April 29, 2007

The long road back to form

It is indeed a long road back to the form that I'm most proud of, my landmark year of 2003. As cycling goes, that's when the magic elements of body weight, mental toughness, caloric methodology, and execution were at their peak. Not beeing too old yet, I am determined to get back to that form that I let slip. Either complacency, over-confidence, or the notion that getting to such a place was a destination and not something that needed to be maintained, have taken their toll. I was wrong. It DOES take work to stay at a certain weight, a certain level of fitness, and I wasn't doing it. I coasted thru 2004 on the previous year's successes, and did fairly well. 2005, I started slowly gaining weight, and losing my self-control with regards to food intake in relation to exercise. By the middle of 2005, I had over-trained myself twice, and then the recovery from those processes began to take longer and longer. Speed slipped, and instead of owning it I chalked it up to "having fun" and taking a slower approach to cycling in general. Instead of planning hard-charging metrics, I was planning coffee and pastry rides - there's nothing at all wrong with those, assuming one works in moderation and burns off those pastries. I was not. Then came 2006, a year with big plans that fell short. Jumping to quickly to the notion that I could easily jump back into distance rides, the only brevets I actually finished in 2006 were two 200K rides, neither of which were anywhere close to indicative of my previous showings. The 300K didn't happen, and the 400K was a sad attempt. All the while I searched for excuses, magic-bullets, and misguided solutions. It was always something OTHER than me. It was the bike, the gearing, the bags, the lack of bags, the food, the magic powders, or real food -- something was always the culprit. So long as it wasn't MY fault. Several bikes later, several trips to fixed gear, single-speed and back, minimlist packing to horrid OVER-packing, I had played around more than I had trained, and I still wondered why the results were not coming, while eating too much, training too little, and generally assuming that I had some sort of natural ability that would come to my rescue. Then, at the end of 200, I saw my average speeds dropping again and finally the whole thing came to a head in Cleburne, TX., when an attempt to return to greatness was cut short by a nasty ankle injury. Then came family tragedy. Eventually, I was off the bike for a long while. It was time for a clean slate, whether I knew it or not. 2007 was here.

I still know that I have a lot of work left to do, but all of the above realizations have led me to the conclusion that I either want it, or I don't. The time for waffling & citing shallow excuses, and retelling the 'glory days' with the reverence of someone twice my age need to stop. The glory days are not over - I simply lost my way. This year has proven different. Injuries have healed, and the pain of loss has subsided enough to allow a return to normalcy - which has refocused my mind towards a more goal-oriented approach to cycling. Things like gear ratios, number of gears, bags, packing arrangements, and food choices have taken a back-seat to the notions that I simply have something to do: HOW do I want to do it? Instead of making excuses, I've taken up the reigns of action. It's not WHAT fuel, it's simply making sure I'm getting the energy I need to continue riding. Excuses like "the fuel wasn't sitting well" have fallen out of my vocabulary, in the sense that I'm muttering these things after I have switched game-plans and found something that DOES work - rather that moaning about it in the car on the way back to the start location with another DNF. My focus now, at least by attempt, is to take the good with the bad, and know that these rides, these goals I set for myself, are NOT easy ones and I have to be prepared to take the consequences of my choices - good or bad. Otherwise, I should simply not set these goals. I'll stop setting goals when I'm dead, frankly. If one wants to affirm one's life, one has to be prepared for the fact that it ISN'T easy. There will be punctures, crashes, hardships, pain, sores, stiffness, upset stomachs, burnt-out light bulbs, and dehydration. It is how important to you the realization of a goal is that makes the difference and makes the suffering worthwhile. Even the sweetest of ride finishes are never made without some hardship. As is such with life. Simply put, it's why things cost what they do. There is always a price.

