As it turns out, I was only a quarter into the ride at the half way point. Later, I would learn that the wind strengthened as the day progressed, topping out head on from the S/SE at 14mph with 22 mph gusts. At the time, I knew only that I was reduced to 8mph on level ground and was sputtering profanities up—and down— the hills.
After 20 minutes it was also apparent that I had not rested long enough at the 2nd checkpoint. I pulled over and climbed up the embankment to lie down for awhile, hoping that I might look confident for napping. “Is everything ok?” the first riders passing called out. It would not be the last time this inquiry was made. Without looking, I gave them a thumbs-up, mainly to dissuade them from calling an ambulance.
I lay quietly in the sun for awhile, occasionally looking up to pity the dwindling riders still heading to the 2nd checkpoint, some with worried looks. “Poor fools” I thought, “wait ‘til they hit this wind.” Both my sympathy and sense of superiority would evaporate later, when they overtook me on the return.
Back on the road the going was slow. With so much time on my hands I had many revelations. The first was that all my long distance achievements —details of which I shall bore you with in later posts— have been with little or no wind or with the wind at my back, either by luck or design.
Another revelation was that for all the touring I’ve done, I still need to polish up some basic riding skills. I shift miserably, grinding, overshooting and expecting gears that aren’t there. I cannot shoot snot without getting it all over myself. I get dizzy holding my breath when suckling the water bottle. The road crossed the Glacial Drumlin Trail and I thought of lazy days when such details were inconsequential.
I was grinding along when Mike caught up. The first words out of his mouth were about the wind. This acknowledgment and his lack of sleep made me hopeful I would have some companionship for a spell, but I excused myself for another stop after a only few miles. Not eating enough, I was lightheaded and beginning to bonk.
Poor nutrition manifested again at about mile 90, when I started getting cramps. I had forgotten to buy peanuts at the filling station and now had no salty snacks to speak of. Periodically, I’d jump off the bike and stretch the knots out of my legs. For the remainder of the ride they would cramp up with any real exertion.
Further complicating things was my dwindling water supply. I had expected my two full bottles to carry me the 35 miles between checkpoints, but with the wind I was doing the last 10 miles with a quarter bottle reserved for washing down the last of my dried pineapple.
I cannot recall ever being happy to see a “Taco John”, but the one attached to the 3rd checkpoint thrilled me enough that I ate the overpriced, crappy fare with little complaint. Although it seemed a waste of my temporary freedom from a strict diet, the deadly high sodium content was just what the doctor ordered.
I chatted with the other wind burned stragglers and met Tom (?) who kindly offered me a fist full of “electrolyte pills” and an assurance that all the cool kids were doing them.
In addition to the eating style and the drugs taken, the orienteering was also different than what I am accustomed to. Instead of a map and cardinal directions, riders are given cue sheets with the mile #, roadway names, turns, and distance in-between. This means you spend a lot of time checking at the odometer to make sure you haven’t missed a turn, which sort of makes the miles drag on.
Since I had my cyclometer set wrong, I had to re-calibrate a few times. I’d wait for it to show the mileage of the next turn and then hold it away from the wireless transmitter until I got there. Usually I’d clench it in my teeth, so I wouldn’t forget to put it back.
The route was excellently marked, but it takes more than large spray painted arrows keep me on course. Regardless, I was proud to only add one extra mile by missing a turn. The second extra mile came from panicked backtracking when I didn’t recognize the landscape. Both mistakes came on the last leg, with few riders ahead or behind to guide or confirm. A 1.6% mileage-in-error rate—a new personal best!
For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip the part about the dogs and just say that I rolled up on the Motel at 8 pm sharp, a full 4 hours behind the first riders. True to their slogan, they did leave the porch light on for me, but it was the organizers who had growlers of cold draught from J.T. Whitney’s Pub & Brewery.
95% of the riders were long gone and with them my chances of scoring a ride to train or home. So, I booked myself a room and procured and individual sized pizza pie from an adjacent eatery on the corporate strip. I wouldn’t have to fight the wind again until the morning.