I Love Lucy!
Saturday afternoon at the hotel, Russ did his best Al Pacino and said, “Let me introduce you to my little friend!” In his hand was a black bag the size of a youth-sized football. Inside was a professional grade massage tool he & his wife affectionately call, “Lucy.” He explained that when you ride RAGBRAI as often as he has, you learn a few things, one being massaging tired muscles. I was offered first go and as “Lucy” came to life, I relaxed and let her do her magic. “Lucy” loosened my stiff shoulders, my overly tight neck, while my lower back almost cooed when she hammered away.
“OMG, I love Lucy! I need Lucy! Gotta get me a Lucy!”
Weather To Ride
That night, we studied the radar on Russ’ iPad. Sunday didn’t look good. A massive storm front stretched from Louisiana all the way to the Atlantic and was creeping our way. Russ hurt his knee on the Lake White climb and wasn’t planning on riding Sunday’s first leg, so if anything, it was my call in the morning. I eyed the yellow and red monster on the radar and knew I wasn’t about to ride in a thunderstorm or torrential downpours. We decided to have breakfast at 6 AM and make our final decision then.
Give Me A Sign!
My alarm sounded at 5 AM and I rolled out of bed to make some coffee. Normally after a century, I feel lethargic but today I felt good…really good. I looked out the window knowing that if it was raining, I probably wasn’t going . Not only was it not raining, but the parking lot wasn’t drenched as I’d expected based upon last night’s weather forecast. I took this as a sign and put on my cycling shorts then headed down for breakfast. Russ, spying my shorts, gave me a curious look. I don’t know if he thought I was nuts or overly ambitious, but either way, he knew I was going for it. Worse case, I’d hook up with them at Waverly (about 30 miles away) and call it quits. I grabbed my gear and headed for the
A tiny patch of sky was clear and the sun glowed through the clouds, and although I knew it wasn’t going to last, I took it as a optimistic sign. I took a selfie and we rolled back to Portsmouth to the location we ended at on Saturday. Once parked, I grabbed my bike and pedaled off into the adventure.
Bike traffic was light at 6:30 AM and the one group of cyclists I thought about chasing down to draft just wasn’t worth the extra effort. So I rolled on, curious what my legs would do today. I glanced down at my computer and noted I was rolling along at 19 MPH. I considered picking up the pace but opted to play it safe; I had a lot of miles ahead of me.
I was no more than 3 miles out of Portsmouth when it started sprinkling. The temps that morning were around 65 degrees so I hoped the cool rain wouldn’t lead to me having to quit do due getting too cold. I kept my pace between 19-20, noting that my legs felt fine as did my cardio, all of which was a good sign. The sprinkling progressed to light rain but by now I was already drenched, so it really didn’t matter.
A pace line zipped past so I hopped on but the spray off the rear mixed with road grit wasn’t worth it. Instead, I rode off the last rear wheel and paced them down the road. When we reached the beginning of the climbs, they slowed and either chose to bike down the detoured road (you had to portal your bike through mud if you took this option) or I dropped them on the climbs. Since this is my blog, I’m going with “dropped them on the climbs.” 🙂
I made it to Waverly and found Russ & Sandy all snug in the SAG van. They rolled down the window expecting me to call it quits, but instead, I told them I was continuing. Either impressed or convinced I was insane, they said they’d meet me in Chillicothe, the lunch stop. I biked over to the Waverly rest stop, grabbed some snacks, but was getting cold quickly, so I opted to keep biking.
Rollers & Squirrels
Shortly after leaving Waverly, I hopped on another pace line. They were averaging 21-22 MPH but again, the rain & spray was bad, plus they were a bit squirrelly, so I road off the back wheel for pacing. For the record, I did ask if I could join them but never did take a pull. Why? I got a sense that they were doing “their thing” and I didn’t want to meddle with it, plus they weren’t rotating through like I’m used to riding. Instead, when one slowed, someone would pass to take over; a bit dangerous on wet, hilly roads. I kept with them through the ten miles of rollers and most of the way into Chillicothe.