This year, differing from the last three, has begun to prove quite satisfying. While sore and tired, I have finished his year's long rides with a smile. The 200K was cold and bleak, with a killer headwind. The 300K, it snowed and rained - but there was a reward. The 400K, completed early this morning at about 12:40 AM, was long, hard, tiresome, and had it's share of ups and downs -- but it was a great success. The biggest indicator I can offer to that effect is that despite stomach distress, a wicked headwind for the about 80 miles of the ride, a LOT more climbing that the old 400K route, and a 30-mile death-march slog for the last endless leg of the ride, I STILL managed to finish only an hour-and-40 off my best time EVER for a 400K, which was 18 hours, in - you guessed it - 2003. Considering I'm personally 35 lbs heavier, on bicycle that easily is 10 lbs heavier than the other bike I did the 18-hours upon, with front and rear saddlebags, full fenders, and a freakin brass bell. On a route that I had never ridden before. I call that a success. Perfect? No. Should it be? No way. But, it's a finish for an event where the ONLY objective IS to finish. I'm really proud of this one, and even though there is a lot of work left to be done with regards to weight loss, I'm currently enjoying leg strength that rivals 2003-levels, a mental toughness that hasn't been around in a while, and equipment savvy that isn't exactly racer-esqe - but purposeful, prepared, and long-day performance oriented. Yeah, I had more baggage on my bicycle than anyone else did, but I didn't finish last -- nor was finishing place ever important. I was comfortable, calm under adversity, and never cramped. I had a fresh change of clothes at the last control, food at hand, and easy access to the route map - in short, the perfect setup for ME. There are a few opportunities for improvements, specifically with regards to the seatpost QR for the saddlebag, or rather its elimination in lieu of a rack that would have the bag lower so its mount doesn't poke my backside with every pedal stroke forcing me to sit on the saddle nose for most of the day -- but that's easy to remedy. Ouch, by the way. Other items for improvement might have included a cooler jersey for the hottest part of the day, but oh well. It really wasn't that bad, and after dark it was perfect.

So, after all that hoo-haa above, and bringing myself and everyone else up to speed, let's get to it, in no less than five parts, the 2007 400K story:

Part One - Grandview to Holden:

The start of the day was nearly perfect, just the way I like it. A little foggy, very little wind, and about 50 degrees. You can almost smell a full day of cycling in the air. With nearly 30 riders in attendance, it was refreshing to be a part of a big PBP year again - even though I can't make it across the pond this year, it's a good feeling to be a part of something that is building in all of these individual riders. You can feel the anticipation, and the conversations are excellent even to be a fly on the wall for - talk of plans, switching bicycle computers from MPH to KMpH, etc. And, finally, for the first time in a while, many of the who's who of local ultra-cycling are back in the hunt. Byron is here -- yeah, no kidding. I hadn't ridden with him since probably 2003 (there's that freaking year again.), and suddenly there he is! Danny "4-hole", "certain kind of misery" - the guy that rode all four 1,200 KM rides in 2005 -- the Gold Rush, BMB, the Cascade 1200, and Last Chance. And finished all four. Yes, kids... we DO suck. Bow down, and eat an egg burrito in honor. Seriously. Ed is here. Jeff is here -- a rare combo of speed and endurance that rivals the likes of Dan Jordan (Jeff ended up finishing at 9pm, barely late enough to justify a headlight!!!) Spencer is here, on the fixxie as usual. The boys from Iowa were here, including Dale on his trademark Steelman bicycle - this time the orange one -- DANG I wouldn't mind having one of those! NICE. It was a good showing. Bob gave the usual run-down, and we were off racing east towards the rising sun - which was still over and hour away.

After some interesting climbing on a detour over on Chipman Road (wow) we were starting to make our way out of town -- the only bad thing about this ride was all of the in-town riding, which seemed to take forever. After many turns, and many intersections, and a little traffic, we were clear - the streetlights fell behind us, and we started to get out of the reach of society. Ranson Rd. brought us into Greenwood, and then we found 150 highway and a clear passage to the east greeted us with the rising sun, and lifting fog - it was turning out to be an awesome morning. As usual, the pack was big at first and then slowly started to thin out a little bit, eventualy breaking into groups of matched riders. The first big hill, and a couple of poorly timed freight trains also played a big part. You know I love trains, and the fly-bys were perfectly timed for my pleasure - I ended up on the correct side of the tracks, but was still close enough to see the action as I rolled on.

Leading out the middle pack, I pause for the over-the-shoulder shot, as Byron and Ed (two bikes with the prominent headlamps) gaze left to watch the sunrise peeking over the fields.

