen since the SAG stop, a good sign we were going the right way.
The northward return leg on this side of the river had 2 semi-loop sections that broke up the headwind stretches into 3 segments. At the next SAG stop, located between the 2 semi-loops, we came across another group of cyclists. They were sitting down, apparently beat, and had decided they were going to skip the second semi-loop, deleting about 10 miles from the course (this was a fun ride so no penalty doing so). Bill, one of the guys from that group, decided to join us since we were still planning to do the whole ride.
With four of us now taking turns pulling about one mile at a time, the second semi-loop seemed to go much faster than the first one, which was actually shorter. We returned to face the wind head on again, but where was Bill? He hadn't said anything about dropping out so we waited for him. He finally showed up and told us he was fading having ridden something like 150 miles total this weekend. He assured us though that he had everything he needed to keep going on his own. He was also wearing a Space Coast Velo Sports jersey and looked to be a much more serious cyclist than any of us, so we believed him and continued on.
Within a couple miles, Dave, Don and I found ourselves struggling to stay together on another bad section of road and, of course, against the wind. Though we were no longer switching leads, I kept mumbling to myself "one mile at a time" to keep going. We regrouped somewhat before crossing the causeway back over the Indian River and then again at a long traffic signal where we were to turn left. While waiting we noticed the Starbucks that was mentioned on the queue sheet.
"Stop in for a tasty treat," it had said. We wondered who in their right mind would go in and sit down so close to the finish of a long ride like this? Not us, that's for sure, or else we'd never be getting back up.
The traffic light turned green and we headed north for the final 3 mile push into the wind. At last, we saw the familiar blue sign on the left and happily turned into the Walmart parking lot where the ride started and ended. We put our bikes on the car rack and enjoyed the free lunch that was being served. Shortly afterwards, Bill showed up. We talked about the tough wind conditions, other bike rides, and some movies. No one said anything negative about the course being a little short.
Total distance: 76.3 miles
Total riding time: 4:08:12
Avg speed: 18.4 mph