By the time I got to Chillicothe, the rain had subsided so I planned on changing into a dry jersey then eating a leisurely lunch. When I reached the SAG van, Russ was dressed to ride & ready to go…as in no time to rest & have lunch like I’d hoped. SURPRISE! I could have argued the point, but I too wanted to get down the road since we had a lull in the showers. Besides, I still had some of my homemade power snacks & Hammer Endurolytes, so I felt confident I’d avoid the dreaded bonk. I swapped my soaked jersey for a dry one (which felt SO much better!) and we rode to the shelter where lunch was served. I wolfed down some finger food, filled my bottles, and we rolled onward.
Flatlands & Last Stop
It was great to have Russ join me, especially since we’d been planning this ride for months, but at the same time, I was glad I got to ride the faster pace for the first 45-50 miles.
We settled into a groove (about 17-18 MPH) and set our sights on the next & last rest stop: Circleville. Miles later, my case of hot foot returned as did my sore neck. The Circleville rest was a welcome sight, and aside from getting sustenance, I took off my shoe & wriggled my toes to get blood flowing down there again. We stayed for 15 minutes or so and then were on our way.
Playing Those Mind Games
I always tell folks that TOSRV doesn’t really start until mile 175. By then, you’re body aches, you’re sick of Gatorade and bike food, and mind games kick in. Self-doubt begs you to quit, self-loathing robs you of any joy you’ve had to this point, and no matter what you do, you can’t get comfortable on your bike. The other kicker, for me at least, is that this part of Ohio is the most monotonous stretch of tarmac you can think of. Yeah, it’s flat, but you’re bordered by farm fields that look alike and you’re traversing a road that stretches straight and true for miles. For me, that spells doldrums and my fatigue makes it seem like endless hell.
By the time I reached this critical juncture of TOSRV, my left foot was worse, neck was stiff, and my right butt nerves were irritated, too. To offset the pain and the mind games, I’d stand and pedal for long stretches, or I’d hunker down on the drops (which actually made my butt not hurt) and grind it out.
The one thing I was thankful for, actually make that 3 things, was that it was still cool & cloudy, so no blistering sunshine or humidity, and the wind was pushing us north. I’ve been on TOSRVs when those 3 things didn’t work in your favor. It’s not fun.
Around mile 180, I realized I’m watching my odometer like a man obsessed, desperate to see the miles click off yet pissed at how slowly they pass. This is something I do when I’m tired. So in order to get through this segment & the torment, I played a game with myself: stand to alleviate pain; go to the drops so my butt didn’t hurt; keep eyes off the odometer…sort of; focus on the rewards at the finish. Repeat.
Miles ahead I spotted civilization: a subdivision still some 12 miles from the finish and a turn. Finally, at least an end to the doldrums. Once we turned right, my mind games subsided and I knew we were going to make it. It’s amazing how powerful the mind is and how quickly pain, once your nemesis and threat to the success of your ride, is now tolerable.
I watched my odometer roll to 200 miles. Despite the fatigue, this was a great feeling; it always is. Not many people, let alone cyclists, can say they’ve achieved this goal. Although it’s a great accomplishment, it didn’t signal the end; we still had at least 12 miles to go.
Aside from the discomfort in my foot, neck, & butt, my legs & cardio were in great shape. Russ & I both sensed victory was going to be ours.
Because this was a new finish compared to the ones I rode 30 years ago, the end came much quicker than I expected. Again, I wasn’t using a Garmin and the route was new, so I thought we had about another mile to go but instead, we made a right hand turn and, voila, we’re done. It was over. Just like that.
Won & Done
Aside from my packing “oopses” as well as my post ride “oops!” (our SAG went back to Russ’ home instead of the finish; my car keys were in the SAG! Thankfully my daughter bailed out her old man!) TOSRV56 was the perfect ride:
- Weather was cool and spared us battling dehydration & heat fatigue.
- I finished strong despite some nerve & joint pain.
- The terrain was challenging but not boring or crushing.
- The winds were our allies. On Saturday, a gentle northern breeze pushed us southward while on Sunday, a southern wind propelled us northward to the finish.
In the end, I logged 212 miles, averaging 16 MPH on day 1 and around 17.5 on day 2. Not bad, not bad at all. 🙂