We passed out of Greenwood, and parts of the route started to look familiar -- most of this ride mirrors the KC MS-150 route, which was neat - but also strange, strange to ride these roads without 1000 other bicycles, route control, and the signature Opie's water trucks waiting every ten miles. That last detail was REALLY going to become important later on, as the perfect temperature, the good company, and the rising tailwind was making it difficult to remember the simple things, like drinking. Although it wasn't going to be a gigantic tragedy, it would become a factor later on in the day. Meanwhile, I was taking the time to catch up with Byron, and enjoy the rare opportunity to ride with a larger pack - a big contrast to the usual solo efforts these rides usually end up being. With each passing mile, the conversation flowed, and the speeds seldom droped below 20 MPH - we were all flying along, soaking up the perfect conditions. Even the roadside cows seemed to be smiling at us, as we rode along. It's funny - I remember climbing, but I don't remember the hills. I'd sure remember them about 14 hours later.

Sunrise, eastbound on 150 highway, west of Lone Jack, MO.

The only unfortunate thing about individual pacing, control routines, etc., is that eventually you start to slip from the pack a little. We reached Holden FAST, it seemed - unfortunately I don't have my timecard handy to reference the exact time, but it was still really early in the day. The fast pack arrived WAY early, and I think they were actually already gone by the time I rolled up. Our pack obviously, even though I tried to hurry, seemed to be on a mission for the next control, and while I took a much needed bathroom break, I emerged to see many of the pack already leaving the parking lot of the Holden Casey's. No huge deal, but it's hard to accept the solitude of the road after a few hours of good conversation -- but that only confirms that I still need to shape up and plan my off-bike routines a little.
The ride to Sedalia was next - basically completing the first day of the MS-150 was in the cards with only one stop along the way - not bad. Seems like I've tried and tried in the past for a good result at the MS-150, but today, without even thinking too hard about it, the lack of stops and the steady tailwind was putting me on pace to hit Sedalia before noon. Things were going well!

Bob Burns, RBA, looks on as busy cyclists prep for the next leg at Holden's Casey's

PART TWO: Holden to Sedalia
This was an interesting part of the ride, from a scenic perspective. As the faster group had already departed the Holden control after my restroom break, I was getting ansy to get back out there before the legs cooled down too much - there was really no hope of catching them, but I did have them in-sight for most of the length of Highway 58, just over the horizon, and gaining ground with their multiple numbers. It was solo-time again, it seemed, which is fine by me - sometimes. After a control it's hard to keep track of who-is-where on the road, so I went on the assumption that most of them were ahead of me. Still with a mild tailwind, it was easy to maintain pace and I was zipping along at around 20MPH without even thinking too hard about it. Shortly, I turned south on Route F for some nice steep rollers - and I was encouraged to see a "share the road" sign along this seemingly deserted rural road. Odd, but welcome - obviously there is a bicycle club presence out here, as we're getting close to Warrensburg. This must be one of their loops. Before long, I'm turning onto Route "BB", a diagonal road that heads NE straight up into the edge or Warrensburg itself. These roads in Missouri are always good for scenery -- not a straight section road, but a slant, clearly a road to a destination and designed to get around certain geographical hurdles. Twisty and hilly, no doubt. After some good climbing, the road levels out onto sort of a plateau, and I was rewarded with a fantastic view to the Southeast, and I think I could pick out the watertower for Green Ridge, maybe even Windsor, in the distance -- the sky was brilliantly clear, and the sightline was endless. The sun was high already, the tailwind brisk, and the road was nearly perfect. I like this road. The good part about a completely new route is this kind of discovery - new vistas, unfamiliar barns, fields, and the mystery of a road that seems to go on forever. In fact, we're on this particular Route for almost 10 miles, one of the longest stretches of the day on any one road.
Eventually, the fun is over as we roll into Warrensburg, and discover traffic and sprawl. Anyone reading this blog for a while knows that I'm not a huge fan of development in general, but on brevet where I expect to escape some of that element it becomes a little more frustrating. Thankfully, Bob tries to make these sections of route as short as practical, but still there is much traffic. I get to Route "DD", and one of the more scenic portions of the route that goes through Knob Noster State Park - but very unfortunately seems to be a major through-route for just about EVERYONE that lives here. I pass up the Casey's near the highschool, and wave to some riders that have stopped there. I half consider taking a break, too, but the fuel is working and the day is young so I carry onward. This is a good section to start with pre-warmed legs. The first of the long hills comes, and I settle in. UGH, THE TRAFFIC! The small area of shoulder that is available is too narrow and chucked to be safely rideable, so much of the time I'm riding the white line. Cars, trucks, heavy trucks, all whizzing by -- much like a commute in suburban Johnson County, KS, it seems a little more arduous after almost 80 miles or riding. Eventually, however, all things come to an end and the bittersweet section of road is behind me as I turn onto MO-23 to snake around the airbase and transition onto Route "D". Right about here, luck runs out. After being solo for probably two hours, I am caught! I joke about it a little, but the only one laughing is Byron, most of the rest of the group all serious and focused on the task at hand. Hey, that's okay sometimes, too. Byron ended up taking a wrong turn, so he's a little amped up to make up for the lost time - still never in too much of a hurry to exchange a little banter as he pushes over his big gear and advances up the road with the rest of the group. Dale is here, too, this is likely some of the group catching up from the stop at the Casey's in Warrensburg - again the group effort summing up to be faster than the solo. But, still, I notice that it's getting harder to keep up the speeds the longer I'm out here. DRINK! Oh yeah.
Eventually, the 14 miles of Route "Y" are taking their toll - this is the final push into Sedalia, and it's a long one -- I can see the big water-tower which marks the Casey's there, but it seems like I'll never reach it. There are long, steady rollers here, and I'm starting to feel weak -- DRINK! Fool! Adding to the mayhem is the increase in traffic again as the control looms nearer - lot of development, and it seems that this kinda of thing is not limited to my area back home, nearly 120 miles away at this point. Can't escape.
The control is a welcome sight - I roll in and grab a section of sidewalk and proceed with the usual fare of getting water, getting the card signed, etc. It's getting warm, too, so layers are coming off, leg warmers getting stashed, etc. Time also to strap extra layers to the top of the saddlebag to let the sunshine dry them, after a good soaking from the morning fog.
This next section should go quickly -- only 25 miles to the turn-around!

Part Three: Sedalia to Windsor and back

What should have been a short and sweet section for some reason just seems to drag on forEVER. This little piece comprised the longest single piece of road of the entire 400K, Route "B", which we were on for almost 22 miles. That's a long time to be on one piece of road when most of my mental game comprises checking off the turns. This section only had five lines of directions, so this middle section is - mentally - taking forever. Highway "B", however, IS gorgeous -- another long stretch of seamless pavement, not nearly the pavement problems that the highways north of Liberty suffer from, and lot's to look at - large expanses of green grass, fields of cows, sheep, horses. Yes, THIS is America, jack - and America's not boring. However, this section of road was getting old -- and I think it was the headwind. Even though this was an out-n-back route, part of it tracks back west so we were getting a preview of how the entire last half of the ride would probably go. It was neat, though, passing through Green Ridge and doubling back a bit as the route curves, crossing the Katy Trail as it goes. That's still on my list of things to do -- I love these old highways and rural roads because they are off the beaten path -- only locals really use these roads, the rest of America is blasting past everything on 50 highway, or I-70, or I-44 -- but these smaller roads hold treasures for the senses, and a vision of the country that hasn't changed much since the road was originally cut. The Katy Trail offers that same notion to a higher degree. Back in the trees lies a secion of America that only railroad men used to see, and now it's open to the public. No cars, no traffic, no hassles -- just mile after mile of flat road that likely reveals just some fantastic scenery. My bicycle is equipped perfectly for such a journey now, so one of these days I'll ride her. Today, however, there are no shortcuts, no time for detours - I ride past the intersection of the trail and continue on the pavement towards Windsor, at a snails-pace it seems.

Mugging for the camera, the obligatory self-headshot at intersection of "B" and "AA", in the middle of no-where, halfway to Windsor, MO. It's pronounced "Baaaaaaa!"

Finally, the next turn comes and I'm only a couple miles from the turn-around, where I'll take a short rest. Grabbing for my waterbottle, I notice a bizarre fact - the fact that it's nearly half-full still, and I have a complete OTHER bottle. This is not good, dude --- you haven't been drinking enough! At the Casey's, I dismount and take care of business, and proceed to drink a LOT of water -- but I get the impression that it's too little, too late. The heat of the day is here, the first real HEAT of the year, really, and I'm not used to it. Clearly, this is something that I CAN recover from, and I'm aware of the issue, so it's not something I choose to let get the better of me. A long rest, and the format for the rest of the day was going to start panning out. Ed and Dale E. were with me, many of the faster riders had already departed, fully refueled and ready -- no real hurry now - this was the halfway, and every pedal stroke was getting us closer to being finished.
With bottles full, we headed out onto the hot roads of Windsor, pointing west.

The long, endless straight stretch of highway B north of Green Ridge.

This next section, since refueling and topping off the water reserves, seemed to go better - and partly it was because of the aid of the tailwind now that we were headed back east again towards Sedalia. Dale E. (this is confusing... I keep ending up riding with guys whose names sound and spell alike.) was there this time, so there was conversation and someone to stick with - the extra motivation helps a lot. Ed was also in attendance, but he defintely likes a certain pace - a pace that I just wasn't able to hold at the moment. Still, the k's are clicking by, and the day is PERFECT, the heating of the afternoon causing little puffy clouds to pop up and dot the sky, offering a little shade here and there. Excellent conditions, gorgeous sky!
A couple of morale boosts came along towards us on the road, other cyclists that were far behind us, just now getting to where we had been hours before, and I smiled to myself. It was going to be a long day for those folks, and I knew how that felt having been there before - today, even in the face of a growing battle with dehydration, I wasn't doing too awful bad. Finally, civilization was becoming more apparent as we made our way back into Sedalia - and the TRAFFIC!!!! Where was everyone GOING? Again, it was just like a days commute back in town, so I'm ready for it - but just not in the mood for it.
Eventually, past the hoo-haa of the main thruway in town, we're back on highway "Y", and the Casey's is just up the hill. Ugh. Nearly 2/3rd's done! It's hot, and I'm getting tired. Again, my bottles are not empty enough. This is a habit that apparently I've forgotten.

PART FOUR: Sedalia to Holden

Leaving Sedalia was a relief, finally the busy burg was past us. After realizing my water intake problem was still a problem, I had really started to take in more water, but I realized that I was one bottle short for these 50 mile sections. A little note for future rides like this, three bottles is really neccessary - or a small Camelbak: but realistically, with all the luggage I already have on the bike, there is no reason I can't get an extra bottle on there without ading a THIRD bag on my back. Silly. Still, I'd rather have the extra water. SO, knowing there was that handy Casey's about 2/3s of the way back to Holden, it was a good time to start drinking a lot more water. We made our way back, us three, the way we came. The turns came quicker, and my spirits started to come up after reaching the point where I could burp again. Cyclists understand this fact; means digestively that things were coming back online, and I was starting to feel like riding again --- unfortunately, the fatigue of riding on low fluids for almost 160 miles was going to have a few things to say about that.
Yes, once again the hard lessons of rando riding are so oft forgotten by a one... let's call him, Dude. Nice. So it goes, we rode west from Sedalia and made it across highway Y's vast expanse and approached D - all to the glory of a couple of bomber touch-n-go's near the airbase - very cool. Even took the time to shoot a few videos, but just like last time they are in a weird format, and I'm postponing putting them on here until I can get them straightened out a little. Talk about rambling - but the before and after video is PRICELESS. He,he. I'll figure it out. Anyways, highway 23 came and went - with a VERY welcome and LONG downhill... wheeee!!!!! I tell you what, mock the handlebar bag -- but it's actually something of a fairing -- I tuck down deep behind it, with my helmet practically resting on top of it - just barely enough room for my eyes to peek out, thereby eliminating the air-sucking hollow under my chest. I don't think it makes a darn bit o' difference, honestly - but I don't tend to get passed on downhills, and it sure felt fast - and another nice thing is that it kept the camera handy as well as snacks - fig newtons, baby!
Back on highway "DD", my favorite road to hate, with good scenery, decent pavement, endless hills .. and traffic. Freaking traffic. I hate Warrensburg. There I said it. Home to many, a great AFB - but crap, would you people learn some manners behind the wheel?! Where's the love, honestly? Makes me want to eat donuts. So I did.
We hit the Casey's by the high-school, and I was determined to get refueled. I had some potato wedges, and a donut... a GOOD donut with chocolate glaze. Duuuude, that hit the good button. Water, water, water, and I am straight again.... except there is more freakin' Warrensburg to ride thru. Ok, ok, ok. So, we-three elbow our way thru more traffic and get to highway "BB", safety and solitude once again on my kind of road. The donut it working, the water is working - but again the fatigue is making it hard, as is the headwind, to push anything very fast. This is turning into a long day. The sun, also, was beginning to get lower in the sky... ahhh, my favorite time of day. Finally reaching the end of highway BB, and onto highway F - more hills, a random dog, a hairpin turn, and there we were again on highway 58, westbound now -- this was the longest section of straight east-west road, and the best indication that the day was finally coming to a close. Holden itself was still only eight miles away, and the hour of 8:00pm was fast approaching. Sundown. The flashing taillight gets turned on, the headlight flicked on. I call the wife and kids - goodnight wishes - the sun is setting on another 400K, and there are still many miles ahead. Night is coming.... and I am smiling. This is my favorite part...

Part Five: The long march home from Holden

The sun going down, to most, marks of the end of the day. To others, it's simply another chapter in a long ride. Tonite is one of those nights. Ariving at Holden's Casey's just before sundown, the timing was perfect to finish off the last of the preparations for the evening ahead. The last signature finally on the card, it was time to relax, knowing that I now had until 8AM Sunday to finish this puppy. Whew. There is some massive relief in getting the last control on these rides - even though there is still distance left to ride, the journey for all intents is just about over. SO, the card is signed, water bottles filled, snacks bought -- this time, more donuts, two this time, perfect for the last fifty miles back to Grandview, a couple handfuls of Corn Nuts for salty and crunchy satiation, an electrolyte tab for good measure, and a shot of caffiene-impregnated Hammer Gel to keep the senses sharp. Hopefuly for this ride, the sleepies wouldn't be an issue - but just in case. At the very least, caffeine is a great mood enhancer, which never hurts. Weighing heavy on our minds is the long sector of in-town riding, which is always a chore - but thanks to the estimated late hour of arrival, traffic should be at a minimum. Then there is that muther of a hill on Chipman Road.... that'll be "fun" coming right at the 240 mile mark! My legs are already tired, so pushing a gear of any kind up that beast is gonna be interesting.

Final equipment checks, and I'm ready -- but the others are not. Dale is cramping, and Ed's headlight has shot craps. Thankfully, Bob is there again at the control for the neutral support. A little re-crimping on the connector solves the problem, and Ed's Schmidt headlight is ready to beam the road up again. Dale reminds us of the clock, and the previous random goal of finishing before midnight is slipping by, so it's time to move out. We bid farewell to Bob, and head out on MO-58 westbound for home. It's dark. Really dark, but thankfully there is a nice 3/4 full moon overhead to help with the shadowing. Now, my Lumotec is pretty bright - but I haven't ordered new lightbulbs in a while and it was showing. Ed's fairly new lighting system was the same hub and same wattage bulb - but MAN, it was VERY bright compared to mine -- the Schmidt E6 headlight is simply amazing compared directly to my Lumotec, and I'm envious. Easy enough to fix, as I simply add it to the mental list I already have running in my head of things to get/fix before the 600K -- including the saddlebag rack issues that are now making things downright painful. Unfortunately, with a minimalist toolkit, there was not much to be done about that during this ride - nor was there much to be done about the headlamp -- more than sufficient, I carry on - knowing that it's only when surrounded by others that the light pales a little.

The traffic isn't too shabby, even on the state highway - and it's apparent that our visibility packages are working well; the cars that approach from behind slow down well in advance and give a wide berth when passing -- very nice. Tail-lights flashing into the darkness, we are the night cyclists - this is our road - and it shows how nice a ride can be when the rulebook is used as a starting point, instead of being viewed as a nuissance. MO-58 is a great road for a lot of reasons, and as I alluded to earlier in Part One, one of those reasons is the long railroad line that parallels the highway. This U.P. line carries a lot of mixed freight and coal, but is also one of the main east/west lines for Amtrak, and tonite we get a rare treat - It's, after researching, the Ann Rutledge 313 Train finishing it's daily run from Chicago to Kansas City, heading for Lee's Summit with a targeted 9:20PM arrival there. It was going to beat us. It was pretty cool, and even in the dark you could tell it was bright silver, and the business-class cars were brightly lit inside, as it blew its whistle at us three times in short succesion after clearing the crossing, maybe a hello? - but pretty neat in any case. Soon, it's twin red rear lights were out of sight ahead of us. Gotta love a railline that follows along the highway! About 20 minutes later we'd be treated to something a little more normal, but still pretty neat seen from a bicycle saddle at night, another westbound freight heading thru Kingsville and Strasburg alongside us as we pedaled along. The stars were bright, the moon sliding farther behind us, and the road outstretched. Conversation about the day flowed, and we knocked off the remaining turns one at a time as we turned north on highway "E" towards Pleasant Hill. Now I was getting tired - not sleepy, just fatigued and beat from the road. The bike is fantastic, but there are things that are beginning to show up since the passing of the 300K marker. The brake hoods are too low, and everything that Rivendel raves about the Noodle handlebar's (Nitto Model.177) flat ramp are starting to make really good sense. An adjustment is needed back home -- unfortunately, the new handlebar bag's fixments are blocking the stem's fixing bolt, so an on-road adjustment is out of the question especialy after dark against a ticking clock. Next, the gawdforsaken saddlebag rack has GOT to go. My backside is raw for all the wrong reasons - no saddle sores - we've gotten past that - but the saddlebag straps that have been poking at me have forced me to slide forward onto the nose of the saddle for most of the last 80 miles, and now THAT is starting to hurt. Again, on-the-road adjustments of such things are a little dicey. Wasn't a problem on the 300K... but it SURE IS NOW. Other than that, however, I'm cozy: while others in the group are complaining about the cold air at the bottoms of hills since the sun went down, I'm perfectly comfortablein my long-sleeve wool. At least the clothing is correct this time! The conditions, actually, are quite good, and there are not too many complaints at all, even if the valleys are cooling off some. Finally we arrive at highway 150 again, after a LONG day away from it. A little more climbing that I remembered, of course, and eventually we are back at highways 7 and 150, for a quick 3/4 mile sprint to get off the main road. We are lucky -- there is a lull in traffic. The Greenwood, into the southern sections of Lees Summit on Ranson Road (where I insert a useless quip about the only lettered route in Missouri designated by two differing letters, thus highway "RA" -- thanks, Cliff Claven) and finally find our turn onto Bailey Road, which means the last of the rural highway riding is over. With a grunt and a sigh, I'm quite pleased that Ed had ridden past this turn -- I can rest, the excuse being waiting for his return to the proper course -- but honestly I'm beat. The first good yawn of the day hits like a brick -- I'd been awake since 3:00AM, and it was nearing 11:30pm. Milepost 220. Yeesh. This is it - and I didn't even really realize it at the time but this was the point Id know whether or not the ankle was completely healed - this was the exact mileage I'd attained at the Tejas 500 last Ocboter, and today, no problems at all. Wheeeeeew. But, that was the only thing that was in good order -- I had water, I had been drinking plenty - but I was getting TIRED, and the wah-wahs were settling in; you know, those head vibrations from extreme fatigue, sometimes you can artificilly get them at the dentist on "the gas" -- but this was strictly fatigue induced. yeeehaaa... time for more Hammer Gel with caffiene. Gulp -- and 15 minutes later, and a run-down of the next few turns, and we're ready to hit it again. We reach the outskirts of Lees Summit, and start to make our way thru town, zig-zaging over 291 highway, along the frontage roads, and finally reaching Ward Rd., I see Bob again in his van - he waves, headed eastbound, probably back along the route to find the group of five or so riders that are still behind us to meet them at Holden. It'll be a long night for them!
A few turns left and we hit residential, snake our way through, and before long we're on Chipman Road again -- we ride west, and then it's time for the hill. Seriously, I'm not sure it's the steepest I'd ever ridden, because 15th street at the end of the southern-route 400K seems steeper at roughly this same milepoint, but MAN this hill was tough. I show a top speed of 57 MPH on the computer for the descent. I haven't seen numbers like that since Colorado in 2002! The climb up the other side was thankfully NOT that steep of a pitch, but it was long - at least 3/4 mile, maybe more. In the dark, who can tell? - you just keep pushing until the effort drops away, and then you know you are at the top. Finally, the worst mental part of the ride is over! The next sections are all super-familiar to me, a loop around Longview Lake, up to Byars Rd, to 139th and 140th, and then the Philips station at the top of another, smaller, hill. That was it! We were BEAT; DEAD tired. 12:40AM. I managed to get to the top of the hill first, but then waited for Ed and Dale, hoping they'd get the message that we should all finish together after so much time on the road, but it didn't seem to register - we were all pretty strung out, the last section performed at a whopping 12 MPH average. Wow.... Not since 2005's 400K on single speed with near-freezing temps for the last 50 miles was the finish of a ride of this distance SO sweet. And yet, so exhausting! Time to rest, at last....this one is in the bag!!!

Seriously, thanks for reading, and riding along with me... see you for the 600K!

Notes - from one foot in the grave:
Another thing that's interesting -- dehydration.
I've been here before, dehydrated that is, at a clinical-level.
For some reason, occasionally, the conditions are perfect for me to simply dry out like a sponge left in the sun. I hearken back to the ride home from Longview Lake one summer where I managed to finish the RIDE okay, but I neglected to replace any of the fluids I'd lost. Later that night I was in the hospital with a couple of IV's hooked up to me. 3-liters of saline later, I was human again. Dumb.
Later, I drove down to Oklahoma to do Tinbutt in 2005, and pretty much neglected to drink very much the day before. It was HOT. I felt zapped. You, know, feeling "zapped" is usually an indication something is wrong. That's part of the reason that ride went so horridly. Today, as I type this, I have come back from the brink AGAIN. Apparently I was drinking just enough to keep my head (pun intended) above water DURING the ride, but I flat stopped drinking afterwards - I had a chocolate milk, and went to bed. I felt okay on Sunday, the usual stiffness and fatigue - Monday I felt kinda off, and yesterday (Tuesday) I felt downright ill. My stomach wasn't emptying, and I ended up skipping lunch and dinner. Finally occured to me, after drinking 2-quarts of water at work, a Coke (how is THAT smart?), and not feeling any better, that I might have a problem. I started to think about the last time I'd felt this way, and it dawned on me. Might be a little dry, dude. So, on the way home from work I stopped and got a bottle of the "liquid evil". Yes, Gatorade. After blowing this stuff all over the road on various occasions, and watching other riders blow it all over the sidewalk at a control one year, I never drink it DURING a ride - but afterwards, and possibly before for prep, I'm getting the impression that this stuff WORKS. I downed a quart, arrived home - seriously feeling more stiff and worse than I had immediately after the ride. I talked to the wife about it, and I was instructed to stop being a moron and lay down. So I did. I slept like a rock until probably 9pm, waking up occasionally to drink ANOTHER quart of Gatorade that she'd picked up from the store for me. Nice gal. Three quarts of Gatorade, and two quarts of water later, and about 18 trips to the restroom, my legs came back to life, my headache faded, vision stopped bing blurred, and I felt human again. So, seriously -- another lesson learned that I have to pass on: drink. before, during and after. There is defintely a cumulative effect to rides of this distance, and I'm totally at fault for not staying on top of my fluid intake. It's amazing, all the preparations that I had been making, and sometimes I just forget the simple stuff. If you do these rides with nothing else, at least DRINK enough!!!
I'm getting the impression that water and endurolytes might not be quite enough, so I may be tossing in some HEED or Endura on the 600K, just to be sure I'm allowing for assimilation. Meanwhile, I have a very hilly 44-miler this weekend, and the KCCC time-trial Sunday, so I better get myself straight.

See ya next time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

congrats on a fantastic finish man. i'll be looking forward to your update/ride report.